Edit: I learned a lot more about moonlighting these past few months. There are many more ways to moonlighting the more I look into it. People here have been very creative and came up with a lot more ways to DIY moonlighting. This is just one out of many ways to do DIY moonlighting).
I'm a complete noob in lighting and electrical wiring, so correct me if I'm wrong. I'm only doing this for fun, and also because LEDs are relatively safe since they use very little watts and emit very little heat.
After the project, you only need to see for yourself in person to understand how cool and beautiful moonlighting looks in an aquarium. It's almost as if you have another tank during night-time. The nocturnal critters come out and the diurnal critters start slowing down. The behaviour of every animal changes. Before the moonlight, the aquarium would go from noon intensity lighting to pure darkness in an instant, this caused the fish to go crazy, erratically swimming for a while every night. The moonlight helps the transition from day to night to day.
I've been really interested in moonlighting for a while now and really wanted to have it for my aquarium. However, some limits kept me from doing it initially.
Some reasons that kept me from installing moonlights:
1. Premade Moonlighting Kits are often very expensive, selling for $20-$40 each just for 2 LED bulbs. And then additional $20 something for extensions of more LED bulbs. For example: http://www.bigalsonline.ca/BigAlsCA/...wType=Category
2. There is not a lot of DIY information regarding DIY moonlighting. There is some, but they don't explain the process very clearly. Most DIY moonlighting comes from marine aquarium keepers--and the instructions to build these marine lighting systems are more complicated than they have to be. Plus they're not tailored to planted freshwater tanks.
Nevertheless, I managed to pull it off even with basic high school electrical wiring education, or at least what I learned when I wasn't sleeping in science class.
Some things I learned while researching:
There are alternatives in terms of light source, like regular tinted incandescent, tinted fluorescent, halogen, etc. But LED is probably the best because of its cost, flexibility in usage, efficiency and ease of assembly.
LED bulbs are extremely cheap--I bought 20 bulbs for $0.99CDN on ebay. It uses very little electricity and emits very little heat, but a lot of light.
The assembly process is quite simple, just some soldering, wire cutting and planning ahead of time.
Moonlight doesn't have a specific color temperature. It depends on which part of the Earth you are on, the time of the year, the atmospheric conditions, and the surface it is reflected off of. In general, in marine aquariums and saltwater, moonlight tends to look blue, whereas in freshwater, moonlight tends to look white. So I picked white LED bulbs instead of blue LED bulbs. I wasn't too concerned with the "planted" aspect of the bulbs because the goal wasn't to maximize plant growth, but to make moon lighting as realistic as possible in a freshwater aquarium.
Disclaimer: Similar to all DIY projects, there is always risk and danger involved. Especially with electricty, as it doesn't get along with water very well. Thus the utmost concern for safety should be considered before partaking in any DIY project. This guide is meant as a general guide, and users should attempt this at their own risk. I am not responsible for any accidents that may result from this project.
Anyway, here is the guide.
- electrical tape (about $5)
- soldering gun (about $10-20)
- soldering wire (about $3-5 for 85 grams, you won't need a lot anyway)
- electrical hook-up wire (For mine, I chose 18 gauge, doesn't really matter though, the thickness is mainly for aesthetics, $5-10; Also, thanks to tazcrash69 for mentioning heat-shrink tubing. See wikipedia for information.
- LED bulbs (look for on ebay, I got 20 for $1, with free resistors)
- 1/4" resistors (the ohms depend on your wiring circuitry; mine came free with the bulbs
- electric adapter (a really cheap way is to use look for old phone/electronic chargers/adapters--they have all the specifications printed on; most adapters range from 5V to 20V; also the more amps (or milliamperes, mA) it has, the more lights it can support, though it is safer to not push the adapter to its maximum capacity)
- plastic zip-ties ($1-2 for 100 or so)
If you can, buy products from a recognized brand name. This is for safety reasons. It is more likely that recognized brand name products have done product safety tests before selling.
As you can see, you can basically do the whole project for less than $10 excluding the soldering gun and labour cost. So why not give it a try if you're bored with your tank at the moment?
Credit/thanks to jinx© for the second LED bulb picture, really helpful.
Emitted Colour : White
Size (mm) : 3mm
Lens Colour : Water Clear
Forward Voltage (V) : 3.2 ~ 3.4
Reverse Current (uA) : <= 30
Luminous Intensity Typ Iv (mcd) : 4000(Typical) ~ 5000(Max)
Life Rating : 100,000 Hours
Viewing Angle : 85 ~ 100 Degree
Absolute Maximum Ratings ( Ta = 25oC )
Max Power Dissipation : 80 mw
Max Continuous Forward Current : 30 mA
Max Peak Forward Current : 75 mA
Reverse Voltage : 5 ~ 6 V
Lead Soldering Temperature : 240oC ( < 5 Sec )
Operating Temperature Range : -25oC ~ +85oC
Preservative Temperature Range : -30oC ~ +100oC
Quantity : 20
Free Resistors (Work for 12v)
The only important specs to look for is the mA, mcd, size, colour, viewing angle, and voltage. mcd is basically the light intensity, the higher the brighter. Viewing angle means the angle that the bulb can cover.
The most important step is the planning.
Some questions to ask:
How many lights do I want?
For me, I didn't really know how many I wanted. So I picked 8 so that the aquarium would be evenly lighted.
How bright are the LEDs?
There are some differences in LED brightness--if you buy the ones that claim "super-bright, ultra-bright, etc", the bulbs will probably emit more intensely. Just look for the "mcd". The larger the number the more bulb intensity, but this is relative to the size of the bulb. Bigger bulbs have higher mcds because they have a larger surface area. Similar to differences in diameter for fluorescent tubes that will affect the light "intensity". I just chose the regular white LEDs because they were cheaper.
How am I going to fit this over the top along with the current lighting system?
For mine, my regular lighting canopy has about 1" of clearance space between the lights and the top of the aquarium. I have a plastic grate as the cover, so I used that to mount the LEDs. I guess if you have a glass cover or less space, you can fit all the wires and bulbs into the spaces between your normal lighting. It might be dangerous to fit so many lights together though, as the normal lights might heat up the LED wires and damage them.
I based the wiring on this useful guide: http://led.linear1.org/led.wiz
It's pretty simple, plug in the numbers and let it calculate the diagram.
I didn't follow the diagram to a T, but used it as a loose guide for how to wire. I ended up doing the lights by trial and error, soldering a few lights, then testing to see if it would still emit. The resistor is also an important part, too much resistance, then you will not have any light emit. Too little resistance, and your bulbs may overheat and burn out.
It's very important to tape off any exposed conducting metal parts with electrical tape. Even though you won't feel anything if you touch the wire while it's live because it uses so little energy, it's a good safety precaution. I tried touching it while it's on, you don't feel anything.
For the soldering, it's straightforward. Cut the hook up wire to desired lengths. On the LED, you see two wires, one is longer than the other. Orient the longer side as the positive. Solder the hook up wires to the LED.
Soldering/placement of resistors:
As well, solder the resistor between the positive adapter wire and first LED bulb. Common sense--resistor goes BEFORE the LED bulbs!
Another note is that soldering is probably the most dangerous part of the project because it produces massive amounts of heat to melt the soldering wire. The heat will easily/quickly conduct across the hook up wire, so you have to solder quickly. Remember to turn it off when it is not in use--you can't tell visually if it's heated or not, so always assume it is on the on-position. Even after unplugging, do not touch the heated part because it will retain heat for a long time.
Connecting the bulbs:
To connect the bulbs together, basically solder the negative (shorter) end of the first bulb to a hook up wire, then the end of the hook up wire to the positive end of the second bulb. So on so forth for as many bulbs as you want--depending on the calculations made beforehand.
An assumption I've made is that you know how to do parallel circuitry. Just make separate series circuits, and solder the ends together. You can also solder each bulb side by side--this takes longer, but if one of the bulbs ever burn out, the other lights on that series will continue to run. I didn't do it because it was too time consuming for just 2x 4 bulb series.
The adapter has a female and male part to the plug--basically the positive end is the hole in the middle, and the negative end is the outer metal part of the plug. Tape the hook up wires to the appropriate side, plug it in and you'll have moonlight!
To tie the circuit to the plastic grate, I used the plastic zip-ties to tie everything tightly to the grate (tongue twister). Just be generous with the zip-ties to make everything look clean and professional. Plus you wouldn't want any loose wires dangling into the water.
You can use coloured wire to differentiate between positive and negative. I used black wiring initially for everything, but at the end I got confused, so I used green as the positive side and red as the negative side.
Another interesting thing I noticed is that even after you turn off the LEDs, because the adapter still has electricty stored, the LEDs will only slowly transition from on to off. This is a nice transition effect for the dawn and dusk look.
The aquarium actually looks dimmer. I set the photo to a higher exposure so that you can see it more clearly. As well, there's a really cool water ripple effect that you can't see here.
In the pictures, the zip ties weren't trimmed. After the zip tie has been tightened, just take a pair of scissors and cut off the excess part. Zip ties are a really good investment even for other projects, they tie everything down, are inert, do not conduct electricity, is extremely cheap, has a very strong tightening grip, and if you make a mistake, it's not expensive to replace. They run about $0.01 each.
Set the moon lighting on another timer--maybe 1-2 hours longer than your normal photo schedule. Remember, as long as the lights are on, diurnal fish won't be able to sleep. Yes, fish do sleep.
Hope this guide was useful!