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Tropical Fish Keeping – Pros and Cons Of Standard Fluorescent Lighting

There are some pros and cons for using standard fluorescent lighting systems over your aquarium that you need to know about before selecting the type of lighting for your tank.

The primary role of aquarium lightning is to allow tropical fish keeping enthusiasts the ability to easily watch their fish.  But more importantly, it also provides energy to  photosynthetic plants and animals housed in the system.

Normally, the aquarium lighting system you provide is the only source of light for photosynthetic plants, corals or anemones that are living in your tank.   The behavior, health and psychology of your fish is also influenced by the source of lightning you provide and in fact, the well being of the entire tank depends on lightning.

Common output fluorescent lightning systems or standard fluorescent lightning is the easiest to provide illumination for an aquarium.   This type of lightning is recognized as the best for marine, fish only tanks and most freshwater aquariums.

Standard fluorescent lighting is available in a variety of wattage s, sizes and spectrum ranges and because of this it is generally considered to be the most popular type system used by tropical fish keeping enthusiasts for freshwater, brackish water, and marine tank applications.

Some of the Pros for using standard fluorescent bulbs are as follows:

  • Low Initial Cost
    Depending on what type ballast is used, the initial cost of purchasing a standard fluorescent lighting systems is considered low to moderate. Even with the cost of the more expensive ballasts, fluorescent lighting systems are much less expensive than metal halide, VHO, HO or combination systems.
  • Light Spectrum Availability
    Fluorescent light bulbs are produced in a variety of spectrum ranges. Since fish, invertebrates, plants and corals all have different spectral requirements; fluorescent lights are the “go to” light source for most freshwater and marine aquariums. Except for some of the most difficult to keep clams and deep water corals, standard fluorescent bulbs can provide a light spectrum suitable for every type of freshwater or marine aquarium.
  • Heat Output
    The amount of heat generated by standard fluorescent lighting systems is extremely low compared to metal halide and incandescent lighting systems. Standard fluorescent bulbs produce very little heat. This eliminates the need for cooling fans or adding chillers to a marine system.
  • Energy Efficiency
    The operating costs associated with using standard fluorescent lighting is extremely low compared to metal halide, HO, VHO and incandescent lighting systems. Depending on what type ballast is used, the cost of operating a fluorescent light 10 to 12 hours a day is much less than that of operating an incandescent light bulb of the same wattage.

There are also some Cons to using standard fluorescent bulbs, some of which are noted below:

  • Lower Intensity
    Most standard fluorescent bulbs used in aquarium applications are 15 to 40 watts. This means that for most applications you will need to use more than one fluorescent bulb to keep the inhabitants of your aquarium healthy and happy. Multiple bulbs are usually required to achieve the necessary intensity that plants, fish, inverts and corals require.
  • Relatively Short Bulb Life
    Fluorescent light bulbs are made from gas filled tubes.   The inside of the tubes are coated with blends of phosphors that based on their chemical makeup, produce different spectrum’s of light.  When electricity passes through the tube, the gasses heat up and at the proper temperature, emit light.The main Con with fluorescent light bulbs is that they do not last long when in continuous use.

    Extended use degrades the coating on the inside of the bulb as well as the gas.  When this happens, light is still produced but the light spectrum and intensity diminishes.

    A standard fluorescent bulb will last about 6 to 8 months before they begin to lose intensity and their spectral properties. The bulb life can be increased by a few months by using more expensive electronic ballasts, but the additional cost may be prohibitive.

Despite the Cons to using standard fluorescent bulbs, most tropical fish keeping enthusiasts prefer them over all other types except for use in reef tanks, where even then, they are used in conjunction with metal halide bulbs.

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