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Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by JillCan44, May 27, 2018.

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  1. JillCan44

    JillCan44 New Member

    Hello, I am interested in building (or buying) an algae scrubber for my 90g fowlr tank (reef someday). I purchased the tank used and I would like to convert the current bioball drip setup to house an algae scrubber, if that is feasible/advisable. I am interested in getting rid of the bio balls as I have done some "process of elimination" over the past few months to determine that they are the culprit that has been causing my high nitrates/phosphates. I have been slowly adding marine pure in place of the bio balls as I remove them as was advised by my LFS. With all of that said, I am not exactly sure if this is feasible and if so, how to go about plumbing. I've attached photos of my setup in hopes that some advice can be provided. My husband and I are both music teachers, so we don't know much (anything) about plumbing but I'm in this for the long haul and willing to learn. Right now, the water comes down from the overflow in the tank via flexible pool hose that hooks up to the drip/media pad filter and trickles down to the bio balls, then is able to be taken up by the skimmer and return pump. I'm not sure if any of this is ideal or what. For what its worth, maybe nothing, I also have a uv filter that appears to be plumbed off of the return pipe and I've just replaced the bulb this past week and just shut it off after running for a week. I am not sure if i could unhook that and just use its plumbing or not. Forgive my vague description of things, I have been studying everything for months but I still feel like I know very little!

    Attached Files:

  2. Turbo

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

    Welcome to the forum! I know plenty of great reefkeepers in Florida (many customers and many other acquaintances) - where are you at in FL?

    No problem in the description of your system, I follow most of it. It looks like you have a Reef Ready 90g (corner overflow, so the overflow/drain and the return line run through a couple of bulkheads in the bottom of that overflow tower, correct? I only ask this because I see a check valve (backflow preventer) right above the return pump (the clear PVC plastic fitting) and I wanted to make sure I was seeing things right.

    It also looks like you have a Mag pump (it's a brand made by Danner Manufacturing, typically referred to as a "mag drive" or by a number like 5, 7, 9.5, 12, 18, etc - "I run a Mag 7")

    Then it looks like you have a Reef Octopus skimmer, probably rated for 100g.

    I don't see the UV sterilizer, but I'm guessing that was supposed to connect to the pipe that is kind of "hidden" but the skimmer in the pics?

    The Bio-ball trickle filter is considered "old school" to many nowadays, but the reality is that it's a perfectly good system to use as long as you maintain it right. That's the trick though, most people don't have a clue how to maintain them (or don't care) and then they clog up with debris and turn into a nitrate factory, and the bio-balls get the blame. What you're "supposed" to do is remove the bioballs regularly (like every 3-4 months) and place them in tank water (like water that you remove from the tank as part of a water change) and vigorously agitate them to loosen up the debris/detritus, then put 75% of them back in and replace 25% of them with "clean" bioballs. Then take the 25% that you took out of operation and soak them in bleachwater, rinse, soak in tap water, and let dry out until the next cleaning. If you follow that, bioballs will actually handle a pretty decent bioload.

    Also the bioball chamber is supposed to be about 50% submerged and 50% above water, IIRC...could be wrong there. Anyway, it's a cheap way to do filtration and since it doesn't mean you have to buy expensive media or other filters, no one can make money off of it so there's that factor as well :D:Do_O

    So back to the scrubber though, yes you can remove that drip tray and the bioballs completely and repurpose that area for using an algae scrubber, very easily

    A few options:

    1) use a scrubber with a dedicated pump. This is the simplest option

    2) use the water from the overflow to feed the scrubber. This option can work OK but it means that you usually have to turn off you return pump to clean the scrubber (no big deal) but more importantly, your flow to the scrubber is dependent on your return pump. So it tends to "lock you into" a solution. Which is also no big deal, I'm just explaining the pros and cons

    3) you can use the water from the return pump (i.e. the tap for the UV sterilizer). Similar to #2, you have to shut off the return pump to do maintenance. The downside to this is that your return pump usually needs to be bigger to make this one happen because of the flow requirements for the scrubber. Also, you will likely have to add a ball valve so that you can adjust the flow rate going to the scrubber and the display tank

    Depending on the model of Mag pump you have and how big of a scrubber you think you might need, #3 might be feasible

    So that is a start, it's not the answer, but just a discussion opener to get you thinking. I'm sure you have more questions, so fire away!
  3. JillCan44

    JillCan44 New Member

    Thank you for the reply! I believe your description is correct. You were correct on the skimmer, it is rated for 100 gallons.

    The UV sterilizer is behind all of that. I included a pic for what its worth. I ran it for a week and disconnected it because I wasn't sure if it would be detrimental at this point if it kills off any nitrifying bacteria, while my nitrates are still high. I thought it would reduce my phosphates with the reduction in algae but they are still standing firm. Its not very strong, and my water is crystal clear now, though.

    Also, the pump is pictured. Its a 9.5. Do you know if there is anything in the pump that requires periodic maintenance/cleaning? Aside from the plumbing and this pump, I've scrubbed every inch of the thank and components. When I opened up the UV sterilizer it was like a swamp, so I just want to be sure I'm not supporting nitrates anywhere else.

    It seems like getting a dedicated pump would be my best bet, just to make the situation easiest. I'm not sure of what I would need as far as that goes. If I go this route, it would all be self-containing in the spot where the bioballs were, correct? I also just don't know what to do as far as plumbing from my current set up to retrofitting an algae scrubber.

    In the meantime, I removed the remaining few bioballs and have them soaking in bleach. I highly doubt they were ever maintained (judging by the filthiness of the tank when I got it) so even though I did rinse/agitate well periodically, I don't think it was enough.

    Thank you for your help!

    Attached Files:

  4. Turbo

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

    Generally, as needed. Usually that means taking it apart and cleaning off the magnet, that's about it

    It will not, nitrifying bacteria live on surfaces, not in the water column. Pests and viruses do live in the water column, so UV sterilizers are not bad, though opinions will vary on their usefullness

    Somewhere in that area, yes. If it were one of my units, it would sit over that chamber so you would have an area for other things as well
  5. JillCan44

    JillCan44 New Member

    Thanks for your responses! I am ready to get going on this thing. My main question is - since I'm ditching the bioball trickle setup, what exactly do I do with the pool hose that is hooked up to the trickle filter thing? do I just secure it into the sump somehow? It has a large volume of water rushing through when running so whatever I do (change its plumbing or not) I want to make sure its secure and can't wiggle out.

    Thanks! Getting ready to do the calculations and get planning!
  6. JillCan44

    JillCan44 New Member

    I am also not sure of what I need to look for as far as a pump. I have been searching for some guidelines or recommendations on this but haven't come up with much. The pump will be dedicated to the algae scrubber, for what its worth.
  7. Turbo

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

    You can do that, or you can replace it with schedule-40 PVC pipe for a more permanent connection.

    The other thing you could do is reverse the sump. By that I mean, turn it around (physically) so that the inlet section is on the left and the return pump section is on the right. That way the drain dump straight down into the sump. Then you would have to extend the return pump piping, but IMO it's better to have the drain from the tank be a straight shot down to the sump - it has to do with flow dynamics, having that hose in there like that is not the greatest drain method (there is a "trap" created which will mean the drain line will trap air in the line and it will oscillate between draining fast and stopping, filling up, purging, etc)

    Not a flooding concern, just an OCD thing for me

    It depends on the size of the scrubber and how you build it. What you look at is the "head loss chart" for the pump. Head loss is the vertical rise of water plus any restrictions, etc which are converted into equivalent vertical head.

    So first, the pump is sitting in water. The vertical rise is the distance the pump must lift water up above the water it's sitting in. So the depth of the water the pump is in does not matter - the "zero" point is the surface of the water. i.e. if the pump is sitting in 1 foot of water or 40 feet of water, the zero point is still the surface of the water.

    Measure the vertical rise from the surface to the scrubber's slot pipe. Then add 24" to that, and that will get you very close to the total head loss. The 24" accounts for any elbow and such that have an effect on the loss.

    So let's say your vertical is 12" (that's typical). Your head loss would be 36", or 1 meter. Now look at whatever pump you are checking out and look to see what the flow rate is at that head loss.

    But what you need to know in order to choose the right pump is the size of your screen. The old "rule of thumb" was that you wanted 35 GPH for every inch of screen width. I am now recommending that to be the maximum that you would likely ever need. In reality, you need just enough flow to provide for even coverage across the screen. This is typically about 25 GPH/in or so, maybe 30. So if you have a screen that is 6" wide and 6" tall (which would probably be very good for a 90g) then you will want a pump that delivers, at 36" of head loss, 6 * 25 = 150 GPH or 6 * 30 = 180 GPH probably at a minimum, and it wouldn't hurt to have a little extra flow available in case you miscalculated something. So this is where the 35 GPH/in rule comes in handy, 35 * 6 = 210 GPH. You can always add a control valve to adjust the flow to the screen, but if you choose a pump that is too small, there's not much you can do about that....


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