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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I bought a Catalina earlier this year. I am not happy with the look of the fixture. It is bulky, and in my opinion, too flashy. I am more of a wood, not metal person. This is a sleeky fixture, and at first I liked the fact it looks like a shiny car. Now, I can't stand the fact it is in my living room. It is obtrusive and doesn't work with our 1920's house.

My thought is to take this apart and make a wooden frame 48" x 16" and suspend it above the tank without a lot of metal. Something along the lines of Wasserpest's diy light he is making.

Only thing is, can this be done without adding fans? The current fixture doesn't have any, but has a vented hood, which I hated from day one. Can ballasts be enclosed like this:

__TOP WITH HOLES___
====BALLASTS====
---------WOOD----------
=====LIGHTS=====
 

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Yep. Lots of T5HO fixtures aren't vented. I.E., coralife, Current, Sunlight Supply Tek.

I built a fixture using the old, non vented Catalina shell, and it does fine. One caveat, I don't use a splash guard. Does your fixture have one, or do you plan to use one? If so, you might need vents.
I would add some kind of standoff between the ballast and the wood. While I doubt it could put out enough heat to combust, it definitely has enough heat to discolor the wood/treatment.
 

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With a little more effort you can mount the ballast under the aquarium, in the stand, and have just the lights in the fixture. I'm doing that with my 15H tank, with a AH Supply light. It is working fine, and now that I can actually feel the ballast when I'm curious, I'm amazed at how hot the ballast gets. This way cooling the lights is very easy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Nope, no splash guard on this light, either. I am glad you brought this to my attention because I was wondering about whether or not to add one.

I saw that Wasser is mounting his ballasts away from the lighting as well. Would you care to take a picture of how you mounted the ballast? Also, I like your light tube stand on this tank. How is it mounted to the light? It is less intrusive than the ones I normally see.
 

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Here is how my light hanger attaches to the light fixture:

That is a conduit coupling, that is held onto the end of the conduits with set screws. One of the set screw holes I used for a screw through the top of the fixture to anchor the coupling in place.

The elbow is a conduit elbow, a pre-bent 90 degree elbow made of conduit. It enters the fixture through a close fitting hole to mate with the coupling inside the fixture. You can see the screw that holds that coupling on top of the fixture, and the other hole there is access to the setscrew that attaches the elbow to the coupling.

This shows the ballast attached to the rear wall of the stand, with the wires going out to go up the conduit.

This will only work with light weight light fixtures, but it works very well with them. To adjust the height you have to get access to the back of the stand and loosen the clamps attaching the conduit to the back of the stand. That is the weakest part of the design, and the reason why I won't do this again. Hanging the fixture on chains is much better.
 

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I would not entirely encase the ballast, it would possibly overheat. But like Hoppy mentioned, you could mount it remotely, either in the stand, or even outside onto the back of the canopy. Could be covered up a bit to make it look nice, as long as the heat can escape.

Keep in mind that T5 bulbs work best in a ~95F environment, so if it gets much hotter in there they will lose some efficiency and lifespan. But it might be worth the looks. :icon_mrgr
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Just had to use the light bulb icon.....lol

Thanks for all the detailed pictures, Hoppy. I like the idea of the mounting, but I agree it looks like it wouldn't be heavy-duty enough for the weight of this idea I'm brewing. What if I put on on each side, attached them to the top of the canopy and extended them 3/4 of the depth of the design? Would this be strong enough? I am really not fond of the chains on the lights. I am looking for a more mission type light fixture/stand. I am including rudimentary mock ups, so bare with me.

I really like the idea of the ballast being mounted on the back. I just realized there are two ballasts. Can they be mounted close together and stay cool enough since they'll not be enclosed?





I was wondering which lights to wire together. The very front and very back, the two middle, or alternate? I only want two lights on at a given time with the option to turn on the second set for an hour or so. These are T5HO and four is way too much. Or should I have one set of two come on for a few hours, then turn off and turn on the other set for the rest of the cycle for even coverage?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Also, I am looking for SLR and can only find t5, not t5ho. Are they interchangeable? My guess is they are, but the t5 bulbs look square. Here is a picture of some SLRs I am considering this pictured. Looks like this is going to be a long term project, since I am broke at the moment.
 

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SLRs are interchangable for T5 and T5HO. The aquatinics are good reflectors, and are much narrower than most. I used Icecap reflectors on my light. While nice, they are much wider than I would have imagined.

If these are going on a standard width 55 gal. tank, you could easily get away with 2 or 3 bulbs/reflectors. I'd try 2 bulbs on most of the day, with the third on a second ballast as a burst. From what I've experienced and seen from others who have T5HO SLRs, after a few months you might find you don't need the third bulb, let alone a fourth.
 

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Yep, T5 NO and HO bulbs are exactly the same, except HO can handle higher currents better. Matter of fact, I am using Coralife T5 NO bulbs with HO ballasts, and they hold up pretty well.

Just got some SLR's from this guy: http://www.reefgeek.com/lighting/T5_Fluorescent/AquaIllumination/Miro-4_Reflectors/

They are very similar to the Icecap ones. And probably fairly similar to the Aquatinics as well, maybe a tad wider. Tek 2 reflectors are good too. I just went with the cheapest ones, since they all seem to be made out of the same stuff nowadays, and the exact width and angles are a bit secondary for our purposes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Yeah, you really don't need more than two of these fellows for a 55. Any more and you are asking for trouble. However, I already have sunk cost into the fixture, so why not utilize all four bulbs? It will eventually be placed on a 75, and it would be nice to have the extra light if I want it.

So T5NO are safe in this fixture? Good to know for future purchases. I have 18 inches of room to play with, so all these widths will work.

Here is my next question. I've been reading some crazy stuff on Kelvins lately and would like to know a basic answer. Does it make which kelvin is used for olants or not? The one time I had actinics, BBA showed up in a week. To be fair, I also went from PCs to T5HOs, so I cannot confirm or deny a coorelation.

I ask because I like the look of this bulb: http://www.bigalsonline.com/BigAlsUS/ctl3684/cp18371/si1379088/cl0/coralifet5colormaxlamp24
 

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Yep, T5 NO and HO bulbs are exactly the same, except HO can handle higher currents better. Matter of fact, I am using Coralife T5 NO bulbs with HO ballasts, and they hold up pretty well.

Just got some SLR's from this guy: http://www.reefgeek.com/lighting/T5_Fluorescent/AquaIllumination/Miro-4_Reflectors/

They are very similar to the Icecap ones. And probably fairly similar to the Aquatinics as well, maybe a tad wider. Tek 2 reflectors are good too. I just went with the cheapest ones, since they all seem to be made out of the same stuff nowadays, and the exact width and angles are a bit secondary for our purposes.
Interestingly enough, visibly identical reflectors from different manufacturers have huge differences in light output. Check out the Reef Central forums, a couple of the users there have compiled PAR data on almost every after-market SLR. The materials also differ from company to company - I.E., tek 2 reflectors work great, unless they get water spray on them, which can permanently stain the metal they use.

Sewingalot - I've yet to see a clear answer with any proof of whether actinics can cause algae. I think it's of general consensus that they won't do much for plant growth, but that they can be used for asthetic purposes without harm. Personally, I think they look weird. :p But if you like them, I'd toss one in... the price looks reasonable enough to try.
 

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I seem to remember reading a post from one of the more guru-ish posters on this forum that the same bulbs from different manufacturers can have the same kelvin rating but different spectral outputs (that phrase is too smart for me...).

I think I remember the person saying kelvin will get you in the ballpark, but you should look at the actual color charts of the bulbs to see where/what it's output will be.

I hope that helps answer your question. I've not read anything that says xxxx kelvin is THE plant growing number. Bulbs that look good to your eye (#1) and have enough output in the red/blue areas are whats best (#2).
 

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It is tempting to look at the charts of spectra for different bulbs and use those to pick the "best" bulbs. However, today we have way more light available easily than the plants can use. So it really doesn't matter that bulb "A" is 20% better than bulb "B". We will probably have 100% more light going into the tank than the plants need anyway. So, it makes good common sense to just pick the bulbs that make the tank look like we want it to. The problem for most of us is that we can't afford to buy bulbs "A", "B", "C", "D", "E", etc., try them all in all combinations, then use the "best" set. I'm not sure how to get around that, other than to try bulbs or combinations that others have liked. And, I really like the 10000K, generic PC bulb I now have. Who knows if a 10000K T5HO bulb from some other manufacturer would look the same.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks for the links to Reef Central forums on the SLR. It is really helpful

Could I simply cut the four SLRs apart that is already present on the fixture? I know that I would have to deal with the sharp edges, but is there any reason it wouldn't work? After all, at this point - that would be free. :icon_smil

As far as actinics go, I am not interested in them. Just using them as a past experience. I am interested in the pinkish bulbs that bring out the fish but have either really low 3500 K rating or something really high like 18000 K. I know Wasser is using some in his tank, but I would be using one with a 10000 K daylight bulb bring out a totally different hue?

I suppose Hoppy has a point, with limitless money, I would just buy a bunch of bulbs to I found the perfect fit for me.
 

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I don't know the spectrum, but I've used the giesemann aqua flora (pink) and current freshwater (also pink) bulbs with good results. I took a look at the hagen bulb in petsmart today, and it has planted tanks listed on the front. I think it will be fine.

As for cutting the reflectors, I don't see why it wouldn't work. It might not give you the same output as the high end SLRs, but if you use all 4 it should be okay.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Considering the light is etched and one of the clips are broken from day one, I went ahead and decided to order the SLRs. Now just to come up with the funds to do so. ;) I have enough wood to make the frame from a canopy I decided not to make. So perhaps the best thing would be to start there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Why didn't anyone tell me 1 x 3 aren't really 1" x 3"? Why do they do this? I didn't know it could be off by 1/4 of an inch or more. I have to get more boards now......
 

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Because "everyone" knows wood is sold in nominal dimensions.

That really is the reason and it stinks as you can't depend on 1 by what ever being consistent even from the same big box store. They purchase from all over the world and take what ever they can get at the lowest price for the particular description. We used to be able to depend on specific lumber yards to be consistent, but the big box stores have put a lot of smaller lumber dealers out of business. I have to drive thirty miles one way to purchase half butt cabinet grade wood.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Because "everyone" but you knows wood is sold in nominal dimensions.
I corrected your quote for you. :D What's really sad is my dear husband stood there, trying to explain this to me and I didn't listen. I guess I am used to buying a yard of fabric and actually getting a few inches more, not less.

Anyway, I purchased the SLRs, the right dimension of wood, and now I am ready to start.
 
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