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.

 

vodka-dosing

 

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

diy-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.
phytopheast
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! 🙂
diy-phyto-culture

 

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:

fusion30l
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)

 

customtank1

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)

 

customtank2

 

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

customtank3

 

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..

 

synergy1synergy2

synergy3

 

 

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

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)
sump-v3

 

 

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.

 

 

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