UG Filters the Good, Bad and the Ugly
This is a loooooooonnnnnngg post.
OK. Here we go again. I am one of the old timers that still believe in the use of UGFs. I do believe that they have their niche in the hobby. I have used them for years and years and years and yea....... Well, you get the point. I have them in tanks ranging in size from 5g to 300g. I use them powered by air pumps. I use them powered with powerheads, both in the traditional manner and in reverse flow. I use them as an exclusive means of filtration and I, mostly, use them as part of a battery of filtration elements. By this, I mean that I use them along with powerfilters and canister filters. No single means should be employed in tanks larger than 75g, and maybe as small as 20g.
What do I mean? Anytime one can employ multiple means of filtration, they most assuredly should. Use the axiom that if one is good, two is better. My 125g tanks, for example, have ug filters w/ reverse flow power heads ((4) 170gph each), powerfilters((2) 400gph each), and canister filters((2) 350gph each). Would I remove any filtering component? NO! Why? The ug filter is actually the best part of the system because it contains the highest percentage of area of the entire system. By using reverse flow, I am getting a more even flow and thus more oxygen to my bacteria bed. I also have much less detritus and mulm on the aquarium floor. This means fewer and less labor intensive gravel sweeps. Water change frequency is decidedly less frequent. What does this all mean? More time for me to enjoy my fish, my tanks, and my hobby.
Is the answer no ug filters? If you think that ug filters are of a bygone era, you need to step back and consider this: if one type of filtration system truly were the best, we wouldn't have but one choice. Instead we have many. So, stop before you express your opinion that ug filtration is bad. You just need to apply a new twist to the old idea (reverse flow).
By the way, my 125g tank(I have 2) is jammed full of African cichlids. The other is heavily planted and full of angels, festivums, keyhole cichlids, geophagus species, uaru, rams, apistogrammas, tetras, cories, farwellas, and the like. Do I ave problems? Sure, but not because of inadequate filtration or poor water quality. Nor are the problems I have connected in any way to the use of ug filtration. So, I must say that all that you have heard about plants not liking ug filtration are simply false. Just because your lfs says that ug filters are bad, doesn't necessarily mean so. Consider this, one can set up a good ug system for under $30. A top of the line ug stem for $50-$60. A good power filter will set you back $55-$75. A good canister filter will lighten the wallet $90-$135. Now, if you owned your lfs, which would you try to sell? Remember, you have to eat. Yeh, I thought so.
If you don't mind the brain picking, would you mind an explanation of the planted tank and what you have in it in the freshwater plants tank forum?
Nice start, I would really to hear more about the complete setups. Maybe just pick one tank and tell all the flitration you have and the basic details and the problems and what you think they are caused by so others know what to look for that shouldn't be blamed on UGF.
Let us begin with a 125g, rather heavily planted with large Amazon swords, crypt. becketti, crypt. cordata, jungle val,anubius, ect. The tank has a substrate of blended red and charcoal flint gravel. This is over a ug plate powered by (4)Marineland 660 power heads fitted for reverse flow operation. One can purchase the powerhead already set up for $25-$35 each. If you already have the powerhead the conversion kit runs from $15-$25. I do not think that the kits will fit anything but a Marineland 550, 660, or 1170 head. The kit contains sponge pre-filter, adaptor, and venturi hose and air filter(or venturi plug). The tank is also filtered(and quite heavily because of the bio load of the huge community) by (2)Magnum 350's, and (2)400gph bio wheel power filters. Total water filtration is in the neighborhood of 2180gph. That equates to turnning over the water in the tank 17.44 times per hour. Of course, this ratio declines as filter media becomes saturated with debris. My reason for such heavy filtration, again, is the high bio load of over 200-250 little piscivores meandering about the tank. The population includes danios, tetras, rasboras, synodontis', hatchet fish, angels, festivums, keyhole cichlids, rams, other dwarf cichlids,farowellas, clown loaches, rainbows, and a huge throng of cories. These are just a few.
The main problem with ugf's is insufficient water flow. This causes two huge problems. One problem is lack of oxygen to the bio bed. This problem causes death to 'dem good bugs, thus causing ammonia and spike s in other noxious chems killing fish.
The remedy for this problem is the use of powerheads. This increases water flow thus increasing oxygen flow to the filter bed. However, this can also lead to compaction of the gravel bed. Compaction leads to reduction of water flow. And here we go again, bacteria die, and the results are the same as above.
With reverse flow, h2o is pushed down the lift tubes, UP through the gravel bed. Air is added to the water flow via the venturi, good bugs are smilin' and thrivin'. This method also helps to keep detritous from clogging the gravel bed as all but the heaviest particles are "swept up" by the other filters. This reduces the number of gravel sweeps and therefore allows the bacterial culture to remain intact for a MUCH longer period of time. Less maintenance, more pleasure.(and 'dem bugs is really happy)
The only maintainance that is done with any true regularity is cleaning of the sponge pre filters. This is done weekly. Media in the canister and powerfilters is done when I notice water flow is being inhibited. This usually occurs every 1-2 months. Every filter unit has a sponge pre filter. Water changes are every 6-9 months(maybe)!!! Gravel sweeps when I do water changes. Water tests are conducted weekly. If any elevation is noted, systems checked(including looking for any dead fish lying hidden), and corrections made if necessary. I can honestly say that in the 4 years the tank has been set up, I have not lost a fish to any reason that can be tracked to the filtration. An over lusted male maybe, but not to filtration/water quality.
One will NEVER hear me say any single type of filtration is better than another. I believe that, when used, in combination, each type of system will do the job it is intended to do. But none will do the complete job standing alone.
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