In an exchange from our Guide's FAQ's with Tom about his questions on Aquarium Lighting (using compact lighting) he said "The power compact that I was referring to was manufactured by Customsealife. Since writing you I have talked with several other people, and while there appear to be a few people that were satisfied, several have returned them and went back to VHO from VHO in the first place. One of the people that I talked with was Greg at Marine World and he said that several of his customers did just that. They went from VHO to power compact, and then back to VHO." Greg is a great source of knowledge, but unfortunately he is no longer in business with his store. However, we value Greg's input as we did business with him for many years while we had our Hawaiian Quality Fish business from 1989-1999.
Luis Mercado paid a visit to Ron Hunsicker, of Ron's Saltwater Heaven, and found that Ron uses VHO lighting on his 150 gallon reef tank. For his main 265 gallon display reef tank, that had been voted the BEST soft coral tank in the US by hobbyist and author Mike Paletta, he uses 12 VHO fluorescent lights powered by regular tar ballasts.
The downside of using VHO bulbs is they that need to be replaced more often. Albert Thiel states in his Marine Fish and Invert Reef Aquarium book, Lighting The Reef Tank Chapter, "using high output (HO) bulbs is certainly better because you will typically gain 25% to sometimes 50% more light. Unfortunately, the VHO bulbs (very high output) change their spectrum too rapidly, although they can be used for yet an additional gain in intensity. You must, however, replace them frequently to compensate for the spectrum loss, usually every 4 to 5 months." Two brands of fluorescent light tubes that Albert Thiel mentions and recommends in various lighting articles he has written are Coralife VHO's by Energy Savers Unlimited (ESU) and URI VHO's that you can find from Aquatic Technology. To locate other fish stores or on-line suppliers that sell VHO lights and accessories, visit our Aquarium Supplies - Lights page.
FINS Reefkeeper FAQ's Detailed Discussion on Lighting gives bulb cost, performance and annual cost per lumen information on the Phillips F48T12/D/VHO. This equation is based on a particular power usage rate and bulb, but you can use it to plug in your own figures and calculate your cost for a particular type of bulb you use or want to use. Under the Lighting Data section they include detailed complete data and graphs that you can look at for lighting spectrums on a large range of many brands and types of bulbs on the market.
VHO lighting is becoming more popular. You can weigh out the cost calculations and look at what VHO lighting has to offer and decide for yourself if this is the type of lighting you would like to use for your saltwater aquarium.
For an inexpensive DIY project, check out Don Carner's Reef Type Fluorescent Lighting set up. Don says that "this light package will be ample for hardy stony corals like Elegance and Hammers. Soft corals like Star Polyps will explode with this set-up". You can find many other do-it-yourself lighting projects on our DIY Hood-Light Project page.