DIY lighting

  • #1
I think I've figured out that I can do 192w of power compact lighting for around $120 (and that will leave me with two extra lamps), but it requires doing my own wiring. I'm just wondering how difficult this is to do, and I also want to verify that I don't need anything else.
I'll be doing some searching around the web, but I've found that I trust the opinions of the folks around here more. I've been told by web pages that something is simple only to find out that I need a degree in theoretical quantum physics in order to complete the project.

What I've found is a pair of Square pin end caps capable of handling 96w apiece
A ballast capable of handling up to two 96w bulbs
two pairs of clips
A package deal of four 96w bulbs

It seems to me that this is all that I'd need to set a system up. Am I missing anything?
The whole thing is going to be mounted in a hood similar to what is being discussed here in the DIY section.
  • #2
How did you come up with this
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
Well, I saw the hood idea, and thought that it would be an excellent answer to several problems I'm having:
I don't have enough light in my tank,
I have cats that will end up breaking through the glass cover of my tank
I need a place to put a small refugium type thing I'm putting together

I figured I can put all of this in/on that hood setup.
So I went to Drs Foster and Smith to see how much the retrofit kits I would need for the lights would cost, but they're actually more expensive than the equivalent full light setups.
Then I went to eBay, looked around, and figured out that if I put everything together on my own, I could do this easily.
  • #4
Sorry I was talking about how did you know you need or can use 192w of power compact lighting I hope you can use the hood that is why I posted firgure a lot people would like it
  • Thread Starter
  • #5
My tank is 80g, so 192w would give me a bit over 3 watts per gallon (mid to high range lighting). This will be enough for some plants that shouldn't be able to survive in my other tanks.
  • #6
where did you look at on ebay
  • #7
Again I don't know a lot about lighting, so tell me to shut-up if I am wrong. Depending on the depth (front to back) of your tank you could double up 2 48" strips for a total of 260W for $260. I know it's still not cheap but definitely cheaper then most setups.
  • #8
here is what I plan on using the 4x96
in that hood I am building

The Beast
If you've read our "36-55watt Kits" page (and we won't bore you by repeating it here) you know the importance of superior reflector design and the impact of state-of-the-art reflective material. Nothing illustrates these points better than the reactions of people when they first look directly at a 96 watt 6700K compact fluorescent installed in an A H Supply Bright Kit™. The descriptions are varied and often colorful -- from "retina burner" to "migraine maker" to many that are not repeatable -- but there's clearly general agreement that it's a beast. It's rather like looking at a camera flash, something you don't want to do for long. Take the bulb out of the reflector, however, and it's not at all hard to look at. It's still bright, there's no denying, but it is something your eyes can adjust to.

96 watt compacts allow you to get a lot of light in your hood. With A H Supply's Bright Kits, they also allow you to get a lot of light out of your hood and into your aquarium. It's a simple point. Light that's bouncing around your hood producing heat is of no benefit to anything in your tank. And you can't count on most of it to finally find its way into the water. If the light strikes the water surface at more than 55 degrees from vertical, it is simply going to be reflected back up.

96 watt compacts under broad flat-top reflectors are a great way to get a lot of watts in you hood. 96 watt compacts with A H Supply's multi-angle MIRO 4 reflectors are a great way to get a lot of light in your tank. With a surface reflectivity of over 94%, the MIRO 4 reflector curves around both sides of the bulb to reflect the light downward at a steep angle and allow it to penetrate the water. The result is over 50% more light in your tank.

Each one-bulb MIRO 4 reflector is 34.5 inches long by 4 inches wide by 2 inches high. The 96w bulb with the endcap on totals 34.5 inches, so these units are an excellent size for 3 ft. and 6 ft. long tanks.

The photo above shows a 1 x 96w Bright Kit and a 96w bulb installed in the shell of a 36" twin-tube light strip. (Don't be fooled by the reflector. There's only one bulb in there. And note that the kit is an older, pre-moisture-resistant endcap model.) As you can see, the ballast also fits inside the strip mounted to the back. That's possible because the 1 x 96 watt Bright Kit utilizes a 14 ounce solid-state electronic ballast that is only 1" high, 1.7" wide and 8.5" long. It's also easy to hook up. No need for a grounded reflector. And no tangle of multiple colored wires to sort out. Just red and yellow connected to the endcap cord, and black and white to the power supply cord. Even in large setups, these ballasts can be easily and neatly mounted and connected. And because they have a very low profile (1"H), it's easy to hide them on the outside back of single-tube strips or of your canopy. The two-bulb ballast is 18.5"L x 1 5/8"W x 1"H.

1 x 96 watt Bright Kit 40961

The perfect solution to achieving high lighting levels on aquariums that are 3 feet or 6 feet long. Includes: one 14 ounce solid-state electronic ballast (8.5"L x 1.7"W x 1"H); one 34.5"L x 4"W multi-angle MIRO 4 polished aluminum reflector; one moisture-resistant endcap with cord; two steel bulb holders; one grounding power cord; wirenuts, splice taps and screws needed for installation; optional-use pop-in vent covers, snap bushing, cord clamp and nylon spacers; and ballast operation information and wiring diagram. Requires one 96 watt compact fluorescent bulb (not included).
2 x 96 watt Bright Kit

Includes one 24 ounce solid-state electronic ballast (18.5"L x 1.7"W x 1"H); two 34.5"L x 4"W x 2"H multi-angle MIRO 4 polished aluminum reflectors; two moisture-resistant endcaps with cords; four steel bulb holders; one grounding power cord: wirenuts and screws needed for installation; snap bushing, cord clamps and nylon spacers; and ballast operation information and wiring diagram. Requires two 96watt compact fluorescent bulbs (not included). NOTE - If you want to be able to control the bulbs separately you'll need two 1x96w kits #40961 instead of this 2x96w kit #40962.

3 x 96 watt Bright Kit

Consists of ONE 1 x 96 watt Bright Kit #40961 and ONE 2 x 96 watt Bright Kit #40962. Will allow you to operate two bulbs on one timer and the third bulb on a separate timer if you wish. Bulbs not included.

4 x 96 watt Bright Kit

Consists of TWO 2 x 96 watt Bright Kits #40962. Allows two bulbs (not included) to operate on one timer and two on another timer.

6 x 96 watt Bright Kit

Consists of THREE 2 x 96 watt Bright Kits #40962. Allows the bulbs (not included) to be operated on up to three different timers.
  • #9
What site is that from? I can't see it from work.
  • #10
  • #11
Thanks. So what your getting is 2 of "The Beast"?
  • #12
Yes I am getting two of those and sirdarksol I did not mean to take over your thread but I just had some of the same question that you did sorry
  • #13
DIY Lighting questions and things.

OK I have a 10 gallon with an incandescent hood and i'm looking to retrofit some type of fluorescent lighting solution of low to medium light. I was at Menards earlier browsing the lighting section for possibilities. Took some pictures of potential lighting i'd like to use.

First thing I want to do is figure out what type of lighting and then figure out how to retro fit it. To be honest I am new at this and electrical type work but I think it would be a fun project to learn and maybe come in handy later down the road.

Goal is better more effecient lighting for plants preferably low to medium lighting.

What kind of ballast would I use for this one?

I would use 2 of them. Similarly to the incandescent set up I would imagine.

What about these? Would one of these be better?
A Sneaky Fatman
  • #14
Try these they work great in my 10 and 14g tanks. And they should fit you incandescent hood.
  • #15
I have 2 15watt CFL's in mine right now they work pretty decent. I just want to build something! I will try those bulbs next if I haven't worked out a diy solution!

EDIT: Stumbled upon this:

What do you guys think about the t2 fixture?

OK Scratch the t2 lighting

I think I may just keep the CFL's for the 10 Gallon hood. I want to do some kind of DIY setup for my 3 Gallon betta tank and plant it! It has a small halogen light but the box does not elaborate as to what kind and its not very bright at all.

I was thinking of crafting a hood or fixture and using one or 2 of these bulbs

4 or 8 watts of T5 Fluorescent lighting?
What do you think? 3 gallon dimensions are 10x10x9
  • #16
Post pictures with dimensions of your hoods. We shall be able to figure something here.

Santo Domingo
  • #17
for what its worth, I was at Fred's yesterday and I saw that they have slI'm CFL screw in bulbs now, ranging in wattage from 15 up to 23 I believe, maybe more. They are cheap, too.


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  • #18
Think I could fit a light suitable for plant growth in there? Sorry I don't have time to get pictures of the 10 gallon hood. Gotta help my brother move a couch!
  • #19
I wouldn't try to fit anything in there, but rather suspend something above it. There are a few methods that I've seen, whether they be wall mount or something like a clamp light or desk light.
  • #20
Yeah I figures haha I thought it might be cool to do something with it. Oh well. The plan is to get a desk lamp anyway o can't take pics of the 10 gallon hood yet but I know its an AGA incandescent hood if that helps
  • #21
Why keep things simple if we can complicate them? (no idea who said that)

Since you want a DIY project, I suggest you explore this one:

A DIY High Pressure PVC lamp assembly. I built a few of them but for 24 and 30"L tanks using T8, T4, T5 Normal Output and T5HO lamps.

You would need a power saw (I used a power jigsaw but explore your options) to cut along the axis of a 3" diameter High Pressure PVC. Why High Pressure? due to its better properties handling heat.

Get a 10" long piece and one 3" PVC unthreaded cap (or two in case you end with not so alike "halfs"). Cut both and put together ASAP. Note that you have little time between the moment you finish the longitudinal cut of the 10"L PVC piece to glue the "halfs" caps to each end since the long PVC piece tends to bend inwards. Use PVC cement to get it glued quick.

I used as bright as I could find white spray paint and did the interior of the "lamp assembly" so it works as a fairly good reflector. Then I painted the outside of the PVC with flat black spray paint (use the color you like). Allow the paint to dry and cure.

I used a soldering iron to make good connections between the remote electronic ballast and the lamps. The wiring scheme I suggest in the drawing is for Fulham's Workhorse series electronic ballasts. I have used either hot glue or furniture's rubber end caps but both, the hot glue and the rubber cap, decay with use so I rather use Epoxy or Industrial grade sylicon to insulate the "raw" electric contacts.

I drilled two small holes (with a dremel) to pass through tie-wraps to hold the fluorescent tubes in place.

Personally I would stay with 12W (two lamps) at most since Betta fish rather have somewhat dI'm tanks.

This is a lot of work but I understand the fun of doing this. I think I would go for it in your position even though a desktop lamp with a CFL (or even LEDs) is both aesthetical and cost-efficient (not as fun as DIY though!).

Santo Domingo
  • #22
Thanks Pepetj! It does sound like a lot of work! But the fun and reward of doing it yourself makes it worth it in the end imo! I think I may try this as soon as I can! What might you suggest to provide added lighting to a 30" tank its a 36gallon bowfront and so I may do this for both! Or atleast one. The same concept only on a larger scale I assume?

Also with all the ballast choices out there I was starting to become confused cause I didn't know how specific they were like a t8 ballast would ONLY work for t8 or not so thanks for helping clear that up a bit. I didn't know I could use a T8 electronic ballast.

Would this method be more cost effective for providing a dual lamp setup for a 30"L tank?
  • #23
Electronic ballast labeled to handle High Output lamps usually will handle both types of lamps (Normal or High Output) although it's possible some will not. I rather take the time to carefully read the information printed in the manual and the ballast.

For your 10 gal tank, since you have a hood that should look good on it, I would suggest to use a compact fluorescent for aquarium use that stay below 20W. The solution you have is a fairly good one (using two hardware store 15W CFLs) all you may need to do is replace them every other month since their light quality decays in a couple of months with daily 12 hours photoperiods used in planted tanks.

Santo Domingo
  • #24
Thanks for your help Pepetj! I'm definitely gonna explore this project! When I get it going there will be pictures. I also got my dad on board as he likes DIY stuff and its something he's never done before. So now I got a team and some plans and gonna give it a go once I get the materials!
  • #25
That's great. What a nice way to spend time w/ your dad.
  • #26
Indeed! Probably another reason he wants to try it. If it works out we'll make one for the 36 Gallon! It looks so dI'm with just the one 30" T8 bulb! I'm also used to my T5HO on my 20 Gallon so that's probably not helping for the comparison purposes. On the plus side my hornwort in the 20 gallon is already at the top of my tank and I just trimmed it last week course the algae is coming back a bit
  • #27
good day. I have 100 gallon tank and I want to make a DIY lighting system. the length of my tank is 58" so I can put 48" fluorescent in my tank. the gap between gravel to water level is 18". and the gap between my hood to water level is 7" then if I put T5, the gap will be 6".

my question are what wattage should I use? will a single T5 can do the job? I only want low tech plant maybe medium tech if possible. I don't have a plan for using CO2 system. many thanks...
  • #28
Does the tank already have a hood that you are expecting to use?
  • #29
Does the tank already have a hood that you are expecting to use?

yes, I already have hood
  • #30
I take it that you have a 48 inch T5HO 54 Watt bulb?

EDIT: I'll go ahead and post this thread. look at the 2nd chart with bulbs vs distance.
  • #31
There is a lot of factors at play, including reflectors , color spectrum of bulb, etc . Wattage does not give a good estimate of light strength. A single bulb may be enough for low light, but you would definitely need a second bulb for anything in the medium range.

Personally I prefer Finnex light fixtures over any DIY stuff. You know what you are getting there. If you go the diy route, you will probably need some trial and error to get the right amount of light for your tank to find balance.
  • #32
thanks for the input guys.

I can't afford the finnex fixtures. so I go for the diy. hehe.
  • #33
There is a lot of factors at play, including reflectors , color spectrum of bulb, etc . Wattage does not give a good estimate of light strength. A single bulb may be enough for low light, but you would definitely need a second bulb for anything in the medium range.

Personally I prefer Finnex light fixtures over any DIY stuff. You know what you are getting there. If you go the diy route, you will probably need some trial and error to get the right amount of light for your tank to find balance.
Dolfan is correct, usual. Look at Low light plants for your aquascape and try to get a bulb close to 6500K. If you do not have enough light you may want to lower the fixture a bit. If you still need more light, but the budget is tight: consider a setup like this: My inexpensive CFL light solution - The Planted Tank Forum
This thread is a few years old, but still applies. You could even try LED bulbs instead of the CFLs, just ensure that you get close to 6500K. You may have to look on Amazon.
madisons obbsession
  • #34
I am looking to make a diy lighting system for my 29 gallon tank, for medium to low light plants. I am having a really hard time figuring out what kind of light bulbs and fixtures to buy. Can someone give me an idea of what I need to buy? Or can someone recommend a light that is under $25(USD)?
  • #35
King of DIY has a video on DIY tank LEDs.
  • #36
Get two dome fixtures and CFL 6500k bulbs. Probably cost 20 dollars total and would handle medium plants with ease.
  • #37
I'm usingDIY lighting in my 60 liter tank. I bought a 10w LED flood light and and gooseneck.
  • #38
I have these on my 10 gallon ...about $20 from home depot


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  • #39

  • #40
I have these on my 10 gallon ...about $20 from home depot
I got one fixture like this, only probably bigger, and 60w LED lamps for my 20 gallon crab habitat; do you think I need more? Although I don't think I am planning a lot of live plants there

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