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Thread: Mega Powerful Nitrate and Phosphate Remover - DIY!

  1. #1
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    Mega Powerful Nitrate and Phosphate Remover - DIY!

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    Mega Powerful Nitrate and Phosphate Remover - DIY!

    Are you tired of green on your rocks? Do you have to clean your glass more than once a week? Well then I'm sure you've been told (or you've figured out) that your Nitrate and/or Phosphate are too high. Sure enough, if these are too high, the green starts growing. Phosphate is the important one: If you can detect any phosphate at all with a hobby test kit (like Salifert), then it's high enough to cause algae to grow. So, what can you do?

    Build an algae filter screen, that's what you can do. An algae filter screen, also known as a turf algae filter, a turf scrubber, or an algae scrubber, basically filters the water clean of nitrate and phosphate so that the green on your rocks and glass goes away. It does this by "moving" the growth of the algae from the tank to a "screen" outside of the tank. The idea is that you create a better growing environment on the screen than occurs in the tank, so that the algae grows on the screen instead. It works great!

    Here's what you can expect: If you build your algae filter properly, your nitrate and phosphate will be incredibly low, sometimes unmeasureable by hobby test kits, within four weeks. I use Salifert test kits, and the readings I get are "clear" (zero) for both the Nitrate and the Phosphate tests. This is what you want. If you have been trying to get this yourself, then an algae filter is for you.

    Here is my Algae Filter in a 5-gallon bucket; it's the only filter I have (other than the live rock) on my 100 gallon reef:




    Here is the filter in operation with the lights on:




    Here is my tank:


    Hi-Res: http://www.radio-media.com/fish/WholeTank.jpg
    Video: http://www.radio-media.com/fish/WholeTank08-11-08.mpg


    And here are the only things you need to build a bucket version of this filter:




    My nitrate and phosphate are zero (clear on Salifert test kits), and the only thing in my sump is water. I removed the skimmer, carbon, phosban, polyfilter(s), and filtersock; I don't use ozone, vodka, zeo or anything else. I'm feeding massive amounts too; enough that if I had my previous filtering setup, I'd have to clean the glass twice a day, and everything in the tank would be covered in green or brown algae. Amazing.

    The only thing you need to decide on is how big your algae filter screen needs to be, and if you want it to be in your tank's hood, or in a bucket, or in your sump. The basic rule is one square inch of screen for each gallon of tank water, if the screen it lit on both sides; the screen size should be twice this if the screen is lit up on just one side. A 12 X 12 inch screen, lit both sides, = 144 square inches = 144 gal tank; a 7 X 7 inch screen lit both sides = 49 gal tank; a 6 X 6 lit both sides = 36 gal tank. Algae filters get really small as you can see. A 12 gal nano tank needs just 3 X 4 inches! This small thing can replace the skimmer, refugium, phosphate removers, nitrate removers, carbon, filtersocks, and waterchanges, IF THE PURPOSE of these devices is to reduce nitrate and phosphate. If these devices have any other purpose, then they can't be replaced. If your tank is bigger than a 75, then just start with a 5 gallon bucket size and see how it goes. You can always add a second one, or build a bigger one later.

    My example bucket version takes about 4 hours to build. Water goes in the pvc pipe at the top, flows down over the screen, then drains out the bottom. That's it! Oh, and it has clip-on lights. I can feed the tank a lot of food, and anything not eaten by the corals or fish eventually ends up as algae on the screen.


    Here are some examples of DIY algae filter screens already built, from a simple nano one:








    to larger ones:
















    Here are some advantages of an algae filter:


    o Allows you to feed very high amounts without causing nuisance algae growth in the tank.

    o Can replace waterchanges, IF THE PURPOSE of the waterchange is to reduce nitrate or
    phosphate or algae growth. Otherwise, it does not replace the water change.

    o Grows swarms of copepods.

    o Increases pH.

    o Increases oxygen.

    o Will NOT spread algae into the tank. It removes algae FROM the tank.

    o There is no odor from the algae (only a slight ocean smell when cleaning it).

    o Is very quiet when flowing, similar to a tabletop decorative waterfall.

    o Introduces no microbubbles when adjusted.

    o Removes ammonia too.

    o You can even make a portable bucket! Just unplug the lights, lift up the pump
    out of the tank water, and go put it in your next tank (or your friend's tank).
    Don't let the screen dry out though.

    o Works in saltwater or freshwater.

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    Part 2 of 2:


    How to build it:

    First, get your screen. Any stiff material that has holes in it, like knitting backing, plastic canvas, rug canvas, gutter guard, or tank-divider will do. Try going to hardware stores, craft stores, garden stores, sewing stores, or just get one of these online (in order of preference):

    http://www.craftsetc.com/store/item.aspx?ItemId=43844
    http://www.herrschners.com/products/...spx?sku=137850
    http://www.aquaticeco.com/subcategor...nk%20divider/0

    Don't use window screen though. The main problem with this kind of "soft" screen will be getting it to hold its shape; it will bend and fold too much. Stiff screen is easier to make stay put, and easier to clean.

    If you have a nano with a filter hatch on top of the hood, then it's super easy: Just cut a piece of screen to replace the sponge filter, and put it where the sponge filter went. Leave the hatch open, an set a strong light on it, facing down directly on the screen. This is a good bulb to get; it will be bright enough to power the screen, and to light up your nano too:

    http://www.buylighting.com/23-Watt-R...1r4023-51k.htm

    If your nano does not have a filter hatch on top of the hood, or if you have a regular tank, then here are the larger versions:








    The first and main thing to consider is the flow to the screen. You need about 35 gph (gallons per hour) for every inch of width of the screen. Thus, a 2" wide screen would need 70 gph, and so on. Here is a chart:

    Screen Width-----Gallons Per Hour (GPH)

    1" 35
    2" 70
    3" 105
    4" 140
    5" 175
    6" 210
    7" 245
    8" 280
    9" 315
    10" 350
    11" 385
    12" 420
    13" 455
    14" 490
    15" 525
    16" 560
    17" 595
    18" 630
    19" 665
    20" 700


    Note that it does not matter how tall your screen is, just how wide it is. Let's start with an overflow feed: In this case the amount of flow is pre-determined by how much is overflowing; the maximum flow you'll get to the screen will be what's going through your overflow now. This is easy to figure out by counting how many seconds it takes your overflow to fill a one-gallon jug:

    60 seconds = 60 gph
    30 seconds = 120 gph
    15 seconds = 240 gph
    10 seconds = 360 gph
    8 seconds = 450 gph
    5 seconds = 720 gph


    Take this gph number that you end up with, and divide by 35, to get the number of inches wide the screen should be. For example, if your overflow was 240 gph, then divide this by 35 to get 6.8 (or just say 7) inches. So your screen should be 7 inches wide. How tall should it be? As tall as can fit into the area you have, and, as tall as your light bulbs will cover. But how tall it is not as important as how wide it is.

    Pump feeds: Since with a pump you have control over the flow, start with the size screen you can fit into your space. If the screen will go into your sump, then measure how wide that screen will be. If the screen will go into a bucket, then measure how wide that screen will be. Take the width you get, and multiply by 35 to get the gph you need. For example if you can fit a 10 inch wide screen into your sump or bucket, then multiply 10 by 35 to get 350 gph. Thus your pumps needs to deliver 350 gph to the screen.

    You can construct your setup using any method you like. The only difficult part is the "waterfall pipe", which must have a slot cut lengthwise into it where the screen goes into it. Don't cut the slot too wide; just start with 1/8", and you can increase it later if you need to, based on the flow you get. I used a Dremel moto-tool with a "cut off wheel":




    Now install the pipe onto the screen/bucket by tilting the pipe and starting at one side, then lowering the pipe over the rest. You may have to wiggle the screen in some places to get it to fit in:




    Lighting: This is the most important aspect of the whole thing. You must, must, have strong lighting. I'll list again the bulb I listed above:

    http://www.buylighting.com/23-Watt-R...1r4023-51k.htm

    ... This the minimum you should have on BOTH sides of your screen. You can get even higher power CFL bulbs, or use multiple bulbs per side, for screens larger than 12 X 12 inches, or for tanks with higher waste loads. The higher the power of the lighting on the screen, the more nitrate and phosphate will be pulled out of the tank, and faster too.

    Operation:

    Regardless of which version you build, the startup process is the same. First, clean the screen with running tap water (no soap) while scrubbing it with something abrasive. Then dry it off and sand it with sandpaper on both sides. Then get some algae (any type) from your system and rub it HARD into the screen on both sides, as deep and as hard as you can. Then run tap water over the screen to remove the loose algae pieces; you won't see the spores that stick... they are too small, but they are there. Don't forget this algae rubbing part... it will speed up the start of your screen by a few days. Install the screen and turn on the water.

    You can leave the light on for 24 hours for the first week if you want to speed up the process; otherwise just put it on a timer for 18 hours ON, and 6 hours OFF. You will see absolutely nothing grow for the first two days. On day 3 you'll start seeing some growth, and by day 5 most of the screen should have a light brown coating. If this level of growth does not happen on your screen, your lighting is probably not strong enough, or it's not close enough to the screen. Increase the bulb power, or move it closer.

    When the screen looks something like this:




    ...then you want to give it it's first cleaning, on ONE SIDE only. Take the screen to the sink, run tap water on it, and just push the algae off with your fingers (not fingernails):



    Wait a week, and clean the other side, gently. Wait another week and clean the first side again, etc. After a while you'll have to press harder to get the tougher algae off, and after a few months you'll probably need to scrape it with something, and it may eventually get so strong that you'll need a razor blade to scrape it off. But for now, be gentle; you always want some algae to remain on the screen when you are done. NEVER clean it off completely.

    Don't forget to test your Nitrate and Phosphate before you start your filter, and each day after. I use Salifert:

    http://www.marinedepot.com/ps_Aquari..._salifert.html

    Post your pics of how you build it, the growth day by day, and your nitrate and phosphate readings, so we can all see how you are doing!

  3. #3
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    Good job in doing this write up.
    - eric

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    Glad you like it; hope some folks can try it.

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    Reminder Of The Day:

    Lighting Duration: Set up your scrubber lighting on a timer for 18 hours ON, and six hours OFF. The scrubber itself won't care when those hours are, but if you want, you can have them on when your display lights are off, so as to help balance pH in the system.

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    Superb write-up there. Thanks very much for sharing.

    Have a few questions in mind-

    -How does the algae in the windscreen help to reduce nitrate and phosphate in the tank?
    If this the case, won't it be better for the algae to grow on the sides of our tank.

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    This is more for marine setups isn't it?
    For freshwater planted tanks, the nitrate and phosphate is actually good when in proper amounts.

    ck

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    Spid: Thanks, glad it is of interest.

    How does the algae in the windscreen help to reduce nitrate and phosphate in the tank?
    Because algae eat nitrate and phosphate. So the more it grows, the more nitrate and phosphate they "pull" out of the water.

    If this the case, won't it be better for the algae to grow on the sides of our tank
    By having it grow on the screen, you can stop it from growing in your tank


    CK:

    This is more for marine setups isn't it?
    It works equally well in FW or SW.

    For freshwater planted tanks, the nitrate and phosphate is actually good when in proper amounts.
    Correct, and it thus may starve the plants. But we have no feedback on this yet. But for sure, a FW fish only tank would benefit.

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    Hi SantaMonica, this is very interesting! Thanks for sharing!

    Warmest Regards from Merviso aka Merv Soh
    [ my vivarium: 2012, 2010, 2009 & 2007]
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    i'm a dreamer... a dreamer living in the lost city of moonlight.....

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    Glad you like it. We are not waiting on yours

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    Results of the Day:


    "darkblue" on the RP site says, "Been running a 4"x10" OHF [over head filter scrubber] version on my 15g for almost 2 months already. My Nitrate reading started dropping after around 3 weeks. I've had 0 Nitrates for a month now. I'm using Seachem for my tests. The screen is just partially covered with what I think are patches of brown turf."

    And "jfdelacruz", also on the RP site, says "I recently implemented this on my tank. I [originally] had an overhead filter to try and filter out a lot of detritus, and changed out filter foams every week. nitrates and phosphates were high and I had brown algae (kinda like cyano) on my sandbed already too thick to fight. I did the 2 days lights out and it took out the brown film algae. I bought a 10watt fluorescent light from carti and then cut a right fit cross-stitch cloth as my screen and layed it flat on my OHF and took out the foam. lights are on 24/7 [temporarily]. I'm on my 5th day and algae is basically non existent in the tank, while the whole cloth is covered in the same brown film algae that covered my sandbed and is starting to grow the green algae. 10,000K ung fluorescent and after day 2 it already had algae on it. on day 3 the whole cloth was lightly covered. im still waiting for day 10. also Im going on a 2nd week no water change just to try it out and so far everything's doing good. coral's are happy and clam is happy. inverts and clownfish is also happy and eating lots of cyclopeeze everyday!


    Also, I'm putting together a little series on how nutrients work in our aquariums. It will hopefully help folks better understand what affects what, and how we can make things work their best. Here's the first one below. I use Salifert for my testing, so I'll just refer to them:
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .


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    Builds Of The Day:

    This one is from "Sandztorm" on the RP site; it is a version of the nano that I listed on page 1, where a simple screen replaces the foam filter in the hood, and a light is added on top:






    This one from "Coopattack" on the FG site wraps the PVC around the bottom of the screen to hold it in place:









    Here is a trough version by "framerguy" on the CR site (the lights have since been lowered closer to the trough):












    This one from "Labman" on the MD site wanted a taller one in a more narrow size, so he attached two plastic canvas screens together:






    "Johntanjm" from the MD site placed screens on both sides of the bulb, instead of a bulb on both sides of the screen:






    "Mrobo77031" on the UR site just attached the pipe and lights to the stand, and put some reflective material around it:






    And "Mudshark" on the MASA site just drilled the pvc with holes, and wrapped a screen around it:


    .
    .

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    Well here is my 7-day cleaning from yesterday. First, here's the screen before cleaning, looking at the the edge:










    Here's the screen after cleaning:







    And here's what was removed:







    So it was a half-pound of wet green hair, about the same as last week. Once thing about cleaning green hair compared to real turf (my other screen that's now at the LFS) is that it slides off so easy, it's hard to leave any on the screen. I tried to only clean one side, but some of the other side detached too. You can almost just run tap water over it, and the loose stuff comes off. Maybe a better design is two half-screens, so you can just pull one out and clean it completely, while not touching the other one.

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    Hi,

    Thanks for sharing,its very detailed

    Jus something to ask,
    By the same theory,as long as plants with very high growth rate can be used, correct? Jus plant them where you would grow your algae,trick is the 24/7 strong lights. This is to have photosynthesis going on 24/7 so the plants are constantly eating up nitrates leaving little or none to wreck havoc in our main tanks.
    What do you think...

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    Good to hear you like the info

    Bad to hear that I've confused you

    I think you are describing a refugium. A scrubber does not use plants. It grows its own algae. And you don't want 24/7 lighting... you want 18 hours ON, and 6 hours OFF. Other than that... you've got the idea.....

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    Reminder Of The Day:

    Why Larger Is Not Better: A larger screen, by itself (without larger lights), is not better than a smaller screen. This means that if you want more nitrate and phosphate removal from your water, the best way to do it is by getting stronger lights, or by moving the lights closer to the screen. If all you do is get a larger screen, the new larger edges of the screen will be too far from the light to have any effect. Of course, the most effective way to increase nitrate and phosphate removal is to do all three: Increase screen size; add more lights to cover the new screen parts; and position all the lights closer to the screen.

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    Text Version:

    Food --> fish,corals --> Organic Nitrate, Organic Phosphate.

    Organic Nitrate, Organic Phosphate --> Bacteria --> Inorganic Nitrate, Inorganic Phosphate.

    Inorganic Nitrate, Inorganic Phosphate --> Algae --> Oxygen

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by SantaMonica View Post
    Good to hear you like the info

    Bad to hear that I've confused you

    I think you are describing a refugium. A scrubber does not use plants. It grows its own algae. And you don't want 24/7 lighting... you want 18 hours ON, and 6 hours OFF. Other than that... you've got the idea.....
    Thanks for clarifying.

    I meant for the purpose of reducing nitrate,can we use fast growing plants in place of algae?
    What happens if we were to have lights 24/7? Any purpose for the 6 hours OFF?
    Can't wait to try it..Suddenly I feel all excited again
    Last edited by bossteck; 14th Oct 2008 at 13:30. Reason: sms lingo

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    Plants work, just like macro in a fuge, just not a fast or strong as a scrubber. Reason is the strong light and fast flow that a scrubber gets.

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    Reminder Of The Day:

    Feeding: Here are the two building block articles by Eric Borneman that cover what happens when you feed your tank. This information is what you need to know to understand what scrubbers do:

    http://reefkeeping.com/issues/2003-01/eb/index.php
    http://reefkeeping.com/issues/2003-03/eb/index.php

    Here is an excerpt from the second one:

    "Detritus [waste] ... is the principal food source for the many bacterial species that work in various nitrification and denitrification activities. Before reaching the microbial community, however, [waste] acts as a food source for the smaller consumers such as amphipods, copepods, errant polychaetes, protozoans, flagellates, ciliates and other animals whose activities contribute to the stability and productivity of a coral reef and a coral reef aquarium."

    and

    "Of the many food sources available to corals and already discussed in this series of articles, particulate organic material [waste], dissolved organic material [DOC/DOM], and bacteria are the most universally accepted food sources"

    and

    "The use of detrital material, or particulate organic material, as food source is a cornerstone of coral reef ecology and forms what is well accepted to be the base of the entire food chain"
    .
    .

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