The Ins and Outs of a Calcium Reactor

Calcium reactors sound big and scary but they are actually a fairly simple device (once you understand them!)  Essentially you inject co2 into a canister of tank water and crushed coral skeletons. The co2 lowers the PH of the water making it acidic which in turn slowly dissolves the coral skeleton within chamber.  The dissolved coral enriches the reactor water (which is called the effluent) then is slowly dripped back into the tank.  This  balanced nutrient rich effluent doses calcium, alkalinity and trace elements back into your tank.

When you first setup a calcium reactor it does take some time and daily testings.. however once its set it requires very little maintenance and go for months before you have to tweak it again (unless you add or remove a lot of coral and your calcium and alkalinity demands change)

To tuning the reactor simple.. i would strongly recommend you use a PH probe to control the co2 solenoid.. this will act as a safety net of not running your PH to low and melting your media to fast and turning it to mush.  Anything under 7PH is considered acidic and will slowly dissolve the media.. while most reactors shoot for around 6.5-6.7 but that   depends on your reactor media.
In my reactor i run A.R.M media which has worked well so far.

Low PH?
Now the one downside of a calcium reactor is your are dripping an extremely low PH solution into your tank… which you guessed it.. will lower your tanks PH.

In my setup i decided to combated this a by building a DIY second Calcium reactor chamber. The second chamber is full of tiny crushed coral skelleton which force the water to perkelated up though the media and obsorb more co2.. which further raises effluent PH.  I then put the output into a drip cup which raised it about 0.25PH… then to up it a bit more i used a limewood (skimmer) air stone in the settling/drip cup. The oxygen injection helps force out the PH… With all these methods combined my effluent went from 6.2 to 7.2  Which helps prevent the tanks PH from doping too much

What all do you need for a calcium reactor?
– Calcium Reactor
– Feed Pump
– CO2 tank/regulator
– CO2 Solenoid/PH controller(optional but recommended)

Check out the video below for a better explanation of how it all works


Reefing Tip: Use a float valve – Save your floors and your marriage

I fill my 5g salt mixing bucket as well as my top-off container directly from my RODI unit…   I added a 50′ hose to the output so i can just bring it directly to the tank rather than hauling buckets around the house…

Now if you are like me.. and get distracted easily you have have ‘forgotten’ about your water running and come back to a damp floor.. yes i admit it happened 4-5 times now over the past year or two… so i finally wised up and purchased some float valves.

I installed a valve on the top off bucket and will do another on my 5g mixing bucket… This way if i ever forget the water on … the valve will kill flow and prevent another wet floor.


So if you haven’t already… do it!


New Apex Dos and Vodka Dosing

About a month ago I gor a fancy schmancy Apex DOS stepper dosing pump.. I was previously using a Jabeo dosser however, unplugged it once i got the calcium reactor going.   I decided to get back on weekly testing and stocked up on test kit refills..


For the first time since cycling my tank I decided to test nitrates and found it was much higher than i would have liked.  I used a red sea test kit..and was way off the charts for the low range test.. I then repeated the test in the “high range” mode and it read some where beteween 16 and 32…. So i decided it was time to try Vodka Dosing!

Shortly after I dug out the fancy apex dos that was hiding in the closet waiting to be unwrapped.  I chose the apex DOS as it deliver an extremely precise dose and was perfect for vodka dosing ( i actually got it for future automatic water changes but wont be implementing that until i move the tank closer to a water source.)



I figure my tank is around 120-130G with the sump.. subtracting sand and rock i settled on 100g to make calculations easy.   I’m following the chart below as a general guide on slowly increasing my dosage

Ill update this post as i go to keep you guys updated on how it goes!

Week 1: Day 1:  29/11/2016 I started on 0.5ml/day
Week 1: Day 3:  02/12/2016 Upped my dose to 1ml/day.




DIY magnetic Kalk stirrer 

Magnetic stirrers are one of the simplest ways to build a DIY Kalk stirrer. I used an old reactor with a missing lid for the tube. You could also just use PVC or an acrylic tube.  For the used a hole saw and made a hole in the centre of a square of acrylic and bonded it to the tube. I sandwiches some rubber beteeeen a second price and drilled holes for nylon wing nuts   The rubber in the middle seals the lid
The base is a square of acrylic to hold a 120mm PC fan.  I did have to shave a few mm off the side of the fan to make it fit.  I glued a rare earth magnet to the centr of the fan and aligned it a few mm below the top of the frame to ensure it can spin freely

Inside the reactor be sure to put a piece of glass on the bottom to prevent the internal stir bar from wearing through the acrylic over time


How to clean dry or used sand for your reef

Dry sand can be full of dust and cloud your tank for days.  Used sand can be full of detritus and bad stuff that you probably don’t want to add into your tank. If you are using either of theses sands its best to give them a real good rinse prior to use. The easiest way is to pour your sand into a 5g bucket and push the garden hose all the way down to the bottom. Turn your hose on full and let the water work its way and and bring the little particles with it.  You can swish it around and mix it up or just let it run. I any take a good 20 minutes with the water running so you mind as well do it in the middle of your lawn so it gets a good watering! 

Once the water runs clear you will want to ensue the sand is fully dried prior to adding to your tank.  
Spread your sand out on a tarp and let it bask in the sun until dry and your good to go. 

$30 DIY Media Reactor


For a couple hours and $30 you can build your self a custom GFO, carbon, or bio pellet reactor! After searching for reactors and being shocked how they can cost upwaords of 150-200$ for a tube i decided to try and build my own.. while in the dollar store i noticed a $3 glass pasta jar that was the perfect size for a reactor. The hardest part was finding the little bulkhead style pipe.. I found these lovely little bits at home hardware.  The circular mesh came from michales.  The red pvc i already had laying around.

One word of warning. The lids tend to be a bit thinner so be careful not to force and fittings as it may crack the lid.  I remedied this buy laying down a layer of epoxy (poly urathane) overtop of the lid to bond the cracsks and seal it all together.. If you drill it successffuly with out cracking it then i’m sure you can skip this step unless you want to strengthen the lid.  Either way its fairly low pressure inside and should not be an issue.

If using this as a diy carbon reactor I would use the sponges above and below to hold the carbon tightly and prevent tumbling.

If doing a DIY GFO reactor leave space above the gfo and adjust your flow so that the top just simmers.. you want some movement in the gfo doesnt bond together.
for DIY Bio pellet reactors just use the mesh screen and have high flow so the bio pellets are continuously churning in the chamber.


Parts List

1x Glass Pasta Jar with plastic lid ($3 at dollarrama)
2x 1/2″ Flexible Elbow Conduit ($4.99 Item #3622-681 at home hardware)
1x Water Filter Head Seal Gasket ($6.20 Item #3115-809 at home hardware) part may vary depending on jar
1x Schedule 40 1/2″ Slip PVC Cap (0.79 cents at home hardware Item #3262-631)
1x Schedule 40 1/2″ Slip x Female Imperial Pipe PVC Adapter ($0.99 at home hardware Item #3262-301)
1x pack of 4.5″ mesh circles ($2.99 at Michaels crafts)
1x length of PVC – size depends on your juar
1x can of krylon fusion in your color of choice to make it look pretty. ($6.99 at Canadian tire)
1x epoxy of choice… if you happen to crack the lid while drilling 😉   … Pro tip! make sure the hole is big enough (5/8″ i believe…) my step drill bit only wen to 1/2″ ish which was a tad small.. i tired to force screw it in which caused the thinner lid to crack.

DIY phytoplankton Culturing

I have been thinking of culturing my own phyto for a while now.. recently my local store stopped selling some fresh cultures so i decided to try out my own.

Ideally one would start with a specific strain however there was slim pickens where i live so i decided to go with the only live culture i could find. I found a nice big bottle of phytofeast to get started.
I mixed the salt water to around 1.019 – 1.020. For the fertalizer I decided to use miraclegrow for the first batch (and ordered some F2 for future cultures).

I mixed two different batches.  The 2L bottle was my first attempt with 5ml of miracle grow.  The second batch I added 1ml of miraclge grow to the 500ml bottle and  thew the bottle into the microwave for 2 min to sterilize it.. once it cooled i added some live phyto (mixed much darker than the first one) and added it to the shelf

The light is currently on a timer for to run at 16 hours per day…

Day1:  will see how it goes! 🙂


The 6 foot Shallow Reef project

I absolutely love my fusion 30L reef, however it has quickly become packed due to my slight coral addiction…    Now i could just sell some frags but thats just not as fun.. so what to do?

Current Tank:

Well im in the process of planning a 6′ long shallow reef.  The tank will work out to 90-110 ish Gallons.  IM looking at 5.5-6′  x 18″ x 18″.      Still lots to plan and figure out but I will update this as i go and plan.

My new concept tank (so far)



The lights will hopefully be 3x Ecotech XR15 Pros. (as i already have 2 and would just need 1 more)

I’m hoping to have an L shape bar to mount it all.  Im still trying to work out the pipe size to support the weight and prevent sag. I belive 1″ aluminum bar would work..however i may need to add a little support bar at the 90 degree corner.

The overflow will be at one far end as this will be a peninsula style tank.  For now it will be against a wall but later on I may move it upstairs to replace the banister at the top of the stairs so im trying to design the tank to work in both places. (planning for the future)




The back section will be a removable U shaped black plastic or glass to hide allthe over flow and still allow easy access.



Bean style overflow

sump-v3 overflow-area

I will likely have a Mp40 on the side wall for flow (and probably an MP10 since i already have one!


For the overflow im debating between just adding one onto the tank when its built or going with the synergy.  The synergy overflow looks very sleek.. The only possible issue is the overflow is 16″ wide leaving 2″ ish inside on the edges with likely isnt enough space for the bulkhead for the return line.. I may need to but the width up to 20″ or just get an overflow made with the tank..






For the return pump im going to use one of the new Ecotech Vectra


Update:  With the bean Animal overflow you want a constant flow rate… so as lovely a vectra is I would not be able to take advantage of most of the features.. I will likely go with a Jabeo DC pump for now.


Potential Sump design (many revisions later)



On Boxing Day I ordered 80lbs of marco premium key largo rock. after many revisions of the aquascape i think i have the first structure for the most part worked out



Something amazing finally happened… My tank has arrived!!!!!!!!!!

 Take me To Part two!!!!!

IM Fusion 30L – 9 week update

This week i decided to make a video update for the tank log. In the past few weeks i have made a few big upgrades to the tank. I recently added a MP10QD, 2 Ecotech Radion XR15W Pro’s and a reef link. In addition to the hardware goods i have acquired 2 new chalices, pink birds nest, 3 sexy shrimp and a beautiful ruby red dragnet. I have noticed my hot pink bowerbanki turning more red with pink/light orangy highlights which leads me to believe it was bleached when i go tit an is obtaining its original colors. I have also had some good zoanthid growth with new heads popping up around the tank. Sit back, crack a cold one.. and enjoy 🙂

Curios how it all started? Check out the start of the Innovative Marine Fusion 30L tank log


Want the newst update?  Check out the 5 Month reef update!

UV Coral glow

One of my favorite times to view tank is at night when the whites fade down and the blue/UV lights are on.  The corals have an amazing florescent glow and become extremely vibrant (who called for the black light party?!). I absolutely love it!  One of these days I will have to go on a UV night dive.

There are a few theories of why corals glow under UV, the first being a layer that act as a sunblock protecting the zooxanthalle within the coral.  The other theory is that the colors are used the ward off predators (after all most vibrant colored animals are poisonous right?)  Either way it makes for an amazing aquatic display!.


Here is a quick cell phone video of my Nuvo 30L tank under the blue lights.



Diving in the Galapagos Islands

If you are into saltwater aquariums then there is a good chance you are into scuba diving and exploring that giant tank mother earth seems to house. For those of you who don’t know, the Galapagos is one of the most diverse places for wildlife in the world. Almost every species on the island has evolved to fit the islands and exist no where else in the world. This is where Charles Darwin’s theory of evaluation was born.


This spring i was lucky enough to go to Ecuador and visit the Galapagos islands and do two amazing dives.   I finally got around to editing a short video of some clips from our trip.  We saw countless fish, moray and garden eels, sting rays, eagle rays, white tip, back tip and hammer head sharks, sea turtles and so much more.  I even snuck in a shark selfie!

I hope you enjoy the video of my little excursion!


Innovative marine fusion 30l build – Part 1

after weeks of waiting my IM fusion 30l has finally arrived.  This tank is a warranty replant to my nuvo24 which sadly cracked around the bent glass corner. As traumatic of an experience as that was I’m happy to have the new tank

The 30l is a very sleak looking all in one. The glass is Much thicker than the nuvo24 and is is very high in clarity (low iron). I splurged for the stand as well which wasn’t cheap.. But matches the tank perfectly.
Loading up the goods!

 The stand in its freshly unboxed state. Every panels is a thick what looks to be MDF covered In veneer
Mid way through the stand busing I decided to leak test the tank.. All was well except a small leak from the bottom of the second baffle to the center on One side.. It was a small leak relative to the 99% that would spill over the I choose to ignore it and continue my build

Well deciding to be proper and do things right I swapped out the power receptacle for a GFCI

And level the stand. Luckily it was perfect right off the bat!

Once the stand was build I wanted to have an easy power center to turn things on and off and prevent trying to find pump or heater cords during a water change. I settled on a DJ light controller.. Unfortunately it was a little to wide and nasty to cut!! The hacksaw barely put a dent in it… I Ended up resorting to a circular saw with a metal grinding blade to get the jon done

  Next I needed to make a groove for the cabinet latch to slide it in

This take is in my living room and mode of a show piece… I wanted it pretty inside and out so I added a wall board to mount my controllers and hide the wires, plugs and UPS.

The end result worked out great!

And I do say this is one of the cleanest my reef supplies have been in ages. My next few projects will be a dosing pump stand and an acrylic dosing reservoir

Next steps will be building a doser stand and an acrylic dosing container

With the stand level and my master power center setup it was time to start transferring the goods the temporary tank to their new home.

Let’s just say the rock was cooperating and I was up until 2am arranging it until I found something I liked.

I still need to place all the sand bed corals, slowly but surely.

For filtration I’m using chemo pure blue, stock return pump connected to 2x soon steams.

Tomorrow I’m going to try connecting 1 pump to each nozzle to double the flow. The mail man is slated to bring me gifts of ball vaves so I can dial it down a tad 🙂


Click here to go to Part 2!

6′ Custom shallow Reef

I’m currently in the process of designing a 6′ custom reef. today’s first attempt at a design.

The dimensions are 72″x18″x16″ (LxWxH).  The overflow is coast to coast with a 1.5-2″ channel for the water to flow into with a larger chamber in the back left to accommodate the pipes.(still need to determine the width) It will be either a herbie or bean overflow. So 2-3 drain pipes and 1 return)







Phytoplankton Copepods and micro organisms 

phytoplankton is one of the building blocks of life in the ocean. A little further up the food chain we get tk pods, Copepods, and rotofers.  Adding this blend of goods will create a natural food source for your fish and corals.

To initially load your tank its recommended to do it with the lights off and pumps off to give the miniature life forms a chance to hide and get settled. Once settled they should start to reproduce and provide a flow of snacks for your fish and corals.

Adding phytoplankton every few days will help feed your pods and corals


Tiger pistol shrimp Digging and bulldozing 

I recently picked up a decent size tiger pistol shrimp and am constantly entertained by this little (big) guy.  He’s constantly making tunnels and dragging live rock rubble around to make his new pad. The only downade is he main steal some frag plus to sue as building blocks so glue your stuff down to avoid it being stolen bythis  master bullied!  I have even watched him try and stack a snail on his pile. Haha

Nano reef marine fish

As I’m starting my first nano saltwater tank I have been on an endless quest to find the perfect “nano fish” for my little reef.  In efforts to make everyone life easier I decided to build a guide of nano tank friendly fish.. My mini reef is going to be built inside of a 12G fluval edge.My main goal is to find fish around 2″ or less that will work in a nano tank.  If you have any suggestions or additions leave me a note in the comments

Side note: this page will be for ever growing as i discover more interesting nano fish ill update the site.. with out further ado we shall start off with my first fish:

Yellow Clown Goby
These cute little guys are a nice bright yellow, and fairly active.  They grow to a maximum of 1.5″ adn are very peaceful.  Its recommended to have a tank that is a minimum of 10G.
Having now had one for a few weeks, they are extremely cute but picky eaters. So far mine only really likes to eat mysis.  The only other downfall is they may nip at the polyps on SPS corals.



Green Clown Goby

Green Clown Gobys are another small nano fish that will only grow to about 1 3/4″ They are fairly peaceful and will be happy in a tank 10G or larger.  Their diet is similar to the YCG above and enjoy meaty foods such as mysis, brine shrimp and other frozen foods.




12g edge nano reef tank log

I have always been wanting to try my hand at saltwater and decided a nano reef for the bedroom would be delightful! Now most people say saltwater is hard and to start with the biggest tank possible.. I plan to debunk that myth that holds many pople back by doing a nono (questionably pico) reef as my first reef tank.

Ideally you would want to start with a marine tank.. for some strange reason i decided to go with a freshwater tank, this is likely because i had spent months dry starting a freshwater shrimp tank out of my actual marine tank the 24g lost shrimp city. The tank used there was an innovative marine nuvo 24 which is a beautiful bent glass aquarium. If i ever break it down.. i’m sure it will end up as a reef.

For now lets start small and begin our journey with the 46;l/12g Fluval edge


My journey started on Dec 15 2014:

I moved my shrimp and fish from my edge to the 24g lost shrimp city

12g two days ago


The shrimps/fish new home (ironically in a proper reef tank)


With the former inhabitants in there new home it was time to clean out the tank. I find using water and a 2″ stainless razor the quick and eay way to clean a tank.. about 20 minutes of cleaning the tank looked good as new.





For the heater i decided to go with the Cobalt Aquatics Neo-Therm 75-Watt heater as its has a digital thermostat for added reliability and is super thin to take up minimal tank space.


I then added about half a bag of live sand.  Being a small tank and myself being a tad impatient i decided live sand/live rock were a must to get the tank up and running in a reasonable amount of time. It only took about half a bag (10lbs) to fill the tank.


Next it was time to get some salt water added  along with a powerhead. Now we get to wait for it to clear. (Should take 2-3 days)




…and the journey to the dark side begins!

In freshwater you have your fitler with ceramic media and sponges as your biological filter.  In marine tanks the rocks is your main filter.  You can start with cheaper base rock but you will be waiting along time for the rock to colonize with bacteria and become alive.  Being such a small tank i decided to go all out and stock it with 100% live rock from the beginning.

I went a little overkill buying 20-25lbs of live rock through a classified add.  The rock came form an establish tank and was fully live/cured! Perfect to jump start the cycle on a new tank.


Sadly the tank was overly cloudy and I couldn’t see what I was doing so I drained the tank and got to work stacking rock







Jan 12 / 2014
Its been just shy of a month since my journey began. Looking back at the original rockscape i see how bad my designs were.. I must have re-scaped the rocks atleast 50 times before i settled on something i like.. and in ta tank like this with only a small opening to work through it can be a huge PITA.. that being said im very pleased with the end design.   When creating your scape be sure to leave space around the edges to properly clean the glass. I finally got my custom UltraBrite Led System which is a huge upgrade over the stock light.

About 5 days in and 50 re-arranges later I finally got a scape I’m happy with





I originally just balances the rocks in place and later used dabs of superglue gel and putty At the joints to stabilize my creation

A little over a week after I started my ammonia and nitrite were barely read able and I only had a bit of nitrate showing up. I did a small water change and added my first inhabitant


2 days before Christmas.. The next day my impatience got the best of me and I picked up a small purple bonsai sps and an alpha/omega zoa which came complete with a bonus bristle star wrapped around it!



Dec 26: Boxing Day! What a perfect day to go stock up on some reef goodies! I packed up the fiancé and headed out to find some new creatures to stock out little glass cube of reef. We ended up at an amazing little store run by a fellow reef enthusiast. My Boxing Day booty started off with an awesome little cleaner shrimp, 2 blue leg hermit crabs, a very entertaining porcilin crab and 2 coral frags






After about 30 minutes of drip acclimating everything it was time to introduce them to their new home










One of the amazing things about corals is many of them contain a floss-florescent pigment that makes them glow under the uv spectrum. I absolutely loved the glow and started to hunt down corals to light up my tank like a black light party at night!





I meet another local reefer who was kind enough to show me her tank and hook me up with some more frags to get me started!







It felt like time to add a small fish. One of my favourite finds so far is the yellow clown goby. This little guy is only about 1.5″ full grown and is a peaceful addition to a small reef. As a side note of caution he has been spotted nipping polyps on my purple bonsai sps



The same day I also picked up a green trumpet coral. It amazes me how it can be so small and hard out of water and it grows and moves once it’s i. The water and happy under the lights. Corals really are amazing little creatures




The porcilin crab absolutely loves that thing. He has claimed it as his new home and rest on the heads and spends most of his day filter feeding

Next I wanted move move by on the tank and added a head of hammer coral , a new zoa (Green Bay packers) and a mushroom






Jan 20:

Last night I decided to get my little yellow clown goby a friend and picked up a baby perc clownfish. Very cute little guy!


Jan 25:
I’m start to see lots of new growth and new palops. So exciting!










Time to add a little more color!
My latest Addition is a pink and white coco worm