Jump to content

Why did the under gravel filter lose popularity?


Schuyler
 Share

Recommended Posts

My dad is was a big time aquarist a couple decades back. When we were talking he suggested an under gravel filter. I remember him having them in his tanks or at least I remember the big air outputs that I thought looked like toothbrushes.

They seem totally non-existent now. Any long time aquarists here know why they lost popularity?

Feels like a good idea. Gives tons of biofiltration and some aeration.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not sure why they lost popularity at all. I've used them for years and they always produce the clearest water of all of my tanks. As I rescape my other tanks I will be changing back to the undergravel if I have to build them from scratch myself. They only reason I am using HOB filters right now is because I wanted to use a sand substrate, but after dealing with the HOB's I will switch to a gravel substrate and go back to the undergravel ASAP.

  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

They are less "Fancy", but work great.  A lot of companies started advertising things like HoBs and Canister filters over undergravel, because they could sell them for higher prices than they can sell an undergravel for.  

As a young aquarist in the 90s, I had undergravel, and always wanted to get the cooler, fancier, more interesting hang on back power filters because they looked cooler and more interesting.  In hindsight, I think undergravel are up there with sponge filters as a "Less glamorous but super effective, reliable and cheap"

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 1/23/2023 at 10:19 AM, Theplatymaster said:

1. they are not as expensive so companies make less money on them

2. I feel if someone sees a canister filter, it feels advanced, and like you are doing something, you dont get that feel with a UG filter, but my grandfather has a UG filter on his tank.

I use both a UG and a can. I'd also wager that the margin on a UGF expressed as a percentage is quite high. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 1/23/2023 at 10:28 AM, Darax said:

I use both a UG and a can. I'd also wager that the margin on a UGF expressed as a percentage is quite high. 

But other than the actual filter itself you can't really sell any refills or anything like you can with a canister. Maybe you can sell the little carbon cartridges for the output but nothing like the 5 media types, 10 sponges, and however many more chemical filtration things

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Companies started pushing the HOB and canister filters as better, because they can keep selling new cartridges and inserts for them, and continue to make money off consumers, and people started saying you can't grow plants in tanks with the UGF, and everyone believed it. I've been in the hobby for close to 30 years, and used UG filters for years along with the big air powered box filters that you filled with filter floss and some gravel to hold them down. I would use UGF in most of my tanks if I could, but I have sand in a lot of tanks now. I grew plants like crazy in tanks hen I had a UGF in it, yes the roots would get in them, but if your careful pulling the plant out, you can get the plants out without pulling the plate up. 

  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 1/23/2023 at 11:39 AM, Schuyler said:

My dad is was a big time aquarist a couple decades back. When we were talking he suggested an under gravel filter. I remember him having them in his tanks or at least I remember the big air outputs that I thought looked like toothbrushes.

They seem totally non-existent now. Any long time aquarists here know why they lost popularity?

Feels like a good idea. Gives tons of biofiltration and some aeration.

They exist, but are usually easier to find on line.  They are less popular because: I can't sell you extra stuff with the possible exception of a charcoal cartridge, there is almost nothing to upgrade, Plants won't grow on them, they have gunk under them and gunk is bad...

I have been using them for decades. Unless I break a lift tube, there will be no additional expense.  Unless I move or completely rescape the aquarium, I may never seem them again. I use powerheads when possible for aeration and because there is no doubt as to whether or not water is being moved through the filter.  They will also clear the tank very quickly if there is some kind of disturbance.  It has been mentioned in another thread that they offer the best of both worlds for stem and root feeders.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

UGFs work well, as they pull waste down past the gravel, and the gravel and UGF plates house beneficial bacteria. But people are now going w/ planted tanks, and the UGF is not a good pick for a planted tank, because you want to keep nutrients (root tabs) next to the roots, and with gravel and UGFs that doesn't work; there is too much flow underneath the substrate. Therefore the plants suffer.

I have a UGF in my tank, but I disconnected it by removing the riser tubes and covering the holes w/ gravel, then leaving the existing gravel as mulmy as possible (plant food) and adding a 2" sand cap (Thanks, Father Fish).  The sand provides extra filtration for the tank with layers of anerobic and aerobic bacteria, as well as helps keep the plant roots and root tabs in place until they reach the gravel where the roots will find more (mulm) food.  The sand also encourages microfauna which live there and help to consume excess waste.

Folks using the easy planter should do ok w/ the UGF, because they can open up the rock wool and place their root tab in there, then return the plant to its pot, and the pot to the easy planter.

 

  • Like 2
  • Love 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 1/24/2023 at 9:12 AM, Chick-In-Of-TheSea said:

UGFs work well, as they pull waste down past the gravel, and the gravel and UGF plates house beneficial bacteria. But people are now going w/ planted tanks, and the UGF is not a good pick for a planted tank, because you want to keep nutrients (root tabs) next to the roots, and with gravel and UGFs that doesn't work; there is too much flow underneath the substrate. Therefore the plants suffer.

I have a UGF in my tank, but I disconnected it by removing the riser tubes and covering the holes w/ gravel, then leaving the existing gravel as mulmy as possible (plant food) and adding a 2" sand cap (Thanks, Father Fish).  The sand provides extra filtration for the tank with layers of anerobic and aerobic bacteria, as well as helps keep the plant roots and root tabs in place until they reach the gravel where the roots will find more (mulm) food.  The sand also encourages microfauna which live there and help to consume excess waste.

Folks using the easy planter should do ok w/ the UGF, because they can open up the rock wool and place their root tab in there, then return the plant to its pot, and the pot to the easy planter.

 

Thank you for the info. I have considered trying the UG thing again in a 30 that I plan to not use rooted plants in. I seem to remember that cleaning it was a hassle? Maybe I'm wrong. It was a long time ago for me to remember truthfully lol

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've always run UGFs with power heads in my tanks for the past 40ish years and love them. My tanks look great and I use a gravel vacuum at each water change to remove waste and mulm that has built up since the last water change. Granted, I can't have sand in my tanks but that's ok as I keep gravel as substrate and don't keep any live plants that need to be planted.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 1/23/2023 at 11:39 AM, Schuyler said:

My dad is was a big time aquarist a couple decades back. When we were talking he suggested an under gravel filter. I remember him having them in his tanks or at least I remember the big air outputs that I thought looked like toothbrushes.

They seem totally non-existent now. Any long time aquarists here know why they lost popularity?

Feels like a good idea. Gives tons of biofiltration and some aeration.

Companies selling you bigger "better" filters that require "refills" so people spend more money they are also bigger and bulkier for shipping and storage.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Flash back to days gone by!

Back in the day...Lived 10 minutes from the ocean, North Carolina. Ran a salt water tank with local critters, easy to get salt water and scraped all kinds of cool stuff off the underside of floating docks...used an undergravel filter and local crushed beach shell, with a powerhead. It worked incredibly well.  Never tried one with freshwater.....🤔

Screenshot_20230112_044806_YouTube.jpg

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 1/24/2023 at 11:12 AM, Chick-In-Of-TheSea said:

But people are now going w/ planted tanks, and the UGF is not a good pick for a planted tank, because you want to keep nutrients (root tabs) next to the roots, and with gravel and UGFs that doesn't work; there is too much flow underneath the substrate. Therefore the plants suffer.

I have read similar before and it convinced me to not put an UGF in my first 29 gallon tank.

I have another 29 gallon display tank with UGF and a 20high with ugf all heavily planted.

I can not perceive any advantage in the 29 gallon without ugf so far as plant growth goes. I honestly do not see any difference at all.

 

it has a Pink Flamingo Crypt front and center and it is lagging behind by a longshot behind the Pink Flamingo Crypt I planted in the 20 high.  I wouldnt say that the ugf is the cause of the other one thriving while this one hasnt, but neither would I say the UGF is hurting the growth of any of my plants…

 

some day I will redo the display tank without, and be putting in one.

 

I will not be starting up any tank without ugf plates going forward.

 

my maintenance involves cleaning the air tubes with a brush and cleaning the top heads with hydrogen perocide to clean out growth once a month and taking the ziss air stones apart and rubbing the felt around and putting them back together.

As an aside, adding a powerhead gives increased flow, but i read where biofiltration only improved 20%.   Of course that is just something I read like having read UGF negatively affects plant growth…. I have no idea if either statement is true.

 

I can say I dont perceive a difference in plant growth, and the Late Gil Carlson was fond of saying, “For a difference to be a difference in has to make a difference.”

Ugf is incredibly cheap, risk of it flooding your living space is much lower than HOB and or Canister filters.  It has no moving parts, it can run with no wires immersed in the water. If the power goes out the biomedia will be just fine. It reliably starts once the power comes back on.  They are incredibly easy to find online….

Edited by Pepere
  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This may not be relevant, but I worked at a pet store at the mall while I was in college. One entire wall was 10 gallon tanks, all of them ran UGF and were on an automatic water changer. They were always clean, but it was a long shift of vacuuming and bagging fish if that was your assignment for the day! 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

A. Circulation (may or may not be an issue)

B. Location (definitely isn't easy to fiddle with)

C. Size / Design (people might be stuck on wanting to have it fit perfectly, doesn't need to)

D. Homemade things basically replaced it.

On 1/24/2023 at 12:46 PM, Chick-In-Of-TheSea said:
On 1/24/2023 at 8:23 AM, YYC Carrie said:

I seem to remember that cleaning it was a hassle?

Nope, just gravel vac as you would a tank without one. Easy.

Yep. You definitely didn't need to scoop out the gravel once every few months and rinse it off in the sink to get it back to blue. Definitely didn't need to, but we did.

UGFs are fine. Air lift tubes are fun to stare at.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I upgraded from a 30 to a 45 last year I asked for an UGF at the local shop, and got scoffed at by the owner.   So I pulled the plate out of the 30 and Putin it in the 45.   It covers roughly 2/3 of the bottom, and I have a HOB as well.   It’s heavily planted and the plants are doing great.  I’ve only ever used UGFs - all the replaceable filter cartridges and accoutrements for HOBs and canisters are such a racket.

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

UGF never lost popularity on my tanks, I presently have 4 running. Two of them are over 50 years old! The first is a Halvin unit running in the original vintage 50 gallon stainless steel tank it was set up in, powered by the legendary Silent Giant air pump which is also 50+ years old. Back then UGF units didn't use air stones, just a line that metered the air into the uplift tube.

The second is a Metaframe "HIFI" 5 gallon unit that I got with my first tank as a kid... Which has recently been resealed and set up. Check out the intricate design that was put into the plate to channel the flow. They don't make 'em like they used to!  On this one I "updated"(?) the uplift tube in the 80's to the more modern stye which uses an air stone.

C3868C07-C40D-47D3-B9CC-21ACD622019D.jpeg

13670FAC-3153-409D-9046-B3AF4DBB6E9F.jpeg

93BC0BA0-11FE-4CDB-A42B-4FFFB568009B.jpeg

F1A728D9-B828-48A0-8C52-F05B891C970A.jpeg

Edited by Sweet Fish O Mine
  • Like 4
  • Thanks 1
  • Love 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 1/24/2023 at 7:56 PM, Sweet Fish O Mine said:

UGF never lost popularity on my tanks, I presently have 4 running. Two of them are over 50 years old! The first is a Halvin unit running in the original vintage 50 gallon stainless steel tank it was set up in, powered by the legendary Silent Giant air pump which is also 50+ years old. Back then UGF units didn't use air stones, just a line that metered the air into the uplift tube.

The second is a Metaframe "HIFI" 5 gallon unit that I got with my first tank as a kid... Which has recently been resealed and set up. Check out the intricate design that was put into the plate to channel the flow. They don't make 'em like they used to!  On this one I "updated"(?) the uplift tube in the 80's to the more modern stye which uses an air stone.

C3868C07-C40D-47D3-B9CC-21ACD622019D.jpeg

13670FAC-3153-409D-9046-B3AF4DBB6E9F.jpeg

93BC0BA0-11FE-4CDB-A42B-4FFFB568009B.jpeg

F1A728D9-B828-48A0-8C52-F05B891C970A.jpeg

the lift tubes on that green one remind of the ones in my dad's tank when i was a kid. so mid 70's time frame.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 1/24/2023 at 6:27 PM, nabokovfan87 said:

A. Circulation (may or may not be an issue)

B. Location (definitely isn't easy to fiddle with)

C. Size / Design (people might be stuck on wanting to have it fit perfectly, doesn't need to)

D. Homemade things basically replaced it.

Yep. You definitely didn't need to scoop out the gravel once every few months and rinse it off in the sink to get it back to blue. Definitely didn't need to, but we did.

UGFs are fine. Air lift tubes are fun to stare at.

homemade things? I like homemade if it means it's cheap and comparably effective......

and I think the scooping out to rinse the gravel to clean it was likely why I hated the UGF so much. I was under the impression that you had to get all that icky stuff out of it/off of it. I think.... I know I would do it much differently now.

and yes, I did like the air lift tubes and watching them bubble away LOL

On 1/24/2023 at 6:30 PM, Tactical Error said:

When I upgraded from a 30 to a 45 last year I asked for an UGF at the local shop, and got scoffed at by the owner.   So I pulled the plate out of the 30 and Putin it in the 45.   It covers roughly 2/3 of the bottom, and I have a HOB as well.   It’s heavily planted and the plants are doing great.  I’ve only ever used UGFs - all the replaceable filter cartridges and accoutrements for HOBs and canisters are such a racket.

agreed! watching the youtube vids comparing sponge filters that are powered by the air pumps vs. HOB's I had almost decided to get rid of the HOB's all together. Then I saw the video about maximizing the HOB by replacing the cartridges by adding a rinseable sponge and some bio balls or coral or whatever you need to amend your water hardness and dissolved solids. I no longer use the cartridges, I use sponges, floss, various "bio ball" type media's in little mesh bags... I like that a lot better. Recently, I have also started adding house plants in them, though I'm not sure how much I like that, we shall see.

 

I like sand though because I want to eventually get some loaches, species/type undetermined right now, but if you did the UGF with sand, maybe you could put a fine mesh screen on top to stop the sand getting into it? So for example, what about a layer of gravel, then the mesh/screen, then capped with sand... I am sure I am missing something that prohibit it being a reality but what does everyone think?

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...