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Chaeto Reactors compared to Algae Scrubbers

 
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SantaMonica
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2017 6:48 am Post subject: Chaeto Reactors compared to Algae Scrubbers Reply with quote

 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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PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2017 9:00 am Post subject: Re: Chaeto Reactors compared to Algae Scrubbers Reply with quote

 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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PostPosted: Thu Nov 23, 2017 8:52 am Post subject: Re: Chaeto Reactors compared to Algae Scrubbers Reply with quote

 Chaeto  Reactors  compared  to  Algae  Scrubbers,  part  2
 
 
 Now  for  some  basic  differences;  more  detailed  differences  will  be  in  subsequent  posts.  
 
 The  first  and  maybe  most  important  difference  is  that  chaeto  reactors  grow  only  in  saltwater  (fish  only,  or  fish  with  live  rock,  or  reef)  whereas  algae  scrubbers  grow  (filter)  in  both  saltwater  and  freshwater.  Growing  =  filtering.  But  even  if  you  are  exclusively  freshwater,  understanding  the  differences  between  reactors  and  scrubbers  enables  you  to  optimize  a  system  for  your  tank.  There  have  not  been  any  experiments  of  chaeto  in  brackish  water  however.
 
 A  second  difference  is  size;  a  chaeto  reactor  needs  to  be  much  larger  than  an  algae  scrubber.  Many  saltwater  tanks  have  large  sumps,  and  even  dedicated  fish  rooms,  so  this  may  not  be  an  issue.  Through  experiential  results  of  individual  aquarists  running  chaeto  reactors  over  the  last  few  years,  and  through  many  thousands  of  aquarists  running  algae  scrubbers  over  the  last  ten  years,  it  has  been  observed  that  a  chaeto  reactor  needs  to  be  4  to  8  times  the  physical  size  of  an  algae  scrubber  to  provide  the  same  rate  of  filtering  capacity  (rate  of  nutrient  removal).
 
 A  third  difference  is  seeding;  a  chaeto  reactor  needs  to  be  seeded  with  a  small  amount  of  chaeto,  either  from  another  aquarium,  reactor,  or  from  your  last  harvest  (i.e.,  you  don’t  harvest  all  of  it),  whereas  an  algae  scrubber  will  self-seed  from  invisible  algal  cells  in  the  water.  When  self-seeding,  algae  scrubbers  usually  start  out  with  a  slime  type  of  growth,  and  this  sometimes  progresses  on  to  a  green  hair  algae  growth,  depending  on  the  nutrients  in  the  water.
 
 A  fourth  difference  is  in  how  you  clean  (harvest).  For  a  chaeto  reactor,  you  disassemble  the  reactor  usually  by  unscrewing  several  screws  on  the  top  of  the  container,  and  then  by  pulling  out  a  tube  or  frame  from  the  container;  the  chaeto  growth  is  then  removed  from  the  frame  and  the  frame  is  replaced  back  into  the  container,  and  the  lid  and  screws  are  put  back  into  place.  Since  chaeto  does  not  attach  to  a  surface,  you  often  get  broken  chaeto  pieces  that  flow  into  your  tank  or  sump  when  you  harvest;  a  filter  screen  in  the  reactor  can  reduce  this.
 
 For  an  algae  scrubber,  cleaning  (harvesting)  varies  on  what  design  it  is;  freshwater  versions  will  usually  be  taken  to  a  sink  for  the  cleaning  because  of  the  thin  and  slimy  growth  (saltwater  versions  can  also  be  cleaned  in  a  sink,  but  are  sometimes  harvested  in-place).  A  horizontal  river  design  will  have  a  light  that  you  lift  up  off  of  the  container,  and  a  screen  that  you  remove  from  the  container.  A  waterfall  design  will  have  a  screen  that  you  remove  from  a  pipe;  sometimes  the  whole  pipe  is  removed,  and  sometimes  the  pipe  is  in  a  container  that  you  need  to  open  first.  A  bubble  upflow  design  has  at  least  part  of  the  container  under  water,  which  you  lift  out  of  the  water.  And  for  all  algae  scrubbers,  since  the  growth  is  attached  to  a  surface,  broken  floating  algae  pieces  are  not  common  when  you  harvest  on  a  proper  schedule.  Bubble  upflow  scrubbers  almost  never  detach  because  the  growth  is  supported  by  the  water.
 
 A  fifth  difference  is  fish  feeding;  by  feeding  your  fish  from  the  growth,  the  fish  eat  naturally  and  you  don’t  have  to  buy  and  add  food  to  the  water  (which  creates  nutrients).  Very  few  if  any  aquarium  animals  eat  chaeto,  so  the  only  option  is  to  remove  the  chaeto  and  either  throw  it  away  or  give  it  to  a  friend.  For  algae  scrubbers,  it  depends  on  the  growth:  Slime  (although  full  of  absorbed  nutrients  from  the  water)  is  usually  not  eaten  by  aquarium  fish  and  thus  is  scraped  off  and  thrown  away  or  used  as  garden  fertilizer.  Green  hair  algae  however  is  eaten  by  almost  all  herbivore  fish  and  many  snails  (it’s  their  nature  food),  and  thus  some  of  the  growth  can  be  fed  back  to  the  fish,  especially  in  freshwater  where  algae  scrubbers  almost  always  grow  this  type  of  growth.  
 
 A  sixth  difference  is  overgrowth  of  algae  on  the  lights.  Chaeto  reactors  usually  have  a  large  surface  area  light  (such  as  a  long  coiled  light  strip),  and  the  illumination  from  these  is  not  enough  to  “burn”  off  algae  growth  on  the  surface  of  the  clear  wall  (this  growth  reduces  illumination  output).  So  you  will  need  to  clean  these  glass  surfaces  in  order  to  keep  the  illumination  at  full  output.  Most  algae  scrubbers  however  use  discrete  (separate)  high  power  LEDs  which  produce  enough  illumination  in  a  small  space  to  burn  off  algal  growth  on  glass  surfaces;  for  these  you  do  not  need  to  wipe  the  growth  off  because  it  does  not  grow  there.
 
 A  last  difference  is  overgrowth  of  algae  on  the  algae  itself.  Chaeto  is  a  slow  growing  species  of  algae  because  of  it’s  thick  cellular  structure,  and  if  conditions  favor  faster  growing  algae  you  will  get  green  hair  algae  which  attaches  on  top  of  the  chaeto,  causing  the  chaeto  to  be  blocked  from  light  and  flow,  and  eventually  causing  the  chaeto  to  die  and  rot.  There  is  no  easy  way  to  wipe  green  hair  algae  from  chaeto;  the  chaeto  must  just  be  harvested  earlier  instead.  For  algae  scrubbers,  green  hair  algal  growth  on  top  of  more  green  hair  growth  is  how  scrubbers  operate  in  the  first  place,  so  earlier  harvesting  is  not  needed.
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 28, 2018 9:49 am Post subject: Re: Chaeto Reactors compared to Algae Scrubbers Reply with quote

 Chaeto  Reactors  compared  to  Algae  Scrubbers,  part  3
 
 
 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.
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