Modding a Cheap Chinese LED Light - Full Build Log


New member I, like many reefers, wanted to upgrade my T-5 lighting to something better. I had pretty much 2 options: MH or LED. I could have tried to supplement my T-5s, but that would have made my tank top very cluttered. Not a fan of clutter.

Reviewing LED lighting pretty much narrows it into 2 catagories: cheap Chinese lights, and brand-name LED lighting. If your tank is small, you can maybe get away with a Kessil 150 for like $225, but unfortunately my tank is a 46 gallon bow. Not huge, but big enough that I would need at least 2. Radions and AIs look great, but cost just as much. I wasn't looking to spend ~$600-$800 on a light. Chinese LEDs look fine, but do they even work? Are they cheap performing? Will they actually yield results? MH is cheap in the short term, but replacement lights are spendy. Then there is the heat issue.

So...I had to balance my requirements. Money was a biggie. I could give up control, since I was getting LEDs and using less energy and creating less heat. MH would bleed me dry, and I didn't want to keep pouring money into bulbs. So I decided I would meet in the middle: cheap Chinese LED, and tweak it to meet the demands that corals ACTUALLY have.

SO...this is that build log. I am buying the light, a 21" wide, 4x12 LED/pod light rated at 120w. It is too short for my tank. SO i will be adding to the sides, swapping out the LEDs that are in it for a better spectrum, and upgrading the cooling system and power drivers to handle a 50% increase in LEDs.

I am sure some people may not like how I do this. I am sure I will mess up at some point, or regret certain decisions. I fully expect that. I know there are likely better ways to do some of this. My thought is that this is the best balance FOR ME, considering my time, cost, and desires. I hope some people find this useful, and maybe it might inspire some confidence in DIY Leds!


New member
Ok, here is what I am working with:


Original Specs:

Dimmer One(24 LEDs): Blue 460nm;

Dimmer Two(24 LEDs): 8 Warm White(3500K), 8 Neutral White(6500K), 4 V (400-420nm), 2 Green 520nm, 2 Deep Red 660nm.

◇ View Angle: 90 degree LED
◇ Input Voltage: AC85-264V
◇ Operating Frequency: 50Hz/60Hz
◇ Dimensions: 20.6x6.6x2.8''(516x165x70mm)
◇ Gross Weight: 12Lbs(5.5Kgs)


New member
Here is the plan:

1. Build 2 12-LED pods. These will be mounted at the ends of the light to give it additional length. Pods will keep with the updated (see below) LED light pattern.

2. Build 2 small, 2-LED strips that will mount parallel between the added pods and the light shell using 470nm Deep Blue LEDs.

3. Install 3 additional drivers in the light shell. 2 Mean Well LPC-35-700 drivers, one for each pod, and a 15-watt, 350ma driver for Moonlights.

4. Install a 3rd IPC (read: PC power plug) connection in the shell for power to the 2 pod drivers. Run a small power cord below it, grommetted, for the power to the Moonlight driver. This ensures that all lights can be controlled by a timer.

5. Remove and replace LEDs in the main light to ensure full spectrum coverage. In light of newer (last 2 years) research that shows that 80% of coral light spectrum absorption occurs between 400nm-460nm, with the majority between 420-450, make that spectrum a priority.

6. To reduce cost, no dimmers will be installed additionally. Dimmable drivers were over double the cost that I spent, and in keeping the pods at only 700ma, the dimmability should not be an issue.

7. To handle the additional power and wiring, upgrade the stock cooling system. Swap out stock for new fans, and replace with fans having a static pressure of at least 2.8mg/ml to ensure negative case pressure (i.e. it will pull in cool air from the side vents)

8. Cut and build plexi case to house the side pods. Pods will be cooled with a cheap PC video card cooler, that perfectly fits the pod. Fans will run off of the stock fan power.

So this is the plan. I am sure it will change. But I have tried to do my homework, run schematics, and get this organized reasonably well. is the light plan:

Light Color Stock.jpg
Light Blue Stock.jpg

Here is the plan for the changes:
(red lines through LEDs not staying in the light)
New Modified Light Order.jpg
New Modified Light Order2.jpg

And the final planned layout:
(pink lines are current flow patterns)
Final LED Layout.jpg