Introduction: DIY Aquarium LED Light

In this episode, I make an aquarium LED Light using LED RGB Strips. You can follow along in this easy How To Make an LED Aquarium Light.

Step 1: Cutting UPVC Panel

Picture of Cutting UPVC Panel

My old aquarium light is a worn down piece of styrofoam with some LED strips stuck to it. It was time for an upgrade.

I am using this UPVC window sill as the body of the light. I begin by cutting it to length and squaring it. I mark where I will cut a groove into the UPVC.

Step 2: Gluing Extra Edge

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I then cut some grooves on one side so that I can bend it over and have a second edge.

A few days later, I unclamp the work piece and notice the bend is not sufficient. I

Step 3: Bondo

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I tape the edge of the gap where the contact cement was. I prepare some car body filler, some people might know it as Bondo. I fill the gap with as much body filler as possible. I then clamp the work piece again and finish with the body filler.I begin bending the new edge as much as possible. I use some contact glue as an adhesive. I then clamp it using wood clamps

Step 4: Aluminium Tape

Picture of Aluminium Tape

A few days later and now the work piece is solid and the edge will hold. I clean the surface with acetone and prepare it for some aluminium tape. I cut aluminium tape to size. It will be used as the surface to which the LED strips will stick to. Being aluminium it will act as a somewhat better heat sink than the UPVC sheet alone.

Step 5: Flattening the Tape

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I stick the aluminium tape down and flatten it as much as possible. I then cut the LED strips to length. I add some double sided tape to the strips that required it.

Step 6: Testing Current

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I test the current draw of the strips to find out how many strips I can fit on the light. It turns out I can use 10 strips.. I stick the LED strips to the aluminium surface and space them out evenly.

Step 7: Removing Silicone From Pads

Picture of Removing Silicone From Pads

With the strips in place, it was time to remove the silicone on the edges of the contacts using a hobby knife. I then tin solder the contact points. Afterwards, I solder wires to all of the strips. With the wires soldered I test the LED strips to see if the work.

Step 8: Silicone to Protect Wires

Picture of Silicone to Protect Wires

I then hot glue some of the wires down. A transparent silicone is used to permanently glue the strips to the board and to protect the wiring from water. I am using an RGB LED controller with a remote control. I remove it from its housing and proceed to glue it in place. The controller is wired to both the RGB strips and the white LED strips

Step 9: Final LED Test

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A last check of the LEDs. I ran into a problem with the RED LEDs but this was fixed at a later date. Finally, the LED Aquarium light is installed on top of the aquarium. I really like the powerful light it puts out. And it only uses a little over 30 watts of electricity.


programmingnoob (author)2017-02-26

well ... nice project ... but the main question is ... is LED light suitable for aquarium? As far as i know the best "replacement" for sunlight is T8 tube light. I tried LED light ... and plants didnt liked it at all ... few of them died.

FjK86 (author)programmingnoob2017-02-27

Led light works fine för plants but you need to have the red an the blue leds for the plants to grow. If you whants to know more you can read this article

steven4872 (author)FjK862017-03-04

Some plants do OK with just red and blue light. But others such as my orchids don't (they wouldn't grow until I replaced the red and blue light with white. Some plants need yellow and green light to properly grow. Nasa is focusing on red and blue to minimize power consumption. Plants can convert red and blue light into food very efficiently. Lower power consumption means a smaller lighter power supply can be used which can lower launch costs. It frequently cost about $1000 to put 1Kg (about 2 lbs) into orbit

"but the main question is ... is LED light suitable for aquarium?"

Not all light bulbs are the same some are brighter and some are dim. IF the bulb doesn't produce enough light a plant may die. When you compare bulbs you need to look at the brightness of the bulb listed in lumens. AWatt is not a measure of light output. A watt is a measure of electrical power consumption.

The other issue you need to watch out for is the spectrum output of the light. Some LEDs use one red, one green, and one blue LED to produce white light. While some plants Do OK with just red and blue many others don't. Other LEDs emit only blue light but then use a phosphor to convert the blue to many different colors of light just like the T8 tube does. Most plants tend to do better under full spectrum white light. When looking for bulbs look for a CRI rating (color rendering index) Lights with a CRI of 100produce the full spectrum of light. Some cheap bulbs have a CRI rating of 70 or less. Plants do best with higher CRI lights (CRI of 80 or more).

I used phosphor LED strip with a CRI 90+ ( which is about as high as LEDs go. It puts out 3000 Lumens of light. I them put a dimmer on it so that I could adjust the output from 0 to 100%. My aquarium plants are doing very well. Without CO2 I can use the light at up to about 60% brightness. Above that PH starts to climb indicating I should use CO2 when setting the light to more than 60%. So in my experience LED work very well in aquarium. However poor lighting seldom causes plants to die in aquariums.

Other than CO2, water, and light plants need about 15 different elements to grow. For example plants need nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, sulfur plus 10 more for growth (such as copper). If you are short just one at best you will get slow growth. At worst the plant dies. In most cases a nutrient efficiency causes a plant to die. If you replace a old T8 bulb with a new brighter LED the plants might grow fast enough to completely deplete the tank of nutrients which nay kill some plants and cause others to grow slowly. For a complete list of nutrients a plant needs see:

Yeah, valid concern. However I see lots of horticulture lighting transferring to LEDs, even with the narrow wavelength. They seem to favor Red spectrum (in the 650 - 700 nm) with some blue (420 - 450 nm). I mean, the reef people have been using them for a long time (think deep blue - UV actinic) and they seem fine. I guess time will tell.

GoonyLex (author)2017-02-28

I been told many times that LED lights dont have enough of this or that, and that they have not been proven to be able to grow this or that. The fact is LED light can be used to grow just about anything these days. For aquarium I used plain high powered white leds to do aquascaping with fantastic results. I was able to get a full thick carpet of dwarf baby tears in a fairly short amount of time. I used full spectrum LED's to grow cacti that are as big as my friends who uses T8's. Its a matter of getting the right LEDs for the job. Dont expect LED strips and low powered leds to be able to grow plants. If you are using white LED's for looks or cheap price you will need more power than if using red/blue or full spectrum. You want to use 2x to 4x power(watt) per gallon depending on plant to get sufficient plant growth.

made2hack (author)GoonyLex2017-03-01

Thanks for your comment. It's a good point.

You will find on my YouTube channel where I build a hydroponics grow cube using full spectrum high-power LEDs.

The aquarium build is really mostly for looks.

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Bio: Maker, Hacker, Creator? All of the above? Driven in large part by the inspiration gained from other YouTube creators, I wanted to contribute my own ... More »
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