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Top 05 DIY Aquarium Light Project in 2021

Owning an aquarium goes beyond just living the lifestyle. Regardless of the size of your aquarium, you would agree that the use of additional light can create a beautiful scene with some outstanding DIY aquarium light projects.

Although there are different lighting systems, the most commonly used one is the LED lighting system.

Beyond the different types of lighting systems available, you can take on a DIY Aquarium light indoor project during your leisure and spice up the look of your living room.

LED lighting systems use less power and generate little heat, hence the perfect option for all your DIY Aquarium light projects.

If you have little or no idea about electricity and its workings, please pass on this DIY because you do not want to put your pets in harm’s way.

Best 05 DIY Aquarium Light Project

Read on to discover 5 DIY Aquarium light projects you can take on.

Whether you understand the workings of electricity or not, we will describe these DIYs in easy-to-follow steps. Before you begin these fun projects, you will need the following materials; 

  • Waterproof rigid LED strips.
  • Glue.
  • LED driver.
  • Wooden/aluminum bars and screws.

For each DIY, there will be specific materials. Still, these are general materials that you cannot overlook for all your Aquarium DIYs. 

As much as we will describe how to complete these projects in easy steps, be rest assured they are also cost-friendly. Without further ado, let’s get to these fun projects;

01. Reef Light Kit

Reef lighting system usually requires pricey products, but we will highlight some inexpensive tools that will get the job done.

To complete this DIY, you need the following supplies; 

  • Two pieces of Aluminum sheeting for introducing water. Reasonable option because it will not rust or introduce a contaminant into your aquarium. 
  • Aluminum channels. Similar build material because it will not rust when water is introduced. 
  • Waterproof Light strips at the suitable wattage and warmth that suits your needs.
  • Some other essential tools you probably have already include; powered drill, drill bits, cutting shears, hooks, chains, glue, and eye screws. The drill and drill bits are used to make holes in the aluminum materials. The cutting shears are used to cut through the aluminum with ease. 

All these materials and supplies are usually available at local hardware stores.

After purchasing these tools, follow these steps for the DIY project;

  1. Gather all the purchased supplies into different piles to allow easy accessibility.
  2. Since there is no specific design, you should have a particular pattern or image you want to form with the LED lights. Afterward, you can strategically set the lights out with respect to different wattages, warmth, and wattage. 
  3. Here you will need other hands if you are not vast in wiring LED lights.
  4. Next step is to drill holes through the aluminum sheet. Holes are drilled to allow the light produced by the LED to shine through and create the pattern you drew in Step 2 above.
  5. Once the image is formed to your liking, pick up one of the aluminum sheets and cut it into smaller strips. These strips are important as framing pieces for the other sheet of aluminum in which you drilled holes. 
  6. With metal glue or screws, join the smaller aluminum pieces with the full solid sheet along the entire edge. Eventually, you would have created a box-shaped structure to house the tubes safeguarding the LED lights successfully.
  7. Drill holes at the bottom of the sheet so that the LED lights and wires have a common holding area.
  8. Fit the pieces in the box created in step 4 and secure all attachments with glue or eye screws. 
  9. Test the LED light fitted via the holes created and ran through the unused part of the aluminum sheet. Once It is confirmed that the LED lights are drawing power from the proper source, fit them firmly to the sheet. 
  10. Lastly, you will need to install a hook for joining the LED lights with the aquarium’s lid. 

02. LED RBG Strips Aquarium Project 

Like the first DIY project, you will need some aluminum materials here. However, some household tools not used in the first project will be used here; they include;

  • UPVC window sill
  • Contact Glue
  • Aluminum tape Voltmeter 
  • Hobby knife 
  • Soldering iron 
  • Transparent silicone
  • Wooden/G-clamps
  • Car Body filler/Bondo

Another similarity between these two projects is the light placement. Here the LED strips are attached to a window sill which fits rights on top of the aquarium and lights it up!

Complete this DIY by following these steps;

  1. UPVC window will is used as the body of the light. It is cut to shape and square at both edges to form grooves. So, naturally, the UPVC window sill has one edge.
  2. Next step is to create a second edge. Mark a point on the window sill, cut some grooves, bend it over and form the second edge.
  3. Usually, you might have to make adjustments due to reasons like inaccurate measurements, or the bend was just not enough. 
  4. Car Body filler, or what some know as Bondo, is used to correct the mistake above. So, unfasten the newly created bend, fill the gap with enough Bondo just to meet your requirements. Next, bend the new edge also to meet the needed amount of bend/cover. Next, apply contact glue and clamp together using wooden clamps.
  5. Once the edge of the window will can hold, you need to add a layer of aluminum tape. LED strips to lighten the aquarium will be attached to the aluminum tape, and it will do a better job acting as a heat sink than the UPVC window sill alone.
  6. Flatten the tapes as much as possible, so water doesn’t get in between the aluminum tape and the window sill. 
  7. Next step is to cut the LED light strips to match the length of the window sill. Again, fit as many strips as the window sill can take.
  8. Remove the silicone at the edges of the light with a hobby knife and prepare to solder wire to the contact points. After soldering the wires, test the light to see if it all comes on.
  9. Once the strips have been successfully powered, hot glue the wires firmly to the aluminum tape. Then, use transparent silicone to do a final attachment job of the strips to the board in a bid to protect the wiring against water.
  10. Install the board on top of the aquarium, and you are ready to go.

03. LED-based Aquarium Light Using PlexiGlass

Like the previous DIY projects, this also has a downward-facing LED-based light design. However, a sheet of plexiglass is used instead of a UPVC window sill or aluminum sheet. In this design, the idea is to;

  • reduce the cost of purchasing some luxurious.
  • Decrease the amount of heat generated by other sources of lighting.

Before we get into the steps involved in this step, ensure you do not use this lighting system on a planted tank. Because LED lights do not have the proper spectrum to support plant growth. Hence, follow these steps to complete this project, but first, you will need these supplies;

  • 1/4″ Plexiglass. 
  • LED strips.
  • Resistors.
  • Transformer.
  • Hot glue.
  • Thick copper wire.
  • Soldering Iron.
  • Solder.
  • Pencil.
  • Sandpaper.
  • Pliers.
  • Drill Press.
  • Bandsaw.

Now let’s get to making your aquarium a beauty;

  1. Depending on how lit you want your aquarium to be, decide on the number of LEDs you want to use and the installation mode.
  2. Since resistors are needed for use with LED, you must also choose the right one based on current and voltage requirements.
  3. After you have gathered all the materials needed, you must cut the plexiglass to shape. Do not make the mistake of removing the paper/plastic coating until you are done with the next step. Cut the plexiglass with a bandsaw and ensure it fits the top of your tank.
  4. Mark the spots you want to drill with a pencil in a neatly draw sketched pattern. Next step is to drill holes for the LED. Using the drill bits, make holes perfect for the size of LEDs you chose. Do not forcefully drive the bit through the plexiglass. After this, you can peel off the coating.
  5. Insert the LEDs, ensuring the flat ends of the lights face a similar direction.
  6. To keep the LEDs fixed to your plexiglass, you can solder rows/columns of LEDs together.
  7. After the rows/columns are well aligned, you can solder the primary power source to the design.
  8. Glue all the LEDs in from the top down using hot glue. Also, this glue application will insulate the base of the LEDs.
  9. At this point, you can test if all the LEDs will come on when powered. Afterward, you can solder the wires coming from the end of the transformer onto the main power rails.
  10. Modify the hood of the tank to accommodate this new set-up. Check the earlier mentioned DIYs for methods to use. Then, install the light fixture on the rim of the tank. Importantly, ensure this cannot find its way into the water; otherwise, you will electrocute the fishes.

04. DIY Rigid LED Strip Aquarium Light

Spending next to nothing, this set-up remains one of the easiest you can complete to make your aquarium something to savor. All the materials you will use here can be easily purchased at a local hardware store. Furthermore, if you practice DIYs before, you will have all the tools needed. Some of the supplies you will need include;

  1. Rigid LED strips (waterproof or not)
  2. Glue to protect the two ends of the LED strips from water.
  3. LED driver, in this case, any controller that can provide as much as 20W is sufficient. 
  4. Wooden/aluminum bars & screws; two wooden or aluminum bars and scores for installing the light fixture on the hood alongside the four screws. Aluminum bars are the advised option as they also help to release heat into the outside environment.

The steps involved in making this DIY a reality include;

  1. Take away the cap at the end of the rigid LED strip. 
  2. Apply glue on the end (now without cap) of the rigid strip. 
  3. Replace the cap you removed earlier. These first two steps are essential because they are meant to help you protect the LED strip from water. Also, you must repeat the first here steps on both ends of the LED strip.
  4. Next step is to check the polarity of the controller’s 4pin connector. 
  5. Once confirmed, the controller works perfectly and solders the led strips in the proper manner to the connector’s pins.
  6. Please note that you can use any LED driver; it can provide the required wattage so far. 
  7. Next step is to build a mount to hold the light in place for lighting your aquarium up. One way to do this is to screw the LED strips at the ends to the mid point of the wooden or aluminum bar, depending on your choice from when you are selecting your supplies. 
  8. Once you have built the mount, place it on the top of the hood and see the beauty you just created.

05. DIY Underwater Aquarium Light

Uniquely, this is the only design in our DIY Aquarium light projects that features an underwater mode of beautifying your aquarium. Because it is not an easy feat to achieve, but we have found a way out for you. Here are the supplies you will need for this project;

  • Test tubes (the kinds used in your chemistry classes).
  • Light strips (preferable short ones that can fit into the test tubes). However, you can purchase longer, inexpensive strips and cut them into desired sizes. 
  • Soldering iron
  • Glue gun

And you can achieve this in the following steps;

  1. Insert the light strips into the test tube. Ensure there are clearances at both ends of the tubes after the light strip sits conveniently inside of the tube. Significant because of the wiring works needed to light the LED up.
  2. With the soldering iron, connect the ends of the wire to the light strip. Ensure it is properly fixated on the right spots; otherwise, you will not be able to reverse the upcoming steps because it requires the use of glues to hold the wires in place permanently unless you break the test tube.
  3. Once it has been confirmed that the connection will light up the LED, you need to protect it from water since it is going underwater. Apply glue using a glue gun at the open end of the test tube where you have the wiring. Ensure every inch of that part is covered in glue and cannot be penetrated by water. Furthermore, it must be done accurately to protect your fish from electrocution from naked wire or to damage the LED strip with water. Leave to dry for a few minutes and continue with the next steps. 
  4. After the end of the test, the tube has been properly sealed; you will need to connect the LED to a power source and place it inside your tank.
  5. LED light can be placed in the tank in several ways. For example, you can drill holes in the hood to create a passage for the wires or use a slightly elevated hood that doesn’t touch the actual tank or sits on the cables just between the tank and the good. 

However, this method is commonly used in round fish blow with no covering or perforated coverings.

Aquarium DIY Light Tips and Tricks

An aquarium is a thing of beauty when well lit.

Some of these tips have been discussed and their importance; however, you must carefully follow them.

DIY Aquarium light project tips will ensure you can create something out of nothing even beyond the designs above.

  1. Never expose any wirework in your tank because water conducts electricity. Otherwise, you will electrocute all your fishes and other water animals.
  2. The goal is to light the tank up to see its content, so do not choose LED strips with a high lumen for small tanks and vice versa. 
  3. Furthermore, never use LED lights with spectrum that does not support plant growth in planted tanks.
  4. Since the idea is to light up the tank, be creative about how to light the aquarium from above or underneath.

Conclusion

Decisively, DIY aquarium light projects are one of the easiest you can take on.

But, importantly, you must be someone who can take on electricity projects and wiring works without fear. Because the basis of lighting up your aquarium requires an understanding of electricity. 

Having said that, the DIY aquarium light projects we have highlighted here are fun to complete instead of buying one at any hardware store.

Furthermore, our DIY ideas are created so that they can inspire you to create new designs we have not included. 

Let the ideas run free, so you can create an aquarium light that works efficiently and is enough to illuminate not just your aquarium but also your grow your plants. 

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