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Tips For Using A UV Sterilizer To Control Algae

A UV sterilizer is a very effective tool for controlling algae. In this article you'll learn how a UV sterilizer works, the different types available, and things to be aware of.


Whether you are new to the hobby or an experienced aquarist, you are likely to encounter problems with algae growth at one time or another. While tanks that are kept in direct sunlight are more likely to experience excessive algae growth, algae can grow in any aquarium. There are many methods aquarium hobbyists use to remove and control algae and some are more effective than others. Introducing algae-eating species of fish into your tank is a simple way to keep algae growth at a minimum and limiting the amount of light your tank gets will also help. There is one method, however, that can be very effective but many novice aquarium hobbyists know nothing about it: UV sterilization.

What is UV Sterilization?

uv lamp xs 7551264Because algae is microscopic, it could be growing in your aquarium right under your nose without your realizing it until it becomes a problem. In order to prevent algae growth from becoming a nuisance, many aquarium hobbyists use a piece of aquarium equipment called a UV sterilizer. A UV sterilizer utilizes ultraviolet light, which targets microscopic organisms like algae, parasites and bacteria, shortening the life cycle of the organism. The shorter the organism’s life cycle, the less likely it is to reproduce and cause a problem in your tank. When it comes to algae, this means that individual algae cells are less likely to reproduce and to create algae blooms. The way a UV sterilizer works is through a special fluorescent bulb which emits light at a wavelength of 253.7 nanometers. As aquarium water is filtered through the UV chamber, it is exposed to the light and irradiated.

Benefits of UV Sterilizers

algae xs 13554472One of the biggest benefits of UV sterilizers for algae control is that they are very easy to use. Most sterilizers come with easy-to-follow instructions that even novice aquarium hobbyists can follow without confusion. Although a UV sterilizer is an additional piece of equipment to add to your aquarium, it actually works in conjunction with your existing filtration system in order to reduce algae growth. UV sterilizers come in a variety of forms – some can be hung directly on the tank near the filter, while others can be concealed in-line with a canister filter. Because they are available in so many different forms, you can choose the UV sterilizer that best suits your needs and your particular tank set-up. An additional benefit of UV sterilizers is their effectiveness at killing any viruses or pathogens that may be present in the water column. This is particularly useful in situations where the whole tank has become infected.

Things to Be Aware Of

Though UV sterilizers can be very effective in terms of limiting algae growth, they are not a complete solution. Ultraviolet light only affects free-floating organisms, so a UV sterilizer may not be effective against existing algae growths on plants as well as tank walls and decorations. You should also be aware that the function of your UV sterilizer depends in part on your filtration system. UV sterilizers can be installed directly in-line with a canister filter or positioned alongside other types of filtration systems. Regardless which filtration system you use, the flow rate of the return water should be controlled in order to achieve the best result. The flow rate of your filter will determine the amount of time algae cells in the water are exposed to the UV light as they pass through the sterilizer. Also, you should never look directly into a UV lamp as this could cause eye damage!

Tips for Choosing and Using UV Sterilizers

uv lamp s 1506199As is true of any piece of aquarium equipment, it is important to select the right unit for your particular tank size. UV sterilizers come in various wattages ranging from 4 to 130 watts. Read the information on the packaging in order to determine what the recommended tank size is for each sterilizer you are considering. In addition to size, you also need to consider which type of UV sterilizer best suits your needs. If you have a large aquarium or a complex external filtration system, an in-line UV sterilizer which can be installed directly into the filtration unit may be best. Hang-on sterilizers typically utilize smaller bulbs and are thus recommended for smaller tanks. Though you may be tempted to shop by price (a UV sterilizer typically costs upwards of $40), it is better to use the needs and setup of your aquarium as the major deciding factors in your purchase of a UV sterilizer. This will ensure that the sterilizer you purchase is well-suited to your aquarium and that it will get the job done.

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