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Improving an Eclipse 5 Hex

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I decided to try a small reef tank again. After several weeks of thought and research I decided on an Eclipse 5 Hex. Now before you tell me I made a mistake, I have some very valid reasons for choosing this tank.


1. It needs to be small

2. Be Inexpensive

3. Look fairly good when assembled

4. Be easily modable

5. All equipment in the tank(AIO)


I kept coming back to the Eclipse 5 Hex. After I found I could get a new one for $35 I bought one. Since I successfully kept an Eclipse 3 gallon reef until a flatworm outbreak caused me to close it, I knew very well what mods were needed to improve the small Eclipse design.


These systems get a bad rap because they are not reef ready. That is true, but how many AIO tanks out there are setup OOB without at least some small or major mod or another done to fix and issue or add a feature? Rea Sea Max being the exception.


I set myself some conditions for the tank and mods.


1. All mods have to be undoable (bring the Eclipse back to OOB condition) as much as possible.

2. They need to be simple to remove

3. As inexpensive as possible with common Materials and Tools used to build them.


This tank will likely not be setup until the fall sometime so I have time to make and test some ideas.


So now to the mods.


#1 Reverse Light Refugium in BIO Wheel Chamber

#2 ATO Tank on Rear of Eclipse

#3 LED Lighting Part 1

#4 LED Lighting Part Two




10 Westinghouse $1 solar accent lights from Wal-Mart

Evergreen Black Styrene sheets .040” thick (2 sheets per pack)

1.5 To 3v transformer (I had one from my old tank)

Black and Red 18 gauge wire

Liquid Superglue





Hobby Knife with several #11 blades

Metal ruler

Soldering iron


Drill with bits

Pin Vise (a small hand drill like a pencil with needle size drill bits)


Having done this in my 3 gallon with Christmas lights I decided I needed something better and it needs to look better than it did. Since I build model ships, I was aware that Evergreen makes sheets of black colored styrene in various thicknesses. Styrene is a soft type of plastic that is easily cut with a hobby knife. I’ve also had these accent light outside for 2 years. I looked at them and the LED is bright, light is directed straight down and it runs cool I decided to make a refugium light out of them.


I took apart one of the lights to see what was inside it. I was pleased to see that the rechargeable battery and empty space were mostly what the fixture contained. The circuit board is the size of a nickel and would easily fit in the Eclipse hood. Cutting off the solar panel put the unit into and always on state so long as there was power. I did some experimenting and found that I could double the brightness by running the LED at 3 volts yet not have any additional heat. I cut out all the LEDs and made an array shown in the photos. Drilling two small holes for the LED leads with the pin vise. I glued slots into the side of the Eclipse filter so the unit can slide in an out easily. I made a mount for the circuit board out styrene scraps and small screws.




After some trial and error I succeeded in getting a good overflow bulkhead template and made a snug fitting one out of styrene with some spacers to keep it from pressing against the outlet wall. I could glue it in place to seal it in case of a power outage so the chamber wouldn’t drain but this would be undoable IMO and so it will just sit snuggly in the filter compartment for now.




I now cut a hole for the moonlight in the Eclipse rim. I found a sweet spot where the hole would be between two supports and with the pin vise drilled a small hole for the screw that holds the circuit board mount. I had originally thought to glue a small amount of transparent blue plastic to the underside of the Eclipse and just live with an undoable mod. Then my wife bought some Aquavista water bottles. When I removed the label, I found that there were small buttons underneath. The buttons were not only the right size to fit between the supports but cut just right each would snap into place between the supports and I could add and remove them to get the look I wanted. I settled for three for now.




So far the only undoable mods are two small holes in the rim and some styrene glued to the outside of the filter. Everything else can be removed and it can go back to being a standard Eclipse. AS a bonus I was able to use the clear lenses and rechargeable batteries to repair several lights in my yard that had gone out the past few years.



I hope this might help othesr give an old Eclipse 5 Hex a try. This light will also fit in an Eclipse 3 Gallon hood as well since the filter is the same. A ViaAqua 90 I had for my Eclipse 3 gallon will be added to this tank for increased water movement.


The next article will feature how to make a small ATO tank with a clear water level window.



Edited by ajkochev
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Awesome. I've always been a fan of the Eclipse tanks, even for saltwater. My first two reefs were an Eclipse System 12 and Eclipse 12. They do have a bad rep for SW, but agree it doesn't take any more modification than what you typically have to do on any other AIO tank to make reef ready.


It's a shame that these tanks are becoming harder to find.

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#2 An ATO tank on back of Eclipse


Evergreen Black Styrene Sheet .040” thick

Clear plastic sheet

3/4” Black PCV

Black Plastic Canvas (found in sewing section in craft stores)

Liquid Superglue



Hobby Knife

Metal Edge Ruler

5/8” drill bit and drill


The photos are pretty self explanatory of how this goes together. I started by measuring and cutting the bottom piece. It fits perfectly inside all the raised lips on the back of the Eclipse using the molded on power cord holder in the back left corner to rest against as well.


I sealed the bottom and sides with extra glue before gluing on the top.




While this is technically finished I may need to make a few modifications. This is actually my second one as a number of design flaws and issues cropped up. First I originally had planned to use airline tubing but with water tension, it didn’t work. I used bigger and bigger pipes until I found something that worked well. Now the issue is the opening is two big. Using the plastic canvas and experimenting with different opening I found one that allowed water to flow out when exposed to air. Yet I think the two grates will be enough to hinder water movement from working tank water into the tank as well as keeping out larger tank inhabitants. I also have to use my finger the seal the opening and hurry and put it in the tank so the kalkwasser I plan on using doesn’t leak too much.




I measured out 100 ml and carefully poured it into the tank through the tube. Sealing the tube with my finger I rested it on a level surface and marked the position. I was pleasantly surprised that it ended up about in the middle of the tank. I then just measured and marked half way points on either side of the 100 ml mark. Then I measured and marked halfway marks again. This eventually gave me 25 ml increments. It likely isn’t perfect measurements, but it should be close if I want to measure evaporation. I made a measurement label in MS Publisher , printed it out and put a strip of cellophane tape over it, cut it out with the hobby knife and ran it though my wife’s Xyron sticker maker to put glue on the back.


So far the only undoable mods are three holes drilled in the Eclipse rim. Just remove everything and install the Bio Wheel and you are ready to go stock Eclipse again. Total cost for parts for the two mods so far has been around $15. Not bad considering the tank itself was $35. You could stop here and get the tank going if you like. Just throw in a power head for more water movement, screw in a 50/50 10watt CF bulb and the tank is ready for a Low Light/Shrimp/Fish reef.


Up Next: Part one of the LED lighting mod, with fan!

Edited by ajkochev

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#3 LED Lighting Part One


I decided to go with three Ecoxotic Eco Pico strips for lighting. Each strip has three LEDs and I got to see them operate in person and the brightness and the fact that they run fairly cool without a fan won me over. I found a way to put a small fan in the Eclipse hood without cutting or drilling anything on the hood itself. I'm just waiting for parts to arrive in the mail now, so LED and Fan Installation will be part 2.



RadioShack Misc Switch Kit Catalog #: 275-327

20 Gauge wire(red and black)

Evergreen Black Styrene .040" thick



Hobby Knife

Metal Edge Ruller

Pin Vise or another method for making really small holes

Soldering Iron with solder

Label Maker(Optional)


Part one is wiring a control panel of sorts. These LEDs do not appear dimmable but I did want a small measure of control if possible over the lights. One power adapter will run three strips and there is a splitter cable with switches available, however I didn't want to reach around the back of the tank to find a cable to switch lights on and off. I decided to create my own panel that will turn each strip on and off at will.


After removing the two screws on the inside of the Eclipse hood and removing the stock light fixture and stock reflector I got to see what I had to work with. The slot opening in the back that the stock light cover slides into seemed really small, however some slide switches I had fit in them and still had enough height for me to easily move even with styrene. I cut a rectangle of styrene out that would fit over the whole slot and proceded to cut openings and make holes for each switch installing each one at a tiem and removing it to make the next one. I had to remove a tab on two of the switches to make all the switches fit but they did and the hold with just one screw on two of the switches was still solid. I also used the double pole switches in the kit so both positive and negative power is cut from the LED strip. After completing the panel I soldered in the wiring with the switches in the hood, one side with the red wire to the center pole and the other center pole to the black.



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#4 LED Lighting Part Two



Three EcoPico (two 12k White/One Blue) LED strips from Ecoxotic

EcoPico Power Supply from Ecoxotic

40mm x 10mm project fan (I had this from my previous tank).

1.5 to 12 volt Generic power Supply (from previous tank).

Sectional Sheet Aluminum Heat Duct

20 and 22 gauge Red and Black Wire

Liquid Superglue



Tin Snips

Utility Knife

Metal Edge Ruler

Soldering Iron



While thus far my mods have been relatively inexpensive, the three LED strips, fan and power supplies come close to $100. Still relatively inexpensive compared to some lighting options but twice as much as the tank and all the mods have cost thus far.


I changed my mind about having one of these strips being all white and got three of the white/blue strips. I considered going with a DIY Cree build but the fact that these come plug and play and run fairly cool sold me.


The first thing I did was make a fan mount. After some experimenting, I settled on the simple design you see in the photos, made with my favorite material for this tank, black styrene. I mounted the fan to the black styrene using a couple of extra screws I had from other household projects. I triple layered a section of styrene and glued it to the mount, not the fan and drilled a hole and used the screw that held the stock Eclipse light in place.




I made the reflector out of sectional aluminum heating duct. This is available in hardware stores and it has bends on the sides to form connectors to make any size tube depending on how many sections you use. I chose it because it was inexpensive, shiny and had a slight curve to it. I kept the doubled up fold on the side for the screw mount and measured the eclipse hood in various aspects. I carefully scored and bent the longer cuts with the metal ruler and utility knife the shorter cuts were made with the tin snips. I placed the lights and marked and drilled holes before mounting it in the hood.




Using the multimeter, I notched the light cable and discovered which side of the cable was positive and soldered it to the red side. I used one of the light plugs to connect the red and black power at the other end, thus the power supply was left unmodified.




So how does it run? Very bright when compared to a 50/50 10 watt CF bulb that would be in the stock light! I set the fan to 7.5 volts to cut down noise and after having all three strips on for over three hours the metal reflector and LED strips were only slightly warm to the touch. In some areas it was cold. Success! For an experiment I turned off the fan completely. After an hour I checked and the unit was much hotter than with the fan, but the plastic hood was a lot cooler than when running a 10 watt CF bulb which came with it that I tried before this mod.


Another good thing about this mod is nothing needed done to the Eclipse hood. Just remove the four screws holding in the switches and the two for the fan and reflector and everything comes out for stock Eclipse again.


I may see if I can fit a 8 inch T5 bulb in the hood, as I’d like to keep a crocea clam in this tank and am still wondering if the three strips will be enough light. I could fit another two strips in teh hood but feel this would be overkill. The tank is very bright already.



Other than maybe a T5 light all that is left is a few small tweaks here and there, but the tank is mostly ready to be setup. If anyone has any advise of recommendations so far I'd like to hear them.

Edited by ajkochev

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Not a lot of comments. Am I totally nuts to make this tank work? I'd appreciate any constructive criticism and additional ideas to improve the tank.


I'd really like advise on the LED lightings ability to support a clam. I've read quite a bit here in several posts and LED lighting and clams hasn't been covered much when comparied to other lighting options. I could of missed it in the large posts I've looked over though.

Edited by ajkochev

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I've been following...I think you should just send it to me! I can take care of it for you! :P

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Nice job on the mods.

I think you should use whatever tank you like regardless of what anyone else tells you.


After all taking something that shouldn't work and making it successful is more rewarding. This is called a hobby and not a purchase right.


I have kept reef tanks for 28 years and when I started there were no off the shelf components for reefs, everything had to made or modified. I have yet to find a tank that didn't need modding.

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as the others said looks great.

It actually got me tempted to go try and overhaul my old 5 gallon corner eclipse. Only scared to do it cause I'm scared it might burst seeing its been drained for 3 years (had a 1.5 gallon eclipse shatter that was similar stored), and I'd also have to get out a pile of scratches, and encrusted algae

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It's cool, but what do we have to say? You've already finished all the mods it looks like.

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Lets see it filled or assembled please!

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This has been brought back up as it is finally setup! I'm going to post photos of the tank now running in another thread.


A few final mods. I cut a slit in the back of the Eclipse filter cover for better gas exchange and to help cool the water a bit. It really helps in my Eclipse 3 planted freshwater tank.


The final mod was to create a better inlet pipe for the filter. The stock one goes way down and due to the position of the filter on top would be very much in the way. Plus doing this made the equipment much less noticeable.


My old powerhead wasn't working out to good so I purchased a Hydor Pico 180 gph model. It is awesome, that does it for setup. Look for the stocked tank thread soon.



Edited by ajkochev

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I've read a lot and seen a few tanks with Red and Green LEDs and how they make the corals pop with color. I decided to give it a try in my new Eclips 5 Hex build. Once again cost, easy and space won out and rather than do a cree build I went with this:




The unit comes with a comprehensive IR remote that allows you to control the RBG channels individually and brightness as well. One of the best things is the unit can be used with a three prong timer and it turns on and remembers its last settings.


You get a very long strip of LEDs Each LED has Red, Blue and Green in it, you can freely cut the strip every three LEDs at the designated point and splice and solder in a wire to handle a sharp curve. I eventualy found a old Floppy drive ribbon cable worked the best. This is the water proof one so the strip comes covered with a stiff clear silicon gel that is easy to remove with a hobby knife.


So how does the tank look? Well, the green led light doesn't really do anything that I can see, but the red really makes my corals glow a neon! When all are on I get a blueish white, I've decided that with my Ecoxotic lights on the pink in the lower left most corner makes my tank look the best. This is new since I got these for Christmas so we will see how they work in the long run.




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