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Now you will probably get multiple answer.
You asked if CF lights last longer than reg. fluorescents - Yes, they
do, about twice as long according to manufacturer's suggestions. I just
started using CFs so maybe someone that has had them longer can verify
that or now. I figured that if they indeed last over one year, it is
cheaper to run them in the long term than to run (twice as many for the
light output) regular fluors.
The watts/gallon is of course an open question. You can grow plants
with anything from 2-5+ watts/gallon and probably on either side of that
if you are growing mosses at the low end and Glossostigma and the like
on the high end. As you will see from past discussions, the low end is
easier on the upkeep end and uses less fertilizer and costs less. The
high wattage people, like myself, are fanatics and like to try to grow
everything at some point and don't want limitations on the light end of
things. I run over 5 watts/gallon on two tanks using CFs. Like I said,
I just started and am just getting to know how much more fertilizer is
needed, etc....it's ongoing in terms of learning!
I would suggest you start with no more than 3 watts/gallon to start.
Anything more will frustrate you at this point.
Hope this helps.