View Full Version : 10 gal DIY light hood

Kaylee Skylyn
11th Nov 2006, 12:37 PM
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
Instant Start Electric Ballast
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 80$, not including the clamps, saws and glue, things I already had.

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). One thing I should add 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.


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). (X-posted wherever I can)
(only aloud 10 images...I used 15 so some are removed here)


26th Nov 2006, 03:00 PM
Nice looking set up.

Was there a need that it be so tall?


Kaylee Skylyn
27th Nov 2006, 10:59 PM
There was no reason for it to be so high, that was just the size of the wood I used and only thought afterwards it would be nicer a bit shorter. I used what size I had becaues I only had a hand saw. Oh well, next time. It could have been about half the hight.

27th Nov 2006, 11:10 PM
Making the light hood with good height is actually good as it prevents the heat from the light to increase your water temp.

28th Nov 2006, 12:30 PM
(only aloud 10 images...I used 15 so some are removed here)
I suppose you could attach the images in other post. 10 images in post #1, 5 images in post #2, etc. Pls try it as I want to see the other images.

Very nice DIY. One more thing needed for CRS's tanks, at least I really need it in my tropical climate, a couple of fans, one it one out.

Kaylee Skylyn
1st Feb 2007, 03:24 AM
Kept forgeting to post.

Here is the article in PDF format with all the photos:

www . silentecho.org/aquaria/DIY/10%20gal%20DIY%20light%20hood.pdf

Not to much extra but diferent angles and such.

I now have this tank set up at work with plants and shrimp. Its growing algae nicely. :P
*grr* stupid URL tag keeps being added automaticly then refuses to post because new members are not aloud using it....I don't want to use it....
Just copy and paist in your browser and remove the spaces after the www

1st Feb 2007, 07:56 AM
Clickable link here (http://www.silentecho.org/aquaria/DIY/10%20gal%20DIY%20light%20hood.pdf).

Fish Newb
1st Feb 2007, 08:20 AM
This is very similar to the 55g hood I have! ALL home depots carry those bulbs... At least around here.

Yeah AH supply is over rated I agree!


1st Feb 2007, 08:42 AM
Great light and canopy, thanks for sharing!

Kaylee Skylyn
2nd Feb 2007, 03:49 AM
Awsome! Thanks turbomkt! Muchly apreciated.

FishNewb: I'm not saying they are overrated, its top quality stuff (but they seem to be all the craze these days and over HYPED tho...) ...they are just was way to much cost for me right now, especialy for only one portion of the hood. This light gives me what I need for less and faster (I hate waiting for shipping). Ya, most of the Home Depos I've since gone to seem to have them in this size but none of the other similar type stores do....

Thanks Shrimper!