How to Make LED Fish Tank Lighting

Written by nicholas bruckner
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How to Make LED Fish Tank Lighting
LED lights make fish easy to see. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting is an excellent option for any salt or fresh water fish tank. LED light bulbs are energy efficient, long-lasting and relatively easy to install. These features reduce operating costs over the long term, though they can be initially expensive. Environmentally friendly LED lighting does not contain harmful chemicals like mercury or phosphorus, unlike florescent bulbs. LED lighting doesn't have to be expensive, and it can be customised for your freshwater fish tank.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Aquarium with hood
  • Drill
  • LED rope lights
  • 4 to 6 zip ties
  • Scissors

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Drain the water from your fish tank to a level where none of the materials you are working with will contact the water in your tank.

  2. 2

    Remove the aquarium hood and set it on top of the aquarium perpendicular to its proper position. Make sure that there is at least four inches of open space beneath the cover to ensure that the drill bit does not hit anything but the hood in the next step. Make sure both sides of the hood are securely supported.

  3. 3

    Sketch out the pattern you'd like to follow for your personal lighting system. You might use a zigzag pattern to evenly space your lighting throughout the tank. Be creative and have fun. Lay out the LED light rope inside the lid to make sure your design accounts for the flexibility of the rope. Mark at least four areas with a pencil spaced out throughout the lid to secure the LED light rope to the top of the lid. Each area should be at least one inch from any edge of the lid. These marks will indicate where you will drill holes to secure the LED rope. Remove the rope before you start drilling.

  4. 4

    Drill two holes separated by one inch through the top of your aquarium hood at each pencil mark. Repeat this process four to six times, laying each pair of holes evenly throughout the hood. Use a standard drill bit the same diameter as the width of your zip ties.

  5. 5

    Flip the lid upside down and insert the thin end of one zip tie into one hole and then out of the adjacent hole without closing the zip tie. Repeat this process for each pair of holes. If you have done this correctly, two loose ends of each zip tie should protrude from the lid toward you.

  6. 6

    Lay out your LED light rope according to your predetermined pattern, which should mirror the location of the zip ties. Make sure the LED light rope rests between the two ends of each pair of zip tie ends so when you secure each zip tie they will fasten over the rope.

  7. 7

    Close the zip ties over the light rope and tighten them, and cut off extra zip tie material with a scissors. Ideally, you have selected zip ties the same colour as your aquarium hood so they are not easily visible when you flip the lid over.

  8. 8

    Drill one hole in the corner of the aquarium hood that is the same diameter as your LED light rope for the rope to exit. This end will go toward your power source.

  9. 9

    Flip the aquarium hood over, and place it on top of your fish tank. Plug in your LED light rope and test out your customised, economical LED lighting system.

Tips and warnings

  • LED aquarium lighting is initially expensive, but standard LED bulbs now last up to 50,000 hours and cost less in the long run.
  • LED lighting also creates less heat, so a cooling or fan system is not necessary as it is with some other lighting options.
  • Determine which sort of LED lights will best meet your fish tank lighting needs. If you have a saltwater tank, more powerful LED lights will be required. Large and deep tanks also require more lighting. This is ideal for a tank with relatively few plants. Tanks with live reefs require more light, and purchasing LED fish tank lights with higher wattage is recommended.
  • Electricity and water can be a lethal combination. The human body can work as a conduit between the two, and severe injury may result. Unplug all electronics, wiring systems and lights while installing LED lights, and drain water from the fish tank as an added precaution.

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