Aquarium Light LED Refit

Introduction: Aquarium Light LED Refit

About: Designing electronic creations from microcontrollers, LEDs and anything else I can pull out of a dumpster and make use of. Check my Profile

I acquired some broken fluorescent fixtures used for aquariums, they are made of mostly aluminum, with metal reflectors, and are of high quality, too good to go to the scrapper. So I converted them to use white LED strip with daisy chainable connectors on both ends.  A single salvaged PC power supply will be used to power a few sets. Standard screw-down terminal blocks were used to make the connections, as they are cheap, easy to to utilize, and are rated for 15A per position so that is approx 25 meters of LED strip, but that much won't be used. I chose to use 5050 type LED strip mixed with 3528 LED strip, to even out the light distribution but mostly to test out the different SMD LED types output's for future projects.

Step 1: Parts and Tools

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  • Broken/Old Aquarium Fluorescent Light, preferably with a metal reflector
  • 12v LED Strip, non-waterproof, White(cool or warm) 5050 type LEDs and/or 3528 type Store Link
  • 4x 2-position Terminal Blocks, 15A - Digikey PART #ED2582-ND
  • 22AWG Hookup Wire, black
  • 22AWG Hookup Wire, red
  • 18AWG Speaker Wire, or other heavy dual strand wire
  • 12v Power Supply, Amp rating will vary with amount of LEDs, Modified ATX or One from The Store

  • Soldering Iron and solder
  • Screw Drivers
  • Pliers
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Drill and Bits
  • Hack Saw

Step 2: Strip It Down and Prepare the Case

Strip It Down: Each type/brand of light will come apart differently, the model I used is fairly high quality and is mostly aluminum with some plastic ends.
  • Remove all the screws and start pulling it apart, make sure to remember how it goes back together.
  • Remove the bulb sockets, transformer, power cord, any un-needed parts ect.

Prepare the Case: I was going to use panel mount barrel jacks for power but, I wanted to be able to daisy chain the lights so I went with soldering two screw down terminal blocks together, rated for 15A per position. Skip ahead to Step 4 to see what I mean. To mount them to the end caps of the light, I drilled a 9/16" hole away from the edge and cut a slot in the plastic with a hacksaw. Later the terminals are slid up the slot and positioned in the hole and hot glued in place.

Step 3: Attach LED Strip

For the LEDs I went with 3 strips of 5050 sized LED strip and 2 strips of 3528 LED strip. The 5050's have 3 white LEDs in each one, and the 3528 are single LEDs. I was hoping mixing the different types would even out the light distribution a little bit, but I do not think it is necessary, I would have used all 5050 type if I had to choose.

Place the LED Strip:
  • Clean off the reflector surface with some isopropyl alcohol or other solvent.
  • Start with the middle strip, remove a few inches of the tape backing and stick it down close to center as possible.
  • With the rest of the tape backing still on, position it along the entire length, check that is centered both ways.
  • Optional mark where the end will go down with a sharpie.
  • Remove the rest of the tape backing and place the strip down in the same place that it was test fit.
  • Repeat with the other strips, keeping them all parallel and straight, I alternated the 5050 type and the 3528 type.

Step 4: Power Connectors and LED Strip Wiring

The power is connected to the device through two screw down terminals soldered together on the ends with a heavy gauge dual-strand wire(I used some 18AWG speaker wire) used to transfer the power from one end to the other. The power for the LED strips is connected to the screw down terminals, with some of the LED strips getting cross connections.

  • 2 sets of paired screw down terminals are required, the insertion holes should be facing the same way for each pair.
  • Lay them side by side like in the images and solder them together. Make 2 sets.

  • Position the terminal on the end cap where it will be when the device is put back together, get an idea of how long to cut your wires so they will reach the terminals from the strips.
  • Run the heavy gauge power wire under the reflector(out of the way) across to the other end, and cut it.
  • The terminal blocks I used could only hold one strand of 18AWG wire and a single 22AWG wire, so I soldered a wire from one of the polarities (+12v or GND) on one of the light strips to the terminal, on both ends. So out of the 5 LED strips, there are only 4 connections to the terminals, the rest of the connections(10 total since each of the 5 LED strips requires connection to +12v and GND) are done by cross linking the the strips, pad to pad with some jumper wire.

Step 5: Close It Up and Test

Test It: With it mostly unassembled it should be fine to power it up and test it out, look over all your connections and solder joints first, make sure everything is correct. Test the other end to make sure power is correctly transferred through the light.

If it is working correctly....

Close It Up:
  • Slide the paired terminal blocks up the slot and position it in the hole, and hot glue in place
  • Reinstall all the screws.
  • Repeat with the other end.
  • Mark the V+ side of the terminals with some red tape
It should be all working, ready for installation, and hopefully years of light without ever changing and disposing of a fluorescent bulb. The lights are extremely bright, and turned out better than I had hoped.

I have a 4' version of the same light that will be made into a 8 Section RGB(24 Channels) DMX-512 Wash Light Utilizing my 24 Channel  High Current LED Controller with DMX-512 to Serial Interace(Instructable and Kits available soon)

Thanks for Reading, Visit My Profile for more Instructables or Visit my website for More Projects, Downloads, and to shop in The Store for Kits, LEDs, and Parts.

Step 6: Extra Light

I also had a single, cheaper fluorescent fixture for aquariums, I did it pretty much the same thing, take a look at the images for details.

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    3 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Do you know what kind of LED lights you used? (How many kelvins?)

    I've read lots saying that it should be around 6700k, and I've read lots saying that even some lights that are around that range wouldn't be that effective in terms of promoting plant growth, not having enough 'usefull' (full spectrum) light.

    Do you have plants, as well?


    looks good! do you have a link for the led strip, how much does it cost?


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    You can find on Ebay for less than 20$ :)