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Innovative Marine Aquariums

My LED build for a biocube


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Well, my tank was badly in need of new lighting so I researched LEDs for the past few weeks while I was on vacation. Now that I'm home again I finally got this build started. I didn't have much of a plan at first and I was thinking about getting a kit or buying all the parts from somewhere. As luck may have it though, I found a lot of what I needed at home. We had a pile of scrap aluminum lying around and I found some massive heatsinks that had come from elevator door motors in the bottom of the pile. I took the smallest piece I could find and hoped it would fit in my biocube hood.


Though it would have been the perfect width, the heatsink was a tiny bit too long and about an inch or two too high. I ended up deciding that I'll make do with the heatsink as is and just have a topless tank (I already gutted the whole hood though, but I think I'll solder everything back together and keep it around). I didn't want to hang the heatsink so I decided to make some sort of stand for it. I found all the parts I needed in the scrap pile again and I spent some time cutting the pieces out with a hack saw.



Tested it roughly on the tank...


Right now I'm working on putting the stand together. I have the main piece bolted up, and the next step will be drilling and tapping the foot pieces so I can screw them to the stand. The little pieces on top of the heatsink are going to be the feet/side bracket things.


Soon I'll be ordering the LEDs and drivers and finding the parts I need for all the electrical bits.

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Well I ordered the LEDs today and worked on the stand a bit more.

Got some holes drilled and tapped in the feet so I could attach them to the stand with screws.



The stand is pretty much done now. I just have to cut the screws flush with the foot pieces, file some sharp corners down and get everything tightened up. I'll test it on the tank as soon as I got the screws cut shorter and then I can do the finish work.


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  • 2 weeks later...

Got my LEDs in the mail today, gonna start wiring this thing up this week. The stand's all done, all it needs is a bit of polishing. I'll get some pics up later.

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  • 1 month later...

Finally got the whole thing done. I got the control box set up on the weekend, and I got all the LEDs in place on Monday night despite the hurricane. Our power went out but our generator powers a few circuits in the basement so I was able to finish soldering and everything else.



I used an old metal box to house the drivers and everything. I attached some scrap wood to the bottom of the box to screw each driver onto and drilled holes in the sides to run the cords through. I used a length of old European cord we had lying around for the side going to the LED array, hence the different wire colors. The cords going to the wall outlets are just ones I picked out of our box of old power cords. I found the grommets for the holes in the box in the basement as well.



Here's the white (and one red) LED circuit, all soldered up but not yet screwed in all the way. I used 4-40 screws since we had a whole bunch of them, and I even found a multitude of 4-40 taps, so I had no worried about running out if any broke (none did though). The black washers on each screw are little circles of car tire inner tube. I punched them out with a hole punch, sliced they in half with a razor so I got 2 circles from each one I punched out, and then I poked a hole through each one with a small metal tube (a mechanical pencil tip). I had to lubricate the washers with a tiny bit of silicone oil between the screw head and the rubber, since otherwise they would bind up when I screwed them down. I put a bit of loc-tite on the screws before screwing the LEDs down. The orange "Trans Heat" box to the left is the thermal paste I used. It was an unused tube of old German thermal paste we had lying around. I soldered all the LEDs together before putting on the thermal paste and screwing them down.



Here's the whole array wired up and attached to the heatsink. I used a bunch of nylon cable clamps to keep the wires in place. I put rubber feet on the heatsink as a safety measure in case I ever have to lay it flat somewhere. I don't want to crush the LEDs by accident so the feet prop it up enough to keep everything safe.



There's the control box all finished. I ended up mounting the dimming pots inside the box to keep them safe. I fashioned little wooden blocks to hold them. The black straps are that same inner tube rubber I keep using for things. I just cut some strips out to hold the wires down. The butt splice connectors made wiring everything together nice and easy and kept things streamlined.



It works!

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After I set this thing up on my tank to test it, I noticed my plexiglass lid was propped up on one side of the tank and it was bending the light onto my closet door. I thought it was kinda cool so I thought I'd share. You can see the stripe for each LED.



Neutral whites, cool whites, and red.



Royal blues and blue.



All together.



I'll get some pics of the tank itself when I get home, if our internet is back up yet.

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Here's some tank pics. All my BTAs are hiding behind the rock-work still, but I hope they adjust to the lighting soon. I'm keeping the lights dimmed down for now, though I turned them up for the pics.



Blues turned down as far as they go whites up ~70%



Whites down, blues up.



And a mix of both. Pic's a bit bluer than it looked in real life. Looks like my camera likes to pick up the blue light or something.

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