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DIY Undergravel Assessment


sanford
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I've following the undergravel filter revival building on the Internet and was thinking of trying one out. While looking at the comparative advantages of the different types of UGF I came across the following DIY:

https://sites.google.com/site/moashowmanyfish/tower-build

Author discusses how the DIY version fixes an issue with uneven flow through the media.  Wondering if anyone has any experience with this DIY, or can comment on the theoretical effectiveness of the design.

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As a kid I ran UGFs on most of my tanks until I could afford power filters. They worked fine and removed toxins as advertised. They were cheap and they still are. If you like tinkering try the diy version, but otherwise I’d lay out the $20 for a commercial one. 

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I worked at a LFS back in the 80s with a lot of tanks (to old to remember how many) and all of them had under gravel filters. They worked great on all the fish. I ended up with a number of tanks of my own and I ran them with under gravel filters as well but I added power heads to all the lift tubes as I wanted greater water movement for my loaches. Life is to busy to have time to tinker so I'm happy to pay for a commercially available under gravel filter as long as they have only 1 or 2 plates.

Some species of fish do a lot of digging and for them I would recommend a sponge filter. 

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I have several and to me they are the least work and water is the clearest. Worked then works now, no need to pay crazy amounts for filters. That said a sponge filter can be used as well if you have worries but I have some with just air stones. 0ne with small power heads.

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On 6/25/2022 at 6:14 PM, sanford said:

I've following the undergravel filter revival building on the Internet and was thinking of trying one out. While looking at the comparative advantages of the different types of UGF I came across the following DIY:

https://sites.google.com/site/moashowmanyfish/tower-build

Author discusses how the DIY version fixes an issue with uneven flow through the media.  Wondering if anyone has any experience with this DIY, or can comment on the theoretical effectiveness of the design.

I have always used UGFs and HOBs together in part because the fish inch per gallon rule was the first I decided to break.  I have been using the direct flow UGFs almost as long as I have had aquariums. The raised plate type might not have been available when I bought mine.   I use powerheads so lift tubes can be any height, and beyond cleaning the gravel, there is no maintenance. There is no doubt that water is moving through the filter.    I'm not in full agreement with any of the conclusions in the link.  That is one reason that I believe that fish digging in the substrate can be a good thing. I do not believe that in practice, his design will solve the uneven flow problem long term, but it has some good points.  

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On 6/27/2022 at 11:06 AM, Tanked said:

 

I have always used UGFs and HOBs together in part because the fish inch per gallon rule was the first I decided to break.  I have been using the direct flow UGFs almost as long as I have had aquariums. The raised plate type might not have been available when I bought mine.   I use powerheads so lift tubes can be any height, and beyond cleaning the gravel, there is no maintenance. There is no doubt that water is moving through the filter.    I'm not in full agreement with any of the conclusions in the link.  That is one reason that I believe that fish digging in the substrate can be a good thing. I do not believe that in practice, his design will solve the uneven flow problem long term, but it has some good points.  

I agree that digging by fish is actually healthy and depending on the substrate it could be important. I Am playing( am I do mean playing, I not expect anything to come of it) I use a old school undergravel but have 1/2 inch filter over that( can’t remember ppi but can get for you) instead of gravel. I did this because I wanted a moss substrate and not gravel. So far things are mixed depends on what you a basing it on. Water is super clear. Fish are breed like crazy. I have Angels and panda corys. The angels are every 2 weeks. The corys I have no idea. I see one or two. I moved the tank and there were more than 30 1/8 inch fry. I never see a thing. The moss died back after a few months but is growing back now. I’m not sure how the end will be but breed fish is good for me.

Edited by Brandon p
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Thanks for all the replies.  Seems the DIY route may not lead to better results.  Is the recommendation to go commercial UG filter more of a lack of return on investment for DIY (too much time and trouble), or are there significant technical deficiencies with DIY UGF?  I suppose the one thing that stands out is that the PVC tubes are not that attractive.

Edited by sanford
Forgot question mark.
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On 6/25/2022 at 4:14 PM, sanford said:

I've following the undergravel filter revival building on the Internet and was thinking of trying one out. While looking at the comparative advantages of the different types of UGF I came across the following DIY:

https://sites.google.com/site/moashowmanyfish/tower-build

Author discusses how the DIY version fixes an issue with uneven flow through the media.  Wondering if anyone has any experience with this DIY, or can comment on the theoretical effectiveness of the design.

This is a similar DIY, I recycled Gatorade bottles instead of using PVC pipes. I have made the same design and used lava rock in the UGF to increase available surface area for beneficial bacteria. I don't gravel vac much, the malaysian trumpet snails turn the gravel, and the plants consume the mulm. I have used a similar set up (only one layer thick instead of two layers thick) for breeding egg scatterers like danios in a drink dispenser, and open the drink dispenser to "pour" the water laden with eggs into a gallon jug for hatching (way easier breeding process, tbh). 

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Benefit of DIY is any shaped tank can have a UGF.

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I used hydroballs in the gatorade bottles, so the UGF increased the surface area for beneficial bacteria. Due to the larger space, really doesn't ever clog. Important part was to keep gravel above the spigot level, and maintain a good flow of water. This achieved both.

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I do 2 stories of UGF when creating a breeding system for amphipods, as they enjoy hanging out in the UGF. New scuds (amphipods) primarily eat biofilm. This 5 gallon system has been going for over 2 years now, and produces way more scuds than my fish can eat. I also keep plants and snails with them to semi-maintain a homeostasis.

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Water change day. I hooked up a piece of refrigerator water tubing (1/2" ID) to the spigot, and poured off 1/2 the water through a paint strainer to catch any scuds. Scuds get removed from the paint strainer and returned to the system, or fed to takns. You can see hornwort between canvas mesh and the side. Pothos and philodendron are growing on the other side. I have used pond pumps and air driven UGF, depending on the needs of the fish for flow. I successfully bred zebra danios for several years, because the pond pump generated enough flow the zebras would swim as a school and never actually get anywhere in the 5 gallon drink dispenser, but because they had the physical space top to bottom, the flow, and plenty of plants (plus live food to hunt) they bred beautifully. I just collected eggs each day via the spigot.

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Dedicated glass drink dispenser breeding big eared radix and scuds, and propagating plants.

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Front view in 2020.

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Testing out different substrates for flow, summer 2020.

Fastest cycling that led to a seasoned tank is hydroballs or lava rock from another tank. Smallest gravel, 1.5" to 2" depth is most stable water parameters. 

I want to try this idea from gardenman on my next UGF😁

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