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Using the Energy Saving Lamp Ballast for an Aquarium Lights

FAQ - Read the frequently asked questions about "Energy Saving Lamp Ballast".

Pic. 1 – Energy saving lamp BrownieThe reason I had decided to make this project was to connect the standard linear T8 fluorescent tubes often used in the aquarium lighting with an integrated electronic ballast hidden in the lamp socket. I don’t like the conventional electromagnetic ballasts commonly used in fluorescent lights for home, office lighting etc. due to their size and weight, ballasts consist of too many parts (inductor, starter, capacitor), need for more complicate wiring and also due to the high temperature production. An electronic lamp ballast is quite expensive and that is the reason why most of the aquarists stay with the electromagnetic ballast. Electronic ballast is available in miniature version in cheap energy saving lamps. There are many various brand and “no name” energy saving lamps on the market. The only limit is your budget. I bought the cheap Brownie lamps (Pic. 1), producer unknown. :-) Anyway, they have satisfied me.

Before we continue wit the project, one small warning. Look for the same wattage of the energy saving lamp like is written on your standard linear tube that should be connected with the electric ballast of the energy saving lamp. I had four 25 W linear tubes of a non standard size (75 cm) on my 190 litre tank. I bought four energy saving lamps mentioned above. Also the broken lamp with undamaged electronics is an option. A ballast is placed in the plastic lamp socket. We need to open this socket carefully to prevent the minute components damage, mainly don’t rip the thin wires. The socket is made of two parts squeezed together but there is not problem to disjoint them. I used an adjustable wrench and put the socket between the wrench jaws (Pic. 2 and Pic. 3). Then I slowly pressed the jaws until the socket joint cracked. Then it is easy to open the socket carefully.

Pic. 2 – The socket between the wrench jaws Pic. 3 – Detail After opening the socket it is needed to pay attention to the very tiny wires which lead from the glass part of the lamp and are soldered to the printed circuit board. I recommend to open the cap/ring (an upper part of the socket with the holes through which the glass tube is passing) and cut the tiny wires close to the glass. The glass part can be then broken. (Warning! Protect your eyes with a safety goggles or face shield.). Cleanse the plastic cap from the glue and save it. It will be used later. The printed circuit board is connected to the socket base with two tiny insulated wires (Pic. 4 and Pic. 5). If you like to use whole socket with a screw, leave the wires connected. Four very tiny and short wires which are (previously detached from the glass tube) on the board will be connected to the fluorescent tubes. We need to lengthen the wires to protrude from the socket (Pic. 5, Pic. 6, Pic. 7). I used the solid copper wire to strengthen them and then they were insulated as they are located closely each other. Then connect the wires with longer cables by terminal blocks.

Pic. 4 – The printed circuit board Pic. 5 – Lower part of the board Pic. 6 – Soldered wires Pic. 7 – The board is back in the socket

After soldering the wires to the board, insert it back into the socket (Pic. 7) and cover with an original ring rid of glue (Pic. 8). The wires go through the holes in the ring out. Connect the terminal blocks (Pic. 9). Wires marked 1A and 2A will be connected with one end of the fluorescent tube. Similarly, connect wires 2A and 2B with the opposite end of the tube. Pic. 10 shows the complete view at four ballasts placed in box. The sockets are screwed. I used a plastic lid from the coffee jar to cover the socket. I drilled the holes for the wires through the lid. Pic. 10 shows the lids.

Pic. 8 – Socket cap/ring Pic. 9 – Adjusted complete electronic ballast Pic. 10 – Complete set of 4 ballasts

Pic. 11 – Burnt socket after the short circuitPic. 12 – Burnt resistorWARNING! After connecting the adjusted ballasts avoid this mistake. I switched the lights on and then removed 2 tubes from the holders and in a few seconds all flat was without the power :-). While the lights are on NEVER REMOVE the tubes from the holders (this is normally possible with electromagnetic ballast) because the resistor will burn (Pic. 11, Pic. 12). Switch the power off before removing the tubes from the holders. I think the resistor is not able to resist the overload after the high load. I’m not an electrician so I’m not sure about this hypothesis.

Finally, after a few months or years of using this modified electronic ballast, I would like to add that there is always a risk of short circuit and subsequent fire as the ballast of energy saving lamp is not assigned for the purpose like described in this project. Please, keep in mind that even it works, it may cause a serious damage of your property and health after the failure. I think an original electronic ballast is cost available today. That was the reason I had changed all lights on my tanks to T5 electronic ballast.

FAQ - Read the frequently asked questions about "Energy Saving Lamp Ballast".

DISCLAIMER: By building this DIY project you agree not to hold the author responsible for any injury or bodily harm you may cause to yourself or others. Read all safety instructions pertaining to equipment prior to use.

Copyright © 2003 - 2012 Robert Toman



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