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Discussion Starter #1
Hello all!

I am still in the planning stages (it's been about 6-8 weeks, now) of a planted tank (40 gallon, to be precise) and had a thought yesterday about lighting. Just so you understand my perspective on this, I love to build stuff. I love to over-engineer stuff. And, I love to complicate things. If I can combine all three, then I have reached nirvana!

In an effort to add some visual interest to the tank, I am planning on making a sculptural piece that has integrated shelves. The shelves will in turn serve as smaller, elevated areas for plants. The problem (aside from providing enough depth for root growth) is that these shelves will create shaded areas under them. This may or may not be bad. It automatically will create natural breaks in the foliage which can be visually interesting in itself (negative space). However, I want to be able to ensure that these areas receive light as well as the rest of the tank.

My thought was to run fiber optic (FO) cable to these shelves to pipe in light from a remote source, like an LED. Obviously, I could simply put an LED under the shelf, but I don't want the hassle of sealing any electrical devices from water. I think it would be easier to just use the FO.

My questions to the forum members at large are:

1) Has anyone else done this and what problems should I expect to encounter?

2) Does anyone have experience, at all, with fiber optics?

3) Can I just route the fiber to the location, orient it in the direction I want to light and then simply let the light 'fall out of the end of the fiber'?

4) Do I need a lens at the emitting end of the fiber for light spread?

5) Will the fiber adversely or significantly affect the light quality such that my plants will suffer from light starvation?

6) Does anyone know of a reputable (good, that is) dealer of retail fiber optic hardware?

A little part of me hopes that I'm doing some trailblazing here, because that's just fun. But I also don't want to make this process harder than it needs to be. I really just want a pretty tank.

Thanks for any suggestions you all can offer!
 

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A couple weeks back someone posted about a prototype device that was in need of funding to get going. It was called the Light Bandit and I think it was in the last few days of the kickstarter campaign. It was a device to harness sunlight and transport the light through fiber optics to a point where it is needed. It might be helpful to look into what they were doing.
 

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There is a commercial product known as "skylight" which uses the same principle for redirecting sunlight for office lighting.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
After posting this, it occurred to me to check Amazon for fiber optic lamps. I found a cheap one for $3. I plan on dissecting it for the collector and then Frankenstein-ing together a prototype to use an aquarium grade LED. I'll do some experiments with it to see how the light quantity and quality are affected.

I'm still interested in hearing what other's have experienced, though.
 

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Realistically it will take way more work to run enough fiber optics in there to provide enough light for plants to live. Buying waterproofed led lights or waterproofing an light your self would be easier. Or even lighting the spaces from the back of the tank.

I can appriecate the desire to over engineer though. It's always fun. I'm just picturing a big blob of fiber optics running into your tank.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Realistically it will take way more work to run enough fiber optics in there to provide enough light for plants to live. Buying waterproofed led lights or waterproofing an light your self would be easier. Or even lighting the spaces from the back of the tank.

I can appriecate the desire to over engineer though. It's always fun. I'm just picturing a big blob of fiber optics running into your tank.

Ah... Yes, that was an issue that I hadn't considered... Essentially light volume. The intensity at a specific point may be fine, but it might be a pretty tiny point.
 

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Alright we are looking at this differently.

My thoughts would be concentrated on like a home made hard scape.
If there were caves or pockets in the hard scape a strand or two into the dark area.
Not a lot of light but lets you know what's in there.
I have seen 80lb monofilament pass light for short distances.
Put a bunch of strands in poly tube near the top aimed at say a 3 watt LED.
Carve them around into the foam early in the project, buff the ends before access is not possible.

Just a thought.
 

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This is often used in model railroad lighting for platforms, etc. However it works out that what they want is totally different than what we want. They want tiny dim lights while we want big bright lights. Fiber optics are normally tiny but if you melt the end so that it is larger, it can look very nice as a really tiny little bulb. In a tank, I would expect it to disappear.
 

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You would need to be able to clean the fiber optic end very often or the light would soon be drastically dimmed by the biofilm growth on the end. Because the light source, the end of the fiber optic, would be very close to the plants you might get plenty of PAR from a single LED, unlike what it takes to light a tank from the top. In any case it looks like it would be a fun project.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Ew! Cleaning! I really wasn't thinking about that. But a very good point, none the less. Still, I think this project is attainable provided I keep in mind the various constraints mentioned by commenters.

So... Let me elaborate a bit so folks get a better image of what I'm planning. Simply stated, this will be a sculptural piece. I plan on allowing it to occupy space throughout the tank, taking care to leave lots of negative space. Think of it as a mass of intertwining vines more than rock outcroppings. Having said that, it may be more accurate to say rocky, finger-like formations that undulate about each other like vines. Maybe even Mirkwood Forest meets Arches National Park, Utah with a touch of Art Nouveau.

Patches of these 'rock vines' would meld together forming pockets to hold substrate into which I would place plants. These pockets and some of the rock vines themselves are obviously going to create shadows under them. This is where I want to *add* additional in tank lighting in the form of fiber optics. I certainly am not suggesting I replace the standard above tank lights.

Now... And here comes my over-engineering nature again... This sculpture *could* work its way completely out of the tank and occupy the space that normally would be home to the regular lighting system. I was thinking of building the above tank lights into this section of the sculpture. I am thinking of some weird, glowing, fruit-like structure drooping down from the sculpture. These would essentially be lamps/lens for LEDs.

So, back to my point... The suggestions and concerns raised so far have actually tempered my resolve a bit on this endeavor to the point where I feel earnest experimentation is warranted. I actually want to try it more now, but I may find that it is too much of a pain. I'm guessing maintenance is what will kill it for me.

Keep the issues coming, though. It's far cheaper and easier to identify problems during the theory step than during the implementation step.
 

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I am so curious to know the result of it... Anybody here? It's a rather controversial point of view. Why do you say there is no way to install the bulb at the end? I think there is a chance everything will work properly. You know, I did have a similar problem a few months ago. I was installing the lights inside my crawlspace. In some time, they stopped. I was trying to solve this issue, but I was unsuccessful in it. And only then, I decided to apply to the fiber engineering company that repaired the lights within an hour. So, I think it's better to appeal for qualified help than to make rough mistakes.
 

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Fiber optics is a great sounding idea but it is often a very tiny spot of light. The idea is that the light going in has to bounce off the sides at angles to move forward, it takes a fair amount of power at the start to bounce it through to the far end if very long but if the diameter is large, so that the bounce is longer the input lighting has to be very much stronger.
I just do not see it as possible/practical for tank lighting as such.
Possible to repurpose one of the fiber light gizmos and use it to add a point of light in the tank but it is more a pinprick that a flood light! Something you can see if the lights in the room are out, perhaps? Part of the problem is that one can't simply put a bulb at the end but the light source has to be directed very precisely to get much in, let alone getting it to the far end.
A point to start?
https://news.energysage.com/solar-fiber-optic-lighting-overview/
 
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