The first demonstration of blue upconversion fiber lasers in Tm-ZBLAN has generated considerable interest among laser scientists looking for all-solid-state visible sources. Although initial experiments have shown a large conversion efficiency, a good spatial beam quality and an overall simplicity of the approach, these sources have not yet appeared on the market. In an attempt to reproduce these early results, many research teams including our own have encountered unexplained and detrimental start-up effects in these lasers. We have recently shown that this behavior is the result of photochromic damage in the fluoride fibers generated by the infrared pumping source. Progressive build- up of photoinduced loss ultimately prevents operation of the device. The photoinduced absorption spectrum extends from the UV to the near infrared, with three major bands centered around 300 nm, 500 nm and 800 nm. Pump-probe experiments show that the damage mechanism depends on the Tm3+ concentration and that it follows a fourth power dependence on the pumping intensity. Further investigation has revealed that photobleaching of the defects is possible using visible and near infrared radiation. The residual absorption spectrum following photobleaching suggests that three different species of defects are created. One type of defects is related to the 800 nm band and can be permanently removed. The other two are only temporarily removed by photobleaching and reappear on a time-scale of a few minutes. In addition, thermal bleaching can completely erase the defects in certain fibers. This paper summarizes the current understanding of photoinduced phenomena occurring in Tm3+-ZBLAN fibers.© (1997) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.