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Underground Filter ?

889 Views 8 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  R-DUB
Upgrading from 55gal to 125gal, would like advice please.
Cichlids only in tank
2 mag 350's w/charcol + 1 mag 350 filters for amonia only
2 hot's up to 50 gals each

I have 2 questions,

The ug filter in 55 works just dandy, hooked up w 4 airstones w airpump. I have heard of using a power head to work these undergrounds, I have all the right parts to do it, but I wonder if there is an advantage to one over the other? The stones and air pump is the only way I have ever run an ug filter, is running the ug with a powerhead better??? Now is my chance to change since I am upgrading today. The LFS seems clueless about ug filters by powerhead. One LFS told me the biological filtration would be absent if I use the powerhead to run the ug.

Next, the gravel on top of the ug filter is natural river stones about pea size. The Cichlids dig so deep they expose the ug filter, which is not so good for the ug filtration or the fry. When I upgrade, I have added dime size river gravel that they may not tote off so easy, but I am wondering if I should lay random flat rock over the ug filter before I add the dime size rock then the pea size rock? Does anyone have experience with laying random flat rocks over the ug filter before adding the rock gravel? Not trying to stop the digging, trying to prevent exposing the ug filter and add a little fry safety? It just does not seem like the ug would filter as well with the flat rocks.

Thank you for your imput, Cathy
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Undergravel filters are kind of old school. They tend to become Nitrate factories but keeping fish waste and other debris trapped underneath. I found it much easier to just vacuum my gravel once a month. Not only do you remove the need for airstones and power heads but in the long run keeps your nitrates down. I prefer using canister filters and HOB filters. Wet/dry sump systems if the tank is drilled. The LFS is probably clueless about it cause they aren't used much anymore.

As far as your filters, I have never used the MAG 350's. But what I can tell you is that charcoal/carbon are useless unless you are removing medications that you may have dosed in your tank. So I hate to see you spend your money on something that you really don't need on a regular basis. The charcoal only lasts a week or two anyway. And in the other filter, I'm not really sure what you mean by that this filter is for ammonia only?? If you are running ammonia removing media, again it's really not needed on a properly cycled tank. Your filters biological media (housed with good bacteria) will take the ammonia and turn it into nitrite. Another good bacteria then takes the nitrite and turns it into less toxic nitrate which is removed during water changes. Ammonia removing media or liquids aren't needed unless you have an ammonia spike in your tank for some reason and you're worried about loosing fish. Again not sure how the set up is, but it would be more benificial for you run more biological media rather than carbon and ammonia removers.

Also if you are considering African cichlids you may want to look into using sand. Very natural looking and easy to keep clean. Unlike undergravel filters which you have to tear down the entire tank to clean. Hope this didn't confuse you any, but just thought I would let you know other more modern options.
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Using amonia removing media in 1 of the Mag350's because the 55 is overcrowded, I know it's overcrowded, but the 125 will fix that. I run it just as a safety.

The UG on the 55 seems to do a good job, but because the 55 is built with lots of larger rocks for caves, it is hard to get to the gravel to vacum without removing all the large rocks, if that makes any sense.

so, when setting up the 125 I was wondering if it is better for the aquarium to run the UG with airstones or use the powerhead, because I really don't plan on moving those rocks everytime I vacum. The powerhead way to run an UG is news to me and wondering if it works better?

Not sure I am comfortable setting the 125 w/o an UG, makes me think I am missing a step. I do dislike those tubes up the back tho, and they are a pain when the stones need changed...I will think about that, thank you.

I really don't mind running all those filters, the result is a beautiful bunch of happy Cichlids in sparkling water. Not filtering out meds at all, rare to need them.

I have till tonight to make the choice between stones or powerhead on the UG, still listening.

Thank You :)
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The powerhead way to run an UG is news to me and wondering if it works better?
One advantage of using the powerheads is that you can set up a reverse flow undergravel system. The outflow of the powerhead goes down through the tubes and up through the gravel. Combine it with an external filter that can draw in the solids and you'd have a good combo.

No truth to the thought that you'll lose biofiltation by using powerheads.

I wouldn't cover the plate with flat rocks, as it'll inhibit the flow. With all those external filters, the UGF is really just acting sort of as an undergravel jet system. They're designed to keep solids in circulation long enough to get picked up by other filters. Those other filters will also do bio, so I really wouldn't have any concern over losing any from digging cichilds. Try spray painting the plate some natural color, so the stark white doesn't jump out at you when they uncover it.

Just some thoughts.
I was thinking about a reverse undergravel system myself and think that a 1" layer of gravel, covered by some netting, then another 1.5" of gravel would work well. If the fish dug through the gravel they would stop at the netting, and that would stop them exposing the filter plates.

If I wasn't having a planted tank I would definiately be doing this.
The netting may also clog, depending on the type. I'm also not sure it would stop cichlids.
Welcome to the forum Cathy!

I think you're over-thinking this. I have a 125 gallon (among other tanks) and your 2 canisters are enough (each are rated for 100gallons, so as long as you use normal biomedia in each, you can easily filter your 125). I would not want to use any "ammonia removing" additives, etc. That's what the bacteria colony is for. With sufficient media the bacteria will convert the ammonia to nitrite and then to nitrate.

I only gravel vaccuum once/month (and I dont move rocks, etc) and do weekly water changes to keep my nitrates between 5-15ppm. I have approx 40 mbuna in my 125 (had 45+, but sold some) - that's pretty overstocked by most standards. My water is clear and water conditions stay stable.

I've seen the bottom of a UGF system coming out of a 55, it was like someone said, a nitrate factory.

My 2¢ - I just think you're overfiltering because it's worked for you. Well, you may go to the grocery store with a 18-wheeler. It works, but it's overkill.
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Thanks to all for advice:)

I tore into the 55 early today and when I got to the UGF it was the nastiest thing I ever laid eyes on, plus under the plates was 2 red jewell fry that proved they were getting thru the slots on the UGF plates, that made my decision much easier. The UGF was run by 4 airstones.

The 125 came w UGF that was run with a powerhead, purchased on CL, I expected a mess, but when I tore into the UGF on the 125, it was clean compared to my old 55.

Chose not to use UGF on the 125, cleaned it up, and used all my precious petrified wood collection, plus all the rocks I have saved for years, and the 125 Craigslist aquarium is a sight to behold. I planned to count my Cichlids today, but saw signs of stress and got them back in the new aquarium w/o counting.

If I ever set up an UGF on another aquarium, it would only be with a powerhead after what I saw under my 55UGF, simply awful.

I stalked Craigslist for months every day to find this aquarium, $400, traveled over 2 hrs 1 way to pick it up, but it is the perfect find.

Will post a pic when I figure out how :)
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My only response would be; why not use both? Use the UGF in conjunction with the HOB and the canister. More filtration is always better than less. The use of a power head will increase the flow through your gravel bed. Thus helping to break down waste under the plate. With large (very messy) goldfish I employ all three methods. A UGF (with power head) 2 whisper 60's and a magnum 350. Water quality is great. The UGF has gotten a bad rap over the years. I would not use it as a total filtration system by itself. But with proper vacuuming/maintenance and water changes they work great. I really like the way that UGF keep waste down. By pulling poo down and into the substrate. Holding it there to be vacuumed away. There is not alot of poo drifting aroung the tank waiting to find its way to a intake tube. A problem I have with a 180 with only overflow towers. As far as waste getting trapped under the plate use your siphon hose and insert into your lift tube this will remove alot of the trapped debris. Good Luck!
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