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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm curious as to what everyone does with their old fluorescent bulbs that are replaced every year. Sure, the intensity of the light goes down after a while making them unsuitable for plant growth, but the bulbs themselves are in working order, so it feels like a waste just take them to be recycled. However, it's not like I have a light fixture that uses the same pin configuration as my tank light either.
 

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That's exactly what I do.

It's also called the "too damned stubborn to throw them out until it's really junk" method.
 

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Same... but I was actually thinking of setting up a new fixture using the old bulbs, over my smaller tank. This tank sits under a side table between my kitchen and living room, so I could mount new T5 ballasts directly above the tank without issue. This way the old bulbs from my planted 25gal will give my 10gal more than enough light to also be planted...

When I upgrade my tank, the 25gal will move to where the 10gal is, so it'll have 4 ballasts there all ready for it. Brilliant, right? (pun intended)

The thing I'm not clear on though... is it just the lumen output, or the colour temp also that changes with age? I mean, I have one old bulb and 3 new ones in my fixture right now, and the old one is clearly not as bright, but I can't tell just by looking at it if the colour temp has changed... I'd think not? In any case I use the things way longer than I should...
 

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There's a colour shift. But the way I understand it, most of it happens during the first 6 weeks you use the bulb, so unless you're willing to throw away 2 month old bulbs, the issues is irrelevant. This issue is totally different for reefers, where the output is so extreme and the spectrum so specific that the loss is pretty significant for them.
 

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There's a colour shift. But the way I understand it, most of it happens during the first 6 weeks you use the bulb, so unless you're willing to throw away 2 month old bulbs, the issues is irrelevant. This issue is totally different for reefers, where the output is so extreme and the spectrum so specific that the loss is pretty significant for them.
I guess with 4 bulbs, then, the best thing would be to replace them all on a rotating schedule.. one every 3 months, instead of 2 every 6 months. o_O
 

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I have had the bulbs in my tanks for as long as I have had the tank, 3 years for one bulb. I just got into plants recently and they are doing alright with the light. growing, slowly, but still growing. 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' works for me.
 

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As fluorescent bulbs age, their color does shift and tends to become more yellow and dull. This end of the spectrum encourages algae growth and the loss in intensity will negatively effect plant growth. It is unlikely that any of the hobbyists with beautiful planted tanks have three year old bulbs.:rolleyes:
 

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As fluorescent bulbs age, their color does shift and tends to become more yellow and dull. This end of the spectrum encourages algae growth and the loss in intensity will negatively effect plant growth. It is unlikely that any of the hobbyists with beautiful planted tanks have three year old bulbs.:rolleyes:
I think it's more accurate to say most planted tank enthusiasts lighting up their tanks for 10 hours a day would NOT have a bulb last 3 years (I know I haven't had many last that long). But it's not accurate to say that older bulbs induce algae. After all, people grew beautiful plants with incandescant lights prior to all these fancy PC, t5, and MH lights were in vogue.

There are 4 t5 NO Coralife fixtures in my 125 gallon and at least 2 of the bulbs are 3 years old, and there is only 1 newer than 6 months. The only algae in the tank is up near the top of the tank where I have circulation/nutrient problems because the growth is faster than I can keep it pruned properly. Everything else is algae free.

 

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That last tank is CO2 injected with multiple light fixtures. Just for comparison, this tank was started in August of 2008 using a dry start to grow HC, which worked well until I flooded it and then the Cory's prevented the HC from staying rooted. Single t5 fixture, Excel. This pic is from about 2 months ago. The swordplant you see in the tank is in the 125 gallon pic in the center right, where the CO2 injection has allowed it to double in size. You can see a tiny bit of BBA on the pleco cave because I let the tank go once when I was on a business trip. Now I have instructions for my wife to dose while I am gone.



Sorry for being long winded, but I do want to add that I respect what Grant has said (except the algae part). The light spectrum does shift and you do not get OPTIMUM growth (like for instance, my red plants are not quite as red as when the bulbs are new), but it's not drastic enough for me to be replacing bulbs every 6 months to a year (I run 11 bulbs in 3 tanks, so at an average of $20 a bulb that's $220 I can spend on something else).
 

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Older bulbs have been linked to cyanobacterial blooms, algae blooms etc. The visual difference in intensity when bulbs are changed is the most obvious indicator that considerable power is lost.
I commented on your Java fern tank before the BCA crash, I love it. Keep in mind that Java fern is a low light plant and would not be adversely affected as much as high light plants. Foreground plants for example require much more intense lighting long term.
Dont get me wrong, your tanks look great but to say there is no harm in not changing bulbs regularly I don't agree with. How would you know how your growth is affected by the age of the bulbs? If the bulbs were changed more regularly would the growth increase? Probably, not necessarily with the ferns however.
The reef aquarium is a good example that was given. What is the difference between that and a planted tank as far as proof of the negatives of older bulbs? Of course the biology is completely different but it is a direct example of the detriment of older bulbs and their effect on the livestock.

Just saw the above edit. Thanks very much for clarifying. The proof behind the algae growth, we have changed bulbs for customers that have had either cyano or algae blooms and the problems have reversed. This is not true for everyone of course, but, old bulbs are the number one cause for Cyanobacteria.
 

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It's good to have discussions like these. I had never heard of cyanobacteria being caused by old bulbs, but it could be the way my planted tanks are done. I've followed many many such discussions on plantedtank.net and thebarrreport.com and there has been no conclusive evidence that algae blooms are the result of older bulbs.

In my case, I had my only case of cyanobacteria when the bulbs in my 125 were brand new. :D My nitrates bottomed in and then skyrocketed as I tried to fix an algae problem using a low tech approach. My solution was a 3 day blackout, with no feeding and then introducing pressurized CO2 to that tank. I've not had a problem since. I guess my experience has been opposite to some of yours. In every case where I ran into algae, it was during the startup of the tank, or a circulation or CO2 problem.

But of course, we know that there are many triggers to algae we don't understand yet, or else we all would have perfect tanks.

In my instances, I have changed bulbs earlier than burnout, but the reason was increased growth (which I no longer want because it's too much darn work) or better reds (which I solved with iron enhancement and plants which are redder to begin with).

Anyway, I think there are many ways to skin a cat, and a lot of the methods and techniques in fish keeping and plant keeping are still empirical rather than scientific.
 

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I agree, good talks.:D My concern is for the average hobbyist who may read this and stop changing their bulbs. We both agree that changing bulbs regularly promote higher plant growth. That alone is reason to change them, particularly with higher light plants. Yes there is exceptions to every rule but the more yellow the bulb, the more algae growth and or cyano, commonly referred to incorrectly as algae, there will be. This is certainly true of reef aquariums. Since planted tanks are all about balance of nutrients versus growth, maximizing growth is usually priority.
I hear where you are coming from loud and clear on the lack of time to trim. It can be a serious task.

It's good to have discussions like these. I had never heard of cyanobacteria being caused by old bulbs, but it could be the way my planted tanks are done. I've followed many many such discussions on plantedtank.net and thebarrreport.com and there has been no conclusive evidence that algae blooms are the result of older bulbs.

In my case, I had my only case of cyanobacteria when the bulbs in my 125 were brand new. :D My nitrates bottomed in and then skyrocketed as I tried to fix an algae problem using a low tech approach. My solution was a 3 day blackout, with no feeding and then introducing pressurized CO2 to that tank. I've not had a problem since. I guess my experience has been opposite to some of yours. In every case where I ran into algae, it was during the startup of the tank, or a circulation or CO2 problem.

But of course, we know that there are many triggers to algae we don't understand yet, or else we all would have perfect tanks.

In my instances, I have changed bulbs earlier than burnout, but the reason was increased growth (which I no longer want because it's too much darn work) or better reds (which I solved with iron enhancement and plants which are redder to begin with).

Anyway, I think there are many ways to skin a cat, and a lot of the methods and techniques in fish keeping and plant keeping are still empirical rather than scientific.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
So it seems like a lot of people just leave their lights until they burn out then. Getting back to the original question though, what do the people who do change their lights frequently do with their old ones?
 

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Really they should be recycled at a place that specifically takes light bulbs (I think a lot of the major hardware stores do). But it'd be a good idea to give them away on here for some beginners or others who don't need high specialty light for reefs or plants....
 

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We both agree that changing bulbs regularly promote higher plant growth. That alone is reason to change them, particularly with higher light plants. Yes there is exceptions to every rule but the more yellow the bulb, the more algae growth and or cyano, commonly referred to incorrectly as algae, there will be. This is certainly true of reef aquariums. Since planted tanks are all about balance of nutrients versus growth, maximizing growth is usually priority.
Grant's comment on old yellow tubes promoting algae growth is well taken. It is a fact that while higher plants such as those we wish to cultivate in aquaria are more demanding in the colour of light, algae is not. And we all know that good plant growth discourages algae; as Diana Walstad writes, one rarely sees algae issues in well-planted balanced aquaria.

I recall reading many times that algae is more capable of using green and yellow light than higher plants. Red and blue are required by plants to photosynthesize, but algae can make use of much higher blue and also green. Certain siphonaceous green algae have carotenoids that absorb green and blue-green light, and many red and blue-green algae adapt easily to light spectrum changes. Higher plants are not so gifted.

It is also true that fluorescent tubes diminish very rapidly as they burn; I had a discussion about this with another fish store owner last year, and he mentioned that he had used a lux meter with new full spectrum tubes (Life-Glo I believe) and after only three months there was considerably less light, something like 30% if memory serves me (it doesn't always;)). Diana recommends changing T8 tubes every three years, T12 tubes every year. I honestly don't know if she had scientific studies to support that, but the same recommendation has been made by some others in the field of planted tanks. The light requirements (intensity) of aquatic plants is frequently higher than that of algae, especially the green water unicellular form. And algae's use of light is 7 times greater than higher plants.

Many different approaches work in this as in other areas of the hobby; I think there is validity in leading those new in the area of planted tanks down a road that is more likely to lead to success, leaving those old fogies of us who have been here for 20+ years to experiment if we choose. At least our knowledge of the fundamentals will allow us to more accurately ascertain the issues when we do and have problems or successes.
 

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So it seems like a lot of people just leave their lights until they burn out then. Getting back to the original question though, what do the people who do change their lights frequently do with their old ones?
I simply recycle them. CanTire, Home Depot, Ikea etc all have drop off bins.
 
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