Okay, anyone who owns a 20 long knows that when it comes to lighting, it's slim pickins. For the longest time the best option was the infamous Coralife t5no strip light, which does work very well for lowish medium light tanks, but even using 2 of them together doesn't quite put tanks into the high light category. Then if you step up to T5HO, you generally only have options that result in too much
light, or the bulbs only being 24" long over a 30" tank.
So after weighing the options recently, after my 2 coralife fixtures took a dive, I decided what I really needed was a single, well-reflected T5HO tube. Seems simple enough, but the 24w ones are too short while the 39w ones are too long. Being as picky as I generally am, I decided I wanted to go with 31w tubes, since they are the same length as the tank.
The only way I could accomplish this would be to make the fixture myself. So I gutted the coralife strip light and retrofitted it with a high output ballast, then fixed it up so it would take a single tube instead of 2. I took pictures along the way, but I didn't start until after I had taken the endcaps off. But it was very easy to disassemble, and only required a screwdriver.
Here we go...
I started by taking the ends off the strip light, cutting the wires leading to the end caps, cutting the wires leading to the switch, and then pulling the ballast out. To pop the switch out all it took was a flathead screwdriver.
Now, here is everything after being all pulled out and laid out together on the floor:
Then, what I did to obtain the high output ballast for this task is I bought a single-tube strip light in the 39w variety from the hydro store. It was actually much cheaper for me to do this than it would have been to order a workhorse ballast or something like that. And once I brought it home I proceeded to void its warranty promptly.
I started by popping the switch off so I could clip the wires:
I then removed the ends of the strip light, and pulled the ballast out of it, keeping the end caps attached this time. I wasn't sure if I would want to use those instead of the ones that came with the coralife strip light.
Here you can see the difference in size between the normal output ballast and the high output ballast. Believe it or not, the HO one was much smaller!