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Old 06-11-2014, 08:54 PM   #21
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In my view a canister filter can be taken apart and cleaned readily. I run two and I can totally clean one at a time. So I can readily remove all debris and keep nitrates low. I can run purigen or carbon or all sorts of combinations.

From my experience an ugf is not as easy to clean and remove debris.

In ammonia terms I don't think much difference. I have say 40 kilos of gravels versus say 7 kilos of ceramic biomedia.

I think it comes down to nitrates. If your nitrates are low with an ugf why change? If they are high with an ugf than a canister filter I would swap to. My thoughts on an interesting discussion.
So again, it comes down to maintaining the filter regardless of the particular technology.

You did bring up another good point concerning ug filters. My current salt tank is 25"x13" with an average 2" substrate bed which gives me a filter media volume of about 650" cubed,that is considerable more volume than can be realized in a canister filter, and I fear I would break my brain if I began to contemplate the actual surface area available to bacteria in that volume full of sand/gravel.

Nitrates are one of the main concerns in any filtration system. In saltwater it has been partially addressed via the use of "live rock" The only thing that live rock provides is deep crevices and structures that allow anaerobic bacteria to thrive and therefore aid in the reduction of nitrate. Certainly not some miracle nor a necessity, although it certainly is portrayed that way. all that is needed is rockwork with similar porosity.
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Old 06-11-2014, 10:43 PM   #22
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So again, it comes down to maintaining the filter regardless of the particular technology.

You did bring up another good point concerning ug filters. My current salt tank is 25"x13" with an average 2" substrate bed which gives me a filter media volume of about 650" cubed,that is considerable more volume than can be realized in a canister filter, and I fear I would break my brain if I began to contemplate the actual surface area available to bacteria in that volume full of sand/gravel.

Nitrates are one of the main concerns in any filtration system. In saltwater it has been partially addressed via the use of "live rock" The only thing that live rock provides is deep crevices and structures that allow anaerobic bacteria to thrive and therefore aid in the reduction of nitrate. Certainly not some miracle nor a necessity, although it certainly is portrayed that way. all that is needed is rockwork with similar porosity.

On media surface area in my tank I would suspect the canister filter actually holds more due to the ceramic media I'm using. You could argue gravel vacs destroy bacteria versus ceramic media gets gunked up. I don't think it makes much difference if ammonia is 0. Even if I worked out surface area I could always add more gravel or more media.

Nitrates is a handy measure I think as we commonly measure it. I don't think it should totally control pwc % but a good start. For myself I know the canister filter can keep nitrates about 15. Ugf was about 40. But different tanks and setups though and what I was doing for cleaning since I hated cleaning both. If you can keep nitrates where you need them problem solved I think. What do your nitrates run at may I ask?
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Old 06-12-2014, 12:07 AM   #23
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Currently they are running high, about 40-50ppm according to API salt test. but the tank is going into it's third month and getting to the point where the anaerobic bacteria are really starting to take hold. I started my tank from scratch, no live rock, but I did fall for the scam of "live sand" and bottled bacteria. They really didn't do much except cause all three; ammo, nitrite, nitrate, to hit high levels rather quickly, but they certainly didn't shorten the cycle, IMO.
The nitrate has been steadily declining over the last two weeks. Aerobic bacteria take about 3-6 weeks to really get a strong population going, depending on initial conditions, anaerobic bacteria can take 8-12 weeks to become established, or not at all if there isn't the appropriate environment provided for them to flourish. About four weeks ago I replaced the Fluval ceramic noodles I was using in my DIY canister with Seachems de-nitrate, which is basically pebbles of pumice. But the surface area they posses is astronomical and they have the proper pore/fracture sizes to accommodate anaerobic bacteria colonies.
Honestly I am considering using Seachem Matrix products exclusively whenever I need that type of media. By virtue of testing I can tell that the bacteria colonies are beginning to take a good foothold and within a couple more weeks I suspect nitrates will be in the teens.
Patience is the key when it comes to the biological breakdown of nitrate.
In a few weeks I am re-vamping the entire set-up with a sump, refugium, reverse flow under gravel and a specific de-nitrification filter.

I also discovered that my tap water is in the 30's ppm for nitrate, so stupid me started the whole she-bang with high nitrate levels...DOH!!!

I always go overkill and redundant with various types of filtration as that has always yielded me the best/safest results.
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Old 06-12-2014, 12:45 AM   #24
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Yikes - high tap . Nice on nitrates though after deducting that.

Sounds a brilliant setup up though. And the de-nitrate is working ok in the canister you think? I've been tempted on the smaller canister filter where flow-rate has been slower but yet to investigate properly.
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Old 06-12-2014, 01:13 AM   #25
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Yikes - high tap . Nice on nitrates though after deducting that.

Sounds a brilliant setup up though. And the de-nitrate is working ok in the canister you think? I've been tempted on the smaller canister filter where flow-rate has been slower but yet to investigate properly.
Well according to test results, it is starting to work.
It is running with a flow rate of about 300+gph with carbon and chemi-pure as well. it is a two stage canister made with pvc. When I re-vamp the set-up I am going to use the already cycled Seachem product in a smaller similar DIY canister. I am going to run about 25' of 3/8" hose into which I am going to insert some long cable-tie sections, like 3-4 6 foot long ones, in order to give more surface area for aerobic bacteria, then into the canister with the de-nitrate and sulfur mixed, then through another canister with A.R.M (aragonite media) for ph buffering, then discharge into the sump where the protein skimmer will be to oxygenate the water. It will be a siphon flow directly from the tank and adjusted to about 20gph.

I think between that, refugium full of chaeto and the rockwork in my tank that is rapidly becoming very "alive", nitrates won't be an issue.
all it's gonna take is a little time.

I'm planning on taking pics as I go and posting the final set-up. Have a few ideas I want to try.
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Old 06-12-2014, 01:44 AM   #26
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Well I can't give you scientific fact for the reduction of usage of UG filters but I have been around in the hobby ( going on 50 years this year) and the fish business ( for over 40 years) long enough to have seen the rise and fall of UG filters to add my observations.
UG filters in Freshwater tanks became more of a maintenance issue more than anything else. Their popularity was more from "hiding" the filtering part out of sight while the lift tubes could be hidden with just some tall decorations. The hassle was trying to clean out the excess under the plate which was when someone came up with the idea of using reverse powerheads to blow the water up the gravel not suck it down the gravel. This led to the next problem which was all that wonderful detritus that was being blown up the gravel was then either floating about the tank or was being taken out by an external filter which meant that the UG filter's appeal was no longer valid because of the need for the external filter. As I once heard from a customer, " If I need another filter to take out the floating stuff, why do I need the UG in the first place?" This sentiment I suppose, became the basis for the reduction in their use and subsequent removal from the shelves.
As for Saltwater, the creation of the barrel effect of the plate made them move more water thereby making it possible for more bacteria to live in the crushed coral beds we all were using. Once again, the maintenance issue became a big thing for the customer. As more and more larger tanks were being used, the desire from the customer to stick a hose ( usually airline hose) down the pipe and under the plate to siphon out the excess mulm became less and less so many customers eventually would have that nitrate source that was just killing the fish. With the advent of the wet/dry system, the need to do that type of maintenance was eliminated because it was all done outside the tank. Thus the bare bottom tank was born. For those old enough to remember, DLS material was the next best thing to come along since sliced cheese as you could get a huge amount of surface area for the bacteria in a small amount of space and so the need for all that gravel was eliminated and the reduction of fish waste turning eventually into nitrates was done by a prefilter. Clean the prefilter once a week and the DLS only when it became really grungy looking and there was most of your maintenance sans water changes. Once again, when the reverse powerhead method was used in the marine tanks, you ran into the same floating debris issue and you could see that some of the fish didn't like it as they would come to the bottom of the tank to "rest" only to be blown upwards. Mostly just the wrasses liked it because they would get a good flow of water when they were under the gravel hiding. lol Then, there have been multiple types of media for the BB to adhere to that have come on the market that were just easier to deal with than the UG filtering system. However, I helped build a 25,000 gal saltwater holding facility and worked there for 10 years and we only used large rolls of DLS material with 14' tall ammonia towers that were filled with the "latest" bioballs only to find that the ammonia towers didn't do as much ammonia removing as our rolls of DLS were doing. Maybe that's why they changed the type of bioball?

Now, for some other drawbacks to the UG filtering system, fish would go down the air driven lift tubes and under the plates and die which was causing the tanks to decay. I once cleaned out a customer's Discus tank that he was using an UG filter on and collected about a pints worth of live tubifex worms that had escaped and took hold and were growing under the plate. So HOBs and external filters were just an easier method to use for the customer making the UG filtering system obsolete. Nobody says they didn;t work, there were and are just better/easier methods to achieve the same outcome.

Hope this helps.
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Old 06-12-2014, 02:16 AM   #27
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Thank you for the thorough reply.
I am still just coming away with the impression that it is a matter of maintenance more than any real failure of the technology itself.
I am all for simplified maintenance, but still feel as if an under gravel, when maintained properly and regularly, is one of the better methods out if for only it's brain dead simplicity. I've never had an issue with every 3-4 water changes sticking the hose down the lift tubes, but I guess it is a matter of personal preference.
I also have about 40 years in the hobby and a few operating a store, so I completely understand the reasoning behind it in regards to simplified upkeep for the average end user, but we are a bunch of fanatics here and it kinda surprises me the bad reputation that under gravel filters now have when it really is simply a matter of a little elbow grease.

I'm going to use a slow reverse flow rate; about 50gph, so no concern over a strong upward current, especially considering the whirlpools some folks have running in their systems. LOL My philosophy is, the substrate is there, why not make pro-active use of it, plus as I said, a well established under gravel is relatively more stable than most all other types of filtration methodologies simply by virtue of the nature of it's design.

Canisters can go sour very quickly in the event of a power outage and also contribute to nitrate levels (any filter type does if not maintained), live rock requires a constant strong current to be efficient and viable, utilizing the newer medias will cost a friggin' fortune, unless you build everything yourself, then it only costs a small fortune.
That is another thing I tend to consider when sweeping changes are made, where's the money?
Do I want to spend $50 on an under gravel setup that will require a little more work and effort on my part or do I want to spend $500 on the trendiest system?

Sadly I see that the hobby has been infected with the same "prestige" and "status" merchandise hype and hoopla that plagues most facets of life.

Some of the junk I see selling for hundreds is worth less than 10 bucks often.
I built an in-tank refugium for less than $15 bucks that is bigger and better than the one CPR sells for $70, and all it is a small plastic box.
and what the heck is with these fancy-shmancy euro style desk top 2 gallon tanks that sell for hundreds??!!!
Oh well, P.T. Barnum had it right, there's one born every day.
Sorry, got off on a mini rant.

I'm gonna stick with using under gravels. They have their drawbacks like any other tech, which is why I use redundant and complimentary systems and never rely on one type of set-up exclusively.
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Old 06-12-2014, 02:25 AM   #28
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I just thought of something.
How is an undergravel reverse flow keeping detritus suspended any different then the systems prevelant today with the overflows and strong current???
the exact same thing is taking place, all the muck is being kept in suspension until picked up by the overflow, correct?
So where is the harm in the increased biological filtering capacity of a reverse flow ug filter in conjunction with a sump or canister set-up?


again I'm failing to see any really concrete reasons for them not being used other than trends.
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Old 06-12-2014, 11:06 AM   #29
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To answer your last question first, most people, in my experience, were just using the UG filter which was why the stuff remained in the tank. It was the need for the HOB to compliment the UG that got people's "goat" with the thinking ( wrongly of course) that we were just trying to make more money by selling them more equipment. It goes along the same lines of having both a biological filter and a mechanical filter so that you could totally clean the mechanical one while doing little damage to the biological of the system. People thought that it was a sales gimmick.

To address your first issue, No, as I said, it was more, I truly believe, of a convenience thing over a technology reason that had the hobby move from the UG filtering system. The bigger difference between the "new" overflow systems and the Ug filtering system is that it is now combining both the HOB & UG into one format, with the benefits of both formats, instead of having to buy them separately.

When I first came back to the hobby a few years ago, I went around to the pet shops to see what was going on in the biz and the hobby. I had to travel quite a long distance to do this as my little town had no pet shops in it. ( My closest LFS was 45 miles from me.) I came up with the following conclusion: There is nothing new being done in the art of keeping fish today that we weren't doing 30-40 years ago. They are just using different machine to do it with. I think you will agree as you too have seen the changes.
Heck, my first saltwater tank had a metal frame and a slate bottom to it. ( I lived in NJ near the ocean so I had access to fish and water.) See anything wrong with that system? lol I could keep my fish alive for about 6 months using that. Then all glass aquariums were created and it changed EVERYTHING! I am also still using my Hush 3 airpump, Jungle sponge filters, Supreme Heaters and glass tanks from my last fish hatchery, which closed in the late 1980s, and having the same successes I had back then. Some of the newer stuff I've bought to compliment these things are already broken. So I do agree, new is just new, not necessarily better.
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Old 06-12-2014, 11:28 AM   #30
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When I first came back to the hobby a few years ago, I went around to the pet shops to see what was going on in the biz and the hobby. I had to travel quite a long distance to do this as my little town had no pet shops in it. ( My closest LFS was 45 miles from me.) I came up with the following conclusion: There is nothing new being done in the art of keeping fish today that we weren't doing 30-40 years ago. They are just using different machine to do it with. I think you will agree as you too have seen the changes.
...
So I do agree, new is just new, not necessarily better.
We are definitely on the same page there.
The biggest/best advancements I have noticed is just a better understanding of the biological process taking place in an enclosed system, and figuring out ways to facilitate better biological filtration, but it is all still the same basic principles and tech at work.

now we are at a good place to put together a complete filtration solution more so than any other time before.

the way I see it in terms of best solutions;
biological nitrification=under gravel filter
best oxygenation of water=wet/dry-trickle filters
best removal of excess nutrients/protein=skimmers
best removal of nitrate= "live" rock, refugiums with algae (salt water), de-nitrification filters and media (both fresh & salt)
and we have many option now for chemical filtration; chemi-pure in it's various forms, Purigen, etc.

so I'm going to utilize a reverse flow UG, an overflow drain into a wet/dry tower into a sump with a "bottle brigade" (gonna make fluidized media reactors using 1 liter soda bottles), going to use Purigen, and possibly some K1 media for the heck of it, and Chemi-Pure blue, then it will go to a refugium with algae and pods.
Not tied directly in will be a slow flow (>20gph) de-nitrification filter utilizing the coil technique and canister with Seachems De-Nitrate media and sulfur, then into a canister with A.R.M. for buffering.

I think that will cover every base with redundancy and options in the event of emergency.
any opinions on my proposed set-up?

One other reason I'm going to keep an UG filter is I live in So. Cal and they have "rolling blackouts" every summer where they black out a portion of the electric grid for 3 hours at a time. With the UG filter I will be able to stick a battery operated air pump on it, and maintain some degree of filtration during those outages.
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