Giesemann Stellar…OR…Aquatic Life T5/LED hybrid? Reef tank lighting showdown | BRS Investigates


(intense electronic music) – Today on BRStv Investigates, it’s the Giesemann
Stellar and Aquatic Life T5 LED hybrid showdown. (upbeat percussion music) Hey, Randy here with this
Friday’s BRStv Investigates where we experiment and
learn on our own tanks so you don’t have to on yours. In today’s reefing experiment we compare the PAR and spread of two T5
LED hybrid lighting options with the 24 inch Giesemann Stellar and the 24 inch Aquatic Life fixture, in order to answer the question: Are the hybrid lighting
fixtures from Giesemann and the Aquatic Life the same? Combining two reef tank
lighting technologies with the time tested,
tried and true T5 fixture, and the energy efficient
small form factor LED fixture has not only been becoming
more and more popular among a large group of reefers, but it’s also been the
go-to lighting option for those industry leaders
in coral propagation like WWC, who use the T5 LED combo in their own 900 and 500
gallon grow out display tanks, with obviously successful results. This is one lighting
technology combination where Ryan has personally
shared that it’s his ideal lighting solution which meets all of his personal desires for reef tank lighting options out of all of the other options available in the BRS warehouse. Well today let’s see if we can help to add some transparency to a couple of popular T5 LED hybrid lighting choices, by taking a look at how the
Giesemann STELLAR T5 hybrid compares to the testing that we did on the Aquatic Life T5 hybrid. Okay so rather than bore you with a ton of different PAR charts and spectrum data we’re gonna cut right to the chase and take a look at the
PAR output comparison between these two light fixtures using just the T5 bulbs alone. So getting right into it,
using four ATI Blue Plus bulbs in the Giesemann Stellar fixture, we mounted it over a 24 inch
by 24 inch 60 gallon cube at 8 inches above the water’s surface, much like we did for the Aquatic Life, and measured PAR at a depth of six, 12 and 18 inches underwater. Let’s start with a comparison of PAR between both fixtures at a depth of six inches underwater,
wherein all three center, middle and outside rings we see that the Aquatic Life averages about 35 more PAR across the board than the Giesemann Stellar and is almost certainly
related to the differences in the width of these two hybrid fixtures directly out of the box. With the Giesemann STELLAR
coming in at 18 and a half inches from the center of each outside bulb, versus the Aquatic Life’s 13
inches from center to center. We can very clearly see the difference that five inches can make
on this 24 inch cube tank, between the light spilled
into the ambient room, and light being directed
primarily into the tank. At depths of 12 and 18
inches under the surface of the water we see
similar differences in PAR, due to the wider spread
of the Stellar fixture where at 12 inches the Aquatic Life has a higher average of about 22 PAR between the center,
middle and outer rings, and at 18 inches underwater again there’s about a 23 PAR difference between the two fixtures. In an attempt to find a mounting height for the nearly 23 inch Giesemann Stellar, that more closely matched PAR levels of the 18 inch wide Aquatic Life, we mounted it at two inches
off the top of the tank, which put it at three inches
off the water’s surface, and tested the PAR again at
six, 12 and 18 inches deep. To be frank mounting the light this close to the water
is pretty impractical when it comes to accessing the tank for maintenance, feeding, or other tasks, but we were able to find a height where, in a 24 inch wide tank,
the Giesemann Stellar with the factory end plates is able to direct most of the light
directly into the tank and produce a higher amount
of PAR from the T5s alone. This mounting height was selected by dropping the fixture until most of the light went into the tank versus pouring out over the edges. At six inches under the
water with the Stellar mounted three inches
off the water’s surface we see an overall average PAR increase of just three over the
Aquatic Life hybrid fixture with the center ring on the Stellar being the large outlier at a lower average PAR
than the Aquatic Life which is an indication of the larger space between the banks of T5 bulbs, and less room for the
light to enter the tank and refract back towards the center. To wrap up the PAR comparisons with the Giesemann hung
at just three inches from the water there’s an increase in PAR of 22 over the Aquatic Life when measured at 12 inches underwater, as well as an increase
of 23 PAR at 18 inches. Meaning that if you are willing to mount the Stellar
this close to the water you could reasonably
expect similar performance but again not something I would personally feel comfortable doing in my own tank. I would almost guarantee that if we were able to shorten the
width of the Stellar fixture, we’d absolutely see an increase in PAR in our 24 inch test tank, and after talking to the team here, it does look like they have intentions of releasing a shorter 19 inch
end plate for the Stellar. But since they aren’t currently available to us, we were only able
to test what we had. As soon as these are available we might be able to circle back
and compare the data again. If you’re wondering how
those numbers change with the addition of
LEDs like the AI Prime, Kessil A360 and the Radeon XR15, you can check out the full PAR breakdown in the Aquatic Life fixture episode. Just to share some quick
references from that video, at 12 inches under the water there was an overall average PAR increase of 85 with the AI Prime added to
the Aquatic Life hybrid, 145 PAR average increase
with the Kessil A360 added, and a 177 PAR average
increase with the Radeon XR15. So if you were to add these same LEDs at similar settings to
the Giesemann Spectra it’s safe to assume that you could expect similar performance, however I wouldn’t be surprised to see slightly less average PAR increases due to the amount of T5 light spilling out of the 24 inch tank when mounted at eight inches high. Moving on in our comparison between the Giesemann Spectra
and the Aquatic Life T5 hybrid fixtures, let’s take a look at their differences when it comes to available options,
features, physical appeal and build quality with how the lights look on your tank and the various
ways you can put them to use. For options on the T5 hybrid fixtures it really comes down to the ability to dim the lights, brackets
for size adjustments and options for mounting
your choice of LED fixtures. Right now there’s not an option for a dimmable Stellar
Giesemann hybrid fixture, however Aquatic Life
has released their next generation of T5 LED
hybrid which is dimable and comes with a single power cord and a zero to 10 volt control cable for tying into popular
aquarium controllers like the Neptune Apex. When it comes to adjusting the size of the Stellar or the Aquatic Life, as I mentioned at this time it looks like there are other end plate
sizes for the Stellar in a larger XL version that makes the entire fixture about
24 and a half inches, and a shortening plate
that drops that width to around 19 and a half inches. I think the most valuable option that would be useful to
a wider amount of reefers would be the shortening plates, and I hope that they become available in the future for reefers to choose. In relation to that
the Aquatic Life hybrid currently has similar end
plate options available that shorten or extend their fixture to 16 or 24 inches respectively which really makes it a more versatile and usable to a wider majority of common reef tank sizes. Moving on to LED mounting options, Giesemann uses a universal approach and comes with two L-shaped brackets that can slide to any width to support your choice of LED fixture. I will say however that using this style of LED light support where the fixture rests on the edges of an L-shaped bracket and is assisted by a double-sided tape strip, is not my ideal choice. I would be most comfortable using it for square or rectangular LED fixtures where there’s more surface area for the LED to be
supported by the bracket. Here again I approached the team to see if other LED mounting
options were available and it looks like there are some universal LED mounting struts for the Stellar which would allow you to more securely mount your LEDs even with
those non-rectangular or square fixtures like
the Kessil A360 and A360X. Hopefully the team can get these in because this is definitely the option I would use with the Stellar hybrid over my own tanks. As for the Aquatic Life hybrid fixture they use a similar style universal LED hanging bracket to
secure a wide variety of LED lamps to, however they also have
specialized brackets specifically for a circular Kessil LEDs, for each of the 160, A360 and the A360X. I will say that these are my first choice for mounting these types of LEDs because they are more secure, using multiple points to support the light rather than a single screw mounting point. The Stellar hanging kit is pretty standard for most fixtures but is
not included with the light. It uses retaining nuts housed inside the fixture itself to
secure the hanging cables while the Aquatic Life fixture
also has a similar style hanging kit yet is included
with the light fixture. As for the mounting options for those who aren’t able to hang
their hybrid fixtures from the ceiling there
is the Giesemann Stellar tank mounting kit, and the Aquatic Life universal and hybrid hanging fixture. If I’m being honest, although both serve a purpose in providing an alternative to hanging
fixtures from the ceiling, I’m not sure I would use
either option personally. The Stellar tank mounting
kit assumes that you have a rimless tank that has at least 18 inches of front to back depth, since the mounts stretch
just at 17 and a half inches which is fine for some reefers however without end plates to shorten the total width of the Stellar, I just don’t see myself putting the light on a tank 24 inches wide or less. Meanwhile the Aquatic
Life universal and hybrid mounting kit would work with either rimless or rimmed tanks since it doesn’t clamp onto the tank rim itself but rather attaches to the stand and comes up and over the tank to provide an alternative
place to hang the light from. This will work in most
cases where reefer’s tanks have a stand that you can drill into however at this time you only get one arm for about 75 bucks and would need two in order to mount the hybrid light. So in terms of overall physical appeal in how these options look over your tank, I think the Giesemann
Stellar takes the cake here and has really done this
well with their sleek iridium colored textured housing that’s similar to other
lighting fixtures they offer like the Matrix T5 fixture. The Stellar also has
two power supply cords much like the non-dimable
Aquatic Life fixture however with the Stellar, both cords extend from
one side of the light making it easier to manage and hang over the tank evenly. Let’s take a look at the build
quality comparisons next, where I’d have to say that
Giesemann gets my vote. When it comes to a sense of durability using a heavier duty aluminum housing and end plate brackets coupled with a rounded, more sleek and
aesthetically appealing form factor which better
fits what I look for on a tank that matches
my home and office decor. The reflectors are
obviously a higher quality with a more pronounced center that separates each bulb individually so that more light is reflected downward rather than being absorbed
by the bulb next to it. There’s also additional
slits in the center portion of the reflector to optimize areas of passive cooling which was also added on the end plates and something we don’t see addressed by the Aquatic Life fixture. Speaking of the end plates,
I do like how Giesemann approaches cord management
for the additional power cables that are added from the LEDs you choose to use with the fixture, rather than just a cut out notch for the cords to rest on, the Stellar has a hook style cutout that will help lock the cords in place which makes for a more neat
appearance for cable management. As with all gear that’s
meant to be utilized above or around water, it’s important to prevent splashes from getting to the electrical components, and I’d have to say that neither of these T5 LED hybrid fixtures
do this great in my opinion. The Stellar uses more traditional style of T5 bulb connections where
you slide the bulb ends in and twist it 90 degrees to lock it in, and protects those
connections with a small piece of acrylic sheet that
slides into the place under each end cap. The Aquatic Life connections
are a plug-in style that utilizes a rubber boot that surrounds each end cap connector with
this simple retention clip on either end to hold the
bulb into the reflector. Ideally for me and my own peace of mind I’d like to see a combination of both these safety measures together, where we’d keep the rubber boot cover as well as a full acrylic splash guard. So to answer today’s question of are the hybrid lighting fixtures from Giesemann and Aquatic Life the same? This one gets a three from
me on the reef fantasy scale. Outside of being fundamentally
and technologically similar in that you have a single
fixture that allows you to mix and match your own LED choices with a T5 lighting source that has time and time again been proven to successfully grow stunning corals, from a standpoint of PAR
output, physical appeal, mounting options and build quality, these two T5 LED fixtures
are uniquely different, each with their own
benefits and drawbacks. Okay, so in this age of LED lighting why is it seemingly
antiquated lighting technology like T5s still in the
conversation of properly lighting a reef tank
among advanced hobbyists? Especially when LED lighting comes in at a smaller form factor,
is more energy efficient and provides a widest
array of spectrum choices. I think Ryan sums it up best in this video with his list of five reasons
of what T5 lighting means as it relates to making
your tank look amazing, so I definitely check that out, and we’ll see you on the
next BRStv Investigates.

Comments 19

  • Will be great to do a video on how to run both on the schedule T5s + LED

  • Similar but different. Bu the price are different, around 110$ US for 24".
    At the end, both are great.

  • Please, please, please get the hanging mounts and the shorter end plates for the 48" .. I will give you my CC # as fast as you can take it. Love the Stellar, but man…. those two upgrades would make it take the cake.

  • Or you can use just about any T5 fixture with Led bars on the outside.

  • I think a better question is why do T5 bulbs cost only $2 more for each foot beyond 2feet? $20 for a 2 foot bulb or $24 for a 4 foot bulb!

    So I guess this isn't something that is patentable, because Giesemann looks like they pulled a Jebao and just copied the idea from Aquatic Life, although we tend to let it go when the big name companies do this.

  • If you had a 3 foot wide tank would you do a full 36" fixture in the width direction? Or do a 24" fixture in the width direction? The other direction is 4 feet, but seems like it'll be pushing things to squeeze 2 of these over the tank… at which point I might as well do a retrofit kit and DImyself.

  • Oddly, the EU version of the Stellar is different – we get a full acrylic splash guard and the shortening set is available (it's brilliant!) With that being the case, the prettier Giesemann wins it for me 🙂

  • For the price and the brand behind it, the Stellar is a total miss IMO but is totally expected from Giesemann. They haven't built a proper T5 fixture ever. This is where I would love to see ATI show up and put both of these fixtures to shame.

    Having said that, I don't have any complaints on my 24" Aquatic Life hybrid with a Kessil A360X. The build quality lacks slightly but at the cost, I won't complain.

  • Another great video! When I built my light hood 3 years ago I did Led/T5. Also included an AC Infinity thermostat controlled fan which has worked flawlessly. Thanks Randy!

  • So when setting these up with original led fixture do you keep the same schedule and intensity and just switch the t5 on or do you lower the schedules intensity

  • Loved the thumbnail. 🤔👍🏼

  • Loving my Giesemann Stellar on a 30 inch wide tank!

  • Fantastic video 👏🏻👏🏻 thank you

  • You always look like you have a strong sunburst. 😂

  • So frustrating that the giesemann requires so many "extras" to get it right, I mean how can it not come with a hanging kit as standard, you cant really use the fixture without one, and what a fail the end plates are, we really should be able to choose what width we want out the box when we buy, and not have to buy a fixture and immediately have to purchase the right size end plate.. the wider standard end plates are not suited for most of the popular tanks out there like reefers etc.. it ends up turning into a fixture that requires unnecessary expenses.

  • I have another question why are the par figures when the LEDs are added so low.. they seem lower than if the LED was on it's own.. I mean the radion only adds an average of +177.. what par figures does that light give on it's own I would have expected a bit more oomph than that

  • Just realized where I already saw this fixture… from approximately 3 years ago. It was a fixture called the Giesemann Genesis exactly the same except instead of adding your own LEDs it came with LED clusters. Didn't see it really come to market though, wonder what happened to it. But everything about the T5 aspect was identical to this, the cutouts, the slits in the reflectors, and their big push was some angle aluminum with double sided tape… bleh.

  • Please test the Maxspect rsx 200 par readings

  • How about comparing to a Cebu Sun 2×250 watt MH + 4x T5?

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