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My Aquarium Hood adventure

Well my big adventure with building a plant tank hood ended about two weeks 
ago. Since that time it has been working splendidly without any problems.

Before I continue I should mention that for a living I build computer 
networks including servers, switches, fibre optics, client pcs etc. In other 
words the full meal deal. In this profession I occassionally make mistakes 
(isn't that how we all become "experts"?) but generally my projects go 
together the first time, with few unexpected problems and on budget.

Unfortunately when deciding to build my aquarium hood I forget these 
important principles of project management and decided this was a 
"recreational" pursuit.

To put it bluntly I neglected to properly factor in the width of the tank 
twice which caused me to visit Home Depot three times to obtain wood. Of 
course the design improved each time to the point where I am quite pleased 
with the end result. The other nice side-effect is that many of the lumber 
people at Home Depot now know me by name! :)

Here's what I built.

My tank is a 100 Gallon 72 X 18 X 18.

I picked up several pieces of six foot pine shelving for use as the wood. I 
also picked up some small 18 X 3 by 1 inch pine planks for use as the 
support for the lids and for the tank connection.

This is a very rough picture of the hood from a profile view.

=                                                =
=                                                =
=                                                =
================================================== lid
====                                          ==== plank to hold lid
=                                                =
=                                                =
=                                                =
====                                          ==== plank rests on tank
================================================== top of tank
=                                                =
=                                                =

Above the hood lid there is a three inch hidden zone. This is where I placed 
the light ballasts which have been removed from shop light fixtures. 
Eventually I will switch to VHO lighting using a remote ballast so this 
won't matter. The key point here is that I have eliminated a huge source of 
heat from within the aquarium area. Another concern was heat from the 
ballasts causing a fire from being mounted on the pine boards. I have 
mounted the ballasts by placing 5 metal washers underneath them. This 
results in a 1 inch gap between the bottom of the ballast and the top of the 
wood. The wood never gets warm and the ballasts are quite secure. The three 
inch drop down allows for an open area without an ugly highly visible mess 
of wires.

I have 8 - 48" flourescent tubes mounted on two 9 inch wide pine planks. 
Each plank holds four tubes. The nice thing about this arrangement is that I 
can lift and move the front plank for easy access to the tank without having 
to remove the entire hood. I have mounted dresser handles on the tops of the 
planks to allow for easier movement of the planks.

The actual top of the hood is 19 inches wide from the inside edges. This 
means that there is a one inch gap between the planks. Originally I thought 
this was a negative but there are several positives. It acts as a minor heat 
release. It provides for additional lifting areas to make it easier to move 
the lights. Lastly but potentially the most important. I have to travel 
occassionally in my work. That gap is large enough that I could easily setup 
my automatic feeder without worrying about humidity messing up the food.

Another set of planks run near the bottom of the hood (about two inches up). 
These planks are used to mount the hood on the tank. They are mounted in 
such a way that the ugly black tank trim is nicely hidden by the wood.

The Krib is truly a wonderful resource. It pointed me in the direction of my 
next "add-on" for the hood. There is information on the Krib about 
flourescent lights. One of the key points mentioned is that the bulbs become 
much less efficient as they become warmer. In fact once a high enough 
temperature is reached the bulbs are so inefficient that a smaller number of 
cooler bulbs will likely have the same light effect. I'm not positive but I 
may have obtained this info from one of our light experts sites (Ivan?). 
Either way it's greatly appreciated.

With 320 watts of light in the hood (8 X 40 watts) I felt that a fan mounted 
at the back might help prevent this problem. I went to Radio Shack and 
picked up a four inch muffin fan, an electrical cord and some silicon filled 
water proof cables twistees. The fan is exceptionally quiet and keeps the 
hood temperature cool.

Alas the story is now told. My next minor project is to surround my iron 
stand with a three sided wood panel so that the insides can be nicely 

~Jamie N

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