Moving from VHO to T5 Lighting Questions


New member
I am a previous reef keeper just now getting back into the hobby after a 6 year break. I am using my "old" setup which is a 50 breeder tank (36" long) with an Ice Cap 660 ballast.

My question is: should I convert from the VHO bulbs (4 bulbs total) to T5? What are the benefits? Lower bulb costs? Lower power costs? Longer life? Better output?

If I make the change, can I use my Ice Cap? How many bulbs should I run...4? What kind of bulbs?

Sorry for all of the questions but it seems like everyone has made the move from VHO except for me...

Thanks again for the help!


New member
You should be able to use your 660 to drive T5s. Keep in mind that the 660 will overdrive the bulbs, just like overclocking the CPU on a PC. This is fine, but it will generate more heat and you should add a fan or two to cool the bulbs, or you will greatly shorten their lifespan. Before I switched to MHs, I had 4x54w 48" bulbs being overdriven by an 660, and I loved it!

I don't have my Ice Cap manual with me, but if I remember correctly, you should be able to overdrive 4x39w 36" T5 bulbs with about 60w each, and that should be great lighting for your tank. Just make sure and get good individual reflectors, either the Ice Cap SLR or the Tek II. Of these two, I'd recommend the Ice Cap SLR as they take up less room and shoot more of the light downwards into the tank as opposed to spreading the light.

As for which bulbs, it depends on what kind of look you want. I was going for a light crisp blue look and went with:

1 -- Giesemann Actinic Plus
1 -- UV Lighting Super Actinic
1 -- UV Lighting 10000K AquaSun
1 -- ATI 12000K Aquablue

I got my retrofit kit and bulbs from ReefGeek, and Greg Morgan over there suggested these bulbs. They looked awesome. You already have the ballast, but you'll still need bulbs, endcaps, standoffs, and reflectors, maybe even a new wiring harness. Greg can help you with all of that!


New member
This is fine, but it will generate more heat and you should add a fan or two to cool the bulbs, or you will greatly shorten their lifespan.

What would you say the average life span of a T5 bulb on a 660 is?
I switched about 6 months ago and noticed one of my actinic is already out..............


New member
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=12869528#post12869528 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by whiskey169
Thanks for the help! So what are the major benefits of changing to T5's?

Much longer bulb life (1.5 years or so), cooler and uses less electricity, and the dizzying number of bulb colors available. There are countless combinations of bulb colors available to you that you could get pretty much any look you want out of your tank.

But, as I mentioned above, overdriving the bulbs will cause them to run hotter, which pretty much makes adding fans a requirement. When I had 4 overdriven T5s, I had 4 80mm PC fans in my canopy to keep them cool.