Archive | July, 2012

We Love our Tropical Fish Tanks. Do you want one? Find out if starting a home aquarium is right for you.

At Aquarium Tip Tank we love our pet fish and we enjoy setting up and taking care of our tropical fish tanks. We love them because they’re beautiful, they are tools for education about underwater ecosystems, they are tools to promote marine conservation, they are fantastic and proven stress relievers, and they are just plain fun! For more on that, listen to Aquarium Tip Tank’s First Podcast!

However, before you jump into this wonderful hobby, there are a few things to consider if you’ve never taken care of a home aquarium before. We definitely don’t want to scare you off, but please realize that the fish in your tank will be your pets. Just like any other pet there is some research that you should do prior to picking out your pet, and there are some pieces of equipment that you will need in order to bring home your new pet and keep it healthy and happy.

Before you buy a Tropical Fish Tank:

For a home aquarium, the initial stages of research, equipment purchase, and tank setup, before you actually purchase and bring home any fish, accounts for the biggest chunk of time that you will have to devote to your new hobby. The size of your aquarium tank and the type of livestock you choose to keep will determine how simple or complex the maintenance of your tank will be.

Tank Selection and Fish Research:

In the end, the environment that you create in your tank must match the healthy living environment of the livestock that you want to keep. The task is to simulate the natural environment of the fish that you choose to keep as closely as possible. So, one of the first steps is to do some research into the kind of livestock you want to keep. You may want to keep an Emperor Angelfish (Pomacanthus imperator), but when you start doing your research you figure out that a minimum tank size of 220 gallons is recommended to keep an Emperor Angelfish.

Our thought is that you have to start with tank selection and livestock research simultaneously. Do you have such an undying need to keep an Emperor Angelfish that you will use whatever spot in your home is big enough for a 220 gallon tank? Or, do you have the perfect spot for a tank in your home, but you can only fit a 50 gallon tank there? If you can only fit a 50 gallon tank, then you will have to do some research and find some tropical fish to keep that will do well in the environment that you can create with that 50 gallon aquarium.

Personally, I like to find the spots in my house with esthetic quality first, figure out the maximum tank size that I can put in that space, and choose my fish based on that tank size. I like to find a spot in my house where myself and my guests will see the tank, ask questions about the fish, invertebrates, and other livestock, and where its easy to relax and enjoy the personalities of my pet fish. But that’s just me. Maybe you want that Emperor Angelfish so much that you will put a large tank in your large, unfinished basement where most people don’t regularly go. It is up to you. If you need some help selecting a tank, go ahead and sign up for our FREE Tank Selection Worksheet and our e-updates and newsletter.

You’ve selected a tank location, and a tank size. You’ve purchased the tank you’re going to use and researched and selected some fish that you are able to keep in that size tank. What’s next?

Aquarium Equipment Selection:

While doing the research on the fish that you want to keep you may have realized that there are certain environments that your livestock normally lives in. The water temperature must be kept steady, the tank has to be lit to mimic the sunlight that the inhabitants of your tank normally receive, and the water quality needs to remain pristine with the use of a filtration system.

There are several varieties and countless brands of every piece of aquarium equipment. You can do hours upon hours of research to figure out exactly which pieces of equipment you want to purchase, or you can walk in to your Local Fish Store (LFS) and purchase whatever the salesperson suggests for you. The problem with walking into your LFS and immediately walking out with an aquarium setup is that you end up with less of an understanding of how everything works together to create the underwater ecosystem that you want to keep. You won’t know why you were sold those specific pieces of equipment. Maybe it was the best for your intended aquarium, or maybe it was the pieces of equipment that cost the most. We suggest that you at least do some research into the types of equipment that you want to use.

Fish Tank Setup

Now that you’ve purchased your tank, tank stand, filtration equipment, heater, thermometer, lighting, light timers, surge protectors, water additives, substrate, rocks, and decorations its finally time to actually setup your tank so that you can put fish in it! First, you need to place everything and attach it correctly on, in, and around your aquarium. Anything that is going into the tank and is going to be submerged in the aquarium water MUST FIRST BE RINSED off before placing it in the desired location in the tank. This includes your gravel, aquarium safe decorations, rockwork, etc.

Finally, its time to put water into the tank. If you are starting a saltwater aquarium, you may have to make the saltwater first. Once the water is in your tank YOU MUST CYCLE YOUR TANK. A whole article can (and will) be written about the Nitrogen Cycle and how to go about cycling your tank, but for now, just realize that it could take anywhere from 1 week to 6 weeks.

Now that everything is set up and properly cycled, fish can be added to the tank. From this point on, fish tanks require relatively little maintenance. There are many aquarium hobbyists that may laugh at that statement and completely disagree. However, we must remember that our fish are our pets. As with any pet, they need to be fed, and there are health and maintenance tasks that must be performed on a regular basis to keep our pets happy and healthy.

We have to feed our fish every day, just like any other pet, so we should also do a few quick water quality checks every day. While we’re feeding our fish, it only takes a few seconds to check the water temperature, make sure all of our pumps, lights, heaters, and timers are still in working order, and it will be obvious if some algae and grime needs to be cleaned off the inside walls of the tank. This usually takes less than 5 minutes a day. This is less time than it takes to walk, play with, feed, and take care of almost any other pet every day.

There are also bigger maintenance tasks that must be performed on a regular basis, but they are not daily tasks. It is recommended that a 20%-30% water change is performed on a weekly to bi-weekly basis. It is imperative that filter media be changed about once every 2 months. In conjunction with these, water quality testing should also be performed. The time it takes to perform these tasks depends on the size of your tank, how easy it is to change your filter media, and the demands of the livestock.

The Price of a Home Aquarium

All of these pieces of equipment that we’ve talked about so far need to be obtained for use somehow. Again, the cost of these items will depend on the size of your tank and the demands of the livestock you choose to keep. For example, a freshwater, fish only aquarium with fake, aquarium safe decorations, does not demand the specialized lighting and filtration systems that a planted tank or a saltwater reef tank does.

You also may be able to find hand-me-down equipment, equipment on Craigslist, or on aquarium websites with deals like That Fish Place. Personally, I’m in the process of starting a saltwater tank that I got from my brother-in-law. He used to use the tank and tank stand for a freshwater aquarium. With everything that you might get as a hand-me-down or from Craigslist, just make sure that everything works, nothing leaks, and you clean everything out.

Of course, the fish and other livestock for an aquarium also cost money. You also need to make sure you have food, and there are a few very low cost tools ($10 or less each) that you will use when performing routine maintenance. Once again, this is not unlike any other pet.

In conclusion, a decision should be made about if you want to do all of the necessary research, if you have the time, and if you have the money to take care of a pet. Every pet requires some initial research, some time to take care of them, and some equipment to make sure that they are in a happy, healthy, and clean environment. If it is tropical fish that you want to keep, then  join us at Aquarium Tip Tank, and ask us any questions you may have about home aquariums and the beautiful underwater ecosystems.


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Aquarium Tips of the Day | Use a Labeling System for your Fish Tank

Today’s Aquarium Tip Tank tip of the day will help you keep all of those lines, cables, plugs, and hoses in order! Ever look at the back of your tank and wonder what all of those tubes and cables were running to? Or from? There is a hose taking water from the tank and into your filtration system, then another hose bringing the filtered water back into the tank. You might have yet another hose bringing water into your display tank from a reservoir with fresh, top-up water. Then there are cables and plugs for all of the electrical components like lights, filters, pumps, heaters, and power heads. If you want to keep them all in order, grab a label maker, or some other type of labeling system and put labels on all of those hoses, cables, and plugs!


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The Finding Nemo Sequel and our Responsibilities as Coral Reef Lovers and Aquarium Hobbyists

Rumors have been flying around that Pixar is in the process of ramping up production on a Finding Nemo sequel, that film writer and producer Andrew Stanton has signed up for the directing job, and that television writer Victoria Strouse will be writing the script. I call them rumors because Pixar does not comment on development.

There is a double-edged sword to these rumors. On the one hand, I love it. I loved the first Finding Nemo, and it is still one of my favorite Pixar films. Of course I do, I love most things about coral reefs, tropical fish, and ocean life. I also think Pixar does a fairly fantastic job at creating all of their animated films.

Sure, us nerdy ocean and aquarium lovers can pick apart some of the inaccuracies of such movies. But Pixar did a pretty good job with the original Finding Nemo of entertaining my 2.5 year old nephew, me, and my 60 year old father while incorporating a few scientific names and some of the basics about ocean life and underwater ecosystems.

Underwater is a place that most people don’t look at and see very often. Therefore, it was out of sight and out of mind for a majority of people until Pixar released Finding Nemo in movie theaters across the globe and put those ocean ecosystems right in front of toddlers, teenagers, parents, and grandparents across the world.

Finding Nemo was also fantastic for the aquarium hobby. Kids wanted to go “find Nemo” at the public aquariums. They started dragging their parents past the puppies and into the fish section of pet stores. Tanks, stands, aquarium filters, and all sorts of aquarium equipment started flying off the shelves like never before. The added interest and money pouring into the industry allowed for advances in husbandry, technology, and research.

So, the other edge of that sword? The downside to all of this is that all of those fish that people now want to keep in their home aquariums come from somewhere. Did anybody realize that the whole movie was about a tropical fish being snatched out of its natural environment by a SCUBA diver, ripped from its family, and placed in a small tank thousands of miles from home? We learned some great things about the oceans on the journey to find Nemo, but he just wanted to be out of that tank and back at home with his family and friends.

Luckily, the aquarium hobby didn’t seem to take much heat for that. In the end, the clownfish populations did. Those new aquarium hobbyists were looking for the “Nemo” fish left and right to put into their new aquariums, and these new hobbyists mostly lacked the proper setup and care knowledge. Then, if one of their ocellaris clownfish died, they would just go grab another one from their LFS. Clownfish populations were practically wiped out in certain parts of the world. There are also new advancements and technologies that have made fish keeping better, and easier.

As tropical fish lovers, coral reef lovers, and aquarium hobbyists we have a responsibility to educate about conservation, proper aquarium setup, and proper aquarium maintenance this time around. Luckily, breeding of tropical saltwater fish has come a long way since the first Finding Nemo. It kind of seems like every other person in the aquarium hobby is breeding clownfish these days.

If people start asking us questions about setting up new tanks we should take the time to show them how to do it correctly. We should educate new hobbyists about the oceans and underwater ecosystems. We should teach them about fish and reef compatibility, the nitrogen cycle, water chemistry, and water quality so that new hobbyists can keep their fish happy and alive. Most importantly, we should teach them about conservation, fish breeding, and tank bred fish.

Aquarium Tip Tank will be here to help. If you are new to the aquarium hobby please ask questions, and let us know what you need help with. That is what we’re here for. If you have been keeping fish for a while, and you’d also like to help, get in touch with us. You can comment below, send an email to, say hello to us on Facebook, say hello to us on Twitter, or find us on YouTube.


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Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 009 | The “Smaller” Pieces of Tropical Fish Tank Equipment

Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 009

So far, at Aquarium Tip Tank we’ve gone over the bigger, more expensive, absolutely necessary pieces of Aquarium Equipment to start a new tropical fish tank. These are items such as the tank itself, the tank stand, lighting, and filtration systems. In this episode we talk about the rest of the smaller, yet just as important, pieces of equipment that are needed to begin a tropical fish tank!

I need to purchase some of these items myself, but I also talk about the pieces of equipment that are necessary, but I already have from other aquariums. Some pieces of equipment can be used for more than one fish tank as long as you make sure that you rinse all aquarium tools under running tap water prior to putting them in any aquarium water.

I’ve created links to all of the items that are talked about in this episode below.

Make sure you have your smaller Tropical Fish Tank tools and equipment:

Please say hello to us on Facebook, or Twitter, find us on our YouTube Channel, or leave a comment below!


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Aquarium Tips of the Day | Make sure your Fish Tank Test Kits are NOT Expired

Today’s Aquarium Tip Tank tip of the day will help you make sure that you are getting the correct results when you test the water parameters of your tropical fish tank, or any aquarium tank, or any water for that matter. Ever gone to test your water and noticed that all of your liquid tester is dried up? Ever get everything to turn up with such bad results that there’s no way a fish could be alive in that water? Take a look at your expiration date on your test kit, and make sure you’re not using an expired test kit!

Hopefully your test kit has an expiration date. If your test solutions are dried up – and not from using them – its definitely time for a new kit. Some test kits say that they have a 5 year shelf life, but then go on to say something like “discard them one year after opening.” Just make sure you know that you are using a valid, non-expired test kit to test the water in your fish tank and get the most accurate results! After all, it wouldn’t be any fun, and would be very confusing, if you thought that all of your water parameters were spot on because you used an expired water test kit and then had something go wrong with your fish tank.

What kind of test kit do you use? Leave a comment below!

Email us, say hello on Facebook and/or Twitter with any questions you may have!


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Aquarium Tips of the Day | Turn Your Aquarium Power Back On

Today’s Aquarium Tip Tank tip of the day is just a little reminder that will help you keep everything in your aquarium alive and running. Ever get done doing some type of maintenance on your aquarium at night, get up, go to work the next day and think to yourself, “Hey, did I plug the lights back in?” For one day this probably wouldn’t be a detrimental mistake. But what if it was your aquarium heater in the dead of winter? You might come back to some dead aquarium fish or invertebrates. We tell you to unplug and turn just about everything off when doing partial water changes or other maintenance tasks. Well, when you’re done, just take a quick second to make sure that you’ve plugged all of your equipment back in, you’ve turned it all to the on position, and everything is working properly!

Ever mistakenly left the power off on your aquarium? Leave a comment below!


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Unpacking and Installing API Nexx Base Canister Aquarium Filter

The API Nexx canister filtration system has arrived! All of the pieces and steps to start setting up my new 30 gallon saltwater aquarium at Aquarium Tip Tank are coming together! You can hear all about my filtration selection process in Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 008. Included here are some pictures of unpacking the API Nexx canister filtration system, and some videos about setting up the filtration system an putting some filter media into it!

Update: We do not currently recommend the API Nexx Canister Aquarium Filter. It leaked when I first set it up for my aquarium system check. Somehow, I got it to work for 4 days without any leaks during the system check. Then, I drained the aquarium, put live sand into the tank, put live rock into the tank, filled the tank up with saltwater and re-started the API Nexx Canister Filter. A few hours later I went to check on the tank only to find a puddle under the tank stand. The API Nexx Canister Filter was leaking from the base. I have removed the filtration system from the tank while it is cycling. I am in contact with representatives from RENA and will post updates with the outcome.

API Nexx Canister Filter in opened shipping box

Front Cover of API Nexx Canister Filter box

Side of API Nexx Canister Filter box

The side of the box that the API Nexx Canister Aquarium Filter comes in shows that it has a modular design and 2 extensions are able to be added to the base filter in order to accommodate aquariums that are larger than 55 gallons. Each extension is rated for another 55 gallons of aquarium filtration. Therefore, with just the base unit you get 55 gallons of filtration. With the base unit and 1 extension the canister filtration system is rated for 110 gallons. With the base unit and the maximum of 2 extensions, the API Nexx Canister filtration system is rated for 165 gallons.

Back of API Nexx Canister Filter box

The back of the box that the API Nexx Canister Filter comes in shows a diagram of how the water flows through the system with a by-pass free circulation for complete water flow through the filter media.

API Nexx filter box opened!

The API Nexx Canister Aquarium Filtration system was packaged well with all of its components well padded from shipping mishaps.

API Nexx Canister Filter Pump that will be submerged in the Aquarium

API Nexx Canister Filter Pump head and all the little parts for setup

API Nexx Canister Filter – The Canister and flexible tubing!

All the parts of the API Nexx Canister Filter out and ready for setup!

Everything that was supposed to be in the box was there! Nothing was missing, and now its time to set my aquarium filtration system up! In order to do this and show it to you I made a little video presentation and submitted it as my first video on YouTube! I also embedded it below!

This is a fairly rough video. I think there are a few things that I would do differently. Hopefully, my videos will get better as I make more aquarium tutorial videos for all of you! Enjoy!

As for putting filter media into the API Nexx Canister Filtration system, I made another movie! I think it may have turned out a little bit better than the one above. I figured out how to get some HD out of it. It is on YouTube at the Aquarium Tip Tank YouTube Channel, and we’ve also embedded it for you below! Enjoy!

As you can see, setup and filter media installation of the API Nexx Canister Aquarium Filter is quick, and easy!

Grab your Aquarium Canister Filtration system now:

If you have any questions please let us know. What do you think? Leave comments below!


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Aquarium Tips of The Day | Measure Twice on DIY Aquarium Projects

Today’s Aquarium Tip Tank tip of the day will help you save a little bit of time, and possibly some frustration when performing do-it-yourself (DIY) aquarium projects. Wouldn’t it stink to come home from the hardware store with pieces of wood that were too small for the tank stand that your building? Just follow the good old saying, “measure twice, cut once” to save yourself the time of traveling back to the hardware store to buy new materials.

You should also probably write all of the dimensions and sizes that you come up with on a piece of paper somewhere. You may even want draw a diagram of your project with accurate dimensions. That way, you can bring it to the store with you when you are looking for the correct size pieces for your DIY light mounting system or your DIY aquarium plumbing.

Are you doing a DIY aquarium project? Leave your comments below. Say hello to us on Facebook!


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Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 008 | Aquarium Filtration, Part 2

Aquarium Tip  Tank Podcast 008

In this episode of the Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast I discuss the mechanisms used to perform mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration in a home aquarium system. The devices I talk about include Hang-on-Tank filtration systems, Canister Filters, Under-gravel filters, and Wet/Dry filtration systems. I also discuss my choice of aquarium filtration for the 30 gallon saltwater aquarium that I’m in the process of setting up.

I chose to go with a Canister Filtration system and I chose the API Nexx aquarium filter. However, let me do a little clarification here. Make sure you do your research and choose the filtration system that you think will work best for your situation. I have to admit, if I had a larger tank, and more room in the tank stand under my tank, I probably would’ve tried to set up a wet/dry filtration system with a separate reservoir under my main tank. I would’ve sectioned off that reservoir and created different areas for my mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration. I would’ve tried to get a little refugium going, and maximized the potential for biological filtration.

I just don’t have that kind of room under my small, 30 gallon tank. The API Nexx filtration system should work great for what I’m looking to do with my home aquarium! I do think the API Nexx Filter is a great canister filtration system that is also expandable. If you’d like to use the API Nexx Filter, I’ve posted a link to Amazon for one below. If not, and you’re going to use a different type of filtration system for your aquarium that’s awesome! Go ahead and leave a comment below and tell us how you are filtering your aquarium water, or how you plan to!

Update: We do not currently recommend the API Nexx Canister Aquarium Filter. It leaked when I first set it up for my aquarium system check. Somehow, I got it to work for 4 days without any leaks during the system check. Then, I drained the aquarium, put live sand into the tank, put live rock into the tank, filled the tank up with saltwater and re-started the API Nexx Canister Filter. A few hours later I went to check on the tank only to find a puddle under the tank stand. The API Nexx Canister Filter was leaking from the base. I have removed the filtration system from the tank while it is cycling. I am in contact with representatives from RENA and will post updates with the outcome.

Grab your Canister Filtration System now:

Other posts mentioned in this Podcast:

We love our listeners and respect your opinion! Please search for “Aquarium Tip Tank” in iTunes to find all of our podcast episodes and leave a review. We’d love to know what we can do better and we’d love to keep improving! Also, please feel free to contact us with any aquarium questions, stories, and we really love breakthroughs – tell us about the fish you just added to your tank!


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Unpacking Ecoray 60DX LED Aquarium Lights!

If you’re a regular to Aquarium Tip Tank you may know that I am starting a new 30 gallon saltwater aquarium. You can hear all about how I went through the process of selecting the lighting system for my new aquarium in Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 006. In the time since that podcast was released Ecoray actually came out with an upgraded versions of their LED systems that included a second dimmer for the blue LEDs so that now both the white and blue LEDs had their own separate dimmer. I decided to pay just a few more dollars for the upgraded version, and my new Ecoray 60DX lighting system arrived 5 days ago! Here are some pictures of the unpacking, and a few of my insights.

Ecoray 60DX arrival and out of the shipping box.


Ecoray 60DX Box Opened!

From the picture above you can see that the Ecoray 60DX was very well packaged. There was no damage to the box and all of the contents inside were well protected from shipping mishaps. The seller even packaged the system in a whole other box that was also well insulated.

All Ecoray 60DX Contents out of the Box!

The LEDs of the Ecoray 60DX!

The “top side” of the Ecoray 60DX

In the 3 pictures above we can see the contents of the box being removed. We can also see the dual power cords and dual dimmers. One power cord and the white dimmer powers and controls the white LEDs, and the other power cord and blue dimmer powers the blue LEDs. The 2 separate power cords makes it possible to plug the cords into separate timers so that you can have whites and blues on at separate times. I’m thinking about possibly going through a daily light cycle where I turn the blue LEDs on first for 30 minutes to an hour, then have the white LEDs turn on so that I have both white and blue light for about 10 hours, then turn just the white LEDs off again and leave the blue LEDs on for an extra hour or two to replicate dusk/moonlight until I decide that the blue LEDs can be turned off. I can just program the timers correctly to achieve that light cycle. This is a very nice feature of the Ecoray 60DX, and I can just adjust the timers to try out different light cycles whenever, and however I want!

Yes, some more expensive LED aquarium lighting systems include the electronics and software so that the timers are already in the system, or so that you can control everything from your smartphone, tablet, or computer. I just didn’t want to go overboard and spend $300 or more extra on those components when I can just spend $20 on 2 timers. For me, it also adds an element of relaxation. I’ll set the timers, and just have to forget about it and not worry about it the rest of the day. I’ll have to look at, enjoy, and tinker with my lights timer settings. It’ll be fun. I won’t have constant control of the lights from everywhere, therefore, why worry about it the rest of the day. If I had those types of controls on my smartphone, I may actually be  more worried that I’d change something without even looking at my aquarium just to come home and figure out that I had messed something up!

Hands-free or dimmers that worked on a timer of some sort might be nice though. It would kind of be cool if I could schedule and time the lights so that I could have full power blue LED lighting during the daytime hours, but then set the dimmer to automatically go to 50%, then 25%, then to off in the night hours. For this setup, I have to get up and manually turn the dimmers to create a different lighting effect. However, controls like that still cost a whole lot of money and I wasn’t ready to spend the extra cash. I also don’t know how much I really NEED something like that. After all, the nano-reef that I currently keep does just fine with a metal-halide turning on for 10 hours, then just turning off. I’m sure I’ll just tinker with the settings and timers that I use with the Ecoray 60DX, find what I’m happy with, set it, relax, and let it go!

Small package containing mounting brackets, hanging cables, and instructions opened!

If you don’t have a lighting ballast, it is probably easiest to put a hook in your ceiling and hang the Ecoray 60DX LED system. I don’t really want to do that. I don’t have a ballast to mount the lighting system in currently. My plan is to head out to a hardware store and see what kind of mounting legs, or mounting stand that I can come up with. You’ll just have to check back later for my post about that!

Ecoray 60DX Blue LEDs at 100%. White LEDs not even plugged in.

Light side of the Ecoray 60DX with Blue LEDs at 100%. White LEDs not plugged in. All Blues are working!

Ecoray 60DX with Wite LEDs at 100%. Blue LEDs turned off.

Ecoray 60DX White LEDs at 100%. Blue LEDs at 25%.

Ecoray 60DX White and Blue LEDs both at 100%. All systems go!

The last 5 pictures were taken with a flash turned off. The flash would have added light and not shown the effects of the lighting very well. I didn’t have a way to mount the light like I wanted to at this point so I just placed it on top of my aquarium tank and plugged it in to test everything for a few minutes. Everything worked great! Of course, I’m going to have to turn the system 90 degrees to get the correct light coverage for my tank, but I think everything will work brilliantly!

Grab your High PAR LED Light system now:


Check back later to see how I decide to mount the Ecoray 60DX lighting system! Got any comments? Leave them below!


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