The funny thing about fluorescent lights is that their output decreases significantly – before any sign of uselessness is visible to human eyes. Various types “burn out” more quickly or more slowly – but since I’m not going to buy a PAR light meter (they’re expensive) I rely on my water sprite to let me know when I need to replace bulbs. Hygrophila difformis, at least in my tank, will grow horizontally along the substrate under new-bulb lighting; lately it’s been growing straight upward instead, and the tank is over a year old. I’m not sure exactly when each bulb went into the cheap $10 shop light I use above that tank, but I knew which one was older, so I replaced it! (Ordered through Amazon – amazingly the 4′ bulb arrived intact. In a very long package.)
Of course, now I have the old SunGlo bulb to deal with – normally I’d just stash it in the closet with the other long fluorescent tubes waiting for a trip to HHW Day at the county dump. But I’ve put three Amazon swords into the cichlid tank, and one of the 4′ fixtures is wired for T-12 rather than T-8. Can we say obsolete? I’ve poked about a bit and come to the conclusion that rewiring the fixture with a new ballast (and new starter for good measure) would be within my abilities – but of course all the ballasts available at the big hardware chain store across the road are dual-bulb at the smallest. Which means that unless I order a single-tube 40W ballast from somewhere else, I’d have the fun of overdriving the T-8. Which might be a good thing, considering the bulb is already “depleted,” so to speak. Definitely considering it. The only worry I have with that tank is algae – it’s literally all the way across the house from the planted tank, so splitting the CO2 output from my canister and running it on the 75 really isn’t an option. I don’t like dosing chemicals if I can avoid it (so no Excel or generic equivalent) and I’m not quite sure what to do, if anything, with the BBA growing all over the place in there. On the one hand, it’s kind of authentic to the biotope to have rocks covered in algae – and it probably helps the babies get food – but it annoys me when it inevitably grows on the glass and plant leaves. It’s unsightly. And hard to scrub off!
Decisions, decisions. I don’t dare treat the algae with anything either, with those babies hiding among the rocks! But I do want to play with the lighting as well. Perhaps I’ll just try it and see what happens. That’s the way I roll with these aquatic plants!