- It's a Wonderful Light
by gb-at-dixie.cs.unc.edu (Gary Bishop) (28 May 92)
- [plant] Mercury vapor lamp for plants?
by hslater-at-nudge.io.org (Harold Slater) (4 Mar 1995)
by gb-at-dixie.cs.unc.edu (Gary Bishop)
Date: 28 May 92
After two weeks of use, I am happy to report that the WonderLite works
great for freshwater plants! My rotalla macrandra, which was formerly
ragged and dying, is making a strong comeback; lots of new leaves are
sprouting out and turning red. The other plants are looking good too.
The aquarium looks so much better under the brighter light. In
comparison, the previous lighting from two 15 watt fluorescents
(triton and powerglow) seems very dim.
The WonderLite is a 160 watt, self-ballasted mercury vapor R40 flood
that works in an ordinary incandescent fixture. The company, Public
Service Lamp, has added some secret ingredient to the mercury vapor
portion to produce wide spectrum output that has nice broad peaks in
the red and blue while maintaining plenty of output in the green. The
light appears white. They have been selling this light for
terrestrial plants for years. I heard about it from Peter Rosenthal
who is also having success with it for aquarium use.
My lighting situation is particularly difficult because my 36 gallon
hex aquarium is between 2 chairs about 4 feet from any wall. This
means that any lighting has to rest on the approximately 19 inch wide
glass top. I had been using two 15 watt fluorescents but they weren't
doing the job. I considered HO or VHO fluorescents but couldn't find
18 inch tubes. I also considered making my own fixtures so that I
could put four 15 watt tubes in the 19 by 10 inch space occupied by
the two single tube fixtures. I put quite a bit of effort into
finding the right pieces and figuring out what to buy but just
couldn't come up with a solution that would meet the aesthetic
requirements of my wife.
The WonderLite is a reflector flood that produces a nicely directed
round beam about 100 degrees across (about 5 feet in diameter at 2
feet from the face of the lamp). This is perfect for my hex and I
suspect it would work fine for other shapes as well. For example, you
might place the lamp above one end and tilt it towards the other to
illuminate the usual rectangular aquarium.
I built my own fixture because I couldn't find anything that was just
what I wanted. I used a "decorative tin", the kind with "olde tyme"
pictures on them. The tin is a cylinder that is 5.5 inches in
diameter and 7 inches tall. I mounted a ceramic socket inside on the
bottom and drilled holes through the bottom all around the socket.
The tin is supported by a base made from two 5.5 by 4 by 3/4 inch wood
pieces and two 4 by 7 by 1/32 inch scrap aluminum panels that I
happened to have in my junkbox. Early measurements showed that the
glass under the lamp got very hot (185 degrees only 1/2 inch above the
80 degree water) so I added a 3 inch DC fan, also from the junkbox.
The fan is very quiet and keeps the glass temperature down to 110
degrees. My water temperature goes up less than 2 degrees when the
light has been on for 12 hours. A coat of flat black spray paint gave
me a 7 by 5.5 by 10 inch fixture that got the seal of approval from my
Since the 7 by 5.5 inch footprint of my fixture only occupies 1/2 of
my glass cover, I left one of the original 15 watt fluorescent
fixtures in place to provide some fill for the shadows produced by
the very directed WonderLite. I operate the two lights off separate
timers. The dim (or so it seems to me now) fluorescent comes on
first, followed later by the WonderLite. In the evening the
WonderLite goes off first, and later the fluorescent goes off. I have
the fluorescent on 16 hours per day, the WonderLite is on 12 hours per
The WonderLite has a claimed life of 12000 hours so it should last me
2 years 9 months at my current usage rate. The company claims no
significant spectral shift occurs until 70 percent of useful life. I'm
going to try to get some more data on what the spectrum does out at
end of life.
At $69.50 the WonderLite is not cheap. But when you compare it to the
cost of 160 watts of fluorescent lighting it isn't so bad (even with
shop lights ($10 each?) and inexpensive grow bulbs ($5 each?) you're
probably near $40). Of course, the shop light approach wouldn't work
with my hex tank. HO and VHO tubes and fixtures and metal halide
require special fixtures and ballasts and are much more expensive.
They also make a 320 watt version of this bulb. It's rated life is
14000 hours. I didn't get the price.
Their toll free number is 800-221-4289 (516-678-2300).
They have an information packet that they send out for free.
I'm happy with my WonderLite. Some of you might consider it for your
aquarium lighting needs.
by hslater-at-nudge.io.org (Harold Slater)
Date: 4 Mar 1995
OkieNeekko (okieneekko-at-aol.com) wrote:
: >Have anybody tried mercury vapor lights on planted tanks? Please share
: >your experience with us. I also wonder if it is the same light which is
: >readily available from hardware or lighting supply stores and if it is
: >really cheaper than metal halides. Any information will be highly
: Well joe, if you notice some of the older aquarist books talk about
: mercury vapor lamps, however if you want real intense light at the right
: wavelength the is nothing better than the Metal Halide and Blue Light
: combo. In other countried they stick with what works for them, here in
Uh.. I think he was asking about lighting for plants tanks and NOT reef
tanks. Why would anybody use Blue Light? (actinic ?) for plants? I too
like metal halide but the bulbs suited for reef are usually not ideal
for plant tanks. MH for plant tanks ideally are 4300K bulbs and not
5500K (they work but 4300 are better). Green plants (most freshwater
stuff) like light with more red than the brown symbiotic algaes in
corals which like more blue.
Yes, there are cheaper Mercury vapour bulbs out there that work even
better than the MH especially for plant tanks. I have used a bulb
manufactured by Westron called the Wonderlite. It is an internally
self-ballasted reflective mercury vapour spot ...phewww!... with
an output of 160 watts. The colour temp is 5300K with a CRI of about 92
It looks great fits in any socket (I would use ceramic of course) and at
$60.00 CDN ($35.00 US) can't be beat by any metal halide. I know because
I have regularly used both. I converted overpriced MH systems (5 in all)
to these bulbs and saved hundreds.