As someone who had always used single arm or puck style lights such as the Radion G15, AI Prime 16HD or the Reef Casa Halo light, I was intrigued to try the light bar style AI Blade. I have been running the Reef Casa Halo light on my Studio 12 tank with great success for the last 6 months or so but the 12” Blades looked like a perfect fit and I was curious to see how they performed. AI makes both a “Grow” and “Glow” model, and since my tank is nowhere near fully grown in yet, I chose the Grow model. I figured I could always turn the blue channels up and the white channels down if I wanted more fluorescent “pop”.
Like all AI products, it was well packaged and opening the box gave you the feeling you were looking at a high quality product. What struck me initially was the weight of the light. It felt very sturdy and heavy in my hands, much heavier than other similar products. I am going to assume that this weight is indicative of sturdy build quality. When I turned the light over it was clear that AI had taken care to ensure that this product had the same high quality fit and finish as its other lights.
The box contained the light, power cord and adapter, a quick start guide as well as simple mounts that allow the light to be attached to the rim of the tank. The mount was easily adjustable and it took literally seconds to attach it to the tank. While there are numerous other mounting options available, the simple tank rest will be more than sufficient for my needs at present and I don’t see myself needing to buy any further mounting hardware in the short term. Depending on the degree of shadowing I may add the elevated tank mount in the future, but it is nice to not have to buy any mounting hardware initially. The included quick start guide is user friendly and includes instructions for setting up the light without using an app. The light is, however, compatible with both the myAI app or Mobius. Since I have had experience programming lights with both apps I decided to use the myAI app to set up the light.
After updating the app on my phone the light connected easily on the first try. Due to some negative experiences with the Mobius app in the past (that I am told are now resolved) I am going to stick with the myAI app for now, just to keep things simple. For anyone who has used the app before to program a Prime or Hydra light the sliders will look familiar. Since the Blade only has 3 channels (Royal Blue, Cool White and Blue) creating the ideal color blend is relatively straightforward. I spent some time familiarizing myself with the sliders with the light off my tank so as not to subject my fish and corals to too many random lighting changes while I figured out all the nuances. Luckily, the app is very intuitive and this only took me about 10 minutes. I settled on a 10 hour cycle with Royal Blue at 40%, Cool White at 15% and Blue at 25% at the peak and then slowly tapering the Cool White down to 5% near the end of the lighting cycle. Since the tank is in the basement where I tend to spend time in the evening, I have the lights come on at 3pm and turn off at 1am. Because the tank is currently thriving I am going to leave the Reef Casa Halo light on and use it as my primary light until I am able to confirm my AI Blade settings with a PAR meter to ensure I am not shocking the corals. I think these settings may be too low for long term coral health but the last thing I want to do is damage my corals by exposing them to too much light.
For reefers who prefer a simpler approach, the “Easy Setup” option allows for the intensity of each color to be set as well as the Sunrise, Sunset and Ramp time. Using these simple controls the light could easily be set up within 5 minutes, making this a great choice for hobbyists of all experience levels.
One of the selling points of the AI Blade light is that it dramatically reduces shadowing as compared to single source lights. Because I have a couple of torch corals that are beginning to cast shadows over corals underneath them, I was interested to see how true this claim was. While it will take some time to fine tune the lighting intensity I can definitely say that the light was more evenly distributed and the shadowing was noticeably reduced. One of the difficulties that I have faced when using single point light sources is that it is very difficult to provide enough light at the edges of the tank without creating hotspots in the center. While only time will tell if the Blade effectively solves this problem, the fact that the shadows are noticeably reduced seems to indicate that it will. I think I will, however, seriously consider purchasing the elevated tank mount to further reduce shadowing and spread the PAR more evenly. I also think that aesthetically the light will look nicer if it is mounted a little bit higher off the tank, although that is certainly subjective.
All in all I am really impressed with the Blade light and can see what all the hype is about. At a price point of $200 it makes a great, albeit slightly less customizable, alternative to the AI Prime 16HD light or a Radion XR15. It probably offers the best value on the market today for an app controlled light For new reefers, or those running a smaller tank, a single Blade can often provide all the lighting that is required and more advanced hobbyists can combine longer Blade lights with other types of fixtures to create a truly one of a kind lighting system. While only time will tell how my corals respond, from my initial impressions it looks like AI has hit a home run with this light.