. 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

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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18 Watt UV Bulb Review, for Turbo Twist 6X, more


Updated 2-23-16

18 Watt UV Bulb for aquarium or pond reviewI have already published articles/reviews earlier with the 9 Watt UV Bulbs and 13 Watt UV Bulbs commonly sold as replacements; either as not true hot cathode/low pressure lamps in the case of many 9 Watt lamps or with the incorrect base for many applications as in the 13 watt GX23 versus the 13 Watt G23.
In this review/article I will now look at another common UV Bulb that like the 9 watt in particular is often not what it seems; the 18 Watt G11 UV Replacement Bulb!!

9 Watt UV Bulb Review
13 Watt UV Bulb Review

In a market driven by price and "free shipping" the only way to deliver a so-called UV bulb at the prices offered is to sell the "medium pressure UV Bulb" as an implied "Hot Cathode, Low Pressure UV-C Bulb/Lamp", which NONE sold at prices much under $15 can be (especially when shipping is calculated in).
The cold hard facts are, NO business can exist selling a TRUE hot cathode, low pressure UV-C Bulb that has a cost of $13 OR MORE (out the door to the vendor) for this same price with shipping included!! Even at a retail price of $16- $20, a business would have to operate at a very low overhead and profit margin.

As well, although often difficult to find, the some 18 Watt G11 UV Replacement Bulbs use patented methods to lower operating temperature which increases the efficiency and UVC output.
Such as:
  • Patented Metal Heat Reducing Technology
  • Norman lamps super high efficiency HO/low heat UV Bulbs.

The patented heat reducing technology used by AAP/Norman UV Lamps help with these aspects of the UV Bulb:
  • Lower operating temperatures which in turn increases energy directed as UVC (which is why you have a UV light in the first place). This 5° C difference increases efficiency about 5% or more, adding to the 75% improvement of these low pressure UV lamps over common lower cost medium pressure UV lamps/bulbs sold at online discounters and home improvement warehouses.
  • Longer Life and higher output over the life of the lamp.
  • Easier starts, which new hot cathode UV lamps are often difficult to start initially.

Please read these articles as to why only a low pressure, hot cathode bulb should EVER be used in your Aquarium UV Sterilizer, Pond UV Sterilizer/Clarifier, or Air UVC Purifier:

Simply put; these commonly sold, medium pressure bulbs at 7% germicidal 254nm UVC simply cannot destroy the bacteria or maintain aquatic Redox at any useful/normal flow rate when compared to the high UVC output hot cathode UV-C Replacement Lamps.
Basically these bulbs are only good for clarification and then only at lower flow rates than a low pressure UV Bulb

This is not to say that these higher output are not easy to find, as they can be found, you simply have to be willing to pay a bit more (often with sale prices high quality UV-C Bulbs/Lamps not that much more too). Several manufacturers/distributors such as American Aquarium Products, Purely, & Phillips all sell ONLY hot cathode, low pressure, Higher Output 254 nm UV Bulbs.

See this link for High Quality UV-C Bulbs/Lamps

See the graph below for a comparison of these two UV Bulbs types

18 Watt UV-C Bulb Comparison Review, eBay, Jebao, etc versus quality lamp

As the graph shows, the low pressure UV bulb has its energy spike primarily in the optimum UVC range, however the medium pressure UV light has several spikes, admittedly including some in the optimum range, which is why these bulbs can still get away with calling themselves 254 nm germicidal bulbs, when in reality only small percentage of their energy output is in this important UVC range.

The bottom line is do NOT let Google, eBay, Amazon, etc. guide you to one of these many websites selling these mostly useless medium pressure UV Bulbs that produce little UVC necessary for an effective UV Sterilizer or Purifier.
Spend a little more and purchase a American Aquarium, Purely, or Phillips 18 Watt Bulb, which often still only sell for $16 to $30 online.

American Aquarium Products hot cathode/low pressure 18 Watt is sold near cost as a promotional item and is THE true hot cathode 18 Watt UV Bulb to purchase for both quality & price!!
18 Watt UV Bulb from American Aquarium

Please also read this article:
UV Lamps, Bulbs; How they work, Coatings, more

Please reference this unique, in depth, & researched article that is IMPERATIVE READING for anyone interested in moving from basic aquarium or pond keeping to more advanced aquarium or pond keeping:

Aquarium or Pond UV Sterilization, Correct Sterilizer Use

By Steven Wright with input from Carl Strohmeyer-PAMR

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Hot Cathode vs. Cold Cathode UV Bulb; Are Long Life, Easy Start UV Bulbs worth purchasing?


UV-C Hot Cathode Quartz Germicidal Lights/Bulbs

Long Life, Easy Start UV Bulbs; Are Cold Cathode, Low Output UV Lamps worth purchasing?
UV-C Bulb Problems

Updated 10/15/2020

First a little background information:

UV-C Hot Cathode Quartz Germicidal Lights/Bulbs are similar in their operation to the standard fluorescent lamps. The Hot Cathode lamp operates from a ballast or transformer and requires a device such as the glow bulb starter or electronic ballast to preheat the electrodes in order to start the lamp.

The electrodes, located at the ends of the lamp, are tungsten filaments coated with emission material and, under normal operation, govern the life of the lamp itself (not output).
Operation at low temperatures as found in many ponds in the Winter or early Spring may result in excessive lamp blackening and more rapid depreciation in ultraviolet output. As well, starting of the Hot Cathode lamps at low temperature may require a few minutes.
It is also noteworthy that the tungsten filament used in the High Output UV-C Hot Cathode Quartz Germicidal versus many cold cathode are more fragile and burn out more quickly, especially with many "starts".

Some high end Compact Hot Cathode Germicidal Lights/Bulbs such as those made for/by "American Aquarium" UV; G23, G11 have small metal pre-heat elements that aid in starting and reduce cold start times and wear and tear on the filament.

American Aquarium Lamp Resource: American Aquarium Products Compact UV Bulbs

Because of the voltage surge required by a Hot Cathode UV-C Bulb to light, ANY electronic ballast that is not providing this voltage due to age, damage, or simply poor quality, WILL fail to light a new Hot Cathode while this same ballast can still light an older hot cathode or a new cold cathode.

Hot cathodes generally achieve much higher power density than cold cathodes lamps and therefore produce more energy per given watt of energy used, making these a more desirable type of UV Bulb/Lamp for this reason alone.

Despite the shorter life, and requirement for optimum functioning ballast to light aside; these UV lamps produce an optimum UV-C at 254nm, which is what you need for proper sterilization!

smartpond 700-GPH Submersible Pump cold cathode UV bulb, lamp
Some manufacturers/retailers in an attempt to lure customers into thinking a cold cathode bulb is a the way to go just because of the longer lifespan are now incorporating these into UV pumps.
This Smartpond 700 gph not only utilizes these poor UVC emission UV bulb/lamps, they use a 2.5 watt bulb that even if the optimum low pressure, hot cathode UV lamp were used, it would fall far short of anything remotely effective as per the known science of UV Sterilization.
A Lowes web page even has some positive reviews for this product, but I can assure you that this is clearly the placebo effect as there is no way a 2.5 watt cold cathode UV lamp can provide any real results.

Similarly many products made in China are made to differing specifications depending upon what the retailer/distributor desires as a "price point".
This is VERY common with SunSun products where UV Sterilizers as well as canister aquarium and pond filters will come with ballasts only meant to fire low output UV bulbs/lamps. So when the owner purchases a higher output true UVC lamp, the bulb may not fire or burn out in short order due to difficulties firing these UV lamps.

UV Sterilizer Use, Facts & Information based on Experience and Research

As an example from the above referenced article, an optimal hot cathode low pressure 2.5 watt UV lamp would only provide Sterilization at 75 gph and true algae control at 125 gph. But this product does not even use this lamp and also has a poor flow pattern and less than optimal distance from the UV lamp inside the Sterilization chamber.
So a pump rated at 750 gph with this UV bulb/lamp is basically a pump with a pretty blue light decoration inside- DO NOT PURCHASE!!!

Cold cathode lamps have no thermionic emission coating to wear out and can have much longer lives than hot cathode thermionic emission tubes, however cold cathode lamps are less efficient than Hot Cathode lamps lamps because the cathode fall voltage is much higher (See Resources).

Many sellers of these lower price, longer life, cold cathode UV bulbs, claim these bulbs will provide longer life & easy/quick lamp starts often at a much lower price. Often these are sold at eBay and many "Top Bulb" or "Ushio" sellers that come up on Google's spammy algorithm.
What many of these sellers may not even realize (many probably do and choose to market these bulbs falsely), is that most of these bulbs are only actually intended as nail curing UV bulbs, NOT for use in true level one UV Sterilizers for pond or aquarium use!!

While this is true, these lamps/bulbs produce UV-C irradiation that can be as low as 185nm (which produces undesirable ozone) and as high as 330nm (which is UVB, not UVC).
With as little as 7% desirable UVC with these cold cathode, medium pressure UV bulbs; How is saving a few dollars and getting a few extra months life worth a bulb that is almost useless compared to a vastly superior Hot Cathode low pressure full UVC Bulb????

Obviously I am providing generalizations since these lights can vary, but what is clear is you are not achieving the optimum UV-C at 254nm.
As well, advertising 8000-10,000 hours of life is another dead giveaway that the lamp is NOT a High Output, Low Pressure Mercury Lamp since closer to 4000 hours is all you should expect for peak performance.
See:UV (UVC) Lamps/Bulbs used in Aquariums/Ponds and How they Work


Sadly many buyers are impressed by the "easy starts" and "low price" that these cold cathode UV Bulbs provide and the fact that these long life/low output UV Bulbs will often light in UV Sterilizers with worn ballasts that do not have the energy (voltage surge) to fire/start a new Hot Cathode Germicidal UV-C lamp/bulb.

Add to this problem that many UV Sterilizer ballasts degrade quickly (especially when used for ponds where more moisture is present) resulting in the un-informed user believing that their low end UV bulb is actually better than a a premium UV-C Hot Cathode Quartz Germicidal Light/Bulb when the OPPOSITE is the truth!
Even popular UV Sterilizers such as the over rated Turbo Twist has a high ballast degradation rate.

See: Potential UV Sterilizer Problems; Weak or Poor Quality Ballasts.

Purchasing a High Output 254nm UV-C Hot Cathode Germicidal Bulb for a UV with a weak/degraded ballast that will not light/fire a high output bulb, then purchasing a low output long life bulb that does work with this weak ballast is not an indicator of bulb quality, rather a lack of understanding of what makes a TRUE UVC producing lamp!!!

UV Bulb Resource: High Output Germicidal Bulbs

Unfortunately many manufacturers now even sell these almost useless for UVC sterilization cold cathode UV bulbs. As these will almost always light, and this allows for UV Sterilizers with a poor ballast designs that do not last long to appear to be functioning.
Worse yet, I have had customers/clients forward emails/letter claiming only their "original equipment" UV replacement bulbs should be used as their UV Sterilizers may not light the vastly superior hot cathode UV Bulbs.

The result, if a potential customer falls for this incorrect line of reasoning, is a UV Sterilizer that is almost a useless device as it is producing a fraction of the necessary UVC energy for level one or two sterilization or even clarification!
This is putting the blame in the wrong place, keeping a UV Sterilizer with a ballast that has degraded and then only using cold cathode UV Bulbs makes no sense at all; why have a UV Sterilizer that is only 7-15% effective??

Such is the case with this sarcastic email:
"If many manufacturers are using easy start bulbs to make up for so called "weak ballasts" then why does the website (selling hot cathode UVC Bulbs) say hot cathode bulbs are compatible with their units? They clearly are not compatible with the majority of units."

The logic here totally escapes me!!

  • First this is not true, I am speaking about degraded ballasts, as even a new Coralife will fire a hot cathode "True" UV-C bulb, but a degraded electronic ballast will not.
    Using the Coralife again as an example, my aquarium maintenance business has serviced many of these over the last decade, with a high quality UV C lamp working fine, but once the ballast degrades, only a cold cathode or 'old' (mostly expired) hot cathode will fire (it is noteworthy that the life span of a Coralife ballast is lower than many UVs). The FACTS are that these ARE compatible with the majority of unit, assuming a fully functional, non degraded electronic ballast/transformer.

  • Second; Such a comment shows a total lack of understanding of fluorescent ballasts.
    A magnetic ballast would not have such a problem, since these utilize a fluorescent starter to provide correct "surge" voltage to light the UV-C Bulb.
    However most UV Sterilizers/Clarifiers utilize electronic ballasts of which many have poor circuitry that is easily degraded, especially by moisture; Once this happens a hot cathode true UVC Bulb cannot light.
    See: Weak of Poor Quality Ballasts

  • Third; the UV-C bulbs I have used and sold in my professional endeavors of aquarium/pond design and maintenance do and have worked in the majority of units

  • Forth; (and I will repeat myself), why would you want a UV Sterilizer that only makes a "pretty blue light" that is about 7-15% effective for UV Sterilization??

See also: Electronic UV Sterilizer Ballasts; Lamp Problems

The bottom line is do not be fooled either by the low price, long life claims, or ease of lighting (or lighting at all with a weak ballast) of these long life/easy start UV Bulbs, as these are not the reason you should be purchasing a replacement UV Bulb.
Your UV Sterilizer is meant for Sterilization (not a pretty "blue" light) and this will NOT be achieved with these low output UV bulbs (especially level 2 sterilization)!!

Unfortunately some manufactures utilize low output UV bulbs such as Hagen Laguna; these UV bulbs are very inferior to high output UV bulbs and the result is no Level One UV Sterilization and even poor Green Water control.

For further resources see these articles:

*UV Sterilization; Facts & Myths
*UV Bulb Troubleshooting Guide

For the Best Very Best UV Sterilizer for your Pond or Aquarium:

AAP Advantage & Vecton Premium UV Sterilizer

There is not any better UV Sterilizer for both durability and UV-C irradiation effectiveness than the AAP Advantage and Vecton UV Sterilizer line, at any price!

Further Reading of Interest:
Aquarium Disease Prevention
AQUARIUM DISEASE PREVENTION; Steps to a Healthy Aquarium & Sick Fish

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UV-C Air Purifers, Surface Disinfection, Ozone


Use of UVC for Home or Office Air Purification & Surface Sterilization as well reasons Ozone producing Purifiers are not recommended.


Updated 3/5/15

Sharper Image Ionic Breeze


Although most of the posts/articles in this weblog are aimed at Aquarium and Pond use of UV Sterilization/Purification, I think some time should be spent on another application for UVC radiation, especially with the onset of Flu season (including the H1N1 flu virus; AKA “the Swine Flu”). Hospitals have been employing UVC air purification systems for years do to their effectiveness in checking the spread of air borne pathogens.
Another pathogen generally spread by air is Tuberculosis; a person with Tuberculosis (TB) of the lungs or larynx can release droplets containing Mycobacterium tuberculosis into the air by coughing, sneezing, talking, or breathing. These droplets, called droplet nuclei, can cause TB infection if inhaled by anyone who shares air with the person who has Tuberculosis.

The influenza virus is actually one of the more easily destroyed pathogens by UV Radiation with only 6600 mW/cm2 required to kill this virus. Put simply, a 9 Watt UV bulb can kill this virus with an exposure time of 5.68 seconds.

See this article for further information about mW/cm2:

This makes for a very simple way of destroying many harmful pathogens in the home or office with an air purifier equipped with UVC bulbs.

Here are a few other pathogens and the required amount of UVC Iradiation (given in mW/cm2):

UVC Pathogen kill in mW/cm2

This list is far from a complete list, as it is only intended to convey what the addition of UVC to an air (or even water) purification system can do for your home or office.

Ozone Production;

Generally most new Air Purifiers use non-ozone producing UVC bulbs; in fact the State of California has banned ozone producing air purifiers.
Please reference this article: http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/indoor/ozone.htm

However I should note that many air purifier manufacturers have switched to non-ozone producing UV bulbs (the aquarium/pond UV manufacturers have used non ozone producing UV bulbs as long as I have been in the industry). So if your air purifier is on the list of potentially hazardous units, chances are it is no longer is using ozone producing UVC bulbs.
If you have an older unit (such as older Bio-Zone, King Air, Eco-Quest & many others) that may employ the ozone producing bulbs, I would suggest simply switching these bulbs out with a new non ozone producing UV Bulb.

I would add as to ozone production and some of the negative reviews of some air purifiers; these reviews are all old and based on models that used ozone producing UV Bulbs from what I have read. My thought is that these headaches some complained of were due to ozone production. Headaches cannot be caused by contained non-ozone UVC purifiers.

Please also reference this article (below) for more information as to why you should not purchase an Ozone producing purifier or replace your UV-C Lamp with an ozone producing lamp:
“Ozone Purifiers Research References”

Sadly many replacement bulb sellers or even purifier manufacturers still sell ozone producing UV-C Lamps, even many consumers strangely demand these UV-C Ozone producing bulbs (to me this is like demanding the sale of carbon monoxide suicide machines for ones home?).
In fact here is a quote from the website of a seller of the BioZone Air Purifer:
"Please Note: This air cleaner does not meet California requirements and cannot be shipped to California.".
If this does not speak volumes, I do not know what does!


The two most common types are the stand alone air purifier that employs UVC radiation in a shielded area of the unit or the in-Duct UV Air purifier that fits simply into most home or office air or ventilation systems.

The Sharper Image Ionic Breeze Air Purifier (pictured at the top of this article) has been around for some time, and employs a common 15 watt T8 UV bulb, however this unit has mixed reviews from many.
Straight tube Sharper Image 15 Watt UV Bulbs

Bio Zone 3000 and in duct air purifierBio zone makes several popular models of stand alone air purifiers and in duct air purifiers (pictured to the left).
Popular models include the 1000, 2000, & 3000 Air Purifiers along with the 1500 and 2500 in duct purifiers. Most Bio zone products employ a T5 10 Watt UV Bulb.

CaluTech in duct UV air purifierAnother popular air purifier is the CaluTech “Blue” and Mini in-duct air purifiers. These in duct purifiers are simple to install and the three most popular models employ either the 18 Watt Twin Tube UV bulb (Mini), the 36 Watt Twin Tube UV bulb (original “Blue”), or the 55 Watt Twin Tube UV bulb (Blueray Super Output UV Air Purifier).

UV Bulb Replacements:

The picture below demonstrates and air duct before and after the installation of an in-duct UV purifier as per black mold (the left side is before, the right side is after):
Mold elimination picture with use of UVC

Another device growing in popularity for home (& restaurant too) is the "Pocket Purifier"

The Purely Pocket Purifier has a built-in UVC light bulb (lamp) that when turned on and exposed to surface areas or items needing to be disinfected/purified, will destroy the germs and bacteria killing their DNA, and preventing them from reproducing and growing.
Purchase a Pocket Purifier


* Study: Indoor Air Purifiers That Produce Ozone Are Unsafe
*UV Replacement Bulb Reference Guide for UVC Lamps

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UVC Irradiation and Immune Response, Aquarium Applications

UVC irradiation and immune response
This includes human research into BioPhotonic Therapy and UVBI Therapy

Updated 12/8/14

This article/post is meant to expand on my previous article “Fish Immune System and UV Sterilization”. This time utilizing information about UVC irradiation as per human studies and its affect on disease treatment and over all aquatic health.
While the application to fish in aquariums/ponds is somewhat “apples to oranges” in comparison at this point in time, the implications are certainly far reaching as to the affect on Aquatic Redox and fish health.

Since most in depth research is found in human studies due to the costs involved vs. lack of funding in the aquarium keeping hobby as well as the unfortunately common anecdotal comments made about UV Sterilization made by many in the aquarium hobby that are years behind real research; one often needs to go outside the hobby to find good and cutting edge research. In fact I just recently came across this gem of a post of anecdotal bad information from an otherwise good aquatic article: “For me, a UV filter is just a ‘feel good’ device and leads hobbyists into a false sense of security” It is too bad that so many aquarium keepers simply refuse to do their homework, but this is likely to continue considering how lazy many persons can be at times (otherwise how can you explain the popularity of such terrible sites for aquatic information such as Yahoo Answers among many others, or directories such as DMOZ with its outdated directories).

The concept of BioPhotonic Therapy and UVBI Therapy was brought to my attention in an email and phone call by a researcher (Dr. Mamoon Kundi) who found me via my UV and Redox research articles.
One concept is clear and that is that the use of >UVC lamps can affect both the oxidizing and reducing side of the Redox Balance equation that is so important for life.
Information on Redox

Studies in UV Irradiation

 BioPhotonic, UVBI Therapy  DeviceIn these studies, blood is irradiated (via different methods), often with very pronounced results. William Campbell Douglass, MD, who treats his patients using only alternatives and has written several books on these subjects, wrote a book called Into the Light, where he recommends Photoluminescence Therapy for the following conditions:
• Immune deficiency problems
• Viral Infections (hepatitis, respiratory, etc.)
• Pneumonia
• Non-healing wounds and wound infections
• Emphysema
• Inflammatory Processes: fibrositis (inflammation of, mainly, the muscle sheath), bursitis, iritis (inflammation of the iris), pancreatitis, etc
• Autoimmune diseases: rheumatoid arthritis, AIDS, etc.
• Osteomyelitis (bacterial infection of the bone marrow)
• Septicemia (virulent infection of the blood)
• Cancer (experimental at present)
• Peripheral vascular disease
• Most vascular disease
• Thrombophlebitis (inflammation of a blood vessel that results in blood clots)

Implications of this research as per aquariums/ponds
While we as aquarium and pond keepers are not too likely to utilize these UV blood irradiation therapies on our fish, this still has implications as to how a UV Sterilizer can be an important part of ANY aquarium keeper’s (or pond keeper) filtration system in that this latest research backs up many of my own tests and research going back to the early 1990s. The implications of the affect of the UV irradiation on how it may not necessarily outright kill pathogenic microbes found in the water column, however it certainly allows for an improved fish immune system response to pathogens, which is one of my earlier findings as well (although I did not know the whys of my test results back then). The affect of UVC irradiation also has a positive affect on Aquarium Redox Balance which is also important for aquatic health.

It is also noteworthy that even with regular water changes, and the addition of mineral cations that both replenish the electrolytes from the reducing side of the equation, this is only a part of what the human studies indicate, and that is while the use of minerals and other antioxidants is certainly a good idea, when there are stressors such as disease pathogens, immune deficiency problems, etc. there is a need for additional ongoing Redox Reduction to counter free radicals that a UV Sterilizer provides that mineral cations cannot provide adequately.

The bottom line is this is just one more piece of evidence that a correctly installed UV Sterilizer should be part of every serious aquarist filtration system, especially those who keep expensive, rare, or delicate fish.

Please read or at least glance over these referenced articles (more to come too):


As well as my UV Sterilization Article
& Aquarium Redox

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Fish Immune Health and UV Sterilizers


Updated 3-10-19

Fish Immune System (Including Anti-inflammatory), Redox, Oxidation, and UV Sterilization

UV Sterilizers, Terminator, Custom, Gamma

I have seen many comments posted in various places on the internet claiming that running a UV Sterilizer 24/7 will weaken the immune system in fish in part by creating a sterile environment.
I have tried to find more information as to how this myth got its start and the best I can come up with is that many are equating UVC radiation (emitted in UV Sterilizers) to Ozone produced by Ozone Generators.


Aquarium Ozone GeneratorFirst even though I have not found an Ozone Generator as effective as most UV Sterilizers for disease control (& Redox), even then when properly used the Ozone is not added to the aquarium.
However more importantly is that a UV Sterilizer keeps ALL UVC irradiation inside the unit and this reaction actually breaks apart free radicals and other oxidizers such as Ozone (similar to the reaction of Ozone and UV light energy in the upper atmosphere of Earth).

What is most important to note is that a properly installed UV Sterilizer will IMPROVE a fish’ immune system by creating a better Reducing Redox environment in the aquarium after water has passed through the sterilizer (providing it is a reasonably good unit such as the TMC Vecton/ Advantage UV Sterilizer, the AAP/SunSun Quality Compacts or other higher efficiency, UV Sterilizers.

See these product resource links:
*AAP/TMC Premium High Dwell Time UV Sterilizers for Aquarium & Ponds(Category A)
*AAP Compact UV Sterilizers/Clarifier (Category B)
*TMC Next Generation Ozone Generator from AAP

Here is a quote from "Aquarium Redox Potential":
"A proper Redox Potential improves the health of humans AND fish. A Redox Potential in the +125 to -200 mV range in human studies has been shown to have the same affect as anti-oxidant preparations such Vitamin C".
As well, a Category A or B UV Sterilizer improves Redox Balance via COSTANT removal of oxidizers in the water column thus DIRECTLT lowering oxidative stress in fish.

This picture of a controlled test where by an oxidizer (Potassium Permanganate) is added to the water demonstrates this ability. The control tank retains the color of the Potassium Permanganate much longer than the tank with just Category B UV Sterilization ('Category A' Sterilization will clear it even quicker, although few aquarium/pond UVs are 'Category A' any more with the AAP Vecton/Advantage one of only a couple of brands):

Aquarium UV Sterilizer lowering oxidative stress in fish

In medical studies the enhanced oxidizing environment can facilitate the binding of pathogens or antigens to effector cells (a type of lymphocyte that are actively engaged in secreting antibodies) leading to a hyper-responsive innate immune system.
Previous work has shown that an oxidizing environment leads to enhanced release of super-oxide and nitric oxide, activation and translocation of nuclear transcription factor and enhanced production of cytokines (proteins and peptides that are signaling compounds produced by animal cells to communicate with one another). The creation of a markedly reduced environment by addition of antioxidants blunts all of the above primary responses of the innate immune system."

In studies using human blood therapy, the use of UVC to irradiate blood, these are just a few of the findings:
*Improved circulation and oxygenation of tissues
*Anti-inflammatory effects
*Stimulation of the Immune System
*Increased Tolerance of the body to Chemotherapy and Radiation
*Cardiovascular protection
*Powerful Anti-Infection Properties
See this article for more: Oxygen Healing Therapies with UVC

It should also be noted that a True UV Sterilizer cannot create a sterile environment as it cannot reach all aspects of the aquarium such as gravel, filter media, and the fish internally!

It is unfortunate that these false statements are still widely circulated, I recommend reading this article about UV Sterilization for more:
Ultraviolet Sterilization in Aquariums and Ponds

Or this article about Aquarium Redox:
Aquarium Redox Potential

Or even this article about Aquarium Calcium, GH, KH, pH (as this is also an important aspect as well to a healthy fish immune system):

Finally, if you have a properly set-up aquarium or pond UV Sterilizer, it is important that you change your UV-C Bulb once per six months for most aquarium applications and once per year for most pond application (six months in warm year round ponds).
See this High output UVC bulb product resource link: PREMIUM High Output UV Lamps/Bulbs for Aquarium/Pond

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How UV Lamps, Bulbs Work; Low/Medium Pressure, Coatings


Updated 1/2/19

UV (UVC) Lamps (Bulbs) used in Aquariums and Ponds and how they work.

Recommended further reading:
Actual UV-C Emission from a UV Bulb; Aquarium or Pond

18 Watt G11 High Output UV Lamp This post is primarily dealing with UV bulbs(or lamps), that emit UVC radiation.
These UV lamps to be referenced here are used in the Aquarium/Pond Industry. I will discuss other UV bulb types as well, since these may someday show up in the Aquarium/pond Industry.

There are two common UVC emitting lamps types currently employed for pond or aquarium UV Sterilization: the low pressure and the medium pressure mercury lamp.

G4T8 Straight Tube High Output UV Lamp *The low pressure lamp emits its radiant energy between 250-260 NM which is where UV Sterilization is most effective with a UVC efficiency of about 38- 95%.
The emission peak of the Mercury electron transition within these low pressure (hot cathode) UV lamps is fixed in both energy and wavelength.

*The medium pressure lamp emits its radiant energy between 250 and 350 with many energy spikes in between (most notably around 320 which is more in the UVB range) with a UVC efficiency around 7-15%.

CAUTION: Many Medium-Pressure UV bulb/lamp manufacturers incorrectly boast that the broad UV spectral output of these lamps is more effective, which in reality is the exact opposite!!

low and medium pressure, uv bulb, lamp comparison

Best UV Sterilizer for aquarium, pond The low pressure lamp used by most all Premium Aquarium & Pond UV Sterilizers (not always the low end UVs such as Jebo & AquaTop) is clearly the better choice based on this information.
The low pressure lamp does have one flaw which the medium pressure lamp does not suffer from and that is the low pressure lamp is affected by water (or air) temperatures and operates best between 20 C (68 F) and 40 C (104 F).
Generally this is not a major concern considering most aquarists operate their aquariums well within this range. With ponds, this is still not a major concern in that most problems, including algae occur in warmer months. This problem can be also addressed with in-line heaters to pre-warm the water.

Many UV Sterilizers come with quartz sleeves which form an air pocket between the lamps and water that in theory increases operating temperatures.
HOWEVER my own tests have shown this improvement to be nominal at best especially when compared to a well designed direct contact UV Sterilizer.
In a test with a custom 15 Watt UV Sterilizer and a 13 Watt Quartz sleeve UV Sterilizer (a well designed one at that), the increase in temperate was only 2 degrees F (I have observed up to 5 degrees depending on the units compared).
This test started at 68 F and was conducted over 15 minutes, then water was removed from the units and the temperature measured. Unfortunately the quartz sleeve is accepted as a standard that sounds great in theory, but in practicality is not a significant improvement in most applications (I would recommend them in some applications such as Lobster tanks, but even here a pre-heater would also be recommended).

Please see references for which sterilizers used in this test:
Custom 15 Watt UV Sterilizer
13 Watt Quartz sleeve UV Sterilizer

Please see this article for much more about UV Sterilization:
ULTRAVIOLET STERILIZATION (How UV sterilization works)
This article explains the benefits and myths about aquarium and pond uv sterilization

Chemical Coating in UV Lamps/Bulbs

Chemical coating on UV Lamp, Bulb A few companies now provide a coating that they claim extend lamp output and lamp life. I have serious doubts to these claims based on the fact the emission peak of the Mercury electron transition is fixed in both energy and wavelength and I don't think coatings can emit additional UV to any advantage. Coatings usually capture UV and convert the emission wavelength via further energy transitions to some visible part of the spectrum, perhaps with several spectral peaks depending upon the composition of the coating.

One such company, Emperor Aquatics, makes the claim that their UV Lamps feature an internal chemical coating that provides added resistance to solarization.
This company uses a picture of a new bulb/lamp with the coating and a one without. HOWEVER I in my 30 + years have never witnessed the degradation shown in this picture, and I suspect that Emperor Aquatics is using an Ozone producing UV bulb/lamp to make their point.
I stand by my experience that these coatings are simply a gimmick to charge more for their proprietary UV Bulbs

UV Lamps/Bulbs Starting

Another aspect of UV lamps that should be noted is how they function or start. Most quality UV lamps commonly used are Hot Cathode (low pressure) UV lamps. The Hot Cathode Germicidal UV Lamps are similar in their operation to the standard fluorescent lamps.
The Hot Cathode lamp operates from a ballast or transformer and requires a device such as the glow switch starter to preheat the electrodes in order to start the lamp. The electrodes, located at the ends of the lamp, are tungsten filaments coated with emission material and, under normal operation, govern the life of the lamp. In view of the fact that the life of the electrodes is shortened by frequent starts, the lamp life is rated according to the number of times the lamp is started.

Operation at low temperatures may result in excessive lamp blackening and rapid depreciation in ultraviolet 'C' output.

See Also this related post:
Long Life, Easy Start UV Bulbs

*Aquarium/Pond UV Sterilizer Use
*UV Lamps & UVC Lamp Types
*UV-C Bulb Specifications; Aquarium and Pond

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