Can Freshwater Tanks have Powerheads? - Page 2 - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #11 of 16 Old 05-23-2009, 03:23 PM
Twistersmom's Avatar
When I first started getting back into fish keeping, I bought a tank with an under gravel filter. I used it along with a hang on the back type filter. I still have not got around to removing the UGF, but its on my list of things to do.
Some people like them, but to me its just a dirt trap. It takes so much longer to gravel siphon the dirt out oppose to my other tanks. My hang on the back filter is not able to compete with the UGF, and that is where I would rather the dirt to collect.
My power heads came with suction cups to hold them in place on the glass. You might want to hold on to one of them for the larger tank. The filter will be on one side in a 55 gal, you can put the power head on the other side to help move any dirt towards the filter, plus some extra air for the goldfish.
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post #12 of 16 Old 05-23-2009, 10:07 PM Thread Starter

Mercy! I read that a lot! While doing research for my daughter's tank, I discovered several other fish owners who feel the same way about UGFs. They too view them as "dirt traps". Knowing this, makes me feel good in returning mine.

Don't get me wrong, I still have my Premium Aqua-Tech UGF for my daughter's original 10 gal, but since it is getting harder and harder to find replacement Carbon Cartrides and Air Diffusers for the system, I simply quit using the filter altogether.

The UGF worked fine in the 10 gal, but it was a bitch to clean and the stupid thing came with two (2) filter plates instead of one solid piece. Since the plates were in two separate pieces, hooked together, sometimes the gravel would fall in between the seam of the plates making it impossible to hook them back together.

I had to literally drain my 10 gal completely, scoop the gravel to one side or the other of the tank and, using my index finger, draw a line down the seam of the plates gradually working away the excess gravel that fell in between the filter plates.

Once hooks were clear the plates could be reattached. Only to find out that due to my efforts, half of the gravel was now underneath the filter plates! What the hell?!

When the UGF did decided to work properly, it worked great for the 10 gal, but when it decided not to work, it just did not work at all!

The PerfectaFlo 2X24 underground filter that I had bought and just took back, its plate filter is in one piece. Thought that was pretty cool. Wish all UGF plates were in one piece. That seam kills me every time.

Discontinuing the parts gave me the excuse to quit using the UGF. Too much effort and not enough reward.

Yeah, I had seen the powerhead filter placement on other tanks, but did not understand what I was looking at. Someone had to explain that the little "black box" with suction cups was the powerhead and obviously the other "black box" was a filter. And just like you said, which ever side the filter was on the powerhead was pointing to it, propelling the water into the filter.

Just my luck that took every single powerhead back to Wal-Mart. I did not even realize that you could use them without an UGF system.

Nevertheless, there is one thing that I want to mention about powerheads before I go on. I started another thread, about the same time I started this one, on this website in the "powerheads" forum section and I received a responce from onefish2fish (sorry do not know how to access the "quote" button) in regards to powerheads.

She asked if Calico were the "Chubby" type of goldfish. I told her that they were. Then she types that these particular goldfish were not going to like that much flow.

She types: "infact what comes from your filter should be plenty granted it disrupts the surface."

I am not certain if she was referring to the five fish/20 gal ratio or if she was trying to explain that powerheads were not compatible with Calicos at all.

Can someone please clear this up?

And on that note, I was also informed via another member (different forum) to 86 powerheads altogether and invest in a "Python: No Spill Clean and Fill" water changing device.

Anyone own/use one of these? If you had to choose between the powerhead or Python what would be your choice and why?

Remember the TopFin 20 gal tank is gone. I officially took it back this evening. Now I am getting ready to pickup a 55 gal tank. Hope to have it tomorrow. With a 55 gal, powerhead or Python?

Last edited by Tyyrlym; 05-29-2009 at 09:15 AM. Reason: Excessive and difficult to read text size.
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post #13 of 16 Old 05-24-2009, 07:53 AM
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I think you will be much happier using just a hang on the back filter instead of the UGF. If you have not already bought a filter, I am a big fan of bio-wheel filters. The Emperor 400 is my favorite. It would be a great filter for your new 55.
If you decide to disconnect the UGF on the 10gal, I would remove the plates. If you can look up through the bottom of the tank, I would guess even with the gravel cleaning, there is still some trapped dirt under there.

I think onefish2fish was referring to having 2 powerheads in a 20 gal tank and that probably would have knocked your poor fish around some.
Having a power head in the 55 is not necessary,but I do like mine. the main idea, is to get some water movement on the far side of the tank. If you want, you could just go with an air pump and air stone. The black box under the the power head was a sponge filter. They serve as a biological section and do collect some of the dirt. They will not replace an HOB filter. They are not exactly pretty to look at, so some people do not use them.
I do have a python, I only use it on my 210 gal tank. Once the 55 gal is cycled, you only need to remove and replace 3-4 five gallon buckets of water. In my 55 and 65 gallon tanks, I still prefer to do it the old fashion way, bucket by bucket. I would personally go with the power head instead, less of coarse you have a bad back. Buckets of water are heavy.
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post #14 of 16 Old 05-24-2009, 10:41 AM Thread Starter

Yes. I no longer use UGFs in any of my tanks and when I dismantled the UGF system in my daughter's original 10 gal tank all of the UGF parts were removed...including the filter plates.

Mercy, I cannot even remember the last time I had any UGF parts in my daughter's 10 gal. I know it has been at least two years.

Been doing just hanging filters for years. Will continue to use hanging filters too, I was just confused with the powerheads/UGF combo issue. But I got is all figured out now!

No more UGF. Hanging filters and powerheads all of the way.

My daughter's 10 gal only has a 10 inch blue bubble bar on a 5-15 gal, single outlet air pump, but I wanted to try powerheads with either the 20 gal or the 55 gal.

Since I have returned the 20 gal yesterday 05-23-09 and have a scheduled pickup for a gently-used, but still in good working condition 55 gal, the powerhead will go in the 55 gallon.

Now that I understand that you can use powerheads without a UGF system, my next question was going to be about what type of filter I needed for the 55 gal, but you have already beaten me to it.

A bio-wheel Emperor 400 huh? Never hear for them, but am definately going to look it up.

And speaking of "looking up" I found a picture of a "Python: No Spill Clean and Fill" water changing device. It is nothing more than an expensive version of a waterbed syphoner. LOL. It is the exact same technique/method as filling and/or drainning a waterbed.

I do not own a waterbed. Hate them actually, but my folks had a queen size for years and growing up as a kid I could always hear mom moaning a groaning about "popping" the air bubbles, or "smacking" the mattress. lol. Again, like the UGF, waterbeds (to me) appear to be too much effort and not enough reward.

For the time being I think I am going to stick with the old fashioned pail pitching and bucket hauling.

But the question is do I have a five gallon bucket? lol. I wonder if those plastic, yellow Tidy Cat Litter pails are 5 gallons deep. They read that are 35 lbs. I do not know. need to find out. I know I have some of those lying around.

Last edited by Tyyrlym; 05-29-2009 at 09:16 AM. Reason: Excessive and difficult to read text size.
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post #15 of 16 Old 05-24-2009, 02:26 PM
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Originally Posted by 1077 View Post
My only concern would be too much current from powerheads for fancy tail guppies in a twenty gal tank. In a larger tank,, current would not be a concern. Could place one of the guppies in the tank to see?
Or order what you need from online store such as
Would like to say I meant goldfish. but truth is,, I plain didn't pay close enough attention while reading .

The most important medication in your fish medicine cabinet is.. Clean water.
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post #16 of 16 Old 05-29-2009, 12:14 AM
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Just to clear some stuff up:

A Python is a device for doing water changes. Essentially, it's a way to create suction using your sink to remove water from your tank. You can also use it to fill your tanks back up. In other words, it's a more expensive gravel vacuum that has added functionality and is really a big help if you've got many tanks or large tanks or both.

A powerhead is a completely different device. It's just an impeller, really. That's all there is to it. It has a lot of applications, though. It can be used as something like an underwater fan (as Twistersmom is using it) in order to create movement for any number of reasons, such as just avoiding low flow areas, moving water towards your filter intakes, or providing lots of current for fish that like lots of current. They're also extremely useful in saltwater tanks because you need lots of water flow to keep coral healthy.

They can be use two ways in a UGF. First is as a replacement for air pumps. With air pumps, air is pumped down the airline tubing by way of an air pump, is bubbled through an airstone, and the bubbles rise back up the lift tube of the UGF. The rising bubbles create a water current UP the tube. The idea here is that water going up the tube, from under the filter plate, must be replaced. So, water gets sucked down through the gravel and the filter plate and up the tube. This additional water flow increases nutrient and oxygen flow to the bacteria living in your gravel, which allows them to function more efficiently as a biological filter. You can mount a powerhead to the top of the lift tube, which mechanically sucks water up the tube and is generally a lot stronger than using a simple air pump. However, as was the case with your tank, this results in a lot more turbulence which can be detrimental to fish that don't like a lot of water movement.

A lot of people complain about the use of UGF's, but most of these complaints stem from using them in the above fashion. A lot of gunk does get trapped under the filter plate, making them very difficult to clean.

However, if your powerheads are capable of reverse flow, you can make them much more efficient. Here's the difference: reversing the flow forces water DOWN the lift tubes and up through your gravel. This provides the same flow of oxygen and nutrients through your gravel as before, but has the added benefit that it forces mulm and debris up out of your gravel, even preventing it from settling there in the first place. Such debris is then suspended in the water column and can then be removed by your hang-on-back or canister filters. This greatly reduces the need for using a gravel vac, as there won't be much stuff down in your gravel at all.

Of course, the drawback is still that you have to use gravel (no sand) and that reverse-flow UGF's are expensive to set up. Also, they will create a good deal of water movement in your tank, which can be undesirable if your fish don't like the high flow. Not to mention that using a UGF makes it nearly impossible to keep live plants, as the filter plate obstructs the roots of the plants.

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