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Old 01-02-2009, 07:49 PM   #1
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Question differential diagnosis--lighting issue

Happily doing well lately with my bogwood-catfish-planted tank hobby, thanks to many helpful bits of information on this site...

New issue;

Being very low-tech and somewhat afraid of electricity+water, I'd really appreciate others' opinions...

I bought a 40breeder tank (brand new) in July, and I have one brand-new light box with 2 fluorescent bulbs of 32" bought at the same time. The lights are on a timer for 10-11 hours per day which worked without problems.

This week, the lights didn't come on with the timer, and I tried the switch on the lights themselves. Brief flicker, then nothing. I unplugged the light fixture from the timer and that plug, and tried in another plug. Brief flicker, then nothing. Now, a lot of nothing...

How long should this system have worked with new equipment?

And more importantly, how can I know what I need to do--change the lightbulbs (am I imagining a darkening strip around one end of both bulbs?). Buy another light kit? New 'ballast'?

Would the light system work if only one bulb was burned? Are they likely to burn all at once?

Do I need to change the lightbulbs, the 'ballast' (but other postings talk of their lasting years), etc? To be honest I am afraid of fiddling with electrical equipment... and ballasts are startlingly expensive.

Any help would be appreciated. I thought I would start by buying 2 new bulbs, but it seems like a starter problem. (Is a starter the same as the ballast?)

Thanks,
JD
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Old 01-02-2009, 08:03 PM   #2
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The cheap, easy thing to do is to try new bulbs. It is odd, though, that both would go out simultaneously. This leads me to believe that it's probably the ballast. Either that, or you may have had a power surge maybe that blew them out.

Some older NO type flourescent hoods have a seperate starter that is interchangeable, could be that I suppose, but that's outside of my realm of knowledge.

I'll submit for a mod to move this to the General Equipment forum.
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Old 01-02-2009, 08:11 PM   #3
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Hi JD,

You are posting in the wrong forum ...... this is the site help area.

An admin please move this to general equipment forum.

As to the light - what kind is it, brand, type of bulb - T5, T8, T12, pc .... ?

1. If you see a dark band on the bulb, it is likely the bulb is burnt out. A ballast that has the lamps wired in series will not light if one lamp is out. Trying new bulbs is defn the first thing to do.
2. Also check all the connections, esp. the endcaps. Often those are corroded where the bulb pins contacts, cleaning with emery paper might help. Corrosion can happen quickly in damp conditions, eg, when the light is open to water.
3. Unless you have an old fixture with a mechanical ballast, you won't find a starter, so that is not your problem.
4. Before I replace the ballast, check all wiring for loose wires or corroded joints (you would need to disassemble the fixture, and check visually & with an ohm-meter). <UNPLUG FIXTURE FIRST!>
5. Replacing the ballast is a last resort ... that should last 10+ years, so is unlikely to be the problem. However, if you got a cheap fixture with inferior ballast, that might be burnt out. Depending on what bulbs you are driving, you might be able to substitute an electronic ballast from a shoplight (cheapest option, should be under $15). Otherwise you might be able to get something like the Fulham Workhorse form a lighting store (or a parts place like AMRE). You can get the Fulhams over the net for $25 or so ... but then shipping to Canada will cost you. Your most expensive option would be to get a reef tank specific ballast like IceCap, that would set you back $150 or more!
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Old 01-02-2009, 08:56 PM   #4
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thanks to both of you for those very prompt replies...

light bulbs are F30T8 36" (2) in one, two-light box with ballast E232Z12-5 (apparently discontinued--hope this won't be a problem but I'll face it when I get to it).

There does appear to be a (n imagined?) subtle darkish band around both bulbs at the same end--I'll try two new bulbs and hope this is the key.

thanks again,

JD
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Old 01-02-2009, 09:07 PM   #5
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Even if it is the ballast, it won't be too bad to fix a T8 fixture. The standard T8 shoplight ballast - 2x32W - should drive your lights. I paid less than $12 for mine (at Canadian Tires) .... although that was a few years ago.
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Old 01-02-2009, 09:25 PM   #6
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Moved to General Hardware and equipment discussion.
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