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Hello,

I am looking to start making my own light fixtures. I sort of feel like commercially available fixtures are either sort of crummy or prohibitively expensive and none of them do what I want. I don't imagine this will be a problem to do with sufficient research but it's a bit daunting to get started (like when I pivoted from herps to plants for vivariums and realized I was basically starting an entire additional hobby from scratch just to support the first hobby).

I am particularly interested in making my own T5 fixtures, because I use T5 uvbs for my chameleon, but a single T5 reflector hood is like $50-60 bucks despite being made from what seems like about $10 worth of parts. I expect eventually I will need to delve into LEDs as well...

Basically if anyone has experience with this or can point me in the right direction I'd appreciate it.

Thanks
 

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First I think it is important to determine what you really need in regards to lighting.

Even cheap lights are typically more than adequate for most vivarium. It really doesn't make much sense from a needed performance or price stance to build in my opinion, especially in regards to outdated lighting technologies. That said fixtures are fun to build so if so inclined go for it. I built several over the years for my reef tanks and planted aquarium but that said was really looking for performance and saving money vs the cost of reputable light fixtures at that time (the TEK Elite T5HO I bought was 550 and could build one with equal to better components for half that).

For decent ballast I typically used Fulham Workhorse and reflectors something liko Miro or similar readily available from most of the reef supply or planted aquarium stores. So for two reflectors and a ballast we are already around 60 bucks after shipping. Need tombstones and wiring so another 10 bucks plus bulbs. Are you going to cobble together a hood, need a heatsink, personal time, etc.. so 100 bucks on a T5 set up (if not more).

I went with a NiCrew LED set up with my current vivarium. I consider them a disposable LED unit that is a low profile/sleek offering and definitely is not using high end internals. I looked into building LED fixtures years ago but never ended up going that route but did spend a lot of time on various forums about layout, optics, diode selection, etc.
 

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If you DIY, use a programmed start ballast (lamps last much longer) with a high power factor (need fewer lamps for same illumination) to save money in the long run.

I used to overdrive T8s on my reef in an attempt to save money (back before you could get any ballast you wanted on the internet). Fun projects, a little janky.

For T5HO I currently use Sunblaster fixtures. Pretty reliable -- I had one fail (out of a dozen or so, used anywhere from fulltime on my reef to about 7 months a year for orchids that summer outside to seasonally for starting seeds) after more than five years, but that's it. Bright. Slim size. Easy to mount.

On some things (my reef lately, and my crested geckos, and some of my dart vivs) I use a hybrid lighting setup -- some T5HO, some LED. That's how I'd go for a chameleon, personally. T5HO for UVB, and LEDs for plant growth.
 

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I do build my own Led lights.

I don't know how the fire insurance works in the US, but where I live, in case of a fire, if the cause of the fire was that homemade fixture, you might be in trouble as the insurance will not pay...
 

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I do build my own Led lights.

I don't know how the fire insurance works in the US, but where I live, in case of a fire, if the cause of the fire was that homemade fixture, you might be in trouble as the insurance will not pay...
In the US, any insurance company worth the paper it's policies are written on, would pay the claim in that instance.
 

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Edit I know this isn't super helpful for your specific question involving T5 fixtures for UVB.

I built my own led lights for a series of vivs. I'm sure that I didn't save any money but I learned quite a bit and got to set them up exactly as I wanted. Each "fixture" consists of a 3000K light bar, a 5000K light bar, and 2 6500K diodes. They are high CRI (98 CRI, I believe) leds and the light that they produce looks pretty good to my eye. They all run off of a single power supply and controller. The controller ramps up the three color temps separately so that the 3000K comes on first, followed by the 5000, then the 6500 (and then all in reverse for sunset). The 3000 only ramps to about 1/3 the output of the cooler lights so that the midday color temps are toward the cooler end of the spectrum This simulates a warmer sunrise and sunset - not that it's super realistic, but it is a more relaxing temp to the eye in the evening. The lights are very high quality and really over powered for this application. They are only running at about 25% max output at midday. This isn't a bad thing as it should allow for great longevity (as opposed to running a weaker led at near full power).

I'm currently working on another series of three tanks that will stack on top of these. I'll be making three more fixtures, all of which will be able to run off of the same power supply and controller - I'll just need to add a few additional drivers.

Circuit component Wood Line Electricity Audio equipment


Plant Wood Grass Adaptation Terrestrial plant
 
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