I have used them multiple times, personally and at stores I worked at. I have never had one work out long term.
What type/model did you have (risers with airlines/air pump, power heads, etc.)? Always used powerheads, not sure about the various types.
What size tank? 10-90 gallons.
What fish you kept? Everything (one shop used them in all tanks)
Type of substrate? Depth of substrate? Gravel, 1-2"
Maintenance you did (method and how frequent)? Weekly gravel vac
How long you used the UGF
Why you got one in the first place? had used ones from used tanks or store already had them running
Any training or research you did to know how to use them? No training needed, vacuum them EVERY week and hope for the best
Method of testing water parameters? liquid test kits
Frequency of water changes? weekly
Did you have live plants? not that I recall
Did you even attempt them (live plants)? not that I recall
What plants? What fertilizers? N/A
Anything else you can think of that would be helpful or pertinent? I have used both UGF
and RUGF and neither work out long term. In both cases you are using a filter media (the gravel) that you CANNOT take out of the tank, drag to the bath tub, and clean WITHOUT making the tank look like the city has been pumping sewage through your tank. Most people suggest running additional filtration with UGF
, as in don't run just the UGF
, run UGF
and a HOB
. This means that you can buy either a HOB
, and powerhead(s) OR a larger HOB
. Which is cheaper? With a HOB
or canister if you neglect them you can simply turn them off, take them to the tub, and clean them without releasing a load of sewage into your tank. That is not the case with UGFs. Having a filter that absolutely has to be cleaned every single week ever and even then may turn in to an in-tank septic tank is not the best way to go. Not to mention that sometimes life happens and there are higher priorities than a gravel vac.
When I broke down the RUGF on the 90 gallon at one shop I was working at it turned the tank into a brown mess. Visibility was literally about two inches. And that was after vacuuming as thoroughly as possible two days in a row before pulling the substrate and UGF
With all the options for filtration today I see absolutely no need to use UGFs. There are other more effective, easier to maintain, and much less likely to turn into a problem.
In addition, sand is a much better substrate anyways. It is more natural, much cleaner than gravel (with or without UGF
), and almost maintenance free (or is maintenance free). And since UGFs don't work with sand, it is pointless to discuss them.
IME the people who like UGFs are the people who have been using them since the 80's when they were the best option. They figured out how to use them without major issues and have stuck with them.