10 gal DIY light hood - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-11-2006, 12:22 AM Thread Starter
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10 gal DIY light hood

*gasp!* A non-CO2 DIY?? Amaising.

10 gal DIY light hood

So I am running out of room at home for aquariums, and I need to cut down (humidity) but still want to have separate tanks for multiple shrimp species so I got the idea to bring my spare 10 gallon tank in to work and set it up there. Only problem is I don’t have a hood to go with it and I need enough light to grow plants. My other 10 gal is set up right beside a 15 gal and together they share a 4 foot strip light, works great but I needed something compact and presentable for the office.

So that got me searching for DIY hoods and the most I could come up with was the constant AH supplies suggestion. I got tired of it. Now I love their lights and reflectors but 1) I’m in Canada and the cross boarder cost always kicks me and 2) they were going to be quite a bit more expensive than I was hoping to spend on my little 10 gal. I also didn’t want to wait for it to be shipped. When I want to upgrade to better lighting, and I have the money I will go with AH but for now I just wanted plan and simple, readily available bulbs (I don’t want to be re-ordering bulbs every 6 months and re-pay the border crossing fees every time) and CHEEP. I searched forums and aquarium sites high and low and could not find a DIY plan that did not involve the AH supplies lights, now I know there has to be another option.

So I set out to find a solution to my lighting problem. I wandered numerous hardware stores various days and amounts of time. I eventually thought I would have to settle for the little square end compact florescent tubes but could not find a ‘ballast’ or such to go with them. Crazy. But I wasn’t to fond of this solution anyways. The bulbs were small, I would have to pack in quite a few to get enough light and an even coverage of light. They were also not the greatest quality light for plants. Then in one store I stumbled across some very nice 18 inch (46 CM) T8 ‘plant and aquarium’ bulbs! Awesome! Perfect size and in the spectrum I need! So very happy I picked up a few and wandered down to the ballast section to see if I could find the right size so I could make my own fixture. Sure enough there was one. I was bouncing with joy. I’ve never seen this size plant bulb before so don’t think it is widely carried (I can’t imagine there is much of a demand). I picked up a few more odds and ends and set off back home to start the project. (I didn't take photos of the first number of steps so I just drew little pictures. Hopefully they make sence)

Supplies (all of this stuff can be picked up at at a big Home Depot):

4 by 1 wood (3 pieces at 21 inches,1 piece at 19 3/8 inches, 2 pieces at 11 inches)
2 by 1 wood (2 pieces at 11 inches) optional
5 by 1 wood (1 piece at 21 inches?)
Saw (or have the wood cut when you buy it)
Wood glue
Wood clamps (at least 2)
2 18 inch (46CM) 15 W T8 plant and aquarium florescent light bulbs
Electrical tape
Electrical ‘nubs’
End pieces
Shellac/varnish (for outside)
White paint (for inside)
Piano hinge (2 pieces at 18 inches?)
Hack saw (to cut the piano hinge)
Small wood screws (for hinges)

I had the saws, screws, measureing tape and such at home already so the total cost, not including those was about ....

The Project!

So first thing I did was double check the lights would fit with everything, yep good.

I first measured and cut the wood.
Measure and cut the piano hinges.

3 pieces of 1 by 4 wood fit perfectly across the top of the 10 gal so I went with that. After cutting I glued two of them together.

When dry I then screwed the piano hinges on and added the third to complete the top portion of the lid. Make sure the hinge of the hinge is on the upper side of the lid.

I then added the second of the piano hinges and screwed on the 1 by 6 so that it was 90 degrees to the top thus creating the front of the lid. Again make sure the hinge of the hinge is on the upper side of the lid. This design will allow you to open the front panel only OR to fold both pieces of wood back at once and lay them flat. This was a design feature I wanted as my other lights only have the first hinge and I find it a bit annoying to have the other portion sticking straight up as I work and to have the light shine in my eyes every time I feed. But I need the access provided by having both pieces fold out of the way. So this way just gave me more options. No more light in the eyes when feeding but still have access for aquascaping.

This finished I could then measure the exact distance needed for the sides of the light hood. (adding the piano hinges added length to the lid so if I had measured with just the wood laying together it would have been short by a little) having measured the sides I cut them to length and glued them to the portion of the lid without the hinges (important here….otherwise you’ll have just wasted a hinge and will not be able to open the lid in that section).

Then I added the back piece of wood, measured and cut to fit inside the two side pieces.

I added a spare 2 by 1 portion of wood glued to the edge of the sides to provide more stability (my original wood was a few eighths to long so the edges were bearly on the aquarium edge…oops. You can skip the 1 by 2 if your measurements were right…) When dry I drilled a hole in the back for the lights power cord and a smaller hole for airline tubing and power cord if needed.

I then painted the entire inside of the hood white to provide the most reflection. I also painted the ballast white to reflect and to help protect it from the moisture. When this was all dry I installed the lights.

I thread the power cord through the hole (important to do this first….) then hooked up the ballast and using the light bulbs to measure I screwed the end pieces in place. Used the electrical caps and then wrap each connection in electrical tape. Screw the ballast to the wood and your almost done!

All that needs to be done is to sand the wood and varnish it. (or stain then varnish if you like) Voila! A economical way to achieve lighting over a 10 gallon tank!

The two piano hinges allow the light to be opened by just one portion for feeding, or to open both portions for aquascaping. It folds back and out of your way. A different option would to only use one hinge, in the mid of the lid and just glue the front hatch to the last segment of the top, but I chose to go with two hinges this time (I have another with just one hinge).

But now I’ve been assigned to another workstation for the winter and that defeats the purpose of having a tank at my desk…I won’t be there! (no room at the new station and I work outdoors all summer) DOH!!! But I now have a nice 10 Gal light, I feel accomplished and hope this helps others.

Let me know what you think of if theres anything I can do to improve the DIY article (or the light).

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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-11-2006, 12:48 AM
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Nice Job...Thanks for sharing your work!

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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-11-2006, 01:46 AM Thread Starter
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One thing I should add (but the edit didn't work) is that because the lid is solid there is no air flow. This traps all the heat and moisture inside the hood so that may be a problem long term, we'll see. I wanted the lid to not let any light out but the addition of a fan may be a good idea, or just leave a portion of the back open.

Also forgot to add the balast to the equipment list and total cost was around 80$ (not including things like the saw, wood clamps, and glue which I already had)
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-11-2006, 01:25 PM
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Great job! I really like that hood design. Although I don't see it being too much cheaper than buying a ready made hood. It appears to be very flexible as to what you can do with it. The possibilities are endless, and it looks nice too.

Did you consider using anything besides white paint for the reflector?

I was thinking that if heat were to become an issue you could drill a series of holes on the back side to allow air to circulate.

I was also thinking that you could insert by sliding a sheet of glass between the side rails and the bulbs to protect them and your reflector from moisture and corrosion. However that would be something else that requires maintenance and adds to the cost..
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-11-2006, 03:40 PM
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That is a nice simple design that can be fit to almost any tank. I made my hood so the front part of the top folds back on top of the back part, too, and I really like that feature. My suggestions are: (not criticisms, just suggestions)
Use thinner boards - my Home Depot has 1/4" thick pine boards which would work well, but they are harder to glue and screw into, due to the thinness.
Add a little 40mm diameter fan in the end of the hood, and holes in the back for the air to escape. My hood started to warp if I left my fan off for any period of time. You can wire the little fan on the inside of the hood, running the wires out the back, so it doesn't look bad at all.
A different look is to make the hood fit inside the top of the tank, resting on the lips provided for the glass top. The best look, and hardest to do, is to make the hood exactly the size of the top of the tank, with extensions that fit down into the tank a bit to keep it from sliding around on the top.

When we DIY, we have almost unlimited options - one of the best parts about DIY.

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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-12-2006, 12:27 AM
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Thanks for posting. I always pictured those wood canopies in the way that the whole front part lifts up. It's a good idea that only the top and front lip lifts up.
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-12-2006, 12:37 AM
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by the way, no filter/pump? I'm planning to revise my plan
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-13-2006, 09:41 PM Thread Starter
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I have a hole driled for airline tubing but thats it. If I have a filter it will be a sponge.
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