SHO Lighting Review; New Planted Aquarium Light Technology

By | April 17, 2011

Further Revised: 1/8/14

SHO-Custom-ApplicationAlthough the SHO (Super High Output) CF Light is not all that new, yet for some reason it is still not all that well known in the Aquarium Hobby. These high output CFLs are quite well known among indoor nurseries and Hydroponics operations, and somewhat known among aquarium professionals.
That said, since so much information is “cut and paste” nowadays (thanks to misinformed forums and places like Yahoo Answers), these lights are still either not well known or dismissed out of hand, such as the person referenced in this “Fish as Pets” post:
Aquarium Forum Hall of Shame Part 4: SHO Lamps/Lights

However the facts speak for themselves, otherwise why would many Hydroponics, Indoor Nurseries, and even health Centers that depend on high output natural sunlight use these lights?
The facts are while maybe the newer LED GroBeams are better, the SHO is hard to beat when it comes to results and economy of use (especially on a large scale).
As well, the 105 SHO puts out 6300 lumens of high PAR light that even the popular T5 cannot beat, even with comparable wattage.


Probably the biggest negative for the SHO Light is that these are not an “out of the box” light set-up, rather a bit of DIY ability to suspend a reflector, fixture, and lamp are required (other methods can also be utilized, but this is the most effective in utilizing these lights).
This negative aside, for those willing to utilize a SHO lighting set up, especially for a “high light” planted aquarium, there is no better lighting system other than LEDs (which also cost much more).

The picture to the above/left displays only a 65 Watt SHO in a reflector over a 20 gallon aquarium.
The customer spray painted flat black on the outside of the reflector. Then is using a black rubber PVC joiner, reduced 4″ to 2″, and two S/S strap clamps to secure and hide the electrical for a really nice custom application.
It is obvious from this application that the 65 Watt SHO is more than adequate for this 20 gallon aquarium. It is also noteworthy that the SHO light was added to this tank shortly before the picture was taken, so extremely good growth these lights achieve has hardly begun.

See this comment by a new user of the SHO:

I also purchased a couple SHO 85 bulbs with reflectors, and they are unbelievable on my 75 gallon. I have never seen my plants pearl as much as they do now, and I went from about 185 watts of HO t5s to 170 watt CFLs. I would consider these a serious upgrade!!!!

Mark T.


Here are just a few Interesting Points & Facts about the SHO Light:

SHO-Hood-Demo• The picture to the left displays how one can build a DIY rack to easily support the optional SHO reflector (which reduces restrike while increase light efficiency).
This is one of many ways an aquarium (or hydroponics grower) can mount a SHO light (Please click on this picture to enlarge for a better view)
• This is an awesome bulb for planted Freshwater aquariums
• A great bulb for DIY high intensity aquarium or greenhouse lighting projects and now medical studies have shown benefits to human and animal life.
The SHO Light is especially effective when used in properly designed reflector
(many convalescent hospitals are now employing these too, which along with greenhouse businesses, is the primary reason we have not always been able to obtain SHO lights as the primary North American Distributor is often sold out to these industries)!
• High output self-ballasted aquarium bulbs, no special (or expensive) ballast required
• 6400 K Day Light Bulbs

shobulbtn• Ideal for planted Aquariums (including Marine Refugiums), especially large tanks! In part due to the high PAR rating. PAR output is important for photosynthesis in plants or symbiotic algae in corals.
These bulbs are all you would need for a planted FW aquarium.
Reference: PAR, Photosynthetically Active Radiation, Aquarium Lighting
• 8000 hours average life
• The 65 Watt SHO produces 3900 lumens, while the 85 watt SHO produces 5100 lumens (the equivalent of a standard 425 watt bulb), and finally the 105 Watt produces 6300 lumens (the equivalent of a standard 525 watt bulb).
• 60 Lumens per Watt
• Can be used in freshwater or marine
• The SHO bulb is VASTLY brighter than most other competing lights.
See this website:
SHO Light, Lighting).

*Please note that for maximum effectiveness; the use of mylar or other reflective material behind your SHO Lights or better a polished reflector will direct the light energy into your aquarium.
Without the use of any reflective material, as much as 40% of your light energy can be lost and couple that with the use of glass or thick acrylic, another 40% can be lost (polycarbonate tops are best for light penetration).

Here are some Generalized Suggested Wattages for the use of a 6400K SHO Light:

*For planted freshwater aquariums; 2 to 2.5 watts of Daylight SHO Lights are required

*For Marine Reef, 2.5 to 2.8 watts of these SHO lights, possibly mixed with other light types such as actinic blue T5, LED 50,000K light.
Reference/Resource: TMC Fiji or Reef Blue LED Aquarium light

For the Internet’s premier source for Aquarium Light Information:

aquariumlightingdisplaytn4 The above article is a must read for those who want the most complete and accurate aquarium lighting information; A MUST READ!

A for a Complete UV Replacement Bulb Guide:
UV Bulbs; Replacement Guide


4 thoughts on “SHO Lighting Review; New Planted Aquarium Light Technology


    Super high output lights are becoming more common. For example there was a time when LED grow lights didn’t produce adequate light to be effective for growing. However with the advent of new technology they are becoming more powerful and efficient.

  2. Pingback: Article Base Review « C Strohmeyer's Weblog; Life, Business

  3. Dan Long

    All the pictures I’ve seen show these bulbs hanging vertically. What happens if they are placed horizontally in a hood/canopy?


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