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Setting up new tank with denitrifying filtration

R Budds

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I am setting up a new 20 gallon long with a denitrifying filter that is similar to other tanks I have had success with. I hope to keep some Bolivian Rams in this tank so I will be using an API water softening pillow to get it around 140ppm GH.

For this type of filter I use SafeTSorb and a UGF. First I made the UGF. It's made from plastic fabric that has 7 holes per inch.

Below is the bottom of the UGF (upside down). I made the supports from scraps of the plastic fabric and EPP foam. I angled the longer ones towards the uplift tube area (green circles)




In the pictures above you can see how the corners are just cut out and folded over, like a box, then hot glued. 

I added a few more random foam supports (not pictured) in areas that flexed too much. I put my BBS hatching bottle on it to see how well it held the weight.



Below is the uplift tube connection. I used 1/4 inch thick EPP foam to make each level. This is to create a funnel effect for the uplift tube and to pull water from a bigger area.





Below is the foam connector attached to the UGF. The green lines are the cutouts in the bottom 2 plates and the blue is where the uplift tube sits.


In the picture above you can see the height to the UGF, the plastic fabric is 7 holes per inch, so about 1.3 inches at the back and about 1 inch at the front.

Below is the uplift tube fitted into the foam connector and the connector is hot glued to the UGF. I just pushed the tube in because the foam seals well.


Below is the foam block glued to the UGF. The green circle is the hole in the bottom foam plate where the water goes up into the tube.


With the uplift tube and bottom supports in place i put in some SafeTSorb to hold it.


In this tank I used bigger granules on the bottom, so they don't fall through the UGF. Below are pictures of separating out the smaller rocks. I thoroughly rinsed the SafeTSorb before putting it in The tank. I used the same size plastic fabric (7 holes per inch) as a strainer; I believe 5 holes per inch is available too for even bigger ones.




Just give it a good shake and the small ones fall through.

This is as far as I've gotten today. I need to grade a lot more SafeTSorb to get about an inch of bigger rocks on the bottom layer. Then I plan to put about an inch of upgraded SafeTSorb and cap it with the small ones I graded out.


Edited by R Budds
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On 4/24/2022 at 8:43 AM, BuzzDaddy21 said:

I`m not very smart but how does this system work.😕 pro/con

Hi BuzzDaddy, I'm not sure how it actually works (I don't know what different bacteria, if any, are growing) all I know is that it has worked great in 3 other tanks. I've tried standard setups in the past, with the sand and/or gravel directly on the tank bottom using standard HOB filters/sponges and always got mediocre results, with lethargic fish and dying plants. 

I believe the UGF helps keep any areas of water from stagnation and forming gas build-up. Once it's setup I will put an air tube down the uplift tube and start a slow flow through it. From my other tanks (5.5G, 10G and 20G long) I believe it can be a fairly wide range of water flow, turning the tank over between 5 and 20 times per day.

This seems to create the right conditions for the nitrates to be fully eliminated, along with the ammonia and nitrites, and helps the plants and animals thrive. There is a positive/negative ion exchange with the water and the SafeTSorb too, but I'm not too sure what is actually happening there.


Here is my denitrifying 5.5 gallon. It is a bit overstocked with: 7 green corys, 3 adult guppies, one juvenile guppy, 2 mystery snails, and 6 ghost shrimp. The water quality seems very good and the fish are active and doing great. I plan to move the corys into the new 20 long once it's set up.

As for pros/cons from my experience.

The pros compared to all of my previous tanks have been: healthier plants and animals, cleaner and clearer water, a lot less maintenance, and cleaner smelling water.

The cons have been: rinsing the SafeTSorb.

The plants growing well is a byproduct of the filtration in my opinion.

Edited by R Budds
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I ended up with about 2 to 2.75 inches of SafeTSorb in the back; the front is about 1.75 to 2 inches thick. The first .75 inch was the sifted out bigger rocks, then a thick layer of unsifted rocks, and finally a thin (.25 to .50 inch) layer of the small rocks. I may add more small rocks to the top once it starts getting stirred up and settled.

Here is the water when I first filled it, after thorough rinsing. I added dechlorinator after I filled it, and that's all I'm adding for now.



I added a HOB for a 10 gallon at the end and that helped clear the water up after a day.


Above is after a few hours. From the water softener pillow package behind the tank the SafeTSorb is about 2.25 inches deep on the right side.


I moved the package today to show the clarity and depth, it is about 2.65 inches on this side and most of the dust has settled.


Above is the top layer of small rocks.

I put 2 juvenile guppies in last night and they look good so far.


Edited by R Budds
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