Before I start, I would like to state that my total cost so far is absolutely nothing. Not a penny.
I would also like to state that it's probably not very safe. In fact, I know it's not safe - quite the opposite in fact. I'm working with live wires from the mains (UK 240v) that could definitely kill me with one false move.
However, in the interests of fish keepers everywhere, I have risked my life to provide this. The cheapest, brightest, most fantastic lighting I have ever seen
Essentially, it comprises of the following -
- Phillips energy saving bulbs (one 11 watt and one 14 watt)
- Some thick wire with a plug on the end that I nicked from an old stereo
- Sheet polystyrene I had kicking around
Thats all there is too it. I wired the two bulbs in parallel (without fixtures, I soldered straight to the bulbs) to the mains. Snapped off a length of polystyrene. Poked the bulbs through. Balanced it on top of the tank and voila!
Here's a pair of photo's of the rig.
Polystyrene seems to make a surprisingly good reflector material, it's easily breakable and has a melting point (240 degrees Centigrade) far over the bulbs operating temperature (about 90 degrees Fahrenheit!)
The color temperature of these bulbs is far too warm to use solely (about 4000 kelvins - which does make a nice sunset sim though), but philips do make a colder bulbs (about 8000 kelvins) which would be perfect. You could use the 8000K for marines combined with actinics, or a combination of 8000's and 4000's for tropical (varying the quantities of each bulbs depending on the desired appearance).
Anyway, enough rambling. Here are the results. The tank is a 24lx12wx18h.
With one T8.
With just CFL's.
With one T8 and both CFL's.
I'm definitely pleased with the result.
My phone can't really get across the light intensity, but it's bright. Not exactly a halide, but are as bright if not brighter than T8s per watt and they take up less space (so you can fit more of them in). In the space of a 2 foot T8, you could probably fit 10 in.
A standard 18 watt T8 is 1150 lumens. The 14 watt bulb I used here produces 800 lumens. So in theory in the space of a 2 foot T8, you could produce 8000 lumens, which is an insane amount of light.
They are also FAR cheaper. Incredibly cheap. My local supermarket was selling them for 50p a bulb recently (half a £). A 150watt metal halides mean light output is about 11000 lumens. That works out at 73 lumens per watt. The 14 watt CFL I used here gives 57 lumens per watt. You could theoretically produce the same amount of light as a 150w halide with 14 of these bulbs (at a cost of £7GBP!)
The downside is that this rig would be slightly less energy efficient than a halide, running at a total of 196 watts.
If this isn't the future of DIY aquarium lighting then call me sally and fish slap me to texas.
Stay tuned for a halide beating super rig, which will hopefully be timer controlled with difference combos of bulbs to give a morning>midday>evening>night cycle.