Well that was easy! Thank you guys.
I retrofitted my stock hood in less than an hour. It was pretty easy to do. I mounted the ballast outside of the hood and just ran the wires in. I bought 4 endcaps to mount the lights from home depot for $3 total, mounted them with bolts and nuts, and just ran the wires along the outside.
The only thing is i don't have a reflector. I'm gonna look for something reflective that i can trim to fit in there and make a sort of reflector. Also, i do have plenty of slots for ventilation up top, but i am going to go buy a sort of PC-type fan that will run on 120 volts. I'll mount it at one end of the fixture and slot some holes in the other and and use that to pass air through.
The light difference is VERY noticable. I went from about 0.54 WPG to about 2.16 WPG. Of course i need to construct a reflector to take advantage of that.
I was getting pretty decent plant growth before with 0.54. But of course it was slow growth, but all my plants were growing. The real test is to see if my plants begin to accelerate their growth.
I can notice a lot more colors on my fish as well as on my plants. The light at the bottom of the tank seems much more vivid and there are more distinct shadows all around.
I did take a before pic. I took it at about 10PM so to compare i will wait til 10PM tonight and take another shot so i can get rid of all ambient light.
Total cost for project
$28 for ballast
$3 for 4 end terminalts to mount bulbs
$14 x 2 for Aqua-glo 24" 18000K 55LUX