How to DIY LED

Click Here to view our PDF on putting together a Phoenix kit.


How TO DIY LED by Reef LED Lights

There are many different LED fixtures available. Quality, Spectrum and Cost vary greatly. Like choosing a car you can go with a Yugo or BMW.  Parts matter Cheap Import Chinese fixtures simply do not use quality parts. In a lot of cases their critical parts like drivers and powersupplies are not UL or CE listed. Infact most do not even have a serial or part number on them. Import fixtures have been know to fail after 12-18 months. Replacing lights, without a doubt, stresses your corals. Plants are more forgiving.   Our Kits are designed to be simple, easy and very cost effective. We use only the best parts like Binned Cree LEDS and Mean Well Drivers. We source our LEDs domestically to ensure we receive the proper Bin (Spectrum and Intensity) and that they are not counterfeit. For more information on LED Binning reference our FAQ Page.

Phoenix DIY Solderless Build

Our Phoenix DIY Kits were engineered with only the best most advanced solderless components. As newer more efficient LEDs come out we update the Kits with these components. We prefer the BJB solderless connector over any other solderless option as at any time you can swap out any individual LED as long as mounted on a 20mm Star. Our kits include everything except a Fan. Splash Shields and Housings are available. If you choose to remote mount your drivers extra wire and expandable sheathing is recommended as well. You can order the basic Phoenix Kit which does not include a heatsink or fan or our Deluxe Phoenix DIY Kit which includes a Makers T-Slot Heatsink

This is the finished Deluxe Phoenix Kit with the 12″ Makers Heatsink. There are many options including the Makers controller and the Storm Controller. The following build is with the Storm Controller and LDD Driver board.

Our Phoenix DIY Kits operate on one guiding principle… Use the best most efficient parts available. One could save a few dollars by purchasing a Chinese “Black Box”. The problem with these is many of the parts are not UL/CE Listed. In fact some major components like powersupplies and drivers do not even have a part or serial number on them. This in our opinion offers sketchy reliability and safety. Spectrum is also an issue…Generic 3 watt LEDs may or may not offer the optimum spectrum. We bin our LEDs for both Spectrum and Intensity to ensure outstanding performance, growth and looks.

Note: All of our products are tested over Live Animals and Live Plants. .

That said sometimes we cut them up into little pieces and then glue them to rocks..Sorry PETA this is coral propagation aka aquaculture.

-The 12″ Makers DIY Phoenix LED Kit is comparable to a 250 watt MH or an Ecotech Radion Pro but at a lot less in cost.

-The 18″ Makers DIY Phoenix LED Kit  is comparable to 400 watt MH and is very popular among SPS Growers transitioning from MH to LED.  PAR at 24″ is over 600 so acclimate slowly.

The PAR for this comparison is based on a direct reading using an Apogee PAR Meter and Radium MH in a ReefLux Reflector. It has been noted that the the actual PAR of LEDs is greater than measured. Please acclimate your corals to the new light slowly.

The following is a parts list and build instruction for the 12″ Kit using the Storm Controller and LDD Driver board. Parts subject to improvement and as newer LEDs from Cree become available the kits are updated. An example is we upgraded all of the XP-E LEDs to the Cree XP-E2.  As a side note, we feel spectrum and intensity is important, this is why all our LEDs are binned for both spectrum and intensity.


1- 12″ Makers T Slot Heatsink

1- LDD 5 Driver Board

2- Meanwell LDD  H 1200mA Drivers

3- Meanwell LDD  H 700mA Drivers

1- 25ft 20 Ga Solid Wire. (More Optional)

1- Thermal Paste

2- Euro Style Wiring Harnesses (Medusa)

27- BJB Solderless Connectors

27- BJB Optic Holders

27- Carclo Ripple Wide Optics

60- Allen Head Screws and Square Nuts

4- Cree XP-G R5 Cool White (7.5K)

12- Cree XT-E Royal Blue (D36/7) 450-455nm

4- Cree XP-E2 Blue 465-475nm

5- Semi P2nU Violet 410-420nm

2- Cree XP-E2 Photo Red 660nm

Storm Controller and Grip Loc Hanging Kit are optional.

Assembly is as simple as putting a battery into a camera… If you can put the battery in the right way you can easily build a LED Light. Below is a how to video using the Meanwell HW Drivers. The HW has wires and the H are for a circuit board. When using the Coralux LDD circuit board a PWM controller must be used and the drivers default to off. The LDD HW drivers default to on without a controller. Given the solar cycle on the natural reef and in the forest, we highly recommend using a Sunrise/Sunset controller to simulate natural sunlight intensity throughout the day.



-Use only a small dab of thermal paste and to not over tighten the BJB Connector.

-Check each connection with a gentle tug and verify proper polarity with a VOM as shown in the video.

-The Phoenix Line of DIY LED Kits allows ultimate flexibility and upgradability.Plan ahead. Each driver can handle up to 15 Cree X series LEDs with a 48vdc powersupply. If you plan on adding more LEDs later leave enough room and some nuts between the BJB Connectors.

-Do one string of LEDs at a time and verify all LEDs are working together.

-Do Not look int the LEDs when you power them up.

-After everything is connected and working snap on the optics. Teretary LEDs like the two REDs for Reef Builds may offer better coverage without optics.

-The fixture is optimized 12-18′ above the water using the Ripple Wide Optics.





If you have any questions please post them on our sponsor forums or contact us.






2 thoughts on “How to DIY LED

  1. Hi

    I am hoping you guys can help, I want to build a led unit for my tank and have no clue as to where to start. I want to build a full spectrum unit with sunrise and sunset simulation.

    If anyone can plaese give me any help it would me much appreciated.

    My questions are…
    1) how many of what coulor leds whould i need
    2) what would be the best patern to connect them.
    3) how many channels will i need and witch colours will run on what channel.

    Tank is 5ftX2.3ftX2.3ft


    1. Hennie

      The first thing is to determine what of Reef Tank you want.

      Softies like Zoas and LPS like Acans can do with less light but like a more nutrient rich water. This with strong light will promote nuisance Algae.

      SPS Prefer clean water and color up under high intensity lights… At least 200PAR on the sand bed.

      In nature Corals receive mostly 400-475nm light from the sun. These are your Ultra Violet/Violet Semi P2NU, Cree XT-E Royal Blue and Your Blue LEDs. These Are Your Primary Grow LEDs for Coral.

      The colour of the LEDs has been debated. Many with little experience say you need Green and Red LEDs for growth. The fact is the Cree White LEDs have this spectrum and corals below 30 feet receive little to none of this spectrum.

      A ratio of close to 15 Cree XT-E Royal Blue, 4 Cree XP-E2 Blue, 4 Cree XT-E Cool White and 6-10 Semi P2NU Violet LEDs is what we recommend for a 12″x 12″ Area of SPS. For LPS and Softies you can reduce the number of Royal Blue. The Cree XT-E Royal Blue with our bins are very bright.

      Reds are for looks. Our CRI47/Sirius XTC LED Board has 7 RGB LED Clusters only to give the end user complete flexibility in looks.

      As far as Channels go, it’s up to you. Some tweak the number of primary grow LEDs to their taste and put them on one channel. Others over build and tweak each LED Colour doun to create the right mix. There is an advantage to having more LEDs and dialing them back…They are most efficient when driven between 1/3 and 2/3 their max rated drive current.

      We receive plenty of requests for a LED Pattern Layout… We are talking about little light bulbs. If The LEDs are Evenly Mixed your results will be good. Wave Propagation does matter and considered this with our CRI47 LED Board. That said our DIY Phoenix Kits with the BJB Solderless Connector have proven excellent coral growth with the LEDs simply evenly mixed.

      Hope this helps


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