Lighting modifications - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-26-2009, 03:17 AM Thread Starter
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Lighting modifications

So I recently bought Current USA's nova extreme SLR t5 lighting. I bought the SLR model (single light reflector) because they said 20% more light is reflected with the SLR then their normal single parabolic reflector. Don't know if its true but It was the same price as the normal one, the only difference being that the SLR does not come with moon lights. After receiving the unit I found the fan unbearably loud, so it was time for an upgrading.

The following mods probably voided my warranty (just FYI encase any one wants to try these)

1st Mod:Noisy fan The fan sounded like a dust buster it was so loud. My tank is in my bedroom so I could not live with it. I bought 2 variable speed 12 volt computer cooling fans (40mm X 40mm X 20mm) on line for $12. My plan was to reduce the voltage to the cooling fan to decrease the RPMs and thous the noise. I added the second fan to make up for loss in air movement.

I used a 5K ohms potentiometer ($3 at radio shack or less on-line) on the 12 volt DC power supply. A potentiometer is a variable resister (it lowers the amount of volts the fans get by transforming the excess volts to heat). I did not know anything about electricity before I started this project. Everything I did, I learned by asking other people on electrical forums (just saying it's not that hard don't be afraid). After all with DC current 12 volts is not even going to burn you let alone shock you (you can literally hold the wires in place with your bare hands).

To wire the potentiometer you just run the positive wire from your adapter into the left terminal on the POT and the next terminal on the POT runs to you device (IE fan). The third terminal is not used in this case (terminal to the right). The negative wire runs from the adapter directly to the device.

With the POT in place I can now turn the fans up or down to level of noise I am comfortable with ( its basically a rheostat only for DC current). I installed it outside of the light housing because of space issues.

I could not find metric machine screws at my local hardware store (Lowes sucks). As you can see in the picture the hardware I used does not match that of the preexisting fans. If you look on-line or go to a good hardware store you should be able to find matching hardware that would make you Mods look like factory. I just got impatient and I don't care what the back of my light looks like.

The fans were wired in series which I enplane on mod 2.

2nd Mod:Moon lights As I stated before, this unit did not come with moon lights. I wanted the darn moon lights they just didn't offer them on this model (bastards).

I bought 20 blue LED lights (pre-wired) on eBay for $7 with shipping. I used an old 12 volt DC adapter I had from a dead wireless router. I wired the light in a combination of parallel and series. I was only able to fit 9 LEDs into my fixture. When you wire in series each LED's wire are run from red to black. this divides the voltage IE: 12 volt supply divide by 3 LED's gives you 4 volts per light. This is the easiest way unfortunately unless you have a very large supply you can't wire very many lights. You also can't wire all the lights in parallel ( all the LED's red wires to the positive from your supply and all the black wires to your negative supply) because the voltage drop will cause some lights to burn brighter than others.

I wired my lights in series in groups of 3 and then those 3 groups of three were wired in parallel. The voltage drop was not enough that it was noticeable.

To clarify 3 LED's were wired red to black in a row then the wire from my supply was tied in to each red wire and each black wire at the ends.

Okay so each light is now getting 4 volts. The LED's only need 3.2 - 3.6 volts to light up. The web-sites I will list at the end of this post will recommend you use resisters to limit the amount of current the lights get, in order to extend the life of the LED's. I used a potentiometer instead. I can now adjust how bright I want my lights. The knob you see mounted in the picture is my control.

( this would be great for salt water tanks because you could actually create a false moon phase by slowing turning down and then back up the light brightness just like the moon, and maybe induce spawning in the tank).

I was very pleased with the results and other than time it cost me, it was much less than buying moon lights.

Final thoughts: You do not have to solder your wires together ( I did) but you can just twist them together, just be careful that you cover them so they do not touch and create a short circuit ( I used heat shrink tubing).

Again I want to mention that these Mods will probably void your warranty.

If you take your time your results will look close to factory. I was impatient and a little drunk when I did mine so it looks like home made (but I don't care).

I will also add that I am quite drunk while writing this post so please do not correct me on any spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors (I DO NOT CARE).

If you need my help or for me to clarify anything I am MORE than happy to help just post your questions or PM me.

I hope that this post will help you if you should decide to undertake such a venture or ad least entertain those of you that read it. ( If any one wants any good vodka drink recipes PM me)

Here are some of the reference sites I used for my wiring: ... LEDCurrent

And lastly the site I bought my fans from:


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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-26-2009, 04:56 AM
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Classy. Well done.

Who needs a warranty anyway? After all, if something breaks it's just an opportunity to improve on the design.

EDIT: Vodka drink recipes deserve their own thread! Share the wealth
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-26-2009, 03:30 PM
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That is a nice looking modification you made. One minor caution: be careful using a potentiometer to lower the voltage, because the voltage drop on the pot is converted to heat. If the pot is rated for the wattage you will lose on it it should work fine, but might still get pretty warm. There is another way to connect a pot to drop the voltage, that I think works better, but what you have should work too.

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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-27-2009, 11:36 AM
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Nice mods. A nice black sharpie to those drill holes and cut edges will dull down that shinny exposed metal near that fan.

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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-27-2009, 11:47 AM
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Very nice! I've been looking at the Nova Extreme lights and it really annoys me that for that money they don't include a few dollars worth of LEDs. I figured I would do a mod similar to yours since I eventually end up DIYing pretty much everything I own, but for some reason I hate the fact that I'll have to drill into a brand new fixture.

I might be convinced now after seeing yours.
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-28-2009, 09:55 PM
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Wow!! You seem to know a lot about electricity. Possible you can help me with my problem.

I have a light fixture by current USA too. I am thinking of buying a fan for aprox. $5 on Ebay. The fan has 3 leads. I will be splicing it into a DC adapter that has 2 leads.

The adapter has:
output 12v
amp 1.25.

The fan, which is listed as quiet, has:
Working voltage: DC12V
Operating current: 0.15A
Fan Speed: ~2500 R.P.M.

What do I do with the 3rd lead? Is the fan speed truly quiet?

How do you soldier wires together? I only know how to soldier them onto a board.
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