If you’re an optimist, you’d think that regular filtration methods should suffice. After all, you can use biological and mechanical filtration systems and even add chemical systems.
But an aquatic UV sterilizer can be your ultimate assurance when it comes to proper care of your marine aquarium and pond.
Benefits of an Aquatic UV Sterilizer
An aquatic UV sterilizer is a water filtration system that uses an ultraviolet light bulb to deal with various microorganisms that are harmful to your fish. You can use them on koi ponds to help control free-floating algae or in your freshwater aquarium to deal with the juvenile stages of ich.
The way it works is quite simple. Water passes through the in-line sterilizing unit, and the UV light mutates the various microorganisms that are in the water, too small for you to see. These algae, bacteria, viruses and even parasites are rendered unable to grow and multiply further.
So they can be used as an alternative to medication when you have a sick goldfish to care for. It can’t really be used with medication, as the UV light can turn treatments such as chelated copper into lethal ionic copper. Also, you don’t want to use this when you’re first cycling the planted aquarium since you’re using beneficial bacteria to attach to your gravel or bio-media. The UV doesn’t discriminate between good and bad bacteria at all.
They’re also very helpful when you have a reef tank and corals which can make it hard for you to catch and isolate diseased fish.
Buying Guide & Factors to Consider
So how do you find the right aquatic UV sterilizer for your aquarium, besides the price? Some types are for outdoor koi ponds, but for most aquarium owners it’s often a choice between the in-line and hang-on models.
The inline versions are attached directly to the main filtration system, and they’re mostly used for larger tanks.
The hang-on model can be mounted on the back of an aquarium as an independent device, and they’re usually easier to set up and maintain.
What other factors should you look for? Here are some questions you need to find answers for:
- Does it suit the size of your tank or environment? Some are meant for small marine aquarium tanks, while others are suited for large ponds.
- Can it deal with the microorganism you’re having trouble with? To kill parasites, a slower flow rate is required because they need a larger dose of UV radiation compared to what’s needed to deal with bacteria and viruses. Such a flow rate may be too impractical for larger tanks unless the wattage of the bulb is strong enough.
- What else do you need to buy for the unit to work? Some units may require you to buy the UV light bulb separately.
- How long do bulbs last? These can be very expensive, so you’ll want a longer-lasting model.
- How long do the other parts last? Some parts may break down too easily.
- Can the couplings fit easily into your system?
- How do you know that it’s working? It should have a light indicating that it’s “on”.
- How is the customer support? They should be able to help when you have questions and problems, and parts under warranty should be promptly replaced.
Top Rated Aquarium & Pond UV Sterilizers
Now with these in mind, you can go online and do your research. You may want to start your search with the following sterilizers:
1. Aqueon Quiet Flow UV Sterilizer
Now for some people, prevention is better than cure.
This Aqueon can work both ways, so it can be a cure for problems like freshwater ich in your planted aquarium when you can’t use medication that can harm the snails and shrimp in your tank.
You can also use this as a preventive measure so your goldfish can thrive.
This is a hang on back model and you can get either the 18-watt or the 9-watt type.
You better get the 18-watt version just to be on the safe side. It’s designed to be turned on continuously, although you use it with a timer.
- As an alternative to medication, it works very well. If you have an ich problem in your freshwater aquarium, you see the visible signs disappear completely in less than 2 weeks. For other problems (or smaller tanks) the signs of improvement can show in just a few days or even a few hours. So you won’t have to bother with catching the fish, and you won’t have to worry about possibly harming your corals or the invertebrates with the medication.
- It’s very easy to set up, although that’s probably true of a lot of HOB units. You just need to put in the light, hang it up, plug it in, and you’re done.
- The build quality is fairly decent, so you won’t have to worry that it will break down anytime soon. It has the same sturdiness as your typical Aqueon filter.
- There are 2 lights that indicate the UV is working.
- It’s not usually all that noisy either.
- It’s a bit large, so you’ll need quite a bit of space between the wall and the aquarium. But if you already have a HOB filter there, you’ll probably be fine.
- There are still some quality control issues, with intermittent complaints online about noise and failure after only a few months of use.
2. AquaUltraviolet Advantage 2000+
With 15 watts, this inline sterilizer is quite effective, especially for smaller tanks. It’s actually priced lower than many other models, but it’s
The flow rate can go up to 1800
- You only need to buy some tubing and hose clamps that will make it compatible with your filter. With the right ones, the installation is rather simple.
- It does a great job for reef tank units of up to 100 gallons. It can work for ponds too, although it may take a couple of weeks.
- The build quality is top notch.
- The customer service is superb and won’t have any trouble with replacing parts under warranty.
- It can be a pain trying to find the size of hoses for your pump filter.
- There’s no indicator light when it’s working.
- You’re probably better off with the hang-on version. It has the same capabilities but you don’t have any installation issues. It even has an indicator light.
3. OASE Vitronic 18 UV Clarifier
Algae problems can ruin a beautiful koi pond or water garden.
Ultraviolet light (UV) will kill suspended algae and clear the pond water.
The OASE Vitronic line of UV clarifiers are economical entry-level UVs designed to be used with OASE BioSmart pond filters.
They can also be used with any pond filter as a stand-alone clarifier.
The Vitronic 18 uses an 18-watt UV-C lamp in a compact plastic housing.
The UV unit can be easily tucked away, out of sight, measuring a slim 21 x 7 x 5 inches (LxWxH) in size. The barbed hose fittings allow for 1, 1-1/4, and 1-1/2-inch (I.D.) hose.
The maximum flow rate for the Vitronic 18 is 925 gallons per hour.
OASE recommends the AquaMax Eco Classic or the AquaMax Premium 2000 water pump for the Vitronic clarifier. OASE provides a long 16-foot power cord, making installation very easy. The clear hose barbs glow blue indicating the light is functioning properly.
The Vitronic 18 is rated for ponds and water gardens up to 5280 gallons.
- Quickly clears pond water.
- Easy disassembly for UV bulb replacement.
- Light operation can be checked.
- Replacement parts are available.
- 16-foot power cord.
- Solid construction.
- Two-year warranty.
- Costs slightly more than budget clarifiers.
4. TetraPond GreenFree UVC-9 Clarifier
The GreenFree UV Clarifier eliminates green water with a 9-watt UV-C bulb.
The UVC-9 Clarifier is rated for ponds and water gardens up to 1800 gallons.
The clarifier should be positioned after the water pump and before the pond filter.
This allows the dead and dying algae to be captured in the filter and not settle in the pond.
The pond water clears up in one to two weeks after installation.
The green plastic housing blends easily into the landscape. The stepped hose barbs accept 3/4", 1", 1 1/4" ID tubing.
The housing has a window feature that makes checking on the UV light easy. The inlet and outlets are on opposite sides of the clarifier body. This could make house routing a little more difficult compared to clarifiers with outlets on the same side.
The recommended maximum water flow rate is 900 gph.
The UV bulb is rated for 11 months of continuous operation, which would be approximately three years in locations with winter months. Replacement bulbs and parts are available. The TetraPond UVC-9 clarifier comes with a 15-foot power cord.
- Very effective algae control.
- Simple to hook up.
- Long power cord.
- Three-year warranty.
- Good customer service.
- Economical price.
- Hose barb does not accept common 1-1/2-inch tubing.
- Some units arrive with broken UV bulbs.
- Opposing Inlet and outlet layout.
5. Lifegard Aquatics AquaStep Pro
This is the QL series, with light bulbs ranging from 10 to 240 watts.
It has a sleeve that keeps the water away from the light bulb, and the bulbs are rated to last a year before you replace it.
The design also lets you change the bulb without shutting down the filter system or the pump.
- This can be very effective, as you can get powerful UV lights. With the QL-25, you can clear a 1,300-gallon pond in 4 days.
- Their effectiveness is also increased by the use of pure hard quartz material instead of glass.
- Quite a few people have reported quality control issues.
6. Pondmaster 40-Watt Ultra Violet Light Pond Water Clarifier
If you have a pond on your property, you know how bad the algae problem can be.
They sure are ugly, and they can really stink up the joint. If that’s your problem, this can be a viable solution.
The UV light is powerful at 40-watts, and it’s even submersible. You can use it for pumps with a flow rate of 3,000 gph and it can be used for po
This needs to be fitted into your
- When it’s working, it’s extremely effective for algae problems. It only deals with the free algae and not the algae that cling to the sides. When you’ve fitted it into your bio filter, all you need to do is to change the filter pads regularly. In about 2 to 3 weeks, the improvement can astonish you. In smaller ponds, it may even take just a day or two. Not all that many sterilizers out there can do the job for large ponds, at least not in this price range.
- The customer support can be extremely helpful if the product is within the warranty period. If your ballast breaks down, a replacement can be delivered in just a few days. They may even throw in a new light bulb for good measure.
- The installation is fairly easy, at least for most people. And it can even be submerged, which is rarity for UV sterilizers.
- The UV light they use may burn out a bit too quickly. At this wattage, these bulbs can be expensive.
- The ballasts do tend to have issues as well, and they’re also expensive to replace once the warranty period is over. That’s the main issue with this Pondmaster: it’s fantastic when it’s working. But it can stop working sooner than you’d like.
I’d probably recommend the AquaUltraviolet Advantage 2000, but in the HOB version. It just has everything you really need: it’s very effective, the installation is easy, the build quality is decent, and it’s very affordable.
For ponds, Lifegard Aquatics AquaStep Pro may be the way to go, especially when you get the more powerful light bulbs.
If you feel differently, send in your comments! Tell us about your own experiences with your UV sterilizer, and send some tips as well.