Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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shadetreeme 12-13-2010 10:30 PM

Question about UGF vs RUGF
HI all....
I just got a 125 off of craigslist and it was setup with 3 ug plates. The left and right plates have 1 large powerhead per plate and the center has two smaller ones. The previous owner had the tank running for 5 year with only The standard UGF. The fish were healthy and good sized, however the tank had an algae problem.

I set every thing up the way he had it with the addition of a Whisper 60 hob. the tank looked clear and the fish seemed happy. The problem was when I started putting in plants. The currents was pretty strong and things kept getting uprooted.

Today I tried reversing the ugf to see how that looked. At first there was a little extra debris from the reverse water flow, but the HOB made short work of that. The plants seemed happy with the reduced current, however there seemed to me a film on the surface of the tank bu the end of the day.

I am going tomorrow to see a guy who is getting out of the hobby and has several aquaclear Hob filters and 2 canisters for sale. I would like to keep the ugf and powerhead setup, but am not sure If i should run it normal, reverse, or hook up a canister to it.

Your opinions would be greatly appreciated.

Byron 12-14-2010 07:44 PM

I personally would not use an UG filter in a planted tank. Actually, I wouldn't use it in any tank. I grew up on this filter, and I insisted (much to the perplexity of the clerk) when I bought my 90g in 1995 that I wanted an UG. When I bought my 115g the following year, I allowed the clerk in the store (who was a good hobbyist) to talk me into a canister. Within 3 months, the 90g was torn down, the UG pulled out and tossed in the recycling, and a canister added. I've never looked back.

The big issue with UG is a power outage. The bacteria colonize the substrate in any aquarium. And many different bacteria, though here we are considering primarily nitrifying bacteria. Because the water is pulled through the substrate in a relatively quick flow, whichever way, bacteria are innumerable. But if the flow should stop for more than a few hours, the lack of oxygen kills the bacteria in huge numbers. Then, when the flow resumes, this pollutes the aquarium rapidly and can kill the fish.

The advantage of the canister or any other filter is that it can be easily disconnected to prevent this. After a long power outage for instance, simply rinse the media and reset the filter. The slow water flow through the substrate of a normal aquarium (without UG) is probably not affected by the lack of the filter, as normal thermal currents will continue, although if heat is also lost significantly this may have an impact. But it is minimal by comparison.

Aside from the above, there is the issue of plant roots. Mainly, blocking the plate. There are too many lovely planted tanks with an UG filter for me to suggest they are detrimental to plant growth. But at the same time, all authorities I have read do not recommend them if there is an option.

There is a complex level of bacteria activity in the substrate, essential to the health of the plants and the aquarium as a whole. Cool water flows down, bringing oxygen and nutrients and taking up nutrients from the substrate, the plant roots release oxygen and assimilate the nutrients from the water (not directly from the substrate whatever its composition) all with the help of a host of aerobic bacteria, and as the water warms due to all this activity it rises back into the aquarium, and the cycle continues. Speeding this process up can negatively impact the plants, just as increasing the water movement in the aquarium does, and for the same reasons: the plants do not have time to assimilate the nutrients. Plus the natural circulation is obviously disrupted.

I would go with a good canister (rated to the aquarium, no more, as it is planted).


shadetreeme 12-14-2010 11:20 PM

Byron.... as usual .... you are a wealth of information. Thank YOU!!!!
I went today and bought 2 canister filters and a Hob as well as an awsome light setup. I have the canister running now. I set it up with the spray bar because I was seeing some yuk on the surface of the tank since I do not have the surface agitation from the powerheads. I am not sure what I want to use to boost the filtration, from what I can tell this canister ( eheim pro II 2026) is good for 251 gph and is rated for a 92 Gal tank. I also got an older Eheim pro, which I think is rated for 185 Gph and 65 gal. I also bought a new Aquaclear 70 HOB. SOOO I am not sure if I want 2 canisters, or a Canister and a HOB, I was thinking that a RUGF and the one canister would be good but after reading your post..... not lookin good.
This is my first time using anything other than HOB so I want be sure I do what is best.

Byron 12-15-2010 12:54 PM

I'm not comprehending why you think you need so much filtration. What fish are planned for this tank? And will it have plants?

shadetreeme 12-15-2010 11:53 PM

I don't know that I do..... I was going to run the UG because it is there. I "was" thinking that I would run the UG in reverse and then filter the tank as if it wasn't there Just to be safe. I am a big fan of having more than one filtration system, so if you mess with or clean one and screw up...... you still have the other system goin. My kids love to feed the fishies, and sometimes over do it. Needless to say I am King of the gravel vac thanks to them. If I discount the UG then that leaves me with a 92 gal canister to filter a 125 gallon tank. I would rather have the tank over filtered rether than under filtered.
As for the fish..... I plan to move my comunity from my 55 to this tank and add a few more.

I do plan on putting some plants in the tank. Nothing like I have seen on here(like yours) unfortunately. I realy like the look and benifits that live plants add to my tank; however, I do not have CO2 and can not afford th treat 125 gal with liquid fert as often as it would need to look like a "true" planted tank. I did just get a new light setup that I hope will help my plants. The tank had 4 30 watt t8 tubes when I got it. I just picked up a metal halide hood with 3 100w bulbs and 2 4' blue Actinic bulbs.
I realy want the tank to look good, the fish to be happy, and my wife not to yell about spending more money on it :lol:.

Thanks again for the help

Byron 12-16-2010 10:46 AM

First, on the light. You will need to replace those tubes. Plants do not grow well under actinic light, which is high in blue (and basically nothing else), meant for marine tanks to grow corals. Tubes are inexpensive fortunately, if you buy them at hardware or home improvement stores. GE, Sylvania, Phillips all make "daylight" type tubes that are prefect. Measure the tube length (not including the prongs) and that is what you want in a T8 (the narrower type, rather than the fatter T12 which are being phased out anyway). A Kelvin rating around 6500K. I use these, they work fine, and will cost a couple dollars each.

You don't need CO2 for good plants, none of my tanks have it. Minimum but adequate light, and regular fertilizer. Plants need nutrients and everything is unlikely to be available without adding some. I recommend Flourish Comprehensive Supplement for the Planted Tank; it may seem expensive initially, but you use so little that long-term it lasts a long time compared to any other brand. And it is the only one with all essential nutrients in proportion. With some plants, once a week will probably be sufficient, and for a 125g about 1.5 or 2 teaspoons per weekly dose.

Now to the filter issue. From the photos of your 55g, the fish are all forest fish that do not appreciate strong water movement. Plants are the same. A single canister rated for the tank is adequate. That's all I've used for 15 years.

The idea that more filtration is better is not accurate in tanks like you are planning. If you had huge fish like a group of 12-inch cichlids in a 125g, that's different. But with smaller forest fish, the plants do a terrific job of filtration. And more filters doesn't really help because all a filter does is move the water around and remove suspended particulate matter. Excessive biological filtration is detrimental to plants, so their benefit is partially lost. And chemical filtration (carbon and other substances) should never be used in a planted tank as the plants are much better at this aspect of filtration. I can go into this more if you ask.


shadetreeme 12-16-2010 09:07 PM

I've been doing some research and it looks like the canisters I got are not what I thought. I got the number off the tags and from what I can find I think they are both rated for a 150Gal tank!!!!! Lucky me!!! They are older models but the came with new spare parts. With this being discovered.... I guess my filter questions are answered.

Byron..... Thanks again for the info.
I had set the filter up with the media he gave me, whitch was...
I removed the carbon from the top tray and just put in some green floss.
I am still not sure if I want to tear the whole thing back down to remove the UG plates.... but if the plants get rooted to them I will have a mess.... AAAAH.

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