Yet Another - High Brightness LED (HBLED) Aquarium Lamp





Introduction: Yet Another - High Brightness LED (HBLED) Aquarium Lamp

About: Founder of Powerhouse Electronics. For more info goto:

This instructable shows how to design and build a very bright LED lamp for your Aquarium. What makes this instructable different from other that have gone before is that I'm using HBLEDs instead of traditional LEDs.

I found a new HBLED from Optek which are much less expensive than most high power LEDs. The Optek LED is around 50 cents in quantities of 100+. The LED is small at only 3.5mm square. But, the LED kicks out a 1/2 watt of light. There are some downsides to these LEDs. First, they are surface mount. Second, they must be attached to some kind of a heat-sink.

A couple of things that make the lamp presented here really cool. First, the lamp is made by sandwiching the LEDs between two pains of glass. The glass acts as a really good heat-sink. The glass sandwich is also sealed around the edge to make it water tight. Second, the lamp is almost totally clear being made of glass. Plus, since the HBLEDs are really small, they don't obstruct other aquarium light. This makes possible to simply add the new LED lamp and continue to use existing aquarium lights you already have.

The rest of this instructable discusses designing the 14 watt HBLED lamp for your aquarium.

Step 1: Design LED Carrier PCB

The Optek LED, being surface mount, needs to be mounted to some kind of a circuit board. I designed the following carrier circuit board to be as easy to use as possible. Also, the board needs to facilitate heat transfer. The life expediency can only be assured if the LED does not get too hot.

The carrier board is flat on the back side so that it can be thermally bound to a heat-sink. The board also allows wires to be solder along the edge of the board. Lastly, the board has large thermal pads to help wick away the heat and transfer it to the heat-sink.

Have a look at the attached pictures for more details.

Step 2: Deigning & Building Lamp

What better way to transfer heat than to use a glass plate. The glass plate transfers heat very well. The glass is also inexpensive - glass plate is less expensive than Plexiglas. I simply used some picture frame glass that I already had laying around the house. I cut two plates 18" x 3 1/2" with the idea of sealing the LEDs between the two plates. The open gap around the edge of the glass is then sealed with a bead of silicon sealant. Once sealed, the glass seems very solid - the two plates glued together makes them much stronger.

During assembly, the LED carrier boards are super-glued right onto the glass. I used 24 LEDs in total. Of the 24 LEDs, 5 are warm white and 19 are blue. This gives me 125 lumens of warm white and 114 lumens of blue.

Step 3: Design & Build the LED Current Regulator

To get the maximum amount of light from the LEDs each needs 150mA of current. Without a regulator this is hard to achieve. As the LEDs warm up their voltage sweet spot changes. So, to keep 150mA flowing, the voltage must be constantly adjusted. The alternative is to be conservative and add a big current limiting resistor. The current limiting resistor is not a very elegant design.

I ended up using six LEDs in series with a LM317 regulator. The regulator is wired/configured to regulate current in this application. Have a look at the attach sketch & pictures for more details.

Step 4: Conclusion

The design discussed here uses a 24 volt / 600mA / 14 watt wall power supply (10 bucks from Mouser). Of those 14 watts, 12 watts are delivered to the LEDs in the aquarium. The remaining two watts are consumed in the current regulators.

Using a thermometer, I measured the LED temperature to peak at about 105 degrees F. This temperature was taken on the outside of the glass. The current regulator enclosure (closed) peak at 110 degrees F and the power supply peaks at 115. So, all three temperatures are only warm to the touch. Nothing gets really hot.

I hope this helps others who may be thinking of designing applications with HBLEDs.

For more information, please visit my web site at "". I'm making the HBLED carrier available to anyone who may be interested.




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    Hey man, I really liked your HBLED aquarium lamp design and I want to build a similar one for my 4 ft long aquarium using four lines of white bulbs and one line of blue bulbs for moonlighting. my problem is that I'm having a difficult time finding the components, so I was hoping you could give me a hand. Thanks in advance.

    1 reply

    Yeah, here is a link where you can purchase the LEDs:

    The manufacture part number is: OVS5MBBCR4

    Once on Mouser's web site, just search for "OVS5" and Mouser will show you five different LEDs. All the same size but just different colors.

    Good Luck,

    Very simple and effective project! I would like to use these HBLED for a low profile microscope illuminator and I was wondering whether you could please re-post the Gerber files for your LED holder/heatsink PCB (the link on your website is dead). Any suggestion as to which boardhouse I should use?

    Thanks a lot for your help,

    3 replies

    Sorry for the hassle. Yeah, the link was broken. I recently moved my web site over from Drupal to WordPress. I thought it was going to be seamless - but, there always seems to be one more link out of date.

    Anyway, here is the rebuilt page. This should work for you.



    I tried the link and can not get to the files. Will you sell the boards?


    Thanks for the bump. Yeah, my basement laptop web server was down again. Finally, took the time to figure out what the problem was instead of just rebooting it. Some stupid GUI driver was getting stuck, turns out.

    Anyway, the web site should be back up and running now. Let me know if you have any more troubles.

    Yes, I've got bunches of old boards.  Send me an email with your addess and I'll send you a strip through snail mail.



    Reef With LED Aquarium Lamps

    The reef aquarium field is where aquarium lighting varies the greatest. Some reef aquarium keepers use VHO (Very High Output) fluorescent tubes, compact fluorescent lighting, and metal halide lighting since they provide much brighter light than average fluorescent bulbs and come in a variety of spectrums. Reef keepers often opt for light of varying spectrum. Since many corals require a deep blue or actinic spectrum of light to thrive many aquarists must supplement traditional white light with light of this color. Also popular with reef keepers is T5 High Output fluorescent bulbs. These bulbs are thinner than traditional T8 bulbs and provide a much brighter, more powerful light.

    1 reply

    The reef keepers are a very picky set of folks. There is no way that I could figure out how to satisfy their requirements.

    No, my goal was simply to provide some accent lighting. A stretch goal would be to provide some extra lighting so as to replace some lighting that uses a lot of electricity.

    That looks quite elegant, I may take on this project in the future. How big/tall is that tank you designed this for? How is the owner using the light, always augmenting the florescent? Night light? Replacement of the fluorescent(asuming you made another for the right side of the tank).  Looks like live plants so I assume they would need he full spectrum fluorescent part of the day. I wonder if use similar LEDs to make a 3/1 red/blue ratio grow lamp might work.

    1 reply

    Woops, I missed your comment getting posted. Sorry for the delay.

    My neighbour has a big tank - I think he said it is 80 gallon. For sure, at 12 watts, there is plenty of light penetrating all the way to the bottom. I think the tank is about 18" deep.

    I visited a retail pet store the other day. They had a small 8 watt LED lamp and a larger 16 watt lamp. So, my 12 watt lamp looks like a good compromise.

    I would suggest you try and experiment with red LEDs before building. Our experiments showed us that green and red did not help.

    Note, we were not trying to add any light to help the plants grow. This was strictly done as an accent light.

    So far, I have not followed through and built my neighbour another lamp. Boy, now that you mention it, he must be getting ticked at me. I better get busy!

    Thanks for the interest,