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
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?
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?
Did you have live plants?
Wisteria, anacharis and amazon sword
Did you even attempt them (live plants)?
What plants? What fertilizers?
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
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.