DIY lighting upgrade
The standard 4' twin tube t-12 and more recently t-8 shoplights have
been the standard fishroom lighting fixture for, well forever. I had
a bunch in my first fishroom 30+ years ago. When I first setup my present
fishroom went right to the building supply and got a few. I always check
the lighting dept in home centers. Always looking for new projects I
suppose. Just a few years ago I happened upon these 4' twin bulb t-5
units. Not too expensive, but the better part was the size. The whole
unit including the bulbs was about the same size as a single t-12 bulb!
I could install them in my fishroom racks and they wouldn't take up
nearly as much space. A valuable consideration when you need to work
in the tank!
So now Ive been using these small t5 shoplight units in my fishroom
for a few years. Im satisfied they are reliable. A few of my fluorescent
hoods needed ballasts so I figured rather than replace the old magnetic
ballasts with electronic ones to eliminate the starter and upgrade from
t-12 to t-8 bulbs, why not go a step further and see if I can upgrade
to t-5 lighting? These are the first two I did, due to how successful
the upgrade was I've done more since then. Increased light, decreased
power usage and for the first time I have plants that look amazing!
First is a 30" hood then a 48" hood.
As you can see the unit is small enough to fit in the existing hood.
Replacing a single t-8 bulb with a single t-5 bulb.
- Now to fasten one of the new lights mounting holes is lined up
with the plastic screw boss in the hood. A hole had to be drilled
in the housing of the light unit for the second screw. I used the
screws that held the old plastic reflector in to hold the new light
in. You can see here the screw to mount the light to the hood and
the wires are run through the not used mounting hole.
- Wires connected. On this one I bypassed the switch as its going
on a timer in the fishroom.
- Plugged in and sitting flat on the counter, it works and is ready
- For the 4' unit I'm replacing the single t-12 light with a double
t5 fixture. Here you can see how small the t-5 setup is and will easily
fit in the old hood.
- After unscrewing the old reflector and ballast a test fit and the
light wont sit flat. A quick look and there are 4 fins inside
the hood for some reason. Easily dealt with using a plier.
- Now it sits in the hood with room to spare.
- This one the mounting screws didn't match up at all so I had to
get a little creative. I checked to be sure I would be through the
plastic and not the vent holes in the top of the hood, and drilled
new mounting holes.
- From the top I used 2 pop rivets to secure the light to the hood.
A small machine screw would work fine as well, but I got lots of rivets
- The existing reflector on this one was a nice polished metal so
I decided to put it to use. Using tin snips I cut the reflector down
to size. I retained the bend in the metal with the intention of having
the reflector angle behind the lights, rather than just a flat reflector
behind the bulbs. Not as effective as a designed parabolic reflector,
but it should be better than a flat surface.
- Out comes the pop rivet gun again to fasten the reflector to the
- A little neatening up with the pliers and the reflector is in.
- Here is before and after and a year later. The one small anubias
barteri in the front of the tank in the first photos had to be moved
to the back corner as it now reaches to the surface and is in flower!
Two flowers! The other bit of anubias nana that was just sort of stuck
in the corner is now a large piece that has attached itself to my
driftwood. The large crypt was a later addition but is really thriving.
I have similar results in the tanks in my fishroom that have had the
upgrade. From a long time plant killer, to tanks filled with beautiful
plants in just a year!
- So not a basic bolt in but not too hard a DIY project if you have
some basic tool skills. If you've ever rewired a lamp this is no more