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Old 05-07-2004, 09:22 PM   #1
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Undergravel Filtration - Really Necessary??

Ok, I'm gonna post a question that's probably been answered tons of times here, but I've been searching the forums and can't really find an answer.

I've got a 55G FW Cichlid tank with 6 small-medium SA Cichlids, a small pleco, and a small catfish. Current filtration is 2x Emperor 400 HOB (with Purigen and Carbon added), and an UGF driven by two 270GPH powerheads in the 'reverse' position, so that they force water down under the gravel, and then up through it. I also use a diatom every 3-4 weeks for polishing.

The tank is now about 4 months old, and I'm noticing that I'm getting a ton of organic wastes accumulating in my gravel, so much so that when the fish move, it kicks up a bunch of stuff that the HOBs suck up immediately. I'm also noticing that my Purigen seems to be prematurely ageing, and if I look 'under' the gravel (through the bottom of the tank), I can see a tremendous amount of waste/bacterial colonies 'trapped' under the gravel. I'm also noticing that the water seems to be clouding up much more frequently.

This aside, water chemistry is fine, but the amount of waste and general clarity is giving me fits. I also vacuum the gravel and do my water changes religiously--.25-.33 weekly, more monthly. For gravel, I've got some fairly coarse epoxy-laminated rocks. I know--not optimal for cichlids, but I've been keeping them for a couple of years and they don't seem to mind -too- much.

I'm wondering if I'd be better off removing the UGF and just going with the HOBs. They're providing 800GPH of filtration, which I think would be enough.

Thoughts on this--should i just bite the bullet and do it, or leave it alone and deal?


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Old 05-07-2004, 09:44 PM   #2
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IMO you've got plenty of filtratation without the UGF. Why not try turning it off and doing some serious water changes for a week or so. Do a quarter of the tank at a time and see if that helps after 2 weeks .

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Old 05-07-2004, 09:45 PM   #3
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I don't care for undergravel filtration for those reasons that you mentioned. The waste getting trapped under the plastic, and inadequate filtration, is enough to convince me not to have one. IMO, the two HOBs will be fine. With 800gph output, you have plenty of flow there.

Undergravel filters provide oxygenation to the gravel bed, which in turn promotes the growth of bacteria and all that good stuff. I have two HOBs in my 55 gal. and everything is fine and dandy in there. Do frequesnt gravel vaccuums, and all should be well.

So, my advice, ditch the undergravel and go with the two HOBs.


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Old 05-07-2004, 10:55 PM   #4
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For cichlids that like to dig--ditch the UGF (plus, it's gross)!! Since they do like to excavate, one day you should change the substrate to smaller gravel and/or sand. This will allow the cichlids to express more of their nature behaviors.

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Old 05-07-2004, 11:00 PM   #5
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UGF simply take up too much vertical room and they get dirty easily. Have fun taking it out! Unless you're doing a complete tear-down, these things are a pain to get out. I've gone no-UGF and have never looked back.
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Old 05-08-2004, 01:09 PM   #6
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Since you have fish that dig AND are messy, you are not a good candidate for UGF.
UGF is also is not forgiving over overstocking..at all.
It is only a step above a dutch tank. As far as muck? it is supposed to be a little mucky....just like the filters in your hobs. Just shows more with no floss or sponge to hide the yecchy bacterial colony.

You have to tear down the tank and remove it. If you turn off the filtration as some have suggested, the lack of air and water current will cause the good bacteria and diatoms living in the mulm to expire and allow for a killer out break of cyno and dangerous gasses (that will mix out during a cichlid dig or vacuum).
BTW: Do you clean the UGF when you vacuum (by clean I mean take the vacuum over the uplift and vacuum out loose deposits from under the plate)? UGF is not an install and forget product..nothing is. You tank size makes UGF tough because the plate lengths will cause a through cleaning to fall short.
All and all I would search for other additional reasons for your problem..

what I read is a large tank that is barely cycled(4 mos) with 8 mid size fish that with adult sizes will outstock that tank as they are growing anyway (avg cichlid=8in. X6=48in of fish excluding messy tendencies, smallest peco available is 6 inches? ne cest pas? now at 53 inches plus some kinda catfish.I 'll be genourous nad say it is a dwarf or slow grow and say 6 inches= grand total of 59 inches).
And you are messing with it a lot as far as filtration methods go but your water change schedule is sparse..specially for a new tank. 25-35 % is not much...sure not enough to remove nitrAtes. What kind of gravel..diatoms need excess food and a modest amount of silicates from plants or the gravel.

MOST IMPORTANT:and I am surprised NO one asked with a mere 4 month old tank) What are the NUMBERS to your readings? Number..not words like good, fine adn bad....
ANd what is your pH and nitrAtes in the tank and in the tap?
Other members got distracted by their nemesis ..the UGF and forgot the important stuff. (I can quote us longer term members in other posts saying it is normal to see diatom dust at the end of the cycle and ask for readings and true fish size/species and mention that 20-30 is really insifficient for a new cycling tank. tsk! ) also his reverse flow is so powerful he may not be getting any proper use from the UGF. He doesn't say how or what he feeds. reverse flow wil throw it all over the tank with gravel disturbance.. there are so maaany questions here!

What KIND of cichlids..other than South American. Obviously they are not the apistos or other dwarfs since you say med size. are they adults yet? there are not THAT many diff SA out there yet are there? that they'd be unnamed?
What size pleco and catfish? 55 is not as big as it seems when you have big messy territorial fish like oscars for example.

I have mostly dutch tanks and UGF. The only one I had a constant problem with is my 40 gal. But it is GROSSLY overstocked as the residents await a custom tank this summer. But as cloudy and ugly as it has looked on some weeks..my readings were Nh=0 NO2=0 and NO3:never higher than 20 on change day. I do 2 50%s a week like clockwork to keep this so.
ShEEZ..sorry to make it so long..but there was to much missed info in the ditch the UGF convention. I feel you have more than a UGF as a problem here.
"Fish! Thank You! Oh, tropical huh? Did you buy a heater? Auuugh!"

Mega-pet stores prolly should not be allowed to sell animals as retail "items".
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Old 05-08-2004, 08:46 PM   #7
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This is a classic topic and I am glad you brought it up again. You will find those who swear by it, and those who would not touch it. I have had them and not had them, and I do not miss them a bit. If you have adequate filtration they are just not necessary, IMO.

Excellent response, Christmasfish!
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Old 05-08-2004, 08:53 PM   #8
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Heh.. but I forgot something tho...
the answer to his question is:

"no, the ugf's are not necessary with your set up"

"Fish! Thank You! Oh, tropical huh? Did you buy a heater? Auuugh!"

Mega-pet stores prolly should not be allowed to sell animals as retail "items".
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