I don’t normally do product reviews, because I don’t accept products from manufacturers for that purpose. But I know how hard it can be to find the right light for a very small tank, especially one with curved glass. So since I was hunting for one, I thought I’d share my findings with you. Here’s a quick little review of several nano-sized lights and how they perform. I have not included any “kit” lights that come packaged with a tank, and there are certainly other options. The ones I chose were picked specifically because they seemed to have possibilities for use on bowls and cylinders as well as flat-sided containers.
First is the ZetLight, ($25.50 when available) which was popular on The Planted Vase.
At the moment, this seems not to be available in the US, but may become so again, so since I had one to test, I did. For all these lights I tested them on the rim of a globe shaped bowl, at 11” (the depth from bowl bottom to light) and at 9”, the approximate depth if substrate was in the bowl. Of course there was no water, hardscape or plants in the bowl, so these numbers are somewhat different than you would get in use.
The ZetLight fits easily on the rim of the bowl, tightening with a plastic screw.
Even to my eye, the light looked underpowered. And, indeed, the PAR meter gave me 10 umols at 11” and 14 umols at 9”. That’s pretty dismal. It will work for Anubias, the hardiest Bucephalandra and some easy floaters, not much more in this size bowl. My recommendation would to only use this light on the smallest bowls/vases. I also don’t care for the blue diodes in such a small light. They don’t really help the plants and they are a nuisance to the eye.
Next up was the Aquaneat Mini on eBay ($10.25):
This one was a bargain for the price, but a failure in my book for a round tank. It’s just not meant to do that job. As hard as I tried to squash it into submission, it is just not meant to light a bowl. In spite of that, it is remarkably bright for such an inexpensive light!
This was the best I could do positioning it on the bowl, and aesthetically, I think it looks terrible. OTOH, the PAR measurements were 27 umols at 11” and 35 at 9”, so significantly better than the ZetLight for a lot less money. Oh, the other thing I disliked was that they had two clumps of blue diodes that made two annoying blue squares.
In fairness to the light, since the PAR was pretty impressive for the price, I also threw it on a rectangular tank (which it is clearly designed for) and measured it there too.
Not unexpectedly, it did better, with 33 umols at 11” and 45 umols at 9”… Enough light to have some fun with a number of different plants, without running into algae problems without supplemental CO2. And it looks very nice on an appropriately shaped tank.
Aqualighter by Nanosoft
Next was my pick of the little lights… The Aqualighter by Nanosoft. ($31.99)
Yes, it’s a lot more expensive, but it’s MADE to do this job and it does it oh, so elegantly. The mount is a very strong magnet in a very soft rubberized housing so it does not damage even the curviest glass. It looks beautiful!
It looks like it is made for a globe! PAR is right there with the cheap but ugly Aquaneat, at 27 and 35 umols, so just what I’m looking for in a very small tank.
Last but not least, is the new “Big Bertha” of nano lights, The Asta 20, which has rebranded itself this week as the Lominie. ($42.99, 50.99, if you want remote control which I did without):
I am honestly only including it because it is cheap enough to consider, especially if you’d like to try your hand at high light/supplemental CO2 in a tiny tank. (I think you’re crazy, but some people like all that work!) But this light is BRIGHT. I used it on the larger cylinder that I set up for my Dad, and I run it at less than half power on that 12” deep tank. (did I mention that it’s fully dimmable? Even the cheap version?)
For this test, however, I set it up on the naked bowl, just like the other lights and cranked it up to full power. AS expected, the results were impressive. 140 umols at 11” and 165 at 9”. This light also comes with a second lens so that you can have either a greater spread or a narrower beam of light at your choosing.
I think the Asta 20 looks lovely on my Dad’s cylinder. I am also planning to use two of them to light my new, large, Wardian Case.
But on the bowl, I not only think it looks large and clunky, but the same hefty metal attachment that I appreciate on a larger tank make me worry whether the thin glass of this bowl could take that point-pressure over time. …And you’d have to keep the darned thing turned down SO far most of the time that it would really be a waste. So use this happily of bigger tanks, and enjoy the littler ones on the vases!
I am sure there are LOTS of other options out there, but I bought all these with my own money, and that’s all I’m buying for now. If anyone else has a PAR meter and wants to test other lamps for nano tanks or vases and send me the results, I’d be happy to add them to this!