Under Gravel Filters
Lots of filter info from Aqualand Pets Plus
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Healthy fish tanks contain crystal clear water. No piece of aquarium equipment comes close to the water clarifying value you get in an under gravel filter.
UG filters never really wear out. If you break a part, you can usually glue it together or buy a replacement piece. In recent years we’ve seen a great increase in new brands and styles. They all work great! And they work several times better than the ones we used last millennium. Actually, we probably still use at least 100 of them over 20 years old.
Regulates Temperature. Because the UG filter pulls water from the bottom and pushes it to the top, it circulates your water. It turns it over 24 hours each and every day. Every part of your tank maintains the same temperature level. The closer you keep your heater to one of the lift tubes, the better it works.
Aerates Your Water. When your lift tubes bring water to the surface, this causes that new water to come in contact with atmospheric oxygen. This turnover (not the bubbles in the tube) adds oxygen to your aquarium. Your UG filter serves as an excellent aerator.
Clarifies Your Water. We usually stress the biological advantages of the UG filter, but it also performs mechanical and chemical filtration. By pulling water down through the gravel, it pulls debris into the gravel where it undergoes many changes.
Sticky bacteria live on the surface of each piece of gravel. Their presence keeps loose particles and unwanted miscellaneous bacteria from clouding your tank and causing problems. It takes six to eight weeks to build up these sticky helpers unless you add a handful of aged gravel or bag of dirty water strained from a functioning UG filter -- out of one of our African cichlid tanks.
Removes Wastes. Other helpful bacteria grow on your gravel at the same time. These “eat” the most harmful part of the fishes wastes – urine – and convert it into relatively harmless substances. The final byproduct of their meals is a substance called nitrate. Even in high concentrations, it rarely bothers fishes. Nitrates are also the form in which plants – including the algaes that fishes love – eat fish wastes.
Filters Chemically. Most people ignore this factor, but UG filters can also be used to change the chemical composition of your water. You do it with those cartridges that fit on the ends of your lift tubes. If you use refillable cartridges, you can alter the chemical composition of your water at will.
Carbon removes heavy metals, complex organic proteins, colors, smells, and medications. In other words, carbon takes out nearly all impurities. In saltwater carbon can remove trace elements. Mariners usually skip the carbons.
Water Softeners, otherwise known as zeolite, take out the carbonates (lime, basically) and replace them with sodium. Softeners won’t work in saltwater.
Ammonia Removers of the zeolite type also won’t work in saltwater. Use AmQuel instead to remove ammonia – the most harmful part of the fish wastes. It’s especially helpful in new tanks. AmQuel keeps the ammonia from harming your fish, but still lets the helpful bacteria eat it. Established under gravel filters really don’t need ammo removers, because the bacteria do the same job for free.
Provides Huge Filter Capacity. Compared to any other filter, the UG holds the most trash before it need to be cleaned. The entire floor of your tank filters the water, not some little box or pad. UG filters collect tremendous amounts of wastes within their system before you need to clean them.
Easy to Maintain. UG filters eat up the liquid portion of the fish wastes. This is the harmful part. However, fish feces – the solid part – keep building up in the gravel. This constant build up clogs and eventually slows the filtration process. The water then seeps through the gravel at a very slow rate. The solution? Clean your gravel.
Clean Your Gravel. In the old days (many decades ago), we used to drain the tank. Carry it to the sink. Rinse the gravel. Refill it with water and start over. In addition to being a great deal of unnecessary labor, this method also created as many problems as it solved. We cracked lots of tanks. Sterile gravel keeps your filter from working the way it should.
Then we hit on the idea of using large diameter siphon hoses to remove the gravel with a portion of the water. We’d rinse the gravel in a large bucket and return it to the tank. This cut the work in half, but still made a real mess.
Use a GVC Gently. Now we use a much more efficient system. We use a handy tool called a gravel vacuum cleaner. We clean the gravel, change the water, keep the plants undisturbed, don’t upset the fish, and don’t even stir up the water.
Best of all it keep us from carrying tanks. If you’ve ever cracked a tank in your sink (or even cracked a sink), you know why we like gravel vacuum cleaners so much.
This glorified siphon picks up the gravel, swirls it around, rinses the
gravel, removes the fish feces, and totally rejuvenates your UG filter.
We clean 20 or more 20-gallon tanks in an hour.
We can’t recommend GVCs too highly.
They take the work out of cleaning your tank.
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