Aquarium Advice - Aquarium Forum Community

Aquarium Advice - Aquarium Forum Community (
-   DIY Projects (
-   -   DIY LED lighting (

AdamHorton 02-25-2011 09:28 AM

DIY LED lighting
I'm planning a 55G freshwater tank, and I have sort of a rough idea in my head of what I want, part of that vision is lighting...

First, I'll say that I have no desire to keep live plants in this tank, the lights will be used for viewing purposes only, and I'll be getting my FW plant fix from a different tank.

Second, the decor for this tank will probably consist mostly of rocks and driftwood. I may end up with a few fake plants in there for color, but I'm not sure. I'm leaning towards using a darker substrate, maybe Tahitian Moon Sand?

Third, I want there to be LED lights on this tank. This is mostly because I have a vision of providing lots of color to this tank through lighting. I'd like to be able to provide more than just white and blue light, sort of like a sunrise/sunset effect. My inspiration right now is the following: (if anyone else even understands this reference I'll be shocked)

Episode 8 of Season 21 of Survivor, there was a scene where there was this brilliant sunset and this strong, orange light was coming from one side, making the lighting of everything just strong. Here's a link to some pictures of it: Ep2108_0495 There are a bunch of other nearby pictures of it too.

Kind of obscure, I know, but I'd like to be able to have an LED setup that can give me white, blue, and red/orange light. I suppose the more colors, the better, though.

Building it:

So it doesn't look like there are any lighting systems out there that are pre-made to include any colors of light other than white and blue. What I'd really like to happen is to have a "sunrise" in the morning, starting out with red/orange light and going into white light during the day. A "sunset" at the end of the day, where the white fades out, then red light, which fades into blue light, then that fades out.

Each color of light would have to have a separate timer on it. I realize that I'm going to have to do some DIY here, but I don't have much confidence in my ability to make the final setup look good. I'm hoping to get some suggestions to make my life easier in this thread, or if not, at least I can document a lot of my ideas and if any of them actually work in case it helps anyone else.


So, what I'm thinking right now: I get a cheap LED canopy light that has fade in/fade out capabilities with a timer that can control all of that, and that has only white light.

EDIT: The closest thing I can find to that is something like this:
I'd really like to have a gradual fade in/fade out feature, and this appears to just be on/off. I have a sinking feeling that if I want fade in/fade out white light I'll have to make the same as the colored light. If I do it that way, then making it pretty might be difficult...

Then, I'll use something like these:

Radiantz Sidewinderz LED Light Strip - RED - 3 Lights RTI04

and I'd have to make my own 12V custom circuit that would control the voltage with a timer. I could just stick these on the white light system, or even on the sides of the tank -- one side for sunrise, the other side for sunset. This makes the "hard part" the controlling circuit for the colored lights, which conveniently falls close to (but not quite within) my area of expertise (I write software for a living, but I've had some hardware background). It's been a while, but I've made a microcontroller-based circuit before that could do this kind of thing.

If there's something I can buy to use for part of this circuit I'd rather do that than DIY that part, even if it costs more.

Anyways, I'll probably do some more research on this and stick it in this thread, but I welcome suggestions/constructive criticism here. If there's a way I can do this better, I'd certainly like to know about it.

Time Frame:
I haven't bought anything for this tank yet, I think I might get the tank, stand, substrate, heater, and filter this weekend at the earliest, but even then I have 5-6 weeks while the tank fishless cycles before I have to have anything done for lighting purposes.

Jnam 02-28-2011 02:22 PM

You can achieve the fade in and out with a controller DIY an Arduino or something off the shelf from digital aquatics. The controller though is going to be spend unless you do something like an Arduino. As far as the LEDs go if you want to go with all DIY LEDs i would use something from the CREE line. Buck pucks are dimmable and run off of DC. I have been working on a very simalar project thus far I have my arduino wired up to the pucks and i can fade in and out. for your application you would need 3 separate channels and possible 4-6 pucks depending on the number of LEDs you want to have.

On a 55 it may be quite spendy... but i would use 1 channel of 15 whites 1 channel of 15 blues and one channel with your reds.

The algorithm would go something like
AM Ramp up reds over an hour
half way through reds begin to ramp whites
as white make 50% hold whites and begin to fade reds
as reds fade ramp blues to 50%
reds off ramp whites and blues to full intensity
reverse for sunset.

my .02$

I can certainly help with the hardware side if you can handle the programming... i may even need some help with my programming for my controller.

Jnam 02-28-2011 02:26 PM

those leds you linked will only give a small color to the tank without any benefit to the corals... for the reds maybe ok since those will be more for show than anything else. But for the main lights the small 12mm leds just dont create enough PAR for plants and such and really arent bright enough for viewing unless you go CRAZY with the number of them... cheaper to use something like CREES in the long run if you decide to come to the dark side and do a reef or even a planted FW tank

AdamHorton 02-28-2011 03:29 PM

To clarify, this lighting setup is for a freshwater tank, where I won't be keeping live plants. The lights here are for show only, and the only purpose is to give some color to the tank, which is why I chose the LEDs that I did. I have a planted FW tank and a SW tank that will be a reef one day, so I guess I'm sort of already on the dark side.

Those LEDs I linked to, they don't have many technical details, it just says that they will work on any 12V system. You mentioned using Buck Pucks, and those seem to be big on keeping the current to the LED constant. If I remember correctly, isn't the brightness of an LED proportional to its current? You said you were able to fade in/out using your controller (a brief look at Arduino's website doesn't show much for what those controllers are able to do). How exactly do you have it set up, and what kind of LEDs are you using? My guess is that you're using some type of PWM going out of your Arduino controller, then that goes to the Buck Puck, which drives your LED. If you're having success with this, then it may be the best path for me.

I think I want to have one channel of blue light, one channel of white light, and two channels of red light. I'm still holding onto the vision that sunrise will come from one side of the tank and sunset from the other... Does the Arduino have four PWM channels (or whatever you're using to get your fade effect)?

spamalamadingdong 03-01-2011 08:37 AM

Hi Adam

I've been looking at similar systems
If you're not looking at planted tanks and it's just for visual purposes then a system like this might be something you're after
AquaFX LED Aquarium Lighting System

I'm considering one as part of my setup and it's fully programmable
I have had some feedback about it that may be of help to you


AdamHorton 03-01-2011 10:32 AM

spama -- interesting link, I haven't see anything like that yet. It's certainly expensive, but it's right along the lines of what I'm looking for... I'll look into it more closely. I already had this post typed up before you added yours.

Jnam -- I've done a little more digging. I'm pretty sure the Arduino is the controller I'm going to use. As far as hardware goes, my only questions left are related to the Buck Puck. Are you using that to drive the LED, using the output of your controller as the switch? Are you able to drive your LEDs this way using PWM to achieve the fade effect? If I'm understanding correctly, this should be how you're doing it...

Here are the LED strips I'm looking at (I've changed since last time because those other ones had an adhesive already on them and I didn't want that near my fish tank)

Orange LEDs for sunrise/sunset effect, one of these for each side:
WFLB96 series Waterproof Flexible Light Bar

White/blue LEDs, probably four warm white and two blue (the 24-LED strips):
WFLB series Waterproof Flexible Light Bar

So, for example, if I wanted to drive the four white strips, which together draw 456 mA, it looks like I can use the 500mA "E" BuckPuck (3021-D-E-500 BuckPuck - LED to drive them in parallel as long as I use at least a 12V power supply, as long as I adjust the output current to be 450 mA or so.

If I end up using these LED strips, I'm thinking I won't have any kind of canopy over the tank, just a glass cover. What I want to do is hot-glue the LED strips underneath the rim of the tank, just below the top. I'll do the white and blue on the front and back edges (blue in the middle, two whites on the ends, on both the front and back edges of the tank). Then, I can do the orange strips on the left and right sides. I haven't decided the exact placement of the orange lights yet, but the strips I'm looking at are long and they can be cut down so that gives me some flexibility.

This is pretty exciting, I think I have all of the hardware picked out, and I think it will all work! I was worried this would be the hardest part, since I'm sure the software side will be a breeze for me (I'd be ashamed and looking for a new career if it wasn't)

If anyone has any comments or suggestions (or NO THIS WON'T WORK!), I'm hoping to order hardware by tomorrow at the latest.

Jnam 03-01-2011 04:15 PM

Yes I use PWM and the buck, you are correct current is proportionate to the brightness of the LED. 12V doesnt mean much when it comes to LEDs as voltage isnt the driving factor. Looking at the data sheets for the LEDs I cant tell what the forwad voltage of the string is nor can I see how they are wired series paralell... Its hard to give an opinion. From the website it looks like the just depend on some internal circuitry? to regulate the LEDs... It says 640mA at 12 Volts is the current draw that would indicate to me some kind of current limiting resistor wired in there someplace... Its worth testing out for sure I just dont know.

Yes you are right with your ideas on the driving the LEDs. Cant wait to see the project move forward!

AdamHorton 03-05-2011 12:06 AM

I got the LEDS and the Buck Pucks in today and I've been playing around with them. It seems that there are current-limiting resistors in the LED strips, and it also seems that the Buck Pucks are pretty good about not frying the LEDs. Once the Arduino comes in I should be able to get things set up pretty quickly.

I had a quick question about they way you're controlling the brightness: are you using the CTL input on the Buck Puck for your PWM? If so, are you just hooking the output of your PWM directly to that input of the Buck Puck, or are you using a pull-up resistor or anything else in between?

The software side of things shouldn't be too hard for me. Once I get it working I'll post my code and I shouldn't have much trouble debugging if you're having a problem.

AdamHorton 03-06-2011 02:30 AM

I got the last of the supplies in the mail today, and I couldn't stop myself from working on it. I have the software all written, and the hardware is all set up on my breadboard. All that's left to do is move it to a different breadboard (one that's dedicated to this project), attach the LEDs to the tank, and tweak a couple of numbers in the program until I like the way it looks. Once I'm happy with the code, I'll start uploading stuff.

I bought an LCD screen because I wanted to have that interface to set the clock with, but something's wrong with the LCD and I don't know what it is. It just doesn't work. So, I'm using the serial interface with the computer to set the clock. It's not as pretty, but at least it works. The problem with that is that every time I plug it in to start, I have to hook it up to my computer to set the clock and that's kind of a pain.

If today is any indication, I'll probably work on it all day tomorrow and be done with it.

Aquatic_Adam 03-06-2011 07:43 PM

Question for everyone, I have wanted to do something very similar to your set up. I wanted to make an LED system that mimics real life. Blue lights at night that progressively gets stronger to normal light then recedes back to blue. How strong do you need to make it if you want a decently planted aquarium. I know the creator of the post didn't want plants but it is feasible with LEDs to have a planted aquarium?

All times are GMT -4. The time now is 11:36 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.