Different kind of set-ups

As most people with the fish tank syndrome, I like to limit the use of technics, and when I use it, I'll try to make it invisible. In this case, I made a small remote (45 x 30 x 8 mm). That is the only visible part. My Arduino itself and the power supply have been put away from the water, and stay out of sight. (Some people think the small wooden remote is the light computer, but unformtunately that's not possible)

The big choice to make is "what to use as a RGB LED driver", as can be seen in the image right:

setup01This version has one central LED driver. Depending on the size of your tank, it must be able to handle 100s of LED's. The version I have, used 12 V RGB LED strip, and when the driver was powered, it also powered the Arduino with 5 Volt. Depending on the LED strip (common anode or common cathode) there is a central ground or +12V to the strips, and three wires for the colors. The remote has a small cable with 5-7 wires in it (I used an old PC cable). The OLED screen uses 4 wires (two wires for the I2C bus, and a +5V and a ground), the button 1, 2 or 3. (The button needs a connection to an Arduino pin, a +5V and a ground for a pulldown resistor). It is possible to share the power lines with the OLED, but if you have enough wires in your cable: let both devices have their own power, to reduce the risk of interference. If you have a cable with 6 wires, then I suggest to share the +5V, and give the button its own ground.

The advantage of this setup it the possibility to use cheap LED's. Those strips with the world-famous 5050 LED's are a very cheap solution. However, you need a driver (or more drivers) to control them. That driver probably is the most expensive part of your setup.


setup02On the other hand, you can use RGB LED strips with the 2812 protocol. Those LED strips are more expensive, but every LED on the strip has its own driver embedded. It used tree wires: +5V, ground and Din (data in) and do (data out). The do of every single LED is connected to the din of the next LED. With only 3 wires, these strips have individually addressable LED's! This program does not make use of that property, but if fact it's possible to create different zones with different light. (Moonlight only at the front? More light in zones with critical plants?)

At first I had some reservations. At what speed do all those small controllers pass the signal?  Would there be a delay between the first and the last led? Any research on the web learned that the speed of this system is so fast, that you would be able to use it for a videowall. (You can let your fish watch "Finding Nemo" from your light hood, as you like) This LED's are also used for DIY Ambilight systems and effect lightning for disco's, so there seems to be no problem at all.

The main advantage seems the lack of a central LED driver. On the other hand, these LED's are more expensive. For my tank with 300 LED's, the costs for the driver and the LED's are:



System with driver 

and 5050 LED's

System with  

2812 LED's

300 LED's $  9.70 $ 26.40
Driver $ 18.00  -
Sum $ 27.70 $ 26.40



As you can see, for tanks like mine there is no real difference at all. For smaller tanks, the 2812 system would be even cheaper! Bigger tanks won't make more benefit, as the driver I've used was able to control 30 Watt of LED's, which means that 600 LED's need a second driver.

Another advantage -when you use strips of 5V- is the less complex power supply. The first system uses 12V strips (as the driver also uses 12V), the second system uses 5V strips, so all can be plugged in to the power supply without any restrictions.

The program on the Arduino can handle both scenario's, but when you want to use something else to drive the LED's make sure you know how to let your Arduino communicate with the driver.


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