Here is my "cheap lights" solution...some of it is based on experience and some on what I have read so you might want to research some more before you buy. Ok, got the disclaimer out of the way
. This will allow you to have some soft corals and other inverts that do not have extremely high light requirements. At Home Depot or Lowes, you can get a ballast that will run two 40w bulbs for about $20. I would order 4 sets of VHO
endcaps. Install the endcaps in the canopy and buy two NO daylight bulbs and two actinics. I'm not 100% sure on the correct color temp for the daylights...I'd think that anything between 6500k and 10000k would be OK. Make sure the actinics are true actinics and not just cheap blue bulbs. Buy two of the ballasts and mount them where the heat they give off won't bother the tank. This setup will give you 160w of light. Later, when funds are available, you can upgrade the ballast to an Icecap for about $175 and upgrade the bulbs for another $100 or so. You wouldn't have to upgrade the bulbs right away as the Icecap will run NO bulbs just fine. They claim it will burn them much brighter than a regular ballast...never tried it. A full VHO
setup would give you 440 watts of light which should grow about anything you want in a 55. Granted VHO
isn't the best thing going, but it does work well. The drawbacks are that you are gonna have $40 worth of ballasts laying around after you upgrade. You will also have to replace the bulbs more often...about every 6 months is what they recommend.
If you want to go ahead and get some good lights to start with, you can put in four 55w PC
's for about $225 from www.ahsupply.com
. That covers ballasts, reflectors, bulbs, and all the hardware to mount it up. That would give you a pretty good system for $50 less than the VHO
upgrade would cost. About $125 more than installing the NO lights. If you're really into the DIY scene, check out www.il-solutions.com
. They have a retrokit without the reflector for $40 that will run two 55w PC
's or just a ballast for $28. Or, as Micheal suggested, check Ebay for deals on halide setups. If you could find a couple of halides that were affordable, you could pick up one of the retrokits from either of the places above and use it to run your actinics.
Anyway, the NO bulbs are a cheap solution that will allow you to have some corals and other inverts that don't require lots of light. I think you would be better off to save for a while and get the good stuff to start with though. And if you want to check out a decent deal on VHO
's, look at www.hellolights.com
. Just some ideas and options. One last thing...il-solutions is the best price I have found for VHO
endcaps...look in the Icecap section.