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DIY Build in a Sterilite Box!

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by MrTang, Jul 20, 2020.

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Do you run algae scrubbers on freshwater or saltwater?

  1. Freshwater

    0 vote(s)
  2. Saltwater

    1 vote(s)
  3. Both

    0 vote(s)
  1. Hey, all!

    My name is Zach, and I'm glad to be on this forum. The algae-scrubber basics have come in so handy to me lately, and I'm glad for the compendium of knowledge on this site. In fact, after reading up, I don't know why the whole world doesn't scrub with algae! (Clever marketing on filter-makers' part?) All that being said, I'm glad to be here now, and this is my first foray into algae scrubbing. Though I realize this is primarily a saltwater method, I'm a freshwater enthusiast with a soft spot for Tanganyikan cichlids. I realize algae scrubbing behave differently in freshwater. Nevertheless, I'm going to try it out, as my cichlids require constant feeding and my tap comes out higher in Nitrates than I would like, making waste management a nightmare. I'm hoping promoting some controlled algae growth will help make water changes a little more effective—and plus I get to do some fun DIY on the side! Win-win, eh?

    For my build I went extremely low-budget, trying to find out what I could use as cheap substitutes for things like acrylic boxes. I currently only run a single 55 gallon tank, with a stand modified to accommodate a small 20 gallon, 2 chambered sump. With the limited space, my build is relatively simple. I have a single L-shaped pipe running off a cheap Hyyger pump from Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/hygger-Subme...ump&qid=1595280080&s=pet-supplies&sr=1-7&th=1), with an 8x6" screen and an 8" slot.

    For my lights I'm using two aquaponics/indoor grow lights, replete with heat sinks (they get pretty hot) (https://www.amazon.com/ACKE-espectr...ords=aquaponics+lights&qid=1595280696&sr=8-13).

    One thing I noticed about the old guidelines (which I see are from nearly 7 years ago) is that LEDs had not been well studied, and easy availability of LED grow-lights was seemingly non-existent. Now, in 2020, plant-growing LEDs were cheap and easy to find, and they're growing algae just fine. I'm quite happy with them.

    For my housing (and I'm quite proud of this), I used a $4 sterilite clear plastic box with a clamp-on lid from Walmart. By taping off (or cutting out) an area where the lights will go and painting the rest black with Krylon, I have a $5 DIY housing, replete with lid. A couple slots roughly cut on the ends serve as supports for the pipe.


    The end result is what you see here. Since the housing came about a week after my initial build (I was losing a lot of water to splashing), my pipe is actually shorter than it ought to be. When I get the time, I'll cut another slot pipe and install it so as to properly center the screen between the lights. For the moment the algae is growing a bit off-center, but I'm not too terribly worried about it.



    The scrubber has been running for about 2 weeks and began to show a coating of light green about 4 days ago. (Not visible under pink, lights, surprisingly! I have to take a flashlight under there to see my growth.) I've upped the photo-period to 20 hours (24/7 with an hour break for cooling every 5 hours), as I've seen that a 24/7 setup is necessary for freshwater setups.

    Let me know what you think/if you have any suggestions! :)

    Turbo likes this.
  2. Turbo

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

    Welcome to the site! Haven't had time to read your entire post yet
  3. It's been about a month, and the screen is thoroughly broken in! I'm quite pleased! While I have yet to see a massive reduction in nutrients, I've begun using RO water (my tap is high in Nitrates) and am cutting back on feeding. I'm hoping that this, along with more frequent screen cleaning, will result in Nitrates that stay below the 20ppm threshold. (As it is, my NO3 reads in the indistinguishable red 40-80ppm freshwater testing zone on the API liquid test chart. I'd like to get it down to orange, 10-20ppm.) For what it's worth, I see my fish (Julidochromis Marksmithi) breeding, and the fry are thriving.

    I just cleaned the screen for the second time. The growth was thick, dark green, uniform, and covered the entire screen top to bottom in an even layer. This was about 10 days' growth. When I scraped it, I got a sizeable ball! This made me very happy, as my first scraping barely made a cohesive pile of green algae pieces. This one was much more substantive.


    I'm going to switch to a 24/7 cycle and see if that will result in a screen that can be cleaned more frequently until the NO3 gets to the range I want. (I saw on this thread that I can probably only expect growth about as thick as this on a freshwater scrubber. But if I can manage to get a harvest like this about every 6 days, I think I'll be happy!)

    Let me know if you have any thoughts! Looking forward to giving more updates!

  4. Turbo

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

    Very good start! From what I have heard from my freshwater customers (not too many) the algae grows very fine, like human hair. They have reported that a scrubber definitely works, but it usually requires lot of light (24/7 typically), lots of intensity, and more frequent harvesting (you can't let it grow out longer than 7-10 days or you will get detachment).

    Also I have been told that FW algae tends to stain the water green more easily - one person put a filter sock under the outlet and it turned bright green in no time.

    All that said - don't let it deter you, and please keep posting your experience in detail. Remember to clear off all the algae from the top part of the screen that goes into the slot pipe - scrub that part with a stiff brush (plastic bristled grout & tile brush works nicely). As for the rest of the screen, after you scrap, rinse with tap water thoroughly, but no brushes of any kind should be needed

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