Planning a Custom LED Upgrade - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-15-2017, 09:27 PM Thread Starter
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Planning a Custom LED Upgrade

Okay, so I somewhat foolishly believed Fluval's Lumens claims around the Vista. After poking at the LEDs, and doing the math, the 8.5 gallon I've got can't be receiving more than about 300 Lumens or so from the included strip. I've hooked the strip up to a TC420 and have control over the two channels, so that's somewhat useful, but it's also gotten me thinking.

I am very much tempted to start cobbling together a fixture, and I'd probably get enough extra bits to build a larger version for a 29/20L too. But here's the sort of thing I'm attempting to do:
  • I want to keep the new fixture under the hood, in place of the original LED strip/tube thing. This means moisture resistant, and <1" in height.
  • Needs to be no wider than 2.5" and 17" long.
  • I don't want to remove the hood. Need to keep the betta in and the cat out. Replacing it may be okay.
  • I want to control it through the TC420 I'm already using.
  • I would like to have multiple channels, including a blue one I can have on a little later for night viewing before I go to bed (this is how I am using the blue channel from the stock strip).
  • I would like to overshoot low light a bit and aim for medium, just to give me flexibility in the future.
Knowing those project goals, I've put together this plan:
  • ~16" of aluminum extrusion (KLUS TRIADA), along with endcaps and clear covers. This can hold 3 strips in parallel of up to 12mm in width and can provide a bit of a heat sink.
  • ~30" of 90+ CRI bin SMD 3020 strip @ 6000-6500k. 5.4W/ft, , 36 LEDs/ft, claimed 79.6 lm/W.
  • ~10" of SMD 3014 strip @ 3000-3500k. 9.5W/ft, 72 LEDs/ft, claimed 57 lm/W.
  • 4" (two cuts) of SMD 5050 strip, Blue. 4.6W/ft
The two outer strips would be the high CRI white. The inner "strip" would be the warm white surrounded by the single cuts of blue. White, Warm White and Blue would be their own channel, controlled independently by the TC420. Each of the three spaces for strips is wide enough I can run the wiring for the center strip pieces along the sides of the strip. Once strips are tested and mounted, the plan was to use some LED seal on the strips, and then silicone the caps and covers in place with non-conductive silicone so it can withstand the condensation it will be exposed to.

If I've done my napkin math right, this gives me 90 white, 60 warm white, and 6 blue LEDs, for a total of 156, in a ~17" by 2.4" fixture that is a quarter inch high. Total wattage would be roughly 23W, with "up to" 1524 Lumens from the white LEDs available if cranked up to max. This would give plenty of headroom in this small 8.5 (think 10g standard footprint) tank to play with down the road.

I could also do a 24" version laid out similarly, which would have 261 LEDs (144 white, 108 warm white, 9 blue) which would kick it up to about 38W, and "up to" 2530 lumens. This all assumes the claimed output for the strips are accurate, but they seem within reasonable ranges from my research, although the high CRI lights may be a bit overstated (the low CRI bin of 3020 which is a bit cheaper claims 68 lm/W for the same LED design).

Anyhow, this is my plan. I figured this approach was a good way to hit the requirements, if doing it in a somewhat expensive way. But since I'm sure I'm missing something, I figured I'd let you folks tear it apart and tell me what it is I missed.
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-16-2017, 12:01 PM
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Small tank so see nothing out of place..

If larger I always recommend greater than .2W LED chips.........
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-17-2017, 02:58 PM Thread Starter
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If I had the confidence that I could seal and heatsink 1-3W emitters in the space available, Iíd be looking at those. But Iíll also look at some 5630 strips and see if I can build a design around those. It looks like there is a source of those with 90+ CRI for not too much money.

In the short term at least, Iím probably going to see if I can mount a second LED strip to the hood, since they are cheaper than the rolls of LEDs Iíd need. But if that doesnít get me into the target light range (math says it is very close, but probably a hair low), then Iíll be building a variant of this.

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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 10-03-2017, 02:54 PM Thread Starter
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So, because I want to collect the data for myself for some of these odd setups, and something like this isn’t going to lose a ton of value, I got myself a PAR meter so I could actually see what I’m doing with any light experiments.

Also installed a second LED strip into the hood of the 8.5 gallon Vista, and have been running it with the TC420. Getting ~30 PAR at the substrate in the middle of the tank with two stock strips installed. 10 PAR in the areas shaded by other plants like Water Lettuce. As I’m aiming to stay in low light, that seems spot on. So doing a custom job doesn’t seem to really be a win unless I want to go higher, oh well.

Only problem is blasting the Java Ferns with 100 par at the surface, even if only for 6 hours a day. Algae seems to be loving it.
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 10-03-2017, 05:55 PM
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Don't worry about sealing emitters, just run an acrylic splash shield. Cheap and easy.

Several bridgelux Vero would be a good starting point. Run them off of meanwell LDD drivers, and control them with a modified TC420. Add a few extra emitters to tune the look you want. For what you are trying to do you could even do four or five 3-up boards from stevesLEDs, run a cool white, warm white, and a blue on each one, and control them accordingly.

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Last edited by Lingwendil; 10-03-2017 at 05:57 PM. Reason: Edit
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 10-06-2017, 03:52 PM Thread Starter
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Since Iím aiming to try to stay within low light (but push it a bit too), the Verolux would be overkill so close to the water surface (1-2Ē), but could be run super low.

The MQ-210 Iíve been working with seems to say that the Fluval Vista stock lights are pretty decent. My first reading of the Vista 23 was off, because it was in air, and I didnít account for the adjustment factor the 210 applies assuming it is underwater, and refraction/reflection is hard to account for, but seems to be a big factor in this long, but thin and slightly tall tank.

With both strips running through the 420, and a slightly thick substrate, Iím measuring ~50 PAR with the sensor on the substrate. ~30 PAR with one strip running.

My DIY mounted second strip in the 8.5 is reporting ~34-36 PAR at the substrate (thinner substrate), and nearly 20 PAR with just one strip.

It seems like I need to turn these down already or start doing more low-medium light with CO2. So it doesnít make much sense to me to kit something together unless I wanted to go high light, high tech.

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