Review: Red Sea REEF-SPEC™ T5 Tubes

With some of the T5 tubes on our test system starting to get a bit past their best, we decided it was time to swap them out for some new tubes. Luckily, this also presented an opportunity to test out a couple of Red Sea’s recently released ‘Reef Spec’ tubes (specifically the 22k ‘actinic’ and ‘pink’ versions). German-made and designed to ‘provide high quality lighting for reef aquariums’ these tubes promise a lot… but do they deliver?   

If you’ve been following the development of our test system you may already know that we’ve been using an Arcadia OT2 LED luminaire which takes 6×54 watt T5 tubes (plus offering an LED array). With a mix of Arcadia Marine Hybrids, Arcadia Marine Blues plus an ATI Purple Plus and a Giesemann Powerchrome Actinic Plus in this fixture, the tank had been ticking over nicely although really, our SPS hadn’t been growing particularly fast. We decided to replace two of the ageing Arcadia Marine Hybrids (50% white, 50% blue) and swapped these with a Reef Spec Pink and an Actinic 22k.

Before we get onto the results let’s comment on the packaging here and we were really impressed with the sturdy nature of the boxes. We’ve ordered tubes online in the past and had them delivered with the ends smashed in but we certainly feel confident that these boxes should endure the rigours of some fairly rough handling.

On to the tubes themselves and installation was straightforward as you may expect. Again, though we’ve had tubes in the past where we’ve accidentally pulled the metal cap of the tube itself without too much effort, these tubes seem really well built. After burning them in for several days the tubes went onto dimming operation and so far have performed flawlessy.

Anyway, let’s take a look at the tubes individually… firstly, the ‘Actinic’ tube. This blue and Actinic spectrum tube is marketed as being ‘ideal for maximizing the fluorescent coloration of corals’. Rated at 22k, it certainly lives up to this expectation, emitting a crisp deep blue light which shows up coral fluorescence really well, particularly greens (GFPs). This isn’t a ‘pure’ actinic tube as the branding may partly suggest, rather it has a small actinic peak plus a blue peak (take a look at the spectral diagram opposite). So basically along with the generation of fluorescence, PAR levels are likely to be decent too. Although we didn’t measure PAR levels for this tube we are confident it would give similar readings to any of the other quality brands out there. It’s a nice tube in short, very similar to the Giesemann Powerchrome Actinic Plus and ATI Blue Plus. In terms of visual brightness, the tube looks very similar to our other mixed blue tubes.

Onto the ‘pink’ tube now and this 5 Band Phosphor option aims to enhance ‘the red, pink and purple colors of SPS and LPS corals’. Now, it can get a little confusing here as equivalent tubes from other companies are sometimes branded as ‘purple’ tubes. In our opinion, a purple tube would actually be a true actinic rather than a tube with a peak in the red part of the spectrum, but there you go! Anyway, the tube certainly appeared on a par (if you’ll excuse the pun) to our existing ATI Purple Plus tube in terms of brightness and spectrum and was certainly effective in enhancing pink, purple and red hues. Take a look at the spectral diagrams for a comparison. Other similar offerings include KorallenZuchts Fiji Purple and the Geisemann Powerchrome AquaPink. Take note that any of these pink/purple tubes are perhaps better included as a single tube on arrays of at least 6-8 tubes. We didn’t observe any noticable change in spectrum or a ‘break in’ period by the way.

Widely available and coming in in 24, 39, 54 and 80 watt sizes (measuring 549/849/1149/1449 mm respectively), these tubes currently retail for around £20 which puts them into competition with other major brands. OK we didn’t test PAR levels but with T5s now well established and being used widely there is already a plethora of evidence that these tubes are up to the job. Take a look at this great tank lit by REEFSPEC tubes if you need any further convincing!

What we also particularly like about these tubes is that a great deal of research has obviously gone into their development not only in terms of how effective they are but also in terms of their presentation to hobbyists. The marketing is very slick but at the end of the day we think this helps make hobbyists lives easier too. For more information, take a look at Red Sea’s product page HERE.

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