Reefing On a Budget: Adding LEDs to Your T5 Fixture
When the upgrade bug strikes, perhaps the hardest part is realizing that the stuff that you have won't work for your next build. That's exactly what happened to me when I moved from a 40 gallon reef system to a gigantic 120 gallon. I had to upgrade almost everything, including the most painful of all, my lights. My 4-bulb, 36-inch AquaticLife fixture was great, but it simply wasn't going to power the new tank.
Time To Go Shopping
|Day 1 - When I realized I'd made a huge mistake!|
I looked at a lot of different options, but finally settled on the TrueLumen Pro, 48-inch Marine Fusion model. The Marine Fusion is a mixture of 12k white and 452 nm blue lights that would allow me to have a nice viewing light for the tank without having to power on my T5 fixture.
The challenge that I had with adding the LED strip was that the design of the T5 fixture didn't allow a lot of room to work inside of the reflector area. I knew that I would need to mount the TrueLumen Pro to the outer frame, so I started measuring and finding the right place to get the job done. Unfortunately, the included brackets for the TrueLumen Pro were slightly too long to fit where I wanted them, so I had to improvise a bit.
It's worth noting that, when Current USA says that the TrueLumen Pro is 48 inches long, that's exactly what they mean. For some of you, this can cause a problem if you're wanting to use the strip on a fixture that happens to be a bit shorter than 48 inches. If that's the case, I can recommend stepping down a size to 36 inches. In fact, I did just that after having a change of heart about the lighting color.
Points to Ponder
- Measure! With better, more careful measurement I would have made a different choice about how I mounted the fixture.
- Consider your goals. I thought I wanted full-color sunrise/sunset. What I really wanted was actinic supplement and moonlight. Changing to the Deepwater Blue fixture got me what I wanted, but not before I made a costly mistake with the first choice.
- Rip it apart. You're going to be drilling, adhering or otherwise permanently changing your fixture. If you spend a few minutes to tear it apart before making a decision, you'll have a better idea of how you'll need to mount the light, how you can run the cables, etc.
- Buy a dimmer. Holy cow this light is bright! Don't underestimate how much power a big strip of LEDs can have. If you're going for anything less than daylight, you'll want to buy an inline dimmer. Fortunately, they're really inexpensive.
RELATED READING: 5 Creative Ways to Use LED Light Strips