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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is me pondering how to light a 36 x 36 x 18 Exo Terra.



It's unfortunately still in the early stages though I've had the exo for several months now. Two of my hold ups are inexperience and ignorance about lights, and budget.

I've seen the rule of thumb to have 2W of lighting per gallon (or 1W for LEDs), but do I also need anything specialized in helping penetrate the depth? I've been interested in LED as this hobby keeps increasing my electric bill.

LightYourReptiles.com currently has 13w screw in LEDs for 4 for $135.99. To reach 100w I would need 8 of them which brings me to a total of $272 dollars plus whatever it takes for fixtures and a custom hood. Ouch! A little cheaper would be their all-in-one fixtures that I calculate would cost me about 265, advantage being that I don't have to figure out as much in building this, but disadvantage being it doesn't have as broad a spectrum for plant growing. And I suspect that maybe it will be even more expensive if I need spotlights to reach the bottom. Anyone have experience with something like this?

How about cost of more traditional lighting? I know too little about what goes into building such lighting to properly calculate anything. The bulbs themselves seem much cheaper. Using these F24T5/865/GEN (GENESIS) (DAYLIGHT PLUS HO)*::*T5 Fluorescent Tubes Standard and High Output Fluorescent Lamp*::*FLUORESCENT TUBES*::*Light bulbs, Metal Halide, High Pressure Sodium, Ballast, Halogen, Fluorescent bulbs, CFL, at Light Bulb Supply Store it looks like the bulbs themselves would cost only $20 for the 200w I would need, but how in the world could I fit 8 of those up there? And I really do have no clue once it comes to ballasts and whatever else it takes.

If someone could give me a simple break down on what it takes to light this kind of area so I can compare my options I would really appreciate it.
 

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I love the tank. It is a fantastic size.

Boy ...you could sure do allot with it.:)

What are you pondering for its inhabitants?

And plants?

Todd
 

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There are many endless options both on the inhabitants and plants.
For the LED lighting there is one thing to consider. The 13W screw in bulbs put out more of a diffuse or wide spread light, covering more area. The 24W spot lights that are available are more directional and allow lower level plant growth. On taller tanks it is often difficult to get plant growth on the floor. It is easy to find plants that will grow up to the light. Lower growing plants on the bottom of a tank are often hard or impossible to grow. The trick I have found are these awesome 24W spot lights. On my tanks I am putting the screw in LED's towards the back for plant growth on the back ground and the spot lights towards the front.
-For my 18x18x24 tanks I use 2 of the screw in type LED lights and one 24W spot light.
-For your tank: 2-3 of the screw in type LED lights and 2- 24W spots are what I would go with.
-Ask Todd about the LED 'Street Light' he has available........that may be the way to go with this set up.

Jason
 

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That whole watts per gallon thing is just useless when comparing different sources of light. Even the variation across any one particular type of lighting (low vs. high powered LED) makes a hard and fast rule impossible.

If you went the T5HO route, yes, the bulbs are not too expensive, but the up front cost of the fixtures is about 5-10X the cost of the bulbs. For that size viv, a 4 bulb, 36" fixture would fit nicely (4x 39watts= 156watts total) the only problem you may run into is you will get some shadows and shading in the lowest 12" of the viv. As long as you stick to shade loving plants in the lowest 1/3 you should be fine. If you want to grow something on the bottom that needs higher light, you could add a LED spotlight.

Metal halide would work great to get tons of light, but you will have lots of heat issues. I'm trying to get away from using halides on any tanks I work with any more. they cause too many heat issues.

I've not worked with LEDs much yet. I've tried a couple different LED panels and strip lights for saltwater and reef aquariums. I've not tried any of the LED products any of the sponsors here sell. If your mechanicly/electricly inclined you could build a custom LED array that would give you the ability to grow whatever you wanted.
 

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Going for a T5 HO DIY fixture is usually the cheapest. Just buy the 6,500k bulbs and an appropriate ballast. You can build a pretty decent hood out of rain gutters and end caps. (try looking on plantedtank.net for the gutter fixtures)

Here are some links:

DIY T5 lighting wiring:
garf.org-making lights to be used by students

39w T5HO Ballasts:
F 39t5 Ho Ballasts - Home & Garden - Compare Prices, Reviews and Buy at Nextag - Price - Review

And just look around everywhere for the light bulbs.

You can go with LED's: AquaStyle Online sells DIY kits. They have 6,5k Bridgelux LED's as well.
 

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the first two to post above are your best people to talk to for lighting that viv. I got a couple of led spotlights from evolvstll to light my 4' tall viv and I'm never going to use anything else now to light my tanks. for a 3' tall maybe he'll recommend you the dispersed LED flood light? the direct light one is DIRECT. looks like a sunrise on the bottom of the viv now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thank you all, you've given me some leads to track down.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I love the tank. It is a fantastic size.

Boy ...you could sure do allot with it.:)

What are you pondering for its inhabitants?

And plants?

Todd
I have 4 leucs that are waiting to move into this tank.

As for plants, there's going to be a couple decent sized broms including a Neoregelia Midnight, but mostly ferns growing around the fake tree stump and out of rock walls. Any other little bits and pieces I think look cool will make an appearance. Some live vines along with the fake ones snaking down the rock walls would be cool. My wife will be looking for at least a couple small orchids that are right for whatever lighting solution I end up with. I've tried orchids in vivs in the past without success, but this time around it might be possible.
 

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the first two to post above are your best people to talk to for lighting that viv.
Options, options, options...

aquarium DIY LED kits with optics

2x (ask for the 6,5k bulbs) and shipping = $246

OR

4x 36w T5 HO bulbs & 2 ballasts = ~$7 a bulb online, + 30-ish per 2 bulb ballast + misc. connectors, wire, rain gutter, shipping ~$120ish

OR


$208 with free shipping

OR

70 or 150w MH pendant.... less than $150
70W Metal Halide Pendant Lights
150W Metal Halide Pendant Lights


There is (almost)never one lighting solution. The screw-in LED's are nice because that's all you have to do. If you like doing it yourself then the Frankenstein T5HO fixtures and LED DIY are pretty easy - you can get dimmable ballasts for both and run them on a controller for sunrise/sunset. The pre-made fixtures are nice, because they are pre-made and look professional.
 

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I have the same tank and i used a T5 fixture with triple bulbs and moonlights. This alone was okay but i had an extra dual bulb 36" laying around so i used that and its maybe alittle too bright. Anyway you can get the same t5 fixture on ebay for about $180. Heres a link, http://item.mobileweb.ebay.com/viewitem?itemId=190584120704&index=2&nav=SEARCH&nid=17518135228 .

Sent from my DROID2 GLOBAL using Tapatalk
 

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Options, options, options...

aquarium DIY LED kits with optics

2x (ask for the 6,5k bulbs) and shipping = $246

OR

4x 36w T5 HO bulbs & 2 ballasts = ~$7 a bulb online, + 30-ish per 2 bulb ballast + misc. connectors, wire, rain gutter, shipping ~$120ish

OR

Amazon.com: Coralife 08606 Lunar Aqualight High Output T5 Quad Lamp Fixture, 36-Inch: Pet Supplies

$208 with free shipping

OR

70 or 150w MH pendant.... less than $150
70W Metal Halide Pendant Lights
150W Metal Halide Pendant Lights


There is (almost)never one lighting solution. The screw-in LED's are nice because that's all you have to do. If you like doing it yourself then the Frankenstein T5HO fixtures and LED DIY are pretty easy - you can get dimmable ballasts for both and run them on a controller for sunrise/sunset. The pre-made fixtures are nice, because they are pre-made and look professional.
Well i heard coralife = coradeath
And would stay away from mh cause of the heat
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thank you, this is a particularly informative post.

Options, options, options...

aquarium DIY LED kits with optics

2x (ask for the 6,5k bulbs) and shipping = $246

OR

4x 36w T5 HO bulbs & 2 ballasts = ~$7 a bulb online, + 30-ish per 2 bulb ballast + misc. connectors, wire, rain gutter, shipping ~$120ish

OR

Amazon.com: Coralife 08606 Lunar Aqualight High Output T5 Quad Lamp Fixture, 36-Inch: Pet Supplies

$208 with free shipping

OR

70 or 150w MH pendant.... less than $150
70W Metal Halide Pendant Lights
150W Metal Halide Pendant Lights


There is (almost)never one lighting solution. The screw-in LED's are nice because that's all you have to do. If you like doing it yourself then the Frankenstein T5HO fixtures and LED DIY are pretty easy - you can get dimmable ballasts for both and run them on a controller for sunrise/sunset. The pre-made fixtures are nice, because they are pre-made and look professional.
 

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Hey Danny, I have a 3 foot tall, 75 gallon viv. Mostly to keep it cheap for now, I chose this http://www.dendroboard.com/forum/parts-construction/77561-diy-rain-gutter-pc-lights.html I will probably still add one LED spotlight to get a little more light down at the bottom. It has not been long enough to really give you results, but the later pics in this thread http://www.dendroboard.com/forum/members-frogs-vivariums/76581-pumilos-75-corner-viv.html should give you an idea how bright it turned out for me. Very happy with everything except the very bottom.

Oh, and "CoraDeath" is my word. I used to farm coral for over 10 years. CoraDeath sells some of the worst bulbs on the market. The buy cheap and slap a really pretty label on them. There PAR ratings (Photosynthetically Active Radiation) are amongst the absolute lowest in the business and their K ratings are off. The have bulbs labeled 10K that are every bit as blue as 20K bulbs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Doug, thanks for the tip on CoraLife quality. I've watched your 75 build with interest recently, seeing as I would be doing something of similar size. Your lighting project looks slightly daunting to me, not having any left over parts from other hobbies nor having much electrical experience. I may have to man up to it though, because DIY is looking the most economically viable for me. I don't have much left I could cut from my entertainment or food budget to spring for the LEDs I'd really like. I never thought being a computer programmer would barely pay for dirt and bulbs! (ok, ok, that mortgage and student loan debt might have something to do with it :) )
 

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Options, options, options...

aquarium DIY LED kits with optics

2x (ask for the 6,5k bulbs) and shipping = $246

OR

4x 36w T5 HO bulbs & 2 ballasts = ~$7 a bulb online, + 30-ish per 2 bulb ballast + misc. connectors, wire, rain gutter, shipping ~$120ish

OR

Amazon.com: Coralife 08606 Lunar Aqualight High Output T5 Quad Lamp Fixture, 36-Inch: Pet Supplies

$208 with free shipping

OR

70 or 150w MH pendant.... less than $150
70W Metal Halide Pendant Lights
150W Metal Halide Pendant Lights


There is (almost)never one lighting solution. The screw-in LED's are nice because that's all you have to do. If you like doing it yourself then the Frankenstein T5HO fixtures and LED DIY are pretty easy - you can get dimmable ballasts for both and run them on a controller for sunrise/sunset. The pre-made fixtures are nice, because they are pre-made and look professional.

Sorry, I'm not trying to hijack this thread, I don't know and am trying to learn more about LEDs.

If he went with the Aquastyle DIY, wouldn't 48 LEDs be overkill for a viv this size? Based on the research I've been doing, 48 3Watt LEDs with 60 degree optics would be more par than the 150W MH + 2x24W T5HO I'm currently running on my SPS heavy 40 Breeder
I would think a 24LED kit with an extra heatsink and spread the LEDS over the 2 heatsinks for the OP's 36"x 18"x36" Viv? I have no experience with Bridgelux LEDs and have only played with a few Crees. I have not built any LED arrays yet, but 48 LEDs seems like a lot of light for a viv representing rainforest understory.
 

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I know Doug holds a lot more sway around here than I ever will, and with good reason, but personally, if your building a DIY lighting rig, I would go for T5 over PC. Every time I have ever used PC lights, I have had more heat issues, the bulbs don't last as long (total bulb life, not just usable spectrum life) and the ballasts burn out quicker on me. I've even had a PC fixture actually start on fire (granted it was a Coradeath). If you already have some or most of the parts for a PC retrofit, use it don't waste please, but if you are going to have to buy new parts whether you go PC or T5, I personally recommend the T5s.

Note: I have been building and installing aquariums professionally for more than 5 years, plus years of hobby puttering before that. I know Doug still has me beat for experience, but I do at least kind of know what I am talking about ;)
 

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I've been using a Tek T5 light for my 48" tall viv and it works great at all levels of the tank. Like previously mentioned, there are some pretty shady parts at the bottom, but it still gets plenty of light where there isn't shade.

Mine is a 36" fixture with 4 bulbs. High quality individual reflectors are key with T5HO's.

Eventually I'll upgrade to LED spotlights for that "canopy filtered" look, but for now T5's are working great.
 

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I would almost always recommend T5's as a better, more efficient source than power compacts. I do have to wonder about their depth penetration. With most light sources, multiple bulbs will make things brighter, and spread the light better, but will NOT necessarily punch and deeper down into the tank. A bigger, higher wattage bulb is required to do that. Real world example is that two 250 watt metal halides will not light the bottom of a 3 foot deep reef tank as well as one 400 watt metal halide will. Now I don't have access to a LUX meter or PAR meter anymore, so I can't prove this, but I feel like a higher watt PC bulb MIGHT be penetrating further into a deep, 3 foot tall viv, than a pair of T5's might push. This is also dependant upon the power compacts having a decent reflector. Most PC reflectors are flat pieces of crap. The ones through AH supply are pretty good and I think that my homemade ones, using dual TEK reflectors, would probably rate pretty good if I could test them.
If anyone has the capability to test this, I would love to see the results of one 65 watt PC bulb (about 2 feet long) with a good reflector, versus two and also three 24 watt (about 2 feet long) T5's with good reflectors. Now I am confident that the T5's will give a better spread and be more efficient, but what I'd love to find out is if the power compact punches deeper down, providing more light at the 30" to 36" deep level.
My PC lighting system was, of course, chosen to be a cheap solution for now, because I had most of the components. The glass business dies in the winter. People pull the blinds and wait till spring so I have to watch my spending. Eventually, I want to try all LEDs over my 75.
 

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All of what you say makes sense to me Doug. From the LED research I have been doing, adding more LEDs does not really increase PAR it just increases the blending (less spotlighting). If you want to get more PAR deeper in the tank, you need to run the LEDs at a higher voltage, or use optics to tighten the spread of the beam, increasing the pentration of each individual point of light.

You may also be correct about the PCs having better light penetration than would a comparable wattage of T5s. A couple points that poped in my head though are the length of the glass bulb. A 39 watt T5 has a bulb that is about 35inches long, a 55watt PC has a bulb that is about 22" long, but the glass is doubled on itself, so in essence the bulb is ~44" long. A 4 foot T5 bulb is actually about 46" long and runs at 54watts.

Another point to consider is that since a PC bulb is doubled back on itself, the light that is cast inside the U of the bulb is wasted light. I know it is really pointless to try and compare lumens per watt between these two especially when reflector shape and polish mater as much as the bulbs. Best educated guess is at the bottom of a 36" deep air filled viv, the difference in Lux/PAR between a 55/65 watt PC and 2 39watt T5 would maybe be all of about 5 units of PAR ( I know PAR isn't the unit, but PAR is a lot easier to use than micromoles of photons/M^2/second ;) ). The more I think on this, the more muddled in the physics I get, so I'm gonna stop now. It would be intersting if anyone on here has access to several T5 and PC fixtures and a Lux or PAR meter.
 
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