Mastering Freshwater Aquarium Ecosystems
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Aquarium Equipment (Cont.)

Air Pump

Air pumps have many uses in the aquarium hobby. Most common use for an air pump is to drive the filtration system of UG, box, and sponge filters. They are also used to create extra current, and as a decorative bubble stream. They are commonly used to create continuous current in a brine shrimp hatchery. Most air pumps will require periodic maintenance to replace worn diaphragms that push the air through air line to the aquarium.

Gang Valve

Gang valves are used to divide the main air line tube from the air pump into multiple lines. This is often done to provide air for multiple air driven filters. When you use an gang valve, any excess air that is not needed should be bled off through an unused valve. This will help prevent premature wear of the diaphragm in the air pump.

Surge Protector

Surge protectors are very useful for connecting your aquarium equipment up to a power source. Typically, I like to have two surge protectors for my aquarium displays, one for lights, and one for pumps, filters, and heaters. Surge protectors allow you to turn off the power to the equipment with one switch before you start a water change.


Timers are used to control when the lighting system and CO2 turn on and off. They keep a consistent day/night cycle for the aquarium ecosystem. Lights are plugged into a surge protector, and then the surge protector is plugged into the timer. Some timers available are digital, and have a battery backup that will keep the time in case of a power outage.

Ultraviolet Sterilizer

Coralife Turbo Twist UVs

Coralife Turbo Twist Ultraviolet Sterilizers. Photo from Coralife.

Ultraviolet sterilizer (UV) is used to sterilize the water as it passes through a cylinder that has a lamp that emits ultraviolet light. They are used in aquariums and ponds to kill green water algae, parasites, bacteria, and viruses that are in the water column. The effectiveness of a UV has many factors, flow rate, wattage, water clarity, and cleanliness of the quartz sleeve. Manufacturers of UV sterilizers typically will provide a guide on the recommended flow rate through the unit to kill green water algae, ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis), and bacteria. Green water algae can be killed with a short dwell time of exposure to the UV light.

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