AH Supply 1X55 Watt Gutter Light
Does a planted aquarium mean that I have to purchase an expensive lighting system?
When I started in the planted aquarium aspect of our hobby 3 years ago, I did not want to spend a bundle of money. I did some research before starting putting my first aquarium together. I checked out The Krib, ADA, Aquatic Plant Central, and The Planted Tank as well as other more obscure websites.
From my readings I learned that light, fertilizers, and good filtration were major factors for success with planted aquariums. Further readings provided insight on the problems with some commercial fixtures on the market such as cheap ballasts, noisy fans, and poor quality reflectors that were made of inferior materials with poor reflective qualities. In addition, some fixtures had reflectors that were too small, too tightly spaced, and some even two bulbs with only one reflector!
Several of the more experienced members on these sites talked about AH Supply and the excellent kits and reflectors that they offered. I have a little experience with wiring however my skills as a carpenter are marginal at best, but I wanted a quality light that was quiet. So I built my first light almost three years ago using the plans for a wooden enclosure provided with the AH Supply kit. The completed product definitely did not have a “professional” finish, and did not look as good as the enclosure shown below, but it worked well, provided excellent light, and it was quiet. It wasn’t as “skinny” as I would have liked either with a 6” front to back dimension and it interfered with the opening of the All Glass (Aqueon) Versa-Top glass covers. The enclosure materials (I wanted oak to match furniture in the room) were not inexpensive either with a cost of about $50.00.
About 3 months later I acquired my second aquarium and built my second kit, also in a wood enclosure. It was a little better looking, and did the same a great job lighting my tank. I was able to shave ¼” off of the front to back dimension but it was still a little too large and boxy. Material costs was basically identical so I was putting together good lights that provided good results with a total cost of about $120 per fixture including the bulb(s). This made the fixtures comparable in cost with commercial fixtures which looked cosmetically better but were technically deficient.
Fast forward two years and I find myself with two aquariums that a fellow GSAS member posted on our club chat. I wanted to give them to my nephews (they spend hours in front of my aquariums when they come to visit) but other than the aquariums and one “full incandescent hood” the rest of the equipment needed to be replaced. By the time I bought filters ( oversized Aquaclear HOB so they had good circulation and could feed DIY CO2 into the intakes), heaters, and a stand for one of them, my budget was just about gone….what was I going to do for a quality light for the second aquarium? I wanted to do the AH Supply kits but I didn’t want to have to spend $50 per enclosure so I did a little more research online and put together the prototype for what you see pictured below. My AH Supply Gutter Light!
Roy’s Prototype AH Supply 1X55 Watt Gutter Light (Front)
My 24” light measures 24.25” X 5” X 3.25” high and it is much more compact and professional looking than the wooden enclosures I put together. It is “skinny” enough that I don’t have any issues with my glass canopies. The light is air-cooled so it is quiet and has no fans to breakdown or become noisier over time. I put 1” diameter vents in each end of the enclosure and mounted the ballast “outboard” on the back of the enclosure to further reduce the heat on the inside.
Roy’s Prototype AH Supply 1X55 Watt Gutter Light (Back)
Roy’s Prototype AH Supply 1X55 Watt Gutter Light (End w/ Vent)
Lastly is utilizes the excellently engineered, high quality MIRO 4 reflector that AH Supply is best known for. It is documented that the AH Supply provides significantly more light to greater depths than standard Power Compact fixtures. Here is an excellent thread with a graph that shows the performance difference of different bulb designs including the Power Compact AH Supply kits.
I tested the my fixture and got a PAR meter reading in my 30 gallon of 125 (slightly above High Light) at the substrate level bottom of the aquarium 13” from the fixture through the Versa-Top glass cover..
Roy’s Prototype AH Supply 1X55 Watt Gutter Light (Interior)
Some people may say, ‘Roy; Power Compact lights are “old technology”.’ Plants do not care if the light they receive comes from a T12, T8, T5, T5HO, or Power Compact (which is basically a T5HO bulb bent back onto itself) bulbs as long as there is sufficient light in a useable spectrum for photosynthesis. Here is an excerpt from an excellent thread on the differences of various bulb types.
“T5 HO Lighting
bulb: FP39/841/HO (PENTRON T5 HO)
life: 20000 hrs.
avg. lumens: 2803
For this T5 bulb, the difference compared with T12 is that it uses 9 more watts (30% more energy) and produces 50-70% more light. As above, the bulb diameter is 60% smaller and the bulb has a longer rated life.
Compact Fluorescent - Twin Bulb - Similar Wattage
bulb: FT36DL/835 (Dulux L) (uses T5 bulb diameter for a total width slightly wider than T12)
life: 12000 hrs.
avg. lumens: 2494
For this CF bulb, the difference compared with T12 is that it uses 6 more watts (20% more energy) and produces 33% more light. The bulb diameter is slightly wider than a T12 (+.5") and the bulb has a shorter rated life. However, in this case, the overall bulb length is less than 1/2 as long.”
In addition, Power Compact / Compact Fluorescent bulbs have very good ‘lumen maintenance’ with a 10-15% loss total loss over the entire 12000 hour life.
So what did my AH Supply 1X55 Watt Gutter Light cost to assemble?
2’ Brown Vinyl “U” Gutter @ $2.00 total cost ($10 for 10’)
2 each Vinyl “U” Gutter end caps @ $7.50 total cost
1 AHS 1X55 watt SL Kit @ $44.99
1 55 watt 6700K bulb @ $17.99
Krylon Spray Paint (Black) $6.00
AHS Shipping @ $10.00
Total Cost $89.00
So, what do you think? Do you have to spend a small fortune for an expensive lighting system for a planted aquarium…..I think not!