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Re: Light bulb advice

> How about it, fair readers? If you were to recommend new bulbs to George,
> who has been *really* happy with UTL and Triton for lo these many years,
> which would it be? Don't be shy, this isn't a trick. 
> George Booth, confused in Ft.Collins, CO  (booth at frii_com)

Confused? George? *That'll be the day!*

That said, here's where *I'm* heading, these days. I've always been a member
of the cheapskate crowd, and used mostly T-12 "daylight" and "Chroma 50"
mixes from the local hardware/discount store. My typical hoods have been
shoplights, laying on cover glass, for the bigger tanks. My tanks are *fish*
tanks, with plants being subordinate to that (not that I don't *wish* they
looked nice).

Since shoplights are far less efficient than what is available, these days,
I have been switching to compacts for my small tanks and buying electronic
ballasts in preparation for converting my larger tanks to the far more
efficient T-8 tubes. You get substantially more light from a 32W 4' T-8
(with a proper reflector design) than any 40W NO 4' T-12. [This is
particularly true in long narrow tanks, like 55G, where re-strike eats gobs
of light.] With instant-start electronic ballasts the total electrical
efficiency is great!

There are some fine T-8 choices of phosphors in the 4000-6000K color range.
Get higher if you want bluer, and lower if you want yellower/redder (and
better growth, probably). If I could afford it, I would retrofit all three
of my 55G tanks to power compacts, but the T-8s should come close, if I can
build or buy suitably designed reflectors (the one big key to really good
use of light).

It's hard to beat 5000K for looking like normal white light to most
observers (assuming CRI of 80+ or so), but folks do see colors differently.
[My second wife could glance at the swimming pool and see it needed chlorine
(greenish tint) days before I would ever notice it.] 6000K is more like
having a north-facing skylight, with little direct sun. It can have great
CRI, and is favored by many artists (like my 2nd wife) as "true" white, but
can be a bit short on the more effective, and strongly photosynthesizing,

I just added a retrofitted AH Supply 40W "Brite Kit" to a 25L with amazing
results. I had one of the highly-touted 2' junk bulbs (probably a
Penn-Plax), sold at the LFS, and two compact 20W bulbs, both with
indifferent aluminum reflectors. The 40W CF is rated at 5000K and 20,000
hours life, for under $17!

The single power compact with a good reflector design appeared to more than
double the total light, and sent the plants into happy bubbling (which they
had not done before). I moved the old junk tube over to a 55G across the
room with no visible change. :-) After a couple of weeks, the tank needs
serious trimming and maintenance. [That's the downside of CO2, TMG, and lots
of light.] Since the eye is logarithmic, an appearance of doubling was
obviously more than that in reality. 

BTW, the substrate is truly junk, very coarse gravel, about the size of pea
gravel! It is decorative as all get out, but hardly decent rooting medium.
Tell that to the stem plants, microswords, etc., that are propagating like
mad. I let an Anubias on driftwood get too dry, while cleaning its tank, and
killed most of the leaves. In two weeks, it has sprouted strong new leaves,
and in another two I'm sure it will make a great small-tank centerpiece
again. The Java moss on the big driftwood piece seriously needs a trimming.

In George's case, with two rich folk to support the hobby, I would just
retrofit every hood with AH Supply "Brite Light" 96W PC kits. It's a shame
they have no 5000K 96W tubes, yet. [Oh well, Karla will think they are too
yellow anyway. ;-)]

In mine, I'm going to stick with my used 55Gs (they are really cheap at the
thrift shops!) and probably install three or four T-8 5000K 32W tubes over
each. I'll either make new "Golden Arches" effective reflectors with 3M
"Silverlux" lining, or just buy the enhanced aluminum reflectors from Kim at
AH Supply for them. [http://ahsupply.com/index.html -- I have no connection,
just a happy customer]

The power compacts have been available longer and in greater variety in
Europe. Europe's relatively poorer supplies of energy have forced them to
adapt, sooner. We will find them in better selection and competitive price
in the future, here, but right now the better aquarium PCs can require some
serious searching to find. AH Supply has done most of that horse work for
us, and you can't beat their bend-over-backwards customer support, and
modest pricing.

If I was changing from Triton and had an unlimited budget, that's what I
would do. :^)


PS. My next project is to design *submersed* lo-Watt (9W?) compacts for my 2
doz. 5G tanks, to both show the fish better and grow plants faster. With
100-150 (mostly small) tanks and containers, efficiency is a major goal --
to lower my $250/mo. electric bill. Getting lamps below the waterline is a
cheap way to go. You should see what it does to irridescent killies!

Wright Huntley, Fremont CA, USA, 510 494-8679  huntleyone at home dot com

          If it ain't broke, don't fix it -- and, especially,
            don't let politicians fix it. ... Thomas Sowell

               *** http://www.libertarian.org/ ***