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  1. #1
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    Chaeto Reactors compared to Algae Scrubbers

    With more people wanting to use natural filtration for their tanks, we are going to look at the two main types of units that you can put on your system: Chaeto reactors (or "algae reactors") and algae turf scrubbers (ATS). We won’t be looking at refugiums however, since those have mostly a different purpose. This will be a multi-part post; the next post will start with the basics, so if you’d like anything in particular to be covered, let us know.




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  2. #2
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    Are you guys selling chaeto reactors or still just ATS filtration units? I've seen some really good info and posts on R2R with chaeto reactors. Since earlier this year they have really become very popular for nutrient uptake and export.
    I've also been keeping up with the BRS videos and the experiments they've been doing with refugiums. Imo, all of these methods for natural filtration seem to be very effective if setup properly.

    Sent from my SM-G360T using Tapatalk

  3. #3
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    Just ATS. They take less space and can be for FW too.




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  4. #4
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    Chaeto Reactors compared to Algae Scrubbers, part 1

    All macroalgae operate basically the same, chemically. They all use light, photosynthetically, to absorb nutrients from the water (i.e., filtering) and to grow biomass. Just like trees. The differences between types of macroalgae are in the physical structure of the macroalgae growth and the way the structure affects nutrient absorption speed, which means filtering. Here are the main differences as far as aquarists are concerned:

    Chaeto: Pronounced KAY-toe. Chaeto is the nickname for Chaetomorpha, and it looks like a green dishwasher cleaning pad. It has no "roots" and thus does not attach to solid surfaces. It grows in saltwater only, and is not eaten by many fish.

    Green Hair Algae: Includes Cladophora "angel hair" and Ulva "Easter basket" types. It has "roots" which attach to solid surfaces. It grows in freshwater and saltwater, and is eaten by almost all herbivores.

    Slime: A solid algal growth, bright green to brown to black in color, that attaches to solid surfaces but not very securely.

    Chaeto Reactor: A device that has water running through it, with chaeto growing in it. Also known as an "algae reactor". A chaeto reactor does not allow air to enter; only water, and these reactors usually have a lid attached with screws to keep water in and air out.

    Algae Scrubber: Also called a Turf Scrubber, or Algal Turf Scrubber (ATS). A device that allows air and water to interact to create a turbulent air/water interface like waves on a beach; it grows green hair algae or slime that attaches to solid surfaces.

    Reactors and scrubbers are different from refugiums; a refugium (“fuge”) is a space in a sump where macroalgae is placed, and a light is put over it. Refugiums have very slow flow, and very low light penetration, compared to reactors or scrubbers. You could modify a refugium to be a reactor, and with more mods you could make it a scrubber. But then it would no longer be a refugium.

    All oceans, reefs, lakes and rivers are naturally filtered by photosynthesis. This means that algae does all the filtering of these waters. This is why algae is at the base of the entire aquatic food chain, and why algae biomass dwarfs the biomass of all aquatic animals combined. But for algae to absorb nutrients out of the water, the algae must grow. And to absorb nutrients faster, the algae must grow faster.

    Next we will look at what makes different types of macroalgae absorb nutrients differently.




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  5. #5
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    Chaeto Reactors compared to Algae Scrubbers, part 3

    By Santa Monica Filtration

    Now for nutrients.

    Nutrients are defined as inorganics, not organics. The word "nutrient" is sometimes confused with "nutrition", and maybe in restaurants the words might mean the same thing, but for aquarists they are totally different. Nutrition food particles are mostly visible, but nutrients are invisible, and for aquariums the nutrients are:

    Ammonia/ammonium
    Urea (pee)
    Nitrite
    Nitrate
    Phosphate
    Iron
    CO2

    Organics: These are food particles, and most of them big enough to see. They can be apples, pellets, nori, baby brine shrimp, flakes, peanut butter, poop, mucus, leaves, twigs, fish eggs, and other types of detritus, all of which are eaten/consumed by some type of organism. Organics are usually very visible when concentrated, and only after the organics get digested by a long chain of animals and bacteria do organics become invisible inorganics (this is called “remineralisation”, because they are now basic minerals once again). Organic food particles (which include waste) can be large, small, or dissolved, and if dissolved in water then the water may be cloudy or clear. For example, if you take mucus and blend it in water, the resulting dissolved organics would be invisible. Natural reefs are very highly loaded with organics, especially at night (sometimes a night diver cannot see his own hand because of the camera light reflecting off of the mass of particles). Lakes even more so, so much that sometimes you cannot see more than a meter underwater in full daylight. Aquarium keepers however tend to want ultra “clear” water, where all the natural food particles are removed from the water.

    Algal Structure: The structure of algal cells make the algae thick or thin; solid or soft. The thinner the algae is, the more surface area it has, just like small particles of sand have more surface area than larger pebbles do. This increased surface area has more contact with water around it and thus can pull in nutrients faster. And the softer the algae is, the less structural cellulose-like material (like celery) it has. Hard structural cells, like celery, are great for holding a shape but bad for photosynthesis because there are less photosynthetic cells like there are in a leaf; so harder/stiffer algae absorb nutrients slower. Therefore for faster nutrient absorption, you want thin and soft algae.

    Chaeto: Has a firm structure that holds it's shape, and is about 1 mm in thickness. Nutrient absorption is slow.

    Green Hair: Has a soft structure that does not hold its shape, and is about 0.1 mm in thickness. Nutrient absorption is fast.

    Slime: A different category altogether.

    Light: Photosynthesis does all the nutrient filtering, and it requires light; if the light is reduced, then filtering is reduced. Two facets of algal cells can alter the light: Translucency and self-shading. Translucency is the ability of light to go through a strand of algae; if light can do this, the light can reach cells further inside or on the other side of the strand and do more filtering there. Self-shading is when one strand of algae shades another strand; when this happen to a large degree, the growth of inner portions of a clump of algae slows down or dies, as outer growth is added over it. Thus the clump may appear to be increasing is size but the inner portions will actually be dying and putting nutrients back into the water, sometimes faster than the newer outer layers are taking the nutrients out of the water. And the larger the clump is, the more the inside starts dying. Only the outside portion grows.

    Chaeto: Non-translucent (opaque), with high shading of other strands.

    Green Hair: Medium to high translucency, with medium shading.

    Slime: Low translucency when thick, and high shading.

    The graphs of the following study show the light-blocking characteristics of chaeto: "Production within dense mats of the filamentous macroalga Chaetomorpha linum in relation to light and nutrient availability"

    http://www.int-res.com/articles/meps/134/m134p207.pdf

    Fig 5B shows how, under bright light, chaeto productivity (filtering) drops 72 percent with just 2 cm of chaeto thickness. And this does not take into account any dying chaeto underneath.

    With green hair algae however, the green hair filaments are very thin, and translucent, so light and water flow spread throughout the algae, thus maximizing filtering. No part of the algae is "on the dark side of the growth" like it is on almost all parts of chaeto.
    Last edited by SantaMonica; 12-21-2017 at 04:44 AM.




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  6. #6
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    What is Periphyton?

    Periphyton is what turns your rocks different colors. You know... the white rocks you started with in SW, or the grey rocks (or brown wood) you started with in FW. After several months or years, the rocks become a variety of different colors and textures. Why? Because the periphyton that has grown on it is a mix of different living things, of different colors, and thicknesses. And the important part is: It is LIVING. And the thicker it is, the more natural it is.

    That's right: The colored stuff that has coated your rocks is all living organisms. Sponges, microbes, algae, cyano, biofilms, and of course coralline. After all, "peri" means "around the outside", and "phyto" means "plant". Ever slipped while walking on rocks in a stream? That's probably periphyton that made it slippery. It's a very thin coating on the rocks, sometimes paper thin.

    There is a lot of photosynthetic organisms in periphyton, and this of course means that they need light; but they need nutrients too (ammonia, nitrate, phosphate). And as you might figure, they will be on the illuminated portions of the rocks. And they will grow to intercept food particles in the water, based on the water flow. Just think about how sponges orient their holes for water flow; the micro sponges in periphyton do it too but on a tiny scale.

    What about under the rocks, in the dark areas? Well these periphyton don't get light, so they are primarily filter feeders. So they REALLY grow and position themselves to be able to intercept food particles. And they don't really need to fight off algae, because algae does not grow in the dark, so they have no need for anti-algae tactics like periphyton in illuminated areas has.

    Reef studies have shown that at certain depths, more of the filtering of the water comes from periphyton and benthic algae than comes from the phytoplankton which filters the deeper water. And in streams, almost all the filtering is done by periphyton. So, what you have on rocks that are "mature" or "established" is a well-developed layer of periphyton; and all the things that comes from it.

    This is why mandarin fish can eat directly off the rocks of an "established" tank (tons of pods grow in and consume the periphyton), but not on the rocks of a new tank. Or why some animals can lay their eggs on established rocks, but not new ones. Or why established tanks seem to "yo-yo" less than new ones. Even tangs can eat periphyton directly when it's thick enough. Yes periphyton can also develop on the sand, but since the sand is moved around so much, the periphyton does not get visible like it does on rocks. So thick periphyton on established rocks is your friend. And totally natural too. That's why there are no pure white rocks in reefs. Keep in mind though I'm not referring to nuisance algae on rocks; I'm only referring to the very-thin layer of coloring that coats the rocks.

    But what happens when you "scrub the stuff off your rocks"? Well you remove some of the periphyton, which means you remove some of your natural filter and food producer. What if you take the rocks out of the water and scrub them? Well now you not only remove more of your natural filter and food producer, but the air is going to kill even more of the microscopic sponges in it. And what if you bleach the rocks? Well, goodbye all filtering and food producing for another year. It's an instant reduction of the natural filtering that the periphyton was providing.

    However, what if you just re-arrange the rocks? Well, some of the periphyton that was in the light, now will be in the dark; so this part will die. And some of the periphyton that was in the dark will now be in the light, so it will not be able to out-compete photosynthetic growth and thus will be covered and die too, for a while anyway. And even if the light stays the same, the direction and amount of water flow (and food particles) will change; sponges that were oriented to get food particles from one direction will now starve. So since the light and food supply is cut off, the filtering that the periphyton was providing stops almost immediately, due only to your re-arranging of the rocks.

    Starvation takes a little longer. The periphyton organisms won't die immediately, since they have some energy saved up; but instead, they will wither away over several weeks. So on top of the instant reduction in filtering that you get by just moving the rocks, you get a somewhat stretched-out period of nutrients going back into the water. And after all this, it takes another long period of time for the periphyton to build up to the levels it was at before: 1 to 2 years. Even changing the direction of a powerhead will affect the food particle supply in the area it used to be pointed at.

    So a good idea is to try to keep everything the same. Pick your lighting, flow, layout, and try to never move or change anything. In other words, just like the rocks on a reef. It's a different way of thinking, but you should have a stronger natural filter and food producer because of it.




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