Ultimate DIY LED guide for the Reef tank

tlandrum

New member
OK, let me start out with I am NOT an expert"¦ not even close! In fact I am writing this HOPING some experts will chime in and make some changes in my tank, and how I am doing things.

Now, what I am doing here is I am going to put everything I have learned, my thoughts process, and a TON of stuff I have learned and hoping it will save someone else from having to work as hard as I did to learn everything.

Now, what do I have, and what am I trying to do:

800gal show tank"¦ planning on SPS corals
DIY LED lights "“ I am going with MakersLED head sync rail and controlers and CREE LEDs (mostly cree, some exotic as well).

MakersLED
I went with MakersLED sync because of ease and support. I am quite sure I could have built my own sync, but why? They also have some great controllers and other people who support or have info on the MakersLED.

Cree bulbs"¦ they just seem to be the standard. 3W Cree bulbs, most of which are at 700mA (but be sure to check that).

Now, lets get into some info I worked on and how I came to some of the numbers I have:

Light spread"¦ AKA what lens to chose

First LED's are not so much about wattage, light, and really you want to get right down to it PAR. But how do you know how much light you need on your tank.
First the LED bulbs mostly come with bulbs that spread out 120° or more. So you get a lot of light that is going out the sides of your tank, and not down on your coral. So one of the most important things which lens you use. Here is a nice table I have found to help with your lens. The big determining factor is how deep your tank is. The big thing is not so much how deep your tank is, but how far the lights are above the bottom

Under 25" None
25" - 29" 80°
30" - 37" 60°
38" - 45" 40°
46" and over 20°

So since my tank is 48" deep I am going to need 20° lenses.

Quantity of lights"¦ AKA home many you are going to need

This again depends on depth, but it mostly depends on the square inches of your tank surface (or bottom).
So take the legends and width of your tank, multiply these together. Take this number and divide the number corresponding to the table and you will have the number of lights you will need

Under 12" one for ever 20 inches square
12-30" one for ever 15 inches square
Over 30" one for ever 12 inches square

My tank is 84"x48", so that's 4,032 square inches of surface area.
My tank is over 30", so we will need 1 LED for ever 12sq/in
So I am going to need about 336 LEDs.

Another formula I have seen is that for every 24"x24"x24" area, you want to use around 8x NW, 16x RB, and 4x blue. For my tank that works out to 256 RB, 128 W, and 64 B. So these are both in the same ballpark


Spectrum "¦ AKA what color

We have the number of bulbs we need, but that is only part of the LED story. The spectrum is very important.

Corals (and algae) use certain colors of light for their photosynthesis. It is beyond my goals to go into that, just know the most important ones are blue.


You base colors are: Neutral XT-E royal blue, cree xt-e white, and XP-E2 blue in a 4:2:1 ratio
4 XT-E royal blue
2 XT-E white
1 XP-E2 blue

Now, this is just the base colors. If you use nothing but these colors you should do great. I mean if you use nothing but white you should be OK; but, this does not totally fit into the two goals of lighting (in this order):
1. To provide opium lighting for health coral growth
2. To provide the opium lighting for viewing the colors in your coral

Here are a few notes I have on the different colors.
  • "¢ cree xt-e royal blue (133)
    • o base LEDs used in aquarium lighting as the blue light
    • o for moonlight when turned down
  • "¢ cree xp-e2 blue (44)
    • o used in combination with neutral white and royal blue
    • o one XP-E2 blue for every four XT-E royal blue for a ~14K look.
  • "¢ Using more than that can be detrimental, as our eyes can pick blue out much better than royal blue and the color of the light can quickly turn into a Windex blue.
  • "¢ cree xt-e white, Neutral (83)
    • o base LEDs used in aquarium lighting
  • "¢ add in other colors to supplement if necessary
  • "¢ cree xt-e white, Warm (6)
    • o base LEDs used in aquarium lighting
  • "¢ add in other colors to supplement if necessary
  • "¢ cool blue - 470nm (10)
    • o bring your oranges and reds out in your corals
    • o small amounts on a tank as it will quickly over power other colors
  • "¢ turquoise - 495nm (10)
    • o mixed with 660nm Deep Red and 455nm Royal Blue
    • o When mixed with the Deep Red and Royal Blue, all 3 colors will display a "White" light but still bring out fluorescent pigments found in corals. to bring out oranges and reds
    • o wavelength is almost a green color. The idea behind this wavelength is to fill the missing gap needed to bring out certain colors like reds and oranges in a standard Neutral White + Royal Blue combo
  • "¢ and is currently controversial
  • "¢ deep red - 660nm (10)
    • o mixed with our Turquoise - 495nm and 475nm Cool Blue, reds can be used in more quantities because the overall color of the LEDs becomes white.
  • "¢ hyper violet led - 430nm (125)
    • o Often mistaken for UV LED, this 430nm LED is in the perfect range for coral growth and fluorescence
    • o Combine this with the CREE XT-E Royal Blue, which runs at 455nm, to get the perfect range of Violet / Royal Blue for your corals to make them really "pop"
    • o These LEDs will look dim to you because of their 430nm wavelength which is almost outside the range your eyes can see but they will provide incredible PAR for corals.
  • "¢ true violet led - 410nm (125)
    • o Often mistaken for UV LED, this 410nm LED is in the perfect range for coral growth and fluorescence
    • o Very little below 400nm (the cut off for UV)
    • o Combine this with the CREE XT-E Royal Blue, which runs at 455nm, to get the perfect range of Violet / Royal Blue for your corals to make them really "pop"
    • o These LEDs will look dim to you because of their 410nm wavelength which is almost outside the range your eyes can see but they will provide incredible PAR for corals.

So, we know we need a base lighting of royal blue, white, and blue.
In addition to this we really do need to add something further down the violet range, and we need just about as many of these as we do the Royal blue.

Then we get into some of the other things, which really are just there to bring out some of the different colors in the corals.

Basically you want the fast majority of your lights to be Royal and violet. Then white, and blue. Then a few more of the other colors, just to fill in some of the color spectrum.


My numbers--- at least my best guess!

So, lets get back to my tank, and how many I am going to use. First I am going to give you the numbers I am going to use, and then I am going to tell you why.

336 base colors

I basically took an excel spread sheet and started playing with the numbers until the 4:2:1 ratio worked out to 336. That worked out to

192 Royal blue
96 White, Neutral
48 Blue
18 White, Warm
18 Cool Blue
18 Turquoise
18 Deep Red
156 Hyper violet
36 True violet

So that is my ideal. I don't know that it is realistic in any way shape or form, but it is my ideal starting point. Plus, any by totally accident, it comes out to a nice even 600 LEDs.


How we got here"¦ AKA, beware the trigonometry!!!

Before we move on I would like to talk about how I came to some of those numbers. Specifically the 18's, and how they really should be more like 27's, maybe even 36!?!
(As an aside I will say that this is very likely too much of the red, turquoise, warm white, and cool blue"¦ but in order to get the coverage over all the tank I needed this large a quantity. The good news about having this many is I can have most of them on their own channel, so I can turn each color down as needed. It will be easy to do as I may end up with as many as 60 different channels!)

First lets take a look at the heat sync rail we are looking at.

http://www.clay-boa.com/product_images/e/580/nano_reef_makersled_dimensions__43878_zoom.png

A few numbers:
The entire rail is 6.45" wide
There are 5 lanes of LEDs, and the widest LED's will be 2.77" apart.
The rail sticks out another 1.8375" past these outer LEDs.

Next I needed to know how much light was on the bottom of the tank from each LED. Here are my knows:

The lens is 20°
The tank is 48" deep
The water is up to the overflow, which is below the top rim of the tank
The LED is some distance over the water"¦ so lets just call it 50" from the LED to the bottom of the tank.
A little trigonometry, split to get a right angle triangle solve for Tangent(10)x50 and you have that the radius of the beam is just under 9". (increase the distance 51" or 52" and you basically have 9"). So lets call it 9", so each LED shine a 18" circle on the bottom of the tank.

I once put in a sprinkler system for my parents. One of the important points is you didn't put the sprinkler heads one diameter apart, you put them a radius apart. You want to make sure one head reaches the next head. Doing that you turn down so that each head puts out half as much as you need because it has totally duplicate coverage by the ones next to it. You also will not have large holes that are not covered. I took this same idea to the lights. Make sure every light reaches to the center of the next light. Using this logic no light should be anymore than 9" from the next one of the same color.

Back to the trig!

Lets look at say red (mostly because red is short to type). You want to totally cover the bottom of the tank with red, but at an absolute minimal amount. So you want all red LED's exactly 9" apart. No more, no less. If you have less space between you will duplicate too much. If you more space between you will have holes where there is no red.

So if we only mount the red on the outer channels they will be 2.775" apart. If you picture a right triangle you have the short leg equal to 2.775", and the hypotenuse 9". Square each, add, and square root, and you have that there needs to be a red every 8.56" down the rail. With a 72" rail that comes out to about 9 along the rail.

Now, if the rest of the rail is 1.8375" beyond the outside lane, and you want the same 2.7" between"¦ well that is shot, you already have 3.6" between. So you can do some craziness, or just accept that you have what you have and there will be a line of less red between the two rails.

So now I just throw this all out, and say lets make 3 rails, and lets put three evenly spread three rails across the tank. This will put each rail 5.55" apart, and leave a gap of about 1.6" between the rails and along the edges. I figure that is acceptable. Especially as it directly under the LED where the light would be the strongest.

Now one more thing we need to look at. The rail can handle 30 LEDs per foot, so can we put that many LED's on 3 72" rails. The answer is no. We have 18' of heat sync, and if we max them out at 30 per foot we are only able to 540 LED's. And to be perfectly honest I know the worst thing you can do to an LED is keep it hot.

So now I am looking at 4 72" rails just to hold all the LED's I need! Wow!

198 Royal blue
99 White, Neutral
50 Blue
36 White, Warm
36 Cool Blue
36 Turquoise
36 Deep Red
144 Hyper violet
36 True violet
671 total LED's
4 rails.

Again, I feel this is a high number. By other calculations I have made I had just over 400 LED's on two rails. But trying to follow the numbers this is where I am.

So, lets go through several variations I am playing with, and lets see if any of them make any more sense that another


Now this is the first numbers I have been working with. I will be honest I have no idea where exactly I got these numbers. As I recall I extrapolated them from another person who posted their LED schematic. I liked this because"¦well because 421 LED's are a lot cheaper than 670!

133 Royal blue
83 White, Neutral
44 Blue
6 White, Warm
10 Cool Blue
10 Turquoise
10 Deep Red
125 Hyper violet
0 True violet
421 Total LED's


Option two. This is the first attempt at me creating my own calculations as laid out above.

192 Royal blue
96 White, Neutral
48 Blue
18 White, Warm
18 Cool Blue
18 Turquoise
18 Deep Red
156 Hyper violet
36 True violet
600 Total LED's


After looking at what it would take, and really running the math to it's fullest, I came to the conclusion that 600 was just not enough. To get a full even spread of all the lighting. So I increased the numbers to run on 4 rails.

198 Royal blue
99 White, Neutral
50 Blue
36 White, Warm
36 Cool Blue
36 Turquoise
36 Deep Red
144 Hyper violet
36 True violet
671 Total LED's


Hoping I could get away with"¦ well less I got looking at the controllers. If I have one controller at each end (8 total as we are now talking about 4 heat sync rails), we would have a total of 560 LED's that could be run on the 40 different channels. So how about a schematic that will only use 560 LED's.

189 Royal blue
94 White, Neutral
47 Blue
18 White, Warm
18 Cool Blue
18 Turquoise
18 Deep Red
140 Hyper violet
18 True violet
560 Total LED's


In the end I think I am going to push more for the 671 number. It may be over kill"¦ but it is not hugely over kill. It also means that I am going to be building lights for a very long time. I am going to order enough for one now, and wont build the next one until"¦ well later. It also means that I will not be ready for SPS for quite some time"¦ but maybe I can at the least get something going in my tank!

I also will be looking at the number of cooling fans. One thing I very much don't like about the makers drivers is they only support one fan each. I am going to need to put some kind of relay or transistor to allow the single to turn on a whole string of fans. I'm just not sure exactly how many... but I know I have to keep these diodes cool!

Thank you all, and I would greatly appreciate any input on this! I will be sure to update you as I go.
 

metasyntactic

New member
Do you have any thoughts on using LEDs for lighting effects like adding shimmer reflections to your tank. I've been looking at buying some high intensity LEDs off Mouser to try and create a intense spotlight in addition to my normal tank lighting. I was hoping I might be able to create a defined shimmer in my 3 foot deep tank or possibly even visible light beams. I know the shimmer is possible with strong LEDs and suitable surface agitation.

My main concern is that I don't know what affect the high intensity spotlight would have on my corals, even if this was a thing that was run only occasionally.
 

tlandrum

New member
The main thing you need for shimmer is you need point light source. Some of the commercial LED's are a single LED, as opposed to hundreds of LEDs like I am describing. Those single point LED's are great for providing shimmer.
The next thing you need is surface agitation. Get a powerhead and point it more at the surface to really agitate the surface.

What you will then get is a beam of light that gets broken up and scattered around the tank. Think of how a disco ball works... a single spot light shinning on a ball scattering the light around. (Infact if you get too much shimmer it is referred to as a disco ball lighting). What you end up with is ares where the light is more intense, and right next to it areas where the light is less intense. If you have more diffuse light (think T5 that is all across and the same) you will have the light coming from all directions so you wont have the intense areas and dark areas.

The way I am planning on helping the shimmer is I will group the LEDs. So instead of a long string of LED's evenly spaced there will be some groupings. (these groupings will also be evenly spaced... I can only handle so much!). So having a good bring single point LED, some good surface agitation, and even better having that LED shooting across the tank I think you will be happy with the results. And as it is only one LED, and shooting across the top of the tank I think you will not have a lot of issues with the coral... but get a PAR meter if you want to be sure.
 

tlandrum

New member
I'm still in the process of buying all the supplies and building them... so I agree, I am looking forward to it as well!:lmao:
 

sfsuphysics

New member
48" deep... yowsers. I think that would push the envelope of "DIY LED" people.

Personally I'd step back from following rules LED placement/numbers. Your calculation takes into account a "uniform" lighting over the entire surface , but literally none of them do it, even things like the Orphek fixture that has LEDs aligned perfect rows isn't meant to completely cover the tank.

You have a beastly tank, and you do need to think a bit differently, not telling you what you should do, but if it were me this is the direction I would go. Get the tank up and running and my rock placed how I want. Then let that dictate how and where lights go, if I had a rock structure almost to the surface (not saying you should but the "if" situation) would you really want LEDs directly on top of it making a huge hot spot? And if you had wide open sandy areas where no corals will be, do you really care if your concentration of LEDs are? Finally put corals where the light is sufficient for them, don't try to chase some dream where you'll make it so any coral will work in any place in the tank. Also with spread out LEDs like that you're going to get the mother of all disco balls going on with that tank.

Also look into some of the "pucks" out there, different vendors sell premade LED boards, some commercial LED makers even have replacement boards. Make your life easier by not having to solder 10 LEDs when there's a puck by vendor X which does it for me, and it even wires out the channels so all I need to do is measure total voltage drop between pucks and wire them up appropriately. They might be more expensive, but how much are you really trying to save?

Regardless of the direction I would look at my options, build a single "demo" model, and see how that really works before committing to a big build (especially if you're trying to save money). Not saying it's an easy job, but then again with a tank your size, you already left easy at the door.
 

Vinny Kreyling

Premium Member
If you would like I can send you a copy of the Solaris spec sheet on the last ones built that mimicked 14K. There are no reds or violets & only a few greens.
I had very good results & would still have it if parts were available.
They used IIRC 30 degree optics & I ran @ 100% about 6 inches above water line.
 

tlandrum

New member
If you would like I can send you a copy of the Solaris spec sheet on the last ones built that mimicked 14K. There are no reds or violets & only a few greens.
I had very good results & would still have it if parts were available.
They used IIRC 30 degree optics & I ran @ 100% about 6 inches above water line.

I would love to see anything you have. :celeb3:
 

lingwendil

Man who sold the world
Don't bother with so many individual royal blues. Use the royal blue COBs that are available now, and base your whites of of COBs as well. use individual stars for color additions. It will vastly simplify the build and wiring.
 

bcheriyan

Aqua99
I am also looking to DIY for COB what all you use and in what ratio
I saw for CITIZEN ROYAL BLUE COB but for white what COB to use ?
Also was any one have experian on cree lumia 5.2 - 70w full spectrum 5 channel cree led

thank
 
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