DIY UG Filter - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 26 (permalink) Old 07-01-2013, 01:32 PM Thread Starter
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DIY UG Filter

Alright so I was finally able to score a 40g breeder at my local Petco's $/gal sale this weekend after about a dozen failed attempts. I plan on going nuts on this tank and doing it right the first time so I do not have to disassemble it later on to fix something I missed.

The first project is to make a DIY Undergravel Filter. I am thinking something very basic that will serve to stir up the gravel so that all of the excrement is pushed to the top, thus making it easier to vacuum, and to make sure my ADA AS doesn't go anaerobic on me. I plan housing one Ruby Red Spilo Piranha in here so keeping all of this excrement at the top is a big reason for me doing this.

I am thinking I am going to use 1/2" PVC pipe along with a bunch of T's and Elbows to make the outflow pipes that sit below the soil (Hoping for 6 rows or 1 row every 3 inches for a total of 18"). I will drill small holes sporadically throughout these pipes for the water to escape. Small holes will then be covered with a small mesh to prevent clogging. Once this is complete I am going to use a plastic grate with a small grate size to lay over the pipes (soil will go on top of this).

I am going to be connecting this to a Marineland 350 Magnum canister filter that I have had laying around in disuse for a period of time. The inflow will be like a normal inflow i.e.; hanging off the side of the tank.

My main concern is that the filter is going to build up too much pressure from an inadequacy in the amount of outflow holes being drilled. I do not want to drill too many and have low pressure or too few and have high pressure.

Before I go and make a mess I wanted to see if anybody had any thoughts or ideas on this topic. I realize that this strategy will lead to the ADA AS degenerating quicker than usual but it's worth it in this case IMHO. I plan using black PVC if I can find it and/or spraying it with black Krylon so that the pipe above the soil line is camouflaged (same for the back of the tank). As always you are all amazing and extremely talented. I thank you in advance for your assistance.

I will be photographing this project so that others can see exactly what I did. Should be a fairly simple project.

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post #2 of 26 (permalink) Old 07-01-2013, 01:56 PM
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Nice project. also Nice to see another Rhode Islander


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post #3 of 26 (permalink) Old 07-01-2013, 04:53 PM Thread Starter
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Alright so I put it all together so you would have an idea of what I am doing here. Basically I have 6 long PVC pipes @ 35.5" each with individual end caps. Everything is connected via T's, elbows, or threaded connections. The 1/2" hose is connected via a 1/2" barb that is threaded into the line.

I may need to go back and exchange one of the threaded elbows for a non threaded elbow so that I can extend the length that will be going over the rim of the tank (not sure if it is long enough).

All I have left to do is to drill holes into the 35.5" lengths of PVC and cement all of the connections together + waterproof the threaded connections. Has anybody ever used to cement that I have pictured? I wanted to get a hobbyists opinion on whether or not it will be toxic before I used it. In case u can not read it in the picture the cement I plan on using is "Oatey: Handy Pack". It comes with purple primer and regular clear PVC cement.

I also plan on using the SS Lint trap mesh to wrap around the holes in the pipes to prevent clogging. I will be using flexible gutter guard for the grate that will be resting on top of this contraption. I couldn't find a plastic or metal grate that would be suitable for this project so I am improvising. I plan holding the SS Lint Trap mesh and the gutter guard down with gorilla glue (glued to the PVC) and probably some pillar type supports placed sporadically between the 36.5" lengths of PVC to support the gutter guard. I am a tad concerned that the gutter guard will be inadequate for this job. I am thinking that with the pillars (probably left over PVC cut to match the height of the PVC lengths already installed) and multiple layers of gutter guard it should be rigid enough to not sink and also able to allow H2O through the holes without allowing the ADA AS to fall through. Also Home Depot does not carry Krylon any longer so I had to go with Rustoleom 2x spray paint. Supposed to do the same thing.



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Last edited by Finalplay10; 07-01-2013 at 05:27 PM. Reason: Fixing picture
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post #4 of 26 (permalink) Old 07-02-2013, 04:41 PM Thread Starter
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My wife is grabbing the tank for me this afternoon from my father so I will be able to start going crazy. First step is to get the back of the tank painted black. I managed to get the exposed portion of the PVC painted last night and it looks like crap. Apparently I held the spray can a tad too close to the pipe. It's all bubbly now. Need to make sure to not make the same mistake on the tank. I will be starting a tank journal for this bad boy shortly.

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post #5 of 26 (permalink) Old 07-02-2013, 07:05 PM
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Go light on your spray and do multiple coats. You'll get better coverage that way and it will look better. And hold the can at least 12" from the surface you are spraying.

You do realize that going DIY on that UGF is more expensive than a regular UGF? Unless you already had all that PVC laying around.

I have a BUNCH of old UGF panels hanging around that you could use to do a reverse UGF with (which is what you're doing). If you're interested, PM me and we could work out a deal to get them to you.


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post #6 of 26 (permalink) Old 07-02-2013, 08:03 PM
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What is the purpose/advantage of the reverse UG filter? I'm way behind the times in aquarium setup.
What thelub said about the spraypaint. I doubt it will show in the tank though. Your glue will be fine once it's fully cured as long as it's meant for household water pipe.
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post #7 of 26 (permalink) Old 07-02-2013, 09:33 PM Thread Starter
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So everything went according to plan. The UGF fit into the tank like a glove and all of the painting/cementing went as well as could have been hoped for. Tad concerned about the gutter guard letting some gravel through on the side but as long as I weigh down the center first I should be ok. All in all this project has definitely been worth it so far. The cost for the PVC (1.86 per 10 feet), Fittings (roughly < $10), Spray paint, and PVC Cement brought me around $30. I already had the PVC cutters which were a HUGE help on this project. Only thing left to do is to check for leaks before I fill her up.



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post #8 of 26 (permalink) Old 07-02-2013, 09:37 PM Thread Starter
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I really wanted this thing to fit this tank perfectly which I just could not get by purchasing a UGF. I would have had to buy multiple pieces and link them together which i just wasn't willing to do. For what it cost me to do this project and the amount of time that it took (<6 hours) I would say this was 100% worth it. I looked high and low for panels to use above the PVC but couldn't find anything suitable. The gutter guard should do the track as I have 3 alternating layers i.e.; horizontal - vertical - horizontal. Once I cemented it to the PVC I was surprised by how rigid it was.

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post #9 of 26 (permalink) Old 07-02-2013, 09:40 PM Thread Starter
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The purpose of the Reverse UGF is to allow water to flow through and around the substrate. It keeps crap from settling and also helps the soil maintain solid levels of oxygen. Once the area under the screen becomes dirtied I'll just switch the inflow/outflow and
clean it out. This was my 1st large DIY aquarium project and I am really satisfied with how it came out.

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post #10 of 26 (permalink) Old 07-02-2013, 10:20 PM
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I'm not entirely sure of the purpose/use for the gutter guards. I'm thinking it's to keep the substrate from direct contact with the pvc.

Here's what I'd do from there:

Get yourself a roll/package of polyester batting, cut it to fit over all that pvc and apply it in at least 2 layers. I use the stuff all the time for various applications around the aquariums and specifically with UG filters in the past.
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post #11 of 26 (permalink) Old 07-02-2013, 10:28 PM Thread Starter
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I actually love this idea bandit. I am thinking I would put the batting under the gutter guard and around the pvc. Gutter guard is there to prevent the substrate from just falling around the PVC and clogging it. As to how effective it will be I just don't know yet. It was an idea that I had that I am trying out. If it fails then it will be just like not having the gutter guard there. No biggie since I already had a spool of it laying around.

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post #12 of 26 (permalink) Old 07-02-2013, 10:58 PM
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I don't think you'll have any issues with it, but I'll tell you my experience with using it with the UG filter.

I wasn't going reverse as you will, and I was only using plain aquarium gravel. It worked very well under the gravel and kept the water spotless. The only issue I ever had was that after about a year of use, even with regular vacuuming of the gravel, the poly was so clogged that it would greatly restrict the water flow and need to be replaced. Back in the day that wasn't so much of a problem as it was time consuming. Beneath all that soil, planting and aquascaping it could potentially be a much greater issue.

Since you're going to go reverse, I don't think you'll will experience that situation. You'll only be pushing clean water through it from the return. That being said, I'd hate you be cursing my name a year from now... Best of luck and keep us posted on the outcome.
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post #13 of 26 (permalink) Old 07-03-2013, 12:41 AM Thread Starter
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Also considering gravel in lieu of the batting. Should prevent clogging and serve as an additional bacterial colony.

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post #14 of 26 (permalink) Old 07-06-2013, 02:17 AM
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One of the main reasons I do DIY stuff is more just to get something that specifically fits my needs/desires; saving money is a bonus if it happens, but not the main reason for me, so I understand your angle there.

The gutter guard looks like it's working well for you, but you might want to check the 'plastic canvas' mesh for needlework and stuff, it's pretty cheap, and you can find some fairly large sheets of it (I've got the floor of a 40B covered with two trimmed down sheets, just to prevent rocks/etc. from scraping) in various hole sizes. pretty useful stuff for all kinds of DIY projects.

curious to see how this works out though.
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post #15 of 26 (permalink) Old 07-06-2013, 03:27 AM Thread Starter
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So far this is working out extremely well. I have it set to reverse and put some landscape rocks that I cleaned underneath the UGF. When I go to put plant roots in the gravel air bubbles squirt up so the soil is definitely aerated. Very happy with this build.

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