Lowest cost and easiest way to eliminate green hair, bubble, turf and slime algae
Lowest cost and easiest way to eliminate green hair, bubble, turf and slime algae from your aquarium (hopefully permanently).
This new test version of the algae scrubber is much easier to build than the waterfall version (the Mega Powerful one), and is perfect for nano's. This new scrubber has never been posted before May 2012. It works in both freshwater and saltwater.
If you are like most aquatic hobbyists, nuisance algae is an ongoing problem. You try to feed your livestock, and the next thing you know, you get algae. You've already tried many fixes; some work but are expensive; some kind of work but you're not sure; and some just don't work at all.
Think about what is happening: Your aquarium is accumulating nutrients (nitrate and phosphate) because of the food you feed. Algae eat nitrate and phosphate to grow, so the algae are having a great time growing in your water because they are eating all your nutrients! What to do?
Well think about this: In order to grow, algae must be provided with nitrate and phosphate. So why can't you just use the algae to consume all the nitrate and phosphate? The answer: You can! How? With a simple device you build called an Upflow Algae Scrubber. It's simple, cheap, and you can make a small one in just a few minutes with parts you probably already have. I'll be posting more complex versions later, but here are some pics of the most basic design that you can use for testing:
(will be updated periodically)
An "algae scrubber" is a simple filter that actually grows algae in the filter, so that the algae do not grow in other parts of your aquarium. Simply put, the conditions for algae growth inside the filter are better than the conditions in the rest of your aquarium; thus the algae grow in the filter instead of your aquarium, and then you just remove the algae from the filter and throw the algae away. But in order for the algae to grow in the filter, the algae need to consume nitrate and phosphate; so guess where the nitrate and phosphate come from? Your water!
If you stop and think about it, algae always grow in certain spots, and not in others. This is because some of the three growing conditions (light, flow, nutrients) are better in some parts of your water than they are in others. An "upflow algae scrubber" simply optimizes these conditions, and does so at a place where the algae can be easily removed and thrown away. And once the nitrate and phosphate have been removed from your water, all other nuisance algae such as green hair, bubble, turf and slime, will have a hard time staying alive.
So where have these filters been all this time, and why haven't you heard of them if they work so well? Well the original waterfall version (the Mega Powerful thread posted in August 2008) was hard to build, and was not really for sale anywhere; so unless you liked to build things from scratch, you had no choice but to buy some other kind of filter. All the filter really needed to do was to create good growing conditions (light, flow, nutrients) for the algae, by flowing the water across a piece of rough material, so that the algae would grow on the material instead of somewhere else in the aquarium. The waterfall algae scrubber did grow lots of algae in the filter, and it removed lots of algae from aquariums: Over 1,000 people built their own waterfall algae scrubbers, and reported their results on various forums during a 4 year period; almost all of them wiped out their nuisance algae within 8 weeks, and many did so in 4 weeks. And on other forums that I never posted on, an estimated 10,000 people built their own waterfall algae scrubbers with similar results.
A little over a year ago in April 2011, another idea came along: Instead of letting the water flow down a screen like a waterfall, how about you let the water flow up the screen using air bubbles? Why? Because as good as waterfall algae scrubbers are, they still need a place for the water to drain "down" to. This means that you need to have a sump below the aquarium, or you need to have the scrubber up above the aquarium. This is not easy, and is very difficult for a nano aquarium which usually has no sump below it, and no room above it. Also, the waterfall version requires it to be out of the water (in the air), which takes up extra space. The new "upflow" version, however, can be placed inside the aquarium, so that it takes up no extra space at all, and it needs no external plumbing or water pumps at all. Only air bubbles.
The Upflow Algae Scrubber (UAS) provides the best growing conditions for algae in your tank: Air bubbles provide rapid turbulent flow; Strong lighting provides the light; and the nutrients that are already in your water provide the nitrate and phosphate. All that's needed is a place for the algae to attach to, and that is provided by the roughed-up plastic screen. Thus the algae start growing on the screen because the flow and lighting are stronger there than they are in the rest of your aquarium; nitrate and phosphate are consumed in the process. This causes algae to start disappearing from your aquarium and start re-appearing on the scrubber screen, so that you can throw the algae away every week or two.
The most basic way to set up an Upflow Algae Scrubber, especially in small aquariums, is just to put some air bubbles beneath a vertical screen. If inside an aquarium, you just put a light on the outside of the glass, so that it shines inside to the screen. And if you want better performance (which means better filtering), just add a reflector to give the screen some light on both sides. The screen is best made with 7-mesh cross stitch plastic canvas that you get at sewing or craft stores, or online. Also, don't forget to rough up the screen with a sharp object like a hole saw; the screen should be so rough that the screen holes are almost filled in with all the little pieces of plastic that you roughed up.
One thing to remember is that an Upflow Algae Scrubber (or any algae scrubber) will not cause more algae to grow in your aquarium. Instead, the algae will disappear from your aquarium, and will start to grow on the scrubber screen instead. You then just remove the screen and scrape the algae off. And here's a surprise: Watch out for your fish or snails eating your filter! There's nothing tastier than live green algae, so your fish or snails may keep your screen from getting very thick. The simple solution is to just put some mesh or netting around it.
There are a couple of requirements that have been learned since August 2008 which will get you started quicker. The size of the Upflow Algae Scrubber that is needed is based on how much you feed, and not how much water you have, because the nutrients that cause algae to grow come from the food you feed. The following updated picture has size guidelines:
(will be updated periodically)
And the following updated picture has examples:
(will be updated periodically)
So build a UAS and post your pictures!
OK some growth pics...
Floyd R Turbo on the GIRS site:
Rkyrickstr on the TF site:
Ruddybop on the MFK site:
Fishuntbike on the scrubber site:
The new Hang-On-Glass UAS with bubble remover:
Thats a pretty slick design, is there any reason for the 2700k-3000k range on the light? Is that the range the algae likes best?
Yes for fluorescent, 2700k growth the best algae. For LEDs it is 660 nm (red).
Everybody loves growth pictures:
7 Days of growth after first cleaning:
Video of first cleaning after 9 days of growth from a new screen:
Video of 7 days of growth after the first cleaning:
Time to eat more TV dinners and save those trays :)
A useful way to stop bubbles if your UAS is not in a box:
Some success stories of people using waterfall algae scrubbers on different sites:
Aydee on the scrubber site: "I'm going to call this a success. My nitrates had been sitting steady at about 10 or so for over a year. For it to drop to undetectable in 2 weeks.. THAT is impressive. I have got my skimmer running still, but once my ATS is running, I'll turn off the skimmer (not remove.. Yet....) If situation remains excellent as the trend currently is, I'll remove the skimmer. However, I came into ATS thinking "It can't hurt, as I'll keep my skimmer running" and now I'm thinking "WOAH! They're right!".
Obviously, the proof will be in 2 years time, ATS sans skimmer.. But.. So far, the numbers are fantastic."
Robert_Patterso on the RC site: "Best thing I have ever put on any of my tanks in over 25 years of being in the hobby"
Pskelton on the RC site: "I personally have not done a water change in 6 months ever since I implemented my scrubber. long story short my tank was a mess, kid dumped container of food in tank. I got a snow flake eel that dug up my sand bed and I was running a very under powered cheep skimmer. This lead to my nitrates peeking at 160. I did water changes for a while but the nitrate just keep coming back up to 160. The water changes were getting expensive and I was about to give up when I tried the scrubber. Within a few weeks nitrate dropped to 60 and slowly came down from there. As of my test last week I am finally at 0 nitrate and I haven't done a water change in six months. The protean skimmer has been removed and my tank is healthier than ever. I am just waiting for the algae on my rocks to finish dieing off."
Murph on the scrubber site: "my ATS is coming along fine. I think I spent about 30 bucks making it. When I compare that to the thousand or more I have spent on skimmers over the past ten years or so that made little to no difference when it came to nuisance algae in the display I want to pull my hair out. My ATS has out done them all in a matter of a few months."
Spotter on the RC site: "Nitrate Day 1: 5ppm, Week 1: 0ppm, Week 2: 0ppm. P04 Day 1: .035,
Week 1: .015, Week 2: .0092 I am liking this very much."
JohnnyB_in_SD on the RC site: "I feed about 6-7 cubes a day on a 100gl tank, and 10-12 cubes two days a week when I do the nems & corals too. N&P have been undetectable since I started using ATS, which is a mickey mouse rubber maid tub version. Since I am always looking for the easiest way to do everything, I will continue cleaning the whole screen once a week. For me, it was a real struggle maintaining water quality with just a fuge: starving my fish, super skimming, massive weekly water changes - just to keep Nitrates near 20ppm and Phosphate under 1.0. That all went away with an ATS, the hobby is much more enjoyable and not a huge chore."
Thedude657 on the scrubber site: "So my screen finally filled out with greenish algae. Water quality is excellent and now I have all sorts of cool things growing on my live rock. Little white sponges are popping up everywhere, some stuff I have no clue what it is yet. Just wanted to say thanks to help me get started."
Chrisfraser05 on the RC site: "I just wanted to jump in and say after bumping into Santamonica on a forum a while back and also watching Lafishguys videos I started a marine tank [8 months ago]. Obviously I started my first tank with a DIY algae scrubber and have NEVER seen either nitrate or phosphate."
Redneckgearhead on the scrubber site: "Heres the pics of my HA problem. [algea all over]These where taken just before I added my scrubber. I had tried EVERYTHING nothing helped. I paid a small fortune for a skimmer that I was told would surely take care of the problem. The HA laughed and kept on growing. My lights where down to 3 hours a day, my fish where only fed a small amount every two to three days, I was doing 10 percent water changes twice a week. And keep in mind those picks are only about 3 days growth, I would remove about 80 percent of the HA during my water changes. These are pics I took today just before my weekly water change. [almost no algae] I am feeding daily, my fish are now fat and happy. My scrubber is working beautifully! I am so glad I found out about scrubbers. I am still using my skimmer, but I may take it off line as soon as all the HA is gone. From the looks of things that shouldn't be much longer."
Fragglerocks on the RC site: "Ive gotten rid of 95% of all "bad" algae in the DT and my P04 Level is 0.12 checked by Hanna meter. Nitrates - Zero. I feed the equivalent of 2 frozen cubes per day, along with pellets whenever I think about it. up to 2 times per day."
Scrubit on the scrubber site: "have been running a scrubber-only 90gal tank for over a year now with great success. [...] I was ready to buy a big ol skimmer for my new tank build when I came across some of the info SM had posted. That was all it took, and I've never looked back. NEVER had algae in DT, NEVER had readable nitrates/phos after cycle, and have probably changed out maybe 40gal of water since setup. Personally I find running a scrubber almost as fun as the tank itself!"
Psyops on the RC site: "I had a DSB and chaeto fuge. When I added a ATS, the chaeto disappeared. I don't know if the DSB is doing anything. I feed my fish and tank from 1-2 times daily depending on my schedule. The ATS is doing really well, especially when I added a Calcium reactor 3 months ago. I did not believe some of the stuff people were saying on how effective an ATS system could be, but they were mostly correct."
JohnnyBinSD on the RC site: "I finally got around to putting an ATS on my tank 3 weeks ago. Just harvested a pile of algae off it tonight. In those 3 weeks I have doubled the amount of daily food I put in the tank, run the skimmer 6 hours/day instead of 24/7, and removed the lighting from the chaeto in the old fuge. Nitrates & phosphates are undetectable, algae in the display tank is almost nonexistent, fish are fat & happy. An ATS is the cheapest & most effective thing I've ever done to improve water quality. I wish I had built one sooner."
Kcmopar on the MFT site: "Its been about 5 weeks (started the weekend before fathers day) or so and the green hair algae has stopped growing in my 40G. Yeah!!! Its all receding, maybe just a few percent left at the base of a couple rocks that my coral beauty snacks on. Just amazing. Started this 40G salt from Jump with an ATS. IT NEVER CYCLED!!! I have little pods, tiny feather dusters, and other critters thriving like crazy. Coraline already starting to spread across the tank. Nutrients are always zero to just barely detectable on both the 10g and 40g. Also a note on the 40G, I never had to do a water change yet!!! No test results ever got past barely detectable. I have been dabbling with an ATS on a 10 gallon Freshwater as well. Same results so far. I am building a bigger one for my 150G FW in a few weeks."
Reeftanker on the MFUK site: "i have cleaned it about 8/10 times now, about 50-90 grams of algae each time and i have just tsted my tank i have on my test kits; Phosphates = clear that means undetectable levels on my test kit, Nitrates = 1ppm maybe 2ppm, what more do i have to say im am chuffed to bits and over the moon"
Etan on the MFUK site: "Just to share some of my results with my scrubber. I set up my new tank at beginning of Jan(Rio 400). The only filtration I have on the tank is a scrubber and about 50kg of live rock. After the tank had cycled my nitrates peaked at about 25ppm about 2 weeks ago. There were only 2 clowns and 2 chromis in tank and small cuc. Just tested today after all stock and cuc from old tank have been in there for about 1 week and nitrate reading is only 2ppm and not much signs of algee in main tank or on glass. It seems to me the scrubber is doing its job."
Weatherby68ss on the scrubber site: "i have been into this hobby for 3 years now and was using a wet /dry filter for the first year and a half or so untill i found out about algae scrubbers. i have to admit i would not still have an aquarium if not for my ats. its simply to much time, work and $$$ using any other type of filtration. with the ats i can actually sit back and enjoy my tank and keep my fish fat and happy with out worrying about the next water change because i hav'nt done 1 in over a year! :D anyone thats thinking about building 1 all i can say is go for it THEY WORK!!! nuff said"
Mgraf on the RC site: "I have been running a scrubber for about 8 months now, at first I had a skimmer running, macro's, rock rubble, and deep sand bed. Same setup as you almost. I still have the deep sand bed but, eliminated the other stuff over time for the sake of simplicity. I clean the scrubbers algae once a week, do monthly water changes, feed often and alot, and my corals and fish have never been happier or fatter in the year and a half it has been set up. Many may disagree but, for me it is the easiest way to run a salt water reef."
Jukka on the RC site: "I used to have various carbon sources + ATB Supersize skimmer as filtration for my 400 gal reef. I never succeeded to outcompete nutrient problems with those, no matter how much carbon I added. I also tried the pellet version. Since building a large scrubber with lots of light, all problems are gone. But I didn't take the skimmer out of the system and didn't stop carbon dosing, and don't intend to. I just reduced carbon amount to about 1/10 of the original. I like the effects carbon does for fungi, and other stuff like that, growth. Though other reason for keeping skimmer online is the amount I paid for the supersize ATB."
Some UAS builds...
"Acorral" on the scrubber site:
"Badfish" on the RC site:
"Cmaxtian" on the scrubber site:
"Deneed4spd" onthe TCMAS site:
"Ewerd" on the scrubber site:
"Fishuntbike" on the scrubber site:
"FloydRturbo" on the scrubber site:
"Hugbert" on the scrubber site:
"Jaz” on the scrubber site:
“Kalgra” on the R2R site:
“KelliZackMOMon” on the LR site:
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