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Concept: The most basic ATS idea

Discussion in 'Experimental Scrubber Concepts' started by Ace25, Nov 20, 2013.

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  1. Ace25

    Ace25 Member Trusted Member

    First off, just gotta say, I loved the dig that Reefbuilders did against Santa Monica today in this article:

    After so many years of playing around with the ATS concept and seeing others experiment as well, to me, it seems there isn't a whole lot of difference between methods in terms of filtering ability. Provide location to grow, adequate light and flow, and your done.

    My 75G tank used to be run off a 15G sump and did fantastic. Since experimenting with ATS's I upgraded my sump to a 55G, unfortunately a 48" sump doesn't fit under the stand of a 30" wide tank. It was fine having the large sump outside of the stand for experimenting purposes, but to me I think I have come to my 'conclusion' in regards to utilizing algae as a filter.

    The idea, this is still in my head as I am in the process of removing old baffles out of my 15G sump and re-siliconing them back in a different way to fit my idea... but the idea is simple. No waterfall, no box above the sump, no airpumps, powerheads, floating foam... simply plastic screen and a couple little strips of acrylic. For now your going to have to picture this in your head until I get it done and take some pictures. 15G sump, 24"x10"x12".

    Chamber 1: Overflow into filter sock (after years of not using them, with a decade of using them before I quit, I am now going back to using them)

    Chamber 2: The magic - Previously I had this filled with caulerpa, and it worked fantastic, which told me I had plenty of flow to feed algae and filter the tank. This time, I am going to silicone a few little strips of acrylic to the sides and bottom of the second chamber, 3 sets of 'slots', these will be used as guides for the screens to slide into and hold in place. Then simply place 3 cut to size/roughed up pieces of screen into that chamber. Yes, lighting isn't going to be 'ideal' having the screens vertical and having LED lights above the chamber, but I feel we have gone way past the point of 'being able to give too much light', so I don't feel lighting intensity will be a concern for algae growth with lights above. Basically, I am just giving much more surface area in my 'refugium' section and switching algae species from the last time I ran the 15G sump.

    Chamber 3: return pump

    My tank is bare right now, going though an ich outbreak/copper treatment, so only sand is in the tank (for the wrasses to sleep in) and that will be replaced once treatment is over. Rocks and corals are in a holding tank for now, but my goal is to have my tank/sump redone and back to a reef by the new year.

    Any thoughts on my 'SSAS' (Super Simple Algae Scrubber) idea? Another idea for sumps already in use is to figure out a way to fasten magnets to the screen and have 2 magnets on each side to hold the screen against the walls of the sump. The only thing I can think of is flow.. as the above article points out, flow in the algae section helps a lot. For me, I accomplish this by having a 1200GPH return pump on a 15G tank, that really pushes the water through the sump and goes against most advice (water flow should be slow through sump to allow adequate time for filtering, but now I really think that is a falsehood as stronger flow actually provides better filtering due to less settling of detritus that would foul up and lower algae filtering ability).
  2. Turbo

    Turbo Does not really look like Johnny Carson Staff Member Site Owner Multiple Units! Customer

    Is this the passage you are referring to?

    I was expecting to see a direct slam...this one is kind of indirect. One could make the argument that one of my tanks falls into this category, except I don't have yellow water and detritus buildup. I don't know about the terpenoids and other undesireables, but the terpenoids one sounds like your stereotypical anti-scrubber argument and I can prove that one wrong with wastewater treatment data all day.
  3. Rumpy Pumpy

    Rumpy Pumpy Member Trusted Member

  4. Ace25

    Ace25 Member Trusted Member

    Ya, that was the passage. SM is the only person I know of that advocates never doing a water change. Others may limit water changes but he is the only one I know of that advocates never changing the water which is why the dig seemed directed towards him.

    My water is always green when I change it out. Never yellow, but ALWAYS green. It doesn't look green in the display tank, but it is very green in a white bucket. I am not talking just a slight tint of green, I am talking algae green. I know people always claim 'my water is clear', and if anyone looks at my display tanks they would say the same about my tanks, but when I take 5G out into a bucket, night and day difference. I also have TONS of detritus buildup on my algae, so much so it is the limiting factor for growth and the only reason I must clean them as often as I do. Literally brown mud washes off the screen for the first 30 seconds in the sink, every 3-4 days. This is the reason I am going back to using filter socks. Never had that issue when I ran them, algae was always 'perfect/clean' as this picture below shows. I used the same caulerpa for over 10 years, trimming it monthly, and never once had any issues like it going sexual on me and never had it show up in the display (unlike hair algae) and I had the best tank within 100 miles.

    I honestly believe there is a major flaw with most algae scrubbers in the fact they release algae/spores into the water which ends up in the display. It is a nice dream to think 'make an ideal place for algae to grow and it will only grow there', but the reality is, algae will grow wherever it can attach to as long as there is enough light for it.

    For the scubbers that you/Floyd sells, it seems like a really simple fix, add a filter sock to the output pipe to catch any algae that leaves the ATS or have a baffle before the return pump that you stuff/replace weekly with filter floss to catch anything before it reaches the return pump.

    I believe that is why I have always had a major hair algae problem in my display since day 1 of using various ATS's. In 5+ years, there hasn't been 1 week where I haven't pulled out at least double the amount of algae from my display vs what I clean off the screen. Seriously, 5 years, 3 times changing out the rocks and sand with 'clean' stuff that has been cooked and thoroughly tested to ensure no N/P are being released from rocks, and yet, even with clean rocks, a week later there will be algae growing on them. Even today, all I have in my tank is fish, 1" of sand in some places (bare bottom in others from the flow pushing the sand around), an MP40 powerhead, and 2 penductors on my return for the past month.. guess what, I am still pulling out baseball size clumps of algae off the penductors and powerhead each week. I know what SM would say.. my rocks are 'still leaching phosphates into the water', even though the rocks are in a different tank now. LOL. My screen is 10"x13", 14 LEDs (6 red:1 blue per side) and I am only feeding 2 cubes of food every other day now. I am also running a dual BRS reactor filled with GFO and a large skimmer. Phosphates have been testing in the .02-.04 range the past few weeks, yet, algae still grows like I am feeding steroids. When I pulled out the rocks I also pulled out 1/2 the sand bed and tested the sand for PO4 by filling a 5G buckets 1/2 with sand and topped off with saltwater. I couldn't get any PO4 readings from the sand (0.00 on my Hanna meter), so any theory of sand leaching PO4 to feed the algae is out the window.

  5. Ace25

    Ace25 Member Trusted Member

    I can't make heads or tails out of that post/pictures. Picture below is a quick and dirty of what my plan is. I am changing the glass baffles around to give a better layout and larger middle section, then the 3 screens will just slide into the middle section vertically. The baffle between the 2nd and 3rd chamber will have filter floss material to catch algae, and the first chamber will have the filter sock to catch detritus.

    Last edited: Nov 21, 2013
  6. Turbo

    Turbo Does not really look like Johnny Carson Staff Member Site Owner Multiple Units! Customer

    What's funny ace is that I do include a filter sock with my units now. But it is mainly to act as a bubble trap, just below the surface so that water/pods can flow out of it rather than through it
  7. Ace25

    Ace25 Member Trusted Member

    I am starting to say 'screw the pods'. LOL. In a healthy display tank there should be more than enough places for pods to live and grow, any that make it to the overflow and into the sock are just a tiny fraction and should have no negative effect on the system. The fact that every DIY ATS I have tried has given algae a direct path through the entire system and I have always had problems with algae in the display is leading me to conclude that it is better to setup mechanical filtration to trap the bad stuff in the water, detritus and little pieces of algae. Yes, filter material maintenance can be a pain and added cost, but I am really thinking it is better to use than to not use. Let the algae do what it does best, remove stuff that is dissolved in the water. While it does seem to work well as a mechanical filter, there is no need to use the algae scrubber as a detritus trap because it just reduces its over all effectiveness. For me, my current setup couldn't be any worse, using a waterfall ATS run off the overflow. It acts more like 99% detritus trap and 1% algae filter which is why I am changing my sump layout to something I think will work much better. It can't work any worse.
  8. Rumpy Pumpy

    Rumpy Pumpy Member Trusted Member


    That was what I used to think. I had a long time (couple of years) issue with green hair algae in the display. For a good time I was pulling more out of the tank than from the (various) scrubbers. SM kept on with his "it's phosphate leaching from the rocks" line but I became less and less convinced. Then, earlier this year, it just stopped, suddenly (it had been tapering off for a while), and I haven't seen a hint of GHA in the display since.

    I haven't done a water change for over three years (except once when there was a flood and once when I changed tanks when I had to add perhaps 10% each time). No problems with that and my tank water is clear. (I only keep soft corals and fish though)
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2013
  9. Turbo

    Turbo Does not really look like Johnny Carson Staff Member Site Owner Multiple Units! Customer

    I would say that I used to advocate no water changes, but only for purposes of nutrient reduction. The argument still can be made either way on regular PWCs w/r to buildup of certain levels over time which become as much at 10,000 times their natural levels. Of course that is in a large tank doing regular small PWCs. On a smaller tank with larger less frequent PWCs, that is much less likely to happen due to dilution.\

    I feel for you though Ace, because even though I have never really had any major issues with long term scrubber use and algae in the tank issues, for some reason you have and I don't quite understand why. It's not like you're anti-scrubber, you're just honest, and I totally appreciate that. So I'm interested to see how this different technique works for you.
  10. inky

    inky New Member

    Intersting concept and apart from the different algae system, is similar to the Triton method that has been taking hold in UK (and Europe, I believe).

    As an idea about the flow, could you slow down the return pump, but add a small(ish) pump in the second chamber to create the flow required for the algae?

    With the screens, instead of being vertical, if they were angled at 45 degrees to vertical, that would give a better surface area, still creating a good flow onto the screens - especially if there is extra flow in the second chamber......
  11. Garf

    Garf Member Trusted Member

    I would say that I've tried the "vertical" route. All the growth at the top inhibited growth further down, that's why I got rid of the cable ties on my horizontal (I still see this effect on the few I've got left) But saying that, if you don't try it, you'll never know. Simple is good. There is a massive case for detritus build up in rocks to be the cause of algae (I'll post the research if interested) and indeed not phos leaching from the rocks. It seems like another algal survival strategy (trap the crap that feeds you).
  12. Ace25

    Ace25 Member Trusted Member

    That is an excellent point about the algae growing faster at the top of the screen in this type of setup. That hadn't even crossed my mind so thanks for bringing that up. Hopefully with 3 screens going and cleaning 1 screen per week even if growth is 1/2 on the bottom as it is on the top it will still be about 1/3 more screen than I am using now. I am hoping just the fact I will be using a filter sock before the screens is going to help the algae filtering by 1000% compared to what I have going now. On my other tank I have a simple DIY scrubber with a pump and while that system doesn't have the extreme algae issues my other tank has, it still has minor spot issues in the tank, and the ATS does not work as an ATS, it only works as a CS (Cyano Scrubber) because that is all that grows on the screen. Even though it only grows cyano on the screen and not algae, it still seems to work better than my other system, but still not anywhere near ideal.

    You can post the research if you want, but I 100% believe you that detritus is the major player when it comes to the topic of 'phos leaching from rocks'.

    I have never been anti-scrubber, just anti-SM. Scrubbers, even with all my failures, are great tools WHEN they work properly. I still believe by utilizing ATS methods (screens) you can greatly increase filtering ability compared to regular refugiums. Basically I just think using ATS concepts you can easily reduce the size of a refugium by 3/4 and still retain the same filtering ability, so for that reason I will always be 'pro-scrubber', but I don't buy into the SM claims when it comes to pretty much anything related to a saltwater aquarium, but I know I am not alone in that. ;)
  13. Garf

    Garf Member Trusted Member

  14. Ace25

    Ace25 Member Trusted Member

    I had thought about making triangles with the screen (/\/\/\) instead of completely vertical but I can't see that working any better because once you start to angle the screens, the bottom will get less light which may lead to more problems (die off) than helps.

    Ya, I could slow down the return pump and add a powerhead, but I don't think that is a good idea. 1. Powerheads in the same area of an ATS = clogged powerheads almost daily, and 2. I don't really see any negatives by having flow move through the sump so quickly (I think it takes about 10 seconds to cycle all the water in the sump with my current return pump). It worked for many years that way prior to my switch to using ATS's so I can't see why it wouldn't work with my new idea... but until I try it is just a guessing game.
  15. inky

    inky New Member

    That's a fair point about the clogged pump, hadn't occured to me.... :( I was thinking the angled screens (/ / / or /\/\/\) would catch more light than the pure vertical setup and if the water level is 15 inches, with LEDs you are going to definitely going penetrate to the bottom of the sump, after all, display lights can reach 24 inches and give good light. I don't see much die off happening, but then I'm no where near as experienced as you guys.

    The only problem with more flow could be the weir not designed for it and return pipe position creating a direct flow that could cause an issue if placed wrong. However, if you are designing your tank layout to cater for this extra flow, then not an issue :)

    Are you thinking of just having the screens in the second section, or adding some other algae species? I guess they would compete with each other and cause more negative effects?
  16. Turbo

    Turbo Does not really look like Johnny Carson Staff Member Site Owner Multiple Units! Customer

    If you do the \ \ \ \ sort of idea and make is such that water flows <--- once algae builds up on the screen the water pressure will push through the mat, forcing exchange. Then if the mat build up enough and the sections are well sealed, the water will pour from one chamber to another. More pressure will force water through the screens.

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