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3 feet probably.

With LEDs a typical reflector wont work so well. Even bare they only have a light cone of around 125 degrees. Either use lenses or don't, IMO. It is also hard to use the number of LEDs to create light levels. It is better to build for even coverage, say one LED every 2" and use lenses and dimmable drivers to increase/ decrease the light levels to a suitable level.

I would do something like 18 LEDs in two rows, or three rows of 6 but alternating for better coverage. Reef tanks need a lot more power so they have lots of LEDs. We need less than half the power so the issue is you will get banding if you use too few LEDs. Banding is when each LED casts it's own shadows off of things in the tank and you can clearly see the different shadows. Do this with 10 LEDs spread out or with different colours and the result can be ugly and distracting.
 

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And you definitely need more than 1 inch of distance from the surface of the water. I use no less than 5", personally. The risk of a fish splashing water onto the LED and causing it to short out on the heatsink is just way too much unless you have a splash guard......... and a splash guard that close to the water will inevitably be a "must clean me frequently" annoyance.
 
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