By keno | December 15, 2012
It’s been awhile since I last posted an update.
In my first build of my CREE xml-T6 I used a Mean Well HLG-150H-54B LED power supply and ran the LED’s at 2.8 amps. Way too much current. In addition I only used Thermal Pads instead of Thermal Paste. As a consequence, the LED’s burned out in a relatively short period of time. A hard and expensive lesson.
This LED formed a white film inside the LED dome. The LED would still function, but it’s output was diminished.
This one just burned out
So I decided to rebuild the fixture, this time using BJB Solderless LED Connector and #4 Self Tapping Screws. The beauty in these hold downs is that no soldering is required. Anyone who has followed my posts know that I hate to solder. Now I can build a fixture with little to no solder at all. The BJB Solderless LED Connector as the name implies requires no solder. You do need to use solid copper wire to run from connector to connector as opposed to stranded wire. I have also switched over to using a Thermal Paste (Arctic Silver) instead of the Thermal Tape.
Here is just the BJB connector.
Side view of BJB connector with LED star under it.
Drill holes marked on heatsink.
Top view of BJB connector with LED star beneath it.
BJB connector with LED star and Thermal Paste ready for screws.
Screw points on BJB connector.
Final look of BJB connector screwed down holding LED star.
At the same time since I was replacing the LED’s I decided to change out the power supply for one that would supply less current and I also wanted to try a mix of LED light spectrums to supply a better mix for my plants. So I used a Mean Well USA LPF-90D-48 and 7 CREE xm-l T6 LED’s and 7 CREE xm-l T3 LED’s.
Based off the following chart, the 2 ranges that plants need are the 400-520nm and the 610-720nm range.
This is also supported on this chart which was found in an aquarium magazine. The middle range the 520-610nm area is up for debate. I have read that this area promotes algae growth in aquariums.
So now looking at my options for CREE LED’s specifically the xm-l series and based on this chart, I decided to use the T6 and T3 CREE LED’s. They would give me the maximum spectral outputs in the 400-520nm and 610-720nm ranges.
I don’t have any current images, but the plant growth has been great in my 75 gallon aquarium. In addition I was able to borrow a PAR meter from one of my fellow aquatic club members and I further adjusted my LED light output. I had been running the LED’s on full which is about 1.8 amps for the power supply that I am using. The PAR reading average in my tank was above 80 at the substrate level which is 21 inches below my fixture. I adjusted the PAR level to be around 50-60 now at the substrate level.
Any future LED fixtures I build will use the combination of T3 and T6 CREE LED’s.
By keno | May 4, 2011
2nd Year Review of The Aquascape IonGen™ Electronic Clarifier for Ponds
Last summer (2010) I installed the Aquascape IonGen™ Electronic Clarifier for Ponds on my pond to rid my pond of the dreaded hair algae. It has been the best investment I have made so far in the war against hair algae. Actually it’s the best investment for getting rid of all the algae in my pond, not just the hair algae. The Aquascape IonGen™ Electronic Clarifier for Ponds was installed in mid-July 2010. Immediately the hair algae began to disappear and within a week it was gone and I had a lot of hair algae.
I left the IonGen device in place on the pond until the weather started to stay cold enough for ice to start forming on the pond each night which was around the beginning of November. I removed the IonGen device and the probe from the pond and stored them in my garage for the winter. In looking at the probe, it looked as if it was worn out. I was a bit disappointed in how quickly the probe wore out. The IonGen device indicates that it is good for ponds up to 25,000 gallons, my pond is just around 3,300 gallons. Over the winter I ordered a new probe.
I performed my spring pond clean up this year in mid-April. About a week later I noticed a little bit of hair algae starting to form, so it was time to re-install the IonGen device. The previous year I installed the probe into a Tee fitting that I installed in my main return line from my pump to my waterfall box which worked fine. I didn’t know if the probe had worn out because it was in the main flow of the water from the pump to the waterfall box. The other issue I had with the probe in the main flow was that leaves would wrap around the probe. So did that contribute to it wearing out so quickly? I have a basket to catch the leaves, but some leaves still get around the basket. So before I installed the new probe, I decided to put the old probe back in, but this time I was going to install the probe in the skimmer box. It would still be getting the water movement it needs to distribute the ions, but not be in the main flow.
I did notice that there was some string algae starting to form in my stream, plus there was a buildup starting of algae on all the rocks in the pond. So in went the probe inside a Tee fitting into the skimmer box. Well the old probe is still working, within a week the string algae in the stream is gone and the rocks have lost the slimy algae that was starting to build up on them. Last year when I first put the IonGen system into the pond I noticed that the green led bar indicators went straight to the top and slowly dropped to about 4-5 bars. This year with the old probe, there were only 2 green led bars lit and then after a couple of days it went to 3 bars. I am going to continue to use the old probe for as long as possible. I am not too happy with the way the probe and the Tee fitting are sitting in the skimmer box. Need to find a better way to mount them. Ideally, if I find that the probe lasts longer being out of the main flow, I would like to put the probe and Tee fitting in my waterfall box. The only issue is I don’t have power at that location. May need to run an electrical line to that location to solve that issue.
By keno | April 19, 2011
Spring Pond Cleanup – 2011
Well another year has gone by and it’s that time to do my spring pond cleanup. The spring weather has been cool here in NJ. The past winter has been long, cold and snowy again. There were days on end where I couldn’t see or hear the pond during the winter. I keep my waterfall running year round and it was a bit disconcerting to not hear the water in the stream area when it was covered in about 2 feet of snow. On the day we decided to do our pond cleanup, the weather was perfect. We had sunny skies and the temperature was around 60 degrees with just a slight breeze.
Last year I added the Aquascape IonGen to my pond, and it was the best investment I made when it comes to keeping the pond clear of string algae. My one disappointment with the device, was that it used up the entire probe in only a few months. Last year I had installed the probe directly in the 2″ hose that feeds from my pump to my waterfall. The probe would get leaves wrapped around it and I would have to pull it and clean it. Not sure if this contributed to the probe wear out or not. Also I am not sure if the water flow was too much. So, this year I am going to place it in my skimmer box to start with and see how well it works in keeping the algae out of the pond.
This year I also want to catch some of the pond fish to thin out the school. My one brother has several large natural ponds on his property, so some of the fish are going to get a new home. In order to do this I am going to drain and clean the pond at the same time. I do have a pond vac and a good friend and fellow aquarist, Darin is going to help me this year when it comes to spring cleanup. It definitely helps to have someone working the pond vac on dry land. I was in the pond with my chest waders on and it is not easy to keep getting into and out of the pond to clean the debris bag or the pond vac if it gets clogged.
My normal spring pond cleanup tasks are the following:
- Clean out the larger debris items sitting in the bottom of the pond, things like larger leaves, larger ornamental grass leaves and stalks and yes the occasional plant bucket. Yes I did say plant bucket. My one beagle likes to play with empty (sometime full) plant buckets or pots and the wind will blow them into the pond.
- Vacuum the bottom of the pond with my pond vacuum.
- Drain, clean and vacuum out the waterfall box.
- Clean the filter mats and the bio balls in the waterfall box.
- Clean and vacuum out the skimmer box.
- Wash the filter mat in the skimmer box.
- Pull the main pump and clean out the impeller.
- Re-install the Aquascape IonGen in my pond.
Last year I had installed a 2″ ball valve in my line running from my pump to my waterfall box. This ball valve has been great. Whenever I needed to pull the pump to clean it during the pond season, I would turn off the power to the pump and turn the ball valve to keep the water from the waterfall box draining back down into the pond. Here in the spring, I used it to keep all the dirty stuff in the waterfall box when I turned off the pump. I was then able to use my pond vac to drain and clean all the muck from the waterfall box.
To clean the waterfall box, I removed the bio-balls which are in 3 large mesh bags. To keep the bacteria alive, I rinsed the bio-balls and then placed the bio-ball bags s in a large wheel barrow and filled with it with non-chlorinated water (well water). I then removed the filter mats and rinsed them with well water and cleaned all of the muck that was in them. I was then able to rinse the inside walls of the waterfall box and again remove that water with my pond vacuum. Once I had the waterfall box clean, I added the now clean filter mats and bio ball bags back into the box and refilled the box with well water. Since I have the 2″ ball valve, I was able to refill the waterfall box at this point, even though I had not yet cleaned the skimmer box.
I have an Hudson automatic water fill valve on my pond, so when I vacuum the pond bottom and remove the water, the valve will automatically refill the pond for me. This year, I did not have the automatic fill valve turned on when I was cleaning the pond. I wanted to take out enough water to be able to catch some of the fish. The automatic fill valve is connected to my well/irrigation system so I do not need to worry about chlorine. The lowest level of the pond and the area beneath the waterfall/stream area collects the most in the way of debris buildup and requires the most time when it comes to vacuuming. I highly recommend a good pond vacuum. In the end I removed about 50% of the pond water.
So with me in the pond and Darin on “dry” land, yes he did have a good set of boots on. We set about cleaning and draining the pond. The cleaning went well. I started at the highest level and worked my way down to the lowest level of the pond. We saved some of the pond water in a large tub for the fish we were going to catch. Catching the fish was rather easy with the water level reduced. With one hand I would direct the fish we wanted to catch straight into the net. I would hand the net to Darin and he put the fish into the tub.
With the pond water lowered I also went around and put back some of the larger stones that moved or fell during the winter. My Koi like to pickup my gravel and they had an area completely devoid of gravel, so I put the gravel back in that area.
With the main part of the pond cleaned and a few of the fish removed, I came out of the pond to finish cleaning the skimmer box, filter mat and pond pump. Once that task was completed, I turned my Hudson automatic water fill valve back on and let the pond refill. Once the pond was filled enough to turn on the pond pump, I turned the pond pump back on and let the system finish filling.
We were running out of time so I did not get my Aquascape IonGen device re-installed yet. I plan on getting that done in a few days.
As for the fish I removed, they are now swimming about in a huge and I mean huge natural pond on my brother’s property. As for the fish that are still in the pond, they appear to be happy and healthy. With the temperatures beginning to warm up, they are active and feeding.
Happy Spring Cleaning, your finned friends will thank you….
By keno | April 6, 2011
Growing and Harvesting White Worms for Your Aquarium Fish
White worms, Enchytraeus albidus, are an excellent source of protein for your aquarium fish. White worms can easily be cultured at home for an extremely low cost. I received my white worm farm from a fellow aquarist Darin. He was nice enough to take some of his white worms and start a batch for me. This was the first time I have grown live food for my fish, so I figured there would be some trials and errors along the way.
My white worm farm is your typical setup with moist peat as the medium. I feed my white worms softened dog food as recommended by Darin. I check the food daily to make sure that the food does not go moldy. I raise my white worms in a plastic container, the lid having plenty of holes in it for fresh air. White worms like to be in the dark, and I have a room in my basement that has no outside windows, so the room is perfect for growing the white worms. You can also use a cardboard box on top of your white worm farm to make it dark. The temperature for now in the basement is just around 60 degrees Fahrenheit, which is ideal for the worms to grow and multiply.
Just How Do You Harvest White Worms?
Getting the white worms to grow and multiply, no problem. When I would check the state of the food in the container, I could see lots and lots of worms. Ok, now try to collect some. As soon as you try, the worms pull back into the peat. Ok, so I tried taking out a clump of worms along with the peat. That worked, but now how do you separate the worms from the peat. The first time I tried putting the worms and peat into a small amount of water. That wasn’t bad, the worms did clump together, but I did have peat floating also.
So I went to the web to see if I could find a better method. What I did find was someone who grows grindal worms and that person mentioned that he uses a piece of glass on top of the worm medium to collect the worms. So I thought why not try it with the white worms. I didn’t have a piece of glass, but I did have a piece of semi-rigid plastic. I put the plastic on top of the peat and put a few pieces of moist dog food on top of the plastic. I figured I would give it a day and see what happens. The next day I couldn’t believe it, when I checked on the worms, I had a large amount of them right on top of the plastic eating the food.
To harvest them I picked up the plastic and using a wooden tongue depressor, I just scraped them off into a small plastic container. I then rinsed the worms with some RO water and off to the aquariums. This harvesting process was much easier, faster and cleaner. If you have your own method of harvesting white worms, please let me know.
By keno | March 30, 2011
CREE XM-L DIY High Powered LED Aquarium Light
A Word of Caution:
This project involves the use of electricity, power tools, and high power LEDs. Before you tinker with LEDs or any electrical materials, be sure you understand the risks involved. This series of articles was created simply to share what I’ve done. These are not verified instructions. I take no responsibility for any harm caused to you, others, or to your property as a result of the info contained in these articles.
So I had to try them, them being the CREE XM-L (T6) LED’s. The CREE XM-L (T6) LED’s are rated at 1000 lumens @ 3 amps. I wanted to see just how bright are these newer CREE LED’s. The brighter the LED’s, the less LED’s you would need to get the same or higher level of lighting. Getting the CREE XM-L LED’s was easy. I ordered them back in December 2010 and I had them by the end of the month. The harder aspect of this project was in finding the right LED power supply. I needed an LED power supply that could supply the 3 amps I was looking for. I was lucky that my supplier was able to get me an early release of the Mean Well HLG-150H-54B LED power supply. This supply has a rated output of 54Vdc @ 2.8 amps. Not quite the 3 amps but close. It is a constant current device / variable Vdc device as with the previous Mean Well LED power supplies I have used on past DIY High Powered LED Aquarium Lights. The power supply could handle up to 16 of the CREE XM-L LED’s, but I opted to have 14 LED’s. Why 14 when the LED power supply could handle 16. Well I had ordered the 14 CREE XM-L LED’s prior to getting the LED power supply. The other LED power supplies I was looking at could only handle 14.
I had several goals of this latest project.
- Test out the CREE XM-L (T6) LED’s.
- Use a single heat sink instead of the smaller heat sinks mounted to aluminum angle brackets. Minimize assembly work.
- I wanted the finished fixture to hang above the aquarium. Make it easier for aquarium maintenance.
- Use an LED Power Supply that could be dimmed with just a resistive device (i.e. potentiometer).
Single Heat Sink
In the past I had used smaller sized heat sinks and used aluminum angle brackets to hold the heat sinks in place. My thinking was I could cover the same amount of space with less weight. With these CREE XM-L LED’s I felt that heat dissipation was more important, plus installing the heat sink would be easier since I didn’t need to mount all the smaller heat sinks together. Using the one heat sink was much easier to mount, plus there was a huge time savings in not having to build the heat sink assembly.
Hanging the Fixture
For this project, I planned on hanging the fixture above my aquarium. I planned on using 3/4″ metal electrical conduit as my hangers. The design for the hangers began during the design phase of my aquarium stand. I decided to build my own stand and mount the hangers to the back of the stand during the build process. I good friend of mine Darin was able to get from work two key pieces of equipment to bend and cut the metal conduit. A pipe bender and a portable band saw.
We bent and cut the pipe to the size we needed and using conduit clamps mounted the conduit to the back of the stand. As part of the design, I wanted the AC power cord to run through the conduit. So we drilled the holes for the eye bolts and the hole for the AC power and pushed the power cable through the pipe. The power cable I used was a piece of 3 conductor cable that was left over when my pool was installed. The cable was used by the installers for my underwater pool lights. There was a piece they were going to throw away, so I saved it. I mounted a plug on the end of the cable inside the stand and on the end above the aquarium, I mounted a molex type connector. I mounted the matching connector to the power cord coming out of the light fixture. So once the light was hung in place, I could connect the AC power to the light fixture with the molex connector.
For the light fixture, I decided to install eye bolts into the fixture to hold it above the aquarium. I also wanted an easy way to level the fixture, so once I had the holes drilled into the fixture, I epoxied nuts on the inside of the fixture. I then planned on using the same nuts on the outside of the fixture on the eyebolts. This way I could loosen the nuts on the outside of the fixture and twist the eyebolts in or out to level the fixture. Once it is level, I could then tighten the nuts on the eyebolts against the fixture for a snug fit.
Dimming the HLG-150H-54B
The Mean Well HLG-150H-54B LED power supply can be dimmed three different ways. A resistive value between 0 and 100K ohms, a dc level between 0 and 10 Vdc or a 10 Volt PWM signal. In the past I have used the 0-10 Vdc signal for dimming, for this fixture I decided to use the 0-100K ohm resistive feature. To control the dimming I picked up a 100K ohm potentiometer. With any of the dimming methods, this particular LED power supply will not go to 0 amps on the output. What that means is that you can not dim the fixture to the point of the LED’s turning off. For me, that was not an issue. You can dim the fixture to a pretty low light level. I only use the dimming feature when I am adding new fish to the aquarium anyway, and if I need to turn it off completely, I just turn off the AC power switch.
12 Vdc Power Supply
In my previous builds I would use an external 12 Vdc regulated power supply. This 12Vdc power supply would perform 2 functions. The first function was to supply 12Vdc to my fans, and the second was to supply the 0-10Vdc dimming control for the LED’s. For this fixture, I didn’t need the 0-10Vdc control, but I did need 12Vdc for the fans. Yes, you can get 120Vac fans, but there is a wider selection of 12Vdc fans available. Also, I didn’t want an external 12Vdc power supply since this fixture was going to be hanging and I didn’t want the extra cord. Yes, again I could have found a 5 wire conduit, but I had the 3 wire conduit sitting in my basement. So I found a 12Vdc brick style power supply at the same place that I got my 12Vdc fans. The nice thing with this 12Vdc supply is that the output has a male molex type connector on it. I have a bunch of molex connectors which would make the assembly process easy. As a side note, the 12Vdc power supply also has a 5Vdc output if you need it.
CREE XM-L (T6) LED’s
Mounting the CREE XM-L (T6) LED’s to the heat sink was done using a double side thermal tape. The part can be found at digikey.com and it’s part number is Ber159-ND. It comes in a 10″ x 10″ sheet and you just need to measure and cut the tape to size. The LED’s were soldered using a product called SOLDER-IT at my local Lowes store for $3.47. The build process went smooth as usual.
Then It Happened
I had the fixture all put together and I had run through some testing, on/off tests and heat testing at my kitchen table. Everything was looking good, so I decided to mount the fixture above my aquarium. My son Andrew and I put the fixture in place, made sure everything was level and plugged the light in. The light came on and everything looked just fine. Until, 20 minutes later the light went out. I checked power and the fans were still running, so I knew that I still had 120Vac going into the fixture. Good thing for the molex power connector for the 120Vac. We took the fixture back out and I tested my LED connections and everything looked good. So I grabbed a spare ELN-60-48D power supply that I have and rewired the LED’s to it. The LED’s turned on just fine. So, it looked as if the Mean Well HLG-150H-54B LED power supply had gone bad. The next day my supplier had a Mean Well engineer contact me to help troubleshoot the problem, and he too confirmed that the power supply had gone bad. Mean Well shipped me a replacement power supply and now the fixture is running just fine.
The amount of light from such a small number of LED’s is amazing. Cost wise the new fixture with the Mean Well HLG-150H-54B LED power supply costs about the same as my previous fixtures using the CREE XP-G R5 LED’s. The big difference is in the assembly process. Only one LED power supply vs 2 LED power supplies. The dimming circuit is only a potentiometer vs using the 12Vdc power supply and creating a voltage divider circuit to get 10Vdc for the dimming inputs. The biggest plus for me only having to solder 14 LED’s vs 28 LED’s. Like I’ve said before, I hate soldering. Would I build another, absolutely. I am planning on setting up some plant grow out tanks. I am planning on building some new fixtures. I figure that I will put the CREE XM-L (T6) LED’s fixtures on my view tanks and take the previous CREE XP-G R5 fixtures and put them on my grow out tanks. Additionally, the Mean Well HLG-150H-54B LED power supply can handle 16 of the CREE XM-L (T6) LED’s. So the new fixtures will have 16 LED’s in them.
By keno | January 28, 2011
New Aquarium Plant – Hygrophila Pinnatifida
The Hygrophila pinnatifida continues to do really well. The original or main stem is now growing in height. The 2 side stems had started growing upwards, but now have laid flat against the substrate. You can’t see this in the images, but the side stems are now getting side stems. You can also see root growth beginning on the side stems.
In this image you can see the 1st stem which is now about 2 inches long. The distortion in the image is due to the bend in the acrylic aquarium.
When the original/main stem was first planted, the plant was even with the substrate. The main stem is now beginning to get some height.
In this image you can see the 2nd stem. Along the 2nd stem there is a small root that has formed.
By keno | January 20, 2011
New Aquarium Plant – Hygrophila Pinnatifida
There are an additional 2 new leaves from the original stem. The 1st new stem is gaining in height and I think it is going to surpass the original stem shortly. There is a 2nd new stem that I noticed today. There also appears to be a possible 3rd new stem starting on the right side. Was not able to photograph it.
I labeled the different stems in this image. The image is a bit blurry. You can see the height of the 1st stem as compared to the original.
You can see the 2nd new stem in this image. It is right behind the piece of black gravel under the plant.
You can see the height of 1st stem also in this image.
By keno | January 17, 2011
New Aquarium Plant – Hygrophila Pinnatifida
Took some pictures on Day 10. There are now 6 leaves on the original stem and two new leaves on a second stem. Yes, I can see that a second stem has formed. I took a close up image to show the formation of the second stem. The new leaves are also very dissected as compared to the leaves that were there when I received the plant. Overall it appears to be doing very well.
By keno | January 17, 2011
New Aquarium Plant – Hygrophila Pinnatifida
The two new leaves in the Day 1 photos have become larger and two new leaves are emerging from the center of the plant. The first two leaves were light green, these two new leaves are more bronze in color. The new leaves appear to emerge at right angles to the previous leaves.
By keno | January 8, 2011
New Aquarium Plant – Hygrophila Pinnatifida
I just added a new plant (Hygrophila Pinnatifida) to my 200 gallon aquarium. This plant is relatively new to the aquarium marketplace. All of my planted aquariums have High Powered CREE LED’s so it will be interesting to see how this plant grows under these conditions. I purchased the plant from a person in Hawaii, so the plant has travelled far to get to my aquarium here in Toms River, NJ. When the plant first arrived, the leaves were rigid and vertical, so I couldn’t see the center of the plant. After the first day the leaves relaxed and I could see the center area. There appears to be two new leaves that I couldn’t see at first. I am planning on documenting the growth habits of this plant in my aquarium.
Here is a description of the Hygrophila Pinnatifida:
Hygrophila pinnatifida originates from India. It obtains brown, patched leaves on the surface with a distinctive burgundy colour underneath. It creates horizontal side shoots and the top shoots should be pinched out in order to maintain compact and attractive growth. The horizontal side shoots easily attach to both wood and rocks. Growth is moderate and the colour is attractive when planted in small groups with a plain background. Intense lighting ensures compact growth due to the plant’s slow to medium growth rate.