Review: TMC GroBeam 1500 Ultima ND

As LED aquarium lighting continues to evolve rapidly, let’s take a look at how this technology can benefit our reef tanks beyond the illumination of corals and fishes in our main display tank. As well as providing such lighting, LED units can also be extremely useful for fuelling algae filters in sumps, indeed we’ve shown this before with our review of the Arcadia EcoAqua 30watt spotlight. With many hobbyists now switching to LED for this purpose, in this review we look at another unit that can be adapted from its primary use as a freshwater planted tank light, and put to good use in a marine setting.

Obtaining our unit in good order from renowned online operation Swell UK, out-of-the-box our GroBeam tile feels solid and well-made. This 2013-made 1500 ND (Natural Daylight) model is the latest ‘version’ of the tile boasting higher output LEDs than the preceeding ‘1000’ model. An inspection of the contents and instructions confirms that this is a product from a specialist manufacturer, purposefully-designed and optimised for the task in hand. With a colour temperature of 6500k, this unit is well-suited to illuminating a range of marine macro algae… Chaetomorpha and Caulerpa. The LED tile is fitted with 10 Cree XB-D Power LEDs and these are said to emit a total 2058 Lumens, and a PAR of 148 uEinsteins/sec/m2 @16 inches (the similar ‘colour plus’ version has other colour LEDs also and has a slightly ‘bluer’ look). The tiles themselves are twin channel, with 5 LEDs on each channel. This means the light can be run by an AquaRay Controller if desired to provide ramp-up/down effects. With a spread of 120 degrees, the light can be mounted close to the water surface but still gives good coverage, and being water resistant is also critical here. In terms of mounting options, the unit comes with two basic brackets that slide onto each side of the unit and it can also be supported by a MountaRay bracket, AquaRay Easifit support (Microhabitat 30 model) or is of course fully Modular Mounting System (MMS) compatible for larger/multiple unit applications.

In terms of this unit’s specific application over a sump/refugium, within an aquarium cabinet, firstly, we love the slim-line design of the unit. In our case, the brackets supplied fitted perfectly and allowed the unit to be placed just a couple of inches above our algae bed giving us superb access around this area. Giving off a crisp white light with a faint yellowish tinge, this light is very bright but also extremely cool running. Literally our unit hardly feels warm to the touch after running for several hours and this lack of heat emission is a massive boon within a cabinet. Plugging-in our energy monitor suggested that the unit was consuming just over 30 watts which matches the manufacturers claims and emphasizes the superb level of efficiency available. We didn’t measure PAR levels as frankly after a couple of weeks in operation our algae bed was showing such improvement that we feel thisperhaps represents a far better endorsement of this light (plus there are the manufacturers figures above anyway).

Available at the date of writing for £146.49 from Swell UK we feel this is another excellent option for lighting your sump algae filter or refugium up to around 100litres in volume (of course, you could always go crazy and set-up a fabulous freshwater planted tank using this unit too!). The slim-line design and cheap, cool operation makes it perfect for the job and you can also rest easy as it is also covered by a 5 year guarantee.

Dimensions: 198mm x 198mm x 27.5mm / 7.8″ x 7.8″ x 1.1″ (H x W x D)

UK PSU supplied

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