DIY Light Fixture

It’s been a while since I’ve put any real time into fish-related projects, but I’ve had a few days off from work thanks to Snowpocalypse 2014 — as some of us have been calling Georgia’s worst freak winter storm in a long, long while — and I’ve managed to finish a DIY light fixture for my 55-gallon tank.  Naturally, I wanted to share the project on Aylad’s Aquatics.

First, a teaser photo of the finished project — click through to the full post for a materials list, cost estimate, and a description of how I did it.

60-watt diy light

Materials (for a single lighting unit) with approximate costs:Parts for light fixture

  • 3 plug-to-bulb socket adapters ($1.99 each, total $5.97)
  • 1 two-outlet and bulb socket adapter ($2.99)
  • 3 CFL bulbs (20-watt daylight spectrum) (3-pack $11.88)
  • 1 extension cord (medium duty, 15 feet — $9.57)
  • 1 foil roasting pan ($0.94)
  • 1 plastic cutting board ($2.24)
  • Heavy-gauge wire (already had this, and only needed a few inches, so no price estimate here)
  • Superglue (cheap)

Total cost per unit:  $33.59 plus wire and superglue

Not bad for a fun DIY project that results in a 60-watt light fixture.  Of course, if you don’t think DIY is its own reward, you might not consider this a bargain.  Keep in mind, also, that the per-bulb replacement cost is going to be a long-term money saver (compared to periodically replacing 1 or 2 T5-HO bulbs).

Basic fixtureTo start off, I superglued two of the plug-to-bulb adapters into the outlets on either side of the two-outlet light socket.  This gave me a triple light socket.  (Protip:  test each component first to be sure it works BEFORE supergluing.  Don’t ask.)  The third socket adapter screws onto the base of the whole shebang so that it can plug into the extension cord.

(Are there easier ways to get a triple-bulb light socket?  Probably, and cheaper ones too, but I wanted to use gadgets readily available to me.)

The next thing I needed was a way to hang the fixture inside the foil pan, which will serve as the reflector.  With the bulbs screwed in, the fixture won’t go all the way to the bottom of the pan; I needed to hang it so that the bulbs were as near the rim of the pan as possible while still being fully inside the pan.  I decided to use heavy-gauge wire (from the hardware section of a store) to make a mounting bracket for the sockets.

I wanted the sockets to hang from the top of the pan, but the thin foil won’t easily support the weight.  I had bought a cheap plastic cutting board for just that reason:  the wire bracket hangs from the cutting board, and the cutting board rests on the bottom of the upside-down pan.  In the second photo below, you can see the wire coming up through the cutting board and hooked over into a second hole.  You can also see the hole in the pan for the extension cord to go through.

Final result:  a slightly ugly (but easy enough to hide) 60-watt 6500K light fixture, with reflector, for one half of a 55-gallon tank.  I’m going to build another one just like it for the other side of the tank, which will give me a whopping 120 watts of light.  It’s gonna be bright, is what I’m saying.

Be careful: All DIY projects involve some level of risk. Use appropriate safety measures when attempting any do-it-yourself project, especially projects involving electrical apparatus. is not responsible for injuries or damages resulting from unsafe projects. Have a nice day!