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Old 11-13-2009, 05:08 PM   #1
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how do undergravel filters work?

Bought a used tank a while back and among other unneeded items it came with an undergravel filter. Not needing it, I never played with it or found out how it works. Turns out that I may have just sold the item and now I feel like is should know more about it. I have the motor, the tube that connects the motor to the plates that go under the gravel, and the plates.

Am I missing anything? How are the nasties pulled out of the system?

Please help!
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Old 11-13-2009, 05:55 PM   #2
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UGF plates create a bacteria bed thats how the baddies are filtered out, I use them alot but I reverse the flow as to not get gunk under the plate, my plate has been in my 52g planted tank for almost 6 months now and under the plate is crystal clear. Reverse flow filters the water before its pumped down thru the tube and up thru the plate.

I got 5 or 6 plates here that arent being used, I have a weird plate it doesnt have sawteeth in it(the humps on the plate)and is 95% open for flow, my debris usually floats about 2" above the surface of the substrate and my AC HOBs pick that stuff up with ease.
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Old 11-13-2009, 09:08 PM   #3
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Looking at some online descriptions, it looks like the UGF's function either by sucking water up the tube or pushing air down the tube, correct? I really hope so, as the motor I have does not have any return feed!
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Old 11-13-2009, 09:11 PM   #4
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the UGF is used by sucking water down thru the plate and up the tube and out the head or whatever outlet you have on the uptube.

You can get a air line and stone and put it in the tube, it will do the same thing just not as good.

My motors dont have a return feed.
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Old 11-15-2009, 04:03 AM   #5
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Q: how do undergravel filters work?

A: they dont.


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Old 11-15-2009, 08:21 AM   #6
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Exo, thats has to be the most uneducated response ever. They work great, I mean they were in use for decades alone, then with HOB's and canisters. Alot of people use them still either in formal fashion or reversed, either way they are very beneficial to the tank in creating a large surface for bacteria to colonize on.
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Old 11-15-2009, 02:46 PM   #7
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well then allow me to "educate" you

Beneficial bacteria will grow on ANY available surface in your tank if you dont have a proper filter, or no filter at all. Regardless if you have a plastic plate under your substrate, bacteria will grow there if it does not have a more suitable place to grow (like the bio-media of a proper filter). the amount of "flow" through a UGF is marginal, and nearly unmeasurable, while a proper filter will give you a much higher flow rate resulting in much better mechanical and biological filtration. even in highly overfiltered tanks, we do not come anywhere near the flow rates that hinder the nitrogen cycle. so, why use a UGF that traps all the crud IN the tank, and has almost 0 flow rate, when you can purchase a proper filter?
UGF do nothing more than trap debris and detrius under the plates, making it near impossible to clean thoroughly without completely disassembling your tank. you are just as well off using NO filter, as you would be using a UGF. if you dont have a canister or HOB with proper flow and bio-media, bacteria will look to colonize anywhere they can. this usually happens in the gravel, and on porous surfaces in decor. so even if you are using nothing more than an air stone/ air pump (no UGF plate, and no other filtration), the bacteria will grow in your substrate just the same, first colonizing closest to the stone, as it would be the best available space.

as far as surface area, i think you, like most other novice keepers, have a crude misunderstanding of bacteria colonization.
your system (display/filter/etc) will only house as much beneficial bacteria as is needed. this is solely dependent on the amount of available ammonia in the tank. in most wet/dry filters, sumps, and canisters, most of the biological media is not actually being used, and is simply taking up space.
because of all the rotting detrius under the UGF plates, the ammonia levels in the tank are much higher than they rightfully should be, so a larger surface area is needed. but without those plates trapping rotting debris, your available ammonia levels will be much lower, and the bacteria colonies will die down to the appropriate levels.
why do you think people run huge tanks using nothing more than a sponge filter?

and youre right. they were used for decades before canisters.
but then again, people used to write with rocks.
does that make it the best or most effective way to get the job done at present time? absolutely not.
there have been so many advancements over time that UGF have been rendered absolutely USELESS. they simply do more harm than good, and there are much better products out there, even on a low consumer level, that surpass this ancient system by leaps and bounds.

you cant argue with science. sorry.
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Old 11-15-2009, 09:15 PM   #8
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OK people, lets cool it a bit .....

I know people are passionate about UGF. It has its pros & cons, just like any other filter. You are all welcomed to state your opinions, but please don't start a war over it!
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Old 11-15-2009, 09:58 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsoong View Post
OK people, lets cool it a bit .....
Thank you, hadn't meant to suggest anything about efficiency or quality, just wanted to make sure I understood them well enough to know whether the one I was selling actually functioned as it's maker intended. And thankfully, it does, at least in the sense that water is pulled from the bottom of the tank, up through a little plastic tube. . . Certainly not the best option out there but for someone who needs filtration in his turtle tank (trust me, it IS needed in a turtle tank), it was the best he could afford for now.
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Old 11-23-2009, 03:25 PM   #10
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Hbeth82, I believe that UGF's work really well for that application. Most reefers won't use them because of the Nitrate load they carry with all the crud that gets stuck under them. Glad you figured it out!
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Old 11-23-2009, 06:10 PM   #11
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Thanks. I wouldn't think they'd work as well with a sand substrate and it seems like it would take longer to get the tank cycled if using a UGF than a more 'highly regarded' filter but I'm still standing by "it's better for the residents than nothing at all".
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Old 11-23-2009, 06:16 PM   #12
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yep, cant use them with sand, but ive heard that they will cycle a tank faster, at least thats what a couple people on here have said. i dont like the concept though, and have heard too many stories of the junk that builds up under them
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Old 11-23-2009, 06:27 PM   #13
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A ugf does build gunk, I have mine on double reverse flow soon to be 4x reverse flow, The tank water smells better then the tap water does.

Ive seen some UGF systems that were years old that were surprisingly clean for their age, most part due to extremely disciplined tank cleanings and strict feeding amounts.
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Old 11-23-2009, 06:30 PM   #14
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are you pushing up through the gravel then? sounds like that would definately help with the "gunk" buildup
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Old 11-23-2009, 06:36 PM   #15
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Yes, Mine pumps from the tank down the tubes via powerheads w/ marineland reverse flow kits. everything floats about an inch or two above the gravel line then goes up into the filter and starts all over again.

My corydoras have adapted well to not being bottom feeders.
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Old 11-24-2009, 09:39 AM   #16
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does the gravel look like is is along a volcanic rift, moving? I would imagine you get the most flow closest to the down tube and relatively little at a distance. Unless you have multiple downtubes and multiple powerheads.
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Old 11-24-2009, 10:33 AM   #17
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multiples here but yes there is a constant erosion process at the plate......combated with chunk rock. however I use flourite and its very light weight material.
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Old 11-24-2009, 04:53 PM   #18
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Wow...I did not know there was so much banter on weather to use an UGF or not.
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