Aquarium LED Lights- Do it Yourself

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DIY LED Aquarium Lighting
8′ section of Lighting

Aquarium LED lights, the cost can range from as low as $20 to well into the hundreds.  The question that needs asked is what is the purpose for your lighting?  Is it for just fish or are you looking to grow plants?  If you are looking to grow plants, this article will not cover as I do not have enough experience to give accurate information.  Here we will look at how I set up my DIY LED lighting in my fish room.  I will say I am loving it and it works amazing.

When you think about a fish room, lighting is not top on that list.  You first think about how many tanks you can fit in your room, then what type of stand you need to hold the number of tanks.  If aquarium lights are a secondary thought, your options will be limited if not planned for.  Not considering enough space for some form of lighting between shelves will lead to dark aquariums that are not enjoyable to look at.

Materials List

This is a list of the items I used to set up my Aquarium LED lighting.

  • LED strip lighting for length needed (adhesive)
  • Foil ducting tape (adhesive)
  • Black plastic window planter box
  • Chain or S-hooks to attach to the ceiling
  • Screws to attach under shelving
  • Digital timer
  • Staples

Step 1: Cutting Planter Box

LED Lighting showing cuts
End Cuts

Cut 1/2” out of the center of each end from open end to the bottom, shown in picture above.  Once all cuts are made the planter will be flipped over.  I used tin snips to cut this out, it did not look real pretty but did the job.  Cutting to just before the bottom of the planter on each side then bending that ½” strip out and cutting it off.  You may slightly break the plastic while trying to cut through the rim of the planter.  To eliminate this, you can use a ¾” drill bit instead to drill a hole centered on the side near the transition with the bottom, big enough to pull the strip lighting through.  Word of warning if you drilled a hole do not strip the backing off the strip lighting before pulling it through the hole as it will get caught up and be a mess.

Step 2: Lining Planter Box with Foil Ducting

The title tells all, not sure if it made a difference or not but I attempted to make it as smooth as possible on the inside so there would not be any reflection in the direction, I didn’t want it.  Pull strips of tape the length of the planter cut, then pull the paper back a little to attach the end.  Pull the paper back trying to keep it as straight as possible while pushing it flat and rubbing air bubbles out.  Do this to the entire inside of the planter.

Step 3: Attaching Planters

LED Aquarium Lighting Attached to Ceiling
Attached to Ceiling

Attaching planters to any location you will want to determine how much space you have.  Keep in mind if you have lids with openings that fold up make sure you have enough room for them to function correctly.  I left 5-8 inches between the planter and lid to ensure enough room for lids to open. 

To attach the planter to the ceiling needing to drop it a few inches I used a J-hook swivel screwed into the ceiling, then attached a J-hook to it.  I drilled a small hole into the bottom of the planter and slipped another J-hook to lock into the one coming from the swivel.  This is not the best or only way to attach it to the ceiling it is just what I had on hand and did not need to purchase anything.  A small hook that screws into the drywall will work just fine as the weight of the whole setup is under 3 lbs.  Make sure however you attach it to the planter that the two points are at the same distance from the end and sides.

Now attaching between shelves is even easier, screw the bottom of the planter to a brace.  Measure the center of your aquariums to ensure even lighting throughout the aquarium.  This is where you will figure out if your spacing between the bottom of the shelf and the aquarium is accurate.  It is important to ensure your cuts or holes line up or it will be difficult to run your lighting through. 

Step 4:  Running Lights

One would think this is the self-explanatory part, it is but here are some mistakes I made.  Taking the backing off the light strip too far while attaching, it keeps getting stuck on everything.  Pull the backing off just before where your press the stripe lighting down.  Make sure you run it so that the end with the plugs is near an outlet.  It is easier to do than type out.  Most strips that you buy can be cut at designated areas to fit your length or another strip added if needed, be sure read directions on packaging. 

Step 5:  Attaching Sensor

Lighting Control
Lighting Control

Secure the wire with a staple at your last support beam, ensuring not to puncture the wire casing with the staple.  Place your sensor up high enough to eliminate the possibility of water spilling onto it, while not to high so you still have a drip loop at the bottom of the plug before the outlet.  Also, if it has a remote make sure that the sensor is in open view, so the remote works. 

Step 6:  Timer Install (Optional)

Digital Timer
Digital Timer

Optional but I recommend a timer, especially if your aquarium or fish room is in your basement.  It will get your fish into a routine of day and night, keeping them happy.  It eliminates you having to worry about shutting the lights off at night before going to bed or turning them on in the morning before work.  With the timer you know it’s done. 

Get a quality timer from your local hardware store or online that can easily be set and has 2 or more outlets.  Multiple shelves you will need multiply outlets.

Summary

If you have a fish room or multiple aquariums and are wonder about a cheaper option for aquarium led lights, hopefully you found this informative.  Keep in mind that if you want planted tanks, this is not the best option, planted tanks require special lighting.  This is a cheap option to light multiple aquariums on the cheap.  I have 3 of these sets of lighting going on 2 racks (still need to install one more set) and it provides enough surrounding light in the room to do most tasks in the fish room with just this system. 

If you have a setup that works for you please contact me or share a long comment.  I love to hear new ideas on the topics I write about as it improves my knowledge and possible my fish room.  If you want more details of my setup, please contact me at fishkeepingblog@gmail.com  I hope to have a video when I complete my 4th set for my rack to share. 

Keep it Fresh!  

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