Aug 15, 2018

Aqua Illumination Prime Review and Unicorn Reef Bowl Update

A lot has been happening with the 8.5 gallon Unicorn Reef Bowl lately. I got a few new frags from Reef-a-Palooza 2018 and TSM Corals in New Jersey.

Unicorn Reef Bowl with AI Prime
I also got new Aqua Illumination Prime from Marine Depot to replace my ABI Tuna Blue light, and I couldn't be happier with it. I still use the ABI bulbs in other tanks, and they are trusty and true, but I enjoy the programmability, customizability, and rich colors the AI Prime offers. The ABI is a good, inexpensive bulb that has faithfully grown my coral for a couple years now, b ut the AI Prime is in an entirely different league with its controls and sleek, aesthetic design.

The AI Prime is controlled by an app that I easily downloaded to my Samsung phone. The app controls are so intuitive, this low-tech 35 year old lady didn't even have to read any directions. The controls just make sense. You can program each of the 7 colors down to the percent. The colors are absolutely stunning and there are endless combinations. The app has a handy acclimation mode so you can slowly get your corals used to the new light. You should also use acclimation mode when you get new coral. My favorite feature on the app is the weather. You can program clouds and lightning storms to happen each day, and you can even choose the probability and intensity of the storms.

I get a lot of questions about what is the "right" percentage for each color. Stick with your typical 6500K, 10000K, 14000K, or 20000K spectrum (depending on the look you like and the types of corals you have) if you're a beginner with this light. Go to Control > Manual, then tap the "semicircles" icon at the top right corner. This will allow you to adjust the Kelvin rating and intensity. Choose the Kelvin and intensity you want, then click the "sliders" icon at the top right. Remember the percentages of each color. Now go to Control > Auto > Easy Setup and input those percentages. Set your sunrise and sunset and the ramp time for an hour to simulate gradual sunrise and sunset. If you're still unsure and want to download settings that have been designed and used by expert reefers, visit

Here you can see a video of the ramp up from sunrise to sunset. This is what a day in the life of my tank would look like on hyperspeed if these were the settings I chose.

I also got a new toy to help me photograph the reef bowl with my camera phone without having to manipulate the colors in post processing. The Polyp Lab Coral View lens for Smartphone and Tablet kit comes with three lenses - 15,000K, 20,000K, and a 10x macro lens, plus a holder that clips onto your phone. The lenses are stackable, so if you want to use the orange lens and the macro lens at the same time, you can do that! The kit also comes with a cleaning cloth, cases for each lens, and a sturdy box for storage. I've been taking this kit with me everywhere I go just in case I need to quickly and easily photograph a tank (which usually happens everywhere I go!)

You may notice another huge change to the Unicorn Reef Bowl - my favorite Montipora setosa that my friend Ryan Pettit gave me years ago has died. It started to STN (slow tissue necrosis) about 6 months ago, and I just could not save it to matter what I did. None of the other corals, even the Montiporas, were affected.Sometimes we never know what causes corals to die for seemingly no reason. The last bit of flesh finally disappeared recently, and I removed the sad skeleton. It was the hardest coral loss I've ever experienced. I could replace it with another setosa, but it wouldn't be the same. That coral had so much history. I remember driving to my long-time friend Ryan's house in 2014 and enjoying a rare visit with him and his family, as he excitedly chose and cut corals to selflessly give to me. When I moved back to Pennsylvania, I took this coral with me and put it in my friend's tank for safekeeping. When I was ready, he gave me a piece of it for my reef vase, where it flourished and grew to the size of my hand.

January 2018

June 2017 

November 2017
What's interesting is that it always grew in a weird, nearly perfect ring around a barren center. It finally covered the center in November 2017, but when it started to die, the STN started right there in the center. A friend suggested I cut the center out and hope it would recover, but that didn't help. I tried cutting healthy pieces off the edge, but those died, too. I even put some of those healthy edge pieces in tanks of various friends hoping it would revive in their tanks. They died.

The corals are doing great now in the Unicorn Reef Bowl with the new AI Prime light. I also got a new wavemaker and a generic eBay Sun Sun canister filter that is helping to improve conditions. I like the Sun Sun, but I think eventually I'll upgrade to an Eheim filter just for quality and longevity.

Blue Tenuis frag from TSM Corals

Blue Tenuis in my bowl

Bubblegum Digitata from Mo's corals

My 4 year old acclimating hermit crabs

Acropora nasuta from TSM corals

Top down view with ABI bulb

Full tank shot Unicorn Reef Bowl AI Prime evening

AI Prime daytime Unicorn Reef Bowl

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Felicia! Please tell me why you're using the canister filter. It should be in a 9 gallon? Pico reefs usually work with an air pump. What materials do you use in the filter? Are you using the same wave maker? Thank you!