Fluval Nano 3.0 LED Planted Aquarium Light: Product Review

Tired of playing second class citizen to the big tanks? - by
5 / 5 Stars

Short Take

Let our little goldfish paste give you a quick intro...

You love nano tanks.

You love the cool little rimless options. 

You love love the easy size that fits anywhere into your house.

You love the ease of maintenance that comes with a compact little tank.

You love being able to setup and tear down scapes at will.

You love the cool nano fish that just pop in small tanks.

You DON'T love the bad lights though...you're done with having to run two or more terrible lights just to get enough illumination.

If you're looking for a powerful LED light made just for you, check out the new Fluval Plant Nano, available now from Aquarium Co-Op (assuming people haven't beaten you to the light...they're tough to keep in stock).

Want to know exactly what you're getting from the Fluval 3.0 Plant Spectum Nano? Then read on.

Looking for a review of the full-szed Fluval Plant 3.0? Click here

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    You've Put Up With Terrible Nano Lights For Years, Haven't You?

    If you're a fan of nano aquariums (definitions vary, but let's say for sake of argument 10 gallons and smaller), you're probably used to getting the short end ot the stick in the lighting department.

    Cool tanks? Check.

    Amazing nano fish options? Check.

    Special fertilizer blends designed for small tanks? Check.

    High performance aquarium lights. Maybe not so much.

    Well, thankfully your prayers have been answered, since when Fluval released the new 3.0 Plant Spectrum light, they were quick to release a nano version as well.

    What Makes the Nano So Special Then?

    Most small light fixtures...heck most aquarium lights in general...are not dimmable. That means you have a choice of off or on, or on fancy ones off/on and a nightlight mode.

    If you don't want to end up with a bunch of algae, you need to run the light for only part of the day.

    Trying to remember to turn it on and off manually at the same time each day is a pain, and is one of the most common ways of ending up with too much algae.

    Therefore, most people end up running a light timer like one of these  Bluetooth smart outlets if you have a lot of spare plugs...

    ...or a mechanical timer powerbar with room to add constant-on plugs for filters or heaters (I still have a bunch of these for my non-smart aquarium lights).

     

    Those are okay, but the Fluval 3.0 Nano has both the timer functions AND the dimmer functions built right in. Heck, you can even customize the colour of the light to highlight your plants and fish in their best light!

    Why Does A Dimmer Matter?

    The dimmer feature matters quite a lot if you're a planted tank owner, since that way your plants are only getting the amount of light they need while also giving you the viewing time you want.

    After all, if the light isn't on when you want to enjoy the tank, it sort of starts to defeat the purpose of having a tank, doesn't it?

    If you're more of a fish person than a plant person, the Fluval 3.0 Nano still adds a really cool set of options to bring out the colours in the fish you keep the best.

    With 5 bands of coloured lights (pink, blue, cool white, pure white, warm white), you can pick the levels of each band (0-100%) that best highlight blues on cardinal tetras, yellows and reds on bettas, greens on green neons or rasboras, or whatever suits the fish you keep.

    The colour spectrum balance on the Fluval 3.0 is amazing!

    You can also pick levels that best highlight your cool hardscape, so you can either allow the deep tannin glow of an Amazon biotope to shine through, or you can make a cool Seriyu stone or Dragon Ohko aquascape absolutely shine.

    Lastly, if you're a fish or shrimp breeder you'll appreciate that the ramp timer allows a very gradual transition from darkness to daylight so you won't scare the heck out of your fish as they snap on to 100% like happens with a mechanical timer. If you've ever noticed your fish flying around the tank when the lights first come on, you'll know what I'm talking about (reference: their eyes don't adjust like ours do).

    The Fluval 3.0 is almost completely programmable for a 24 hour light cycle

    Okay, So It's Got Lots of Features, But Is It Durable?

    Sure is. 

    In addition to having the best warranty in the business at 3 years vs the competitor's 6 months to 1 year (about the time those other fixtures start to lose LED emitters), the 3.0 is basically waterproof.

    Not "spray from an airstone" waterproof either...we're taking IP67 waterproof.

    That means you can (and a few YouTubers proved you can) dump the thing straight in the tank, go make a coffee, and when you come back it'll still be humming away happily.

    If you have animals or small kids that mess with your tanks on occassion, or even if you've been known to accidentally bump a light while doing a water change (not that I've ever done that or anything), this is a very useful bonus.

    When you combine that level of durability with the kick-butt customer service and free shipping that Cory and his team at Aquarium Co-Op provide, well, let's just say that you can't go too far wrong ordering on these Nano's from them.

    If you're already sold than just click here to order your own, but if you want more details before you make up your mind then by all means read on.

    So How Does the Fluval 3.0 LED Nano Light Perform?

    Fluval totally set the bar on light performance with the old full size 2.0 fixture, and even in the Nano world the Aura High Output or Eco Nano, so they didn't rock the boat too much when they designed the new 3.0.

    As a result, they seemed to concentrate mainly on upgrading the functionality of the light to give you exactly what you need without making you pay for more.

    In terms of raw light output, the rated lumen output and number of LED emitters is as listed in the little table below:

    Fluval 3.0 Length Nano 24" 36" 48"
    Lumens Produced 1000 lm 2350 lm 3300 lm 4250 lm
    LED Emitters 63 148 232 336

     

    Lumens are commonly used in ads because they measure light levels as our human eyes see them.

    If you're just buying a fish viewing light that's fine, but if you want to know what's actually available to grow plants, that's a different story.

    To determine the usefulness of the light available to plants we need to turn to PAR (photosynthetically active radiation). PAR is a measure of the amount of light available to be used during photosynthesis (the process by which plants harness energy from light ), and while PAR itself isn't a perfect substitute, it's about the best we as hobbyists have at our disposal to use with commonly available measuring equipment.

    Though Fluval hasn't yet published official PAR numbers that I'm aware of for the Nano, our friend Cory at Aquarium Co-Op was nice enough to take some simple measurements in his preview YouTube video using an Apogee PAR meter similar to the one linked below (and a planted 125 gallon aquarium):

    Using the Apogee PAR meter and his 125 gallon aquarium, Cory measured the performance of both an older Fluval 2.0 as well as the new 3.0 using 4 foot (48") light bars.

    While the old 2.0 produced 32 to 33 PAR on that tank, the newer 3.0 produced 27 PAR at that same depth on that same day (1 PAR on just the red lights alone).

    Fluval LED Fixture PAR Measurement at bottom of 125 gallon Aquarium (~18-20" deep filled with water and including substrate)
    2.0 32-33 PAR
    3.0 27 PAR
    3.0 (red only) 1 PAR

     

     

    How Will the Nano Perform Then?

    Since I don't have PAR numbers to go off of, it's tough to say exactly, but you can be sure it'll grow most plants just fine.

    Since your Nano tank is generally going to be much more compact that a larger aquarium, you have a lot more light to play with. After all, light intensity falls off quickly with depth, and you don't have to worry about depth nearly as much with a smaller tank.

    Since you can control the intensity and duration of the light easily with the 3.0, you should be good to go in terms of creating whatever aquascaping masterpiece you want.

    I'm currently scheming some schemes to come up with exact PAR values on this light, and I'll post them here as soon as they're available. 

    Questions About the Fluval 3.0

    How Does the Fluval Nano attach to the Tank?

    Unlike the previous Fluval Nano which relied on double sided tape as an attachment and thus wasn't very portable from tank to tank, the new 3.0-based Nano uses clamps to attach the light.

    What Sort of Glass Thickness Does The Tank Need To Have to Use a Fluval 3.0 Nano?

    That clamp is adjustable for tank glass widths from 3mm to 8mm.

    How Adjustable is the Attachment for the Fluval Nano?

    In a word...very.

    The brackets that hold the light adjust over a wide range,  and will place the middle of the light anywhere from 5" to 8" from the edge of the tank.

    How Would I Best Setup A CO2 (carbon dioxide) System to Run With the Fluval Nano?

    Each tank will take it's own special tuning, but a good place to start would be to have CO2 to come on midway through sunrise, and off midway through sunset.

    What's the FluvalSmart Mobile App Like?

    I like it! If you want to get a detailed look at how to use the app and what I think of it, just click here or on the image below to get a detailed look at the FluvalSmart app.

    Overall, however,  it's a good product with the potential to be amazing with a only few small nudges in the right direction. Either way, it's a big step up from the old  Fluval 2.0 Wifi Controller.

    FluvalSmart Mobile App

    What's the Life Expectancy of the Fluval 3.0?

    50,000 hours is the theoretical life of the LEDs, which works out to about 6 years. That number is a lab figure however, and generally assumes you don't actually turn them on and off (which I'm prone to do on occasion).

    Practically, the life expectancy should still be a number of years in reality, and the light comes with a 3 year warranty that hints at its expected lifespan.

    How Wide of a Light Beam Does the Fluval 3.0 Nano Project?

    The LEDs used here are known as "120 degree" LEDs, which is a pretty comfortable viewing width on most tanks.

    That spread means that it can handle a relatively wide tank front to back, and it targets at least an 18" front to back aquarium depth. 

    This ideal can vary based on how high above the tank bottom you suspend the light (greater distances allowing for a wider tank), but just remember that the effectiveness of the light drops off quicker at greater heights.

    Most LED lights are very directional, and the 120 degree choice was made to avoid some of the dead spot issues that other fixtures can create when the light is either too short for, or not versatile enough for, the average aquarium.

    How Hot Does the Fluval 3.0 Nano Get in Operation?

    Though it's not hot enough to be uncomfortable to hold, I did find the light to get surprisingly warm in operation. It's apparently designed to get a little warmer to accommodate the choice of LEDs, but being used to lower-powered setups I did at least notice the higher operating temperature .

    The full aluminum shell is durable, but also acts as a heat sink to get heat away from the LEDs where it can otherwise cause damage, so that's a plus.

    Since the LEDs themselves are not causing the heat to be generated like a fluorescent bulb would be doing, there shouldn't be any issues with the 3.0 causing your tank to warm up (heat rises and all that good stuff).

    Can the Blue Light Ramp Down From Say 20% to 0% After a Couple of Hours or Can It Only Be Completely On or Completely Off?

    Only on at some level or off right now, unfortunately, though as noted above in the article this might be a feature for future free updates of the app.

    I'm Also In Canada, When Can I Get My Hot Little Hands on a Fluval 3.0 Nano?

    All Fluval will say as of the time of this writing is "Fall 2018". It might do you well to check their website to keep an eye on things (or your favourite social media channel).

    When Will the Nano Light Be Available in Europe?

    They're not even hinting there yet, so as above check their website to keep an eye on things.

    How Does the Light Know What Time It Is?

    This is set by the phone or tablet you use to program the light.

    You don't need to set the time manually, but you may need to re-export the program to the light after each time change if you want the light to be on the "new" time change.

    How Does the Light Handle Dimming the LEDs?

    It actually doesn't dim the output of the LEDs, but instead rapidly flashes the light on an off.

    It can make for some funny visual effects when recorded on video as a result, where the frame rate of the camera makes the light seem "flickery".

    Does the Fluval 3.0 Nano Come With a Physical Remote Control?

    No, though there's a manual control button, the mobile Bluetooth app replaces previous physical remote controls.

    Reaching Out To the #FishFam For Other Opinions

    Pecktec on the Fluval 3.0 Nano

    If you don't have time to watch the entire video right now, just be assured that his initial review of the out-of-the-box quality was very positive.

    Overall, he appreciated the degree of programmability, and said it had "all kinds of options for confusing the hell out of your plants" (I got a kick out of that quote!)

    So I'm Interested in the Light Itself, But What Was It Like to Order From Aquarium Co-Op?

    Look for a detailed article soon to outline exactly what it was like, but in a nutshell it was a pretty straightforward and pleasant experience.

    Unfortunately, Cory doesn't ship directly to Canada (please bug him on my behalf to let us carry Aquarium Co-Op gear in Canada, since we've offered in the past).

    That means in order to order Fluval 3.0 lights, his house brand foods, or EasyGreen fertilizer for delivery to Canada you need to order off his website and have the items shipped to a location in the United States for pickup.

    For our part, we chose At The Border Storage in Montana as the closest place to ship to, which for us is about 4 hours drive away.

    Erica and her mum drove down on Friday since she had the day off (At The Border Storage is only open on the weekend one day per month), picked up the 3 packages at a cost of $5 each, and drove them home. The only additional charge she encountered at the border was to pay 5% GST since we live in Alberta.

    Shipping from Aquarium Co-Op to Montana was free since the order value was over $75.

    There was no real fuss, the tracking numbers worked well, and I used Facebook Messenger notifications to keep in touch with shipping the whole way (thanks to Allie and her team in shipping at Aquarium Co-Op!).

    Summary - Is The Fluval 3.0 Nano LED Aquarium Light Worth Buying? Is #fluvalstrippin?

     Do you like getting compliments on your tanks? If so, buy this light.

    In my mind, the 3.0 Nano is a great deal if you want a light you can be proud of, and that will make people stop and stare at your nano tanks. 

    The light itself is incredibly well built, waterproof, customizable to the degree I need it to be, uses modern tech, and is priced competitively.

     All in all, I'd highly suggest going over the Aquarium Co-Op and picking up a Fluval Plant Nano before they're all sold out (talking to the team, it seems that they're having trouble staying in stock because everyone wants them).

    All Hail The Sky Gods!

     

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