When picking out my very first light for a planted tank, one thing ruled supreme: low cost and high output. I hadn't yet discovered spiral CF bulbs, so I went with a Coralife unit. I ordered the dual bulb 24 inch 130 watt strip light with 6500K bulbs. It was $119 not including shipping and handling. Of course, this was for a 29 gallon tank, which is 30 inches long (one of the most popular lengths for tanks and yet still no 30 inch bulbs?) so I had to buy a glass canopy for it as well, since the mounting legs wouldn't work. It was easy to set up, no assembly required, everything is ready to go. It has two seperate power switches: one for each bulb.
It's been running on my tank for almost 9 months now and overall I'm satisfied with it. It's not stunningly bright despite its 130 watts, probably due to a low-tech reflector. Some of my plants in the deeper parts of the tank had a bit of trouble not getting enough light. It does produce a lot of heat though (a telltale sign of light-absorbing restrike) and Coralife has put in cooling fans to keep it from burning up. Unfortunately, their thinking ahead stopped there, because the fans are pitiful and noisy. It is by far the noisiest piece of equipment on all of my three tanks. The housings around the fans are wiggly and tend to vibrate all over the place. These are the only two areas where the low price of this unit really comes through. Otherwise it's a great first upgrade light if you have a deeper tank like a 29 gallon. I don't really see any other standard application for the light, since it would be far too much light for anything smaller, unless you have a ridiculously deep tank. Overall, I give the unit four out of five fish.
Pros: Low cost, high output, nice looking metal housingBuy Coralife Aqualight Double Compact Flourescent Strip Lights at Drs. Foster & Smith now.
Cons: Noisy fans, low-tech reflector which causes lots of light loss and excess heat