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FAQs about Light and Lighting for Marine Systems, Installation

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Light Hanging Question 11/18/07 Thanks for all the help on the issue of overheating. Leaving the top off and raising the light has helped and I've got a desk fan on the way to lower it even more. <Awesome, am glad to help.> I am probably going to have to build an automatic top off device to go with the sump though, as I'm having to top up about every 2 days or so (any advice on how to do that would also be appreciated). <There are many do it yourself plans on the internet, one can be found at http://ozreef.org/diy_plans/electronic_projects/water_level_switch.html . Just keep in mind that you will be dealing with 110, not 240. I personally use and am a huge advocate of the Tunze water top off system. It is kind of pricey, but well worth it. It has an optical sensor that keeps your water level super consistent, an overflow sensor that shuts the unit off if activated, and it shuts the unit down if it is on for more than ten minutes at a time. Also, it comes with a 12V pump that will pump from a reservoir to the sump to top off. This limits your top off capacity to the reservoir, limiting flooding capacity. All this adds up to an extremely reliable top off system. I have personally replaced the pump in the kit with a 12V liquid solenoid hooked directly to my RO unit, I don't like hauling water if I don't have to.> My primary question, though, is a rather simple one and I feel a bit ridiculous that I'm even asking given that there's probably a very easy explanation. I have the Current-USA Outer Orbit T5HO lamp hanging from my ceiling by the kit that it came with. In my zealousness to lower the temperature, I hoisted the thing up and it's now about 11 inches above the tank. It looks like there's a UFO hovering in my living room. So I'd like to lower it back down a little bit towards the 7-8 in. range and monitor to prevent overheating, but I can't seem to figure out how to do that. I know product questions aren't your usual schtick, but I thought one of you guys might have this setup and know what I'm talking about. As it is, I'm contemplating heading back to my LFS and getting another hanging kit for 10-20 bucks just so the family doesn't flip when they come over for Thanksgiving at the big THING floating in the air over the living room. <That can certainly be unappealing, not to mention the value of being able to adjust the height of your light. The bracket that mounts to the ceiling has a little wire outlet in it. By pressing the wire outlet into the mount you should be able to slide the cable in and out to adjust the length. A PDF with instructions for the mount can be found at http://www.marineandreef.com/shoppro/metal_SunPod.htm I hope this helps, have a nice Thanksgiving, Scott V.>

Re: Light Hanging Question 11/18/07 Miracle workers, all of you ;) <Have just battled the same woes.> Can't believe I hadn't figured out the lights before, but it worked and they look fantastic. <Excellent, good to hear! > Sent an e-mail off to Aqua-C about this last question since I know that's what you recommend, but in the meantime, just wondering if you have any advice. I set up a new Aqua-C EV120 in the same tank. I have a problem though. I've set it up and have it operating for bout 2 days now and after the first day, it started producing MASSIVE amounts of wet foam. So much so that I had to do what they initially suggested and put the outlet hose back into the sump. I figured this might be part of the break in process, but opened the gate valve all the way and it's still producing this volcano of wet foam a day later. Any advice? Is this normal? Thanks! Frank PS Using a Mag 5 with it, for reference. <Is it normal? Sometimes. Many times you will see the opposite during break in. You may want to try restricting the air intake on the skimmer and check the water level the skimmer sits in to see if it is within the recommended range. If you add supplements to your water or vitamins to your food it will very often make the skimmer go nuts like this. If all of the above is in order then just give it some time to settle in. Happy reefing, Scott V.>

Lighting placement, angle reflection question 01/14/2008 Greetings Dear WWM Crew, <<Hello Brian, Andrew here>> First, I'd like to thank the membership of the WWM crew for the enriching leadership you collectively provide. I have kept freshwater (Cichlids) for four years now and have often visited this site for reference. During these freshwater years I have immensely enjoyed pouring over the great variety of detailed topics relating to marine systems as well. Long story short...(and after reading Bob's excellent text (CMA) cover to cover) I'm now venturing into the saltwater realm. Today, I have a lighting and light-fixture-position/hood-design question that neither my reading the FAQS nor searching the archives has answered. I'd be most appreciative of your assistance. <<Lets see what we can do then>> I recently purchased a used, 200gal (84 x 24 x 24) Oceanic RR (Dual "Megaflow"...which by no means actually IS "RR") and am gradually acquiring components, doing research, etc, that will enable me to reach my FOWLR and, ultimately, Reef tank goal. The tank came with an exceptional stand but no hood/canopy. As a somewhat advanced hobbyist woodworker (furniture), I intend to craft my own. As I collect all the necessary aquarium equipment, I am trying to "buy once" and obtain components that will provide prolonged service across the spectrum (no pun intended with my question) of my development as an aquarist. To this end, for lighting, few solutions seem to adequately fit the 84-inch long dimension of this tank. Thinking that an assemblage of separate lighting fixtures would best suffice, I have acquired 4, 20-inch, Current SunPod 150W/14K (HQI) MH lights which I intend to integrate into the canopy design. <<As a note, a single MH bulb is good enough for lighting 2 feet of tank length>> My question (at long last) is this: My plan is to design the canopy mount such that the Sunpods are positioned end-to-end along the 84-inch length of the tank. However, in order to maintain some nominal distance between the ends of the fixtures (specifically, to keep the integrated cooling fans located on the ends of the fixtures free from obstruction), some fixture offset is, I believe, required. For clarity, the concept is that the fixtures on either end would be centered (front to back) and the two fixtures in the center of the tank would be positioned forward (approx. the 8-inch fixture width). When offsetting the SunPod fixtures in the center, a nominal space would be left between the end-fans of these as well. In shifting the center fixtures forward, they would be closer to the front of the tank and so I was considering angling those fixtures slightly inward (perhaps 15-20 degrees)...to direct more light output into the tank and less through the front glass (such as will occur by being closer to the front and per reflector-coverage design). I am concerned about the resultant amount of light reflection that might occur by angling these fixtures, if the reflection would be significant (considering that the water surface is constantly irregular anyway when good circulation is achieved). So, I am wondering if the angling of light fixtures has been successfully done in the past and if a deleterious effect (light loss to reflection) will result by doing so? I've attached a rudimentary diagram to help explain the concept. Any advice would be most appreciated. <<I would be tempted to only use three of the four fixtures that you have bought. Your tank is 7 feet long, 3 of the lighting units will be fine, spaced evenly with 4.5 inches from the outer edge of the lamp unit to the end of the hood. If you use the method you have mentioned above, the light will not be adequately dispersed in the aquarium, basically giving you low lighting at the front as well as an irregular lighting pattern inside the tank, and I think this will greatly reduce the viewing pleasure of the aquarium>> Thank you very much for your time. Best Regards, Brian. <<Thanks for the questions, A Nixon>>

Re: Lighting placement, angle reflection question 01/16/2008 Good Morning Andrew, Reference 01/14/2008 Lighting angle question <<Good morning again Brian>> Thank you so much for the fast reply. <<No problem>> The simplicity of your advised solution is like that "should have had a V8, bonk me on the head" commercial. No need to overcomplicate, duh! In defense of the apparent fog that surrounds my decision making, :), I'd actually considered several options including going with a single, 72-inch, 3-bulb SunPod fixture or, as you suggest, just using 3 of the separate fixtures. However, the more I looked at the dimensions of the SunPod product line, the widths of the fixtures and locations of the actual bulbs (bulb effective centerline within the housing and "centerline" of overhead/hood placement), the more confused I became. I have seen the common reference to a single MH bulb's "effective" ability to cover 2ft of tank bottom. Presumably, this reference takes bulb height (distance from water surface), substrate depth (i.e. DSB of 4-5 inches), and water column diffusion factors into account. In my case, if I have a 4-inch DSB, place my bulbs 8 inches from water surface and have a tank with 24-inch height dimension, then I am looking at a 28-inch distance from bulb to substrate surface. <<A single 250w metal halide bulb can penetrate down to 24 inches when mounted 8 inches above water level>> Per the common reference to a single MH bulb's ability to "effectively" shed light on 2ft of tank bottom, my thought would be that the centerline(s) of MH bulb placement needs to occur at 12-inches from either end of the tank and at 24-inch increments between bulbs for multiple bulb fixtures. I'm thinking that it is particularly important that the bulbs at either end of the tank are placed 12-inches from the tank end so that aquascaping, such as taller live rock structures stacked to conceal overflows, are fully illuminated on the ends (outer sides). <<I agree, we need the lighting as evenly spaced / spread as possible>> Many of the products I see available, such as the 36-inch dual bulb SunPod for example, place two bulbs (bulb centers) approximately 12-inches apart...meaning (presumably) much greater (concentrated) illumination in some areas of the tank and considerably less illumination in others. <<That happens a lot with multiple bulb fixtures>> Part of my reasoning in selecting the 20-inch SunPod was that bulb centerline is 10-inches from the end of the fixture which would allow hood placement to achieve an effective 12-inches of bulb centerline from tank end (i.e. the live rock illumination concern noted above). <<Valid point>> Considering all of this "over thinking" I wonder if, in my case with the 7ft tank, center brace location, etc, a return of the 4, 20-inch SunPod fixtures and purchase of 2, 36-inch (dual 150w MH bulb) fixtures would be worth considering in order to achieve the most evenly concentrated distribution of light (bang for the buck)? What say you? <<I would agree that would be far better in the situation you have with the hood and brace setup. I would go for the 250w bulbs as this will provide you with more punch of light down towards the bottom of the tank>> Again, many thanks for your time. Your advice is most appreciated. Warm Regards, Brian. <<My time is your time Brian, many thanks for the questions. A Nixon>>

Finding the Sweet Spot Hello to everyone , hope things are going well. Sorry for the question but I need your opinion. I just purchased a new light system the AquaSpacelight, with 3 250wDE MH and 4 24pc actinic lights. The directions state that it should be hung 12 inches above the water, I have a 180g tank 24" deep. That means the bottom is 36" below the lights? Does that seem OK if I want to keep SPS and clams. Thanks <Mike, Ryan with you today.  Although I certainly would stick to the 12 inches above while the bulbs are "burning in," I think that playing with that gap a little bit in time may help your photosynthetic animals in the bottom third of your ecosystem.  In addition, much of the usable light is filtered at that point, so you may want to try and elevate your clams and SPS to a higher point in the tank.  Good luck, Ryan> Mike Winston

Height of Bulbs off Water - 8/18/03 Hey gang, <cheers> Yes its me again.  The more I read the more I understand, but inevitably this leads to more questions.  I'm planning on a DIY hood for my 90G eventual reef tank. Made of oak and stained or Pine and painted.  Going to be approx 15" tall.  Have decided to leave off the tank cover.  The 2 175W 10K MH lights will be mounted approx 12" from the water surface.   <yikes... too high likely. Really needs to be closer to 9" for optimal intensity vs. spread (see Sanjay Yoshi's research on this subject)> I also plan on having 2 VHO actinic blue 110W each.  Would their effect at 12" off the water surface be ineffective? <completely... they would most only be aesthetic at that point> Should I move them closer?   <anything beyond 3" off the surface with fluorescents is a waste of electricity IMO. Seek the PAR meter when in doubt <G>> Thoughts suggestions would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks again for everything.  Don't know how I'd start this hobby without ya. Jeremy - Pineville, LA <best regards, Anthony>

Which reflector? Hey there-        I have a 125 with 3-175 watt AquaLine 10k metal halides and 4-96 watt pc actinics.  I am looking to replace my flat reflectors with more efficient reflectors, either the PFO optimal reflectors (mounted perpendicular to the tank- similar to the spider reflector) or the PFO parallel reflector.  I will also be adding 2- 6 foot VHO actinics.  My question is whether I should go with the parallel reflector, which would place the VHOs closer to the water (about 4-5 inches from the surface) or go with the perpendicular reflector?   If I decide on the perpendicular, I will mount one set of VHOs underneath the reflectors underneath the mogul sockets at the back of my tank and the other set on the canopy top in the front.  Which setup would you recommend?  The parallel reflector with both VHOs closer to the surface or the perpendicular reflectors with one set of actinics closer to the surface?  Thank you very much for your help! Josh <Depends on the width of your 125 and how easy it is to move hood/lights out of the way to gain access.  I use one of the parallel set-ups and it works quite nicely, although the focus of the light is more downward then some spider reflectors. The VHO's are down next to the water where you want them. Then the optimal reflectors spread the light more sideways with the reflectors set as they are...but no real good way to handle the actinics....  All depends on how much space you want to cover in that 125!  I would favor the parallel reflector for this reason.  Craig>

Halide Bulb orientation and reflector choice Hey there- <whassup> I have a 125 with 3-175 watt AquaLine 10k metal halides and 4-96 watt pc actinics.  I am looking to replace my flat reflectors with more efficient reflectors, either the PFO optimal reflectors (mounted perpendicular to the tank- similar to the spider reflector) or the PFO parallel reflector.   <sounds good> I will also be adding 2- 6 foot VHO actinics.   <nice for aesthetics... but not needed by your corals> My question is whether i should go with the parallel reflector, which would place the VHOs closer to the water (about 4-5 inches from the surface) or go with the perpendicular reflector? <fluorescents higher than 3" off the water are almost a waste of use/electricity... they need to be scary close to the water to be any good>   If I decide on the perpendicular, I will mount one set of VHOs underneath the reflectors underneath the mogul sockets at the back of my tank and the other set on he canopy top in the front.  Which setup would u recommend?   <since it is for aesthetic effect only at 4" or higher... do what is most convenient for mounting... or for working in the tank> The parallel reflector with both VHOs closer to the surface or the perpendicular The reflectors with one set of actinics closer to the surface?  Thank you very much for your help! Josh <use the parabolic reflectors for the halides at 6-9" off water surface... then buy the VHOs (URI brand) that have the built-in internal reflectors and mount them (you can buy acrylic legs/stand-offs) to mount bulb right on top of the tank top or canopy (no external reflector needed). That's my vote :) Kind regards, Anthony>

Need wiring diagrams for IceCap 660 - 2/19/03 hello:  friends ,<Hello> I Need the wiring diagrams for my old ballast 660. <Well, we do not carry such things here, but if needed I believe they can be found here http://www.icecapinc.com/660.htm if you continue to have problems, check with www.championlighting.com. Good guys that may be able to help. Good luck> I know that i can power up to 2, 3, or 4 lamps but I don't have no idea how to make it work. <Check the links above. They have all specs about your product>  thanks V.K. <Thank you, Paul - out>

New Lighting Question www.wetwebmedia.com/aclimcoralslight.htm Thanks for the reply! The page wouldn't work though....... Ray <Please try this one: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/acclimcoralslight.htm Bob Fenner>

Glass reducing light How much of a problem will the extra glass cause in light penetration? Will it reduce light effectiveness by 10% 25% 50%? Thanks - Mark <depends on the nature and thickness of the glass of course. "White" glass [trade names like Diamante and Starfire] will admit more/most light. Regular plate glass is somewhat restrictive. Low-E glass is common and can be very restrictive. All are more restrictive as thickness increases. You need to know the thickness and nature of the glass you have to answer this question, my friend. No one answer here. Best regards, Anthony>

Lighting Distribution Hello! I do not remember why (maybe I read it somewhere), but I thought it was important for the light bulbs to go across the whole tank. I am looking at 48" CF's and with double bulbs each reaches about 3/4 of the way across from opposite sides, totaling 110W. Does it matter? <Somewhat, in that you will only have indirect lighting in some areas, but not a major concern.> If not, can I get 2 separate 24" hoods (55 watts each) and run them on two separate timers? <I don't think that will make much of a difference.> Thanks, Rich <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Marine Lighting Greetings WWM Crew! I'll try to keep it short and sweet! I am currently in the construction phase of a planned 75G Reef and am basically DIY on everything besides skimmer and the tank itself. I am now working on the plans for the lighting and am very confused as to which direction to go after reading all the FAQ's, consumer info, etc. (sometimes too much is as bad as too little). I have really been leaning towards going with an IceCap 660 and wiring 4 3ft. 96Watt Compact Fluorescent lights to it but seem to be unable to find a good supply of these 4 pin bulbs, including waterproofing caps, etc. I know AHSupply.com has the PC kits including the ballast (inferior to Icecap?) and reflector but no waterproofing is apparent in that kit for where the bulb connects. I seem to be having a hard time finding the connectors, bulbs, etc if I want to DIY. I have spent a lot of time on Philips and Panasonic but those Compact Fluorescents are not listed on their sites. Could you guys give me a heads up where I might be able to find those parts and if you think for the 75gal that that would be the "ideal" solution? Thanks again to the crew for all the wonderful info and help! I know I will be a long time visitor and sending many others as well! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! <I am currently building a canopy for one of my tanks.  For the bulbs and fixtures I had to support my LFS.  That is not to say that there are not better places to find this stuff, check out some of our sponsors.  I would try to find a reef club in my area and ask them, or just post a question on a chat forum, lots of people with lots of opinions. http://wetwebfotos.com/talk/ http://reefcentral.com/ Sounds like a good setup depending on what you plan to keep in the tank. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marlgtganthony.htm Good luck, Gage>

Lighting I am setting up a 70 gallon salt water aquarium. The glass lid broke while in storage and the hood only holds two lamps that meet in the center. For the lighting to be correct (live rock, coral, etc.) I am assuming I need a hood that would hold 2 or 3, 48 inch bulbs. My tank is older and does not have a support bar in the middle. Can you recommend a solution for a new hood and lid? Also, what type of bulbs do I need to produce the proper lighting? Thanks, Kristy < Yes, you have a couple of major options: to build or buy an adequate housing/hood to accommodate sufficient fixturing and release heat (if necessary). If you want the fastest, though not cheapest route, take your old, broken glass (or good INSIDE edge measurements) to a glass shop (you can find them in your "Yellow Pages") or even a large "department store" retailer like Home Depot/Lowe's (they have glass for sale and will cut, bevel it for you), and maybe even check your retailer (with the dimensions (outside this time) and pertinent notes so they can figure out the Brand name of the manufacturer... and have a new glass made or replaced. The real livestock store will have new, cuttable back-edge material that will attach to the glass so you can cut out where your inputs/outputs enter/leave the tank top. You can make a "hinge" with a bead of silicone rubber (the store will show you how) by running and pinching a bead of aquarium-use silicone between the front and back glass top panels. Fixtures and lamps and a hood can be bought as units. I personally prefer compact fluorescents for this size, shape aquarium for looks and function... Alternatively you can have made or make a canopy type arrangement with or without a glass barrier. This needs to be tall (quite tall if you're going to use Metal Halides), and have provisions for ventilation. Possibly one or more "muffin" fans wired with your timers to come on when the lights do... Manufacturers of pre-made hoods/lighting can be found best in FAMA magazine (Freshwater and Marine Aquarium), and contacted via the Net... once again, investigate your possibilities before deciding. Much more on these issues can be found under the subjects, light, lighting at the wetwebmedia.com site. Bob Fenner>

DIY lighting reflectors I've been researching lighting reflectors for a 60'' VHO system. I have ruled out aluminum flashing but I would prefer to not spend the outrageous $8 + per foot material that many online companies are selling. Any suggestions for a DIY lighting reflector to go in a canopy for a reef tank? <My fave is the Mylar material coated/embedded in thin acrylic sheet. Light weight, waterproof, easy to cut, adhere to most any surface, easy to keep clean, high index of reflectivity...Look for this through large hardware stores, acrylic outlets (check the local availability through the phone/directory). Also, do read through the premiere DIY website of Oz' Reef on other possibilities, for other input: http://www.ozreef.org/ Bob Fenner>

Icecap ballast Hey Bob. . . I got the Icecap 660 ballast today but I was surprised to find there was no power cord nor was there a place to connect a power cord. What gives? How do you connect this thing to the juice? <Hmm, let's send this message off to Perry Tishgart and gang at Champion Lighting (and Maurice) and ask them. Some folks don't "include" a pigtail, power cord with their electrical products, considering that "one size does not fit all" and instead intend that the customer purchase or request this separately. Let's see. Bob Fenner> As always, thanks and keep up the good work!!! David Dowless

Re: Icecap ballast bob, the ballast does not come with a plug. the user can use an ice cap timer which is hard wired, wire it to a switch, or simply splice a 3 prong plug to the white, black and green power line. Perry <Ah, as I surmised. Thank you Perry. Will post this to the appropriate FAQs files on our principal site (WetWebMedia.com). Hope to run into you on the show circuit. Going to Interzoo in May?  Bob Fenner>

A few quick questions (lighting electrical concerns) hi, <Hello there> I was wondering if you could answer a few questions. I have a 55 G saltwater reef tank with a 30 g sump, and have to move in the next 2 weeks to an older apartment that unfortunately doesn't have much electricity. I have a LN electronic ballast that runs 4 x 110 W VHO bulbs (the LN is from Premium Aquatics, it's the equivalent of the IceCap 660). I was wondering if you knew how many Amps this system uses? <Hmm, sure don't... would probably "just" test here, but you might contact Premium, or even Perry Tishgart at Champion re his competitors draws> The follow up question is how many amps would it use if I ran 4 x 40 W bulbs? (the bulbs are 46.5"). <Again, the only satisfying "answer" for me would be to actually do my own test here... The calculated and stated amperage will not be the same... do you have a friend/accomplice electrician or physics lab cohort who has wrap around induction type test gear? Very simple to use.> The last question is what do can you feed bubble-tipped anemones? it's a lot of work to reach into the tank and give each one bits of fish, so I was curious if there are supplements to add to the water that work as well. <Lots of light... and occasional (once, twice weekly) meaty feedings (get, use plastic tongs... they're made for this and other aquatic purposes by Eheim, Tetra, AZoo...> thank you very much for your help, Ben <Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Regarding your response to the lighting question yesterday, I too have a 55 gallon tank that is 48" long. You indicated that you like a single MH 175 w with 2 regular actinic bulbs. When I look in your catalog I see the light is 24" long. Is this adequate for a 48" tank? Also there is a fan cooling option. Is this something I should get or does it not really matter? I am not familiar with these lights. Do they hang above the tank? I assume they are too hot to sit on top of a tank with a glass cover / shield. Thank you for all of your information. >> Hmm, the twenty four inch lamps would be okay... if one is positioned all the way to the front right, the other all the way to the left back... and no to a fan if you're going to mount the metal halide high enough, leaving the top mostly open to allow light through... I would not enclose a/the metal halide... and would leave off with as much of a glass or other cover... instead fashioning a canopy type of arrangement with some front and back panels to affix the actinics/fixtures to. Bob Fenner who wishes he could draw an image of this...

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