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If you already don't know, Lighting is one of the most essential pieces of hardware that needs to be considered in order to successfully maintain a reef aquarium. There are three basic types of lighting that are used on Reef Aquaruims. They are metal hailde, power compact, and flourcent lighting. I have experimented with each type of lighting and have found that all of these types of lighting work very well given the right type of reef setup and inhabitants. The subject of aquarium lighting is a highly debatable subject and alot of hobbyists will argue the fact that power compact and flourscent lighting is inferior to metal halide lighting. I have found out over the years that you should first decide what type of reef inhabitants you want to keep in your reef aquarium prior to purchasing your lighting as your inhabitants will dictate what type of lighting setup is best suited for your needs.

Currently, I maintain a soft coral reef aquarium, a hard/soft coral reef aquarium along with a 90 gallon hard coral reef aquarium. I am maintaining these separate Reef Aquariums because I have found out by reading several publications and through experimentation that certain types of inhabitants do much better under different intensities of light. I find just about all of the reefs inhabitants interesting and in order to successfully keep several different types of species classes, I needed to keep three separate aquariums which have different lighting setups.

I will describe both lighting setups and the species that I keep in each aquarium in order for you to decide what lighting package best suits your needs.

37 Gallon Reef Aquarium

For my 37 gallon reef aquarum, I am currently using 4 55 watt power compact lights from Hamilton Lighting. This lighting setup works very well on my 37 gallon reef which houses a variety of soft corals. I purchased 1 retrofit kit which came with 1 daylight bulb, one attinic 03, light fixtures, reflector, and ballast. The reflector does an excellent job of reflecting light back into the aquarium. After careful observation of my existing coral and wanting to keep a wider variety of corals, I made the decision to upgrade my power compact lights from two to four. I did some research and found that I could buy the retro fit components separately for less than $100.00 (including reflector). I did so and you can read all about it on my Do it Yourself - Power Compacts page.

For the canopy, I am using an acrylic housing purchased from a local aquarium store. I added 2 3 inch fans to keep the lights cool however I came to find out that these where not necessary and had removed them. I run the power compacts for 11 hours straight 7 days a week. I have the ballost on a timer which ensures that this time interval is carried out daily.

This is a picture of the power compact lights that I am currently using on my 37 gallon reef aquarium. As you can see, I am using a piece of clear acrylic for a light protector to ensure that water does not touch these bulbs while they are illuminated. Picture of the my power compact lights


I stopped suspending my power compact lights over top of my aquarium about a month ago (June 1999)once I made the determination that light intensity was not the cause of some corals suffering but the dissolved oxygen level within the aquarium was not adequate enough for these corals to survive long-term. As a result, I started using a skimmer again at which time I saw a considerable difference in the performance of these corals. I am leaving the picture below to illustrate an easy method of suspending a canopy above an aquarium in the event that you would need to do so. The Coral Guy.
When I first used this power compact lighting setup, I laid the canopy directly on top of the aquarium. I found out shortly that the light intensity at this height was much too strong for most of my soft corals. I then had to decide how I was going to raise the canopy. I wanted to raise the canopy in a way that would still make my aquarium setup look nice. I did not want to suspend the lights from my ceiling sice the ceiling in the room is 12 feet so I decided to construct this light hanger. Picture of the light hanger that I built

I stained the wood the same color as the stand so it it would match not only the stand but also the rest of the furnitue in the room. I used metal brackets in the seams of the hanger to provide additional support. This hanger has worked very well for me. It is very easy to adjust the height of the lights since the hanger stands only 2 feet from the top of the aquarium.

Hard/Soft Coral Aquarium

My hard/soft coral aquarium is a 60 gallon reef ready acrylic show aquaraium. For this aquarium, I am currently using two 175 watt, 5500 kelvin metal halide lights and two 110 watt VHO attinic 03 striplights. These lights are enclosed in an aluminum canopy with two 4 inch fans to keep the bulbs cool. I am powering the VHO's with an Ice Cap 430 ballost.

I run the metal halide lights for 8 hours a day and the VHO attinic's for 11 hours a day. I run each set of lights on a separate heavy duty timer I purchased from my local Home Depot. These lighting intervalss have worked well for me for an extended period of time.

This is a picture of the light set up that I am using for my 60 Gallon Reef Aquarium. As you can see, I am suspending the canopy about 6 inches from the bottom of the aquarium using acrylic supports that came attached to the aquarium. They were originally used to keep the original conopy in place. Picture of my dual 175 watt 5500K metal halide light setup with dual VHO attinic 03's

Please let me know of lighting setups that have worked well for you!

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