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Sarahanne1984

fluorescent tubes vs. 4 pin CFL bulbs? Lighting question

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ive had my seaclear 36" long 40G with the cheapy single 24" fluorescent tube fixture that comes with it for years.. but the tank was always in a sunny room so the plants never suffered. my goldfish tank is heavily planted and my goldfish are actually well behaved about not tearing them up. but ive moved the tank to another room so its time to think about buying a Nicer light fixture as the plants are beginning to suffer and i cant see the fish as well. i tried LEDs and it was a major waste of money.

im thinking about a fixture that is at least the equivalent of 3 to 4 24" 20 watt fluorescent tubes, or maybe an actual 36" fixture since the tank is actually that long. ive looked at some 24" fixtures that hold 4 High Output fluorescent tubes, and some 24" fixtures that hold 2 of the compact fluorescent tubes (the ones that are 2 tubes stuck together with 4 pins in a row) i like the look of daylight mixed with actinic, or the 50/50 CFLs.

my questions, i wonder if any one knows or has some experience with these different bulbs.

compact fluorescent, regular and H.O. fluorescent tubes;

What is Brighter? how do they compare to eachother? what lasts longest? most cost effective? heat problems? do plants thrive more with one or the other?

thanks!

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I know that actinic means you are more likely to be battling algae. Since this is a heavily planted established tank, that may or may not be a concern of yours. Actinic isn't necessary from a goldfish standpoint.

I have had T5 H0 and enjoyed them but I did not have the tank as heavily planted as you described. Hope a lighting expert can come along and help ya :)

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did you think your T5 High output bulbs seem like they lasted long? what was the replacement cost like?

when i was researching algae when i built my algae scrubber everything i read said that algae (atleast the hair algae i wanted) likes red light spectrum.. not blue? but i dont really know about all of it. ive had actinic and daylight on a nano tank i had a long time ago and i liked the look of it and never had an algae problem in there from it. i doubt ill have an algae problem in this tank, i keep it dark at night and my lights are only on about 8 hours a day, i also have an algal turf scrubber, a UV sterilizer and my BN pleco does a good job too :) id like the lighting to look crisp and clean and white. not purplish or pinkish like ive gotten with a lot of plant/aquarium bulbs. in my opinion when ive had white or daylight bulbs before it just doesnt look right to me without the blue/actinic tones added in, it always looks like it has a greenish or yellowish tint to the water without the blue. and i like the way the blue brings out the reds and oranges in my fish as well. im using a cheap strip of 36 actnic LEDS added next to my single fluorescent bulb. but they are cheapy and wont last much longer.

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The T5HO bulbs are really going to give you the most 'bang for your buck' so to speak. They are 'brighter' than the older T5 or T8 bulbs, brighter meaning more light output for the amount of wattage. So, 78 watts of T5HO is actually more light output than 78watts of T5 or T8 (there is a conversion that you can do to see how many 'watts' a T5HO lamp is compared to the others, but I can't seem to find it right now).

I personally use two fixtures on my 40 gallon, both are T5HO fixtures, each has a 6,000k bulb and a pink roseatte bulb (total of 126 watts). I love these lights in terms of general look and also plant growth.

I am personally not a fan of the look of actinic, but you can definitely find T5HO fixtures that are set up for marine aquariums with an actinic bulb and usually a 10,000k bulb. The 10,000k tends to be a bit whiter/brighter/crisper looking than something like a 6,000k bulb, so it seems like that would be what you are after :idont

Here are a couple graphs that I always find interesting/helpful when thinking about lighting (which can get oh so complicated!)

PAR-vs-Dist-TYP-Lights.jpg

LightIntensityTable.jpg

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I am now seeing you are in the US :) this is the light I have (I have a 36 inch and a 30 inch one) http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?pcatid=23753

They make a saltwater setup that comes with the actinic/10,000 bulbs. They also have dual bulb or 4-bulb fixtures.

The lights generally need to be replaced typically every 9-12 months (but of course it depends on how long you leave your lights on). I have read that with typical use par begins to drop somewhere around 7-9 months. Cost is generally 10-20 dollars a bulb depending on what type/brand you buy.

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What is brighter?

In theory, T5HO bulbs should be the brightest; however, this is not always the case. T5HO fixtures with good bulbs throw off a lot of light, in fact, far more than most fixture/bulb combinations. I find the brightness of a bulb tends to be user specific though. What I find bright, for example, my mother may not. She tends to think LEDs cast a brighter light, yet I staunchly disagree—I'm in favour of T5HO bulbs when it comes to this question. What one person finds bright may actually be a predisposition (or bias) towards whiter lights. This is clearly demonstrated in the case I presented—that is LEDs tend to produce a more crisp white light.

Now, in regards to your actual question, I would have to say high output fluorescent tubes. Compact fluorescent tubes create a fair amount of light, but they tend to be designed for use in smaller fixtures. In contrast, high output bulbs are designed for use in larger more powerful fixtures. In a tank 36" long, it almost isn't worth buying compact fluorescents for this reason. Don't get me wrong, you can, but I think they are far better suited on smaller planted tanks. It is a practicality thing. CF bulbs are generally perfect for use in desk lamps and other small fixtures. For this reason alone, many professionally micro-planted and smaller aquascaped tanks are lit using CF bulbs. They provide a certain flexibility fixture-wise, that bigger, more powerful fixtures do not.

How do they compare to each other?

I believe I answered this extensively enough above. If, however, you have any more questions, feel free to ask.

What lasts longer?

This I cannot definitively answer. Some bulbs go bad before others, and others seemingly last forever. At the end of the day, it will all come down to how regularly they are used. Since you have a planted tank I can safely assume they will run for at least 6 hours daily. This, in my opinion, constitutes extensive regular use. Most fluorescent bulbs will claim to last for anywhere between 18-24 months. However, as bulbs burn, the colour spectrum of the bulb shifts. It may not be noticeable to the human eye; however, your plants will invariably notice. This may sound bad, but your plants will adapt because bulbs will not shift spectrum-wise in the extremes.

Plants will make use of all colour spectrums, that said, they grow best when bulbs are high in red and green wavelengths (blue stimulates the plant's shade response). To keep things lush and operating smoothly, you can expect to replace your bulbs around every 12-18 months. Use your own discretion, if things look like they aren't growing adequately anymore (and you have not changed anything nutrient-wise), then chances are your bulbs might need replacing.

Most cost effective?

Good quality high output bulbs (T5HO) will cost the most. If you mean in terms of electricity bill and performance, none of the fixtures should increase your bill's footprint. As aforementioned, the high output fixtures/bulbs are the most power hungry; but the increase in your bill, should you choose to use these bulbs, will be non-existent or marginal at best.

Heat problems?

All bulbs get hot, however, none will become hot enough to alter your water temperature. There are exceptions to this (for example, incandescent lighting), but incandescent bulbs are now archaic and have fallen out of use.

Do plants thrive more with one or the other?

Short answer: no. Plants do not care what fixture you use; instead they only care about PAR (photosynthetically active radiation). Provided your lights produce enough PAR for the plants in your tank, you shouldn't run into any problems. Do keep in mind though, that aquatic plants tend to grow less full with blue spectrum bulbs—it stimulates their shade response. Subsequently, the will grow tall (towards the light source) instead of full. Avoid actinic and other blue bulbs for this reason; they are better suited for marine tanks. Blue is the most penetrative light wavelength, hence why it is used for corals. In the ocean 'blue' light is what corals have evolved to expect.

I hope this answers all of your questions. :)

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thanks! i'm going to go with a T5 HO fixture.

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