Re: Fluorescent Lighting

Dennis Wenthen asked, "Is there any great advantage to HO and VHO set-ups? 
 The cost difference is huge.  Any input? "  IMO, the reasons for using HO, 
VHO, MH and normal fluorescent lighting are only partially about cost of the 
setup.  One of the things to consider is how much room there is over the 
tank vs. the depth of the tank and the types of plants.  Can you fit enough 
of the inexpensive lights over the tank to produce the amount of light 
output you desire?  Aesthetics also should be considered.  What will the end 
result of the lighting decision look like and can I live with it?  If you 
have a 125g show tank in the living room, the answer may be quite different 
than if you were lighting the same size tank located in the basement. 
 Another question is what kind of plants do you want to grow and what kind 
of growth do you want?  If you're happy with plants that occasionally 
produce babies and slow growth, you can probably get away with lower light 
levels.  On the other hand, if you want massive growth in order to sell the 
plant babies and cuttings, then higher light levels may be needed (plus CO2 
injection and regular fertilization, but that's another story!).  The kind 
of plants you use will also dictate lighting levels.

Now comes cost consideration - but don't just think about purchase cost for 
the bulbs and canopy.  That's an initial cost which, hopefully, will not 
need to be repeated.  Find out how much replacement bulbs cost and how 
frequently they must be changed.  Then find out how much electricity the 
fixture will use.  This last part may be easier said than done.  So just 
make a good guess.  Normal florescents use less energy than HO, which is 
less than VHO, which is less than MH.  A friend just told me her new MH, 
running only 6 hrs/day, cost her an extra $25 US each month.  Ouch!  That's 
$300 US per year!   Then, consider the heat generated by the type of 
lighting.  If you live in colder parts of the planet, using a MH with lots 
of heat coming from the lights may help lower heating costs.  But, if you 
live in a warmer climate, it may COST MONEY to cool the room because of the 
lighting heat.  And that's only if you have air conditioning!  What about 
locations that don't use AC?   The HO and VHO ballasts throw off heat as 
well, just not as much.

For my situation, I needed cool bulbs because I wanted to use the same 
plastic fixtures that came with the tank (it matched the decor).  The tank 
is in the living room, and is next to the sitting area.  So esthetics were 
very important.  After evaluating all the above points, I decided on an 
IceCap ballast retrofit of the existing canopy.  I'm happy with my setup and 
that's the bottom line.  Will you be happy with your decision?

Rochelle Williams
williaro at ftmcphsn-emh1_army.mil
Waiting for cooler temperatures in Atlanta, USA.