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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello everyone
So I was wondering if anyone has ever tried this.



I have this guppy tank which is not a regular planted tank. I have used small pots for plants that are buried under gravel. I figured it has the benefit of both worlds since cleaning it is so easy. Now it has turned into a jungle, actually the picture was taken few weeks earlier. So I'm getting less and less space for siphoning. and I am planning to gradually move the entire thing to a larger tank.


My question is has anyone tried or heard about using undergravel filter as siphon?


I'm talking about a DIY undergravel plate with tubes that have holes fixed under the plate and connected to a small pipe or larger tube that comes out of the water. I will use this tube to suck out water from under the gravel (gravel is on the large side). Don't you think this will be a good substitute for siphoning? I don't see why it should not siphon out and clean the entire bottom of the tank in just a minute.


But there must be some problem with this design because I haven't heard about it before.


Any comment is welcome.
 

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Most people don't use ug filters in planted tanks because the roots tend to grow into and clog them. Another issue is even if they don't become clogged, having the roots intruding into them can cause you problems when/if you need to pull the plants up. You have to be careful to trim the roots off to move plants or you could end up breaking/damaging them. Other than those issues, I don't see why you couldn't use one like you described. I don't have any currently, but I've used UG filters of all kinds and powered by everything from air, to powerheads to the intake of a canister filter as well as using them as a good spot to siphon water for a change.
 

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Most people don't use ug filters in planted tanks because the roots tend to grow into and clog them. Another issue is even if they don't become clogged, having the roots intruding into them can cause you problems when/if you need to pull the plants up. You have to be careful to trim the roots off to move plants or you could end up breaking/damaging them. Other than those issues, I don't see why you couldn't use one like you described. I don't have any currently, but I've used UG filters of all kinds and powered by everything from air, to powerheads to the intake of a canister filter as well as using them as a good spot to siphon water for a change.

Thanks for the feedback. I am really considering doing this in the future. Of course I am not using it as filtration, just as a substitute for siphoning. And since the gravel is large it will never get clogged. And I am also getting to like pots because you can easily move them around. My crypts produce more runners in pots than in the substrate. And I can easily take the pot out and divide the plant.

Most people don't use ug filters in planted tanks because the roots tend to grow into and clog them. Another issue is even if they don't become clogged, having the roots intruding into them can cause you problems when/if you need to pull the plants up. You have to be careful to trim the roots off to move plants or you could end up breaking/damaging them. Other than those issues, I don't see why you couldn't use one like you described. I don't have any currently, but I've used UG filters of all kinds and powered by everything from air, to powerheads to the intake of a canister filter as well as using them as a good spot to siphon water for a change.

Thanks for the feedback. I am really considering doing this in the future. Of course I am not using it as filtration, just as a substitute for siphoning. And since the gravel is large it will never get clogged. And I am also getting to like pots because you can easily move them around. My crypts produce more runners in pots than in the substrate. And I can easily take the pot out and divide the plant.
 

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Im not sure im clear on what you think this would achive.

No doubt you could set it up and it would siphon water.

And maybe pull some stuff into the gravel.

But i dont think it would effectively remove physical gunk.

I dont think the siphon would be strong enough to pull stuff from under the UGF plate....except maybe whats real close to the hole.

Let us know....
 

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It’s theoretically a good idea, but not practical. In the old days when UGF was popular, people have attempted to clean under the plate by driving water through one tube, and siphon out through the other. It works to some extent in a plantless setup. But over time, some heavy sand and gravel fall through, and block the pathways and siphoning is too weak to unblock. With plants, heavy rooters will block the pathways at no time.
 

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My problem is that what I most want removed is the stuff that floats around and collects here and there under and around things and I want it removed before it does much to degrade and become ammonia. That leaves me wanting to siphon of the top, not after it gets down into the sub.
I see the reason for wanting to do it with less work but part of tank keeping has to be the time we spend looking at things to see how it is going and that is often while I am doing the cleaning!
Never tried what you propose but I do not feel it would get the right stuff collected at the right time.
 

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With plants in pots and gravel on the large side I think you have a good chance of this working.


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If you use washed pea gravel, so the plate will collect only soft detritus, no sand, there is less chance of blockage. When you do clean out, you have to use power siphoning perhaps using a canister filter and drive water through the other tube. Pea gravel is very porous, so watch out for short circuiting during cleaning. Sand and gravel provide better seal from short circuiting, but they carry more fine and will break down into fine over time. Gravity is not efficient in pulling detritus underneath the plate, so you need to run air lift or powerhead drive. You cannot root plants in the substrate causing blockage nor keep digging loaches or cichlid that rearrange substrate and expose the plate. If you follows these rules, you have better chance of success but no guarantee. UGF isn’t cheap and vacuuming substrate isn’t hard. You have to try it out to see if it is worth the effort and cost.

I keep digging cichlid so I don’t have substrate plants, only epiphytes and potted plants. My substrate is only 1/2 inch barely enough to cover the bare bottom, and super easy to vacuum.
 

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My problems with UGF is that it is not something I can if it is working and nearly impossible to clean without a total teardown. When dealing with a canister or HOB we know that it is not removing the debris from the system, only moving it off the surface and into the can where it is out of sight. So we often use the gradually reduced water flow to judge how much debris is in the filter and assume it is time to clean the filter as the filtering value gradually goes down. comparing that to the UGF, things works much the same as debris is trapped in the sub and gradually decays and works it's way down. The downside is that we have a very hard time judging how much is trapped as the water flow may just move to another spot in the filter plate has not been stopped up and that progresses gradually across the tank bottom until we may have lost a whole bunch of the filtering without being able to see the loss. When I have torn down UGF, I have found massive amounts of yuck stuck all over the plate bottom where water has totally stopped flowing and the good bacteria has been replaced with the yuck type that lives in sewers and smells so bad! Just not something I want in my tank as it is the polar opposite of the good bacteria that need O2 from water flow. Then we don't have the option of pulling the canister off and cleaning the media in a couple hours or less but we are looking at tearing the whole plate out and totally rebuilding what we have been working on for months or years!
 

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If you sit the tank on an aquarium stand, you can look underneath the bottom glass with a flash light to tell when it gets clogged. It is actually easier to tell than canister which is opaque and flow bypass can occur. The tedious thing about UGF is no easy cleaning short of breaking down the system. If the OP idea works, it makes cleaning easier and simpler.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks for all the replies! If I ever tried this I will let you know whether it is worth the effort.

I think I used a wrong title by saying UF. Because it will not be used as filter. I am using power head for filtration.

For clogging by roots, as I said all the plants are in pots.
For clogging by gravel, it's okay because gravel is on the large side and will never go below the plate, let alone clog it.

You are right that it might be costly or time-consuming to find and buy or make a custom plate.

You are also right about power pressure not being able to pull out the gunk. So this would require a few calculations for pipe diameter, tube diameter, how many tubes, and how many holes.

But I love the hobby for the experiments. and it might be worth the effort if you are over-stocking a little bit.

If this works, with plants in pots, a thin layer a of large gravel that lets the gunk fall through, and a power filter, this will be the most low-maintenance tank.
 
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