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FAQs about Metal Halide Ballasts and Lighting for Marine Systems

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Related Articles: Metal Halide Light, & Lighting Articles, Coral System Lighting,

Re: Electronic Ballast help       2/15/16
Hi Bob,
The first thing Bobby has to be sure of if his lamps are indeed pulse start. There are two different methods of starting lamps, pulse start and probe start. As to the cost of the ballast, you get what you pay for.
Tar ballasts do run hotter than electronic and have a shorter life span.
<Yeeikes; of course. Thank you James. BobF>
Re: Ballast help       2/15/16

Thank you kindly.
<Ah, do see/read James' input re: Your lamps ARE pulse start I took for granted. Are they?>
I will post in on some boards and see what the feeling is.
I can't see spending 320, if I can do the same thing for 1/4 of that.
My father's friend who is an electronic guru (older stereos, juke boxes, computers etc) said to use it, but he isn't a fish tank guy, so I'm not sure if he would appreciate or respect spectrums, intensity etc, that someone keeping a reef would.
He may just be saying that because he knows it will "work" or "illuminate", but may not be concerned with performance etc
Thank you bob
<Cheers, B>
Lighting... ballasts; olde and new/er tech.    2/22/16
Hey Bob, I emailed you ten days ago or so about a halide/ballast question.
<I recall>
I finally got the ballasts in, had my electrician buddy put them in. He was fast, knew how to do it, and still took 3/hours.
If I were to have tempted it, it may have taken weeks.
Anyhow, the old icecap ballasts that were taken out were "potted" with either asphalt or epoxy. Made the wiring tougher, but we're past that.
My question is, these new ballast we screwed in there are not tarred or potted.
Is that a must with electrical components near a saltwater tank?
<Not necessary.>
The cord is long enough so I can keep ballast box 6-7 feet away from tank, drips and splashes won't get there, but moisture in the room may.
What do you think?
<You're fine as is. Bob Fenner>
Re: Lighting; JamesG input Re    2/22/16

Hi Bobby and Crew,
The substance you see in the old ballast is tar, and these type ballasts are called magnetic ballasts. The tar actually acts as an insulator for the coil wiring in the ballast. Electronic ballasts are a far cry from magnetic ballasts; they provide higher efficiency, flicker free start up, and do not produce the 'hum' which can be annoying with the magnetic ballast. Other benefits include constant power control, power factor correction, and overcurrent/overvoltage protection.
*James Gasta*
<Thank you James. BobF>
Sales Consultant
Orphek LED Lighting
Re: Lighting

Thank you James and Bob. Light was fixed last night and I tried it today.
Started right up and sounds. fine. not terribly hot either.
<Ah, good. BobF>

Ballast/Canopy Cooling Fan 7/1/2011
Hi Crew and Happy 4th!
<Hello Tim>
My Hamilton electronic ballast quit on me this week it was about 7 years old. It had 6 prong plug on it and ran my one 175w lamp and one cooling fan in a hanging oak canopy.
They do not make this kind anymore so I am going to Premium Aquatics tomorrow and get a new Vertex ballast, I have been talking to them through email. I have done some electrical work but not on this type of wiring.
Will I be able to run my fan with this ballast, like bypass it?
<The cooling fan is not controlled by the ballast unless the ballast was built with a 115V or 24VDC fan output determined by the operating voltage of the fan.>
Is this going to be a major wiring job?
<No, the Vertex ballast comes with a quick disconnect lamp cord. All you should need to do is wire the end of the cord to the mogul socket, a two wire connection.
You can see this here.
http://www.vertexaquaristik.com/Products/Lighting/MetalHalide/Ballasts/175WElectronicBallast.aspx >
I am stressing, my tank has never looked so good and this happens.
<No need to stress.>
What other options should I look at. I have been on line looking at DIY wiring a ballast, but not finding much help.
<Will all be explained to you at Premium Aquatics. May want to ask for Jeremy when you arrive, I talk with him often.>
I also have 2 actinic 65w PCs in the canopy, so I do have at least some light. This happened on Tuesday. I am going to take the reflector out in the morning and look at the wiring. I emailed Hamilton the other day, no response and looked at the vertex web site, but they do not have a help line.
<I see this, they do tell you to contact an authorized Vertex dealer which would be Premium Aquatics.>
Thank you so much for your time,
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Iwasaki 250W DE 14000k/Ballast Question 3/9/10
I am planning to purchase a pair of Iwasaki 250W DE 14000k bulbs to replace a pair of Ushios, also 14000k. One of the Ushios seems to have color shifted to a yellow/green. Visiting the Iwasaki website I found that they specify a M80 ballast for this particular bulb, no mention of electronic ballasts.
<There is no difference in the basic construction of a standard and electronic ballast except that the electronic ballast has circuitry that regulates the lamp's voltage and current output which makes the lamp(s) run more efficiently resulting in less PAR drop-off and slightly higher lumen output.>
I run a Galaxy electronic ballast. I have attempted to contact Iwasaki but have been unsuccessful. Looking over some of Sanjay Joshi's test results it seems that in general a bulb of this type will run on either ballast with the M80 generally driving the lamp to a higher output.
<The M80 is the important number, this indicates that the ballast is for use with pulse start 250W DE HQI lamps. Your Galaxy ballast should be a M80 ballast as this is the ballast required by Ushio and Iwasaki for their 250W DE HQI lamps.>
Do you know of a problem I may encounter by using the Galaxy? Just wondering.
<None that I am aware of.>
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Metal halide ballast question 5/8/09
<Hello David>
I have a quick question. I have PFO Lighting, 250 watt dual metal halide ballast with two Hamilton 14k bulbs. I noticed one side is not as bright as the other. If I look at the brighter side directly, it hurts my eyes.
The other bulb when I look at it directly, its a lot dimmer, not bothering my eyes at all. Could the ballast be going bad or wiring?
<Try swapping bulbs, if the dim bulb is at full brightness using the other ballast, then have your ballast checked out.
If the dim bulb is still dim using the other ballast, then the bulb is defective and should be replaced.>
Thanks for your time.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

DIY Metal Halide Question 5/2/09
I have a small online store selling corals and frags and I was thinking of doing some coral farming. I have some 400 watt high bay industrial light fixtures my question is will these work with aquarium bulbs the ballast specs lead me to believe so my only concern is the vertical position of the bulbs.
<Mmm... please send along the particular specifications for both the lamps and fixtures... Not likely these will be of use to you here. Bob Fenner>

Re: James, pls have a look... more up your area of expertise than mine (thank goodness!). BobF
Will do Bob.
Re DIY Metal Halide Question 5/3/09
Here is a pic of the ballast label. I would like to use the XM 15k 400watt mogul base lamps there specs say universal position and works with m59 electronic or magnetic ballast.
<Hello Guy. Mr. Fenner has asked me to reply to your query.
The XM, 15K, 400 watt lamp requires a M59 probe start ballast so you should have no problem using
your ballast with this lamp. Be aware that the M135 and M155 are also 400 watt ballasts but use a pulse
start, and would not be suitable for use with the XM lamp. James (Salty Dog)>

Shed some halide light on a subject for me? 3/29/09
Hi all. I wish you well this fine morning from Baltimore, MD.
<Hi Shawn, everything is sunny here!>
Anyway, I have a Hamilton Tech. lighting system with (2) 175watt 15k Iwasaki bulbs and (4) Current SunPaq 65 watt dual actinics . Currently the system is running the halide bulbs with the standard magnetic ballast, and according to Dr. Sanjay Joshi's testing, I could be saving some money on electric bills and getting better illumination by using an electronic ballast.
<They are more efficient, his site is great!>
I was wondering if it is possible, and safe to remove the current plug for the dual light magnetic ballast, strip the wires, and rewire the fixture to (2) separate Icecap electronic ballasts. I'm hoping this is an option because I'm always looking for more efficient ways to run my system and buying another fixture is just too expensive right now.
<Sure, this can be done, no problem. Best to use water resistant wire nuts or solder and heat shrink to make it as water proof as you can.>
Thanks again, you guys are always the best!
Shawn Green
<Thank you Shawn.>
Baltimore, MD
<Scott V., Coz. Mexico>

Metal Halide Downgrade, e' use, matching lamp/ballasts 3/20/09
<Hi Josh>
first I just want to say thanks for all of your guys <and gals> help.
<You're welcome.>
I have a 150g reef tank and just recently bought a Aqua Medic 72" 5x250w metal halide (all 10k). With that and the 1/3 chiller, my electric bill shot up $120 a month
so I'm trying to be more conservative. I'm in Florida and its only March so I need a quick solution. Can I use 150w bulbs in my current hood? And will the ballast supply only 150w if that's all that's needed?
<Ballasts are matched to the lamps, that is, if a lamp has an ANSI designation of M-57, then a M-57 type ballast must be used.
Switching to a lower wattage lamp would likely work in some cases, but would overdrive the lamp. This will lead to premature failure and shorter lamp life, and likely cause an explosive failure due to rupturing of the
lamps inner and outer arc tube. My advice, don't try it. Is it possible to run the unit on three lamps providing they are spaced out properly.
Ideally, one at one foot from each tank end and one in the middle. Three 250's should provide plenty of light for your corals/clams, as I'm guessing your tank is 20" deep and 24" wide. The other option is, do your cooking on the light hood and keep the stove off.
Thank you
<James (Salty Dog)>

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