TMC AquaBeam 1000 Ultra HD Reef White – the full review

Reviews | 26th December 2011 | Article by Curvball | View comments (3)

Awhile back the nice people at TMC, that’s Tropical Marine Centre, sent me one of their flagship LED units, the AquaBeam 1000 Ultra HD Reef White ’tile’ unit. There was some talk bandied around on twitter about the use of LEDs on reef aquariums and a few tweets later, the unit was in the post over to me.

TMC AquaBeam 1000 LED review

One of the reasons for this review taking so long to surface, was down to the inability for me to mount the TMC tile. And this point would be my biggest gripe, I was excited to get this LED unit out of it’s box and get it setup, but once I had emptied the box and searched around for something to allow me to mount the unit, I was left with a feeling of, “Oh crap here comes the DIY kit…”

The tech specs

According to TMC, the AquaBeam 1000 Ultra HD Reef White is a CREE powered LED unit. 10 x CREE® X-RE Q+ PowerLEDs to be specific. Each LED is pushed at 700ma. Each LED uses a custom optic lens, an angle unknown, but to quote TMC again – ” collimating optics featuring “Total Internal Reflection” for efficient and uniform light distribution”. This particular version comes equipped with 4 blue and 6 white LEDs. The exact colour is unknown, but at a good guess I’d say the blues are Royal Blues and the whites being Natural Whites. These 10 LEDs are mounted to a heat sink that relies on passive cooling. The main PCB is isolated with a rubber o-ring to give you some waterproofing should you happen to drop your LED tile in your tank (this apparently happens more often than you’d think…). The ’tile’ has two circuits which is a really great little feature as it will allow you to connect a controller, either TMC’s various controllers or even a GHL Profilux. Even though I run a GHL unit, I wasn’t able to take advantage of the connectivity as I didn’t have the bit of gear needed to get them talking together.

The TMC unit is easy on the power usage, each tile only consumes roughly 30w.

TMC AquaBeam 1000 LED review

TMC AquaBeam 1000 LED review

The Light

The tile is 20cm x 20cm in size and does a fairly good job of illuminating a 30cm x 30cm area. Although the light spread would depend greatly on how high you choose to hang the unit. For less light demanding corals, you could hang it high to get more spread but obviously this would mean less output. In the following photos I had the unit roughly 10cm’s above the water line.

TMC AquaBeam 1000 review light spread

The mix of the LEDs is pretty good, infact, it is most probably the most pleasing to the eye that I’ve found out of all the LED units I’ve tried. The light is fairly spotlight in it’s appearance and the overall colour temperature would be in the 10-12 000K region. Here are a few more images showing corals lit by the Aquaray tile.

TMC AquaBeam 1000 review light spread

TMC AquaBeam 1000 review LED spread

TMC AquaBeam 1000 review light spread

In my opinion, for a decent coverage, one would need at list one tile per every 30cm x 30cm of tank area. The above photos show the tile centred over the ZEOnano which measures 2ft (60cm) in length. You can clearly see the shadowing to both the left and the right.

As mentioned earlier, the Aquaray tile features a mix of blue and white LEDs as can be seen in the following image:

TMC AquaBeam 1000 review LED blue and white

PAR values

If you browse a variety of forums, you’ll see that many users have given up on the TMC tile for use with Acropora and other high light loving corals. Most reports that their corals browned out almost instantly when switching to this LED unit. It has also been shown that our corals need time to adjust to any new kind of lighting and I have a feeling that most hobbyists haven’t given the units enough time over their tanks. In one thread it was noted that a hobbyists used a large collection of these tiles to light his SPS corals and had no issues with colours or the loss of colours. This supports my findings in terms of the spread of that these tiles offer. In a test qith my PAR meter, I found some decent readings and this gave me further confidence in that these LEDs from TMC could easily support growth and colour from SPS corals – again, placement etc would be critical. The PAR readings I obtained ranged from over 1000 to 300 depending on the height of the unit over the sensor. While these readings were not taken under the water or the PAR meter wasn’t specifically collabrated, it does give a laymans view of the output of these little LED units. I had the unit at various heights with the sensor placed centrally, the unit ranging from 5cm upt 30/40cm above the sensor. See the results for yourself in the photos.

TMC AquaBeam 1000 review LED PAR reading 1054

TMC AquaBeam 1000 review LED PAR reading 841

TMC AquaBeam 1000 review LED PAR reading 682

TMC AquaBeam 1000 review LED PAR reading 628

TMC AquaBeam 1000 review LED PAR reading 609

TMC AquaBeam 1000 review LED PAR reading 566

TMC AquaBeam 1000 review LED PAR reading 370

TMC AquaBeam 1000 review LED PAR reading 356

Overall opinion

I must say I am impressed with this little LED unit – it’s small size and relatively high output makes it a really good option for nano reefers. The unit is small and compact, interfaces with numerous controllers and does have numerous mounting options. It may not be as feature rich as the other units on the market, but value for money the TMC aquaray tile is a worthwhile investment if you want to get into the LED scene without spending a small fortune.

However, the proof is in long time usage and I think the biggest issue is the amount of tiles one would need if they were lighting up an SPS dominated system. But TMC have addressed this with their new higher output Ultima LED tiles. The 1000HD units have been available to us for over a year now and while many users don’t seem that happy with them, I’m confident that one can easily light up any reef and have it grow and colour up just beautifully. Perhaps with TMC’s co-operation, I’ll get a system setup that is purely SPS based, and maybe then we can see the power these beautiful little LEDs can offer us.

Do you use the TMC Aquaray tile? If so, for how long and what corals do you have under it? Lets here your thoughts in the comments.

About the author:

Curvball is the editor and founder of Having kept aquariums on and off since the age 8 years old, this now 32 year old hobbyist is well versed in various types of aquariums. His passion is SPS corals and the challenges of maintaining them in relatively small amounts of water. His professional background as a designer and writer combined with his love for this hobby makes the perfect extension of his passions.

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3 Responses on TMC AquaBeam 1000 Ultra HD Reef White – the full review

  1. Steven says:

    Very interesting post!

    However from my experience, plus knowing so many persons in the aquarium maintenance community, I do not know of anyone complaining of browning of acropora coral after adding the Reef White Ultra 1000 (I also dug through forums looking for such complaints?).

    After reading this post, I asked a friend in the “business” (over 30 years dealing with aquarium lighting) who stated that he has occasionally observed problems with sps corals after changing lighting (including changing to Metal Halide), but when he investigated deeper, he found there were other issues at play (high silicates, nitrates) and the lighting “change” was performed to improve conditions while not addressing other issues; the end result he stated was clients who incorrectly blamed the new lighting.

    I would also point out that there is much information available on the internet about the Kelvin and other output of this 1000 ultra, including the fact these are 14000k daylight emitters, not 12000k

    • Curvball says:

      Thanks for stopping by Steven.

      With regards to the browning of the SPS corals when users have switched from either T5's or halides to these TMC units is fairly well documented on numerous UK based reefkeeping forums – most who tried the tiles when released sold them after a few weeks as they weren't happy with the way their tanks looked and their corals reacted. And as I mentioned is has been proved that when changing the type of lighting, corals do need to adjust and most times this sees them going brown, for numerous reasons but when light is the main change, it's down to spectrum etc. I'll see if I can get one of the more technically minded LED guys to come on over and add to this discussion – some good stuff has already been written about this.

      Re: colour temperature, yes, lots more information available out there but my view of the TMC tile is that it fits in closer with the overall 10-12K look. Whether this is what the LEDs are rated at is entirely different, it's just what I got from viewing unit in action over my tank. As I'm sure you know the whole Kelvin rating is used more as a selling point than an actual true number, ever noticed how two differently branded 14K lamps don't look the same?

  2. Louis says:

    Thank you,

    I enjoy your review,

    It was clear, concise and covered all relevant questions one would like to know without drowning a person with technical mumbo jumbo.



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