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OT - New Lighting Questions

Posted By: Mr. LeadFoot <leadfoot@sbcglobal.net>
Date: Friday, 1 August 2003, at 1:04 p.m.

I am in the midst of building a cabinet type stand for a 75 gallon tank. I am now ready to design the canopy, and thus, the consideration of lighting. I'm going to go with power compact flourescents.

I've already considered the myriad of retrofit kits, but I don't want the lights mounted directly onto the underside of the canopy top. Here's why:

With the typical lights-mounted-to-the-canopy design, whenever you remove the top for maintenance and the like, you then have no lights over the tank, which sucks for general maintenance. On a 75 gallon tank, which I have, the front-to-back distance is 18 inches, so the glass tops are quite wide (front-to-back), providing plenty of room to have some type of an enclosure (or even two strip lights sit on the back two thirds of the glass. This would allow plenty of room for the doors of the glass top itself to open even while the lights are still sitting on the glass. And the glass doors' openings are large enough so you can easily stick your whole arm, or any tool you might be using, into the tank without removing the glass top or the lights. So even if you remove the canopy, you have lights so you can see what you might be working on. Of course, for major maintenance, you'd have to remove the entire top and lights, but that's not done as often, you know what I mean?

Secondly, I don't like the design of the typical canopy for feeding purposes. The typical canopy top is hinged on the back, which allows for lifting of the front of the top for feeding. But, while you do that you get shot in the face by the directed lights which are now pretty much aimed straight at you, and you get blinded by 200+watts of compact flourescents! I HATE that design. Yes, you can turn off the lights before lifting the canopy top, but what a pain to then feed in the dark, not to mention the effect on the tank inhabitants with the lights going on and off, so that's not even an option as far as I'm concerned.

So, my thoughts are to have some kind of enclosure sit directly on the glass under the canopy. I'll still make my canopy with the ability to lift the top from the front for feeding, but I'll have the advantage of NOT having the light shine in my face. I'll have the additional benefit of being able to remove the canopy and still have lights over the tank for maintenance.

Now, I can build a smaller enclosure myself that will sit on the glass, using a retrofit kit, and build the canopy large enough to sit over the smaller enclosure, but the cost of retrofit kits are not much less than complete pre-fabbed enclosures. Also, I find that only CustomSeaLife makes a retrofit kit that includes fans, but their kits come with bulbs more suited to saltwater, with mixes 10,000k/Actnic combos, and even their pure daylight models are only offerred with the 10,000k temps, while I prefer the 6700k temps. JBJ's Formosa models have options for 6500k temp bulbs (which is close enough), which I am now considering. A&H Supply offers a retrofit kit where I can choose the bulbs, but they offer no fans, and I suspect that with 200Watts or more, you definitely should have fans, especially if the lights are enclosed in a canopy. I already have a CustomSeaLife 65 watt single retrofit kit on my 29 gallon, which is plenty bright, because I get great plant growth with no fertilizers and no CO2, but I had to buy a separate bulb to get that 6700k. And, even at that low of a wattage, the strip light enclosure is hot, even with a remote ballast. Besides, having to buy 4 additional bulbs to get the color temps I want make that route too expensive.

On their complete enclosure models, JBJ, on the other hand, mounts the ballast to the enclosure in their pre-fabbed units, which is why I suspect that these 200watt+ models now come with 3 fans. I suspect that the combo of such high wattage and ballasts inside the enclosure create quite a lot of heat. And, that's one thing I need to consider. Obviously, if I opt for a retrofit kit, I'll have double the work by having to make my own separate light enclosure, but then at least I'd be able to make the ballasts remote to help keep the unit cooler. But, like I said, the difference in cost between the retrofit kit (and fans sold separately) is not much less than the new pre-fabbed model (in fact it might be more with the fans), and with a pre-fabbed enclosure I'm thinking all I would have to do is vent the existing fans out of my canopy, which is not yet made, hopefully be able to make the ballasts remote, and possibly add a single fan to the canopy itself to vent any heat dissipating via the enclosure itself, depending upon if the design of the enclosure is such that heat is meant to dissipate via the enclosure material, which I believe JBJ engineered into the design.

Does anyone have experience in this area, or maybe suggestions? It sure would be nice to hear opinions, and maybe some of you even have some I-wish-I-hadn't-done-it-a-certain-way stories.



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