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Re: [APD] Help With My New Tank!! -- or - Squeezing light bulbs

Those fluoresecents that are designed to fit a standard
light socket and have their electronic ballast built right
into the base of the bulb generally go by the term "Compact
Flourescent" (or CF) as opposed to "Power Compact" (or PC),
which tends to be reserved for the longer "twin tube"
fluorescents that require a separate ballast. but they
function essentially the same way.

However, and this is important, the closer one places the
tubes to each other, or the more one bends back on
themselves or puts them into a spiral, the more of the
light output that is effectively lost. This is because, all
folded up or in a spiral, much (sometimes even about 40%)
of the light is leaving a tube and just striking another
tube. Basically, the tubes block much of their own light.
So you will find that the Compact Fluorescents tend to be
much less efficient than Power Compacts or T5 High Output
(T5HO) fluorescents, and even T8 fluorescents. Otoh, they
can be cheaply gotten if you shop carefully and are easy to
install because the ballast is contained inside the bulb

With Power Compacts or T5 HOs or other "first class"
lighting and very good mirror-like reflectors, about 1.5-2
watts per gallon is plenty for a slow growing tank without
added CO2. 3-4 watts per gallon is doable and will speed up
growth but stay closer to 2 watts unless you are adding CO2
and plant nutrients to your aquarium to support the faster
growth and keeping up with all your maintenance. If your
lighting exceeds the available suporting nutrients, you'll
find lots of algae in your aquarium. With CFs you probably
want to try to get closer to 3 watts per gallon even for a
slow growing tank and this will yield more heat but about
the same amount of effective light as about 2 watts per
gallon of PCs or T5HOs or MHs. *Note* that these are only
rough rules of thumb. You might find that your style of
gardening, your level of maintenance, and your plant
choices make things work out better with more or less

CFs are designed to be used in ordinary lamps that were
designed for incandescent bulbs (also known as electric
heaters because they are about 94-97% energy efficent as
heaters ;-)  ). Such lamps either have wattage maximums
that are low (like 40 watts or 60 watts) or allow for a lot
of convection to keep the lamp cool or, in the case of
recessed ceiling fixtures, have insulation to keep the heat
from adversely affecting the surrounding structure (i.e.,
burning down the house). If you squeeze CFs into a stock
plastic aquarium light hood, you might find some gradual
darkening or even melting in the area right over the CFs.
I've seen this happen more than once. You can help prevent
the melting and slow "roasting" of the plastic by lifting
the hood slightly in back so that air can more easily enter
and convect up through the hood. Also note that some CFs
are designed to be used base-down only. that means the
ballast in the base is not designed to handle the higher
temperature that it will reach if not burned base down.
This us usually marked on the package or right on the base
of the bulb. Not observing base-down, were required,
results in shortened bulb life.

While CFs emit their light from a more concentrated area
than straight tube fluorescents or PCs, it is still a much
large area than an incandescent or MH. So you won't see
sharp edges to shadows or glimmering water using CFs.

But there is no reason you can't start out with one
lighting setup and change to another later when your budget
provides for something that better fits your desires. It's
not like trying to install heating cables in an established
aquarium ;-)

I don't recall who (maybe Bill W.?), but someone posted
some relatively cheap sources for parts to make your own MH
lamps -- it's in those APD archives somewhere.

Alternatively, you can get a ready-made hood/refelctor that
uses one or more PCs. Or you can get a hood/reflector that
uses old-fashioned T12 (ordinary) fluorescents and convert
it to PC with one of the kits from AHSupply.com. Btw, no
one has refelctors better than AH Supply. I recommend
staying away from the really high priced stuff, light
electronic ballasts that cost over a hundred dollars and
the like. There are more reasonable alternatives like
Fulham ballasts, which happen to be the ones that AHS uses.
Btw, you can find Fulham ballasts for a reasonable price
from a number of suppliers including one or two that sell
on ebay.

For a nice small-tank slow grow set up, I like to put a
pair of 13 watt U-tube fluorescents over a standard-sized
15 gallon tank with two inches deep Fluorite substrate. I
use the kits from AHsupply.com. I stuff the tank with
plants and a generous amount of small tetras or similarly
sized fish. I added Fluorish or Tropica Master Grow three
times a week and maybe a little potassium sulfate and the
tiniest pinch of potassium phosphate once a week after I do
a water change. My tap water has virtually no phosphate in
it and fish food just doesn't provide as much phosphate as
it did way back in the stell-frame tank days. With these
tanks I clean the algae off the glass at least once every 4
or 5 months when the algae becomes visible.

I could probably ease off on the traces and water changes,
but the method works so well for me, I haven't the heart
(or maybe the courage ;-)  ) to fool with it much. 

Yes, you can use CFs and have a planted aquarium that you
will enjoy for years. Better options are available if your
budget permits.

Scott H.

--- Shalom Levytam <shalominc at yahoo_com> wrote:
> . . . Can anyone comment on the suitability of using 
> these
> bulbs?  Metal Halides just seem too expensive right
> now.  I was thinking of using numerous of these
> compact florescant bulbs inside a socket which
> directed their light downwards instead of out to all
> sides...
> How many watts total would I need?  Note: tank is 24
> high.

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