Mr. Saltwater Tank’s Review of the AquaIlluminations Wireless Controller

Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are and continue to be very popular with saltwater tank hobbyists. Between the power savings, range of available colors and seemingly infinite controllability, LEDs are here to stay. AquaIlluminations released their wireless controller in an effort to bridge the gap between hobbyist’s wishes for wireless LED control and what’s available on the market.

During my review of the controller, I’ve found it to be wireless with a catch and a big footnote.


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Comments for this article (27)

  • Mike says:

    Hey, great videos! I know me and my wife have on of these lights with the not so wireless controller and it works great! I do agree that it sucks that it has to be plugged in to work, but, if you are a big do it yourselfer then it is very simple to hook a battery up to the controler your self. That option does suck I know but it is a solution. Past that you can keep the controler away from your tank when you are gone to help ensure that nothing gets bumped.

  • Kris Rogers says:

    Great video Mark
    Thanks for all the great videos
    Keep em

  • Buddy says:

    Mark: Guess thats why I.m a D.I.Y. person I built my own Very nice L.E.D. lights for my Tank. I didn’t add a wireless controller to the system because you forgot the main trouble with them (Where did I leave that remote !!!) Besides being able to do everything the Manufacturers put out with their lights. I can do even a little more, like add or remove additional light or colors, Control them from the web and view the intensity or just see if their set the way I like them using a remote camera on the tank. The best part is they cost me half what the Major manufacturers want for thier lights and I’m not worried the controller is going to get unplugged. Everything is upgradable so no missing that new feature someone just came out with.. Cheers..

  • Justin says:

    I have 2 vega’s that i am putting over a new 90gal tank. I plan to set the lights to a timer to avoid the problem you are talking about, so it will just be a simple off and on light. I know i dont have full control of the lights right now but i did not want to waste the cash on a wireless/wired controller when the director is coming out so soon. I was also very stunned when i found out that the controller had to be plugged in at all times to work.

  • Zac says:

    Couldnt you add one of those cheep light timers to it maybe set it for an hour before it comes on and house after it goes off that way incase the controller happens to become unplugged the cheep light timer with shut it off instead of it staying on. and im sure all of us has tons of those around the house

  • Chris says:

    The first thing that jumped out at me was the computer issue. I was wondering if you use your computer to power the controller and the power goes out and comes back on, the computer does not power back on without command, does the light come back on?

  • Chris…The Vega (and I’ll assume the Sol and the Sol Nano) don’t remember their programming. They have to be constantly told what to do by a controller. I just simulated a power outage like you outlined and the Vega doesn’t come back on after a power outage if the wireless controller doesn’t come back on.

  • Zac…you could get a light timer as a backup to turn the light on/off. And I feel like having to add an accessory to make a product work as it should (in this case, be fail safe) is adding insult to injury. Could you imagine buying a car and the dealer telling you, “Oh, well, it won’t works as it should if you go buy a part from Auto-Zone”.

  • Mike says:

    Good honest review. Thank you for that Mark!!

  • jrockflimflam says:

    Mark, I appreciate your honest reviews of the products. Thank you.

  • Mike says:

    I have a 72″ Sunbrite led. I like it a lot. It is controllable with my iPhone. It remembers the lighting after a power outage.

  • John says:

    Thank you Mark as I just got SOL led’s from them. I have the new controller as the older type they are not making any more. They run very well and did not know how much LED’s make a difference. The color of the corals are beautiful much more they with T5 lights I had. I happy you had this review of their controller. I have the wired type Sol Led,s as I said and saw what you said about wireless Vega led’s. I did a check and if you have them on the SOL lights then unplug the controller they stay on also.
    I happy you went over some of the setting on that new controller as their guides do not show a lot how to go from one screen to other and change thing around.

    Now can I ask do the light you have turn off if not connected to the controller?

  • Michael says:

    Thanks for the review! Just bought wireless Vertex 360 SR and has desktop remote wireless controller. Downside is the proximity the laptop has to be to fixtures to get it to communicate. Wondering if Vega lights have that problem? Very much the same as far as features, just thought you might comare these in the future.
    Thanks again.

  • David M says:

    As always, great review Mark. Now can you get working on the Ai Vega review. 🙂
    I also felt that having the having the lights stay on when the controller disconnects as a hazard, especially when I recently when on vacation. The solution I came up with was to download the beta version for my Apex controller that allows me to view the tank via webcam. I could now easily visually check my tank and just shut down the lights if needed.

  • Richard H says:

    Hi Mark, great and timely review because i was just planning on getting one. Just want to ask if the settings will resume if you plug it back in after it was disconnected or unplug? or it stay on its last state and we have to reprogram it again?

  • Thanks for a thorough and useful review, Mark. Good point about the whole wireless-but-not-wireless issue. We’ve been using their SOL fixture with great results.
    One of the shortcomings I found with the SOL fixture was the controller. Most of us became accustomed to using metal halide or T5 or power compact flourescent lighting where the light was plugged into a timer. And those timers all had one or more channels, where each channel had an on and an off setting.
    Well the SOL controller doesn’t work this way, and my guess is that other LED controllers are different as well. The way the SOL controller works is that each “channel” is set to a specific light intensity, which might consist of different mixes of colors. So for example, channel 1 turns the light on at a diminished setting for sunrise. Channel 2 is set for midday, at a higher intensity, and channel 3 is set for a diminished intensity to simulate sunset (often with more blue colors).
    The reason I mention this is that I did not get this when first setting up my lights, and the lights were on 24/7, but I thought they were going off at 10:30pm. And I’ve been keeping reefs for over 16 years and I’m a Curator of a public aquarium. I thought this was important, because LED lighting is just applied differently than conventional metal halides or flourescents. Thought you might want to pass this on.

  • Paul says:

    As usual, like I often do. I bought the Vega lights & controller, then I did my research. lol You’re assessment seems spot on if you don’t update the firmware of the controller. However after going online downloading/installing the current firmware, all of your concerns are addressed except for the one that the controller has no built in power source thus needs to be plugged in to use it. Just thought you’d like to know (maybe the guru’s at AI watched your critique).

  • Paul…I saw that AI updated the firmware to fix the gross oversight. That’s good news to see that the product is getting tweaked.

  • Buddy says:

    To resolve your backup power just plug the controller into a U.P.S. (Uninterruptable Power Supply) An average unit of 650Watts should run the controller for a long time. I use one on all my Aquarium equipment Except for the heaters, they draw to much power and will kill a U.P.S. Now that Spring is just around the corner we get a lot of strong storms with lightning and the equipment on my tank is to expensive to loose. If you use a U.P.S. to protect your $500.00 computer surely it’s worth buying one to protect the hundreds or thousands of dollars you’ve invested in your saltwater tank.

  • Buddy..I like the idea of the UPS as a backup for the tank, but the fact that you have to buy another piece of equipment (the battery backup) just to make another piece of equipment (AI wireless controller) function properly is ludicrous to me. If you bought a new car and the sales man told you had to buy some accessory to make the car function properly, you’d never buy the car in the first place.

    Now that there is the firmware update has been released, AI has addressed this issue. I’ll be interested to see if the update is smart enough to turn your lights down to a lower setting based on the setting they are on (i.e. the lights are on 10%, communication between light is controller lost, light drops to 3%), or if it just defaults to a “low setting” (i.e. 20% regardless of where the lights are when the communication is lost).

  • Buddy says:

    I understand your point Mark and they will most likely address the issue at some point. After all the auto industry is doing it with cars, you no longer have to check your tire’s air pressure, or make sure you brake properly on slick roads because we now have computers in cars that do that for us. But all those automatic features make the cost of the car higher and more expensive every year. To get the feature your looking for, will require the same sort of technology, an operating system to run an application that monitors the controller a processor chip to run the application and then triggers an event for the lights to turn down when the signal is lost then resets the lights when the signal from the controller is regained. How long does the light wait for the signal to be lost because maybe you just turned a different direction and the wireless signal was lost for a few seconds then re-established.

    To build that all into the lights will undoubtedly cost the manufacturer more thus raising the cost of the lights. The ups was just a means to make sure the controller and lights had power when power is not available. It may be as simple as cost vs. feature.

  • Buddy…all that has to be added to the light is a simple chip that store’s the program the light should be running. Chips like those aren’t expensive (I bet they cost $1 max). With the chip on the light, the controller could dump the program to the light and let the light run the program. Alternatively, the light could switch to the program on the chip if the light gets disconnected from the controller.

    AI could also have the light turn off if it loses communication with the controller…easy fix.

  • Sammi says:

    Hi Mark

    Have you ever had the ai vega lights not want to turn red (bottom on back of light) so that you can set them up to the remote?

    My husband left out of town and my power went out and I can not get the lights in the correct setting to set up or re-program remote.

    Any help would be great.

    Thanks.. Sammi

  • Sammi…i’ve never had the issue you are experiencing probably due to the fact my Vega unit is sitting in a box. I’d email AquaIlluminations for technical support.

  • Andy rogers says:

    Great work. Do you know if you could run one unit wired and one wireless with this controller. It would mean I only have to buy one wireless adapter as I have two sols. One in my living room and one in my dining room

  • Andrew rogers says:

    Great work on Mr saltwater tv. I’m based in the uk and love your program. Do you know if you could run one unit wired and one wireless with this controller. It would mean I only have to buy one wireless adapter as I have two sols. One in my living room and one in my dining room

  • Brian Davis says:

    So pleased you’re helping so many enthusiasts my friend. I feel like Marty right now in Back To The Future, lol. I’ve Got a bit of catching up to do 😀 God bless you and yours!

    Brian- 😉

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