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I am really happy for Cory and the fact he has his own sponge product,  but UGFs are so much better, IMHO.  They NEVER go bad, they never wear out, they don't eat baby fish or shrimp (not that Cory's sponges do, but we all know sponge can be carnivorous)
The list of PROs is SO long and the list of CONs, is well most of the CONs, proper use and education will remove.

This is very similar to the 30 plus year old UGF I have in several tanks.  Don't remember it being this expensive.
https://www.amazon.com/Lees-Premium-Undrgravel-18-Inch-48-Inch/dp/B0002APVAW

I have may like this one
https://www.amazon.com/Penn-Plax-Undergravel-Filter-Aquarium/dp/B003UTNOU6/

But these break easy!

I made one like this using PVC and
https://www.amazon.com/Undergravel-Filteration-Bottom-Circular-Aquarium/dp/B00ZUIRGOU/
using lava rock and it works very well!

Going to watch some videos that I might  want to share in this thread.  BRB!

 

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On the Lee’s I think you’re paying for the plastic being much more robust. It’s a hard to find and desirable product. I had the Penn Plax as a kid and remember it breaking when I tried to shift it from one setup to another. 

I just think many of us in the last 30 years bought into the idea that HOBs and canisters were better. This is before or during the early parts of the internet. At that time I was keeping cichlids and on Monster Fishkeepers and all everyone talked about were Eheim canisters and Aquaclears.  

I think UGFs in certain setups just make so much sense. But in other setups sponges make sense. I’d love to do a tank with a corner mattenfilter. I’m just thrilled to have options that wont cost me 100s of dollars but deliver better  results. 

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1 hour ago, BenA said:

Will it work for Loches that like to dig into sand? Horses for courses I think. It is a good filter and my cousin runs his 600Ltr tank only with UGF but he has no Loches and no plants.

I have used with my kuhli loaches in the distant past.  Be sure to weigh the Filter down as they will get under it.  But this is not bad as they prefer this space under the UGF.  Except you will not ever see them, once they can get under it. EVER! LOL!

Plants LOVE UGFs!

 



 

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2 hours ago, lefty o said:

i dont know that they are better or worse than any other filter option, but they have sort of faded into the past.  most people tend to want the latest and greatest, newest, bestest thing. right or wrong, it is what it is.

Here is how I see this.

UGFs are not a recurring income product.  They have no filter to replace, no media to replace, etc.  There is no reason someone using a UGF will contact Marieland for a replacement O ring link I current am required to purchase to revive my magnum 350.

Besides never really knowing what is under them @Ken D., which I can help fix,  I can not think of any Cons, that I can not fix.
Unless you buy a cheap one that breaks easy.

Lee's are super and not cheap, @Beardedbillygoat1975  stated above that they are robust.  Very true.  I have broken many CHEAP UGF building with rocks my cichlids could not move around.  LEE's, while I will not stand on them, I bet my 13 year old son could stand on them.

 

Edited by aehageman
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3 hours ago, Ken D. said:

I had an UGF years ago and while it did a good job of keeping the water clean, I always had this feeling of, "what's under there?" I like to be able to clean a filter and know more of what's going on. After that one I never tried it again.

I completely get this, feeling!  I did some water changes today, just cause of that feeling.  I was really surprised at the amount of bla I stirred up around the UGFs. 


I often put a large hose down the uplift tube to pull out what is under there.
Often I connected my return to the uplift tube forcing clean water up through the gravel.
Half the tank is pulling down into the UGF and then the flow is being passed to the next tube and going up through the next UGF.
UGF and RFUG combo!!  Reverse Flow undergravel filters are really good when you want to polish your water.

Also with my stands, at the time.  2X4s and concrete blocks or the default iron stands, it is very simple to look UNDER the tank and through the bottom to see how much dirt is there.  Which is also the only way to spy on the Kuhli that live there.
If your stand base is solid, this does not work. Obviously.

These days I am using a combination of methods with little to zero water polishing.   I only clean when I get that feeling!

I love dirty tanks and detritus worms!!
Did I mention SNAILS!!!

 

Think I am going to go build a RFUG now!


 

 

 

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I've been using the same UGF for 30+ years in my 29.  Yes, there is a lot of "gunk" under there, but now there are also plant roots feeding off of the gunk. My Nerites would vacation underneath until I added a piece of mesh to the lift tube.  If I get curious about what is underneath, I either do a water change through the lift tube, or thread a small dia. tube under the plate and syphon some material out.

I have the Lee's product in the link.  I think I paid about $36. but that was almost 10 years ago.  Blame it on Covid.   After the last big aquarium move I got lazy and cleaned underneath only one of the plates.  When the powerheads came back online, everything in the aquarium disappeared in a thick brown cloud. In 3 hours the aquarium was mostly clear, and by end of day the water was completely clear.   The non-UGF aquarium took 2 days to return to normal.

I like the UGF because: it works, it is inexpensive, I don't have to look at it, it will last almost forever, and except for adding a powerhead there is nothing else to buy.  The only downside is that for best performance, you are limited to a gravel substrate.

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22 hours ago, aehageman said:

Plants LOVE UGFs!



 

Didn't know that. I have thought that the roots will block the water flow when penetrating inside it. Currently am waiting for a 75gl (3'x1.7'x1.7') tank and depends on the substrate I might build an UGF using 3/4" PVC tubes and an air pump to work together with a large canister.

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2 hours ago, BenA said:

Didn't know that. I have thought that the roots will block the water flow when penetrating inside it. Currently am waiting for a 75gl (3'x1.7'x1.7') tank and depends on the substrate I might build an UGF using 3/4" PVC tubes and an air pump to work together with a large canister.

At some point sure the roots could cause some issue, I have never had an issue roots blocking too much flow. 
Roots need flow for nutrients and aeration.  In my experience UGF tanks have better plant growth.
I have used back filters to grow tomatoes and the roots grew down the water fall into the tank and never clogged the back filter.  It certainly looked clogged, but the water fall was still running strong.

 

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4 hours ago, Tanked said:

The only downside is that for best performance, you are limited to a gravel substrate.

What other substrates have you used that did not perform well?

 Certainly anything so small it goes through would not work.  Like sand is difficult. I have used sand with a mesh to keep it where it belongs.  I was never happy with sand.

Tiny gravel/pebbles was okay, but if you keep a dirty tank, like me, then 1/16" - 1/8" inch sized pebbles as substrate is what I like. 
Gives the roots and worms room to do their thing. Oh yeah and the MTS!

You might like this article
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0075951111000399

Remember when reading this, that they were not studing a UGF, so grain size is not as relevant to this study when using a UGF.

From what I understood and used to draw my conclusion is that a UGF would increase the roots access to the nutrients.

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36 minutes ago, aehageman said:

You might like this article
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0075951111000399

Remember when reading this, that they were not studing a UGF, so grain size is not as relevant to this study when using a UGF.

I love that we have a resident UGF evangelist!  They clearly work and their falling out of favor is simply up to fashion, IMHO. 

That said, it appears the paper you linked suggests there is an inverse correlation between grain size and plant performance for the species studied.  Because they made no mention of UGF, as you point out, there is no way of knowing how that addition would impact the performance of the plant a priori.  Indeed, what would be known going into studying the interaction of UGF and substrate size is that smaller sizes yield better growth for this species.  Can UGF change that relationship?  That's unknown from this work, but it would seem a reasonable guess that aeration and nutrient delivery to the roots are not limiting factors for this species given the preferences exhibited in this work. 

None of this is to say that UGF don't work with, or potentially even benefit some submerged plants.  Just that I'm not certain the reference you included supports your assertion. 

Keep up the good work with the UGF.  I'm glad someone is taking upon themselves to tilt at that windmill!

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I’ll certainly admit that UGFs are very much out of style atm (I don’t think we even sell them at my LFS) and while all the above is very much valid, I do think that one other disadvantage (which credit to Cory for bringing this up in a livestream) is that most UGFs are one size fits one size, there’s no one size fits all UGF that is functional at the same capacity as what you’d expect. They’re not upgradable if you get a bigger tank, whereas other filters you can always run smaller filters on bigger tanks in conjunction, and use that to help quicken the cycle with needed. It’s not necessarily a con that you can’t use it for the cycle, but more so lacking a perk which canisters, HOBs, and sponges all have. I did consider using a RFUGF for my saltwater mantis tank build but ultimately went a different direction.

Ultimately, I think that the turnoff for me for UGFs is the lack of upgradability, and I think that goes for a lot of people in the hobby right now, most people end up moving or upgrading or swapping tanks a lot more frequently and UGFs make that more complicated than other filter styles that can run on a wider variety of tank shapes and sizes.

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14 hours ago, aehageman said:

What other substrates have you used that did not perform well?

 Certainly anything so small it goes through would not work.  Like sand is difficult. I have used sand with a mesh to keep it where it belongs.  I was never happy with sand.

Tiny gravel/pebbles was okay, but if you keep a dirty tank, like me, then 1/16" - 1/8" inch sized pebbles as substrate is what I like. 
Gives the roots and worms room to do their thing. Oh yeah and the MTS!

You might like this article
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0075951111000399

Remember when reading this, that they were not studing a UGF, so grain size is not as relevant to this study when using a UGF.

From what I understood and used to draw my conclusion is that a UGF would increase the roots access to the nutrients.

The linked article eventually got around to saying that plants prefer a finer nutrient rich substrate. 

Environmental conditions in each of my tanks vary enough to make drawing one conclusion impossible. Plants in the UGF/gravel tanks are doing better than the plants in the gravel only tank. Pea gravel that has been rinsed to remove only the dust seems to retain more detritus, and I have occasionally found fine gravel stuck in the screen protecting the powerhead.  for that reason alone, sand is out of the question for me. 

 

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14 hours ago, Steph’s Fish and Plants said:

I’ll certainly admit that UGFs are very much out of style atm (I don’t think we even sell them at my LFS) and while all the above is very much valid, I do think that one other disadvantage (which credit to Cory for bringing this up in a livestream) is that most UGFs are one size fits one size, there’s no one size fits all UGF that is functional at the same capacity as what you’d expect. They’re not upgradable if you get a bigger tank, whereas other filters you can always run smaller filters on bigger tanks in conjunction, and use that to help quicken the cycle with needed. It’s not necessarily a con that you can’t use it for the cycle, but more so lacking a perk which canisters, HOBs, and sponges all have. I did consider using a RFUGF for my saltwater mantis tank build but ultimately went a different direction.

Ultimately, I think that the turnoff for me for UGFs is the lack of upgradability, and I think that goes for a lot of people in the hobby right now, most people end up moving or upgrading or swapping tanks a lot more frequently and UGFs make that more complicated than other filter styles that can run on a wider variety of tank shapes and sizes.

I don't like to step on Cory's toes but 
UGFs are one size fits one size, [ buzzer sound!!! ]  Sure you can not put a big LEE's for a 55g in 10g, but I have 55g Lees in my 45s and in my 65s and I have used them in my 100gs and 200Gs.  There is no where that says it MUST fit the tank size.   There is no where it states the entire bottom of a tank must be used for a UGF to function.  The lees 55G is actually two plates.  NONE of my tanks have two.  Most of my tanks only one side has a UGF. Unless it is the 45 tall  and then the 55G lees takes up over half the bottom.  The 45 long is the same width as my 65tall and my 55s. so they are all halfsies.

Really how many people shut down a tank when they upgrade to a bigger tank, don't most people just add the new tank?  Thus why we all have 23 tanks in the house, office, kitchen, dining room, bed room, living room, etc. Maybe it is just me.

The larger a tank the less surface area is required for a UGF to operate.. 
The larger the tank the lower the requirements for filtration.
The larger the tank the easier to maintain. ETC!   

Scaling a UGF can be done by increasing water flow and substrate depth and type.  I certainly do not want hangon my aquarium anything, if I were building a pretty tank. Which I do not build.

"You can’t use it for the cycle," What?
I certainly use it for the cycling new tanks, all the time.   Get a scoop and a bucket. take the media from one tank to the new tank, leave the dirty stuff in the media.  I do this ALL the time with new tanks.  Then I add new substrate back into the old tank and new substrate over the cycled substrate in the new tanks.  Do not remove all your substrate, Half at most, unless a large well established tank.  The bacteria lives on the media, thus when you move some over boom there is your cycle started.  I have a 32gallon trash can with water and lava rock.  This is where my water sits to acclimate and where I season my substrate.  For the pebble and gravel substrates, I just over fill a few tanks and leave for a few weeks, then I can remove as much as I want for new projects.  Boom instant cycle starter. 

A UGF can do almost everything any other system can do except increase your maintenance time and costs!

IMHO and experience, UGFs are more upgradeable than any of the options you mentioned. The real issue is that the market has educated people to think they way you think, because UGFs are not profitable recurring products.
As Cory stated in a video, he was using MOSTLY UGFs in his store display tanks, until he allowed customers to peer pressure him into removing them.  He also said the uplift tubes make it more difficult to catch fish to put in your baggy. just fyi.

Everytime I go to buy something for a tank, I compare the price of that item to the price of another new tank.

$50 buys a lot of tank and not a lot of filtration.  Hard to buy a good NON UGF filtration system for under $50 that can scale up.  Sure I can add 3 or 4 small hang on the back filters to a bigger tank, but then I have 3 or 4 back filters hanging on my tank.  Now I have to buy filter replacements for 3 or 4 filters.

 

Thanks for the feedback and I certainly see your point,  I just see more options than you shared.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





 

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