Last week I made an upgrade to the fish tank that has been a long time coming. I had been running the tank (which includes fish, corals, snails, crabs, shrimp etc.) on a Coral Life Compact Florescent (PC) fixture that really was never up to the challenge of providing lighting for what I am trying to grow in my 4′ glass box in the dinning room.

I ran across this fixture on craigslist for a price I couldn’t turn down.

The upside of the new fixture is that the T5 bulbs produce a higher output of light per watt that can be more effectively reflected by individual reflectors above the bulbs, due to shape differences from the PC bulbs. Also, there is a greater variety of bulb colors available for T5 fixtures (currently the six bulbs are from front to back: purple, blue, white, blue, white, purple) The difference just in brightness is instantly noticeable.

The downside is that the PC fixture had LED moon lights (four of them that ran 24 hours a day and made the tank looks sweet at night) and integrated fans which where a plus for cooling the fixture.

I solved the first problem by adding a 36″ strip of LEDs into the front edge of the fixture.

From Fish Tank

This worked great. It is actually a bit too bright, and I need to remove some of the LEDs to reduce the brightness. I tried taking pictures of the corals at night under the LEDs and my phone can’t pick up the glowing effect of the corals under this light, the reds, greens and yellows are amazing, they literally glow at night.

The second issue, the lack of fans, was a bit more serious. I have done some reading, and it turns out the actively cooling the T5 bulbs can double the life of the bulbs (at $20 a bulb, this is a big deal). I found some awesome advice and followed it.

I started by removing the bulbs and aluminum reflectors from under the fixture. Then I measured and cut two holes in the top of the fixture

From Fish Tank

I ordered two clear fans with blue LEDs and individual speed controls. I pointed one fan to blow cool air in, and one two blow hot air out

From Fish Tank
From Fish Tank
From Fish Tank
From Fish Tank
From Fish Tank

I seriously cannot believe how nice it turned out. I took a light fixture that was purely functional, and made it something special.


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