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RE: Lighting

My original idea was to go with 2 MH bulbs of about 5500k (this will be
around a 4 foot tank, I will go 3 bulbs if I can go with a 6 foot tank).
And I was going to use CF lights on a separate timer for additional lighting
because I already have a hood with 2 55watt units I can disassemble and use

Sounds about right. I don't think you'll need anything in addition to the MH lights though.

as I please.  But I would really like to know where you are getting the 175w
MH ballasts for $25 bucks.  I'll take 2 please.  :)  Finding a place to buy
cases for them in the Tampa area shouldn't be hard.  Where did you find the
bulb sockets and wiring that goes from the socket to the ballast?  Is the
ballast already wired for 110v?  I've got lots of things I can use to make
the reflectors.  Thanks for the message.

I get the ballasts locally from Madison Electric which is a fairly large wholesale electrical supply house in Michigan. There is sure to be a local branch of an equivalent place near you. The ballasts I got were made by Advance Transformer. They come as a kit with the ballast, the ignitor (a capacitor really), and a mounting bracket. They are "universal" wired ballasts meaning that there are leads for 120v, 208v, 240v, and 277v supplies. All you do is pick the voltage you need (probably 120v) and connect to that wire. There is a diagram with the ballasts that explains all the connections and it is very easy. The supply house should also have the ceramic mogul sockets you'll need. I got the kind with attached high-temp wire pigtails for something like $7/ea. A lot of the reflectors you can get will already have the sockets though so check the reflectors before you buy sockets.

I got the aluminum enclosure from Fair Radio Sales in Lima, OH (http://www.fairradio.com). They no longer have exactly the one I have, but they have some similar cases for about the same price. You want something large enough to hold everything with lots of air around the parts, well ventilated, and made of metal. The case I use was originally part of an aircraft telephone system (or so I think -- it says "In Flight Phone" on it :-).

The wiring from the sockets to the ballast I made. I use a 16/3 cable type SJEOW if I'm remembering correctly that is a water-resistant, black cable rated for 105°C (the temperature rating is important for the MH fixtures due to the heat the bulb generates -- the lower-temp wire tends to get brittle over time when exposed to high heat and bad insulation on a light is not what you want over your water-filled tank). The stuff I have is made by Coleman Cable. I got a 250' reel through one of my distributors I work with at work for around $60 a few years ago. You can probably find a supply house that will cut you a shorter length. I used funny little connectors for the cable that I got from DigiKey. They are made by AMP, can be water sealed with a gasket kit, and cost only maybe $7-8 per mated pair. I used those since they are different from all the other connectors I use so I knew I wouldn't accidently plug a pump into a ballast by mistake.

BTW, Aquatic Lighting Systems (http://www.aquaticlight.com/) has DIY MH reflectors for reasonable prices. They aren't the usual "reflectors" included in retrofit kits that are just flat sheets of aluminum either.

To dig a little deeper in this, what type of MH bulb is recommended by you
guru's out there.  I was assuming a 5500k would be best.  What type of CF
bulbs would be best to go along with the MH.  If I have the two types of
lighting it seems like I could cover some gaps that any one type of bulb may
have.  As someone else had guessed this will be a main show tank, hopefully
a wall build in or a center piece room divider type with all four panes of
glass being viewable.

Either a 5500K-5600K or a 6700K depending on your personal preference. I personally like the appearance of the 6700K bulbs a bit better than the lower color temps. If you hang the MH lights 12-18" above the surface of the water and space them 24" or so apart you'll get pretty even lighting coverage in the tank using typical reflectors.


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