A poor man’s Kessil overhead planted aquarium light system.
Kessil a division of DiCon the parent company, aquarium can lights have been around for some time now and it is unmistakable that they have further the popularity of the aquatic planted aquarium interest. They have now through obsolescent, single handedly crush the Metal Halide lights of days of yore that we hobbyists use. With their cool operation, high light output to electrical power consumption with LED cluster magnification system and adjustable light output they have achieved a highwater mark for what other lighting systems now must achieve. They are very compact into a small can size light fixture and allow easy access (because they sit above the tanks water surface by several inches) for tank maintenance without the burden of removing light strips that sit on top of the aquarium. That was one thing I always disliked about strip lights, once removed, now you can’t see in the aquarium to do water changes.
The reviewers rave about Kessil lights to the point that the reviewer must now try and justify the very expensive cost to the number of LED’s in the unit to dollar amount. This cost however does make this lighting system a little difficult for most hobbyist to afford. The cheapest I have found the two Kessil light models for is $239.oo for the Tuna Sun A160WE and $399.oo USD for the bigger A360WE respectably. Add on a Kessil A series gooseneck mount and that adds another $39.oo USD to the price for each lamp can. If you’re like me and live in a state that makes sure you pay your fare amount of state taxes on internet purchases add 10% more on all orders out of state from internet purchases and you are looking at a whopping $305.80 for the Tuna Sun, the cheaper of the two can lamps.
The one caveat about the Kessil is; it’s hard to justify such a cost of a Tuna Sun for a 20-gal aquarium or better yet, a four-foot aquarium will need two of these lights and now $611.60 USD is out-the-door just to light up a 55-gal aquarium… are you kidding me? No matter how you do the math or try and justify the cost to the number of LED lights, this definitely does not give the impression to be a great deal. But, apparently to some hobbyist this price point, though expensive, is still better than the strip lights that are presently out there. Plus, the Kessil lights gives that shimmer affect at the bottom of the tank that so many hobbyists love to see, just like the Metal Halides do.
Okay, what does all this have to do with the poor man’s Kessil lighting system in my introduction. After some research and experimenting with different lighting systems I found an LED light bulb that has 24 HO LED’s in a small perimeter of 1 ¼” ID that you can add to any light fixture. The lights bulbs are from GE and are called Bright Stik BC Globe in Day Light @ (6500 k) 100w, 1500 lumens of light output as is. You can buy a pair of these light bulbs for $15.95 USD at most retail outlets stores. The only modification that needs to be done to the light bulb, is the removal of the diffuser end cap. It’s because of this end cap the Bright stik is only rated at 1500 lumens. This can either be pulled off or cut off at about ¼” from the base of the light. I just cut the end of the diffuser cap because it was easer that forcibly trying to pry it off. Once the cap is off then the 25-LED’s will be expose and will be in four clusters of six LED’s set evenly inside the circumference of the light bulb.
Just like the Kessil lights that are also very bright because of the cluster of LED’s in such a small circumference; one cannot look directly into one of these Bright Stik lights without some eye impairment, so caution must be taken. The smaller Tuna Sun has 24 LED’s and the larger A360WE has 45 LED’s per light can. So, if you wish to add more light to your aquarium when using a Bright Stik, in other words more LED’s (two will equal 48 LED’s), then add two Bright Stik’s instead of just one to even out the light over the tank; this is what I use on my 27” long aquarium. Each Bright Stik has its own light pendent from Zoo Med (mini size) hanging about 6”-8” from water’s surface. Example: A 24x24x24” 60-gal cubed aquarium would need two Bright Stik’s in a Zoo Med combo deep dome lamp fixture mini.
At Big Apple Pet Supplies in Florida, you can buy a Zoo Med combo for $24.99 USD and I have even fond such for as little as 20.95 per combo on Amazon Plus. The pendent light arms mounts can be bought for as little as $16.95 USD, this is the kind that will stick onto the back of your tank. So instead of paying $305 dollars for a Tuna Sun with Gooseneck mounting arm you can get 200-watts of LED HO lighting for as little as $54.oo USD, that is a cost savings of $251.oo USD. You will still end up with that beautiful tank shimmer that makes the Kessil lights so desirable, too. At the cost for one Tuna Sun and mount you can buy 5 of these combo lighting systems as stated above and have over 1000-watts of lighting system over your aquarium. Imagine placing three of these light combos on top of a 70-gal aquarium, that would give you 8.5-watts per gallon of water @ 600-watts, more than enough light to grow any plant available to the hobbyist all for $162.oo USD. My 400-watt Metal Halide not only would cost more to run in electricity cost than the LED Bright Stik’s(16-watt) but would also create a considerable amount of heat in the tank and outside of the tank, too. Virtually no heat is expended from the bottom of the Zoo Med pendants when the Bright Stik lights have been on for over 10-hours.
I will end this by saying that if the Kessil pendent can lights are your preference then by all means buy what you like and disregard what you have read here. However, if you are like other hobbyist and your wherewithal are in short supply or you can spend your money on better things than on aquarium lights, them by all means check into these Bright Stik’s. I will also make a note here: As an Ichthyologist, I have seen more fish than the average hobbyists will see in their lifetime and these lights bring out the natural colors of fish and plants that closely mimics that of a natural environment at high noon in any aquatic habitat that I have seen. Their color temperature is spot on without the over exaggeration of colors or pigmentation that so many lights give our inhabitance.
The Bright Stik’s create vertualy no added heat to the tank even though they look like they would.