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Lighting "rules of thumb"

2 to 3 watts / gallon is the often repeated rule of thumb for lighting for planted freshwater aquariums. I struggle with that a bit given that going from 2 to 3 represents a full 50% difference. A 50% variance in most other aquaculture metrics would surely mean the demise of the organisms. Also, it seems that tank surface area and possibly depth would be much more relevant than tank volume. And further, is  wattage necessarily the appropriate measure? For example, aren't compact flourescents supposed to provide so much more light for a given wattage than standard flourescents? Am I misunderstanding something on that one? Of course, I understand that a "rule of thumb" is meant to be a rough basis and that the specific parameters of each situation need to be considered, but has anyone given thought to developing a more concise guideline for estimating the appropriate lighting for a given scenario?

Northwest Pump & Equipment Co.