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FAQs about Moving Lighting Systems

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Most organisms benefit from such "natural" light changes.

Litophyton arboreum

An Electrical Engineer's Viewpoint Re Simulating Daily Light Cycles/Intensities 01/31/08 Hello Crew, <<Greetings Mike>> Was reading through the Daily FAQs, and came across the post for a control for a MH fixture that Eric assisted with. <<T'was I, yes>> I'm an electrical engineer, and since I take so much information from the website, I thought this may be a way to "repay" a bit. <<Cool!>> Attached is a schematic for a motor reversing circuit. I formatted it in PNG to keep the size of the image down. <<Thank you for this>> You can use two single pole, single throw (SPST) relays or one double pole, double throw (DPDT) relay. To manually move the motor, you would need Push-button, normally open (PBNO) switches. <<Mmm, yes…I use such switches to pump freshwater for my top-off vessel and saltwater for water changes from reservoirs in my garage>> The relays, switches, and a little 18VDC motor are available at Radio Shack and can be purchased for less that $30 (US). Unfortunately, a DC power supply would run about $85 (US). <<What about automation? Would a simple timing device used to energize the DC power supply allow automated raising/lowering of the light fixture? Or what about NO servos?>> Regards, Mike <<Many thanks for your input, Mike. Cheers, Eric Russell>>

Re: Motor Query... lighting, EricR...   2/2/08Bob, <James> As I see this circuit, it is incomplete and the normally open pushbuttons are displayed incorrectly. Since a pushbutton is spring loaded, the horizontal bars of the pushbutton should be shown above the contacts and not below. It is drawn more like a normally closed pushbutton even though a very slight gap is shown between the contact points and the horizontal bar. <Yes... I saw this... thought to present as is, sans comment, as this (I believe) was more a "thematic" diagram than an actual working plan> There is no circuitry shown to energize the coil of either relay. The only operable part of the schematic I see is that power would go through the normally closed contact of relay one upon energizing pushbutton switch S2, thus powering the DC motor in one direction only. If S1 is energized, power stops at the normally open contact of relay two since no circuitry is shown for energizing the relay(s). Can/will be confusing and inoperable.

Non-Motorized Pendant Light Rails…A Simple DIY Project - 08/02/07 Thanks for your help everyone, <<We're happy to assist>> I had a question about pendant mounting to a track. <<Okay>> I know there are lighting rails available that will allow a mounted light to move along it with a motor...but I don't need the light to move on its own. <<Okay>> Basically I want to put a track/rail that runs the length of my tank, and mount a pendant (most likely a Reef Optics III) to the track, so I would be able to manually slide and position it over the tank as needed (i.e.: Cleaning, adding more lights down the road). <<Ah, yes…quite the "doable" project!>> I would like to know if they sell (or if there's some other way) to accomplish this? <<Hmm…how "handy" are you? This is more a DIY situation I think. I did something similar with my pendants though I "attached" mine to the rails and installed a pair of pendants "lifts" to allow me to raise/lower the whole assembly for cleaning pendants/tank maintenance as needed. The main components of the rail can be purchased at a well stocked hardware store or any Lowe's/Home Depot or similar. You will need some Aluminum "L" channel for the rails and Aluminum "U" channel for the cross braces, and Aluminum rivets for affixing all together. Cut two pieces of "L" channel to the length of the tank or a little more if you have the room (A table or chop saw with fine-toothed carbide blade does a wonderful job of this), and enough "U" channel cross braces to keep the rails rigid (will depend on the length of the tank) and sized to allow a "just snug" fit of the pendants when set in the rails. Since you want the pendants to "slide" in the rails, you will need to affix the braces to the "bottom" of the rails and you will also want to pre-determine their positions so as not to "block" a pendant and cast a shadow>> I was hoping for it to be able to support 2-3 of the lights (ballast is separate and not part of the light fixture). <<Indeed…am familiar with these…the Aluminum channel is surprisingly strong and can be purchased in different thicknesses, the heavier your choice, the fewer braces will be required to keep all rigid>> Thank you! <<Quite welcome. Eric Russell>>

Re: Non-Motorized Pendant Light Rails…A Simple DIY Project - 08/04/07 Hi again, <<Howdy Nick>> I had written about how to go about getting/making a light rail for MH pendants. <<I recall>> Thank you for your help. <<My pleasure>> I had not actually thought about the way described in your answer. <<Ah well…easy enough to build mate>> I was wondering, if instead of that way, is there a way to attach a single track to the ceiling with the pendant hanging below the track (with chain, cable, whichever), so the pendant is hanging, but instead of it's chain being mounted into the ceiling it is hung from something that will move in the track and the track itself is what's mounted to the ceiling? Similar to how track lighting works in homes kinda. <<Mmm yes, I understand the concept you describe. The challenge here I believe is the "roller" assemblies…if you can find them, or fabricate your own suitable assemblies, you could construct a rail from two pieces of L-channel mounted back-to-back to create a T-rail. Or you can likely find ready-made Aluminum T-rail on the NET or at a local metals supplier. A possible source of both rail and roller assemblies is Hydroponics/Greenhouse suppliers. EricR>>

Are Motorized Light Rails Really Better? - 02/20/07 Hello all, <<Greetings J>> I try not to ask any questions until I absolutely have to. <<No worries mate>> First thank you for this great site, I have spent many hours reading all the great info. <<Very good to know>> I currently have a FOWLR tank that has been running for about a year and a half.  It is 76Lx30Wx36H and when I take into account the 3/4 inch acrylic it comes out to about 317 gallons. <<Hmm, I come up with 329.5...but close enough...>> I feel I am ready (and disciplined enough) to begin converting this tank to a reef tank (SPS, soft corals and Anemones). <<Mmm, wish I could dissuade you from the anemones...best kept in species specific systems designed for their care>> Which comes to my question, lighting. <<Can be a very nebulous subject where reefing is concerned>> I currently have Power Compacts which I realize will only penetrate 12" to 18" inches so I am going to convert to using MH. <<Best bang for the buck in my opinion>> I have read on a few reef boards that light rails provide better lighting than stationary fixtures? <<An interesting methodology that will likely see more development/experimentation/use in the future...but hardly a necessity.  In my humble opinion these systems would serve best if designed/arranged in an "arc" from the "base" of one end of the tank to the other to afford "changing angles" of light to reach "all" regions of the tank; unlike the typical "top down only" lighting in today's reef tanks>> And supposedly they also reduce the amount of watts needed (but I haven't found any details on how much reduction can be made). <<I don't think there is much info re this lighting method as it pertains to reef systems, but this method is used extensively in horticulture and you may find some helpful info looking there...but speaking for myself, if for example you would typically employ three 400w bulbs over this tank...in theory, you could use a single 400w bulb traveling on a "very slow moving" light rail from one end of the tank to the other and still provide for the needs of all the photosynthetic organisms in the system>> I was thinking of having 3 400-watt fixtures each on their own separate 5 foot track.  Each light would start from a different position on the track. Would this be too much of a light reduction from the typical 5-watts per gallon or should I just look into a stationary setup? <<Using three 400w fixtures on a light rails on this tank would negate any cost saving benefit and would provide little if any advantage over stationary fixtures.  If money is not an option then by all means do experiment here and let us know your findings...otherwise, I would go with the stationary lighting system and spend the extra cash on a premium skimmer/calcium reactor/water flow devices/etc for this new reef system>> Thank you for your help and for this informative site. J <<We're pleased you find it of benefit.  Eric Russell>>

Questions about moving light systems plus many others 11/6/05 Hi all, I guess you could call me a newbie. I'm researching my next project, which is the conversion of my freshwater 135g (72x18x24deep)to a full blown reef.  <Some fun!> Here's what I'm thinking in terms of initial physical set-up: ~120-150lbs live rock; 4" deep sand band (CaribSea Seaflor grade, as live as I can make it, haven't decided about using a plenum); water column height of ~18-19" (height of tank minus DSB height, and not quite filled to the brim); Superskimmer rated for 220g; don't know about a sump yet. <Do keep investigating... very worthwhile> I'd like one but I can't drill my tank for internal overflows. Are there any external overflows that are reliable? <Depends on who you're chatting with ;)... IMO, yes... if you use two...> If so, I might be able to work it in. If I can't, I'll just have to stock more lightly I guess.  <Yes... or just use the sump... as a living refugium... with much less flow> I've also got an Aquaclear 500 (for carbon and additional biofiltration and water movement) and a couple of powerheads from my current set-up that I can use. At first this will be a FOWLR set-up until things stabilize, then gradually over months start adding softies and work my way up. How does this sound so far? <So good> My biggest concern right now is the lighting aspect. I came across Anthony Calfo's article about moving light systems, and was very intrigued. This system could be a great solution for more economically lighting a mixed coral tank. And it'd be very easy to do with a linear motorized track which many hydroponic stores sell. However, I don't know anyone who actually has any experience with this type of system, and haven't come across any info on how effective it is. <Not very common... an added expense most find isn't "that" worthwhile... subject to rusting, failure> I know garden reefs aren't exactly natural, or easy to light optimally, but I can't decide on which coral types I like best (some incredible looking zoos out there, just as incredible looking acros... makes my head spin!). So, I'll probably be a 'gardener'.   <Most are> I'm thinking about the possibility of running a 10K 250watt MH in a 24" high reflection canopy on a 4 foot motorized track (about 9" off the surface of the water). It'll take about 8-10 minutes to run the length of the track. I'll probably have to play around with the photoperiod. Do you think this would allow me to keep some SPS and some clams with zoos and other lower light corals? <Yes> I'd place them higher up if needed. And would the tank look funny when the light is on one-side (e.g. one half of tank really dark, or would there be enough scatter to at least partially illuminate the other side)? <Mmm, not "funny" as in odd, unusual in my estimation> I can easily go with a 400watt set-up if need be. I suppose if I did this, I could raise the light a bit higher and get more spread, but I'd really like to keep the wattage down if I can.  <You are wise here> Just had another thought if the above doesn't sound feasible: I could start with a couple of VHO bulbs since I'll need to go FOWLR first until things are settled, then add the 250watt MH on the track later.  Would this be better for a garden tank? Or would the low-lights end-up suffering? <This approach is preferable> So much to learn, so much to do! Sorry for the long questions, and thanks for the help. The WWM crew is awesome! Best regards, Jason
<Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner> 

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