How to Make Your Own Reef Light Kit

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Do you find that your aquarium needs a little something extra to add a touch of pizzazz? Maybe something that is equal parts practical and fancy to show off the latest additions to your aquarium while highlighting the tank itself. This can be achieved by installing a reef light that not only warms the tank with its soft glow but also allows you to use your aquarium as a light during the darker hours.

Colorful aquarium

You know you want a better reef lighting system within your aquarium but some of the products available on today’s market can be pretty pricey! What if you knew that a new reef lightening system was available to you at a fraction of the cost when using materials purchased at your local hardware store or a kit that provides everything from the brackets to the lights themselves. How is a fraction of the cost? Simple, you will build, install and maintain the tank light yourself!

Let’s break it down what you will need and how not only start but finish your very own DIY (do-it-yourself) reef light kit. This assembly should take no more than two to four hours, but it is definitely ok if it takes longer!

What You Will Need to Get Started

So, you have decided you are going to undertake the task of building your very own DIY tank light kit; now it is important to start with the right tools and supplies. To ensure a smooth project with minimal expense and minimal suffering you will need to purchase the following materials in the necessary measures to suit and fit your aquarium:

  • Aluminum sheeting (two pieces) that will not rust when introduced to water
  • Aluminum channels that will not rust when introduced to water
  • LED lights at the wattage and warmth levels you prefer * If you are unsure of the LED lighting to purchase for your aquarium, check out this Reef Lighting Guide supplied by Reefhacks.com to learn more.
  • Powered drill and drill bits that will punch through the aluminum sheets along with the aluminum channels
  • Cutting shears that will cut through aluminum with minimal resistance
  • Miscellaneous supplies – hooks, chain, glue and/or eye screws

PLEASE NOTE: If you are uncomfortable with wiring your own lighting kit or inexperienced in electrical work, especially that of LED lights, then always consult someone with electrical experience to ensure a safe DIY project.

Step-by-Step DIY Reef Light Kit

Now that all the tools and supplies are purchased, you are ready to start assembling your very own reef lighting kit for your aquarium.

STEP ONE

Assemble all the materials needed into separate piles to allow for easy maneuvering and accessibility.

separate piles

STEP TWO

Have a planned diagram for the LED lights and set out the lights in the alternating wattages, spectrums, warmth etc.

STEP THREE

handshake

Have a friend or someone on standby to wire the LED lights when the time comes if you are uncomfortable in any way wiring in the lights.

STEP FOUR

Drill or punch holes in the aluminum sheet to allow the light of the LED lights to shine through as per the diagram you created in Step 2.

STEP FIVE

Cut one aluminum sheet into smaller strips to use as framing pieces for the solid sheet of aluminum that has the holes punched through it.

sheet metal background

STEP SIX

Fuse together (using water-resistant metal glue or screws) the smaller framing pieces of aluminum along the entire edge of the full aluminum sheet to create a box-shaped structure in which the tubes securing the LED lights will fit.

STEP SEVEN

Cut the aluminum channels into pre-measured sections to fit the size of your aquarium.

STEP EIGHT

Drill holes at the bottom and end pieces of the aluminum channels to create a holding area for the lights themselves and the wires that will run to power the LED lights.

screws and screwdriver Roulette

STEP NINE

Fit the pieces into the box-shaped structure created in step 4 with the openings pointing down towards the holes punched in the aluminum sheet.

STEP TEN

Once all the channels are fitted into place into the aluminum box, secure using water-resistant metal glue or use the drill to place eye screws at the appropriate places.

STEP ELEVEN

Place the strips or individual LED lights along the aluminum channels so that the light shines down through the holes punched in the aluminum without any shading.

  • ​If using individual lights, apply water-resistant metal glue to the back of the light and press into the aluminum channel, holding in place or leaving the reef light kit alone for the recommended drying time.

three glue tubes

STEP TWELVE

Run the LED light’s wires back through the aluminum channels and thread through the holes drilled at both ends of the channel.

  • This step will also further secure the lights and prevent them from potentially dropping into your aquarium due to the loosening of wires.

STEP THIRTEEN

Test the LED lights to ensure each section is drawing power from the appropriate source and lighting up to the expected brightness before permanently securing the lighting system.

STEP FOURTEEN

Once it is confirmed that all the LED lights are in working order, secure the wires on the outside of the aluminum box.

  • Some people braid or twist the wires into a smaller bundle whereas others glue the wires to the side of the aluminum box. It is also possible to install small hooks on the frame of the aluminum box so that the wires hanging out of place.

macro color braided wire

STEP FIFTEEN

Drill small holes on the aluminum box frame where you want to install the hanging chain so it is suspended over the aquarium.

STEP SIXTEEN

Thread the hanging chain through the holes and secure with eye screws or water-resistant metal glue.

STEP SEVENTEEN

Install a hook at the top of the hanging chains to secure it to the lid of the aquarium or whatever stand will be used to place the reef lighting kit.

hanging chains

STEP EIGHTEEN

Pull the chains to ensure that they are securely in place and will not slip through the holes of the aluminum box.

STEP NINETEEN

Fish tank

Once all this is done and you are happy with the look of your reef light kit, hang it over the aquarium, connect the power source and enjoy the warming glow of LED lights reflecting through the water.

If you are a more visual learner or would like someone talking you through the steps while assembling your own reef light kit, then why not check out this informative YouTube video that explains each step in detail.

Conclusion

Now that you know how to not only build but install your own DIY reef light kit within the confines of your aquarium, why not visit your local hardware store or purchase one of the many DIY kits available online? Check with the closest pet store or specialty marine life provider to discuss what kind of reef light kit would be the most beneficial for the creatures in your tank.

Don’t rush out to the store and purchase an expensive brand name reef light kit when you can save money while adding your own touch of pizzazz to your aquarium! Customize your reef light kit, add features that might not come on the one you were debating purchasing.

Remember you will need to purchase the following:

  • Aluminum sheeting (two pieces) that will not rust when introduced to water
  • Aluminum channels – tubes that will not rust when introduced to water
  • LED lights at the wattage and warmth levels you prefer
  • Powered drill and drill bits that will punch through the aluminum sheets along with the aluminum channels
  • Cutting shears that will cut through aluminum and other strong metal
  • Miscellaneous supplies – hooks, chain, and eye screws

So why not visit your local hardware store and start building your very own reef light kit to highlight and warm that aquarium today!

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