Mega Powerful Nitrate and Phosphate Remover - DIY! - Page 32 - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #311 of 435 Old 08-27-2009, 10:50 PM Thread Starter
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Success Updates:

Jason1 on the RS site: "I have to tell you, this thing works great. My tank is definitely showing signs of improvement and looks really cleaned up from what it used to. Thank you."

Danno.Thomas on the SWF site: "Have mine up and functional on a 30 gal, that was just changed over from a 20 gal, had zero new algae growth in the DT. Scrubber is working like magic. Small feather dusters abundant. 6 years in the hobby and my tank has never looked more alive. This is my exclusive filtration."

Troythegreat on the 3R site: "i personally think that scrubbers are a Godsend to reefers. IMO scrubbers work much better than skimmers at 1/10th the cost, all you need is a little discipline. I've had my scrubber running on my 75gal for about 7 months without any trace of nitrates or phosphates. I have 2 clowns, 4 damsels and a engineer goby plus many coral. i feed my coral once a day and my fish twice a day.........i clean the scrubber every 5 days and change carbon once a month."

Chadjwil on the scrubber site: "I've been running an algae scrubber on my 55 [for 7 months]. That tank has never had a skimmer or canister or any other filtration in it, ATS since birth! I'm totally loving it, and...due to space restrictions in the stand ... my screen is undersized, and until last week it was under-lit (bare minimum now), and it's still keeping that tank clean and nutrient free. My fish are so healthy looking, more so than all but the best of the LFS within 50 miles, and my shrimpies molt like mad. I used to be a little leary about telling people that I ran an ATS because of all the sideways looks and comments that I got (and I'm sure my wife thought I was crazy too), but over the last few months more and more people have been commenting on how nice our tank looks, and that theirs was full of algae and a pain to clean all the time, we must spend all our time cleaning and screwing with I get a lot of satisfaction telling them that I spend 5 minutes scraping algae off a plastic tank divider every week or so and I'm done. True believer here."
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post #312 of 435 Old 08-29-2009, 01:07 PM Thread Starter
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Update: Deep-Sump Nano's

There are two types of nano's: The one that has a hatch on the top, so you don't have to open the whole lid to get to the filters, and the one without a hatch, where you do have to open the lid. It's this second one (with a deep "sump"), that is the most difficult to put a scrubber into. Indeed, if at all possible, you want to instead make an external scrubber, that sits above the tank:

You can enclose the scrubber with a box, or just use the lid of the bucket, to keep the light in. And actually, since nano's need such small screens, you could just use a coffee can, with the lid, which will block out all light once sealed. Decorate the can like a vase, and it will add to your decor. And use black tubing too so it looks nice. It doesn't need air flow, unless you want evaporation and cooling. Regardless, if you do this design, make sure to use "aquarium-safe" silicon on all electrical connection inside the bucket (including where the bulb screws in), because water and salt will build and short it out.

If, however, there is no possible way to put a scrubber above your nano, then you can install one in the "sump" area if you are good at DIY. It's a tight fit, but it can be done:

Riaanp on the MASA site did this:

And Nitschke65 on the SWF site did this:

The idea is to use one of the compartments (probably the middle one) for a waterfall area. For lighting, although Riaanp put the light inside, it's probably best to put the light on the outside (back) of the tank, and scrub off the paint on the backside so that the light can get through to the scrubber screen. The bulb only needs to be one watt for every gallon, so a 13 or 18 watts CFL 3000K is fine.

Fortunately you don't need much screen size for a nano... just 2 square inches (6.25 square cm) for every U.S. gallon (3.8 liters), because the screen is one-sided.

This type of setup is nice because it does not require any cutting of the sump walls, and thus can be converted back easily. Also, there is no real cost... just the screen (2 layers of roughed-up plastic canvas, about $1 USD), and the bulb and socket, probably $7.
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post #313 of 435 Old 09-07-2009, 12:41 AM Thread Starter
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Nano scrubbers: In my last update, I said a coffee can would make a good nano scrubber. I meant a plastic coffee can.

Wattage: Your goal should be to get at least 0.5 watts of CFL (compact flourescent light) for each gallon of water, for medium filtering. For high filtering, get 1.0 watts per gallon. And don't use incadescent bulbs... they are much too hot and use too much power. The biggest CFL bulbs you should use should be 45W. If you need more, use extra bulbs, not a bigger bulb.

Be sure not to run bulbs 24 hours.

Be careful of overflowing skimmers; there is a lot of ammonia in that skimmate. A scrubber will help eat that ammonia if it overflows.

If you have cyano on your screen, you need more flow and/or more light.

If you smell any kind of "algae" smell while the scrubber is running, you need more flow.

If your tank has gotten rid of the nuisance algae, but cyano seems to be increasing, this is normal. Cyano does not eat nitrate and phosphate like algae does, so after your scrubber has starved the nuisance algae, the cyano has more room to grow. But if you keep your scrubber running strong and proper, the cyano will fade too.

If you have rubbery green algae, it means the flow is getting cut off and the algae is baking.

The best current spectrum for the bulb is 3000K (550 nm). This is yellowish-greenish, and it fits right in the middle of the red and the blue peaks of photosynthesis:

Pipe: Slots deliver much more water than drilled holes. Keep this in mind when figuring out how much flow you need.

Sump growth: Some people have open bulbs which light up the sump, and they are growing algae there. You don't want this to happen, so you need to use reflectors, or even foil, to block the light.

Coralline: Since phosphate will slow down coralline growth, you will start seeing more coralline as your phosphate drops in your water.

Advanced DIY trick: For those who can build such a thing, if you could build a top-off device which would shut off the flow to the screen, and then run your FW top-off water on it, then switch back to the regular flow, you would be able to extend the time between cleanings because the pods would be kept in control.

Dead fish: Scrubbers handle dead fish wonderfully; since ammonia is algae's favorite food, when a fish dies the algae will consume as much of the ammonia as it can, which could save your tank if the fish dies overnight. A skimmer, however, does not remove ammonia at all.

What equipment comes first: With regard to scrubbers, here are a few points to consider when planning which device should come before which other device (if you use them):

Skimmer: It should come before the scrubber and after the display, so that it does not remove the pods that come from the scrubber (if you need pods).

UV: Also should come before the scrubber and after the display, for same reason.

Mechanical filters/socks: Same as UV and skimmer. These trap food and pods (which rot and add Nitrate and Phosphate to the water), and thus should be the first thing you should stop using unless you change/clean them daily (but then you are removing the food for the corals.)

PO4/N03 removers: Really doesn't matter because N and P are the same throughout the system.

Fuge LR/LS/Macro: Doesn't matter, as far as nutrient removal is concerned.

Bio Balls (!): Should be removed slowly, unless you have massive amounts of fish, and little rock/sand.

Screens: I will be selling ready-to-use screens soon. But until then, it's best to use two layers of extremely-rough plastic canvas, using a hole-saw (and about an hour) to rough up all four sides of the two sheets:

To demonstrate how rough the screen should be, here is a video of a towel dropped on a rough screen:

...compared to a smooth screen:
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post #314 of 435 Old 09-11-2009, 02:12 PM Thread Starter
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post #315 of 435 Old 09-19-2009, 04:56 PM Thread Starter
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Final screen version

The previous screen material that I had people testing was starting to rip where the tie-wraps went through, so it was not working. I did find a custom manufactured solution to solve this, which used a solid sheet on the inside of the screen, but it was just too much money. So it looks like the best screen material for me to offer is extreme-roughened, double-layered, plastic canvas.

As you know, if you already tried to rough up plastic canvas, all the work is in making it rough. You have to use a hole-saw (by hand), since sandpaper does not leave the "jagged" pieces that you want. You really need the jagged pieces which will grab hold of the algae, so the algae won't let go and fall into the water. This is of course because more algae growth (i.e, more filtering) means more weight. You DO want lots of algae (weight), but you DON'T want it to fall off of the screen. And both sides of both layers needs to be rough, so that algae will stay on the inside (between the layers) of the screen after you clean the outsides. And since the algae stays on the inside of the screen, you can clean the outside as hard as you want (scrape all the algae off) without worrying about "keeping some algae on the the screen".

So since this material has already been proven by hundreds of people who are using it right now (athough I never see it roughed up enough), it is just a matter of how much money is fair for a completed screen. If there is enough interest, then I'll start selling them.

It looks like I can make them for 20 cents per square inch. This is equal to:

0.20 USD per square inch
.032 USD per square cm
2.65 MXN per square inch
0.43 MXN per square cm
0.22 CAD per square inch
.035 CAD per square cm
0.14 EUR per square inch
.023 EUR per square cm
0.12 GBP per square inch
0.02 GBP per square cm
0.28 NZD per square inch
0.45 NZD per square cm
0.28 SGD per square inch
.045 SGD per square cm
1.49 ZAR per square inch
.024 ZAR per square cm
1.31 FRF per square inch
0.21 FRF per square cm
2.20 NLG per square inch
0.35 NLG per square cm
70.0 PHP per square inch
11.2 PHP per square cm

Shipping would be extra of course. Also, the screen area is just the finished screen size; you don't have to think about the multiple layers. So as an example:

A 10 X 10 inch screen = 100 square inches = $20 USD = $265 MXN = $22 CAD etc.
A 40 X 60 cm screen = 2400 square cm = $76.80 USD = $1032 MXN = $84 CAD etc.
A 3 X 6 inch nano screen = 18 square inches = $3.60 USD = $48 MSN = $3.96 CAD etc.

So post on here if you would get one at this price. There needs to be enough people otherwise it is not worth setting up to do it. If there is enough interest (at this price), then I will make them.
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post #316 of 435 Old 09-27-2009, 01:22 PM Thread Starter
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Why Algae Works

More Info:

Algae and Human Affairs, By Carole A. Lembi, J. Robert Waaland, Phycological Society of America
PSA: Phycological Society of America
Algaebase :: Listing the World's Algae

Text: 90 percent of all living matter (except bacteria) in the ocean is algae of all forms and colors. The remaining 10% (except bacteria) of all living matter in the ocean is: Corals, Plants, Sponges, Worms, Snails, Clams, Octopi, Shrimp, Crabs, Pods, Urchins, Starfish, Small Fish, Medium Fish, Big Fish, Sharks, Whales, Giant Squids, and Everything Else. The algae is what does all the filtering of the waste from the animals, and the algae is also what feeds all the animals through the various food webs.

Aquariums, however (especially ones without refugiums), have no algae to do the filtering or feeding. So all the filtering has to be done manually with equipment, and all the feeding has to be done manually too. At least with a refugium, there is some filtering and feeding, although most refugiums are far too small to do all of it. Scrubbers are powerful enough to do all the filtering by themselves, and can do a lot of the feeding too, if copepods are the food that is desired.
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post #317 of 435 Old 10-03-2009, 03:17 PM Thread Starter
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Successes Update:

Jlinzmaier on the RC site: "An ATS is the easiest and the cheapest DIY project I've ever done. Not to mention it has been more effective at nutrient management than carbon dosing, and has only affected the corals positively (no chance of stripping nutrients too fast or too low as you might run into with carbon source dosing.) The maintenance of it only takes 5-10 minutes once or twice a week. Total cost for the project was no more than $30 and it took about 45 min to build."

Pistolshrimp on the SARK site: "i have one of these in my sump, not eleborate though jus got one cfl spotlight on it, but they do a good job, hardly eva have to wipe my glass, it transfers 90% of the algea growth from my tank to the screen."

Trichome on the CR site: "I installed one on my 29g tank and it is working better than my AquaC Remora that is rated for up to 75g. Best part about it is its cheap as hell to install and i was able to remove a pump from my set up to save money on electricity."

Jennyfish on the AP site: "i use an ATS but i also use a skimmer, i do find since i added the ATS i have no phosphates, and my water is crystal clear with no bad algaes growing."

Schnitm on the algae scrubber site: "Our friend was moving to a new house, and her 90 gallon system wasn't moving with her. So it took 10 hours to move everything [to my daughter's room] and we're just about to put the fish back in. I decide I'll test the water first. I have never seen a nitrate test change color so fast. By the time I'd finished shaking the vial it had maxed out. After some RO/DI dillution I finally got a reading along with some others from my Red Sea Marine Lab kit:

Nitrates: 300
Nitrite: 0.3
Ammonia: 0.25
Phosphate: 5.0

After freaking out and figuring I'd done something wrong and effectively killed my daughter's new aquarium, I decided I'd better test the water the fish were still in. It had come straight from the top of the tank that morning. I got something like:

Nitrates: 400
Nitrite: 0.4
Ammonia: 0.25
Phosphate: 5.0

Seems the fish had been living in this and we'd just dilluted it some with the water change from toping off the tank. 3 anemones and a dozen soft corals were living in this too. So, in go the fish. I'm running around trying to figure out what to do. The protien skimmer is dead and hasn't worked for more than a year (thanks for telling me now!). The LFS store is closed because their moving too. I'd been "priming" an ATS screen in my shop using wastewater from our Bio Cube. It had been going for about 2 weeks and was nicely green but not thick at all yet. What the heck...I slap it in the sump and start it running with 4 CFL floods from WalMart. Then to bed to have nightmares of my daughter waking to a tank full of death.

To my pleasant surprise, the next morning everything was alive and, apparently, well! I go to work installing the hood, chiller, etc. By that evening I took another water sample and got:

Nitrates: 200
Nitrite: 0.2+
Ammonia: 0.25
Phosphate: 5.0

Everything seemed fine. I'm wondering if I'd messed up the readings on Thursday. Saturday was mostly a day off. The ATS had grown thick already so I scraped it. Just a few measurements:

Nitrates: not measured
Nitrite: 0.2
Ammonia: 0.25
Phosphate: not measured

Last night's water parameters:

Nitrates: 15 (I kid you not. 15. Checked this over and over. The 10X dillution I started with showed undetectable. I'd needed a 10X dillution before, just to get a reading. Got this 15 on straight tank water.)

Nitrite: 0.2
Ammonia: trace
Phosphate: 3.0

Thursday night I thought I was in the middle of a slow motion trainwreck, but by today all looks good. Thaks to all who have contributed! You lead me down the right path.
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post #318 of 435 Old 10-10-2009, 10:19 PM Thread Starter
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Update: RC has un-blocked "scrubber", "algaescrubber", and other scrubber-related words.

Update: Algae on rocks: If you are building a scrubber to help remove algae from your rocks, don't remove the algae from the rocks manually. Let it stay there so it can do some filtering while your scrubber starts growing. The algae on the rocks will start disappearing after you have cleand off about three scrubber screens. It's also fun to watch it disappear.
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post #319 of 435 Old 10-18-2009, 11:13 PM Thread Starter
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RainerFeyer on the RC site: "My tank is 75g, 230W T5 lighting, about 8-9 years old now (was FOWLER for 2 years before that). I started a little more than 2 months ago with a vertical ATS. Very happy with it: 3 lights, 20W each, 350GPH flow. I added a horizontal scrubber purely because, by fault of my design, cleaning screens was cumbersome, plus, the size of the scrubber was not preferred. So, been running a verical now for less than one week (aside the horizontal) and all is well so far. Once the Horizontal is well established, I will remove the Vertical. Have been without PS for 6 weeks now! The change in the tank is just amazing! No more algae or cyano, and, the sps which [previously] started dying (probably from nitrates / phosphates/ lack of food) is starting to come back! Thanks for the idea, all of you and especially SM and Worley!"

Jauld on the RC site: "N and P have been 0 since installation. This is the only filtration I have on my aquarium and I do a 20% water change monthly. this [scrubber] one has been running for nearly 3 months now with 0 problems. When I first set this model up, I accidentally used a metal nozzle that released some bad metals into the aquarium and I lost a frogspawn. After that, I changed out the nozzle and did an 80% water change. been fine ever since. Before I installed this [scrubber], my tank was COMPLETELY filled with algae (almost no rock visible). I let this thing run and after about 6 weeks, the algae started to thin and die in the DT. Then, at 8 weeks, I took the rock out piece by piece and scrubbed all the remaining algae off. 0 algae growth since that in the DT, but the screen grows a TON. I have before and afters pics if you really want to see. I found that the DT [water] will start getting cloudy after about 2-3 weeks IF i don't scrub the algae off the screen every 7-10 days. This is because so much algae is growing on the screen that when it starts to get thick, the algae underneath doesn't get any light and starts to die, releasing the stuff that makes the water quality suffer. However, as long as I clean the screen 3 times a month (takes 3-5 min), the water stays clear as day. This thing is such low maint. and is the sole reason i'm still in this hobby. I was planning to quit since I couldnt get the algae growth under control."

Gowingsgo on the RC site: "I just added a ATS to my system and have found that it did reduce my nitrates down to 0. from about 5 ppm. I still use my skimmer but have found that I do not have to clean it as much, and that the skim-mate is much darker in color. I have attached a few photos of my new sump. I built my sump the way I did with 5 separate chambers. (1 intake from main tank) (2 ATS) (3 skimmer) (4 fuge with live rock and sand so if I need to I can also put stuff in my sump) (5 return to main tank). I set up the ATS not to remove nitrates but to remove algae from my display tank (and that is exactly what it is doing). I now clean my glass about every 4 days and I used to do it every day. This is not for everyone but I wanted to give it a try and have found that I am very happy with my results. BTW I over feed my fish and corals a lot so I was very happy with the nitrates dropping down to zero. I will most likely keep my skimmer on line. even if it stops skimming. I like knowing that if I get something in my tank that skimmer is there to remove it."

Av8BlueWater on the MD site: "In 2 weeks all my cyano was gone. I didn't have a huge problem , but it was there. In 3 weeks, nitrates were 20-30 (down from 40-60), 4 weeks nitrates = 15, then the first week I notice nitrates = 0 was about 9 weeks total. I started June 24, and Nitrate zero on Sept 2. It was a happy day. My PO4 here lately is .02-.03 (tested with photometer) but I also still run rowaphos. I had an area of GHA about the size of my fist a few months ago, and now it's the size of a pea, but it is still there. I'm also an overfeeder."

MyFishEatYourFish on the MFK site: "update on my tank. no waterchanges since completion of ats over six months ago with multiple thriving sps, polyps, and a softies. [DT] algae growth is slowed, though what algae does grow is much harder than normal because it is corraline and that crappy tough brown stuff. my plants, chaeto and small grape calerpa show almost no growth, unfortunately xenia grows much slower than i would like too. one thing that everyone skimping on waterchanges must know is to keep up on additives, coral vite, calcium, magnesium, stonium, molebdenum essential elements etc. the best part is my nitrates and phosphates are still undetectable!!! thanks santa monica for starting this great thread!
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post #320 of 435 Old 10-26-2009, 11:43 PM Thread Starter
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A quote from Eric Borneman on feeding SPS corals, from
Mything the Point: Part One by Eric Borneman -

"Corals with small polyps do not necessarily require more or less light than those with larger polyps. The only real difference between corals with small polyps and corals with large polyps is the size of the prey they can consume. Many small polyped corals, such as Pocillopora damicornis and Stylophora pistillata, are highly photoadaptive and can be found in very deep water. The genus Acropora has more species than any other coral and, as might be expected, can be found in similarly varied locations. Species of Acropora are found in deep water and shallow water, high water flow and low water flow. Furthermore, corals with small polyps have been found in many studies to consume more prey than corals with large polyps (see Borneman's article on feeding corals in Reefkeeping 2002 for pertinent references). The belief that large polyped corals need to be fed more than small polyped corals is just wrong."

[skimmers remove coral food; scrubbers add coral food]
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