Are UV Sterilizers Good for an Aquarium?

Are UV Sterilizers Good for Aquariums Question; Are UV Sterilizers Good for Aquariums?
As a generalization, this is a question that really should not be asked anymore based on research of the benefits of Level 1 Sterilization that includes disease prevention & control, fish immunity based on redox balance, and water clarification.

However while there are few reasons not to have a UV Sterilizer on your aquarium, most of the reasons NOT to have one of these devices is based on myths that simply will not go away despite verified controlled use of these devices.
The other reason to NOT have a UV Sterilizer is the plethora of low cost quality UV Sterilizers made by companies such as AquaTop, Jebo, Green Killing Machine, and others that simply do NOT provide level 1 sterilization; ONLY clarification.

What I will then look at based on my aquarium service business observations, as well as feedback from others I know in the business as to what are the positives and the negatives. With the negatives I will also look at negatives that are caused by UV Sterilizers of poor dwell time design, poor over all construction, poor quality, and simply poor installation.

UV STERILIZER POSITIVES (based on science and professional use, not here say)

  • At flow rates of 20-25 gph, depending upon dwell time inside UV Sterilizer, a UV Sterilizer will kill or render helpless most pathogenic bacteria
  • A UV Sterilizer will NOT kill beneficial bacteria since these aerobic bacteria reside in the substrate and filter media in a healthy established aquarium
  • A UV Sterilizer will NOT kill copepods in a marine reef aquarium.
    Simple use proves this, as well, the science behind how a UV Sterilizer shows that when correctly plumbed, the UV Sterilizer would not be powerful enough nor would a copepod even get into the UV Sterilizer chamber based on how and where they live and correct pre-filtration prior to water entering the UV.
  • A UV Sterilizer WILL improve Redox Balance resulting improved fish immune response
  • A UV Sterilizer can help slow or occasionally even stop Oodinium, Ich or other single cell aquarium parasite infestation.
    Level 1 Sterilization will slow many of these parasites, if only by improving fish immune response. Level 2 can even kill some single parasites, although not always completely.
    However I should caution a prospective buyer that even the best UV should not be purchased with the belief this will put an end to future Ich, Velvet, Oodinium or related infestations. Purchase a UV as a tool to aid in control and prevention (keyword: TOOL)
  • A UV Sterilizer will clarify an aquarium with cloudy or green water

UV STERILIZER NEGATIVES

  • A UV Sterilizer is NOT a cure all to poor water chemistry as per Redox, over crowding often resulting in poor water clarity, poor disease prevention, and other poor aquarium maintenance management
  • If not correctly installed AFTER filter inline or in a sump loop, too high a flow rate, poor dwell time, poor UV Sterilization chamber design; you often will have useless piece of aquarium equipment.
    This unfortunately happens way too often.
    I have made countless “house calls” where a customer incorrectly installed the UV Sterilizer or purchased one of the countless junk UVs such as the Jebo or AquaTop and then would tell me the UV did not improve my fish’ health. This resulted in this customer stating ALL UVs are useless, when in fact they made this anecdotal opinion based on incorrect installation or use of poorly designed UVs that are NOT capable of Level 1 Sterilization.
  • A UV should not be used while planktonic foods are added to the water column. This is common in many reef aquariums.
    However the UV Sterilizer can still be used and should be placed on a timer so that it is run two hours after the introduction of these foods.
  • Many UV Sterilizer have ballasts that do not last (such as the Coralife), or gimmicks such as baffles, twists, wipers, that do little or even lower UV irradiation efficiency.
    Do not waste your money on these UVs, otherwise you may end up with a poor opinion of what a good UV can do for your aquarium.

What is also important to know is lamp/bulb maintenance.
To purchase a UV Sterilizer, including a better model such as the TMC and then to rarely if ever change the lamp will slowly result in a device that does nothing for your aquarium.
With 24/7 use, these lamps will already be at 50% in just 6 months, which is when they should be changed. After a year of continuous use the lamp is mostly useless.

The other issue in our competitive marketplace, is that many if not the majority of online and sellers, especially Amazon and Ebay, sell medium pressure and cold cathode UV lamps so as to make a better profit all the while keep the selling price lower than the wholesale cost of the better high output replacement lamps/bulbs.
To make the mistake of purchasing one of these lamps like so many do based on my home and office visits where the aquarium service client is complaining that their UV no longer works as well or that the fish are getting sick more often, is to purchase a UV lamp with 1/4 to 1/3 the useful UVC output! In my opinion this is self defeating!!!

For more on this subject, I STRONGLY suggest reading this article:
Actual UV-C Emission from a UV Bulb; Aquarium or Pond

Before just taking my word and observations, I suggest reading these resources on this subject:

*Aquarium UV Sterilizer Use
*Redox in Aquariums
*UV Sterilizer Review
UV Bulbs; Problems of Quality?

An amateur/anecdotal article about UV Sterilizers to AVOID that shows a complete lack of real research that unfortunately has been circulated:
blog.marinedepot.com/2017/03/the-truth-about-uv-sterilizers-and-reef-aquariums.html

Here are a few UV Sterilizer that I know from practical use work well and reliably.

*AAP/TMC Vecton, Advantage
*Aqua Ultraviolet
*Emperor Aquatics UV
*Gamma UV

Of the four above, I have had the highest longevity, least gimmicky features, and the highest dwell time with the AAP/TMC Advantage & Vecton UV Sterilizers.

Here are a few Economy UV Sterilizer that I know from practical use work reasonably well; at least level 1 sterilization and reasonable reliability:

*Via Aqua Terminator [discontinued]
*AAP/SunSun CUP Series (not the JUP series which do not provide level 1 sterilization)

UV Sterilizers to Avoid; either due to poor level 1 sterilization and/or poor reliability

*AquaTop
*Jebo
*Coralife Turbo Twist
*Green Killing Machine

Advertisements

Aquarium & Pond UV Sterilizer Review; Vecton, Advantage

Aquarium & Pond UV Sterilizer Review; Aqua & TMC Vecton & Advantage

(Further Information Added to this post, 12/6/14)

I’ve used many different ultraviolet Sterilizers over the years; some great, some ok, some were only clarifiers (although often sold as sterilizers), and some simply junk.

One model I used many of is the Coralife Turbo Twist compact UV Sterilizer. These worked for both clarification and more important TRUE UV sterilization reasonably well, although far from the best though when compared to other UV Sterilizers.
However, later I had would find the ballasts to fail and nearly a 100% rate with newer models. So although a popular UV Sterilizer, I cannot recommend it.
For a Compact UV, I’ve had better results from the SunSun & Via Aqua Terminator Compact UVs both in measured results and quality of build.

Also read my newer article where I call out some severe misinformation put forth by Reef Central:
Aqua Ultraviolet versus TMC UV Sterilizers, Reef Central

NOW FOR MY REVIEW:

TMC VECTON & ADVANTAGE UVs:

TMC Vecton UV Sterilizer Line
This brings me to the TMC Line of UV Sterilizers; including the Pond Advantage and Vecton Aquarium.
Further Reading: TMC Premium Vecton and Advantage Aquarium and Pond UV Sterilizer, Clarifiers; Information

I’ve not had ANY better results with other UV Sterilizer as per TRUE UV Sterilization (level 1 & 2) as well as more basic clarification.
Also parts are readily available at fair prices unlike so many other UV Sterilizer where the ballast, quartz sleeve, or UV Replacement Bulb, Lamp can cost half or more of what a new TMC UV Sterilizer will cost.

UV Bulb Reference Guide Link: UV Bulbs, Bulb Guide

 

Vecton Ultraviolet Sterilizer mounted under aquariumAnother positive of the TMC Vecton and Advantage UVs is the construction of the unit as the Vecton and Advantage PRO Pond UVs are among the most solid UVs I have ever used. The construction also lends itself to easy repair when or if this becomes necessary.
Although the way the electrical ends connect to the lamp pins, does lend itself to easy disconnect, but this is a minor issue that only happens with rough handling and is easily corrected by simply pushing the connector back into the lamp pins.

I have had almost NO leaky UVs, especially in the area of the simple but well designed hose barb O-Rings, unlike many other units.
As well parts such as ballasts, quartz sleeves, O-Rings, and much more are readily available online or elsewhere at reasonable prices as I already noted; again unlike many even otherwise quality units where the cost of a ballast or quartz sleeve is nearly as much as a new UV Sterilizer!

Again, I am not knocking the effectiveness of many other UVs such as the Aqua Ultraviolet or Emperor UV, but when price of the Sterilizer unit and parts are factored in, the TMC has been a no-brainer for me when a customer asks me to install the best UV possible and still stay within an agreed upon budget.

Pond Advantage UV Sterilizer, Clarifier Review There are other OK to good UVs such as the SunSun Terminator, Tetra and a few others, but these do NOT match the dwell time of the TMC Vecton or Advantage.
In fact I have changed out Tetra 18 Watt UVs running customer ponds that struggled to keep the pond clear and replaced this UV with a LOWER wattage TMC 15 Watt Pond Advantage and observed immediate results that we better the the Tetra UV.

The reason for the improvement in pond clarity was simple, the TMC Advantage and Vecton have the highest UVC dwell times of any UV Sterilizer, BAR NONE. Although some such as the Aqua Ultraviolet can equal the TMC Vecton and Advantage for dwell time.

Let me list the positives & negatives of the TMC Vecton and Pond Advantage True UV Sterilizers:

  • Positive; The highest UVC Dwell time of ANY UV Sterilizer sold, allowing for much higher flow rates that the vast majority of UVs sold while still maintaining true level 1 or even 2 sterilization
  • Positive; Readily available parts, at reasonable prices
  • Positive; Uses highest UVC output low pressure mercury UV Bulbs/Lamps, unlike many of the Chinese brand UVs sold.
    Further Reading: Actual UV-C Emission from a UV Bulb; Aquarium or Pond
  • Positive; Durable construction with VERY long life ballasts
  • Negative; Lamp pin connections can come loose with rough handling
  • Negative; Can be difficult to tell if on in a brightly lit room or in bright daylight for a pond application. Usually I either shield the light or more simply, remove a few screws and open the top to check for correct lamp function
  • Positive; A true UV Sterilizer in a market that is more and more flooded with UV clarifiers masquerading as UV Sterilizers

The bottom line from my use of dozens (if not 100s) of UVs in aquariums and ponds, I have found no match for effectiveness, durability, and even value/reasonable price when one considers the quality of this top notch aquarium and pond UV Sterilizer.

Of course there are the many poor UVs too such as the over-rated Coralife Turbo Twist.
Worse yet, the Pure junk AquaTop and Jebo line of UVs just to name a few.
Many of these low end internal/submersible and Hang-On UV Filters have a very short life span, sometimes only 6 months from my experience.
As well even when working these UVs are only capable of Clarfication, NOT level one UVC sterilization! In other words these low end, low cost imports are NOT true UV Sterilizers.

Further Reading:
UV Sterilizers to Avoid; Jebo, Submariner, Laguna, Sunterra, Pondmaster Submersible
AquaTop Hang On Filter, UV Review

Please reference this excellent review for more details about the hows and whys of TMCs UV Sterilizers:
TMC Vecton and Advantage UV Sterilizer Review

Aqua 15 Watt UV Sterilizer, Clarifer for Aquarium or Pond
Aqua Ultraviolet

A good but over priced model is the Aqua line of pond and aquarium ultraviolet sterilizers.
These are well constructed, with good dwell time resulting in efficient sterilization and clarification.
One complaint I do have on some models is the wiper; these really do NOT do a good job at clearing calcium buildup, sometimes getting stuck too. As well since proper maintenance is every six months, despite some websites statements to the contrary, I would skip the wiper feature and simply properly clean the Quartz Sleeve ever six months. I would also suggest a back flush your UV monthly in pond applications.

The 2nd complaint I have is simply price for the UV and parts. The parts are often proprietary too forcing me or other users to pay crazy prices for parts that can often be found for much less with other UV Sterilizers that are not proprietary with their parts.

When you compare a 15 Watt Aqua at about $175 to a 15 Watt TMC Advantage or Vecton at $135 to $155 which with their longer UVC Bulbs and higher dwell time at the same flow rate; to me the better choice is the TMC UV Sterilizers.
Worse (in price, not effectiveness) is the Aqua 120 watt pond or aquarium system UV Sterilizer priced at $800+.
While certainly an effective UV, I’ve found the similar 110 Watt TMC PRO Pond Advantage just as effective at half the price ($400-$500).

The final issue I have is the claim by Aqua UV: “longest lamp life on the market”. This is a half truth from my knowledge and use of UVs. To make a longer life UV lamp/bulb results in less output of 254nm UVC irradiation during the life of the UV lamp.
Better is a high output Hot Cathode UV germicidal bulb that should be replaced every 6 months for aquariums or 6-12 months for ponds. You will maximize your effectiveness of your UV Sterilizer.

AquaTop Hang On UV Filter Review

Hangon UV Filter Review:
PF-15, PF-25, PF-40, & PSE1 UV Hang-On Filter as well as IL5-UV & IL10-UV

PF40-UV Hang On Filter With UV SterilizationI felt this should be my first post based on what I have read and questions I have had asked of me by clients.

First these are a nice idea, that at first glance appears to be well made.

I will first start with the positives I do see:

(1) Simple to operate

(2) Compact Design

(3) Efficient Filter design for an economy filter

(4) Performs very basic water clarification (via UVC Sterilization)

Now the Overwhelming Negatives:

(1) No true Bio Filtration since there is no room for a Bio Sponge, Grid, etc.
This can be a major negative since aerobic bio-filtration is an essential aspect of aquarium filtration.

(2) Due to the nature of how an HOB power aquarium filter works, it is common for calcium deposits to build up on the quartz sleeve, slowly degrading what little actual UVC actually reaches any possible algae for clairifcation.
Eventually even the ability to perform UV Clarification is lost yet alone level one sterilization which this UV/Filter never truly attains, even out of the box.

(3) Now that these have been out for a while, I can comment on the “well made” aspect of these UV units.
The simple answer is leaks and ballast failures are all too common after 6 months to a year.

(4) As per the advertised UV Sterilization by the manufacturer and some sellers, this is where I really find the advertisements misleading as they claim these filters “aids in the health of your aquatic creatures by eradicating free-floating parasites”.

The FACTS are free floating parasites are only achieved by Level 2 UV Sterilization, and this filter cannot even truly perform Level One Sterilization (which is all most aquarium users require).
Level Two Sterilization requires a flow rate under 8 gph for most UVs, although some well designed UVs such as the TMC Vecton, True UV Sterilizer can perform this in under 12 gph.
Further Reference:
TMC Vecton UV Sterilizer Review

This brings me to another point; this is not a well designed UV, not because of any specific design flaw, but only due to this concept, as this concept WAS attempted 20+ years ago (by Nektonics), despite manufacturer claims.

The concept of a UV Sterilizer built into a Hang On (HOB) Aquarium Power Filter simply cannot have a good dwell time!

The dwell time of this filter is under 1.50 watts of UVC energy per second for this filter.
Compare this to 1.95 watts of UVC energy per second for the “Terminator 13 watt” versus 2.08 watts of UVC energy per second for the “8 Watt Vecton“.

What this boils down to is this is a blatant lie, as to parasite eradication; if the manufacturer would only state “Effective for Water Clarification” I would have less of a problem.
The bigger picture problem here is that over the years many aquarium UV Sterilizer manufacturers have made similar claims and then aquarium keepers have purchased these products based on these claims (example; Green Killing Machine, Submariner).
The Result? These persons then go on to state in forums, Yahoo Answers, or even me how UV Sterilizers are “Crap” as their fish continued to get sick after installing these types of UV Devices.
The end result is the continued “cut & paste” of misinformation that UVs are useless, when in fact it is what was purchased or how they are installed that makes the difference.

This would be analogous to purchasing a mini pickup to pull a 10,000 fifth wheel trailer and when it fails complaining about all pick ups, when in fact this person should have purchased a 350/3500 full size pick up truck.
There simply is a reason a UV such as this can have a filter and UV and cost less than $70 while a quality UV sterilizer (without any other gimmicks) of similar wattage costs about $125

Finally, I might add that before I push Level Two Sterilization,; for most aquariums Level One Sterilization is all that is necessary for disease prevention and fish immunity, via Aquarium Redox Balance.
However this Filter cannot even perform Level 1 Sterilization and thus should NOT be purchased if this is what you need for your aquarium.

Further Reference: Aquarium Redox Basics

The bottom line is ANY True in-line UV Sterilizer is better than these essentially decorative UV light emitting devices. This does NOT mean the low quality AquaTop IL5-UV or IL10-UV which although better than the AquaTop Hang On UVs, these still have poor dwell times and construction that is prone to leaks and ballast failures.
Simply put, from my use of many AquaTop products, they are a company to avoid , in particular for their line of so-called UV Sterilizers!!!

Better yet would be a high Dwell Time UV such as the TMC Vecton (see the link below)

Recommended Reading:
TMC Vecton & Advantage In-Line UV Sterilizer Review