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Thread: Reinstalling a UGF
02-01-2013, 12:07 PM #1
Reinstalling a UGF
Well, with the new, young discus and their being feed five/six times a day, my tank clean up at the end of the day is not going good. THe sand is turning brown ever night from both the ultra fine food waste I can't remove and, of course, the massive waste from the fish. The good news is my water nitrate remains below 1 ppm (measures from 0.4 - 0.8 ppm and the phosphates hover around 2 ppm.) Since I can only care for them at night, I will have to either remove the sand or return to service my reverse flow UGF. These units kept my sand pristine - the up flowing water not only helped me remove all food particles (even very small) by vacuuming (the particles cannot sink into the sand) but encourage a small bacteria culture to grow in the top layer that converts waste into nitrates (which my active nitrate filters easily remove.)
I had removed these to save electricity and since my nitrate filters allowed me to really go easy on water changes (my tap is high in nitrates so W/C do not help - my nitrate filters do convert this into clean water but that takes a day; hence, I do only bi-weekly water changes.)
I wil lsay this, while sand isn't at all needed (it is impossible to have plants with nitrates so low) I just don't really want to remove it ... maybe in a few months I'll give up and bite the bullet relative to sand.
For now, with the vast amount of fish waste that these little critters produce thanks to their eating enough food to feed a small army, and since the sand will provide a good culture media for bacteria to clean the sand (again, nitrates are not an issue due to my active systems) I guess I'll continue with the sand in the tank and let the UGF (along with my canister, algae scrubber and nitrate removal unit from hell) continue to do their jobs - will be an interesting experiment to see if it works as well as it did a while ago when I first developed the idea. Of course, I didn't have the nitrate filters at that time.
02-02-2013, 05:13 PM #2
Wow, such a complicated system you employed. Frankly, I can hardly imagine UGF working under sand bed. Could you please share some pictures (or url if you already posted it somewhere). In particular, the size of sand particles is of interest. I truly believe UGF is the worst filtration system in terms of maintenance, and if I had no alternative, I would prefer making it in RUGF way.
Last edited by Allesgut; 02-02-2013 at 05:16 PM.
02-02-2013, 09:58 PM #3
Agree. It states specifically to not use UGF if you have a planted tank or using sand. I have 3 planted tanks, jammed full, and my nitrates are nearly always 0. That's what my liquid ferts are for. Many people raise their young Discus in a bare bottom tank due to ease of cleaning.
02-02-2013, 11:32 PM #4
I'll try and get my digital camera to work. The UGF is not my filtering system; I have an algae filter, canister and a .. well, the filter that will not be named. The UGF is ONLY to prevent food particles from working their way down into the sand before I can vacuum them out. I can only vacuum once a day (late) and the fish have been fed four or five times already. The tank sand is a mess - since I refuse to remove the sand, the reverse flow UGF can help solve this issue. It worked well the last time I used it but gave up since I still had phosphate problems (which the algae filter is controlling.) Now, some bio-action by the UGF is just icing on the cake but of almost zero value for my tank due to the 'complex' system I use. Plants are impossible with my tank - nitrates are zero: for laughs I did put one plant in and it refused to grow at all. Low phosphates and zero nitrates is not useful for plants. Yet for young discus it is great and for me, I do not have to do 100% daily water changes but rather two 50% W/C a week and my nitrates are near zero even with heavy feeding. So, complex I will live with.
Aside: I would prefer 100% W/C a day to be honest but that is impossible since my tap has 10 ppm nitrates ... by doing just 50% and only twice a week, my algae filter can easily handle that influx of nitrates and in no time, the tank is back to near zero nitrates. So, unless I go R/O and I can't see the point right now - I already own the UGF, canister, algae scrubber and the filter which cannot be name (hint - see the movie!) I will use this system.
For any one interested, a UGF just needs a thin layer of gravel and then sand can be placed onto it without any issues. The flow is reverse so it moves water from inside the UGF, up through the gravel/sand and back into the tank. Simple: debris stays where I want it - the sand surface - and the real function is just the positive water flow up through the sand. QED
02-03-2013, 06:28 PM #5
One thing I should comment on was the condition of the sand when I moved half to put in the first UGF unit (two are required for my size tank); while I vacuum daily & stir I noticed that after I removed the sand to install the UGF plate, the smell of fish waste was noticable and my nitrates went from 0.5 ppm to over 10 ppm (Of course I am doing a close to 85% W/C - the fish are still in the tank so, no 100% this time!)
I simply confirmed that sand does store a none insignificant amount of waste even with a well stired top layer. This was a bit of a surprise.
While this does strongly support the method of using only a bare bottom tank for young discus, I still intend to leave sand in the tank for now with the UGF running.
This discovery on a fairly well kept (or at least I thought so) tank makes me wonder about standard tanks and how bad this problem can be. I do recall I had major issues with a community tank with this problem but partly blamed my vacuuming method. This tank I know had better upkeep and large water changes. Yes, I stir the sand as I vacuum but waste can and must diffuse down deep. Even with stiring (and pulling a none insignificant amount of the sand up the vacuum tube where it is better cleaned) I still have net buildup of waste.
It will be interesting to see if this problem goes away with the reverse UGF flow. To better understand if this method helps overall, I'll heavily stir/move a lot of sand in a few months and see if the nitrate climbs significantly. If not, this approch will be sound, if not, an utter waste of power and effort. Will be nice to know one way or the other.
02-04-2013, 05:19 AM #6
Well I just wanted to add that such "behaviour" of your UGF is normal for any UGF system. Only RUGF can work long with no need of nasty cleanings since already filtered water goes through substrate.
02-09-2013, 09:27 PM #7
Well, first full week of using the reverse flow UGF (i.e. the water is taken from the tank and pumped down under the gravel/sand layers - yes, two layers: gravel on the UGF plate and sand over all of that. The gravel is small and white similar to the sand so mixing will not be an issue.)
After I set it up, one unit was was sucking air into it's intake and this air was then bubbling up through the sand ... also, I needed to better affix the pump heads to the side of the tank.
So I shut down the system for two days and got around to fixing these issues.
Today the nitrates are between 0.2 and 0.6 ppm (about the same as always for the range); the phosphates are a good bit lower and at 0.5 ppm (were in the 2 ppm range).
Overall, I think only a minor thanks to the UGF for these readings but due to my ability to now remove waste food and other waste products more easily my phosphates dropped (the waste stuff stays up on top the sand better now making for easier and more complete vacuuming.)
I returned more wood back into the tank (removed 3/4 due to old food getting under it) and have had mixed results so far - some pieces of wood are cleaner (under them) and two are just as bad as before.
Still, so far, a general plus but are the extra filters (two units running) worth the effort or electric bill increase? Maybe. If I can reduce my net water loss in vacuuming (faster clean up) it could play for itself in reduced hot water bills but it is way too early to determine if that will occur.
Last edited by Cermet; 02-09-2013 at 09:34 PM.
02-09-2013, 09:32 PM #8
Sounds like you are ensureing the wastes stay suspended and disolved in the water so the scrubber can remove them preventing a potential build-up in the substrate than can leach out over time.
I'm looking forward to your thoughts on how this is working over time.If you take your time to do the research FIRST, you can successfully set-up and keep ANY type of aquarium with ease.
"Not using a quarantine tank is like playing Russian roulette. Nobody wins the game, some people just get to play longer than others." - Anthony Calfo
Fishless Cycle Cycling with Fish Marine Aquarium Info [URL="http://saltwater.aquaticcommunity.com/"]
02-10-2013, 11:39 PM #9
He is using a UG but not in the fear some traditional way.
02-11-2013, 09:52 AM #10
Thanks all for reading.
While only the first full week, I am noticing that tank clean up is easier and that fine food particles are staying put (remaining on the substrate surface) as are fine solid waste from the fish. This is allowing a better vacuuming at night and I hope - and this may prove very wrong - prevention of my sand surface getting a buildup of dark 'waste' (bacteria and/or algae eating the waste and forming the classic 'bio-film. Liquid waste may dominate this issue.)
I am thinking of using a timer to shut down the UGF power heads every night for 8-9 hours to 1) save electricity (partly) and 2) to prevent the 'good' bacteria from growing in/under my substrate. Allowing these bacteria to grow would be asking for trouble after a power failure (getting too common now a-days) and then dying off causing a spike of waste to flood my other filters. I really don't want my UGF acting like a bio-active UGF!
Just some thoughts on this project to date ... .
I do not intend to do my normal water change for the mid-week (the normal 50%) to see what the nitrate and phosphate level reaches (compared to the normal readings at that time.) Of course, some water is exchanged by the late evening vacuuming but that was generally done, anyway.
Of course, I'd never do this with just a nitrate consuming filter since those do not touch other waste products (esp. fish organics) but the algae scrubber should cover that ground - even a small unit (assuming the results this weekend are reasonable.) I'll also check mid-week when I feed the nitrate filter.
My weekly larger water changes to replaced lost minerals (and do a more complete aquarium clean up) will be performed after testing the water parameters - ammonia, nitrite (yes, a nitrate filter can create this as a waste; they are dangerous filters and not safe unless closily watched), nitrate and phosphate. I'll also track the pH, GH, and KH this weekend for a little more knowledge and see how these react - my start pH is around 6.8 and normally drifts to 7.0 pH.
This whole project - avoiding as many water changes as possible due to a large nitrate reading from my tap - has become a project for other reasons now. My tap nitrate has dropped almost two orders of magnitude (around 0.2 ppm compared to the original 10 ppm nitrate) so the need to reduce w/c is not really required. However, the project is now more of an academic interest for me and I will continue with this project to see if it is possible to create a semi-closed (relative to discus!) aquarium environment and still keep these rather demanding fish healthy and happy.
Last edited by Cermet; 02-11-2013 at 09:55 AM.