T5 fluorescent bulbs are a simple, effective option for lighting your aquarium. The light is stable and bright enough to keep your coral growing healthy and strong, without producing too much heat which can cause damage. It’s easy to customize your bulb colors to give you the effect that you are looking for. To make sure that you get the best output from your bulbs it is important to burn in your bulbs before you start using them with a dimming program.
Before you put your lamps into your normal rotation you should burn them in for a minimum of 50 hours. Burning in means that you are running them at full power, without dimming them. The 50 hours does not have to be consecutive, it can be done over 4-5 days if that fits into your normal use schedule. The important thing is to not dim the bulbs in this period.
By burning in your bulbs prior to using them with a dimmer you will achieve a much fuller and effective spectrum from your bulb, and most importantly it will last longer. If you neglect to burn in your bulbs you could find that they start to be less effective much earlier which may jeopardize the health of your coral, and ultimately be more costly to maintain.
You can burn in your new bulbs directly over your aquarium. If you choose to do this then you should just ensure that there is no dimming program running during the first 50 hours of use. Your other option is to buy a ballast along with end caps, and assemble and use the rig to burn in a couple of bulbs at a time in an out of the way space. Many people choose this option as it allows you to quickly and easily get the bulbs burnt in and saves you from having to reprogram your fixture.
It is very important to remember that when it comes time to change your bulbs, you shouldn’t change them all at the same time. New bulbs can easily produce twice the PAR of older bulbs. This sudden change can shock your coral and damage it. Remember, with reef tanks, it’s important to take your time. No matter if you choose to burn the bulbs in over the tanks or in a separate rig, the rule of only changing two at a time holds.
To do a full bulb change out, spread it out over several weeks in order to maintain the health of your coral. Remember that even when you do it right, there are some corals that will not open as much when you change the bulbs and it may take your tank a little while to adjust.