The 9 Best UV Sterilizer Pumps
This wiki has been updated 24 times since it was first published in February of 2016. Ensure the safety and health of your artificial aquatic ecosystem with one of these UV sterilizer pumps, which will keep the algae, parasites and bacteria in your pond or aquarium to a minimum. We've included models capable of handling everything from small salt and fresh water habitats to high-volume tanks and koi ponds, so there's sure to be one that will meet your needs. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
July 01, 2020:
I was tempted to add a few more models than I did during this update, but I decided to limit my selection in the end. Ultimately, I’ve taken out less user-friendly models like the Lifegard Aquatics All-in-One and just decided to introduce a higher capacity sterilizer pump in the Tetra GreenFree, as well as suitable replacements for those I removed.
The Aquatop PFUV15 is an interesting pump that I was initially inclined to replace with a similar model with a clear design, but something more economical or more powerful for its cost, as it’s expensive for a model that is only rated for tanks of up to around 15 gallons. However, I couldn’t find a suitable see-through replacement, and while transparent walls may appear to be a cosmetic feature, I personally think that it can serve as a powerful diagnostic aid – it’s always nice to be able to look into the machinery and see that everything’s working alright.
I’ve taken out the Lifegard Aquatics, as I earlier mentioned, because it was struggling with defects and its complex design and lack of good instructions didn’t help either. Its design is really a setback, and it’s the kind of model that I wouldn’t have ever included in the first place, but I can see how someone who wanted to introduce variety may have favored its inclusion. Models like the Coralife Turbo 3X, Sun JUP-23 and SunSun Jup-01 have a shape and design that makes for easy handling with smaller tanks, though as aquarium size increases, you will want something a bit more powerful, and naturally a bit bulkier.
Remember that for larger tanks, it’s a good idea to have all the water circulate through your pump roughly once an hour, so for a 200-gallon tank, a pump-flow-rate of 180-240 GPH is fine. For smaller tanks, you’ll probably want the water to circulate more frequently, like twice every hour. As a rule of thumb, for tanks with fish, you’ll have to double that figure, and for Koi ponds and tanks, you’ll have to quadruple that figure, since Koi produce a lot of waste.
Benefits Of A UV Sterilizer Pump
By adjusting the flow rate and strength of the UV light, different needs can be met.
In essence, ultraviolet radiation has the ability to eliminate microorganisms that may be pathogenic to other living creatures. In the human world, UV radiation finds use in environmental ways such as preventing contamination in office buildings by reducing airborne fungi that contribute to respiratory sicknesses.
Using a UV sterilizer pump in aquatic applications does much of the same thing. It is a great way to reduce the spread of microorganisms in the environment itself. The function of UV sterilization acts to mimic the effects of natural sunlight, allowing for a safe environment for fish and aquatic life by eliminating microorganisms trying to reproduce. They also help eliminate algae buildup on the surface of the water or the glass of a tank.
Aquatic enthusiasts prefer this method of sterilization because it has no residual effects. Only the water which passes through the sterilizer is affected by the UV radiation. This will not affect any microorganisms living on the fish, rocks, or coral in the tank, only the water which circulates around them. This helps the aquatic environment as a whole build its own defenses, and makes for a more stable setup in the long run. As it is a method of sterilization and not specifically designed to kill microbes outright, its main action is to make microorganisms incapable of reproduction. This eliminates the worry about bacterial die-off overloading the tank. From this perspective, UV sterilization has no negative effects on the environment.
Additionally, the benefits of UV sterilizer pumps can change depending on the needs of the environment itself. By adjusting the flow rate and strength of the UV light, different needs can be met. For general upkeep on an already clean environment, a slower rate can be used. If signs of disease or microbial spread show up in the tank, the rate can be increase and the light strengthened. This can be likened to a booster shot for preventing disease.
What UV Sterilizer Pump Is Best For Your Habitat?
When choosing a UV sterilizer pump, there are many important factors which are going to determine how effective it is at its job. Taking these factors into consideration can mean the difference between a satisfactory purchase and a returned item.
In most cases, the ability of a bulb to create useful UV rays decreases over time, and replacement bulbs will need to be a long term consideration.
One important thing to consider is the power of the bulb. The amount of UV light created is in relation to the wattage of the bulb itself. Bulbs with a higher wattage will produce more UV light. Interestingly enough, the temperature of the bulb also changes the strength of effect. UV light is best produced at a temperature range of 104-111 degrees Fahrenheit. In most cases, the ability of a bulb to create useful UV rays decreases over time, and replacement bulbs will need to be a long term consideration.
The type of organism the pump will need to handle can also be an important factor as well. In theory, UV radiation kills bacteria, viruses, algae and protozoa in water. In application, the type of organism which needs to be handled will affect how well UV sterilizers do their jobs. For instance, protozoa require a higher, longer dose of UV radiation, and there are even some bacteria which are more resistant to UV radiation treatment methods.
Another consideration is the penetration of the UV light itself. If a UV light has trouble penetrating water, it will not be effective. As a rule of thumb, fresh water is easier to penetrate than salt water due to the lower particle count. UV sterilizer pumps should be considered the last step in water treatment, coming after a particle filter and biological filter if possible. This will ensure the water is as clean as possible before heading to UV treatment; increasing its effectiveness.
How UV Sterilization Works
When most people think of UV light, they think of tanning salons. While this is one use for ultraviolet light, it may not be a smart choice. Frequent exposure to UV light can accelerate skin aging and may even increase the risk of skin cancer.
While excessive UV light may be bad for humans, this same light can actually be used as a safeguard against microorganisms and pathogens in many different environments. The process of sterilization caused by ultraviolet radiation may provide some insight into why that is.
The use of UV sterilization has many non-biological applications, however.
Ultraviolet radiation emits a specific wavelength, from 328 nanometers to 210 nanometers. At this wavelength, UV radiation acts to break open and destroy the nucleic acid or DNA of individual cells. As DNA is the basic building block of every cell, it is easy to see how UV light can be both harmful and helpful depending upon how it is directed.
Luckily for humans who are exposed to UV radiation on a regular basis, certain cellular repair methods are also built into our DNA. The cells respond based on how the DNA was damaged. Specialized repair proteins continuously scan the cells for damage. When they find it, these proteins trigger mechanisms within cells which repair damage before it becomes extensive.
In the microbial world, these mechanisms are not as developed. Therefore it is much easier for UV sterilization to destroy microbial and pathogenic cells beyond repair. This method of disinfecting and sanitizing environments still has relatively little use in the medical world, mainly due to the fact that UV radiation is not selective in the DNA it damages. It will damage skin cells just as easily as attacking pathogens. This increases the risk of UV-induced skin disorders.
The use of UV sterilization has many non-biological applications, however. The destruction of airborne pathogens in hospitals and waiting rooms, cleaning medical tools, disinfecting water, and even keeping aquatic environments free from microorganisms are just a few of the ways UV sterilization is used today with great success.