Jump to content
SantaMonica

Chaeto Reactors compared to Algae Scrubbers

Recommended Posts

"I would love to see a comparison of methods that involved measurements of exported nutrients as it would be simple to do so but that is not what the author is proposing. "

Yes I would too. If anyone in the West Los Angeles area would like to donate some warehouse space, I will go there a few times a week and do it.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chaeto Reactors compared to Algae Scrubbers, part 2

By Santa Monica Filtration

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.
 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the synopsis!

I think this particular part is where it would be really interesting to have some controlled data collection as support but I realize nobody is likely to invest the time and resources required to do it.

"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). "

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Glad you like it. No you should not really be wondering; algae grows based on conditions, so you can't really tell it what type to grow. But you can look at the growth, and figure out what you can alter in your setup.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think I am going to cry foul a little. #1. hair algae does not have "translucent filaments". #2. hair algae grows MUCH more dense than chaeto ever will.

My big rub is this... you have not presented any data to back up the thinly veiled claim that algae scrubbers are more effective than chaeto balls. You cannot show evidence on ONE SIDE of the argument to prove a point.

Yeah ok, light diminishes the deeper one goes in a chaeto ball. Does it not diminish as it passes through a matt of hair algae? Would a rolling ball of chaeto have more phosynthetically active surface area than a mat of alage?

Given the physical structure of both species, which can effectively have more photosynthetically active space? You can have a HUGE ball of rolling chaeto, not so much the case with hair algae. But alas, the algae is much denser.. thereby having the ability to process more light.

I'm not saying hair alage can be a more effective filter. Maybe it can..unfortunately, you have not really shed any more light on which is more effective.


Sent from my SM-G930V using Tapatalk

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nice ad/commercial for algae scrubber which I’m sure are a good way to export nutrients. Meanwhile my chaeto reactor seems to do a good job

 

interestingly, the chaeto itself gets covered in slime and hair algae as well 

1E49C50C-4EE9-4C9E-A54A-2E2816A0E013.jpeg

Edited by Manny Tavan
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/5/2018 at 12:40 AM, Manny Tavan said:

Nice ad/commercial for algae scrubber which I’m sure are a good way to export nutrients. Meanwhile my chaeto reactor seems to do a good job

 

interestingly, the chaeto itself gets covered in slime and hair algae as well 

1E49C50C-4EE9-4C9E-A54A-2E2816A0E013.jpeg

Mine also gets slime algae in mine. Works great. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, jonas503 said:

Mine also gets slime algae in mine. Works great. 

Interesting. I’m guessing what’s happening here is that the chaeto is acting to provide the more irregular growth surface for the algae similar to that incorporated into the scrubbers by design.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

hair algae does not have "translucent filaments". #2. hair algae grows MUCH more dense than chaeto ever will

Yes if you compare strands of both with light behind them, you will see. And by "dense" it's meant the density of an individual strand; not a bunch of it.

I had said before that this is based on observation of several thousand scrubbers. If someone would like to donate warehouse space in W. Los Angeles, I'll set up the tests to get data.

light diminishes the deeper one goes in a chaeto ball. Does it not diminish as it passes through a matt of hair algae?

Not thin mats, like scrubbers are designed to be. That's why they are designed to be thin.

Would a rolling ball of chaeto have more phosynthetically active surface area than a mat of alage?

No, because only one side (and only part of that side) is perpendicular to the light at any given time. The rest of the time the chaeto surfaces are less-than-bright, or dim, or dark.

Meanwhile my chaeto reactor seems to do a good job

Good to hear; they are fun to watch.

interestingly, the chaeto itself gets covered in slime and hair algae as well

Yes this slime and hair is killing and pulling nutrients out of the chaeto. A scrubber is simply designed to have just the slime and hair.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had said before that this is based on observation of several thousand scrubbers. If someone would like to donate warehouse space in W. Los Angeles, I'll set up the tests to get data.

 

 

 

 

I tried to defend the idea that this might not be just marketing, but the fact is that you're only providing opinion, and only one that supports your products.

 

If you're going to compare two things and write an unbiased, authoritative article, the burden is on you to provide supporting data, not just speculation. It's not enough to just offer to provide if someone else foots the bill...

 

 

Sent from my LG-H871 using Tapatalk

 

 

 

 

 

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll step in here and give my observation.

I own several of Santa Monica's products and I also have tried a Chaeto reactor. I'm not sure which works better, but they both seem to do the job.

I do think that the SM algae scrubbers are easier to maintain. My chaeto reactor was always getting clogged up.

I think that if Santa Monica set up an experiment to compare the effectiveness of the two methods, like what you are asking for, you would continue to voice suspicion that it was being done in an unbiased manner.

I think it would make more sense for BRS or another neutral observer to compare the two methods.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 minutes ago, Lexinverts said:

I think it would make more sense for BRS or another neutral observer to compare the two methods.

Absolutely would be better for a 3rd party to do the analysis, but without any data it is just obviously biased toward SM products.  They may very well be better, cheaper, and easier, but there needs to be data to back it up.  I am totally OK with a small company providing data from their own experiment, so long as they can detail what they did, and have measurable results.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Lexinverts That's right, you were running a reactor.  So have you switched to the scrubber yourself?  What was clogging the reactor specifically, just the macro growing out into the lines/pump?  I've been wanting to install one or the other for quite a while but haven't really seen enough to make up my mind.  Low maintenance is key for me on this particular product so I've very interested to hear what ended up happening with yours.  

@Manny Tavan How long have you been running your reactor now? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, zondebok said:

Absolutely would be better for a 3rd party to do the analysis, but without any data it is just obviously biased toward SM products.  They may very well be better, cheaper, and easier, but there needs to be data to back it up.  I am totally OK with a small company providing data from their own experiment, so long as they can detail what they did, and have measurable results.

Well, based on my personal experience, I am now biased toward SM products. I find that they take up less space, work well, and are easier to maintain than my chaeto reactor was.

Really, nobody can be certain about which product will be the best for them before trying it out themselves.

There isn’t as much information about turf scrubbers out there as chaeto reactors, so I am fine with SM putting their knowledge out there.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Lexinverts said:

I am fine with SM putting their knowledge out there.

Sure.  That's called marketing.  All good companies do it :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, youcallmenny said:

@Lexinverts That's right, you were running a reactor.  So have you switched to the scrubber yourself?  What was clogging the reactor specifically, just the macro growing out into the lines/pump?  I've been wanting to install one or the other for quite a while but haven't really seen enough to make up my mind.  Low maintenance is key for me on this particular product so I've very interested to hear what ended up happening with yours.  

@Manny Tavan How long have you been running your reactor now? 

General debris. Plus, it is hard to keep the chaeto from getting all matted up due to flow in the reactor.

None of these options is maintenance free. They all take some fiddling.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 minutes ago, zondebok said:

Sure.  That's called marketing.  All good companies do it :D

Whatever you want to call it, I find it to be credible in this case, and informative.

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, Lexinverts said:

General debris. Plus, it is hard to keep the chaeto from getting all matted up due to flow in the reactor.

None of these options is maintenance free. They all take some fiddling.

I could see that.  That has been my observation from watching @danlu_gt's scrubber adventures.  For me it's just a matter of which really is easier.  Personally I have always had a problem with chaeto itself (red macro's grow like crazy for me, no clue, switched bulbs/spectrums and everything) so I could see jamming it into a tube being a problem.  I appreciate the input here, hopefully I can make a purchase soon!  Definitely pushing me in a direction.

Edited by youcallmenny

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am actually running a drop in my sump right now in combination with a large, chaeto-filled refugium (no reactor) and will be kind of curious how it does.  I didn't set up any before/after testing as I was mainly planning to use it on a second, small AIO tank that I don't have set up yet but might be interesting to see what affect, if any, I detect on nutrient control parameters when I remove it from the main system.  While this doesn't get to the crux of "which system is better" it could provide some indication if supplementation (having apparently redundant systems) provides additional levels of export.  By no means a great data point but, until we have some serious A/B testing we basically can only share experiences and theories and try and extract what useful info we can.

Thanks for sharing your observations Andy.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I could see that.  That has been my observation from watching [mention=12985]danlu_gt[/mention]'s scrubber adventures.  For me it's just a matter of which really is easier.  Personally I have always had a problem with chaeto itself (red macro's grow like crazy for me, no clue, switched bulbs/spectrums and everything) so I could see jamming it into a tube being a problem.  I appreciate the input here, hopefully I can make a purchase soon!  Definitely pushing me in a direction.
I'm still running ATS and been on 3 trips since end of October, each 3 weeks long. During 2 of my trips, I had to remotely disable the ATS 17 days in my trips because the algae had grown so much that they started to clogged the drains. For my last trip, I put in brand new screen so algae took longer time to get started. In the future, I'm thinking of adding cheato in my sump in case I need to be away for more than 3 weeks at a time. I'm hoping with cheato in sump, I can slow down algae growth in the scrubber.

Now if someone comes up with ATS auto algae removal... That'll be the next golden grail of reefing. :)

Sent from my SM-N950U1 using Tapatalk

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

just an observation:

but its a funny thing in this hobby that as soon as you put something in any kind of vessel it becomes "a reactor"

You have carbon in your system? "yeah, i have a carbon reactor".

You growing chaeto? no, i have a chaeto reactor though.

I looked at both and to me, a ball of chaeto is just easier, cleaner, and about 10x cheaper. It doesn't require any seperate pump, plumbing or additional hardware to work except a light. Maintenance consists of grabbing a chunk of chaeto and throwing it in the compost.

If you don't have the space or fuge design for it that is a different story.


Sent from my SM-G930V using Tapatalk

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×