Switched to Power Heads for UGFs – Update 1/7/17


One of two AquaClear 1000 Powerheads in my 18-gallon (filled to 10-gallon level) tank. This is the only powerhead I’ve found that’s suitable for my small tanks (largest is 10 gallons). These powerheads are rated “for aquariums up to 10 U.S. gallons.” The critical factor is the flow is adjustable. At full strength, the flow is still too strong. However, at the lowest setting, the flow is perfect. The price is also unbelievable — $8.50 U.S. in Hawaii. Prices may vary elsewhere. Mahalo, Namruso, for your tip! I finally made it down to Petland in Kahala and bought some of these. As you say, they’re perfect for small tanks. I wish I had done it sooner.


Setting it up in the tank was a bit of work, requiring trial and error. I wanted to have the head sitting above the surface to monitor the flow of water. This required some awkward jiggling, but I finally got it to work. Gone are the unsightly air pumps and tubes. Gone is the constant noise. These babies are silent. I also added two of these to the 10-gallon on the kitchen counter. Finally, I replaced the air tube in the 5-gallon Fluval Chi UGF with one of these powerheads. I hope this will reduce or eliminate the salt crusting.

[UPDATE 1/7/17 – After 6 months, I’ve given up on the powerheads and returned to the good ole air pumps. The current was just too strong for my small 10-gallon tanks, which are really filled to the 8-to-9 gallon level. I noticed that opae activity had been declining progressively to the point where they were no longer swimming about. As soon as I made the switch, they became more active again.

The powerheads seemed to reduce the salt crusting a bit, but the cost in terms of tank health was too great. The powerheads also had a tendency to slip off their rubber mounts on the tube. This was a danger to the opae that wandered too close. They were sucked into the powerhead and churned into chum. I didn’t always notice the problem until many hours had passed. I tried to stabilize the seating by shoving a short length of plastic tubing over the oval intake and placing the whole back into the uptake tube. This worked for three of the powerheads, but not for the fourth, which kept slipping out of the tube.]

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10 Responses to Switched to Power Heads for UGFs – Update 1/7/17

  1. namruso says:

    Hey! Long time! I actually had a spare you could have had! Haha glad it’s all working out. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the time to do anymore experimentation. Soon!


    • JimS says:

      Lol! Running on Hawaii time. Took me 7 months to travel the 4 miles to Kahala. The power in some of my air pumps was beginning to flag. I even reverted to an old piston type pump to keep the air flowing. Bad idea. Noisy and inefficient. It was about time I got off my okole and tried your suggestion. Glad I did. World of difference. Thanks again!

      Btw, keep us posted on any new experiments or observations. My only opae’ula experience is with 10-gallon or less tanks. I can imagine the world of big tanks (like yours) must be very different. With more room to play with, your tanks probably come a lot closer to the opae’s natural habitat.


  2. Robin says:

    So do you think the lowest setting would be okay or too much for my 2 1/2 gallon. Silence is always nice!


  3. JimS says:

    Hi Robin. I have one in my 5-gallon Fluval-Chi, which is only half-filled with water to keep the salt crusting down. I can’t see the currents in the tank because this powerhead doesn’t produce fine bubbles. (A couple of the others do, but I’m not sure why.) But I can see the tiny opaeula in the tank surfing the current every once in a while. It doesn’t seem to affect them negatively in their usual activities. Btw, with the powerhead, the salt hasn’t been crusting on the edges of this tank. So far. If you have plants, the current may be too strong. If you can jury rig an attachment to somehow diffuse the outflow, then it might work. But it is absolutely silent. Also, I’m not sure if I’m imagining it, but the water seems to be clearer in the tanks with powerheads. I’m also not sure how durable these heads are. I guess only time will tell.


    • Robin says:

      Thanks! I’m going to have to postpone any investigation into this though. *sigh* I’m using my kitchen table as a holding area and will be splitting the airflow between my shrimp and a betta tank. Can’t put a gang valve on a powerhead! And I only have so many plugs on the extension cord. Guess it’s a good thing we’re an eat in the livingroom kind of family!

      I did take the airstone out of the shrimp tank, though. While it didn’t eliminate splatter and crusting, it REALLY cut it down. So thanks for that!


      • JimS says:

        Hi Robin. Your setup seems to be working fine for you. If it ain’t broke…. Powerheads are an option, one that I didn’t put much stock in because of the flow problem. But this low power AquaClear 1000 that can be adjusted (45-80 US gallons per hour) seems to be working. I’d like to see AquaClear design an even smaller powerhead that can be adjusted to 10-45 US gallons per hour. Ideally, it would be smaller and not require rubber suction feet to stay in place. Also, an attachment to diffuse/disperse the outflow would be nice.

        I’d like to see some enterprising opae’ula enthusiasts design and develop a low-to-no-maintenance solar-powered filtering system for small (1-10 gallon) tanks. Power demands may not be overwhelming if we’re looking at something on the order of 1-5 gallons per hour. This could be a powerhead or some other device that would slowly circulate the water through the substratum and back into the tank. The UGF would be operational only when the sun is shining, but this may be sufficient.

        Another possibility is a simple bladder device that can be hooked up to a treadmill or step exerciser. A tube from the bladder could be connected to the UGF so that each time we exercise, we power the UGF. If this power could be stored in batteries for later use, all the better. (Exercise machine manufacturers ought to, if they haven’t already, be looking at ways to make it possible for users to store the energy they burn in batteries that could then recharge cellphones and other devices.) The UGF would function only a few times a day for brief periods, but this may be enough.

        Still another possibility is a small-scale Archimedean screw hydro turbine that could be hand- or foot-cranked to operate the UGF. With a series of mechanical gears, enough power may be generated to store the excess in batteries.

        The solution could also be external. For example, a solar-powered cooling pad (similar to the ones for laptops) designed to fit under the tank may produce enough temperature variation to circulate the water in a tank through a UGF. In this case, the uptake tube would open below the surface and provide a warm conduit for the cooled water. The exchange would be very slow, but that may be all that’s needed.


        • Robin says:

          😀 The local aviary has a hand pump (like the old well hand pumps) with a sign inviting you to circulate the water in the vulture enclosure. With all the visitors (ahem, kids), the water is probably well oxygenated.

          As for exercising and power here are just two of -many- sites to get you started: http://www.thegreenmicrogym.com/the-story-of-the-upcycle-eco-charger/ and http://www.econvergence.net/The-Pedal-A-Watt-Bicycle-Generator-Stand-s/1820.htm

          The bikes to power thing has been around at least since the ’70’s, that I know of. But they didn’t really have any practical applications. Nowadays, they’re coming up with batteries for storage and ways to tap into your grid to save energy while you exercise. Of course, fish tanks are nowhere on the list. Phones, TV’s, computers, etc. are on top.
          And, oh, they are not cheap!

          I’m not sure I agree with you on using a cooling pad. Glass sucks at maintaining temperature which results in our tanks taking on room temperature rather quickly. Barring a heater, of course. I think the cooling pad would need to be -really- cool to maintain enough of a difference/layer to get water circulation. And I think that might create a ‘dead zone’ unusable for the shrimp. If the tank were large enough, this might not be a problem. But with the smaller tanks, I would want every available inch.

          As for the power heads, I’m passing. They aren’t worth the loss of space in my itty bitty tank.


  4. JimS says:

    Robin, my sincerest apologies. I haven’t logged in for a long while and didn’t see your comment until a few minutes ago. Thanks for your thoughts on unorthodox DIY solutions for circulation. In the past few days, I’ve been thinking of some sort of hand crank or pump system that could be used once or twice a day for a few minutes each time. For smaller tanks (1 to 5 gal?), this might be enough. Maybe something like the rubber bulb that’s found on old BP units. We could squeeze for a minute or two to circulate the water in the morning and again in the evening. The bulb tube could be attached to the intake nib on the UGF or it could be inserted down into the uptake tube. This process wouldn’t move a lot of water over an entire day, but it may be able to move a small amount that makes a difference.

    Btw, I had a couple of accidents with the powerhead. The same accident twice. One of the heads somehow flipped forward, the rubber suction cups separating from the glass wall. This left the intake exposed to the rest of the tank. I know some or a lot of opae got sucked in and mangled. I saw some body parts floating about. I’m not sure how long it was left in this postion — somehwere between 12 hours and a few minutes. It happened again a few days later. To prevent this from happening again, I made sure it was firmly seated in the uptake tube, and I check the tanks often. It’s only happened in the 18-gal. The 10-gal has been fine. The 18-gal is closer to the south windows and get more direct sunlight. One possibility is that the warmth may be affecting the suction hold.


    • Robin says:

      Not to worry about the late reply. I just now came to visit you after all these months. I lost my brother in Oct. and just haven’t really gotten back into gear after that and the silly season. A few easy short posts, nothing more. Your reply, for some reason, didn’t even show up on my dashboard (???). Oh, well.

      So sorry to hear about your chopped up shrimp. Yuk. I agree the sunlight might have been at least part of the problem. I know that the stuff I suction to the livingroom windows where the sun hits them, hit the floor more often than the stuff at the top of the window that does not get direct sun.

      I ran into an interesting (snort) problem with my tank here recently. I confess the past couple of months all my tanks have been getting just basic care so I missed when the air flow went down severely. Then one day I realized how QUIET it was at the table. Ooops, nothing but the occasional bubble. Thank goodness these guys are tough. I figured it was the pump and switched it out. Nothing. Okaaay…so I blew into the tube and about burst an eardrum. I have a one gallon undergravel filter on one side of my 2 1/2 gallon. It has a hard plastic tube that runs down into the uplift tube just like all my freshwater tanks. When I pulled the tube out, I found that the bottom inch and a half was clogged with a hard as a rock blockage. It took 20 minutes of soaking in vinegar before it softened enough for me to dig it out with a hard wire cake tester. WTF? So now it is something else to keep an eye on and I have NO idea WHY! I know it’s probably calcium, but I have never had an air tube get clogged like this before and our water, which I use in my freshwater tanks, is really hard. (I use distilled and Instant Ocean for the Opae Ula) And, also, why now? The only change made was for me to take the air stone off the tube and it wasn’t clogged then. And why would taking the air stone off cause this? The only thing I could think of was that it stopped the creep up the tube. But why creep up the tube? I have not heard of anyone running air into their Opae Ula tanks having this problem. Go figure.

      Also, did you see that Fuku Bonsai are not going to be doing shrimp anymore? I haven’t had time to dig around and see if they said why.

      Hope your year is going well for you!


      • JimS says:

        Hi Robin. Sorry to hear about your brother. I can empathize. Took me a while to get over my dad’s passing.

        Thanks for sharing the problem re the clogged tube. For my UGF, I run an airline down the exhaust tube bare with no airstone on the end. The airstone was creating a lot of bubbles that caused salt creep. The same tough mineral deposit occurred on the end of one of these pick-up tubes. It wasn’t as bad as yours, but it would’ve gotten to that point eventually. I discovered it only because I was switching to the Aqualifters. The build-up was rock solid, and I had difficulty scraping it off. I decided to just cut the end off to reuse the line for the Aqualifter. This is something to look out for. Periodic checks a must.

        Yes, I was surprised to hear about Fuku Bonsai abandoning their opae’ula business. They were the pioneers for enlightened opae’ula care. They also provided a lot of information that’s been invaluable for hobbyists like us. Their article on Dr. Wayne Nishijima is just one example.

        I appreciate all that they did for our hobby, but I was always a bit uncomfortable about the business end of their educational goal.

        Apologies once again for the slow response. Work is leaving me little time for opae’ula. We’re in spring break now, but I still have a ton of work to catch up on that I’ve been putting off.

        Liked by 1 person

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