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Old 01-09-2011, 06:04 PM   #1
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Looking to use an under gravel filter

Looking to use an under gravel filter for the first time as a little extra filtration in a tank I'm starting ( no fish in it yet) but it is going in a 55 gallon tank and is 55 gallon rated. The instructions say it can be hooked either to an air pump rated for 55 gallons or a power head. now my question is which would be more effective and what are the pros and cons of using either on an under gravel filtration system? Thanks for the responses
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Old 01-09-2011, 06:31 PM   #2
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I think UGFs are outdated and shouldn't be used. They'll trap more waste then they will filter.
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Old 01-09-2011, 06:41 PM   #3
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The best kind of filter IMO is an external canister filter =)
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Old 01-09-2011, 06:47 PM   #4
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If you are going to stick with a UGF, a powerhead
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Old 01-09-2011, 07:09 PM   #5
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Thanks for the responses but I left out a key piece of info-- this UGF will be paired up with an aquaclear 110
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Old 01-09-2011, 07:17 PM   #6
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Doesn't change anything for me It's still gonna collect waste under the plates.
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Old 01-09-2011, 07:39 PM   #7
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I've heard several people on here say great things about running a UGF in reverse. Instead of pulling the water down through the substrate, running it up through the substrate. While I've never used a UGF, the RUGF idea does make a lot of sense.
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Old 01-09-2011, 08:13 PM   #8
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I wouldn't run an UGF. Stick with an HOB or a canister filter. Have used all 3 varieties, UGF was by far the worst. They trap debris under the substrate, clutter up the tank, and are the noisiest option of the 3 as well.
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Old 01-09-2011, 10:24 PM   #9
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In my opinion UGFs and RUGFs are out of date. I have seen RUGFs be just as bad as UGFs. The biggest problem is that when neglected HOBs, cnaisters, etc. can be cleaned thoroughly and you can catch up. However, the UGF and RUGF when neglected is so problematic you simply have to tear it out, releasing al that debris into the water column so it looks like there was a sewage leak. It simply isn't that effective and not worth it.

Stick with HOBs and canisters, clean them regularly (monthly), and keep up the water changes.

Sand is a more natural and cleaner option anyways, and not compatible with UGFs or RUGFs (at least not without a bunch of extra work and the same risk as UGFs to begin with).
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Old 01-10-2011, 12:13 PM   #10
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UGFs and RUGFs are a bit old school, but they're still plenty effective, especially for large-scale fish rooms. The key is maintaining them well.

A UGF sucks all the waste in the tank down under the gravel, using the gravel as both the mechanical and biological media.

A RUGF sucks all the waste into the sponge of the powerhead, using the sponge as the mechanical medium and the sponge and gravel as the biological media. The RUGF takes up more space in the tank because of the sponge, but it's quieter and it keeps the waste out of the gravel.

I think I'd skip on the UGF if you've got an AC110. The AquaClear is much less obtrusive in the tank and the AC110 should be more than adequate for your 55g. I have one on a 40B and it's hardly taxed.
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Old 01-10-2011, 02:11 PM   #11
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Personally, I run UG filters on all my tanks and have for over 18 years; four of them are 100 gallon tanks full of multiple breeds of cichlids (all four of them are heavily stocked). I run all of them with powerheads rather than air. I've never ever had any ammonia build-up issues, I don't spend any money on filter materials, I don't have to deal with the nastiness of cleaning out a gross canister filter on a regular basis. I vaccum the tank monthly combined with partial water changes.

I'm confused by why most of you consider them outdated? They are less maintanence that either a canister or a HOB IMO (especially with cichlids), and they are certainly less expensive. They are more than capable of keeping up with the bioload. So what is it exactly that makes them outdated?

Several of you said they will trap nutrients if neglected, but the exact same thing is true if you neglect a canister (those things really get disgusting) or a HOB filter. And yes, I have also used all three types of filtration - personally I hope I never have to use a canister filter again in my life.

If you have a tanks set up with a sandbed don't you have to clean the sandbed? If not, what breaks down the ammonia or removes the fish waste in the sand?

Not trying to be argumentative. I just see this new tread of how UG filters are outdated and I don't get it. I understand that they don't work if you are trying to use sand and grow plants, therefore they don't work with a planted tank.

Also for those of you who commented on them being noisy, what makes them noisy? The hum of the powerhead or the bubbling of the air? The powerhead humming isn't any louder than most of the canister filters I've tried.
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Old 01-10-2011, 02:17 PM   #12
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Probably would be quieter when using a powerhead. I used air pumps on mine when I had them, and air pumps are loud in comparison to an HOB or canister. When I ran them, I always had to end up pulling up the plates to clean them. With a canister or HOB, I can just gravel vac normally. I now run exclusively planted tanks, so that is also part of the reason I stay away from them now.

All good points, and this is an excellent example of what works for some may not work for others, and that there are many many ways to do things in this hobby, and not just one correct solution.
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Old 01-10-2011, 02:22 PM   #13
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One of the beauties of sand is that you really don't have to clean deep into it. The fish waste sits on top of the sand and you can vacuum out anything the filter doesn't pick up.
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Old 01-10-2011, 02:44 PM   #14
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Fair enough, I will absolutely agree that they are loud when using air, as the air pumps are loud. I'm fortunate in that I have a large air pump elsewhere that I use to run my airstones.

Really? Having run multiple DSB marine tanks, I would tend to disagree that waste and debris does not penetrate into the sandbed - unless you are cleaning daily. It may not appear to, but it is getting into the sandbed. If you don't believe me, try tearing down a tank set-up with sand sometime.
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Old 01-10-2011, 03:50 PM   #15
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The people that I have seen successfully using UGFs and RUGFs are the people who have been using them since they were 'in' or the best method at the time. I am guessing you got used to working with them and know exactly what it takes to prevent problems.

In my opinion a big difference is that when HOBs, canisters, and UGF/RUGFs are neglected it is easier to fix the problem with HOBs and canisters. You break them down, clean them, and get them running again an hour later. However, on UGFs and RUGFs it is more work to fix the problem and riskier for the tank. You inevitably stir up all sorts of debris back into the water column (looks and smells like sewage).

I don't think any are more maintenance than others. You either do a lot of vacuuming with UGFs, or cleaning filters with HOBs and canisters. The tank doesn't produce any more debris based on filtration, so the same amount of debris needs to be removed from any one of the filters.

I like sand a lot better. I have heard some horror stories about DSBs, this is partly why I didn't use one in my reef. The sand I use in all my tanks is Estes' Ultra Reef. It is not a true marine sand so it doesn't alter any chemistry. The most important thing about this sand in my opinion is that it is extremely uniform in size, and the size is just large enough to not prevent oxygen from getting to the entire sandbed (even in 2" of sand or more). I always recommend against cheapo sands because I think those sands, even the better ones, can contribute to significant problems eventually. These problems are the issues that are brought up against sand in any discussion of sand vs. gravel.

With sand effectively all of the debris stays on top and either keeps moving with current until filters grab it or collecting in a couple small piles that are easily vacuumed during a water change. Some very fine debris will eventually collect in the sandbed, but not nearly the amount as in gravel and not enough to turn the sandbed into a nitrate factory.

With sand in my tanks there is enough flow to keep debris moving until my filters grab it. So during a water change I have a net over the gravel vacuum just to keep fish out, I start the siphon, go do something else (computer, TV, dinner, etc.), come back, start filling, go do something else, and then done. No need for vacuuming.

For people not used to dealing with UGFs I think it is much safer for them to just go with a HOB or canister.
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Old 01-10-2011, 05:50 PM   #16
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If you really want to use the UGF, get at least TWO strong power heads on a 55 gallon. Be sure you are the type of person who does not tend to overfeed, and does not mind doing regular gravel cleaning as part of your water changes.

I ran a UGF (with 2 powerheads) in a 75 gallon for years (with a HOB, as well), and never had a buildup under the plates. And I had a 29 gallon with one PH (and a HOB) for years before that, on a metal stand. The metal stand meant that I could look up underneath the tank and see the underside of the filter plate thru the glass. Very little ever accumulated there. But I gravel cleaned with a python regularly...at least monthly. When I gleaned the gravel, I went straight down with cleaning end, into the gravel, all the way to the plate. And held it there until all the gunk was sucked up. Then straight up, over to the next spot, straight down, repeat. Getting down to the plate and giving it time to do its job seemed to work very well.

Just a tip. Do not use the outermost ports on the UGF. You get a more even distribution of the pulling power of the powerheads if you use the inner ones. (In other words, number the ports from left to right...if there are 4, use 2 and 3, not 1 and 4.)
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Old 01-10-2011, 06:01 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Fishguy2727 View Post
The people that I have seen successfully using UGFs and RUGFs are the people who have been using them since they were 'in' or the best method at the time. I am guessing you got used to working with them and know exactly what it takes to prevent problems.

In my opinion a big difference is that when HOBs, canisters, and UGF/RUGFs are neglected it is easier to fix the problem with HOBs and canisters. You break them down, clean them, and get them running again an hour later. However, on UGFs and RUGFs it is more work to fix the problem and riskier for the tank. You inevitably stir up all sorts of debris back into the water column (looks and smells like sewage).

I don't think any are more maintenance than others. You either do a lot of vacuuming with UGFs, or cleaning filters with HOBs and canisters. The tank doesn't produce any more debris based on filtration, so the same amount of debris needs to be removed from any one of the filters.

I like sand a lot better. I have heard some horror stories about DSBs, this is partly why I didn't use one in my reef. The sand I use in all my tanks is Estes' Ultra Reef. It is not a true marine sand so it doesn't alter any chemistry. The most important thing about this sand in my opinion is that it is extremely uniform in size, and the size is just large enough to not prevent oxygen from getting to the entire sandbed (even in 2" of sand or more). I always recommend against cheapo sands because I think those sands, even the better ones, can contribute to significant problems eventually. These problems are the issues that are brought up against sand in any discussion of sand vs. gravel.

With sand effectively all of the debris stays on top and either keeps moving with current until filters grab it or collecting in a couple small piles that are easily vacuumed during a water change. Some very fine debris will eventually collect in the sandbed, but not nearly the amount as in gravel and not enough to turn the sandbed into a nitrate factory.

With sand in my tanks there is enough flow to keep debris moving until my filters grab it. So during a water change I have a net over the gravel vacuum just to keep fish out, I start the siphon, go do something else (computer, TV, dinner, etc.), come back, start filling, go do something else, and then done. No need for vacuuming.

For people not used to dealing with UGFs I think it is much safer for them to just go with a HOB or canister.
I will grant that UG filters require regular maintainence and you are probably correct in that they are harder to get going again than HOB or canisters that have been neglected.

From your comments, you are combining sandbeds with very high flow rates (I assume as a result of additional powerheads), but that isn't usually included in the recommendations I've seen people posting. They just say UG is outdated, use sand instead. Most people are also not typically recommending a particular type of sand.

Again, I'm not trying to be argumentative, I just question the whole "outdated", and easier. Of the three, HOB are probably the easiest, but also the most expensive, especially with "messy" fish as you are changing out filters all the time. I also found impellr replacement to be an issue, but I have to replace impellars on the powerheads that drive my UG systems as well, so I don't consider that "extra". Personally, I found canisters to be a big pain and very nasty when not maintained on a strictly regemented schedule.

I guess as was stated earlier, its really an issue of what works well for a particular individual.
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Old 01-10-2011, 06:39 PM   #18
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Another thought...consider adding a dab of tank-safe silicone to the caps on the ports that you do not use, and basically glue the caps in place. The silicone can be peeled out in the future if you need to use the port later. But if a cap comes off (during a cleaning, for example) and you do not know about it, you will end up with substrate (and possibly fish) under the plate. And that is just never a good thing.

BTW, I never used sand with any of my UGFs. Just aquarium gravel, 1/4 inch pieces, roughly. Are other posters using sand with UGFs? Or am I misunderstanding this? I cant see how sand would work with UGFs...too fine for the plates.
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Old 01-10-2011, 06:58 PM   #19
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Another thought...consider adding a dab of tank-safe silicone to the caps on the ports that you do not use, and basically glue the caps in place. The silicone can be peeled out in the future if you need to use the port later. But if a cap comes off (during a cleaning, for example) and you do not know about it, you will end up with substrate (and possibly fish) under the plate. And that is just never a good thing.

BTW, I never used sand with any of my UGFs. Just aquarium gravel, 1/4 inch pieces, roughly. Are other posters using sand with UGFs? Or am I misunderstanding this? I cant see how sand would work with UGFs...too fine for the plates.
Nope, no sand here - I agree that it is too fine for UGF to work.

Also be sure and check those caps on a regular basis. They do crack and break over time.
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Old 01-10-2011, 07:04 PM   #20
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For HOBs I prefer AquaClears for a lot of reasons. One is that you can keep using the mechanical and biological media for years. Obviously if you use carbon (which I don't) that needs to be replaced regularly in any filter. I also prefer the AquaClears because of the massive amount of media they utilize. Othe HOBs have a dinky little slide-in cartridge that has very little actual media in it, and has to be replaced very regularly.

I do prefer one type of sand and only one. I try to specify this any time I discuss it, but also try not to push it too much. People seem to get bothered if I don't like cheapo hardware store sands, or pool filter sands, or whatever they happen to prefer (even if they have never even seen the one I recommend).

I do think the extra flow helps, but isn't vital for success with the sand I use. As stated even if there is not enough flow the debris will collect in easily vacuumed piles.

It just seems to me that the only people who manage to use UGFs properly are people who have been using them since they were the best way, they had to learn to get them right. And now for them they are the easiest, cheapest, and best form of filtration.

Even if UGFs and RUGFs can be utilized properly, which they obviously can be, I still prefer sand by far. It is more natural, looks better (preference of fishkeeper), and is easier to keep clean.

I only mention the possibility of UGF/RUGF with sand because someone usually brings up that they can be used if you place a fine mesh (like window screen) below the sand, usually above a thin layer of gravel. I personally would never do this. Too much work and too easy to mess up, eventually sand will be underneath the screen and all your work is undone.
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