Introduction: Aquarium Lights on Steroids - Using Giant CFL's for Better Light

About: Be limited only by your imagination.

Problem: My aquarium plants don't thrive because the level of light given off by the single florescent bulb is too dim.
Solution: Replace the hood with a custom-built hood incorporating two gigantic CFL bulbs.  Use a timer to provide 10 hours of light to the aquarium.  The total wattage of the old bulb was 25 Watts.  The combined wattage of the new bulbs is 120 watts.  This is reported as the equivalent of 500 or 600 watts of incandescent light (Amazon said 500, packaging said 600).  At first, I hoped to take out the florescent from the old hood and retrofit the new bulbs, but the size of the new bulbs prohibited that and necessitated the wood enclosure.  In the second picture you can see the size of the bulbs I used versus a standard CFL.

I used some recycled lumber for the project.  All of it came from an oak dining table that someone on my street discarded.  It was about 4 1/2 inches wide and there were two sections that were about five feet long.  My aquarium is 29 inches wide and so the first task was to cut 29 inch sections with 45 degree miters.  I used a Stanley self-clamping miter box for the task.  Then I ripped about 1/2 inch from the edge of a piece and that became the top.  Then after measuring I cut the sides, again using the miter box.

I attached pieces with carpenter's glue and used finishing nails for security.  This piece won't be moved at all and finishing nails are more than enough for the task.  Also, the small diameter of the nail let me simply use a nail set instead of drilling holes for wood screws that would need to be covered by plugs and then have the finish matched and re-finished.

The sockets for the bulbs are bolted onto a small piece of wood that is attached in the middle of the box.  I used liquid electrical tape to cover the screws.  I used an old switched cord for power.

The new unit puts out about 3 times the light that the old unit did.  It's hard to appreciate this from the photos but if you look at the plant on the right you can see the difference in the lighting..  I attached two light meter readings taken right up against the glass.  I drilled 4 5/16-inch holes in the back to help ventilate and keep the temperature down.  After running the lights for four hours straight I have not noted temperatures that I would fear would scorch the wood.

The final pictures are after I removed the old background paper.

The total cost of the project was $28 for the two new 60 watt bulbs on Amazon.  I had the other materials including wood, nails, glue, wire, two sockets, and a switch power cord.

If you want to order the CFL bulbs, here is the link:

Update 08 NOV - I've run the lights for five days using a timer set for 10 hours.  The case heats up but the heat has never been above the mid 140-s.  No problem with charring. I've really liked the light quality.  It makes the plants look good and the neons really shine.

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