Who is SB Reef Lights? What are we all about?
Mike and Collette Herman, now residing in Pensacola, Fl are avid fish hobbyist since the mid 1980s. Saltwater fish keepers since the early 1990s and serious reef keepers since the mid 1990s. They remember seeing their first 6500K metal halide and thinking it was so blue compared to their 5700K. And when the first 10,000K halide bulb came out, well it was pure witchcraft. They have had success growing and fragging corals under metal halide, VHO, T5 and combos of the 3. Having reef tanks from 5 gallon Pico tanks, 10 to 20 gallon Nanos all the way up to 560g mega reefs. The SB Reef Lights were developed on a 560g reef over 18 months. They are now proven at the largest public aquariums in the world like the SHEDD in Chicago, Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta and even the Singapore Zoo!
So what does the "SB" in SB Reef Lights stand for?
There is a history to the name. When we first started using BlackBoxes, no one believed they could grow or even sustain coral. We had left a MH/T5 combo due to the high cost of electricity, re-bulbing every 9 months and running a chiller. Of course the die hard Metal Halide fans down played LED in general. The Trendy High End LED fanboys said the Black Boxes were "crappy" lights and even claimed they would catch my house on fire! Still I figured they were worth a try. The physics involved told me the lights made enough PAR in the right spectrum to keep coral alive. I figured they may not be great but they might be good enough. I didn't expect them to be as nice as a Radian or Hydra 52.
So as I started posting decent results, folks would ask which lights I was using. Jokingly I would say my "Sh*t Boxes" as a jab to the trendy high end LED fanboys that said they were crappy. The name stuck after that. 18 months later is as widely used in the hobby as "Black Box" to denote the 16x8" 55 LED Full Spectrum units.
Now it's a badge of honor we now wear with pride. Saying Sh*t Box is like giving a big wet raspberry to the Radian, Hydra, Maxspect users. It's not that their lights aren't great, it's that our Sh*t Boxes can easily keep up with them for 1/4 to 1/3 the price. There are still those, that overspent, that refuse to believe Sh*t Boxes work. Even though we outgrow them, out color them, and under spend them.
Great, so you proved black boxes can work, what next?
Not willing to sit still with off the shelf black boxes I decided to improve mine. After all black boxes are made by Industrial/Commercial LED companies. They branched into Hydroponics making large red led boxes. Then they decided to try Salt Water Reef lights. They started with just Blue and White. They googled that corals need blue light. And added white for aesthetics. When end users complained and asked for full spectrum, they added more warm whites and reds. THE WRONG DIRECTION TO GO!!! But I do not blame them, they are not hobbyist, they are not reefers.
So I put my 25 years of reef keeping, and my understanding of Engineering (B.S. Nuclear Engineering from UofMd) into making a better black box. A black box that could outperform the high end trendy lights for 1/4 to 1/3 the price. I slowly started swapping out diodes to shift spectrum. I noticed most people ran their lights with a 25 to 30% spread between the white abd blue channel. That meant when the blue was at 100%, whites were still at 75%. Why not design a spectrum that can be run equally sot he full potential of the light could be utilized for deeper tanks? Add more blue to the white spectrum and remove wavelengths not needed. Every time I changed layout, I saw an improvement in growth and color. I researched more and found the exact, key wavelengths to hit hard to excite not only the Chlorophyll A&C in the chloroplasts, inside the zooxanthallae, but also the carotenoids (With 495nm Teal), adding even more energy to the growth engine. Then I started focusing on color. I found a few trigger wavelengths 420 and 395nm. Both trick the coral into thinking it is in shallower water, causing the coral to develop more protective pigment. When PAR and more importantly PUR levels are increased, zooxanthallae are more efficient. The coral then needs fewer zooxanthallae and releases some. This leads to a less brown coral, with the protective pigments shining through. 420nm blue also adds to Chlorophyll A excitement, so it's a double win. That's why we have more 420nm than any other black box.
After about 6 months I had my Generation 1 SB light. I found a manufacturer to make a light with my layout. They would not make a small run, so I organized a group buy through the Chinese Black Box LED Proof Group I had help to create. I figured we would sell 20 to 30 improved lights. We started in October of 2014. By June of 2015 we had sold over 1350 lights! With nothing but rave reviews and an incredible reliability record. Less than 6 total issues our of 1350 lights. And no truly dead units. All 6 were either a loose wire clip, new LCD screen or a new driver. Not even the trendy high end LED companies can claim that kind of record.
I continued to research, tweak, swap and test layouts until, 18 months later, I now have what I know to be the best black box money can buy. However I wanted to give budget reefers more than a great spectrum, PAR and PUR. I wanted features to make it a true value. So I upgraded the fans to quieter units with higher CFM. More airflow means cooler diodes, which means longer life and more accurate wavelength output. I wanted not only the typical hanging kit, but built in fully adjustable mounting legs. Our legs are the only ones that adjust not only width, but height as well. I added thicker heat sinks for more even heat dissipation with out the typical hot spots you get with "License Plate" heat sinks you find in most ebay brands. I also added better quality drivers. Finally I wanted features like remote controls, builtin timers, LCD screens, and ramping on select models, giving the end user choices in features based on needs and budget.
Okay, it's the best light ever...do you back up your claim?
But wait there's more!!! You can't have a better quality light with out a better warranty. So we worked closely with the factory on part sourcing and quality, so we can offer a free 2 YEAR USA WARRANTY. (1 year international warranty). But a warranty does you no good if you have to mail your light in, leaving your expensive corals with no light. So we offer two options. You can send the light to us for repair, or we can send you needed parts to swap yourself. I ensured all parts are modular with quick wire clips. You can replace any part in minutes with just a screw driver. No down time for your corals. I have several DIY videos showing how to repair or modify your black boxes.
So what makes the spectrum so effective?
So what makes this spectrum so great, besides the great aesthetics it provides? Simple, where most black boxes like MarsAqua, GalaxyHydro, Reef Radiance, Evergrow and Reef Breeders use a shotgun method approach, loading in as many different diodes as possible, hoping to hit the right wavelengths, we instead, as seen in the picture below, hit all of the key photosynthesis points hard. No wasted energy in wavelengths that don't benefit coral growth and color.
The cross point of Chlorophyll A and C is 447nm, that is where Zooxanthallae are most efficient. We hit it very hard. Also note 420nm is where Chlorophyll A peaks and we hit that hard as well. We have more 420nm than any other black box. Also note 420nm is a trigger wavelength that tricks corals into thinking they are in shallower water, resulting in development of more protective pigment "Color". Note we don't hit the 470nm peak of Chlorophyll C as hard, there is a valid reason for this. Chlorophyll C saturates at a lower photon energy, and has a much lower density in most typical corals than Chlorophyll A. This means adding more energy there adds no value after a point. Instead we do something no other black box lights do, we hit the secondary absorption point of the cartenoids present in the Chloroplast hard. The cartenoids absorb the 490nm wavelength and convert the energy into a source the chloroplast can better use. The Cartenoid Peridinin is present in higher concentration than Chlorophyll C as well. We also hit the 660nm peaks of Chlorophyll A&C.
Finally we have 395nm True UV, which not only adds to coral fluorescence, but development of protective color pigments by again tricking the coral into thinking it's in shallower water. The issue with true UVs though is that the UV actually destroys the lens over time. We have solved this problem by finding a better quality diode with a silica lens instead of plastic. Makes for a little more expensive diode, but it will last more than the 1 year max you get out of a typical plastic lens.
For our white channel, we have just enough green and warm whites (yellow) for aesthetics, with the bulk of diodes in the 14K range. We also have 20K diodes, something no other black box has. This provides for a crisp white with hints of blue.That means our light provides more PUR than any other black box, while helping to provide coral coloration only possible with T5s before. It also allows you to run an even spread form channel to channel with a crisp 14K look. Dial the white down a tad and you're at 20K.
Not all black boxes are created equal! We will put our growth rates and coral color up against any LED, even the trendy high priced fixtures. Add to that quieter fans that have higher CFM for cooler operating temperatures and longer diode life, Built in mounting legs and hanging kit, and finally a 2 YEAR USA WARRANTY!! All for much less than other premium black boxes.