. Aquarium and Pond UV Sterilizer, Clarifier Reviews; Problems

UV Sterilizer Reviews; Information Articles, Ideas, Comments, and Links to even more Resources about how UVC Sterilization works in Aquariums/ Ponds

aquarium and pond UV posts, information, articles, resources, blogs

Information Articles (Posts), Ideas, Comments, & Links to even more Information about how UV (UVC) Sterilization works in Aquariums/ Ponds.
For a COMPLETE up to date article about aquarium and pond uv sterilization, please visit this site:
UV Sterilization in Aquariums and Ponds; How it works

For all Articles, from basic to advanced, such as UVC, Watts, mW/cm2, please scroll down the Right Side Bar of this site for easy links

Tropical Marine Centre vs Evolution Aqua UV Pond & Aquarium Clarifier Sterilizers

There's been some talk lately of the release of new pond and aquarium UVc clarifier sterilizer tech in the aquatic hobby as of 2023/24. Bringing these advances are the leaders in aquatic UV industry Tropical Marine Centre and Evolution Aqua. Some may know that TMC has been the innovators of UV tech for decades now with coming out of the UK as a professional commercial standard for their UV line.

Before we talk about the new tech, there should be a reminder of why UVc itself is important for aquatic health. I'll touch on this briefly as there's more resources to go into this topic further.
UVc when used properly can either clarify water or reduce algae. It can also be disease prevention with actual sterilization, where bacteria, viruses, and parasites can be controlled. All this with allowing the aquatic water to boost immunity of fish and arguably of invents, corals, and even plants.
Here’s an in-depth resource on sterilization and how it’s been proven to be beneficial:
UV Sterilization Article

Lately both have introduced a new line of Titanium lined chambers allowing for max reflection of UV rays on the outer wall, but also the titanium has a reaction with the UV creating an oxidizing effect with Hydroxyl. This oxidizing Hydroxyl is like Ozone, as an oxidizer to help break down, but is short lived. The free radical is not stable unlike Ozone allowing them to break down quickly and not build up too dangerously in an aquarium or pond.
An ORP meter can be used to measure this effect, but the effects will vary from application to application. We should also remember that UVc itself is a reducer and breaks down oxidizers, so there will be balance between the Hydroxyl and the UVc. Just like an aquarium medication like Eye Fungus where both a oxidizer and reducer are used at the same time, but separately, making an ever effective treatment that's much safer. Balancing oxidizers and reducers in a closed system like an aquarium or pond is known as Redox Potential (ORP) and can be learned in depth here: Redox Potential

So, it's been asked what's the difference between TMC and EvoUv. Both leader manufacturers in the aquatic industry from the UK.

The two lines are true competitors in the UK, with taking very similar approach and tech. The only thing that might make them different is business practices. Tropical Marine Centre has specifically marketed reef keepers, freshwater and pond. Evolution Aqua has focused on pond marketing for their UVs with being a major player in pool applications. They also produce pond clarifiers and other products for other pond and aquarium brands on the US/UK market for affiliates.

What they both have that makes them the highest grade on the market is they both use a high output T8 lamp that connects at both ends of the sterilizer. Having no intensity drop off end to end of the lamp and the fact that the units use a T8 over a T5, means more surface area of zapping power. The T5 that other popular brands use is a much narrower lamp. Both also have a narrow enough chamber to keep the water close to the lamp even on the outer walls of the chamber. Both have a larger chamber unit for pond flows and narrower chambers for aquariums. I'll touch on this again in a minute.

They're both made with high grade PVC for long term exposure to UVc, the sun and rain or moisture. Both have very easily replaceable service parts with professional warranties on the units. Many UVs are marketed as sterilizers when they can only clarify and have 1-3 year lifespans. These professional units last 10years plus and have replaceable parts.

So, both have new technology, but here’s where the two lines differ at this point. Evolution Aqua has not released their Titanium model to the US market yet for the aquarium or pond market. TMC has only the aquarium UVs, but not their pond. As I said before, TMC and EvoAqua both have a marketed pond line of clarifiers and an aquarium line of sterilizers. The difference is that the aquarium units have even more narrow chambers for slower flows, smaller bodies of water for max zap power. The pond line has a bit bigger chamber for higher flows larger application. Due to the professional build of both clarification and sterilization can be set up for the correct applications for both the clarifiers and sterilizers.

So, TMC has the new Titanium tech aquarium sterilizers in the US, with the old pond line. Though there's talk of the new Titanium pond line coming to the US. And there's only the pond line without the Titanium tech from EvoUV where the flow rates have to be adjusted a little compared to the aquarium line. There has not been any talk of bringing the EvoUV aquarium line or the Titanium to the US yet. This comes down to demand, as the electrical rating in the UK is 220v and the US 110v and all units have to be set up correctly for the electrical.

I should mention, that even before the Titanium upgrade was made to the UVs, these designs of UV clarifier sterilizers could achieve the highest level of sterilization for max benefit aquatic water can benefit from. Level 2 sterilization. So, if you’re looking for UV benefits it’s already here. It’s the new oxidizing hydroxyl is what the hobby can decide if they want to explore with their tank.

Only other thing I can think of that may be silly is manufacture packaging. The EvoUV comes with the quartz sleeve and lamp packed sperate in the box. TMC comes all installed. The plug and play of the TMC is very nice, with some assembly required for the EvoUV, but will insure the sterilizer and parts don't damage in transport.

That's all for now, but we'll provide updates as the industry and hobby continues to change. Since there hasn't been much change in UVc for some time and people thinking UVc LEDs were going to be the next step of innovation we thought it was worth sharing about these two aquatic manufacturer leaders.

TMC and EvoUV Product Resource

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Aquarium-Pond UV Sterilizer Review; Discount Cheap Clarifiers


Revised 12-25-18

Aquarium, Pond UV Sterilizer Review

The Aquarium UV Sterilizer market has now been mostly taken over by Category C UV Sterilizers which are not capable of level one or two sterilization unlike 'Category B' or especially 'Category C' units.

While these cheap UV clarifiers masquerading as true UV Sterilizers have been around for some time, misguided Obama era regulation outlawing high output magnetic ballasts in 2014, has made just obtaining a UV clarifier that can fire the High Output UV lamps capable of running a 'Category B' or especially 'Category A' UV Sterilizer difficult to find if at all in some size UV Sterilizers.

In depth UV Sterilizer information:
Aquarium Pond UV Sterilizer Use; Facts & Information

Why does this matter?
High output UV lamps/bulbs have 35% UVC versus common low output UV lamps which have about 7-10% UVC. This is FOUR TIMES the UVC output!!
These same HO UV lamps require a surge voltage to start that is often 500+ volts which most modern cheap electronic ballast simply cannot do or at least for more than a couple of starts.
Reference: High Output UVC Emission from a UV Bulb/Lamp; Aquarium or Pond

The reason for this law was for efficiency of fluorescent lights, which is fine for your average hardware store fluorescent light fixture, but NOT for a high output UV Sterilizer.
This law opened the door for even more cheap Chinese UV Clarifiers masquerading as true UV Sterilizer to flood the market.

It also takes some education to understand this, but one does not need be a rocket scientist either.
One confusing aspect for consumers is they will see the same model number such as CUV-118 and assume that two models at very different prices are one in the same, WHEN IN FACT THEY ARE NOT!
When a retailer orders something from China, it can be ordered to certain specifications at a different price (think Apple with the iPhone as these have been manufactured in China, but to standards set forward by Apple).

When one considers the wide price of ballasts and HO UV lights versus low output UV lights, price alone is an easy indicator.
You cannot sell an 18 Watt UV Sterilizer with "free shipping" (which requires the seller to pay shipping) and pay eBay fees of 10%+ for $60 when the actual cost of a true Category B CUV-118 Terminator UV is well above $60 and stay in business.
So obviously these sellers (such as one eBay seller in China operating out of a home Hacienda Heights, CA.) are selling UVs with standard ballasts/power supplies and low output UV lamps, so all you are getting is a Category C UV Clarifier.

Aquarium, Pond UV Sterilizer Ballast Comparison BALLAST/POWER SUPPLY COSTS:
Let's take a look at a 55 Watt Ballast/Power Supply.
A "GE UltraStart GE254MVPS-A (67562) T5HO Programmed Start Ballast" is selling online $19.40.
While a "TMC 55- 58 Watt High Output Electronic Ballast" sells for $75.99.
One might argue that the $75.99 ballast could be cheaper, however one cannot reduce the price by almost 75% and be profitable.
HO Ballast Reference/Resource: TMC 55- 58 Watt HO Electronic Ballast

Now back to your UV Clarifier you see listed on eBay of Amazon for $60, it becomes quite obvious that this is simply NOT possible to have a True Category A or B UV Sterilizer at this price. Yet so many fall for this.

This in turn creates another problem which is fed by social media and Google with its current search no longer considers content & authority, rather popularity in social media.
People will purchase these cheap 'Category C' UV Clarifiers then report back to social media that they did nothing for disease prevention nor little for Redox balance improvement and often are not all that good for clarification.
This will be accepted as science based fact when in fact it is not and next thing you know you have people stating UV Sterilizers are mostly useless despite real evidence to the contrary.

With this law, many ultra premium Category A UV Sterilizers have unfortunately been permanently retired. However some of these premium Category A UVs have had electronic ballasts sourced that will work or in one case a European model (not subject to the law) has been used instead, although it requires being supplied with a 220V to 110V converter.
As per Category B UVs, these are still generally available in most cases (although the before mentioned 18 Watt version is currently unavailable).

*AAP/SunSun Terminator Version HO Category B UV Sterilizers
*AAP/TMC Vecton/Advantage Category A Ultra Premium UV Sterilizers


*Sunsun Canister Filter Parts; 704, 404, 403, 402, & more
*AquaRay LED Lighting; From the ONLY true professional online seller! Beware of a parasite retailer selling this product out of a home that does not really know this product.
*Wonder Shell for Improved Aquarium Redox Balance Another tool besides a category A or B UV Sterilizer to improve aquarium redox balance and thus improve over all fish health.

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Aquarium-Pond UV Sterilizer History


Last Updated: 3/2/2019

Aquarium-Pond UV Sterilizer History (from my professional perspective dating back to 1978)

True Aquarium UV Sterilizers as well as Clarifiers have actually changed very little in the what's important and defines a useful sterilizer (which most of the Sterilizers now sold by discounters such as Amazon, eBay, AquaTop, Chewy.com, etc, are actually just Clarifiers). This is unlike aquarium lighting and some other aspects of aquarium (& pond) keeping that have changed radically.

What has changed is how they are packaged and sold.

Decades back, most all UV Sterilizers used low pressure UVC bulbs/lamps, but now many use medium pressure and/or cold cathode UV lamps, which are much less efficient, but vastly less expensive. About the only differences were how the containment unit was designed, which affected exposure/dwell time and the use of a quartz sleeve or not.
As well, when new ideas came out, which did not work well, these were quickly retired as the industry was mostly driven by professional use and serious aquarium supply stores.
Unfortunately of late, some of these same bad designs have resurfaced, but are surviving in our "sound-bite", Internet, big box retailer, & Amazon/eBay review world where measured science/experience based results do not matter anymore.

This is quite unfortunate, as this has allowed many poor quality UVs to survive, which use medium pressure UV lamps (which provide about 1/4 the UVC of a quality low pressure lamp), poor designs such as some of the "Hang on the Back" designs, which nothing more than copies of the failed Nektonics designs from the late 70s to early 80s, as well as submersible UV that not only include the first two faults, but also do not include important pre-filtration (these are commonly sold by Amazon).
This result has further helped with the myth that a UV Sterilizer is good for nothing more than clarification when in fact this is only true of UV Clarifiers (or UV Clarifiers that are marketed as UV Sterilizers but in reality are far from a TRUE Category A capable UV Sterilizer). The truth is a TRUE category A UV Sterilizer can demonstrably do so much more from disease prevention to lowering oxidative stress in the aquarium (or pond)


So the purpose of this article is to provide some history of the aquarium/pond UV going back to about 1978, so as to help reader make better informed decisions before purchasing such an important piece of aquarium or pond equipment, which not only is well known for helping with clarity, but also with some disease prevention, as well as the lessor known help a good UV provide with Redox Balance, which in turn improves fish and other aquarium inhabitant immunity.

Some Background- I have been in the hobby since about 1967 and professionally employed since 1978. One of my expertise fields is fish disease prevention where I have carried out dozens experiments, along as made literally 1000s of observations in the 1000s of client's aquariums over the year in my care. UV Sterilization in particular became a major interest for me where I performed many experiments, and made many more observations. I also designed my own UV units to further experiment with. In addition, I also regularly attended trade shows and spoke with many experts in this field too which include Aquanetics and Aquatronics.

I will provide highlights of certain UV Sterilizers that I had considerable experience with and also represents important aspects and key developments of aquarium/pond UV Sterilizers. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list.
Also any times given are not meant to be exact, as well these are based on my time of use, not the years they were available to the general public.

  • Aquanetics UV Sterilizers:

    Aquanetics UV SterilizerCirca 1978- 1990?
    These are one of the best early UV Sterilizers I used and would also in turn recommend and sell based on results.

    These were generally an in-line UV Sterilizer that utilized 15, 25, & 30 Watt T8 style low pressure UV lamps/bulbs.
    Many of these also were straight water contact with the lamp with no quartz sleeve, although quartz sleeve models did become available too.
    The Aquanetics at the time I used these utilized reliable magnetic ballasts with starters, most of which the ballast themselves rarely went bad unless there was a leak in a seal and water got to the ballast.

    Most of these UVs lasted a decade or more, had an excellent dwell time and most importantly produced excellent results both by dozens observations and a few controlled test later in the 1980s using a bare tank with cloudy water and timing the clearing time.

    Aquanetics UV Sterilizer versus LifeguardIn fact I had an Aquanetics 15 IL UV mated to a canister filter that I used to rotate to client aquariums that did not have a running UV. However one time I had client that already had a working LifeGuard 8 watt where the tank was cloudy, so I added this Aquanetics UV and within two hours the customer called and told me the tank was crystal clear.
    This really sold me on this line of UVs which I later performed tests on as it made me realize in my early years that not all UVs were equal. Later as Aquanetics became difficult to obtain I went with the TMC line of UVs (which unfortunately of late are also becoming difficult to obtain world flooded by cheap UV Sterilizers

  • Nektonics UV Sterilizers that connected to filters:

    Circa 1978- 1981?
    When these came out, I thought that this UV was a great idea as it allowed a compact UV that utilized a "non-traditional" 5 watt "bulb shaped" UV lamp whereby water was circulated in a non regulated fashion around the lamp. This UV connected easily to lift tubes such as the excellent Nektonics Under Gravel filter (their UV filters with their patented corrugated design were vastly more efficient than other flat plate UG filters).

    Unfortunately, the design allowed for constant calcium deposits on and around the lamp. The design also did not establish a very good flow pattern and thus a reliable dwell time was not assured. The distance from the lamp to the wall of the UV sterilization chamber was also higher than the Aquanetics resulting in poor sterilization capabilities.

    So in the end where I bought over a dozen of these UV Sterilizers, I found that while they could perform some clarification (even then taking much longer than the Nektonics), these simply were not a very good UV.
    An example would be, I had several marine oodinium outbreaks with these UVs in place, but once swapped out for the Aquanetics, while I still had an occasional incidence of oodinium, it was easily cut by 75% in the dozen marine tanks I swapped out UVs for

    This is not to knock Nektonics, as at the time they were often a cutting edge manufacturer of aquarium products, especially aimed at the growing in popularity marine fish keeping hobby, these were just unfortunately a "fail" that I learned from as I worked with UV Sterilizers in the future, including in designing some custom UVs of my own.

    Sadly, this design has come back from the grave in many HOB type UV sterilizers, that often also utilize medium pressure UV bulbs/lamps (at least the Nektonics used a low pressure UV lamp). These HOB units under the name of Aqueon, Aquatop and others are commonly sold by Amazon and other mass merchandisers, and sadly promoted by some inexperienced YouTubers such as "My Aquarium Box"
    So be wary of wasting your money on these, no matter how appealing the $30-$50 price for a UV Sterilizer combined with a filter that hangs on the back of your aquarium. In reality, these nothing more than basic filter with a pretty blue light inside them!!

    Further Reading About Medium Pressure UV Bulbs:
    Actual UV-C Emission from a UV Bulb; Aquarium or Pond

  • Lifeguard Modular UV Sterilizers (Models QL-8 & QL-15:

    Lifeguard modular UV SterilizerCirca 1978- ?
    The Lifeguard modular QL Sterilizers were/are a popular UV Sterilizer, which I did not initially purchase for my clients, but inherited at 10+ from clients who purchased their aquarium equipment elsewhere then contacted me for aquarium maintenance.
    These are a solid construction UV Sterilizer.
    These LifeGuard UVs used newer T5 lamps (smaller diameter than T8), but any improved efficiencies from these lamps were lost by a poor design that had poor water/UVC contact.

    In one example, I had a new client with a new LifeGuard QL UV, which had a cloudy 55 gallon hex shaped aquarium (which clearing an aquarium is generally a basic ability of UV Sterilizers). I brought over an Aquanetics 15 Watt run by a canister filter I used for moving from aquarium to aquarium, this aquarium was clear in a matter of hours.
    In every case I changed out these UV Sterilizers, I found similar improvements, although not all this dramatic. As with Nektonics, Lifegaurd has made many excellent products over the years, however my experience was these simply were not the best UV Sterilizer design. As well, like many Lifeguard products, these were over priced in my view, and Lifeguard was never very good at supporting aquarium professionals, often under selling to mail order and later discount online sellers rather than full service sellers (both online and stores), so in the end I am not a "fan" of this company.

    Further Reading: Turbo Twist, LifeGuard UV Sterilizer Review

  • Tetra Pond UVC-5, 9, 18, & 36:

    Tetra Pond UV SterilizerCirca 1988- ?
    This well made UV has been around in some form. While designated a Pond UV, I have also used it in aquariums too with good results.

    These are what are called "Compact UV Sterilizers" and use use a different style UV lamps than the straight tube UVs. These lamps/bulbs carry designations such as PLL, PLS, G23, G7, G11.
    Tetra only uses only quality low pressure high output UVC lamps/bulbs, however Tetra also makes many of the lamps proprietary so that it can be difficult to find the lamp without paying 2-3 times what a comparable high quality low pressure UV lamps would sell for.
    Thankfully some other options for quality replacement bulbs/lamps are now available at a better cost
    Resource: Premium UVC Replacement Bulbs/Lamps; Including Tetra G-7 9 Watt and G11 18 Watt

    Another issue I have with the Tetra UV is that while these are well designed and well made, there are also comparable quality UVs in build and lamp usage such as the SunSun Terminator for much less in cost. So often a buyer will pay considerably more for their Tetra UV and not actually get a better unit.

  • Pressurized Pond Filters with Built in UV Clarifiers/Sterilizers:

    Tetra Pressurized Pond Filter with UV SterilizerCirca 1988- ?
    The pressurized pond filter which fits in line from a water pump to many water features in a pond became a very popular method of efficient pond filtration.
    Later UV Clarifiers/Sterilizers were added to these filters including the Tetra, Nursery Pro, Via Aqua, SunSun and MANY others.

    The first one I used were the Tetra Pressurized Pond filter with UV. However I immediately noted that these were not very efficient even for basic clarification (even though the filter worked well).
    Upon adding a similar sized Tetra UV Sterilizer such as a 9 Watt, the improvements were dramatic as per clarification or speed of clarification.

    Why these poor results? for one the flow rate often over 2000 gph is simply too high for a 9 watt UV or most size UV lamps used, no matter the quality. As well the design of these filters do not lend them to optimum contact/dwell time. I have found this to be true regardless of brand.

    My suggestion is to utilize a separate quality UV Sterilizer in line AFTER your filter and if your flow rate is too high, which is likely, having a diverter valve after the filter so as to slow the flow rate to a rate more effective for clarification will improve results dramatically (under 50-70 gph per watt depending upon model). Reference: UV Sterilization; Flow Rate Table

    Product Source: Upgraded Pressurized Pond Filter with UV

  • Coralife Turbo Twist Compact UV Sterilizers:

    Circa 1995- ?
    This is another Compact UV like the Tetra that also uses quality low pressure high output UVC lamps/bulbs.

    However their design, which uses what I would describe as baffles does not lend itself to optimum water contact, and my use of many confirmed this with lessor results.

    Another issue that has come up with more recent usages is with the poor quality of their ballasts. My aquarium maintenance company bought a case of these Turbo Twist UVs and over a year time span, EVERY ONE FAILED!
    While this problem may already be fixed, based on this experience and effectiveness of design as well as the higher cost, these are definitely a UV Sterilizer I would not recommend.

    Further Reading: Turbo Twist, LifeGuard UV Sterilizer Review

  • Other Compact UV Sterilizers:

    Via Aqua, SunSun Terminator UV SterilizerCirca 1990- ?
    Many other Compact UV Sterilizer/Clarifiers have come out over the years, some good like the Tetra, but at a lower price such as the Via Aqua Terminator & newer SunSun version, some of much lower quality and design, including utilizing 25% of the output medium pressure UV Bulbs/Lamps when compared to higher output (and higher cost too) low pressure UV Bulbs/Lamps.

    The first incarnation of the Terminator was an excellent well built UV Sterilizer that had a good electronic ballasts (not all are as noted in the Coralife Turbo Twist section). The retail selling price was also much lower than the Tetra and these units also did not utilize the proprietary UV replacement Bulbs that the Tetra Compact UVs did. This resulted in the Terminator being my go to economy Compact UV for which I sold and used literally 100s.

    Unfortunately around 2010, and partly due to infringement on designs of many of their products, Via Aqua changed their design to one, which while still good, was a bit less reliable and more prone to workmanship issues.
    Later Via Aqua dropped this UV too.

    Thankfully SunSun has models that follow the original Terminator design, although they are not always equipped with low pressure UV bulbs out of the factory unless requested by the distributor and/or retailer. So be wary of some low price sellers of SunSun UV Sterilizers (Compact or otherwise) that are too cheap to be true, as these likely have lower price point medium pressure UV Bulbs.
    Further Reading About Medium Pressure UV Bulbs:
    Actual UV-C Emission from a UV Bulb; Aquarium or Pond

    Recommended Resource for SunSun Compact UV Sterilizers:
    SunSun Compact UV Sterilizers with High Output UV Bulbs/Lamps

  • Aqua, Emperor, & TMC UV Sterilizers:

    Emperor UV Sterilizer Review Circa 1990- ?
    The Aqua Ultraviolet, Emperor, and TMC/AAP Vecton & Advantage UV Sterilizers were three of the high end premium models I started using in the 1990s (this does not mean these were not around earlier). When the Aquanetics became less available along with new suppliers and new clients who already had this equipment before contracting with me for their aquarium or pond care, these were the three premium UVs I had the most exposure to.

    I found that the Aqua Ultraviolet along with the often similar Emperor UV to be excellent UVs with unsurpassed efficiency based many observations and a few of my simple bare tank timed clarification tests as well.
    The Aqua Ultraviolet & Emperor UV also unfortunately came out with gimmicky features such as wipers to supposedly scrap off build-up of material on the quartz sleeve between lamp/quartz sleeve 6-12 month servicings. However, while this worked OK with organic mulm, this feature did nothing for the main problem of build-up; hard water deposits.
    Reliability was excellent, but the few times of need of manufacturer warranty customer service as well as parts availability, these UVs were not as easy to take care of.

    My other complaint is not really with the unit itself, rather how the Emperor 50 Watt Smart UV is unfortunately marketed by a popular online discount reef supply seller that shows their limited experience using UV Sterilizers.
    While most definitely a very well built UV Sterilizer, it has poor dwell time in proportion to the input wattage used due to exposure time with the T5 lamp and high water volume within the reaction chamber.

    Here is some information as to why their claims are not totally correct (please note that the Emperor Smart 50 watt uses a T5 lamp):
    "While T5 lamps are roughly 16% more efficient at converting electrical energy into light energy, this does not necessarily make the T5 the better lamp as some have stated. Given two lamps of equal length, equal UVC light output, and equal flow rates, then the dwell time will be the same, and the germicidal effectiveness will be practically indistinguishable, regardless of the number of electrical watts pumped into each one.
    As an analogy it is like saying that if my car goes 140 mph with a 200 hp engine, and 160 mph with a 300 hp engine, then a 300 hp HYBRID engine (using 16% less gas) will make my car go 180 mph (as per the logic of using a T5 over a T8 UV lamp).

    Also, if the manufacturer uses a 5/8" diameter T5 instead of a 1" diameter T8, and reduces the tube sleeve diameter by 3/8" (compared to a T8 fixture), and then reduces the reaction chamber diameter by 3/8" (to stay within 3cm of the tube sleeve); in that case, the T5 fixture will have a smaller cross section area, which will REDUCE the dwell time for any given volume flow rate."

    Reference for Quote above: UV Sterilizer Dwell Time Test

    Further Reading: UV Sterilization; What Makes a Good UV Sterilizer

    Aqua UV versus TMC UV Sterilizer
    VIDEO: Aqua Pond UV vs TMC AAP Pond UV Clarifier Sterilizer

    A comparison of the two top large pond/aquarium-system UV Sterilizers and why the AAP/TMC comes out as the best when price and dwell time is considered

    TMC Vecton UV SterilizerAAP/TMC had a similar well made offering; the Vecton for aquariums and the Advantage primarily for ponds, although I have used several for aquariums too.
    Problems were non existent other than the occasional UV arriving with a broken quartz sleeve, this now in 1000s of sales/uses.
    My only complaint is earlier models of Vectons came with a gimmicky time set feature that was really a waste of time, thankfully they did away with this in favor of a much more practical 90 degree elbow that is now included.

    The Vecton is designed to be more compact and have a lower water volume design along with slightly better UVC exposure than the Advantage. The earlier versions of the Vectons has a rather gimmicky light set that was supposed to help remind the user when to change the lamp, however the normal method of keeping a log is actually more simple. Thankfully, this silly feature was done away with and instead the UV includes a more practical 90 degree elbow.

    Overall reliability as well as performance has been unsurpassed when compared to any other UV I have used.

    Parts availability is also second to none as many UVs nowadays do not have many parts other than the UV lamps readily available. I also like that the 30 watt models and lower still use a very heavy duty magnetic ballast, as I have found that even with the best of electronic ballasts, a 5 year life is often the best you will get which is not the case with these Vecton (& Advantages).
    Even if warranty service is needed (which again I have yet to need this in 1000s of applications), the UV only need be taken to the original retailer, not sent away by the owner for repairs.

    TMC Advantage UV Sterilizer

    Everything I stated about the Vecton as per reliability and performance holds true for the Advantage as well.

    The difference is the 55 Watt Advantage model (not available in North America) & the 110 watt model utilize an electronic ballast, which is still as good and reliable as any electronic ballast I have ever used, but just not as reliable as the TMC magnetic ballasts used in the smaller Advantages and Vectons. As per ballasts, what is noteworthy is that I have never replaced a failed magnetic ballast in any TMC UV other than when it was damaged by water, not by defect.
    This said, an extremely misguided USA 2014 (& dare I say anti small business) regulation has banned the use of magnetic ballasts which are actually better for firing HO UV Sterilizers of lower wattages, so now many models of both Vecton & Advantage have been discontinued and those still made now utilize electronic ballasts.
    AAP has been able to secure the UK 220/240V model in the Vecton 200 (8 watt) which still utilizes the magnetic ballast and provide a converter for North American markets.

    Back to differences between the Vecton & Advantage; the other difference is the volume of water the Advantage can hold when compared apples to apples such as the Vecton 25 watt to the Advantage 25 watt. The Advantage holds more water which allows for the higher flow rates generally needed/desired in ponds, however the UVC exposure is lower in the Advantages for this same reason.

    Overall, while I have used equally good UV Sterilizers as in the Aqua Ultraviolet, when value, parts availability, reliability, and warranty are considered, the TMC/AAP Advantage/Vecton UVs have been my clear choice for use personally and with my clients.

    Recommended Resource for AAP/TMC Premium UV Sterilizers:
    TMC Advantage & Vecton Aquarium/Pond Premium UV Sterilizer

  • Internal/Submersible UV Sterilizers:

    Green Killing Machine UV Sterilizer ReviewCirca 2007- ?
    Internal/Submersible UV Sterilizers/Clarifiers in their current form are relatively new to the aquarium/pond hobby/industry.
    However, they have unfortunately taken the hobby by storm. Why unfortunately? Because the vast majority are only good as clarifiers, despite less than honest statement these can actually be useful for disease pathogen control and Redox balance magnetism. The other major issue is many have issues with seals and/or ballast, resulting in life spans of well under a year, which does not seem to show up in poor Amazon reviews since these UVs usually get reviewed based on initial use.

    It is noteworthy that one of the first to enter the market was the Green Killing Machine. It was quickly rejected by professional aquarium maintenance professionals due to its short life and ability to only clarify, but good marketing to discounters has allowed this product to unfortunately proliferate the market.

    One other problem with the vast majority of the submersible/internal UVs is these do not utilize pre-filtration which is very important for effective UV Sterilization. Nor do most use high output UVC low pressure UV bulbs and instead utilize 1/4 output of UVC medium pressure UV Bulbs

    The first one to finally get it right is the AAP version of SunSun CUP 9 and 13 Watt which have pre-filtration, low pressure UV Bulbs, and a correct flow rate for the watt of UV used. Even then while these are True Category B UVs, these are still an economy UV Sterilizer and being submersible will not provide as along a life as in-line models such as the Terminator.
    Unfortunately these same exact model numbers are also sold on Amazon without these important features for those who are unfamiliar with what is important for a decent UV Sterilizer.

    Further Reading:
    -UV Sterilizer Problems & Reviews; Submersible Pond, UVC Clarifier
    -Actual UV-C Emission from a UV Bulb; Aquarium or Pond
    -Common Aquarium Keeping Myths

    Recommended Resource for SunSun CUP Submersible UV Sterilizers:
    SunSun Submersible UV Sterilizers with High Output UV Bulbs/Lamps & Pre-Filters

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High Output UVC Emission from a UV Bulb/Lamp; Aquarium or Pond


Last Updated: 3/9/2020

Bacteria Joke, Actual UVC Emissions from UV Bulb, Review

Actual UVC output from your Aquarium/Pond UV Bulb/Lamp

A great point was brought up in one of our blogs specify geared to sterilizers and UV bulbs.
All the time, we hear about the wattage a bulb of any kind uses.
A standard light we use in our homes are 60 watt bulbs.
In water sterilizers, the bulb might be a 30 watt bulb.

The point made and the question now being; does a 30 watt UV-C bulb emit 30 watts of useful sterilizing watts?
And, the answer is No.
The UV-C wattage emitted is not the same wattage of a lamp.

Wattage of a bulb can be misleading. Watts used in a bulb is the power consumption of a bulb.
A 60 watt bulb used 60 watts of power. The actual output of a bulb is directly related to the wattage.
The higher the watts used, the great the power consumption.
But what is noteworthy, is that the wattage though does not actually tell us how much useful output the bulb has, or how efficient it is.
The efficiency of the bulb is the actual output of the bulb.

This efficiency is what becomes important as we look for a replacement for our UV Sterilizer/Clarifier or even a new UV Sterilizer as most of what is sold via the Internet or discounter brick & mortar stores are LOW OUTPUT medium pressure UV bulbs/lamps with as little as 25% of the UVC of the vastly better low pressure high output UV lamps sold but by a handful of high end sellers.
So please read on and beware if the price seems too good.


Specify speaking about UV-C bulbs, they have a light energy spike at a certain wavelength of light (254nm). This light energy is what sterilizes.
With any UV-C bulb, there will be an energy spike at this lighting level as well use some of it lighting energy on other parts of the lighting spectrum.

The light emitted at the UV-C namometer of light is the useful energy or wattage used from the bulb. The other energy emitted on the lighting spectrum that is not UV-C is essentially wasted energy.
Therefore the wattage of the lamp is not the same wattage being emitted of UV-C.
A 30 watt UV bulb does not emit 30 watts of UV-C.

Take a look at this picture which shows the energy spike of a UV bulb. At this spike, light energy has sterilizing abilities.

UVC Emission from Aquarium or Pond UV Bulb, review

In a premium low pressure true UV bulb, the actual UV-C emission of the bulb is about 35%. If you have a 30 watt UV bulb, it will emit 10.5 watts of germicidal UV-C.
Nail curing UV Bulbs, are commonly sold on Amazon & eBay for aquarium pond use at a lower cost (generally for retails prices of $5 to $15).
These are usually medium pressure UV bulb with a low 7-10% output of useful UV-C irradiation. These lamps have a wholesale cost of only a few $ for the smallest ones.
What buyers should also be aware of is how many hours the lamp/bulb is rated to last as true HO low pressure UV lamps burn themselves up quickly with only 4000 hours at peak performance. So if the lamp advertises 8000-10,000 hours--- AVOID IT!

The fact remains, that a true High Output "low pressure mercury" UV lamp/bulb has a distributor cost of at least $10 for even the smallest/cheapest of lamps, so if it is selling for this cost you know you are NOT get what you need to best run your UV Sterilizer or even Clarifier

As well the Halogen UV bulbs sold in some mini UV Sterilizers also have little of the peak UVC irradiation, more in the UVB range (these too are sold at discounters such as Amazon, not quality professional UV Sterilizer sellers). A good example of a UV Clarifier sold with these UV lamps is the Cobalt Aquatics Micro-UV which besides using the lower output Halogen UV lamp/bulb, it has very poor dwell time.

Both of these types of these low cost UV bulbs are marginal for clarification at best, certainly NOT level one or higher UV Sterilization unless used at very high wattages per water flow!! When combined with the lower dwell time that most of these Sterilizers that utilize these medium pressure lamps have (generally compact UVs), you are looking 1/4 the killing/sterilization/clarification power!!
An example would be comparing a TMC Vecton 15 Watt to a Jebaeo 55 watt that is commonly supplied with medium pressure UV lamps/bulbs (15 x 4 = 60).

Actual UV Output in Lamps purchased from Amazon

As an example, if you have a 9 Watt UV Sterilizer (such as the Turbo Twist), and when the bulb is due for replacement you utilize one of the low cost medium pressure UV Bulbs, you will be getting 1/4 to 1/3 the output of a premium low pressure bulb. So if you have a flow rate of 200 gallons per hour on your say 50 gallon aquarium as would be a flow rate for low pressure UV Bulb, then switch to the low cost medium pressure UV Bulb, you would need a flow rate of 80 gph just to maintain Level One UV Sterilization.
The bottom line is to not be tempted by the low prices of the nail curing medium pressure UV Bulbs that many retailers either unknowingly or knowingly incorrectly market for pond or aquarium UV Sterilizer use!

Please Reference:
UV Sterilization; Basic Factors

Recommended Professional Source for Premium Low Pressure UV Bulbs:
*American Aquarium PREMIUM Low Pressure UV Bulbs; Compact Style
*American Aquarium PREMIUM Low Pressure UV Bulbs; Straight Tube Style (for Aqua Ultraviolet, TMC, more)

Normally, the actual emission of a UV bulb is something you will not need to worry about, but what you do what to make sure is you are getting a large enough sterilizer for the water quantity you are looking to sterilization.
Company’s that know what they are talking about will publish this information or keep it in mind, when giving recommendation.
If you are not sure, make sure to look for what kind of bulb/lamp the sterilizer has and how much UV-C you are actually getting.

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