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Old 07-24-2011, 11:31 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Ickletas View Post
Having done some further reading it would seem that if they are properly maintained (ie regular 10-20% gravel cleans for solid waste and to stop the gravel compacting) then they really aren't that bad. However they do only provide you with bio filtration, there is no chemical or mechanical (well except for the gravel vacs ). I can't make comment on whether the bio filtration is better or worse in either type but judging by the amount of rubbish I rinse of my filter media every week (260l), I would go with a submersible any day as there is no way I could clean up that amount of filth manually. Even in my 35l (6 galaxy rasbora, 5 ember tetras and 6 amano shrimp) the media gets comparably filthy, so again I don't think I could do as good a job as the filter as far as mechanical goes.

fair enough then!
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Old 07-24-2011, 11:40 AM   #12
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We have an UGF on our 20 gal high. Only reason we have it is cause we bought a used, established tank and it came that way. I have done a fair amount of research on the UGF filters. They do work fairly well, but require regular, consistent maintenance. And if you have any bottom dwellers, you almost HAVE to over feed a bit so that they have a chance to eat. When I drop in sinking pellets for my black kuhli loaches, you can watch the filter slowly suck the food into the gravel as the water breaks the pellets down. They have about 10 - 15 minutes before most of the food is too far into the gravel for them to get at.

I can also tell what areas of my tank are the places I feed the most often. Every week when I do my PWC and vacuum my gravel, there are places where a lot of junk comes out of the gravel. Occasionally I run the tubing for my gavel vacuum down the UGF uptake tube and under the plates to get any junk down there. Its kind of gross what comes out sometimes.

We do run a HOB filter in our tank as well. I would never use just an UGF. If you are willing to maintain it, they can work, just be ready to clean your gravel frequently.

Here are a couple links to articles/discussions on them.

Using Undergravel Filters to Their Full Potential | That Fish Blog

Undergravel Aquarium Filters

Freshwater Undergravel Filtration, Tried and True

There is another really good one that I am having a hard time finding.

As for adding one to your existing tank. We changed our gravel substrate at one point. We were already running an HOB, so I wasn't to worried about losing the bacteria from the old gravel.

We put all the fish and about 70% of the water and all the decorations into a large plastic tub. I then scooped out the old gravel into a bucket, took the tank and rinsed it out, put the UGF back in, put the new gravel in, then replaced the water, fish and decorations. Our fish were stressed for a couple hours with the moving around, but we didn't lose any of them. It can be done.
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Old 07-24-2011, 11:46 AM   #13
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Also, as far as live plants go... I just added some clippings of Wisteria from our betta tank to the 20 gal (with UGF) to experiment and see if I can get them to grow. I placed two clippings/plants right at the edge. Our UGF plates have about a 1-2 cm gap between them and the glass walls. I am thinking that if I place the roots of the plant there, they might survive okay.

For the most part they don't do well with live plants from what I have read. You can do floating plants. I have some anacharis floating in there as well.

I also just remember that Reverse flow UGF's are supposed to be a bit better to maintain. A google search can get you a lot of information on them.
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Old 07-24-2011, 12:31 PM   #14
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It is very hard to keep an UGF so well maintained that it doesn't cause problems. IME the only people that can do it are the people who have been doing it since the '80s when they were the best option.

There are simply so many other, better, easier to maintain, and easier to recover when neglected filters out there that there is no reason to use an UGF.

Again, sand is a better option anyways, making UGFs not an option. Sand is cleaner, less maintenance (effectively none, ever), and MUCH more natural.

If you have ever seen what happens to most UGFs, you will know why almost no one uses them anymore. Neglect them a little, and when you take them out you will think the city was pumping its sewage through your tank.
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Old 07-24-2011, 12:46 PM   #15
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If you have ever seen what happens to most UGFs, you will know why almost no one uses them anymore. Neglect them a little, and when you take them out you will think the city was pumping its sewage through your tank.
This is not an understatement! When we did the gravel swap it was disgusting under the plates. I think some day I would like to have sand substrate and ditch the UGF, but finances won't let me right now. I am religious about weekly gravel vacuuming in the mean time till I can make a swap.
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Old 07-24-2011, 05:50 PM   #16
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If you have any buildup of crud under your UGF plates, then I am willing to bet that you were running the UGF system with air bubbles from an air pump. Or else you had a very undersized powerhead on it.

I like UGFs, but you MUST run them with a sturdy powerhead (or two). They are also best used along with some other filter, like a cannister or a HOB. And indeed, they do not go well with rooted plants.

I used to have a 29 gallon tank on a open wrought iron stand. This stand meant that I could kneel on the floor and look up at the underside of the UGF plate. I ran a good powerhead on that system for more than 6 years (along with a HOB), and the underside of the UGF plate was nearly immaculate. There was a small amount of material in the front corners, farthest from the riser tubes, but it was stuck to the plates, not loose, sort of like a dark algea. Other than that, nothing.

I had a UGF system on my 75 gallon for almost 10 years straight, with powerheads and the same HOB that was on the 29 gallon. I could not see the underside of the 75 (solid wood stand), but when I pulled it up last year there was almost no release of crud. What little there was came from the front corners, again. I had hoped that my new Eheim cannister was going to be enough for that tank, but I am going to reinstall the UGF system in a few months to run along with the cannister.
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Old 07-24-2011, 06:21 PM   #17
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That was with two powerheads and weekly vacuuming.

If you are setting up a new tank do not use UGFs. They are too prone to problems. When you do have problems they are very hard to undo. For the same money you can get much better filtration (which you have to buy anyways, so just get a larger one).

Again, sand is a MUCH better option anyways, making the entire UGF debate pointless.
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Old 07-24-2011, 06:24 PM   #18
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If you have any buildup of crud under your UGF plates, then I am willing to bet that you were running the UGF system with air bubbles from an air pump. Or else you had a very undersized powerhead on it.

I like UGFs, but you MUST run them with a sturdy powerhead (or two). They are also best used along with some other filter, like a cannister or a HOB.
You are right about the bubble and air pump. We bought a used/established aquarium thinking it would be an affordable way to start. We ended up spending a fair amount of the money we "saved" fixing some other problems with the aquarium we were not educated enough to know about when we bought it.

Do the power heads just create enough suction to pull the solid material though and pump it back out into the aquarium? I have seen some good reviews of doing a reverse flow UGF using a powerhead. I like the idea of utilizing all my substrate in the filter process, but I also like the idea of live plants. Not sure if I will use an UGF again or not.
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Old 07-24-2011, 06:28 PM   #19
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Again, sand is a better option anyways, making UGFs not an option. Sand is cleaner, less maintenance (effectively none, ever), and MUCH more natural.
How is it that sand is maintenance free? What about fish waste and what not? Aesthetically I like the looks of sand, and will probably use it if I do a planted tank in the future, but I haven't heard anyone say you don't need to maintain it.
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Old 07-24-2011, 07:59 PM   #20
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It keeps all the debris on top and then one of two things happen, either 1-you have enough flow and debris keeps moving until the filters grab it or 2-you don't have enough flow and you end up with a couple spots where debris collects, in which case you can easily vacuum it at the beginning of a water change.

I have been using Estes' Ultra Reef (now called stoney river or something) for about five years and NEVER have to do any maintenance with it. I start a siphon, go back to what I was doing, come back when 80% of the water is out, start filling, set a timer, go back to what I was doing, and come back to wrap up the water change. This is the only sand I trust though. The size and uniformity is perfect.

IME and IMO the right sand is as easy to maintain as bare bottom.
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