Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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keno 04-20-2010 07:26 AM

DIY LED Lighting Fixture
1 Attachment(s)
I recently completed a DIY LED light fixture for my 55 gallon planted aquarium. I have seen a number of articles on the internet on how to build an LED light fixture, and most of them were on marine aquariums. I built one for my planted aquarium using 12 Cree XR-E Q5 emitters that I put into a JBJ light fixture. I created a series of blog articles and I decided to take a different approach when it came to describing LED light fixtures. Instead of putting all the information into one article, I decided to break the information down into different sections and explore the cost, how do LED's work, what materials will I need, the build, etc. Well the DIY LED light fixture has been in and operating since January 5, 2010. My plants just love the light that comes from the LED's. If you have a moment or two take a look at my DIY LED articles and my plant growth on my blog.

I was wondering if anyone else has built a DIY LED light fixture. It would be interesting to hear how your plants are doing. I also have a 200 gallon aquarium and I am starting to build a couple of LED light fixtures for that aquarium. In the short time from my first build their are newer and brighter LED's that have hit the market. I am looking at using some of the newer LED's in these new fixtures.

rsn48 04-21-2010 04:11 PM

I like what you have done, but pricey for many. How do you like the colour of the light; my problem is that some LED's don't have an attractive light, particularly the earlier generations - to blue. I'm now using a tube rated at 6700 kelvin, how does the quality of the light compare to this.

By the way, I too think the future is in LED lights for our aquariums - and the price will continue to drop. My first LED flashlight was $40 dollars back in 2003 (early generation for flashlights) and the light was very blue and week. My latest flashlight at $12 is significantly brighter, with less bulbs and a "whiter" light.

keno 04-21-2010 06:43 PM

Yes, when you look at the initial outlay you may think that the cost is high. I have been finding better sources for materials and I would have to say that if I was to build the same unit today, it would cost me around 50-60 dollars less. So more around 200 dollars. If you look at a good compact fluorescent fixture you will pay at least that amount, plus you will need to replace the bulbs each year at a cost of 150 dollars.

The LED's I used are 10,000 Kelvin pure white LED's. The pure white of the LED's makes all the colors within the aquarium pop. Everyone who has seen it has commented that the plant and fish colors are very vibrant.

Mikaila31 04-22-2010 06:19 PM

Very slick, but I also agree that the cost is still too high for these 3watt(?) LEDs.... $200 for a fixture that puts out 36 watts... I built my 110 watt power compact fixture for $150 including 2 bulbs. I run my bulbs for a lot longer than a year, but still a 55 watt power compact should be costing like $20 max if you factor shipping in. IMO $150 a year is a crazy amount, you should be getting at least 8 bulbs at that price...

I'm not against LED's though, they are awesome things and I wish I could afford them.... I get that they last a long time, but that is really just the bulbs.... once the fixture reaches a certain age and depending how well it was cared for your gonna at some point start seeing drivers fail and possible corrosion if it was poorly cared for. Means the owner is going to have to know how to fix it.... IMO fixing any other PC, T5, T8 fixture would be easy for a newbie who had very little knowledge about them. Its not so with LED's, you really have to know the stuff, there are many more parts and lots of wires often multiples of the same thing, lots of connections.... just lots of more areas where things can happen..... If you build it then its fine, my main worry is when companies start making these things....

Cords/plugs can be an issue too, IDK about you but I already have a lot of plugs... like power strips with adapters plugged into them... the closest wall socket next to me branches out into 9 sockets. 8 are filled and there are 3 plugs that hover around it wishing they could be plugged in... I only bring this up because other DIY LED builds I have seen require a crazy number of power cords. I know you got the LED's often in series, Fans, and sometimes moonlights. But I've seen 15 LED fixtures with 7 plug in's going to them. So... like power strips plugged into power strips or just build a power strip into the hood?

Its like I just see issues with designs that I don't think I could stand... Its like you HAVE to build you own one, which is fine if you have the time to. Then once you have stared at others designs long enough, you get weird ideas... like heat is an issue with these things, we heat our tanks too. Why not use that heat coming off the fixture to do something useful... what if I want it to heat the tank? like radiator style... except it cools in the tank... IDK... I'm like rambling.

keno 04-22-2010 07:49 PM

When I built my fixture I didn't know if there would be enough LED's, so I decided to do a series on my blog to follow the plant growth. Well let me just say that I will let the plants do the talking for me. I would encourage anyone who is thinking about high powered LED lighting to take a look at the pictures in my series following plant growth. The plant growth in my 55 gallon aquarium was unbelievable. My 55 gallon has only been up and running for less than 4 months and it is totally overgrown, and I did not start out with many plants. I am now at the point where I am going to have to do a major thinning of my plants.

Any piece of equipment if it is not maintained will fail do to neglect.

As for power cords, yes we seem to have plenty of power cords for all of our equipment. Me I like to keep my power cords to a minimum. My fixture when it was wired for power compact fluorescents had two power cords. I kept the two cords when I converted it. I could have gone to only one cord, but I decided to have one for the LED power supply and one for the 12 power supply.

As for heat, my fixture runs cooler today at just less than 90 degrees than when it had two giant ballasts, 4 - 65watt pc bulbs and a 12 volt transformer in it.

There is a lot of misinformation out there about LED lighting. I would encourage those interested to do some research on the internet. I did a bunch of research and decided to do a whole series of articles about LED's on my blog to clarify some of the misinformation.

keno 07-14-2010 07:56 PM

New Cree XP-G R5 LED Fixture
8 Attachment(s)
For all of you that followed my original thread about my first DIY LED Light, well I built another DIY LED Light using the newer CREE xp-g R5 LEDs. I wrote another series of articles about this DIY LED Light. The newer CREE xp-g R5's are 30% brighter than the previous LED's that I used. They also run cooler and in this fixture I was able to build two circuits each containing 14 LED's for a total of 28. The unit is running only 7 degrees above room temperature with only one fan for the whole unit. The unit is running at about 140 Watts.

Also I compared this unit (140 Watts - LED) to a 175 Watt -MH fixture. Here is what I saw. We took both units into a garage which has no windows. We placed the LED light on a couple of saw horses about 3 feet off the ground with the LED's facing the ceiling. We closed the door and turned on my LED fixture. The garage was flooded with light. There were no spots of light it was an even pure white light. Next we did the same with the MH light which was in a dome fixture. Where as the LED light came on at full brightness, we had to wait around 4 minutes for the MH light to reach full brightness. The light from the MH bulb was a bit more blue-white and because of the dome fixture the light was more of a spot on the ceiling. As far as brightness, and this is my observation, the LED light was as bright as the 175 MH and lit up a larger area. Now how does this translate to an aquarium. With the LED light over my aquarium there are no dark areas or spots of light in the aquarium. With the LED's spread out over an area of about 4 feet long x 6 " wide, the aquarium is flooded with light.

Just a note about the pictures of the completed aquarium. The pictures were taken with only one DIY LED light. I did build a second DIY LED light, but have not taken any additional pictures yet. The light appears a bit more yellow, that is due to the wood in the aquarium. Even though I boiled the wood for quiet some time, it is still leaching tannins into the water. I have done a number of 50% water changes and the wood is definitely leaching much less. I will do another water change this weekend and take some additional photos with the clearer water. The light is definitely much whiter than what the pictures show.

onefish2fish 07-15-2010 08:57 AM


Originally Posted by Mikaila31 (Post 367676)
just lots of more areas where things can happen..... If you build it then its fine, my main worry is when companies start making these things....

im not 100% sure, but i believe solaris ( which is an aquarium LED company ) was either on its way out or close to it because of this problem. for starters their fixtures are $1000 and ive heard many complaints about them failing after the first year. the company couldnt keep up with the fixtures coming in for repair and was loosing more money then it was making by fixing them. again i could be wrong about that but i could swear i read about it. on the plus side they are cool fixtures... i mean you could even similate a storm or cloud coverage if you wish.

as for keno, putting a light in your garage and seeing how bright it is tells me nothing. i could prob.put a 15watt flood light in your garage and light it up. the real test would involve a PAR meter. this would be a beneficial test as ive heard complaints ( atleast on the saltwater side) of LEDs not having a penetrating light the same as MHs. which i almost forgot to mention, the MH was more blue then white because the kelvin was prob. higher, 14,000 - 20,000K im guessing. using a 6500K halide in a round reflector and then using your LEDs in that same round reflector with the PAR meter will give better, more accurate test results. yes, your light is more spread out but not as concentrated. i personally choose the MH even though i know its fact the LED will save your electricity bill. actually for a planted aquarium a T5 set up is what i would prefer ( prob. even for a saltwater as well ) they run pretty cool, not as much of an energy hog as a MH, and since they come in tubes... they light the entire tank evenly.
adding PCs to the LED fixture @ 4x65 watts defeats the purpose IMO.
i cannot disagree that LEDs run cooler, and have a lower energy bill but for their initial price for a freshwater planted tank i find it hard to sacrifice. again i could have a fantastic t5 setup for the same cost with a much higher PAR reading meaning more light actually reaching my corals ( or in your case, plants )
i am however a huge fan of what you are doing. experimenting and researching is great and this is what moves our hobby forward. i also think its great you have a blog but coming here to post its link for more traffic on your site is not permitted and is in the sites rules.

keno 07-15-2010 10:35 AM

Was the garage light test scientific, absolutely not. We did it to see how my friends MH light looked as compared to my LED light. Was I impressed with the LED light absolutely. I also have my first LED light up and running for 6 months on my 55 gallon and I am very, very happy with the plant growth in that aquarium.

As for a PAR meter, I will have access to one in September. I will take a number of measurements of my LED lights both on and off both my 55 gallon and 200 gallon aquariums, and at different depths.

I am not a SW coral person, but I am in the process of building a CREE LED light for someone who has a SW coral aquarium. Once we have it up and running, I will let him decide if the LED light works for his corals.

Someone did some LED PAR light measurements and posted their results.

abhaypawar 10-22-2011 08:23 AM

Hi Ken,
I need some help, I am in the process of setting up an tropical aquarium with plants.
The dimension of the tank is 7' wide 2' depth and 3' tall.
I am planning on building an LED lighting system, but not sure of the setup.
Can you kindly guide me and let me know what led's are you using on your 200 gallon tank.

AbbeysDad 10-24-2011 08:36 AM

There is no question that at least using today's vision, all lighting will eventually move towards LED's as they last forever, operate much cooler, and have far greater energy efficiency than even compact florescent.
We do need to get the cost down to reduce the sticker shock.

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