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ajmckay

Cheap ($25) DIY LED for Mixed Reef Picos & Refugiums

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ajmckay

This DIY is intended for a pico or small nano mixed reef tank that's around 1-6 gallons. Could also be used as a refugium light or other small scale need.  

 

I'm trying to get this DIY our there because pico tanks are super fun and they're becoming much more popular too. They also have very simple lighting requirements despite what some people might say.  You don't need to spend $100+ on a pico light!  Many of the commercially available lights are simply overkill for a typical mixed reef pico. On the flip side the cheap Amazon/eBay lights can have sketchy quality, bad color rendering, or low PAR. The cheap lights can also be overkill because they're so cheap that we tend to overbuy. 

 

So rather than spending a ton on a light that's overkill or buying a light that you don't know if it will even work take a look at DIY.  This light has exactly the features needed for a typical mixed reef pico or small nano.  Also it's super easy.  I'm tempted to buy these parts again and have my 7 year old try to build it - I actually think she could with some practice soldering.

 

FYI I'm using this light on my Fluval Spec III and it works much better than the stock light!

 

Still to do: Design a simple mounting solution.  I'll update with that video when I've made one.

 

 

Materials list - total cost: $25.

$5 Meanwell LDD-700 HW https://www.ledsupply.com/led-drivers/mean-well-ldd-h-series-cc-step-down-mode

$8 2x Royal Blue XT-E https://www.ledsupply.com/leds/cree-xlamp-xt-e-royal-blue-leds

$4 1x Neutral white (4000-5000K) https://www.ledsupply.com/leds/cree-xlamp-xt-e-white-leds

$3 12-24v LED PWM dimmer https://www.amazon.com/XtraLED-Dimming-Controller-Lights-Ribbon/dp/B00H8KTXNU (can get it prime for $6)

$5 12v 2A DC power supply https://www.amazon.com/Choose-Nice-TM-Switching-Regulated/dp/B00LPCX2BQ/ref=sr_1_34?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1509556333&sr=1-34&keywords=12v+power+supply includes plug adapter

 

You'll also need some wire, thermal paste, epoxy, and an old computer heatsink or something similar.

 

Credits: I did not come up with this idea, just modified the information found on thePlantedTank.net.

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Lingwendil

Some quick hints on cutting even more cost from somebody who builds dozens of these rigs a year-

 

Old laptop or printer power supplies are cheap/free at times, and range from 12-32 volts. The majority of the laptop supplies you find are about 19-20v. I get new 19V 6-8A laptop supplies free at work, so I like to use them! Just chop off the end and wire them up, or solder on a common barrel connector.

 

Dead computer towers are a good source of CPU heatsink/fan combos. Also cheap/free.

 

Use an LM7812 (or 7808 to reduce voltage to the fan for less flow, but quieter operation) off of that to run the fan. Usually cost from 50¢ to a dollar. The tab is grounded, so it's safe to bolt right to the heatsink. Mind the maximum input voltage (usually around 32, some variants can take up to 37) though these regulators aren't necessary on 12 volt supplies unless the fan is too loud for you.

 

Use the LDD-700L. Lower maximum voltage, but $1.50-2.00 cheaper, and physical size is much smaller. These suckers are perfect for such builds. Buy these at LEDsupply to take advantage of free shipping on small orders.

 

Buy Luxeon series LEDs from Steve's LEDs, as they are half the price, higher output, and can be arranged on a single star board in custom arrangements if you do multiples of three. Better LEDs at half the price, and shipping should only run you about $3 if just buying a few, and you end up with better quality for less or about the same cost as Cree LEDs from LEDsupply. 

 

Nice easy to understand video. We need to get this forum busy with DIY again, it has slowed down a ton the last few years...

 

 

Those little dimmers are neat, I'll have to grab a few for fooling around with. I've got a nice arduino solution that should cost $7 total once finished I'll be showing soon...

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ajmckay
5 hours ago, Lingwendil said:

Some quick hints on cutting even more cost from somebody who builds dozens of these rigs a year-

 

Old laptop or printer power supplies are cheap/free at times, and range from 12-32 volts. The majority of the laptop supplies you find are about 19-20v. I get new 19V 6-8A laptop supplies free at work, so I like to use them! Just chop off the end and wire them up, or solder on a common barrel connector.

 

Dead computer towers are a good source of CPU heatsink/fan combos. Also cheap/free.

 

Use an LM7812 (or 7808 to reduce voltage to the fan for less flow, but quieter operation) off of that to run the fan. Usually cost from 50¢ to a dollar. The tab is grounded, so it's safe to bolt right to the heatsink. Mind the maximum input voltage (usually around 32, some variants can take up to 37) though these regulators aren't necessary on 12 volt supplies unless the fan is too loud for you.

 

Use the LDD-700L. Lower maximum voltage, but $1.50-2.00 cheaper, and physical size is much smaller. These suckers are perfect for such builds. Buy these at LEDsupply to take advantage of free shipping on small orders.

 

Buy Luxeon series LEDs from Steve's LEDs, as they are half the price, higher output, and can be arranged on a single star board in custom arrangements if you do multiples of three. Better LEDs at half the price, and shipping should only run you about $3 if just buying a few, and you end up with better quality for less or about the same cost as Cree LEDs from LEDsupply. 

 

Nice easy to understand video. We need to get this forum busy with DIY again, it has slowed down a ton the last few years...

 

 

Those little dimmers are neat, I'll have to grab a few for fooling around with. I've got a nice arduino solution that should cost $7 total once finished I'll be showing soon...

 

Thanks for the great tips Ling.  I couldn't agree more about the slow down in DIY - I opted to post in the lighting forum vs. the DIY as it gets marginally more traffic.

 

Anyways - In the interest of keeping things simple (hey, a successful DIY project can be key to trying other, more complicated projects) I've laid it out so someone could follow the instructions precisely and come out with the same result.  I'm hoping that once someone builds the simple version they'll feel better equipped to put their own spin on it! 

 

- The LDD-L series drivers are a bit cheaper I see - but you would have to solder wires to the contacts or use a receptical or PCB of some sort which could add cost.

- What are your thoughts on fans here?  My experience is only with fanless builds.  I opt for bigger hunks of metal to dissipate heat because I don't like fans.  They get dirty and noisy and add complexity to the project (if only a little).  I'm thinking that for the most part a typical CPU cooler should be able to handle 3-4 LEDs at 700mA current.  I haven't done any specific testing though to confirm.

 

I do like the Luxeon LEDs from Steves.  I've ordered from them a few times but for some reason they take a while to ship orders - granted it's been a few years. 

With the free small item shipping at LEDSupply and ordering the actual LEDs from Steves you may be able to save a few $$!

 

Man I love this light though.  Tomorrow I'm going to experiment with some mounting ideas that will hopefully be adaptable to several different heatsink types.

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Ivery

I use 1 steves 3up antidisco led  rb,rb,nw and 1 single hv on my 3.5 pico . With a single ldd-h 500ma

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Lingwendil

LEDsupply carries the LDD-LS (wired version for $1 extra B)

 

I use a DIP socket with wires soldered onto the pin version like a little harness, but the wired version is worth the extra buck for its size alone.

 

Steve's LEDs used to take a while to ship, but I usually have my stuff in three or four business days when I order lately.

 

I prefer fans, running one on low speed will increase LED life, but if your heatsink is large enough you can get away without one.

 

I'll try and get a shot of one of my rigs here soon...

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Lingwendil

Here's a look at my budget LED build that I put together for my freshwater planted, but by changing out the Vero for a Luxeon M royal blue, it would be a killer "premium budget build" for a smaller reef. This is over a Marineland Portrait 5.5 gallon AIO tank.

 

IMG_20170826_105745.jpg

 

That's a scratch/dent MakersLED 6" heatsink kit (came with fan, screws, endcaps, everything) that I picked up on ebay for $25 shipped. Only issue was some roughness on the edge that cleaned up with a file in five minutes. You can see the row of LDD-L drivers all in a row, with my little DIP harness I made. LEDs consist of 1x Bridgelux Vero 5600k 90CRI, 1x regular blue, 1x 4000k neutral white, 1x cyan, and 1x violet. Blue/violet are on their own channel with a 500mA driver, the Vero is on a 300mA driver, and the cyan is on a 350mA driver. Runs off of a 1.5A 32v printer power supply from an E-waste bin at work.

 

IMG_20170903_204153.jpg
IMG_20170902_204757.jpg

 

As I said, replacing the Vero with a set of three to four royal blue, or a single Luxeon M would make this into a pretty nice reef fixture. The Vero costs $3.73 each at Digi-key, from Steve's the cyan $2.50, blue $2.75, the neutral white $0.99, and the violet is $3.90. For comparison the royal blues only cost $2.50 each, $1.99 if you do the Sunplus version. 

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ajmckay

I like the Vero chips - run them on my 40b DIY light.   Those LDD-L drivers are indeed tiny. 

 

Nice FW build!

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Lingwendil

I've recently gotten into doing arrays based on Vero and Citizen arrays, and they are much better than running individual emitters, it just so happens that they are affordable too. Good way to start a budget build on a larger tank as well, but the higher voltage requirements demand a higher volt power supply, or a boost-mode driver, but if you shop around you can find affordable power supplies that can push the voltage they need to perform well. 

 

 

The beauty of a small tank is that it really doesn't take much to give them decent light, and it is very affordable to add the few things needed to go for a "full spectrum" type of build. I've been contemplating setting up a 2-3 gallon and might do so soon, so maybe I'll do a tutorial on a budget/scrounger full spectrum type with a budget LED controller, someone on another forum wrote some code for me to do a simple no frills two channel controller, that could easily be built all embedded into the fixture for simple builds. One of the huge hurdles people (myself included) is figuring out how to control and house everything, so I think it would be a good idea to cover things like that in more detail...

 

My usual recipe for a build is pretty simple and cheap, but it doesn't cost too much to add some more features to make it fancy on a budget...

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sjmusic2

You can add me to the list of people saddened by how quiet diy has become.

 

I have 2 Evil/Ben vero-based clusters over my 90g DT and another 2 to add when I can find the time to build them. Only problem I have had was that one of the original Luxeon M Royal Blues crapped out so will have to be replaced by a Steve's 3-up ES instead.

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Lingwendil
7 minutes ago, sjmusic2 said:

You can add me to the list of people saddened by how quiet diy has become.

 

I have 2 Evil/Ben vero-based clusters over my 90g DT and another 2 to add when I can find the time to build them. Only problem I have had was that one of the original Luxeon M Royal Blues crapped out so will have to be replaced by a Steve's 3-up ES instead.

I'm trying out something sweet, based on the evil cluster mindset-

 

 

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sjmusic2

Yes, I just saw that thread and got very excited !!! I'm looking forward to seeing how it progresses.

 

[edit] and now reading your RC thread too :)

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Reefkid88
On 11/5/2017 at 7:04 AM, knap_123 said:

I use 1 steves 3up antidisco led  rb,rb,nw and 1 single hv on my 3.5 pico . With a single ldd-h 500ma

 

 Got a thread ? 

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Reefkid88
On 11/5/2017 at 2:09 PM, Lingwendil said:

Here's a look at my budget LED build that I put together for my freshwater planted, but by changing out the Vero for a Luxeon M royal blue, it would be a killer "premium budget build" for a smaller reef. This is over a Marineland Portrait 5.5 gallon AIO tank.

 

IMG_20170826_105745.jpg

 

That's a scratch/dent MakersLED 6" heatsink kit (came with fan, screws, endcaps, everything) that I picked up on ebay for $25 shipped. Only issue was some roughness on the edge that cleaned up with a file in five minutes. You can see the row of LDD-L drivers all in a row, with my little DIP harness I made. LEDs consist of 1x Bridgelux Vero 5600k 90CRI, 1x regular blue, 1x 4000k neutral white, 1x cyan, and 1x violet. Blue/violet are on their own channel with a 500mA driver, the Vero is on a 300mA driver, and the cyan is on a 350mA driver. Runs off of a 1.5A 32v printer power supply from an E-waste bin at work.

 

IMG_20170903_204153.jpg
IMG_20170902_204757.jpg

 

As I said, replacing the Vero with a set of three to four royal blue, or a single Luxeon M would make this into a pretty nice reef fixture. The Vero costs $3.73 each at Digi-key, from Steve's the cyan $2.50, blue $2.75, the neutral white $0.99, and the violet is $3.90. For comparison the royal blues only cost $2.50 each, $1.99 if you do the Sunplus version. 

 

 Where can you find royal lux m's at nowadays ? 

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Cpl_Wiggles

Just completed this build. Turned out well! Need to add a resistor to the white to bring out the blue more.

CameraZOOM-20180127192724341.jpg

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Lingwendil

Adding a resistor won't bring out the white, it will just drop voltage... you need another driver unless you try a very large (and HOT) resistor shunting each of the blues, which is a very kludge way of doing things... add another white to the string, or pick up an LDD-L driver ($3.49 each shipped, from LED Supply) and run the blues and whites separate.

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Cpl_Wiggles
59 minutes ago, Lingwendil said:

Adding a resistor won't bring out the white, it will just drop voltage... you need another driver unless you try a very large (and HOT) resistor shunting each of the blues, which is a very kludge way of doing things... add another white to the string, or pick up an LDD-L driver ($3.49 each shipped, from LED Supply) and run the blues and whites separate.

White is too bright, trying to tone down the white.

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MedievalITGuy
1 hour ago, Lingwendil said:

Adding a resistor won't bring out the white, it will just drop voltage... you need another driver unless you try a very large (and HOT) resistor shunting each of the blues, which is a very kludge way of doing things... add another white to the string, or pick up an LDD-L driver ($3.49 each shipped, from LED Supply) and run the blues and whites separate.

Alternatively, can you add a third blue LED, or perhaps swap the white out for a mint or lime LED?

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Lingwendil

I would add a regular blue (not royal) and see how it does. Regular blues are a nice addition to a basic white/royal blue array.

22 hours ago, Cpl_Wiggles said:

White is too bright, trying to tone down the white.

sorry, got mixed up on it, but I think you know what I meant lol.

 

21 hours ago, MedievalITGuy said:

Alternatively, can you add a third blue LED, or perhaps swap the white out for a mint or lime LED?

Does anybody sell individual Mint LEDs mounted to stars yet? I haven't seen any so far. I would love a few to play with...

 

 

I still think a pair of LDD drivers would be perfect for this type of build. Add a headphone jack with the two channels feeding the two PWM inputs, and you are ready for a easy interface to a controller. Just a power cord and a signal cord. Run it all off of a 12-36 volt power brick. I like 19 volt laptop power supplies for this, and have half a dozen just sitting here for various future small builds. I'd gladly send one to you for the cost of shipping ( USPS priority mail small flat rate box/padded envelope should be $7, I do PayPal) and they range from 1.75 all the way up to 7 amps in capacity, very handy...

 

Could even put the drivers in a separate box and feed the fixture with a bit of Cat5/6 cable, four pairs will do four channels, or three channels and a fan. Nice way to make it work too.

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Cpl_Wiggles
On 1/28/2018 at 4:35 PM, MedievalITGuy said:

Alternatively, can you add a third blue LED, or perhaps swap the white out for a mint or lime LED?

How many lights can a single driver support? 

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Lingwendil

depends on the driver and the voltage of the string of LEDs...

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ajmckay
On 1/30/2018 at 3:19 PM, Cpl_Wiggles said:

My question geared towards the specifics of this build with a variable voltage dimmer and a LDD700 driver. I think 3-4 is the max...

You're right.  If you stick to this same circuit then you're limited to 3-4 LEDs at a typical 3v.

 

If you use a 48v LDD driver and a power supply with enough output (>48v with enough current) then you could run 14-15 LEDs (on a big enough heatsink).   If you wanted to go over the 12v limit of the dimmer circuit you can do that as demonstrated by the following post:

http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/9068697-post5.html

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Cpl_Wiggles

Intriguing. This little build was fun and a good cheap insurance policy should my Steve's have issues...or if I sent it in for the iridescence booster upgrade...

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