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FAQs about Fluorescent Light and Lighting for Marine Systems, Troubleshooting/Repair

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Most life can "wait" a few days w/o lighting

Marineland Eclipse 3 Hood Lamp Starter/Lighting/Repair 10/16/09 
<Hello Philip>
I am trying to find a miniature starter for a dual 18 watt florescent aquarium light fixture and having little luck. One light works fine the starter on the other however is burned out. It is a miniature can and tiny light bulb
<A neon lamp.>
soldered in the wire running from the power supply to one end of the tube. I hate to have to spend $80 plus to replace the entire unit when all it needs is this one tiny inexpensive part. Can you advise me on this. The can has no part # or identification markings I can see but I do have images of it.
<No part number is printed because the starter was assembled with separate components, a very unprofessional looking assembly in my opinion. Likely done to save a few cents per fixture.>
I went to Marineland's website and searched their parts list but all they seem to offer is the entire assembly for $77 and some odd cents plus shipping.
<A starter is basically a time delayed closed contact, no rocket science here. If you are electrically literate and have soldering skills, you can replace this by soldering the wires to a standard fluorescent starter. A 15/20 watt
starter, part number BP45FS2 , is all that is needed. Your local electrical supply house will have these along with heat shrink tubing which I would advise using to insulate the starter from possible electrical shock. Do not do this
if you are uncomfortable with the idea as we are not responsible for the results. I then suggest to contact Marineland by email as to this problem and express your feelings as you have here.
Go here.
James (Salty Dog)>
Philip Beyer Wood

Re Marineland Eclipse 3 Hood Lamp Starter/Lighting/Repair 10/17/09
Thanks for the response.
<You're welcome.>
I am old and disabled at this point but worked as a maintenance tech in the photo finishing business for 30 plus years. I took a two year course in industrial electronics from CIE in 1970 so the procedure you suggest is no problem.
There is no room in the housing for a regular starter but I popped one open and removed the contents which works fine.
<Good to hear, and glad I saved you a few bucks.>
As for Marineland I already expressed my feelings to them and the response I received
suggest either I return the unit (2 year warranty) for repair (at my shipping expense) or buy a new one. The reason being they can't be responsible if I might electrocute myself if they sell me the need part (which they have and could) what Bull!
<Yep, just want to cover their butt.>
I can buy parts for every
electric appliance in the house from the refrigerator, to the TV & vacuum cleaner and not once be turned down for such a ridiculous reason.
Once again I thank you!
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

My Light Fixture Is Blown 3/2/09 Hi Wet Web Crew - <Hello Kim.> First of all, many thanks to you all. I have a rather urgent question to ask. My T5 156 watt light fixture on my reef aquarium completely blew out this afternoon, <Oh no, the whole danged thing?> and I don't have a comparable replacement here at home so I must order one. I need to know how long my corals can go with a distinctly less light fixture of just 28 watts (dual), plus a halogen desk lamp that I set over the top to help. I have plating Montipora, unknown Acropora, Pocillopora, horn coral, leather coral and branching Montipora corals that I'm mainly concerned about. The others are Ricordea and mushroom corals. What do you think: Should I pay the extra money and have the new light fixture sent overnight delivery, or can I get by for about 4 days with regular shipping? Thanks so much for your help. <You can get by a few days without, but I personally would rather not. If you have no supplemental lighting do consider something in between, like a 2 day shipping option or even buying at an LFS if at all possible. If you or somebody you know are at all handy with repairs the ballast is fairly straightforward to replace, could save some big bucks here. Any electric repair company and some LFS could help you with this, the ballasts are not terribly unique. The repair could be done in a matter of hours (minutes of actual work) if the ballast can be locally sourced.> Kim <Scott V.>

Re: My Light Fixture Is Blown 3/2/09 Hi Scott - <Hello Kim.> Yes, the whole dang thing went out. I think it overheated. Well, thanks for the second opinion - it's about what I was thinking might be the case. <Not sure life and death, but for the money and time invested into a reef, better to be safe here.> The reason why I was hesitating is because overnight shipping was going to be just over $93, so I went ahead and opted for 2nd day air at a much reduced rate of $54, but still thinking I needed to hurry. <A good compromise.> I don't know anything about ballasts, and our local fish store is pretty lame, so I decided to fix this one at my leisure when I wasn't panicking and I could order the right parts. <Ah good, will have a backup then.> Thanks, I will give the repair option a go and use this one as a backup. <Yes, good plan.> Besides, I found that the company now makes this same light with individual reflectors for each T5 bulb - a great improvement over my old light fixture. So far, my corals look ok, and the polyps are opening up on everybody this morning (fingers crossed). Have a great week! <You too, all will be fine here I am sure.> Thank you,

Light set up dilemma, reef   10/1/08 Hi Crew, <Jessy here> I have a 55 gallon fish and invertebrates tank with some soft corals (mushrooms, candy cane coral, beginner Zoanthids). I used to have two 48" VHO fluorescent bulbs. I upgraded to Power Compacts and bought a Jalli brand retro kit and it holds 4 - 55W bulbs. The kit also uses two ballasts. <Ok> I have enjoyed the brighter lighting and my fish and corals are very healthy and doing well. <Good to hear> However, I have changed the bulbs a couple of times as I have only had the Power Compacts set up about a year. As you can see from my attached photos, the problem with this set up is that the plastic holders that the bulb slides into literally melted and baked onto the plastic bulb end caps from the heat of the bulbs. This makes changing the bulbs a nightmare. <And dangerous!> As you can see from my other attached photo is that the white plastic end cap that contains the pegs stays in the burnt housing and the glass bulb part disconnects from the end cap. I had to use pliers to pull out the plastic end caps out of the burnt plastic housing part.<Yikes!> Now, two of the bulbs do not work at all. Frankly the bulbs are cheaply made as well as the poorly engineered plastic housing set up that the pegs plug into. I spent a ridiculous amount of money on the retro kit and the bulbs and now I feel like I have a Mickey mouse set up that is just not engineered well or made with quality materials. <Sorry to hear that>Why use rubber/plastic housings to hold such a hot bulb? I like the brightness of the Power Compacts but I feel like my lighting set up continues to haunt me when it comes to reliability and quality. <Understandably> I just want light bulbs that are easy to change out and will not melt the plugs they sit in!!! Are there any better set ups out there that would fit my hood or are all of the set ups as poorly designed as this one. < I would highly recommend a T5 retro fit for your tank. I understand that it means purchasing a new lighting system, but it will be worth it. T5's offer much higher PAR value for the wattage consumed, and run cooler. I ran my entire 90gal mixed reef off of four 48' 54W T5 bulbs. I estimate that four would be plenty for your 55 gal tank. From the pictures it looks like mostly softies, and they will thrive under that lighting. Maybe you could check with your local fish club or on some of the larger forums and find someone selling a set used to save you some cash. > Any advice you could provide me would be so much appreciated! Hope that helps, Jessy> Thanks for your time, Lynne

Re: Light set up dilemma 10/1/08 Hello Jesse, <Hello again> Thank you so much for your speedy reply. I just want to make sure I understand your response clearly: You think that I would have a better set up purchasing a T5 Retrofit kit with only 4 - 48" 54 Watt bulbs? <Four would be plenty> Also, my lights are close to the top of my tank that is an open acrylic tank. Which means the lights and the fixtures they plug into get wet from the salt evaporation. <It happens> Should I be putting some kind of glass or piece of acrylic over the water to prevent salt-water evaporation from getting on my lights and fixtures?? <You won't be able to protect lights unless you get an actual T5 4-bulb fixture with the shield built in.> My acrylic tank has a large cut out on the top of it and I have refrained from covering it with a piece of glass because I didn't want it to affect the lighting going into the tank and prevent oxygen exchange. <I agree>  BUT because the water level is only about 4-5 inches below the lights this means that whatever kind of lights that I have gets wet with salt water evaporation. This damages the lights and makes for a dangerous and corrosive situation. <Your logic is reasonable but this is how many people have their tanks set up and very rarely do they have issues. It is just a matter of keeping your lighting cleaned from salt creep and making sure your wiring is sound> Will this T5 Retro Fit come with some kind of protective cover to protect the lights and the circuitry that the bulbs plug into?? <Not the retrofit, it will most likely just come with the end caps, bulbs, reflectors, and a ballast if you order it.>  I just don't want a repeat of the mess that I already have. <Understandable, but if installed properly you shouldn't have a problem with T5's. If you are extremely adverse to the idea, try getting a taller canopy or removing the canopy all together and get a stand alone fixture to hang or stand with feet on your tank.> What are your thoughts here? Lynne <Jessy>

Re: Light Set up Dilemma -- 10/02/08 Thanks again Jesse, This is my last question, I promise. Do you have a recommendation as to a particular Brand Name of T5 Retrofit that I should look for and where I can get one? <I'm reluctant to point you in any one direction, because I'm sure there are many good manufacturers out there. My personal fixture is a TEK 8 bulb fixture by Sunlight Supply. I love it. I looked at their website and found this ready made Retro fit you may find interesting http://www.sunlightsupply.com/aqua/products.aspx?request=AQUA_READYFIT&title=Fluorescent%20Lighting&type=product The only other piece of advice I can leave you with is to make sure you get individual reflectors. It helps with the lighting immensely. Do your research and ask around for other peoples' opinions in your town. They may have experience with other brands.> Lynne <Jessy>

Lighting Question/Odyssea fixture... Heat/fire concerns  9/1/08 Hello, I have searched endlessly about the new lighting system I have. I recently purchased the cheap Odyssea 48" PC fixture with 2x65w12000k daylight and 2x65w true actinics. Soon after firing them up I noticed they get extremely hot. <PC fixtures can get fairly hot, a subjective observation.> I researched them a little further and read a lot about possible fire hazards and to replace the light bulbs themselves. <I have heard about this over the years, none in a while. The issue was supposedly with the capacitor in the MH ballasts. Some of the stories were plausible, many not so IMO. To my knowledge the PC parts or fixtures never had the issue. Most were changing out the MH bulb due to the poor quality of the bulb rather than the fire issue, the bulbs were not involved.> My question is would changing the bulbs make any difference in the heat being put out? <Not at all.> Also if you do recommend changing the lights what is a good brand. I've heard Corallife isn't that high in quality so please help. <I actually very much like their PC bulbs. There are many other good brands, no one in particular.> Also people recommended changing out the ballasts; is this a good idea as well? <There are never any guarantees with anything electrical, but I would not.> I'm just nervous about leaving the house with the lights on in fear of it burning up and I'm willing to put money in replacement bulbs or ballasts if need be. <Again, I know of no issues with the PC units, but if you are not completely comfortable with running these, then by all means don't.> Thanks! -Sean <Welcome, Scott V.> PC pin corrosion   1/4/06 How are you guys? <Great> I have quick question about pin configuration on the Coralife power compact fixture. Is there any type of substance that you can put on the pins of a bulb when you change them to prevent the pins from corroding(?) inside the end caps? <I spray a small amount of WD40 on mine and wipe off excess.  James (Salty Dog)> <<Mmm, this is a local co... the product is diesel fuel, kerosene and a perfuming agent... I would NOT spray this around aquariums. RMF>> Thanks, Greg <<I use a smear of Silastic (100% Silicone Sealant)... wipes away enough for initial contact, allows easy removal. Bob Fenner>> Lighting   1/27/06 Could you please tell me what the end part of a ballast is called? <They are called end caps/sockets.> I bought new Coralife bulbs, and when I was taking off the old bulbs, the end part broke!! The part that the pins go into. What a drag! They were so fused on to the bulbs, it was ridiculous! <Should coat the pins of the lamps with a silicone lubricant to prevent this.> I bought Coralife 65 watt 21 inch straight pin compact bulbs. Now, my tank is in the dark thanks to this ridiculous design!! So, now that I've vented a bit, can you tell me what the heck they are called so I can order some? I had to cut the wires that lead from the ballasts also, because they were frayed. Do you think it is safe for me to re-wire onto these caps?? <I've never saw PC end caps for sale in any of the on-line stores.  I'd contact the manufacturer for their advice. <James (Salty Dog)> Thank you! <You're welcome> Pam

Issues with Lighting Fixture, fluo.    9/11/07  <hello> I had a hard time finding the information I am looking for. I apologize if this question is similar in content to others you have answered. I have a 55 gallon reef tank that has been up and running successfully for two years. All parameters are normal. Fish and corals thriving. I have a current satellite fixture that has been an excellent choice. However within the past six months the lamps (bulbs) on one of the ballasts began to flicker. At first the flickering was temporary, then it became constant. I bought new lamps and this did not solve the problem. Then my boyfriend (an electrician) disassembled and reassembled the unit. It did not flicker again for about two weeks. Now it flickers randomly once or twice a week, maybe more and I am not there to notice. Several opinions have me confused. One source told me that it was probably a loose wire, not to worry. Another told me that a new ballast was needed. Before I spend the money on a new ballast, is the, now, temporary flickering, harmful and or indicative of a larger issue? If it is, or was, a loose wire would a new ballast be of any benefit? I tend to be a hypochondriac but it seems that my Anemone may be "reaching" for light more than is usual. Could the lamps be producing less light, without giving any visual indication? Is there any way to measure the light that the tank is receiving? Any input would be most appreciated. Thank-you. <The best action is to replace the ballast. While you are at it see if there are fans on the end of the fixture. If there are make sure they are working. If there isn't check into purchasing some and installing them. The fans will keep the fixture cooler and make the ballast and bulbs last longer.> <Rich aka Mr. Firemouth>

Fluorescent bulb Hello, I have a low energy fluorescent bulb in my tank lid.  It seems to emit a funny smell. Has any one else noticed anything similar and will it harm the fish. Please advise. Thank you <Sometimes new ballasts emit a funny smell at first, but I'm not sure what's causing your odor. I wouldn't worry about it unless it smelled like something was burning. -Kevin>

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