Hybrid Lighting Retrofit DIY

MrGisonni

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My 30 gallon mixed reef has been up and running for 2 and1/2 years now. I started the tank with two AI prime 16 HD's. I had nice coral growth and good coloration on the reef, but as corals grew in and my desire to use all available space on my scape to place corals, the HD's limitations were revealed.
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After watching way too many BRS investigates videos, I realized that the best solution for me considering my wants and needs was to add a T5 LED hybrid fixture to my reef. The T5's would solve most of my issues. First, they would provide a little extra light and fill in the needed areas. Second, they would provide a little boost in the UV, violet and light blue/cyan spectrums that were lacking with my HD's.
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My LEDs provide my full daily photo period including a nice high noon heavy white a few hours.
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So my goal as stated above was really to just have the T5 bulbs provide that little extra in the second half of my photoperiod. The combination I'm running is two ATI true actinic bulbs and two ATI Blue Plus bulbs.
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I had to purchase a Profilux controller to control the intensity and the bulb percentages to get the blend I was looking for, and to ramp the intensity to suit my needs. It took a bit to get the app figured out, but I achieved what I was looking for. Unfortunately the controller won't turn the fixtures on and off, so I'm using a simple light timer.
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Choosing the right fixture was easy. I found a great deal on an Aquaticlife DX18 dimmable fixture.
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The problem was, my aquarium is only 15 and 1/2 inches from front to back and the fixture was 18, and these fixtures had no factory modifications available like the non-dimmable ones. So I took matters into my own hands.

I measured the spacing I wanted between the T5's that would be adequate for my AI Primes, and cut out the middle section of the side bar with a grinder blade. I cut away only the top section hoping not to cut through any wires. Everything fell into place perfectly. The wires were laying nicely along the bottom of the fixture. I slowly worked my way around the entire sidebar making sure not to damage the wires inside.
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I drilled four holes through each side, and used 2-in black corner brackets to sandwich the two pieces together. I flattened the corner brackets, and on the outside of the fixtures they slid perfectly into the wire retaining groove already on the fixture like it was meant to be there.
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At this point I probably could have used some epoxy or JB weld to make my seam look perfect, but I ended up just wrapping my joint with some black gorilla tape. I'll place a jar next to my aquarium to take donations to improve the seam from anybody who notices LOL.
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Next came mounting the AI Primes. I run diffusers and wanted a nice tight look so the provided mounting brackets were a retrofitted as well. I cut them, mounted them to the fixture and mounted my AI Primes perfectly within the fixture to my needs.
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I did have a little sag on the AI Primes, and used a couple of composite shims to level the Primes. I cut a little bit away from the inside of the shims and the outside "little forks" if you will, fit perfectly into the grooves on the front of the AI Primes. It solved my problem and I think didn't take away from the clean look.
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Mounting the fixture was pretty easy using the wall mounted hanger for a nice clean install.
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The only thing that bothered me was the unfinished look of the wall brackets, so I used some plastic molding to cover up the wires and the hardware.
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I'm really satisfied with the way it turned out. It did take me quite a few hours over multiple days to get everything just right, but I feel it was worth it. Right now I'm just burning in the last of my ATI bulbs, so I can start to slowly acclimate my reef to the new light intensity in spectrum. After all this work it's of course paramount that I don't damage any of my corals.
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Hopefully Aquaticlife considers this type of retrofit from factory in the future. But if not, if you're handy and dedicated enough, you can do it yourself. Happy Reefing.
 
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