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Mega Powerful Nitrate and Phosphate Remover - DIY!

This is a discussion on Mega Powerful Nitrate and Phosphate Remover - DIY! within the Beginner Saltwater Aquariums forums, part of the Saltwater Fish and Coral Reef Tanks category; --> Several updates: 1. The algae that does the filtering in the oceans (algae is 90 percent of all life, except for bacteria) is planktonic, ...

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Mega Powerful Nitrate and Phosphate Remover - DIY!
Old 01-16-2010, 08:59 PM   #331
 
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Several updates:

1. The algae that does the filtering in the oceans (algae is 90 percent of all life, except for bacteria) is planktonic, meaning they are small particles floating in the water. This is why the ocean is greenish in color. The tiny bit of algae on the beaches is not enough to do any filtering for an entire ocean.

2. Brown-to-Green. Algae on your screen will start off brown, then go to green, after several cleanings. But brown aglae STILL filters; it's just that it's the type of algae that grows when nutrients are high. If your screen never turns green, you are still getting filtering from the brown; it's just that your scrubber is not strong enough to get nutrients low enough to grow green (based on how much you are currently feeding).

3. Real turf algae (the kinds that is tough like carpet) is not needed. Last year I posted that real turf was best, but now it's been shown that in DIY aquarium scrubbers, green hair and even brown slime filters just as well. And that's a good thing because real turf almost never grows because it gets covered up by green and brown (unless you use a surge, which kills the green and brown with lack of flow.)

4. Fish-only tanks don't need tiny particles of food in the water, and thus don't benefit as much from scrubbers. However if you are going to run a skimmerless fish-only tank, and if you are not going to have any mechanical filter at all (like a filter sock), one thing you can do is use very little flow in the display, so that all fish waste will fall to the bottom. Then, make sure you have enough cleanup's on the bottom to break the waste up into tiny particles. The quicker the particles are broken up, the quicker bacteria can convert them into ammonia, nitrate and phosphate, and the quicker the scrubber can absorb these things. However if you are going to have any mechanical filters at all (including a skimmer), then you want high flow along the bottom of the tank so that the particles will get taken away to the filters for removal.

5. T5 bulbs are better, for the same wattage, because all the power is distributed evenly across the screen. CFL bulbs have to be moved further away, because the center spot gets too much power, but the farther spots don't get enough. T5 scrubbers are MUCH harder to build, however.

6. I keep hearing "Yes, skimmers DO remove nitrate and phosphate! They just do it by removing organics BEFORE they break down into nitrates and phosphates". That's just great. Organics, before they "break down", are called FOOD. Yes, FOOD. So yes, skimmers DO remove FOOD (i.e, "protein"). But saying that removing FOOD is the same as removing nitrates and phosphates is like saying removing BEER, before you drink it, is the same as removing the pee after you drink it. Wouldn't you rather have the beer, and then remove the pee? Skimmers remove the food that you put in the tank. Scrubbers remove the "pee" after the tank eats the food.

7. Horizontal (one-sided) screens are only recommended for nano tanks, and only if the screen is narrow (no more than 4 inches wide) so that the water flows like a river. If you try to do horizontal screens on bigger tanks, the screen will have to be wider, and what will happen is that when algae tries to grow thick, it will block the flow from getting past it (it will even block flow to itself). If the screen is 4 inches wide or less, and if the flow is very high, the water will pile up and get over the algae. But on wider screens it won't, and any algae downstream of the thick algae will have it's flow cut off. And for any horizontal screen, make sure you put a solid sheet under it, to keep the water from falling through.

8. Cloudiness is caused by underlying algae layers dying (from not cleaning); if you look at these layers, they look like wheat, and they fall right off of the screen. Green or yellow water, however, is caused by cleaning the screen in the water, without removing it first and taking it to the sink; the strands of algae break and put colored stuff into the water.

9. Algae video: YouTube - Algae: The World's Most Important Plants
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Old 02-01-2010, 12:44 AM   #332
 
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Finally here is a presentable acrylic scrubber box:
































Video of box:
YouTube - Santa Monica 100 Acrylic Scrubber Box



Here is the diagram if you want to build it:

Full size: http://www.radio-media.com/fish/100.jpg





Specs:

o 25 inches long (63.5 cm)

o 7.25 inches wide (18.4 cm)

o 6.5 inches tall (16.5 cm) with cover, or 6.25 inches tall (15.9 cm) without cover.

o Much stronger filtering compared to CFL-powered screens of same area and wattage.

o Very strong stand-alone filtering for a 50 gallon high-load reef tank.

o Good stand-alone filtering for a 100 gallon medium-load reef tank.

o Supplementary filtering for a 180 gallon medium-load reef tank.

o 100 square inches (645 square cm) of growable two-sided screen area, not counting the part that goes into the pipe.

o This is a high-performance scrubber, packed into a small space (which is what I wanted for the limited space under my tank). There is no wasted light; 100 percent of the light hits the screen, and is only 1.5 inches from the screen.

o The light is the same distance from the screen, from one end of the screen to the other.

o It works equally well in Fresh or Salt (but not for planted-only tanks).

o The all-black acrylic blocks out almost all light from escaping.

o The lid stops any evaporation or cooling. If you do want evaporation and cooling, just leave the lid off. If you wants LOTS of evaporation and cooling, put a fan on it. It will light up the whole room, however.

o The recommended four bulbs (Current Nova Extreme model 1127) deliver about 100 watts (8000 lumens) of flourescent light. If less filtering (and less power consumption) is needed, bulbs can be removed to give you about 75, 50 or 25 watts of lighting. (You cannot reduce the flow, however)

o The unit is only 6.5 inches (16.5 cm) tall. Only a few more inches are needed above this to be able to lift out the pipe/screen.

o Has a water-tight drain which allows the unit to be placed on top of the tank, or even on a shelf, where it can drain back to the display.

o Requires 800 GPH (after head loss). Do not skimp on GPH, because the long pipe will not fill with enough water if you do. An Eheim 1260 pump works good if the scrubber is down in the sump area, but if you put the scrubber up high on a shelf above the tank, something bigger like an Eheim 1262 would be needed. I have and use both of these pumps. At the sump level, there is not much difference in flow between these two pumps, but when you have to pump up to a shelf above the display, the extra power of the 1262 (or similar) would be needed.

o The 22 inch (55.9 cm) wide screen allows much more water flow to be filtered for the same screen area; this gives more filtering per hour than a narrow screen of the same area.

o The long T5HO bulbs distribute the light evenly from one side of the screen to the other, and are only 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) from the screen. So there are no "burned" spots in the middle of the screen as there can be with CFL bulbs (because they put all the light into one spot).

o The box allows water to "pool" at the bottom when the algae gets thick. This creates algae that is floating in this turbulent pool, and lets the algae get more three dimensional, which lets water flow throughout the algae strands. This creates more filtering than just a flat sheet of algae.

o The top shelf keeps water from dripping on the lights when you take the screen out, and it also holds the lights in place.

o The bottom shelf keeps water from splashing up from the sump onto the lights, and also makes a wide base to keep the scrubber stable. The lights sit on this shelf.

o Replace the bulbs every 3 months. Most any K bulb below 6500 should work (including plant-grow bulbs), but F24T5HO/830 are suggested and are $7.99 from here:
F24T5HO/830 - 24 Watt, 22 Inch T5 High Output Warm White Fluorescent Bulb

o Clean your pump (run in pure vinager for a hour) every 3 months to make sure the flow stays high. If there is no longer a swirling "pool" on the bottom of the scrubber, then your pump needs cleaning.
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Old 02-06-2010, 10:11 PM   #333
 
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Ok here is a finished version:










Lid on:






Lid off:













































Video:
YouTube - Santa Monica 100 Acrylic Scrubber - Complete
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Old 02-11-2010, 09:45 PM   #334
 
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Cleaning: Here is an updated cleaning video:
YouTube - Acrylic Scrubber Cleaning - Half at a time
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Old 02-16-2010, 08:16 PM   #335
 
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Successes:

LethargicCoder on the MOFIB site: "A little update to [the] post I made a year ago today. I had removed the skimmer from this [33 gal] tank when I added the scrubber, and I have only done 1 water change on the tank since then. I had said "starting nitrates...let's just say they're high", that meant off the chart even after diluting with RO water. Tonight I tested the water and it looks like it's under 5ppm. All that showed up on the screen for months was brown sludge. After 7-8 months, it finally started looking green but no significant growth, but algae did start showing up around my overflow and return pipe and sump. I assume nitrates were too high to grow algae before this point. Algae is now green and growing some volume, not rubbery, and more like typical hair algae. With some water changes and better bulbs, I'm sure I could have shortened this process but I really wanted to see what it would do with nothing but [screen] cleaning. I think with the results of this, I'll be going with an algae scrubber instead of a skimmer on the 135g tank that will hopefully replace this tank soon."

Kidult on the scrubber site: "There are brown dense algae growing on my algaescrubber. I scrape my scrubber one time a week. I suppose that i did something wrong, because it's running for more than 2 months and PO4 is 0,34mg/l (hanna). how many time it will take to go PO4 down from 0.36 to 0? [...] One scraping for 3 days. After last advice (1 scrape for 3 days) my tank achieved PO4 0.07 (hanna) from 0.36 about 4 weeks ago. [...] Po4 is 0.02 (hanna) No3 is 0 (salifert) Thank You All!"

Chrissu on the scrubber site: "the heart of my ATS is a 24"x24" screen that keeps the ammonia at 0, the nitriate at 0, and my nitrates hover between 0-25 depending on how much I feed my fish. They get to eat VERY well now that I have the ATS. I've been able to eliminate my macro algae, DSB, and protein skimmer from my sump without issue (makes maintenance a breeze now)."

Rosenaa on the scrubber site: "My tank looks great since I set up my ATS and the corals are feeding in the water colum many times. Readings are all zero and just a little algae on the stones (due to phospate leaking out I guess)"

Rainer_Feyer on the RC site: "the scrubber is blowing my mind! I have really no [nuisance] algae left - very little, and hope a little bit stays forever so I don't have to separately feed the snails. Water is clear, no yellowing at all. And, still am only doing 5gal water change every 3 weeks - that's it (75g tank w/ 20g fuge which is really the scrubber)"

Markjack on the UR site: "[scrubber is] best thing iv'e ever done for my tank. saves you a small fortune in phos and nitrate removers"

Pengelli on the UR site: "I have been running [a scrubber] for about a year. I think they are brilliant. I have brilliant parameters and not a glimpse of nuisance algae."

Gigaah on the LR site: "Day 6 - The green [scrubber] algae really just started filling in. I also got a bit of a nitrite/nitrate spike. I had to take my HOB filter off line to get this [scrubber] running. I suspected and was ready for that. Nitrite .50, Nitrate 40. Did 10 percen water change. Day 8 Nitrite = less than .25 (not quite zero tho), Nitrate= 30, I am happy to report that all algae from the sand and glass is GONE! some on the rocks yet but I understand the phosphate rock leech thing is probably the reason. Day 14 Ammonia = 0, Nitrite = 0, Nitrate = 20. Screens are filling in better but not even half full. Day 17
Ammonia = 0, Nitrite = 0, Nitrate = 10. End of week 4: Nitrates are ZERO and my tank is stocked pretty high and was stocked pretty fast."

Reeffish on the SG site: "After running this [scrubber] for nearly 10 months for my 3 foot [tank], i have not look back since. It has solve my high NO3 & PO4 problem. From [over] 100 to 3 mg/L (NO3), and [over] 3 to 0.03 mg/L (PO4), both using salifert test kit; live rocks [were] covered with red algae; [now] live rocks covered with purple coralline algae; tank [had] algaes growing everywhere, to [now] a spotless one, it is really amazing. Thanks for this wonderful info. A short info to others on my setup, dedicated aquabee 1000 to supply water to my vertical screen, 8" by 10" (a bit under size). Took me 1 hours to rough up both sides of the screen. Two 24W Philips Tornado, one on each side running 18hrs a day. Cool daylight. Clean the screen every 5 days. Took me 2 months to see NO3 & PO4 results dropping. No magic here, i follow Bro SM recommendations closely and of course, patience. Good luck to all who wants to give this alternative method a try."

Murrman1969 on the WTF site: "Here it goes. I started with nitrates in my 180 salt tank of over 240 ppm which is a dark orange colour indicator on my test kit. Here is a picture of what the colour was. The picture does it no justice it was actually almost burgundy. So I did some research and this is what I came up with for an in-sump design and one for an external container [scrubber] design. The nitrates in my tank now are non existent."

Russel_P on the TR site: "Well my scrubber has finally gotten NO3 levels to zero. The only complaint I have is cleaning it. The algae (more like moss) grows in a large thick sheet that all wants to come off at once when I clean it. I bet I could pull a pound of algae of of it in one cleaning. No yellowing of water, though I do run a small H&S skimmer. The display tank went from a forest of bryopsis to no visible algae. I am building more for every rack in my shop."

Scottt on the MB site: "I built one for my small clownfish hatchery after reading this thread. It keeps the nitrates down (between 0 and 15) without any water changes. I use a skimmer and a filter bag also, as it is a hatchery, with tonnns of food input. I don't have any pics of my current scrubber. Its just a piece of plexi-glass at a 15 degree angle, sanded and drilled. I keep it ~10" below a 150w HPS."

Desertdawg on the SWF site: "I get about a handful of algae off of it every week, so far the water levels are staying almost perfect with just this scrubber and no other filtration or a skimmer running!!!"
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Old 02-16-2010, 08:16 PM   #336
 
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Bridgeport on the scrubber site: "I set up my first turf scrubber [6 months ago] after reading through this site. Its gone through many changes since then as I did not have the right flow, lighting, or screen roughness to start. I finally adjusted all those problems and now the screen is growing thick light green algae. I did this project as an experiment and set it up on a ten gallon saltwater tank. I was plagued with red hair algae outbreaks in the ten gallon, and my 55 gallon tank. My plan was to start the algae scrubber on the ten gallon and then switch it over to the 55 gallon. I decided against this and have built another scrubber for the 55 (not in operation yet). The screen on the ATS for my 10 gallon was rather overkill. It is 11in. wide by 8in. height. Although it took a while to get it going because the bio load was very low, it is now working very well. I always clean the screen every weekend. It only takes a couple of minutes and is very easy. My ten gallon tank is now algae free(phos. near 0) and doing very well. As a matter of fact, I have been taking live rock from my 55gal which is still plagued with Red Algae, and putting them in the ten gallon to clean them off. I have done this several times and it has worked well."

Nrosdal on the scrubber site: "i have had an ats going for about 4-5 months and am finally happy with my design and the results that it is giving me, so i figured that i would post a thread with pics from along the way. i would love to say that my tank clearing up is only due to the ats but there are other factors (vodka dosing/more water changes) that also did contribute. But i can definately say that the ats is the biggest contributing factor in my tanks successfully staying free from green and my N and P staying within a reasonable range. [...] i was getting a little better growth of algae and doing 1-2 water changes a week, also changed bulbs to 6500k from the standard ones and put the scrubber on its own timer so that i could have it on for 18hrs as opposed to 12. over the next few weeks i saw some serious improvements in growth on my ats and noticed that the algae in the display was not growing back after my snails/crabs cleaned it. fast forward to today and the tank has been clear of algae (except for on 1 coral that the snails dont like to touch) for about a month now and even has a slight purple hue to it as opposed to green. Corals are slowly popping back out of the rock... and i have my latest version of the scrubber up and running for a week now (same screen just new lighting/box setup)."

Wormside on the spanish AR site, Google translated from Spanish: "From the beginning I had problems with algae in [my] tank, [i bought] a better skimmer (ASM G2) as recommended, but [it] was not so drastic a change as when I put the scrubber. I was running both for a while, about 3 months, and the algae began to disappear; the fourth month I broke my pump sedra (the skimmer) and since then the tank is with pure scrubber. The change to the tank to operate only with the scrubber is impressive; zero abolutamente algae in the display anything! Another thing [] is that now only change the water every month, and now it takes 2 months without water change, and everything perfect. Add course trace elements, Strontium and Molybdenum, Iodine, every week or 15 days , BioDigest Bioptima and in principle every 15 days, but now, every month. I saved a good salt water changes, and unlike [with] the skimmer, I have no saltwater replace []. Also saves energy because the Sedra I used 35w or something and I also heat the water, [but without skimmer] when the quite, low temperature 1 or 2 degrees []. Well many things are good [] we brought the scrubber, is incredible as simple as effective."

Labperck on the Spanish AR site, translated: "my tank is 8 months without a skimmer and water changes only, with the algal and some charcoal, and going very well my PO4 levels 0 and no3 to 0"

Lugac on the spanish AR site, translated: "After 2 months of use to me is working great, nitrates had stalled at 15 mg/l and sometimes climbed to 25 mg/l, and install the [scrubber] after that I went down to 10 mg/L, after a 5 mg/L and Last weekend are at 2 mg/L, I'm on the verge of leaving them to zero. As for phosphates, had at 0.1 mg/l and install the [scrubber] as quickly dropped to .03 mg/L."

Antonioalvarez on the spanish AR site, translated: "After 15 years of struggling with high phosphates and nitrates in the clouds, alone in my aquarium fish, I read about the algae scrubber [] and I decided to build it following the instructions:

Oct 24 2009: Build Algal Scrubber; pipe 3/4 inch, screen 30x40cm, pump 840 Gal/H and a pair of 55-watt bulbs 6500K savers. Water values for the time:

NH4, NH3 = 0
NO2= 0
NO3= 20 mg/l
PO4= 0.1

Oct 26 2009: The first and second day started sprouting weeds.

Nov 1 2009: Significant growth was observed.

Nov 2 2009: First harvest only one side of the screen.

Nov 9 2009: We measured parameters:

NH4, NH3 = 0
dNO2= 0
NO3= 20 mg/l
PO4= 0.05

Half Phosphates, Nitrates remain.

Nov 25 2009: Measured parameters remain the same, is harvested the screen. Bio-Balls delete, delete, mechanical filters, remove sand substrate and 25% water change. Measured parameters:

NH4 NH3 = 0
NO2= 0
NO3= 10mg/l
PO4= 0.25

The measures gave results.

Dec 1 2009: I introduce to my tank live rock cured for 30 days previously. Measured parameters:

NH4= 0
NO2= 0
NO3= 7.5 mg/l
PO4= 0.25

Dec 9 2009: It is harvested and measured parameters:

NH4 NH3 = 0
NO2= 0
NO3= 0 mg/l
PO4= 0
PH= 8
Temp= 25-26

TOTAL HAPPINESS!!! and remains so values.
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Old 02-20-2010, 01:46 PM   #337
 
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Here are some videos of the scrubber running:

Flow example, looking from the side with one of the lights removed:
YouTube - Santa Monica 100 - Flow Example from side

Flow example, looking from the top:
YouTube - Santa Monica 100 - Flow Example from top

Demonstration of noise:
YouTube - Santa Monica 100 - Demonstration of noise

Demonstration of darkness:
YouTube - Santa Monica 100 - Demonstration of darkness
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Old 02-23-2010, 12:33 PM   #338
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SantaMonica View Post
6. I keep hearing "Yes, skimmers DO remove nitrate and phosphate! They just do it by removing organics BEFORE they break down into nitrates and phosphates". That's just great. Organics, before they "break down", are called FOOD. Yes, FOOD. So yes, skimmers DO remove FOOD (i.e, "protein"). But saying that removing FOOD is the same as removing nitrates and phosphates is like saying removing BEER, before you drink it, is the same as removing the pee after you drink it. Wouldn't you rather have the beer, and then remove the pee? Skimmers remove the food that you put in the tank. Scrubbers remove the "pee" after the tank eats the food.
This is disappointing to see on this thread. I have been following this thread for a long time and i have no idea why you would so drastically attack another filter system, especially when your attack bends the facts as bad as a politician trying to get elected.

Yes, proteins are a food source for corals. However, there is a lot more at play here. If the necessity of proteins in the water column was required for coral growth, we would not have the widespread success in growing and propagating corals that we have in this hobby.

The other side of this story is the negative impact that proteins and nitrates, which are acids, have on carbonate buffers.

My point is this. You have a great thread running here. It has been very educational, when you have focused on the positive aspects of algae scrubbers.

Your beer analogy is perfect. It would benefit the person consuming the beer if the beer was just taken away, rather than allowed to process into the body.

Protein skimmers are not only proven in this hobby, the truth is that the hobby today would not exist with such wide spread success if it were not for the advancement of skimmer designs, and especially the dramatic drop in cost of effective skimmers.

Just to clarify for the reader. I am not at all against algae scrubbers. I am, however, against the idea of attacking the very type of filtration that has made this hobby what it is today, and that is the Protein Skimmer.
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Old 02-24-2010, 09:53 PM   #339
 
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Quote:
If the necessity of proteins in the water column was required for coral growth, we would not have the widespread success in growing and propagating corals that we have in this hobby.
That's the same as saying that since humans live to be more that 35 years old, that they do not need to improve what they eat. Yes there is "success" keeping some corals compared to 30 years ago, but the corals could use a lot more food if you want them to live like the do naturally. If you have ever had a bleached coral, you are looking at starvation. The amount of food available in a tank is a tiny percentage of what's available on any reef. Yes it has been measured, and in order to give your corals the same amount of food (and thus the same amount of growth) as in the ocean, a 100 gal tank would need to be fed over one pound of food every day.

And of course there are the entire group of pure non-photo corals which have zero chance with a skimmer. And even with a skimmer, you still need to spend more money and time adding on some way to remove Inorganic Nitrate and Inorganic Phosphate, since skimmers don't.

Quote:
The other side of this story is the negative impact that proteins and nitrates, which are acids, have on carbonate buffers.
Proteins and nitrates are not acids. What you are referring to is the first part of the nitrogen cycle which uses one unit of carbonate for every unit of ammonia. However, (1) the second part of the nitrogen cycle puts the carbonate back, and (2) algae eats ammonia as it very favorite number one food. So, you can feed more, and get less ammonia, because of the algae.

Quote:
Protein skimmers are not only proven in this hobby,
Yes, they are proven to remove food. They do it well.

Quote:
the truth is that the hobby today would not exist with such wide spread success if it were not for the advancement of skimmer designs, and especially the dramatic drop in cost of effective skimmers.
Similar to saying that humans could have found a cure 30 years ago for a common cold, but that we are better today without the cure because "this is how it is".

Quote:
I am not at all against algae scrubbers. I am, however, against the idea of attacking the very type of filtration that has made this hobby what it is today, and that is the Protein Skimmer.
I'm not against skimmers either. But I am against people having the wrong information. I'll guarantee that most everyone reading this thinks that the stuff that skimmers pull out is "bad stuff", and have no idea that it's actually coral food, and that it IS the stuff that feeds coral in the ocean. Now of course if you have not corals to feed, it's a different story.
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Old 02-26-2010, 08:50 PM   #340
 
Hello all,

I have been following this thread with much interest for a while now and i have decided that i would like to try to build one of the scrubbers on this site (The Santa Monica 100) i will first give you some background info on my tank.

I inherited my tank from a friend who was downgrading and bought a red sea max 130. And my friend has since decided that the red sea wasn't big enough or expandable enough so they have gone larger again .. go figure.

Anyways the tank i got was an Aqua One 120 (285 liter i think) and was only using the standard aqua one trickle filter that comes on top of they're tanks and there was so much salt creep all over the tank, and it took quite a while to clean off. i ditched the trickle filter and light hood and am now running the tank as an open top with 150w metal halide and it has 2x 55w actinic lights. At the time i knew that i needed some form of filtration but wasn't sure what direction to go so i opted for the only filter i could find that did everything which was the aqua one marisys 240 it's basically a canister filter using bio balls and noodles filter pads and a protein skimmer. Needless to say it's not perfect for what I'm using it for apart from the ongoing costs of replacing the filter pads and wooden air stones. My water quality still isn't perfect and i am having nuance algae growing in my display tank and i have to clean my glass every few days.
I also have some macro algae growing in a brooding net in the corner of my tank it's crude but somewhat effective i believe it would be more so if it had proper flow, and i am planning on getting an octopus eco 1000 to grow my macro in to improve these issues, and my tangs seem to love it when i chuck some in the tank.

So my question is this, is there any way i can use the marisys hang on box with the aforementioned algae scrubber ? i have compared the specs and the marisys uses a syphon system with a 2000 liter an hour power head to return the water back to the tank so my plan was to use the return pump and hang on box and attach it to an algae scrubber instead.
the santa monica 100 doesn't quite fit in my tank stand but i feel i should be able to mod it and make it fit.

I would be grateful for any other input that you guys might have on this and tank you all in advance for your help and a great and very informative thread.
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