Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More
A Short Project Involving LEDs, a Fish Tank, and some Laziness

A Short Project Involving LEDs, a Fish Tank, and some Laziness


Remember these fish? ♫ Aggressively smooth jazz ♫ I’ve kept a fish tank for the last 3 or 4 years, and got this one just over a year
ago. I haven’t really done anything with this
tank aside from populate it with 2 angelfish, 4 tetras with sadly only 2 remaining, and
2 plecos or plecos (depending on how you want to pronounce that) for algae maintenance. One of the easiest ways to obtain a fish tank
is to buy a tank and stand combo, which you can get on sale for a very reasonable price. I think this was about two hundred dollars
for the tank, stand, and hood, which I’d consider a pretty good price for a 38 gallon
bowfront. But, these tanks always come with absolutely
terrible lighting. The light that this came with is a simple
fluorescent fixture that locks into the hood here. It’s not bad, but the tube it came with
was a weirdly neutral color that made it look like the fish are living in an office. Anyway, aside from making the fish look like
they should be getting back to work, the light output is also poor. I’d like to be able to grow plants in here,
but that’s not gonna happen with this single tube. I do have two plants in here that are tolerating
what little sunlight they get through the west-facing window in this room, but in the
dead of winter they’re starting to look a little sad. So, time to upgrade the lighting. And I’m gonna do it using some 10 watt LED
chips, drivers, and heat sinks. Why do it this way? Well, in the aquarium world, there is often
a desire to use point sources of light rather than a linear source like LED tape or a fluorescent
tube. See a linear light source doesn’t produce
many shadows, and it also makes a very flat light. You’ve likely noticed this in a pool–when
you’re underwater, the surface of the water bends the light rays of the sun and creates
a distinctive shimmer on the bottom. But with overcast skies, that shimmer goes
away. To reproduce that effect in a fish tank requires
point light sources. Metal halide light fixtures are common for
this effect, but these would be total overkill for a tank this small. But the LED chips are small enough that they
might reproduce this effect. Let’s find out. Thanks to the wondrous thing called ebay you
can buy, straight from China, LED chips and drivers of dubious quality. These 10 watt chips and drivers for use on
12 volts can be had for about $2 a pair assuming you buy 5 at a time. And thanks to an idea I’m pretty sure I
got from Julian Ilett (sorry if I’m mispronouncing your name) these can be attached to small
fan assisted heat sinks also from China. Those also go for about $2 apiece, though
you usually have to by 10 or so. Links are down below. Firstly the LEDs need to be attached to their
heat sinks. The most correct way to do this would be to
drill small holes in the heat sink, tap them, and then screw the chip onto the heat sink
with a bit of thermal compound in between. But the fan can make that tricky with clearance
issues, and combined with my laziness, I sought alternate options. I have two which seem to work fine. First is thermal glue. Essentially heat sink compound mixed into
a bonding adhesive. This works fine but is annoying to apply with
my specific heat sinks because you need to clamp the LED chip in place while the glue
dries which takes quite a while, and to clamp it without damaging it requires removing the
fan, which then makes it weird to clamp to. So for my next trick, I tried thermal adhesive
tape. The smart viewers will note that this is totally
not optimal and I’m probably shortening the life of the chips. I completely agree! But as I am not bothered by this given the
low cost of the chips, ehh. Consider me a guinea pig. I did perform an array of wildly non-scientific
tests, such as running the chips without the fan to see how hot the heat sink gets –very– and placing my fingers on the chip whilst running to gauge how hot the chip’s surface
got –hardly– and decided, good enough. After removing the fluorescent tube, its holder,
and ballast, I needed to find a way to hold these components in with reasonable security. I ended up using long toggle bolts spanning
the distance, and using cable ties to secure the heat sinks to the bolts at their corners. For extra strength, and to prevent vibration
from moving them about overtime, I used some epoxy resin. Each of these modules needs both an unregulated
12v supply to drive the fans as well as the output from a driver to run the LED. I decided to mount the drivers remotely, using
epoxy resin to secure them to one of these extra tiles I inherited from the previous
owner of my home. Hopefully this helps remove heat from the
drivers. Lastly this needed to be hooked up to a suitable
power supply. 12 volt power bricks are getting cheap and
common thanks to LED tape and I have a few extras lying around. This 5 amp unit should be capable of driving
these just fine. And that’s it! Here’s the finished product. This is a great upgrade for any aquarium and
only cost about thirty dollars (assuming you have some parts lying around). It’s much much cheaper than buying a dedicated
LED lighting solution. Plus, many dedicated LED lights use a linear
arrangement of smaller chips, which diminishes the shimmer you see. I should be able to grow modest plants in
here with the light output of these chips. And most importantly, the tank is a much more
pleasant sight. The only significant downside is that the
fans do add some noise. This is the tank running without the fan
lights. [Noise of aquarium filter and air pump] And now with the lights. [Sound of computer fans added to filter and pump] But that’s a small price to pay, I think,
for a very nice effect. Lastly, for those who might be inspired to
start a fish tank, I thought I’d be Mr. Responsible and chime in about that process. Starting a fish tank takes weeks. You cannot rush it. A responsible pet store will tell you that,
but the big-box stores… they won’t. They just want to sell you fish. The tank needs to go through a process called
cycling, which builds the bacteria that can process the ammonia the fish excrete as waste. If you just buy a tank and throw some fish
in it, they will almost certainly die within a week because their waste ammonia builds
up fast. I’ve put a pretty good guide to tank cycling
in the description. A fish tank is pretty easy to maintain, but
you have to be patient when starting it. Rushing the process is not good. Thanks for watching, I hope you enjoyed this
video, the first video falling under Technology Connections Projects. I’m limited on time this week so I couldn’t
make one of my more in-depth videos. Next week we’ll finally be looking at the
rise of DVD and the fall of Laserdisc. So stay tuned for that! As always, I also need to thank my supporters
on Patreon. Patrons of this channel are keeping it possible
through voluntary contributions. If you’d like to help out, check out my
Patreon page through the link on your screen or down below in the description. Thanks for your consideration, and I’ll
see you next time! ♫ Aggressively smooth jazz resumes ♫

100 comments on “A Short Project Involving LEDs, a Fish Tank, and some Laziness

  1. The fish are getting free food and board, the least they could do is look like they should be getting back to work

  2. All jokes aside, that was fascinating. I'd never looked into why some fish tanks had that shimmer lighting effect and some didn't, as I don't own a fish tank myself. Now I know!

  3. if noise bothers you enough you could easily get a heatsink not too much bigger capable of passively dissipating 10W, e.g without the fan. those ones looked pretty small. cool project

  4. It would be even more efficient if you could use the heat of the drivers to help keeping the water temperature at its desired level. I have done this by attaching the transformers to the bottom of the tank, which is made of stainless steel. I must admit LED looks better than I had expected, although I'm not sure if the plants will grow using this source. Thanks for this useful video.

  5. This is a pretty cool idea. I personally would have looked into going with ceramic metal halide sources though since you can get lamps with as low as a 20w output for less than $10 a lamp and the ballasts themselves are insanely cheap on the used market. The only downside would be having to design a shield for the lamps if you plan on running them right up until they fail because they can be a tad violent. Replace them yearly though and you won't have too many problems.

  6. Ok, some serious thoughts. You don't need active cooling for those 10 watt chips. The heatsinks you have there might very well do the job on their own, and if you get some that are just slightly bigger it'll be no issue to keep them passive. No sound pollution and no extra power usage. And 2$ is quite expensive for those chips. You can get the 10 watts for like 30-40 cents if you look around a little, they are very cheap.

  7. Dubious quality is best quality.

    I've never gotten into fish, but maybe someday if I get bored of cats and plants.

    I would try pumping the tank water through some liquid-cooling blocks to cool the LEDs without having fans running.

  8. Why not slow the fans way way down … they should still provide way more than adequate cooling

    Also, I usually just epoxy the leds to heatsink when I need to, the layers is small enoguh and usually the epoxy conductive enough for it to be the perfect solution almost always (provided you don’t need to rip the parts off of the heatsink)

  9. Just wait till all the cheap bearings in the fans corrode from the humidity and you have chipping and squealing fish… now go work on your grammar since it isn't a room next to the fish tank as I doubt you'd hear it at all. It's the room the fish tank is in…

  10. Hopefully your fish won't switch from office light induced stress to data center noise induced stress! :-p

  11. Color accuracy is really bad on these cheap flood light leds, cri in the 70s region. Look for some high cri leds instead.
    Edit: https://www.ebay.com/itm/BRIDGELUX-BXCD45-20W-3000K-3200K-45mil-Multichip-LED-High-CRI/222165944656?epid=1237609892&hash=item33ba1f4950:g:zcwAAOSwmtJXbtKJT
    This one might work.

  12. LEDs are dimmer than normal incandescent, have poor lighting range and are seriously harmful to living things. THey have their place in industry, but not anywhere near humans… OR fish. Their blue level light is such a low frequency that it is to your skin what a subwoofer on level 10 24/7/365/y is to your ears and internal organs.

  13. You should also probabaly add a shelter for your fish so they can hide from the light or they'll be stressed to fuck from high intensity light

  14. as a fellow aquarium owner, I agree on the cycling part being rushed/skipped too often. This is one part I wish Animal Planet's "Tanked" would cover better.

  15. Water cooling the LED's? Come on, folks, that is just ridiculously unnecessary, over-complicated, and stupid….

  16. If the tank is large enough, and you have tropical fish that require a heater, you can water cool the LED chips to eliminate fan noise and reduce power consumption (from both the fans and the heater)
    Blue chips also have a high enough frequency to partially simulate a black light… handy for fluorescent fish such as neons.

  17. I might be doing this to a few of my tanks that came with horrible incandescents, that I upgraded to full spectrum twist CFLs (which my plants love) but it still does not making a pleasing look. This seems to do the trick.

  18. I have had several small tanks (20 – 25 Gallons). My favorite was a brackish water tank with a wet side and a "dry" side. The animals that hung out on the dry side were a mud-skipper, and a small red crab. In the wet side, were a green spotted puffer, and some ghost shrimp. This setup lasted for about 1 year, until a toxic water change killed everything. During that time though, the mud-skipper learned to eat from my fingers, and would even hop into my hand and allow my to walk around the house with it. BTW if you have one, wet your hand with water from the tank so the mud-skipper's skin stays wet. While they make very engaging pets, I don't recommend getting one as they can't breed in captivity. As far as I know, we still can't provide the proper environment for that. In my experience however, and I'm not a professional at all, a proper tank set up is very low maintenance. If you have to clean the tank more than once per month, you should look at the types of fish you have, and if you don't have plants in there, probably add some. Another consideration is, large tanks tend to take less maintenance than small tanks. My tanks did have florescent fixtures in them, however, I had grow lights installed rather than a standard white light.

  19. Hmm, somehow I've missed this. Was this an unlisted Patreon extra before? :/
    I had an idea recently that I might to like to have a fish tank in my living a room, and now here's this video. Must be accidental 😀

  20. I take exception to your remark about "big box" pet stores. I have worked in many, and the employees I know would never willingly sell ANY animal into a situation that is dangerous or unsafe. I have, however lost count of how many times I have tried to explain how to cycle a tank to a customer who obviously knew more than me, then demanded I sell them the fish, only to have them brought back dead a few days (or hours) later. It is heartbreaking for the employees, who, for the most part, are enthusiasts themselves, or they wouldn't be working a minimum wage job where you spend a good portion of your day with wet arms, cleaning poo from cages. Otherwise great video.

  21. Nice Video! Your going to want to add a clear shield to help prevent water from evaporation from corroding your electronics.

  22. Cool project. I just wanted to let you know, those aren't toggle bolts. Toggle bolts have a spring loaded butterfly nut that is used for mounting to something with limited access to the back side to use a nut. They are usually used on drywall in areas between studs.

  23. That doorknob is messing with the perspective and my brain can't unsee that you appear to be 3 feet tall and mostly torso. Is it a step down?

  24. We had a fish tank but within weeks algae starts to grow that I cleaned and replaced the water every few weeks and after several years I had enough and got rid of them.

  25. Are… er… are you kneeling in this video, considering the height of the doorknob relative to you? =3

  26. but does fish hear that fan noise or feel vibrations? if they do, those poor bastards will go insane.

  27. you could do the same thing with the old light all you do is first make sure your light is a T8 bulb as that is the florescent tube used for growing plants before LEDs were in the hobby and you mask off the glass on the hood so it has a couple holes for the light to come threw and you get the same effect for less time hassle and money oh and less noise

  28. As an avid cichlid owner, which I am sad to say has been a few years since I've had a tank, you dun gooft on that mix of fish, somewhat. Angels are a highly specialized deeper water cichlid. They can and will kill other fish and perhaps eat them.
    You need a lot more hidey-holes for your fish puppies and not so much bright light on them.

    I think you could do a lot better, and you can get dirt cheap second hand tanks, often a few dollars like 10 or less, at pawn shop and the ilk.

    Also you should consider a microcontroller solution for heating, lighting, etc. Either a ras-pi or an off the shelf type.

  29. From a 34 year professional ghetto rigger by trade; I give your work a 8 out of 10.. but now that you know it works and looks the way you want i'm sure you'll go back and make things nicer.

  30. A watercooling loop seems like it could be a useful solution here, it would involve a bit of work, but could be hooked up to the filter pump, it could also save a tiny amount of power since the heater would have slightly less work.

  31. Why not make the heatsinks watercooled? 😀 got lots of water and a pump already that dont mind a bit of heating 😉

  32. I know this is not a recent video but how are your drivers going oxidation wise? I recently did a project similar to this and have been seeing some condensation on my components.

  33. the cycling part makes me wonder if you could condition two or three extra tanks worth of water ( quite a lot if you are setting up a 38 gal tank like yours, but less if say it was only 10 gallons, and manageable with 5gal paint buckets (*that have never been used for paint, like homedepot sells for projects) with water drawn and dechlorinated at the same time? then swap the fish into the tank with the single amount of water, and wait a day or two, then swap out the water with some from the buckets, to give them fresh unammoninated water, while the bacteria builds up in all the water at once, both in the tank and in the buckets, and keep swapping with the 3rd amount of water, or just do a 5gal bucket every 12 to 24 hours making sure to not use the same bucket again till all buckets had been used,

    reason for this is for those who end up with fish too soon, that would otherwise die, and want to save them, and not to replace the diligent process if you already know how to start a tank, as this would take far more effort and work, if it is even possible.

  34. also I agree with the others about RGB lighting, 🙂 you should consider it when you need to upgrade, due to the "dubious" nature of the ones you bought. and maybe consider addressable LEDs? for slow arcing across the tank? heh heh. run like 5 strips side by side with the chips as close together as possible in sequence, then drive them all with the same data line, so they work in parallel turning each strip's numeric value of LED on at a time, thus, moving sun across the land scape, and then have a moon lit version do the same on second cycle far enough away, to give awesome night effect due to the reduced coloration to give a cooler light, and dimmer, with inbetween LEDs being pale blue to simulate light scattering and bright yellow for the sun spot of light, and black or off between the evening orange and pinks maybe with the "sun" LED spot being more and more red, thus simulating sunset and night time sky for the fish 🙂

  35. Maybe you should put the lamps inside the tank. The light is used more efficiently due to total refraction and the excess heat of the lights additionally heats the tank.

  36. Whenever you go anywhere on the internet to read about tank cycling its a bunch of people arguing on a forum. Just buy some fish, stick them in a tank with a heater and pump, change the water every few days at the start for a while, then every few weeks after a while. Clean the filter every month and change the filter every 6 months. Thats it. My fish have lived happily for a year now.

  37. I just use these cheap 10W LED flood lights for that job. Perfect for that, also because its a very moist enviroment.

  38. good job telling people not to rush it with a new tank. i've used these 10w LEDs for aquaria and growlights for a good while, running them at 12v but limiting them to 60%. power via PWM using an arduino board and MOSFET. then they don't get nearly as hot. for my big tank i had 5 of them bolted to a square aluminium tube, didn't get that warm even without any active cooling. yes i know the video is old-ish, thought someone might find that info useful.

  39. Should i first fill water in the Tank or dry install the fish and then fill up? And wat about the Plants? Howmany fish do they eat every week or so? 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

  40. THANK YOU FOR CORRECTLY TELLING PEOPLE ABOUT THE REAL WAY TO SET UP A FISH TANK!!!!! people do not listen and usually end up harming/killing their fish so it’s a good thing you are telling people this, I personally have 4 fish tank 3 freshwater and 1 saltwater and have angelfish too. I would highly recommend getting a fish tank to anyone that has the time, money, and space as they are very nice to have.

  41. Or on the flip side, you can buy an aquaneat LED light off ebay for roughly(possibly less than) the same price and do zero work. Not to mention…
    -Quieter
    -Brighter
    -Longer life span
    -Less heat generated

  42. Btw the cycling of a tank in the initial stages of tank development needs to happen with an initial amount of ammonia in the water. If you just leave it running with plain treated water then no bacteria will grow due to a lack of ammonia in the water. Either place in your fish with a store bought pre-matured bacterial colony or failing that you can also buy ammonia solutions which you put into the water to encourage bacteria buildup but this usually takes much longer than introducing an already established bacterial colony as you MUST wait for the bacterial colony to fully mature and consume all of the ammonia before introducing your fish to the tank.

  43. I would totally would have used the fish tank to water cool the LEDs but the feesh would probably have disliked it

  44. Well, these cheap COBs are usually less efficient than a fluorescent light.

    I'd rather spend 5$ per chip and get something decent from luminus or cree. Since they are way more efficient, you don't need as many. The cost difference shouldn't be that great.
    You get the benefit of less energy wasted as heat, so you might get away with passive cooling

  45. I did almost the same thing to my table lamp and kitchen hood. Cheap and works flawlessly for several years.

  46. If you use a plate of aluminum 2 or 3mm thick that runs the full length x width of your aquarium, and mount the lEDS to that, then the heat issues will be absorbed by the aluminum plate – thus no need for active air cooling

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