Full Spectrum 40 Breeder LED Fixture




Introduction: Full Spectrum 40 Breeder LED Fixture

I graduated from Texas A&M University and I'm an avid DIYer constantly working on multiple projec...

This build is designed for a "Full Spectrum" dimmable LED fixture for a mixed reef 40 breeder aquarium. This fixture helps achieve the different wavelengths utilized by various coral. This instructable will not go into detail about different types of reef lighting, or the benefits of full spectrum since there is a lot of information on the internet already discussing these topics. It is purely a building guide.

This fixture does not require fans; therefore is is completely quiet.
This fixture can be controlled manually or with an aruino.

This project requires soldering know-how and deals with electricity. Caution should be used at all times to avoid being shocked or burned.

Step 1: Materials

Everything for the fixture was purchased from two sites:
www.rapidled.com & www.stevesleds.com/

The attached Excel file is a breakdown of items purchased, site, and price.

Optics are not on the list because they are optional, but 80° optics were used on all Royal Blue and Neutral White LEDs. The optics help the light being emited become more directional, but could cause a "disco effect" if not careful.

Step 2: Layout

When drawing the guidelines, it's best to use a yard stick. A 12" ruler will work, but it's not long enough to go across the entire heat sink. Use a pencil for the marks, which can be easily erased if an error is made and once completed.

On one of the 6" sides of the heat sink, measure and mark 1 7/8" from each corner and 3". There should be 3 marks (reference picture 1). Do the exact same thing for the other short side. Draw 3 straight horizontal lines connecting the marks across the entire heat sink. These will be your horizontal guidelines.

Starting from one of the 6" sized of the heat sink, measure and mark 2 1/2". Draw a vertical line at this mark intersecting the 3 horizontal lines created prior. Continue measuring and marking every 2 1/2" until you have 7 vertical lines. A post card is small enough to help draw internal guide lines.


Temporarily place the LED's on the face of the heat sink matching the drawing. This allows the proper length of wire to be cut and soldered before permanently placing the LEDs on the heat sink.
The idea is to have four circular bunches of LEDs. Each bunch will have one 3-UP, two neutral white, and four royal blue LEDs. Each bunch will be segregated with one true violet.

Using the layout (reference picture 1) start with the 3-UP LEDs. There are four 3-Up LED, and they will be placed on the center horizontal line and spread evenly.The first 3-UP will be at the 3" & left most 2 1/2" intersection. Following horizontally on the 3" guide line, place another 3-UP every 5" (skip every other 2 1/2" vertical guideline).
After the 3-UP are placed, place the three True Violet LEDs on the remaining 3" & 2 1/2" intersections.
Using your best judgment and with the help of the 3" horizontal guide line, place one white LED on the left and right of each 3-UP. Try to center these LEDs between the 3-UP and True Violet LEDs.
Eight royal blues will be placed on each 1 7/8" line. Spread them evenly (using best judgment) to complete each circular bunch. Make sure all LEDs are rotated identically for cleaner wiring.

Step 3: Wiring the LEDs

Once satisfied with the layout, start cutting wire and soldering the LEDs together. There will be three separate circuits that will allow you to control each color group. This is done for two reasons: more control on color output and a single driver can't support all the LEDs. For the maximum number of LEDs, calculate the forward voltage of each LED and divide the forward voltage of the driver.

Example: The Mean Well 48D Driver has a forward voltage of 48V, and the royal blue LEDs have a forward voltage of 3.0V. Dividing shows that the driver will allow 16 royal blue LEDs. 48 / 3 = 16.

Since there are only eight white LEDs on the second circuit, I decided to add two royal blue LEDs to it.

Circuit 1 = 14 RB = 14 LEDs (42V)
Circuit 2 = 8 NW, 2 RB = 10 LEDs (30V)
Circuit 3 = 4x3-UP (Blue, Red, Cyan), 3 True Violet = 15 LEDs (44.66V)

When soldering the LEDs, don't rest them on the heat sink since its purpose is to dissipate heat. On the first LED of each circuit, use a red or white wire to connect to the positive side of the LED. Make sure this wire is long enough to connect to the driver and it could always be cut shorter later. The LEDs will be soldered in series (negative to positive) and these will be indicated on the LEDs with a - and +. At the end of the circuit use a black wire to connect to the negative side of the last LED. Make sure this wire is long enough to connect to the driver and it could always be cut shorter later.

Circuit 1:
Using the first wiring diagram, connect 14 royal blue LEDs in series. Do not connect the top left or bottom right (indicated on picture 1) royal blue LED because this will be connected to the circuit 2. Once soldered you can either mount the circuit to the heat sink with the thermal paste, or connect the circuit to the driver to ensure they work properly. If you do decide to test them first, be careful not to leave them on too long because they will get hot.

Circuit 2:
Using the second wiring diagram, connect 8 neutral white and the remaining 2 royal blue LEDs in series (indicated on picture 2). Start with the white LED furthest right, and connect every other white LED ensuring you connect the top left royal blue LED. Loop back around and connect the white LEDs that were skipped and the bottom right royal blue LED. The idea is to minimize how much loose wire there will be. Again you can either mount the circuit to the heat sink with the thermal paste, or connect the circuit to the driver to ensure they work properly. If you do decide to test them first, be careful not to leave them on too long because they will get hot.

Circuit 3:
Using the third wiring diagram, connect 4 3-UP's and 3 true violets in series (indicated on picture 3). Start with the 3-UP and skip every true violet. Loop back around and connect the true violets. Once again you can either mount the circuit to the heat sink with the thermal paste, or connect the circuit to the driver to ensure they work properly. If you do decide to test them first, be careful not to leave them on too long because they will get hot.

Step 4: Potentiometers and Power

The drivers can accept a 0-10V signal. Using an AC adapter of 10V and three 10k potentiometers allows you to vary the voltage between 0-10V, thus dimming the drivers. The higher the voltage, the brighter the LEDs. The attached wiring diagram should be everything you need to connect the potentiometers to the drivers and power.

The three drivers can be connected in parallel to one 120V AC power cord.


The red and black wires on the driver will connect to the red and black wires from the LEDs (red-to-red & black-to-black). Each driver will connect to its own circuit.

Adjusting SVR2 Tutorial:
The SVR2 located on the Mean Well 48D will need to be adjusted to provide the proper amps to the LEDs. RapidLED has created a youtube tutorial on adjusting the SVR2. Instead of explaining it, here is the link to the tutorial.


Step 5: Complete

At this point the LEDs should function completely and are ready for mounting. There are many ways to mount these fixtures, and you can even buy a mounting kit from RapidLED. These LEDs are strong and should be at least 10" above your aquarium. I started these LEDs around 35-40% on day one, and increased the intensity over a few weeks to help prevent coral bleaching.

Wire looms were used to bundle the wires neatly.

The pictures show my tank with the different circuits on individually, and with all the circuits on.

The first picture is royal blue LEDs.
The second is neutral white LEDs.
The third is 3-UPs and violet LEDs.
The fourth is ALL LEDs on.

Age of Aquariums Contest

Second Prize in the
Age of Aquariums Contest



    • Water Contest

      Water Contest
    • Tiny Home Contest

      Tiny Home Contest
    • Creative Misuse Contest

      Creative Misuse Contest

    18 Discussions

    If you want something smaller to start off with check out this guide for a 5 gallon nano reef tank. http://nanosaltwatertank.com


    wow! beautiful result, and not aggressive light at all. looks very natural. wonder if the fish like it?

    Excellent! I noticed that you did not go down to 430 nm which, I am told, is needed for chlorophyll A. Am I being misled? How did you determine the total lumens required? Did you find that your heatsink was adequate without a cooling fan? Great job.

    1 reply

    Thanks. I do have three True Violets (410 - 420 nm) LEDs on circuit 3. I did not use any type of mathematical method in determining the number. Basically I looked at other builds and kits to see what people were using and went from there. Since LEDs are continually getting better, there is not set rule anymore to determine how many to use. I added more than enough and keep then turned down. The heatsink is all that is required. It is actually cool to the touch after a full day of use.

    Beautiful project! Disclaimer: I work at Mouser Electronics. We have these adhesive strip LEDs, also by Philips Lumileds. They are designed to *stick* to a heat sink and you can cut the strip at intervals. There are small solder bumps at each strip interval and the strip is flexible. I used some for lighting under a cabinet and it was as simple as peeling off the backing to mount it. Everything else has the same steps, such as calculating the required power source and soldering to the power supply. I don't know about dimming with these strips, but I bet they would be a lot faster to mount and they come in the same wavelengths,etc. Check out the datasheet: http://www.mouser.com/pdfdocs/Philipslumiledsluxeo...

    It looks blue because that's how I chose to set it. I can adjust the color variation. Also I am not the best at taking photos, so it doesn't look exactly how it does in person.

    ahh, ok. i didnt realize you could change the color. thanks for the reply.

    Very Very nice.

    Can you flip out a ball park estimate on what it cost?

    Thank you for sharing with us all!

    3 replies

    The excel sheet on step 1 shows a breakdown of the cost per item and total. If you add optics, it should total around $300. Granted, prices will change so it might vary a little.

    Duh... Gads I'm sorry I missed it and waste your time... and I look stupid....lol.
    It is an awesome job!
    I have to say that your tank appears like any salt full spectrum that I have seen countless times in various salt aquarium shops.
    The proof is in the pudding as they say... How do the fish and corals appear to be doing at present? If you don't have corals is coraline algae growing and spreading? How long have you had this set up now?
    And if you find this falls short or does very well, those of us who do keep salt tanks, would be very interested in updates to this ible!
    Getting the light right in a salt tank, as we who venture into these waters know, is more of a process, not an absolute and never a done deal as bulbs wear out and need to be replaced.
    What is your opinion on how long the LED's would last. For some reason (though I have nothing in particular to base it on) I think they would remain at healthier levels longer, than the usual florescent tubes. Do you have an opinion on that at this stage?
    Beautiful job! And thanks so much for sharing with all of us enthusiasts in the hobby! I'm sending this off to my husband. We have a 92 gallon that needs light and I'm not comfortable playing with electricity, but he could totally do this without issue.
    Good luck with your BEAUTIFULLY lit tank!!!

    The corals and fish are doing great. The colors became brighter and the growth was more apparent. Coraline doesn't really grow on the walls, but there is some on the rocks. I had these LEDs running for about a year and I recently added T5's for a hybrid system (T5s and LEDs). I like trying things out and wanted to see if there was a difference, but it is still too early to tell. As far as life span, LEDs should last a lot longer than T5s or MH. It will vary on which LEDs you get, but they will definitely last longer than the 6 months T5s get.

    How did you decide this was "full spectrum" and why is that important?

    on my last freshwater tank I just wired up some white LEDs, and I just got a new tank and was going to do the same thing - how important is this mix of LEDs, please consider fresh / salt water in your responce..


    but nice build - good job.

    1 reply

    It is called "full spectrum" purely on the fact that it isn't the typical blue / white combo, and it provides different wavelengths. There is no such thing as full spectrum LEDs, but this is a step towards that direction. I have never had a fresh water tank so I don't really know the importance for plants, but there is a lot of controversy for reef aquariums. If you don't have live plants or coral, this is not required at all. Without going into too much detail, there is an algae on coral that require sunlight to produce food (photosynthesis) which allow the coral to live. Various wavelengths benefit different corals in different ways. There are other lighting methods like T5's and MH. Lighting for reefs is a large subject that has people on each side of the fence. I just wanted to try the LEDs to compare for myself.

    This is a really interesting build. What would you estimate the power consumption? I've used power compacts, VHO, and eventually settled on dual 250w metal halides. How long have you had these set up? And what did you use before? I see you have a mixture of SPS, LPS, and soft corals. I'm curious about the growth and color you can get from this setup. Being able to add/subtract the UV can really promote some bright color from your corals. Nice aquascaping btw. Thanks for sharing your build!

    1 reply

    I never did a power consumption calculation. Before I built this fixture, I was using cheap LEDs that just didn't perform. The growth with this fixture was nice and the colors popped really well. Recently I converted this fixture to a hybrid T5 / LED fixture. I used the LEDs for about a year and they worked perfectly fine. I really just wanted to try different things to see how the coral responded. I have only had the T5s running for about 2 months, so I can't compare just yet. I will say that if you have these LEDs at high power, the LPS does not like it so much.

    Wow, what a dynamic range! Nice ible, thanks!

    That's beautiful! I haven't done much with aquariums but I love SCUBA diving and you kinda make me want to get my own aquarium. Good Job!