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Old 01-10-2011, 02:41 PM   #1
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Thinking of upgrading 4 Bulb VHO to LED and VHO?

I'm looking into options on upgrading the lighting in my tank. It's a 65g (36 x 18 x 24) and has a water depth of about 21". It's only about a week old right now and it has a 4 bulb VHO setup in it. There are (2) 24" (75w) White Actinics and (2) 24" (75w) Super Actinics. The bulbs are about 1-1.5 years old so they are in need of replacement.

Looks like bulbs pricing is around $20 a bulb so I'm looking at $80 plus shipping.

This got me thinking, I've read that VHO setups are still pretty decent, especially actinics. I've considered upgrading anyway to get some better lighting. I don't really want to be limited as to what I can keep because of lighting. Instead of spending the money to replace all the bulbs I'm thinking now might be a good idea to do an upgrade, or partial upgrade.

I'm good with wiring and DIY so here's my thought.

Keep two of the VHO fixtures and my IceCap 430-008 and buy (1) new 36" (95w) Super Actinic and (1) new 36" (95w) 454 Actinic. I'll have to measure first to see if I can fit them in my canopy. If not I'll have to stick with 24". I could also use a 3rd 36" bulb with the IceCap too. This would give me 200w or 300w of actinics.

This just leaves the white light which I'd like to use LEDs for. I've read some about the 3w cree LEDs being a hot ticket right now. What would be involved in me setting up these in the canopy if I do it myself? Where's a good place to buy them?

Do you think this would be a good setup? What would it take to get good lighting out of the LEDs?

I've seen some people turn on their actinics an hour before actual lighting and keep them on for an hour after actual lighting so that's something I'd like to do as well which should be easy since they'll be wired up separately. Is the moon lighting just a decorative thing? I think it does look neat and would be nice to use for seeing things in the dark. This is something else I'd be interested in incorporating.
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Old 01-10-2011, 06:16 PM   #2
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it would take you about 500 bucks or so to build a LED retro that will support corals over your tank.
i have seen people build their own LED lighting, and to be honest, they went through a lot of trouble (IMO) and didn't save much money.
if you just wait it out, LED fixtures are really coming down in price.
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Old 01-11-2011, 09:57 AM   #3
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The costs don't look to insane on building my own. I can get 24 Cree LEDs with all parts for a DIY setup for $200 and I'm sure I could do it cheaper if I shopped out my own parts.

My other thought was to replace my (4) 24" VHO bulbs with new bulbs and then maybe use 6-8 Cree LEDs across the tank for some additional lighting and shimmer effect?

I can use my existing VHO end caps from my 24" setup and just move them out to use a 36" bulb right? The 430 will only handle (3) 36" bulbs instead of (4) 24" bulbs but that's not a big deal if I'll be adding some LED lighting in there.
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Old 01-11-2011, 10:03 AM   #4
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24? you need much more than that. you have a 3' tank. don't forget dimmable drivers.
if you plan on using just 6 LEDs in the place of a florescent bulb, you better find some optics to spread the light out a bit. otherwise it's going to look like 6 blue beams.
yes, i believe you can use any arrangement of lamps as long as the wattage is not too much.
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Old 01-11-2011, 10:30 AM   #5
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Stock the spread on the LED is pretty large. Around 90 degrees I believe? Optics will narrow the spread (and also increase the intensity) which all plays a factor in how close to the water they are positioned.

I read that 24 3W LEDs would be superior to a 250w 20k Halide. A 250w equivalent plus (3) 36" 95w actinics would be pretty darn good wouldn't it? I could break the 24 LEDs up into two blocks of 12 and place them maybe 8" apart (I have a center brace in my tank) to get them better centered and a better coverage. 2" on center for 6 rows on each side would spread the light nicely. Worst case scenario I bump it to 30 or 36 LEDs.

Blue Cree LEDs are not as powerful as the white ones and have a lot less par. All of the reads I've been looking at usually have a 1:1 mix so if I did only white Cree LEDs it should be even more intense?

I do believe %100 that LED lighting is coming down and will be a lot more affordable pretty quick.

Maybe I could sell my Icecap 430 and snag a 660 and just run (4) 36" VHOs for the time being, if they fit of course.
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Old 01-11-2011, 11:29 AM   #6
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i can buy 1:1 mix LED pendants (that aren't dimmable) for about 225. stronger than a 250 watt halide. i don't think anyone can build them cheaper than that.
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Old 01-18-2011, 04:43 PM   #7
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Well I nuked my VHO system so there goes using them for Actinics Not worth replacing the parts to keep them......

I'm waiting to get in on a group order for Cree LEDs. I should be able to get Cree 3W XP-G leds for about $4.75 without optics and some XP-E RBs for around the same price, maybe a little less. I can build a 36 LED system for $293 without shipping included. That's 18 of each color using (4) drivers and each driver being able to be dimmed. I'll be able to dim the left and right of the whites and blues all independently.

Biggest problem is that this won't be happening soon.... Since I nuked my VHO setup I needed something ASAP to replace it and it'll take me a while to get LEDs in. Ended up getting a Nova Extreme Pro 6 x 39 to hold me over....
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