Build Your Own UGF

Updated 3/4/16

Found this 1-gallon glass jar with a lid at the thrift shop.

I’m setting up a 1-gallon opae’ula tank in a glass jar I found at a thrift shop. This tank is about half done. It shares an air pump with the oblong 1.5-gallon tank that’s partially visible in the background.

Opae’ula are fun to raise. Since they don’t need much space for a simulated natural environment, we can be creative in building tanks. I believe a gallon jar is about the smallest optimal size. At a thrift shop, I found a 1-gallon glass jar (see photo above) with a lid and decided to turn it into an opae’ula tank.

Since there’s no opening for an air line, I raised the lid at one end about a quarter of an inch to insert a line. Since the lid is made of glass and a bit heavy, I added two rubber shims on both sides of the line to prevent the lid from crimping it. I made the shims out of two quarter-inch wide rings cut off from the end of a large plastic hose. Cutting through the ring at one point creates a u-shaped shim that will fit over the bottle edge.

The tank is not quite ready for opae. Thus far, I made a UGF out of a plastic cover (see photo below of a similar cover) and a spare plastic tube, covered it with gravel, inserted an air line into the exhaust tube, and added brackish water from one of my established tanks. I’ll be adding a coral substrate over the gravel next before adding a small colony of opae from the 18-gallon. 

Take a plastic cap from a throw-away bottle.

A plastic cap from a throw-away bottle that’s similar to the one I used.

The cap that I actually used was slightly wider than the one in the photo. Find a cap size that will fit in your tank, leaving about a half-inch to an inch between the outer edges of the cap and the interior wall of the tank. Using a Dremel tool and a small bit, I drilled tiny holes in the cap and on the outer edges of the cap. The holes were approximately an eighth-inch apart from one another.

I then drilled a larger hole, toward the edge of the cap, that’s a hair narrower than the diameter of the exhaust tube. This is to make sure that the tube will stay in place when inserted. I then worked the tube into the large hole so that it was about half way between the top of the cap and the bottom of the tank.

After inserting the UGF in the tank, I added a gravel substrate that covers the UGF by about three-quarters of an inch. I added brackish water from the established 18-gallon tank, ran an air line down the exhaust tube, adjusted the air flow with check valves in the lines attached to the air pump that’s shared with the oblong 1.5 gallon tank.

I’ll be adding coral to the habitat this coming week. I’ll also be adding some opae.

See the follow-up article: Glass Jar with Lid: New Opae’ula Tank

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19 Responses to Build Your Own UGF

  1. Ann says:

    Love it. Can’t wait to see them swimming around.
    Ann

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    • JimS says:

      Hi Ann. Busy with work so progressing slowly. The water turned a bit cloudy so I did a 70% water change. Clear now. Added a “seed” coral from the 10-gallon. It’s a piece of coral with green algae growth. I’ll be adding “new” coral by the end of this week and a few opae’ula over the weekend if all seems well. I doubled up on the shims to further reduce the crimping on the air line. The air flow is better now.

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      • Ann says:

        It sounds exciting. Work does interfere with the fun things. Sounds like you’re progressing wonderfully.
        Ann

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        • JimS says:

          Finally found some time this afternoon to insert the coral and some opae’ula. These little guys make it fun with their constant activity.

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  2. Odin says:

    Looks nice! May I ask why you have a filter?

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    • JimS says:

      Hi Odin. Good question. I’d actually prefer doing without a filter, but from what I’ve gathered thus far, in small tanks (1.0-1.5-gallon) without mechanical filters, opae’ula don’t breed. If anyone has information to the contrary, I’d like to hear about it — with details to allow the rest of us to replicate the setup. In the meantime, I know that opae in my larger (>5 gallon) tanks are breeding, and these use UGF. I’m also aware that hobbyist Nakashima has had tremendous success with larger tanks with no mechanical filtration. But he reported waiting a year before breeding began, and I don’t want to wait that long. Furthermore, his situation is unique. He has access to clean seawater and uses it, diluted with tap water, instead of the usual store-bought alternatives. Btw, he uses a UGF with powerhead in some of his tanks. You’re correct in questioning the use of artificial filtration. For me, this is a final hurdle. If we, opae’ula hobbyists, can prove that mechanical filters aren’t necessary, we’re home. Thanks for asking.

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  3. Di says:

    Enjoying your post. I have a 1.5 glass jar also. Like wise have a filter. I notice a big change, they are more active then ever. I notice their color have deepen also.

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    • JimS says:

      Active and deeper coloring — these are signs of good health. Any signs of berried females yet?

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      • Di says:

        No JimS not yet my goal is to keep them alive any berried females considered a great bonus. C Set this tank up about five months ago. I’m totally hooked now, just put together a 10 gallon three weeks ago. My mistake 1.5 gallon turns out its 2.5. It looks tiny next to my new half moon tank.

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        • JimS says:

          Hi Di. That seems to be the norm — begin with a small tank, become hooked, and move up to a bigger tank. Happened to me, too. Lol! You’ll get a lot more out of the 10-gallon. The larger environment is closer to natural and encourages more activity. After seeing some success with my larger tanks (10-gallons), I find myself returning to the challenge of smaller tanks to see if lessons learned with the larger can transfer to the smaller. Is a half-moon tank like a bowl? -Jim

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  4. Ann says:

    It might sound crazy, but I don’t want them to breed. I don’t have the room or mobility to supply larger and larger tanks. If they can stay healthy without filtration and not breed , it would be great.
    Ann

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    • JimS says:

      Hi, Ann. Not crazy at all. I agree with you. I live in a condo where big tanks are out of the question. Ten-gallon is about the max allowed. Re breeding, I’m guessing that opae’ula, like most natural colonies, will breed in response to their environment. The amount of space, food supply, and water quality will dictate whether or not they’ll breed and the frequency. In other words, if they do breed, they’ll probably do so at a pace that will sustain a balanced ecology. Once they reach that balance, they’ll stop. I’m also guessing that when your opae do breed, they’ll do so only to the extent that your tank ecology allows. I doubt they’ll overbreed — unless you’re artificially increasing their food supply. I’m with you re sustaining a healthy colony and not simply multiplying the numbers. The other side of the coin is that if they don’t breed, the colony will gradually shrink. Based on these assumptions, I understock my new tanks to encourage breeding. I don’t do this to simply have more opae. I do it to determine the health of the environment I’ve created. If they breed, then it’s a good sign that the environment is healthy. Also, breeding will sustain the colony indefinitely, with younger ones replacing the ones that die of old age. These are just assumptions. Thanks for sharing. -Jim

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      • Ann says:

        I have a question. When you say SHRINK, do you mean their colony numbers or their body mass? Thanks for having the patience to answer my elementary questions. 🙂
        Ann

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        • JimS says:

          Hi Ann. I’m a novice myself, too, and have more questions than answers, so I’m in the same boat. Please don’t hesitate to ask away. If I can’t answer the questions or if my answers are off the mark, someone, hopefully, will speak up and set us straight. Re “shrink,” I was referring to population, but it also applies to the process of slow starvation due to illness or lack of food. It seems they shed their exoskeletons in either direction, as they grow or shrink. -Jim

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        • Ann says:

          As a novice, you are really adding to my knowledge.:-) Thank you for your answer.I’m enjoying your blog immensely.
          Ann

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  5. Ann says:

    Hi Jim,
    These are good extrapolations. This makes good sense. Thank you for your comments.

    Ann

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    • JimS says:

      “Extrapolations” hits the mark. With so many unknowns, we end up making a lot of leaps and guesses based on shaky assumptions. It’s a wonder these little guys can survive our craziness. Maybe that’s one of the reasons we’re drawn to them. They’re tough and seem to adapt to and tolerate our whims and experiments. Hopefully we’ll gradually learn how to sustain them in good health for many, many years.

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  6. Di says:

    Aloha JimS, think of a round cylender cut in half width wise with no obstructions, no corners from end to end.

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