How to make your own reef light kit

Do you think your aquarium needs something extra to give it a touch of dynamism? Perhaps something that is both practical and stylish 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 darkest hours.

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

Let’s break down what you’ll need and how to not only get started, but finish your very own DIY reef light kit. This setup shouldn’t take more than two to four hours, but it’s definitely okay if it takes longer!

What you’ll need to get started

So, you have decided that you are going to take on the task of building your own DIY tank light kit; Now it’s important to start with the right tools and supplies. To ensure a hassle-free project with minimal expense and minimal suffering, you will need to purchase the following materials in the measurements necessary to fit and fit your aquarium:

  • Aluminum laminate (two pieces) that do not rust when placed in water
  • Aluminum channels that do not rust when placed in the water.
  • LED lights in the power and heat levels you prefer * If you’re not sure which LED lighting to buy for your aquarium, check out this Reef Lighting Guide provided by
  • Power drill and bits that will drill through the aluminum sheets along with the aluminum channels
  • Cutting snips that will cut aluminum with minimal resistance.
  • Miscellaneous supplies: hooks, chains, glue, and/or eye screws

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

DIY Reef Light Kit Step by Step

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


Gather all the necessary materials in separate piles to allow for easy maneuvering and accessibility.


Have a diagram planned for the LED lights and put the lights on AC power, spectrums, heat, etc.


Ask a friend or someone on standby to wire up the LED lights when the time comes if you’re uncomfortable in any way with wiring the lights.


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


Cut a sheet of aluminum into smaller strips to use as frame pieces for the solid sheet of aluminum that has the holes punched out.


Fuse together (using waterproof metal glue or screws) the smaller aluminum frame pieces along the entire edge of the full sheet of aluminum to create a box-like structure into which the tubes holding the lights will fit LEDs.


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


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


Fit the pieces into the box-shaped structure created in step 4 with the openings pointing toward the holes drilled in the aluminum sheet.


Once all the channels are in place on the aluminum box, secure them with waterproof metal glue or use the drill to drive the eye screws into the appropriate locations.


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

  • If using individual lights, apply waterproof metallic glue to the back of the light and press into the aluminum channel, holding it in place or leaving the reef light kit alone for the recommended dry time.


Route the LED light wires through the aluminum channels and thread through the pre-drilled holes at both ends of the channel.

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


Test the LED lights to make sure each section is getting power from the proper source and lighting up to the expected brightness before permanently securing the lighting system.


Once all LED lights are confirmed to be working properly, secure the wires to the outside of the aluminum box.

  • Some people braid or twist the wires into a smaller bundle, while others tape 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 cables hang out of place.


Drill small holes in the frame of the aluminum box where you want to install the hanging chain so that it is suspended above the aquarium.


Thread the hanging chain through the holes and secure with eye screws or waterproof metal glue.


Install a hook at the top of the hanging chains to secure it to the aquarium lid or any bracket that will be used to mount the reef lighting kit.


Pull on the chains to make sure they are firmly in place and do not slip through the holes in the aluminum box.

step nineteen

Once you’ve done all of this and are happy with the look of your reef light kit, hang it over the aquarium, plug in the power supply, and enjoy the warm glow of the LED lights reflecting through the water.

If you are more of a visual learner or would like someone to walk you through the steps as you assemble your own reef light kit, why not check this out? Informative YouTube video explaining each step in detail.


Now that you know how to not only build, but also 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 your nearest pet store or specialist marine life supplier to discuss what type of reef light kit would be the most beneficial for the creatures in your tank.

Don’t rush to the store and buy 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 be included in the one you were debating buying.

Remember that you will need to buy the following:

  • Aluminum foil (two pieces) that will not rust when placed in water.
  • Aluminum channels: tubes that do not rust when they are placed in the water.
  • LED lights at the power and warmth levels you prefer
  • Power drill and bits that will drill through the aluminum sheets along with the aluminum channels.
  • Cutting snips that will cut through aluminum and other strong metals.
  • Miscellaneous Supplies: Hooks, Chains, and Eye Screws

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

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