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Old 08-02-2011, 01:40 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johny View Post
McLumpy - I am confused about something with your set up. You mention using powerheads, but then you state that you have an airline under the plates? Where you running both the powerhead and airline to the same plate at the same time? Maybe I am just not familiar enough with powerheads, but I thought they didn't use airlines. Also were you running yours in the traditional flow direction (pulling water down through the gravel) or a reverse flow (pushing water up through the gravel) ?

Anyways, thanks for the response. Exactly what I was looking for.
Sorry for the delay.

The power heads were operating in traditional flow direction. An airline was placed under each plate but was only turned on when I wanted to clear the debris out from under the plates. When I turned on the airlines, some of the debris loosened and got sucked up through the powerheads. My HOB's took care of the rest.

I was impressed w/ the setup at first as it worked well to clear the majority of the gunk. But, even w/ a weekly pwc, I just couldn't keep up w/ it. The height of the plates contributed to the debris getting stuck and increased the amount of time to perform maintenance on my tank.

In short, the UGF's would have worked better in my tank if they were a little taller and if I didn't have a lot of messy fishies. lol So, until they redesign the plates and my bioload decreases, I'll just stick w/ my HOB's.
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Old 08-02-2011, 02:25 AM   #12
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@ McLumpy

No worries on the delay. The info still got here. That clears up a lot of confusion. I had a hard time imagining how you were using both powerheads and airlines on the same UGF's. Makes sense now. Thanks for your contribution to this.

Maybe nobody will ever use it, but I tried to gather it (info) so anyone who is curious about UGF's can learn about them from our experiences.
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Old 08-02-2011, 03:59 AM   #13
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I can't give you specifics because it was about 25 years ago. I had a 55 gallon freshwater with UGF. I had neons and a few others. I could not get it clean underneath the grate. I remember having those 2 cyliners with a flow nozzle at the top and were at each corner with a couple of pumps. There was some air lines to decorations (treasure chest bubbler). But I remember trying to clean and having to move the gravel (I used blue and purple) to clean and when I'd move the gravel, the grates would also come apart and I would have to move the gravel again to put it back together. I moved cross country and sold the tank setup. I'm just now starting again but in Saltwater. Hope this helps.
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Old 08-02-2011, 07:48 PM   #14
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I LOVE that you are doing a study on this subject. I, too, have wondered about why some people love UGFs, and others dislike them so thoroughly. I am glad to throw my opinions in to the mix.

What type/model did you have (risers with airlines/air pump, power heads, etc.)? My first UGF was in a large glass cookie jar, with one fancy goldfish. (Yes, not a good setup, but I was very young and not too wise.) I knew the fish needed a filter, and the only filter that would fit on that cookie jar was a UGF (driven by air bubbles, yeesh.) Later, that fish moved to a 10 gallon tank, and I went with a UGF again because I already had the air pump! In later years, I had a 29 and a 37 with UGFs but those were run with powerheads, and also had HOBs running too.
What size tank? Eight years ago, I upgraded to a 75 gallon, with 2 (full bottom) UGF plates, each run with a powerhead, and a HOB. Last year, I removed the UGF and powerheads, but plan on putting them back in a few months from now.
What fish you kept? I have always had fancy goldfish (with a brief foray into gold severums a very long time ago).
Type of substrate? Depth of substrate? I have used the same gravel substrate for at least 25 years, Este's Bit's of Walnut. It is about 1/4 to 1/8th inch in size. Depth was usually about 1 and 1/2 to 2 inches.
Maintenance you did (method and how frequent)? With the smaller tanks, I did PWCs with a basic gravel cleaner and a bucket. I made sure to go straight down into the gravel and hold it there until the water being sucked up the tube ran clear. Then straight up and over to the next spot. I did the same technique with the 75 gallon, but I upgraded to a python. I always did the whole bottom of the smaller tanks at each PWC, but with the 75 gallon I did half of the bottom and did the other half at the next PWC.
How long you used the UGF? The longest I have used a UGF continously would be on my 75 gallon. It was in place for 8 years and was not pulled up at all during that time. If you are asking when I used a UGF for the first time, that was in the early 1980s.
Why you got one in the first place? As mentioned above, it was the only style of filter that I could find that would fit into a cookie jar. And then I just kept on using different version with later tanks. I eventually discovered that they work much better with powerheads, and even better with a HOB running at the same time.
Any training or research you did to know how to use them? Just time, and observation.
Method of testing water parameters? No testing at all in the early years...did not know any better. But I had a part-time job at a fish store in the late 1980s, and was introduced to the concepts of testing and the nitrogen cycle...finally!
Frequency of water changes? Currently, 75% monthly, cleaning half the gravel via python each time.
Did you have live plants? With goldfish? No!
Did you even attempt them (live plants)? Once, huge mess, clogged HOB, never again!
What plants? What fertilizers?
Anything else you can think of that would be helpful or pertinent? In my humble opinion, a UGF MUST be run with a powerhead on each plate, and a good strong one at that. I have never had a large cloud of debris released when pulling up a plate, and am puzzled when I read about that happening. There was some crud released when I pulled up the plates in the 75 gallon last winter, but it was not much at all and the plates had lain undisturbed for 8 years. The tank that I had before the 75 was a 37 gallon (same footprint as the 29 gallon I had before that) and it was on an open wrought iron stand. I could kneel on the floor and look up at the underside of the UGF plate. Even after about 6 years of undisturbed running, there was only a small amount of crud built up in the front corners. The rest was clean as a whistle.

The best part of a well-powered UGF for me is that the poop gets quickly pulled down into the gravel. Goldfish poop alot, and I hate seeing the strings laying there until they dissolve, or get blown to the cannister. When I removed the plates (thinking that my new Eheim would be plenty for the tank) I was amazed and dismayed at the difference. And that is why I will be replacing the UGF system when I get the time to do it, probably this upcoming winter.
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Old 08-26-2011, 01:58 PM   #15
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Well its about time I add my own experience to this thread. I am posting this now, because, as of yesterday we no longer are using UGF's on our tank... I'll give the basic info, then the story as to why.

What type/model did you have (risers with airlines/air pump, power heads, etc.)? Airlines and risers.
What size tank? Tank is a 20 gal high
What fish you kept? Guppies, glowlight tetras, Black kuhli loaches, ghost shrimp
Type of substrate? Depth of substrate? Black gravel, (with plates) about 3"
Maintenance you did (method and how frequent)? PWC with gravel vac, between 30%-50% of gravel, weekly, with about 40%-70% of water.
How long you used the UGF? 4 months
Why you got one in the first place? Came with the established tank we bought
Any training or research you did to know how to use them? I actually did pretty extensive research on them online. I read just about every article and thread/forum I could about them.
Method of testing water parameters? We had test strips until just recently
Frequency of water changes? weekly.
Did you have live plants? Wisteria, anacharis and amazon sword
Did you even attempt them (live plants)? yes
What plants? What fertilizers? no fertz
Anything else you can think of that would be helpful or pertinent?
Now to the story as to why I got rid of our UGF's. We bought an established tank in may, and it came with UGF's as the only filtration. We quickly added a HOB filter, but left the UGF. After doing some more research we realized that there may be a build up of sludge underneath. We pulled all the fish out, removed the gravel, and sure enough there was ALOT of sludge. We cleaned it out, and put new gravel in (we didn't know enough about cycling and the N cycle to know better). I was determined to make the UGF's work. I emailed several people who had used them for years, and asked for their experience,and read everything I could online.

Yesterday I was doing some deeper cleaning than my regular weekly cleaning. I siphoned out 1/2 the water into a large plastic bin, removed most of the decorations, and most of the fish (some are just too hard to catch to make it worth trying). I had disassembled the risers on our UGF's to clean the inside of the tubes. I use a cheap baby bottle brush. when I put the bottle brush into the section of tube connected to the plates/grids a large mass of sludge came back out with the brush. I have been very careful to clean my gravel often, and have tried very hard not to over feed, yet here was this huge mass of sludge under my plates. And this is only three months after I pulled them and cleaned them. Besides being very worried for my fish (sludge in the main water column = possible ammonia spike) I was very disappointed and disillusioned. I quickly removed the rest of the fish and decorations to the temp holding bin, and added the hob filter to the bin.

I talked it over with my wife, and we decided to pull the UGF's. I don't want to deal with the sludge and work any more. So out came the gravel, out came the UGF's, and the tank got a major vinegar scrub down and rinse with the hose on the front lawn. We went out and bought some pool filter sand, and an Aquaclear 50 to replace the UGF's.

I won't say that you can't make a UGF work, but I think its a lot of work. I had been toying with the idea of getting some reverse flow powerheads and trying it that way, but yesterday.... well maybe down the line when I have money to play with and not have it matter I will experiment. For now I need a stable tank that I can have some level of confidence will not be a ticking ammonia time bomb.

Sad thing is that I had some wisteria growing VERY well in the gravel with the UGF. Though I now suspect they were getting all the nutrients they needed from the sludge underneath.

Well that is my experience with UGF's. Hope it helps someone else learn and make a wise and informed decision.
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Old 08-27-2011, 06:12 PM   #16
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I have been waiting for additions to this thread, and your contributions confirm some of my beliefs when it comes to UGFs, so thanks!

[QUOTE=Johny;1515399]What type/model did you have (risers with airlines/air pump, power heads, etc.)? Airlines and risers.
Yup, right here I knew your experience was not going to be positive...UGFs can NOT (in my humble opinion) be well run with air power. You must have hefty powerheads going.

Type of substrate? Depth of substrate? Black gravel, (with plates) about 3" Too thick (maybe) for even a powerhead, way too thick for air power. VERY little water (if any) was getting pulled thru the gravel, and circulation is critical for a UGF to work.

Did you have live plants? Wisteria, anacharis and amazon sword
I have never tried live plants with a UGF but I suspect they will be a bad idea as the roots will clog up the slits in the plates.

Anything else you can think of that would be helpful or pertinent?
Now to the story as to why I got rid of our UGF's. We bought an established tank in may, and it came with UGF's as the only filtration. We quickly added a HOB filter, but left the UGF. After doing some more research we realized that there may be a build up of sludge underneath. We pulled all the fish out, removed the gravel, and sure enough there was ALOT of sludge.

I use a cheap baby bottle brush. when I put the bottle brush into the section of tube connected to the plates/grids a large mass of sludge came back out with the brush. I have been very careful to clean my gravel often, and have tried very hard not to over feed, yet here was this huge mass of sludge under my plates. And this is only three months after I pulled them and cleaned them.

Sad thing is that I had some wisteria growing VERY well in the gravel with the UGF. Though I now suspect they were getting all the nutrients they needed from the sludge underneath. (Yup, poor circulation equals sludge!)

QUOTE]

If you do try a UGF again, I will be interested in your results, especially if you get some serious powerheads going, with less gravel (maybe 2 inches max). Thanks again.
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