Monday, April 7, 2008

DIY Aquarium Lamp

From my shelf layout, I can squeeze a maximum of 28 0.5 gallon tanks into it and still be able to maintain the fishes. But 28 tanks is not enough, so I spend some time taking measurements and designing a way to fit more tanks into this shelf.

If you take note of the lowest level of the shelf, I've managed to squeeze in 7 more tanks into one level. I did a little carpentry and build myself a simple tank bench which slot neatly into the rear of the shelf. By doing so I double the capacity of a single level. The good thing about this bench is that I can now fix a DIY aquarium lamp beneath it. I am not trying to be stingy, but due to the limited space between the lamp and the betta, slotting a commercial aquarium lamp beneath the bench will kill the fishes as the heat generated is very high. So the only solution is to DIY my own aquarium lamp that does not generate too much heat.

One piece of component that is hidden from most fluorescents lamps is the electric ballast. Without going into too much detail on how this ballast works, just take note of this when you DIY your own aquarium lamp.
  1. Connecting a fluorescent tube directly into the wall socket without a ballast WILL CAUSE AN EXPLOSION!
  2. The electric ballast produces a huge amount of heat and should be kept away from the fishes and other flammable products.
Now that we got the warning out of the way let me continue with the guide.

So you need a switch to give you some control of the lighting, hook it up to the ballast.You can get a fluorescent tube connector from any good hardware store and an aquarium fluorescent tube from any LFS. Hook everything up, all components basically runs in series (ask your hardware store for detailed instructions). For best results, the base and the surrounding area of the lamp should be reflective or at the very least white. Get any reflective objects are place them all around, used and out-dated CDs are good substitutes.

Although the lamp works when place on ground level, it doesn't seem too pleasant to the eye when viewing the fishes. Safety wise; heat from the tube might melt the CDs beneath it.

The obvious solution is to hang the tube up, preventing it from melting the CDs. Hanging the tube up will also allow light to be reflect from all the CDs, generating a softer and more consistent glow. A big difference in the lighting quality can be seen from this picture, a softer but fuller glow is produced just by hanging the tube.

Because of the close proximity, direct light from the tube is very harsh, causing great discomfort when viewing the fishes. So a white shade is used to soften the light further. Simply cover your DIY lamp with a white cloth to soften the light.

The DIY aquarium lamp worked perfectly when all the tanks are put in place. Nice pleasent soft light that bring out the colors of the fishes, especially the tanks on the bench.

An immediate "WOW" effect is achieved. Look at how dull the other shelves are.

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