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i have one that is 4 years old but it has been used for only 7 months. should i change it? i could use a bit more light.
 

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I try to replace them every 6 months. But with funds so short these days it has been about year on some of my non planted tanks. But still every 6 months on my planted ones.
 

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With age fluorescent bulbs start to give out much less light. That's not necessarily a problem for the plants because they adapt very well to gradually chaning conditions. So you may not notice a considerable change in the plant growth as the bulbs get old.

But there will be a change and considering the prices of fluorescent bulbs you need to change them on a regular basis. 6 months seems reasonable.

If you run a bulb for a very long time and then switch to a new one you will notice how much more light the new bulb provides. The tank will look great but keep in mind that if the plants don't adapt to such a sudden change you may have issues.

Bottom line - change the bulbs on a regular basis. Don't wait to see problems with the plants or diminished light output.

--Nikolay
 
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