UV Sterilizers, which to choose and why?

JRFReef65

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Ever since BRS did a video on UV's and QT I have seen a lot more people talking about UV's. Naturally most purchase what BRS pushes / sells which is fine and dandy (I also love BRS) but I suggest everyone do their research.

When selecting the right UV you need to determine what it is that you are trying to control in your aquarium. Typically, most people select a UV to control either Algae (of various kinds) or parasites (of various kinds). Make sure you do not select a unit that is too undersized to do the job you are selecting the UV for. Also keep in mind selecting a very large unit could cause a lot of unwanted heat in your aquarium. UV's are essentially heaters that are on ALL the time unlike a normal heater that cycles on and off to regulate the temp. One other thing I see discussed from time to time is “part time usage” I have not personally done testing on only running a UV part time I.E. 12hrs on and 12hrs off, however Bulk Reef Supply makes suggestions that it is almost pointless and I tend to think the same.

One thing to keep in mind is the yearly maintenance cost for replacing O-rings, bulbs, seals, sleeves / liners (if replaceable). I also recommend checking around to make sure parts are readily available for the unit you are looking to purchase. What happens if the Quartz sleeve breaks? or the ballast goes out? can you buy those separately? What happens if you upgrade tanks and need to replumb it can you replace the end caps / fitting? No matter which unit you choose I highly recommend keeping up with the proper yearly maintenance to ensure your UV is always working optimally. Typically, after a year of use the bulbs output has been reduced by roughly 20-30% which is normally accounted for in the advertised rating of the unit but this is not always the case on cheaper units.

Of course keep in mind the overall size / dimensions of the unit. Will it fit where you need it to? Will you be able to remove it from your system semi-easily for its yearly maintenance? Does the unit come with mounting hardware or do you have to purchase that separately? Surprising most units do not come with a way to mount them. Do the fittings provide flexibility for different mounting options? What is the diameter of the housing? The larger the housing diameter the longer the contact time. The longer the contact time the better chances the UV will kill what you are trying to kill. Some companies use 2" housings some use 3"- 5" housing. Don’t get hung up on the input and output sizes as you can just reduce the fittings down to accommodate your current plumbing diameter. A 2” output can easily be reduced to 3/4'” pipe / hose (standard return sizing).

Keep in mind that the very components that the sterilizer is built out of (PVC) is also affected by the UV light. Most quality units are built out of UV resistant PVC, keyword is "resistant". Cheap units aren’t even built using UV resistant PVC. Some units have replaceable PVC liners protecting the actual housing. Some have lifetime warranties on the housings. Keep in mind most all warranties apply to the original owner with proof of purchase. Do you want to spend the extra time to replace liners yearly? or deal with possibly replacing the entire housing IF it should ever fail from UV exposer. I do suggest staying away from units not utilizing UV resistant PVC or units utilizing poor quality overseas PVC. As the UV exposure will quickly start breaking down the PVC and cause it to leech into your aquarium which can wreak havoc on your fish and corals.

Now, that is out of the way here is what "I" like and why "I" choose it. I choose the Lifegard Aquatics Pro-MAX high output Amalgam 90watt unit for my 300+ gallon system. Cost was $396, it is a high-quality unit, all replacement parts are available, has replaceable PVC liners unlike most units on the market. The power supply has a countdown day meter (kind of like a reverse hour meter) that lets you know when it’s time to service the unit (no other unit has this feature). I also really like how the input and outputs can swivel which makes the mounting and plumbing options extremely flexible. I also like the low yearly maintenance cost, the fact it includes hardware to mount the unit, and it has an Amalgam bulb which maintains its light output better than standard bulbs.

Below are some price comparisons on actual UV sterilizers, yearly maintenance cost and spare parts. I obtained these prices from Marine Depot, Bulk Reef Supply, and Amazon. Pricing and availability may change and you may be able to find better pricing if shopping around at pond supply shops, online lighting shops or even purchasing your yearly supplies during Black Friday sales. Also keep in mind there are many other sizes, options and suppliers, these are just some of the more common units used on larger aquariums.


Some of the more popular UV sterilizer's pricing.

Lifegard Aquatics Pro-MAX 55 watt 3" $274
Lifegard Aquatics Pro-MAX 90 watt 3" $396
Lifegard Aquatics Pro-MAX 120 watt 3" $643

Pentair Aquatics 40 watt $399
Pentair Aquatics 50 watt $739
Pentair Aquatics 80 watt $779

Aqua Ultraviolet 40 watt $436
Aqua Ultraviolet 57 watt $476
Aqua Ultraviolet 80 watt $756



Some of the more popular UV sterilizer's yearly maintenance cost.

Lifegard Aquatics Pro-MAX 55 watt 3" $74 Includes bulb, O-rings, PVC liners / sleeves
Lifegard Aquatics Pro-MAX 90 watt 3" $84 Includes bulb, O-rings, PVC liners / sleeves
Lifegard Aquatics Pro-MAX 120 watt 3" $109 Includes bulb, O-rings, PVC liners / sleeves

Pentair Aquatics 40 watt $108 includes bulb and O-rings
Pentair Aquatics 50 watt $100 includes bulb and O-rings
Pentair Aquatics 80 watt $110 includes bulb and O-rings

Aqua Ultraviolet 40 watt $95 includes bulb and O-rings
Aqua Ultraviolet 57 watt $73 includes bulb and O-rings
Aqua Ultraviolet 80 watt $190 includes 2 bulb and O-rings

Some of the more popular UV sterilizer's cost to replace the ballast or the Quartz sleeve.

Lifegard Aquatics Pro-MAX 55 watt 3" Ballast $138, Quartz sleeve $35
Lifegard Aquatics Pro-MAX 90 watt 3" Ballast $138, Quartz sleeve $38
Lifegard Aquatics Pro-MAX 120 watt 3"Ballast $138, Quartz sleeve $43

Pentair Aquatics 40 watt Ballast $110, Quartz sleeve $46
Pentair Aquatics 50 watt Ballast $110, Quartz sleeve $46
Pentair Aquatics 80 watt Ballast $133, Quartz sleeve $46

Aqua Ultraviolet 40 watt Ballast $107-$154, Quartz sleeve $84
Aqua Ultraviolet 57 watt Ballast $110, Quartz sleeve $51
Aqua Ultraviolet 80 watt Ballast $161, Quartz sleeve $168


I also want to note you may want to look into if the UV's power supplies have any known issues running through GFCI power outlets. I have read a lot of complaints lately that the Pentair's power supplies continually trip GFCI outlets every few hours. I would also take a few bad reviews as a grain of salt as more people tend to leave reviews when things aren’t working right rather than when everything is perfect.

Below is an old picture of a 360 watt UV that I use to run many moons ago. You will notice how you can actually see the UV light through the tubes because they have gotten so thin over the years of UV exposer. You will also see how repairs had to be made because the tubes got paper thin and they started leaking. This is one of the reasons why I like the replaceable sleeves on the Lifegard Pro-Max units.

I hope you Guys and Gals fine this little write up helpful in making a choice on the right UV for your application.
Thanks for the great write up. I just went fallow with my DT and wanted to add a UV Sterilizer. Through all my researching this is great info and I’m sold on Lifegard. I just called them for my questions on flow, best way to install with my existing equip., and heat. They were extremely helpful and knowledgeable, great costumer support. I also extensively searched for best price. I found the Lifegard Aquatics Pro-MAX 25 watt 3" For $181.24
Lifegard Aquatics Pro-MAX 55 watt 3" for $210.51
at https://www.aquaticed.com/products/lifegard-pro-max-uv-sterilizer?variant=30389904277557 Just wanted to share this info. ;)
 

Badilac

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Thanks for the great write up. I just went fallow with my DT and wanted to add a UV Sterilizer. Through all my researching this is great info and I’m sold on Lifegard. I just called them for my questions on flow, best way to install with my existing equip., and heat. They were extremely helpful and knowledgeable, great costumer support. I also extensively searched for best price. I found the Lifegard Aquatics Pro-MAX 25 watt 3" For $181.24
Lifegard Aquatics Pro-MAX 55 watt 3" for $210.51
at https://www.aquaticed.com/products/lifegard-pro-max-uv-sterilizer?variant=30389904277557 Just wanted to share this info. ;)

Glad I could be of help and thanks for the links above that is great info for anyone shopping around. I have had the same experience calling them and still have had zero issues with my 90 watt
 

Reefhog

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Chicago, IL
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I replaced my first lamp on my Pro Max 90 watt over the weekend. The countdown clock is a great feature and alarms at 365 days. There is an option to extend a 7 day alarm or reset the 365 day clock. Everything went very smoothly. I took the opportunity to replace the pvc inner sleeves and cleaned the quartz tube with citric acid. Disassembled the return pump and cleaned as well. Had everything up and running in an hour and a half. I have a replacement quartz tube that I was going to swap out so I didn’t have to wait the 20 minutes or so to clean the existing one but I couldn’t get the small gasket off easily and was afraid I’d break the tube if I forced it. I will order a spare gasket for next maintenance (6 months quartz cleaning/replacement). FYI, to clean the quartz tube, I capped a 1” pvc pipe and filled with citric acid and tap water and pushed it in there for 20 minutes. Came out crystal clear.
 
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