Can an undergravel filter work for a planted tank?
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Old 01-13-2004, 06:04 PM   #1
Hoosch
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I'm sure it's pretty apparent from the subject heading that I'm a newbie to a planted aquarium. I had been told in the past that an undergravel filter is not good to use with a planted tank, but have since heard that it's not really that bad.
I'm attempting to set up a 75 gallon tank as a planted tank. I have a CO2 system and everything I need to set up an undergravel filter (including multiple powerheads and bio-wheels (which I've attached to my undergravel filter in the past)). I currently only have regular flourescent lights, but plan to purchase compact flourescents. And I plan to use Laterite (or Flourite or something similar). Since I have already spent plenty of money on my powerheads, bio-wheels, and undergravel filter plates, I'd of course rather use that set-up than have to buy a canister filter and put my current set-up on the shelf.
At this point I have no idea what plants I wish to purchase.
Actually, I've got many questions at this point, but I guess I'll start with the undergravel filter question.
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Old 01-13-2004, 06:48 PM   #2
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I suppose if you didn't have any root feeder plants (such as Amazon Swords, Crypts, Anubias, etc.) then your UGF would behave no differently than before. Stem plants simply anchor in the gravel and don't rely on it much. In that case, Laterite and Flourite would become not only unecessary, but it could actually be somewhat of a hinderance. Passing water through a high CEC media like Flourite and Laterite strips the water column of nutrients to store them in the substrate (sort of like a weak carbon).
My recommendation is to stay away from the UGF and just go with a conventional filter, but if you are set on using an UGF have many years of experience in maintaining them, then use regular gravel and stick with stem plants (such as Hygrophila, Rotala, Bacopa, Ludwigia, Anachris, Cabomba, etc.).
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Old 01-14-2004, 02:54 AM   #3
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Laterite is not something you want circulating in the tank. It will turn the tank a cloudy hazy red -- not at all attractive.

Gulf Coast is on the right track, if you have stem plants and attached plants that don't or are not allowed to put on much roots, and everything that is in the water column is in the gravel, it could work. You could never use any root fertilizers, for they would be circulated up into the waer column.

I think you'd want to be sure to uproot the stem plants and replant only tops frequently to keep roots from clogging up the gravel. You'd probably need to gravel vac between pulling up and planting to keep the gravel clean and free flowing. The more you rely on attached plants, java fern and anubias types the less uprooting you would have to do, though if left in place, I've found that the anubias attached to driftwood puts down roots eventually.

Personally, I think it sounds like the worst of both worlds -- all the replanting work of a planted tank (actually more since you have so many more stem plants, no rooted plants) PLUS all the work of a fish only tank where gravel has to be vacuumed frquently. But, if it is a small enough tank, like 10 gallons, it might not be too bad if you are sure to keep after it.

I have 3 groups of stem plants in the 59 gallon tank and I'm just about tired of the replanting, the swords and crypts and grasses are so much nicer and easier to care for.
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Old 01-14-2004, 01:44 PM   #4
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My two cents: I've never much cared for the UGF's I used in the past, and I'll never use one again, particularly in a planted tank. Laterite is going to muck up the UGF system for sure...and with that UGF you're limited to the plants that have been mentioned by Gulf. that means no cool sword plants, and you won't have luck growing any kind of 'carpet' either.

I have the feeling you'll kick yourself for going with the UGF.
Also, I can't quite visualize this 'biowheel on the UGF" setup, but if it causes any surface agitation, that'll outgass all your CO2.
This is why canisters with an underwater spraybar are the most common filter used in a planted tank.
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Old 01-14-2004, 10:02 PM   #5
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Hey Hoosch! Welcome to the board! Glad you are here with us!

I would agree with the other members. The plants that would work well with a UGF are just so limited. As you begin to get further and further involved with plants, you are going to want to try your hand at a greater variety. That is when the UGF is going to become a regret! Roots wrapped up in the UGF, not to mention some of the nutrient rich mulm being pulled out of your substrate.
Go with a canister filter. Powerful, efficient and reliable. You do a search, and look for suggestions.

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Old 01-15-2004, 04:38 PM   #6
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Thanks for all the advice! I really appreciate it. It's hard to feel so ignorant and ask these pesky newbie questions, but I guess there's really no other way.

I'm going to scrap the UGF idea and research canister filters. So far, it seems Eheim or Filstar are the recommended brands.

BTW, (for Malkore) the way that I hooked up my Bio-wheel to my UGF was to connect the intake to the tube port on the UGF, just like you would attach a powerhead. My thoughts were that I would have even better filtration by having both a powerhead AND a Bio-wheel (on opposite ends of the UGF) providing suction for the UGF. For all I know that was actually worse for the UGF.
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Old 01-15-2004, 04:57 PM   #7
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Just remember - the most ignorant questions are the one's that aren't asked. That's what we're here for!
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Old 01-15-2004, 09:55 PM   #8
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Quote:
Thanks for all the advice! I really appreciate it. It's hard to feel so ignorant and ask these pesky newbie questions, but I guess there's really no other way
Hoosch, if you could just look at everyones first posts, you would neither feel embarrassed or alone!!

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Old 01-16-2004, 05:58 PM   #9
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I understand now Hoosch. And please don't feel 'dumb' or self conscious about asking questions. Everyone here will answer even the most basic questions in a friendly, non-condescending manner.
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