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Ultraviolet sterilizers in the aquarium

Articles on general fish keeping

Ultraviolet sterilizers in the aquarium

Postby Mick » Thu Mar 04, 2010 7:02 pm

In the fish keeping hobby one of the great modern debates is wether an Ultraviolet Sterilzer is really neccessary for use in the aquarium. As expected this debate has never been resolved and it is down to personal choice of the keeper if they wish to run one or not. They have been available for many years and pondkeepers were the first to add them to their filtration systems in a bid to control algae in the ponds, nowadays units have hit the market specifically for aquarium use and they are even being incorporated inside some filters making them compact and out of view.

How does an Utraviolet Sterilizer work?
Basically the Utraviolet system is a filtration device that attacks micro-organisms in the water and destroys them by breaking down their DNA, rendering them incapable of life. They are capable of destroying parasites, algae, viruses and bacteria. They are usually placed last in the series of filtration as this will help the Ultraviolet Sterilizer run more efficiently as mechanical filtration will remove the debris from the water allowing the UV rays to penetrate at maximum capacity. The bulbs in the units will lose there efficiency over a period of time as will allowing the unit to film over with scum so replacing the bulbs at the recommended time and keeping the unit clear will get the best from them. The bulbs are normally rated in watts and the more water volume passing through them, the higher the wattage of bulb required.

Water flow through the unit
When setting up the Ultraviolet Sterilizer it is very important to set the correct rate of water flow from the filter through the unit, this will be given in gallons per hour/litres per hour. If the water passes through too quickly the water will not be treated properly, faster rates may destroy algae and parasites but to destroy bacteria and viruses the water flow will need to be regulated, always check what the correct flow rate is for your unit.

Cleaning the quartz sleeve
Most of the higher price range of units will have external levers on them for wiping the sleeve clean as part of a regular maintenance program, with the cheaper units it may require you to partially disassemble the unit and manually clean the sleeve. Never disassemble the unit while it is switched on, the UV rays can damage your eyes.

When deciding which unit you are purchasing, check the price of the unit. Make sure it is rated for your tank size and always check how much it will cost you to replace the bulbs, this will probably need doing every 6 months so must be taken into consideration.

Advantages of using an Ultraviolet Sterilizer:-
When used in outside ponds they make a very effective deterrent for algal growth, this is not quite so apparent in the aquarium.
There are no pathogens that are resistant to the rays that the units transmit so they will eradicate any diseases or viruses which could affect your fishes health.
Nowadays most units are quite cheap to purchase, units designed for ponds will be more expensive as they are rated at a higher power and require larger components.

Disadvantages of using an Ultraviolet Sterilizer:-
Ultraviolet Sterilizers require electricity to work, the running costs will increase according to the amount of wattage the unit requires.
It is a common belief that using these units will weaken the fishes immune system, the fish do not build up a resistance to disease or bacteria if they do not come into contact with them.
When adding any medication to the tank or pond the units need to be turned off or they will weaken the efficiency of the medication added.
Some of the older units are bulky and can take up a lot of space in the cabinets or if they are internal Ultraviolet Sterilizers they are visible in the aquarium and will take up space.
The units will need regular maintenance i.e. the tubes must be kept clear from any form of debris or sediment for the rays to penetrate the water as it passes through.

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