Retrofit Lighting Setup For a 70 Gallon Reef Tank

John Mendrola

New member
Hello All,

Forgive me if this is not the preferred forum for this topic, but I am looking for a bit of advice regarding my latest project.

A few days ago I received what I was told a 120-gallon tank, and a 70-gallon tank. It turns out that I think they are actually a 70-gallon and a 40-gallon breeder.

The large tank measures 48" x 18" x 21", and the smaller tank (to be used as the sump) measures 36" x 18" x 17". Both of the aquariums are Starfire glass, and I couldn't pass them up.

I have been in the hobby for far too long to buy pre-made manufacturer's lighting systems.

To be completely honest, I have always liked mixed reef tanks, and am actually more a a soft coral and LPS fan rather than an SPS fan, although I would like to have a little bit of flexibility both way.

Although I would focus of softer corals and LPS, I would like to have adequate lighting for a few lower-light SPS colonies. However, the main thing that I want to try to avoid, is having to run a chiller constantly.

The room is air-conditioned, and, if I go the Metal Halide route, the fixtures would be suspended far above the actual tank, and I could provide adequate fan power for ventilation about the water's surface.

Right now, I am in between two retrofit kits; one being a halide system, and one being a compact-florescent system.

I would like to point out that I DO believe that LED's ARE the future of the reef aquarium industry, I still do believe that they still have a ways to come, and so I would prefer not to receive and LED suggestions at this time.

The first retrofit kit requires four 96-watt Quad Compact Florescent bulbs:

This system would provide 5.48 watts of compact-florescent lighting, per gallon of tank volume.

The second, which is the one that I am leaning towards is a Metal Halide system, consisting of two 175-watt fixtures:

This setup would provide for exactly 5 watts of Metal Halide lighting per gallon of tank volume.

The wall that the tank will be on, may very well be the wall that currently has a large window air-conditioning unit in it.

With the air-conditioning, and suspending the halides high enough off of the surface of the water, with supplemental fans if needed, who think that I can get away without running a chiller?

After all, this isn't a huge amount of halide lighting, and is more than enough to do what I need it to do.

Thank You All,
-J. Mendrola