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Phosphate "flow out of rocks" and what not

Discussion in 'Advanced Topics' started by Turbo, Dec 12, 2013.

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  1. Matt Berry

    Matt Berry Active Member Trusted Member

    We could probably have a thread dedicated to SM's crazy statements.


    A few features of the SURF4 provide real usefulness and are available on no other algae scrubber except the SURF2. First, the enclosed growth compartment increases the dwell time of the water and bubbles inside the unit so that they rub the algae many times before leaving the compartment. This actually reduces nutrients (nitrate, phosphate) to a level lower than the outside water, which allows greener growth to occur sooner (lower nutrients grow greener algae) inside the unit, especially in high-nutrient aquarium or pond water. In other words, the SURF4 creates a lower-nutrient ecosystem inside itself which is different from the rest of the outside water. Also, the position of the air bubble inlets (below the growth) causes the bubbles to flow through the growth no matter how thick the growth gets. This is in contrast to waterfall scrubbers which mostly flow water on the outside of the growth, leaving the inner layers of growth without flow.

    Green Grabber surfaces are so good at grabbing algae and letting it grow, that if you have high nitrate and phosphate you may start seeing tiny growth spots within hours instead of days. And the white color of the Green-Grabber surface reflects as much light as possible, allowing lots of light to reflect back to the algae.

    The number of gallons or liters of water in your tank or sump does not matter.


    There's plenty more of these gems on his website and forum.
  2. Turbo

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

    Yeah, that whole block was part of his original SURF2 statement, and I think that's the one that I responded to which got me booted.

    What gets me is when I suggests using the algae for salad


  3. Matt Berry

    Matt Berry Active Member Trusted Member

    That's disgusting
  4. Pny

    Pny Member

    Recently I more often get the feeling thats what this whole forum is all about...

    Today there really is no neutral ground to discuss scrubbers without the war between the two commercial manufacturers...
  5. Matt Berry

    Matt Berry Active Member Trusted Member

    This is an open forum dedicated to learning about algae scrubbers and how to make them more effective. The outrageous claims made by SM about what his algae scrubbers can do are certainly not helping this at all in this area. As far as I'm concerned, people need to know that many of his claims are just outright BS.

    I have no problem with SM making and selling algae scrubbers, good on him (and I mean that genuinely). But when he makes statements that are wrong or heavily exaggerated, simply made up to sell more of his algae scrubbers we have a right to point them out, if we do that on algaescrubber.net we get banned, so we have to do it here. Many people buy his algae scrubbers and complain about their performance because of the crazy claims he makes about what they can do. This is the only reason there is a "war" if that's what you want to call it. It's got nothing to do with the fact that Turbo sells algae scrubbers here, it's about truth.

    If SM was much more honest about the capabilities and limitations of his products we would not be criticizing them.
    Turbo likes this.
  6. Turbo

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

    Matt ninja'd me...

    Well, to a certain point, I suppose that is inevitable. I do try to remain fair, but I also have to be honest and call it as I see it.

    I think the SURF is just not a good product and I'm not really going to pull my punches on that one.

    I think the current HOG is one of the best UAS designs out there, but there were some serious bumps along the road. And - I do still think that there is moderate to high probability that the capacity ratings he claims are out of synch with the waterfall guidelines that he created, and are likely to be the absolute maximum they can actually handle.

    Personally, I've kept my scrubber ratings where they are, because I can pretty much guarantee that they will perform to that level in most scenarios when running at the standard rates for flow and lighting. But then my units have the capability to go beyond that in the case where the standard 'settings' are not quite enough (more flow, more light, longer photoperiod) or if they are enough but the user wants to push the envelope and get more filtration. I know that I have users feeding well over the rated capacity with great results, but I don't have enough feedback or data to really claim that the unit can perform at a higher level than I rate it, so I don't make that claim.

    In reality, we are all (SM and myself) somewhat guesstimating the capacity, because none of us have any hard scientific data to base any claim from - only anecdotal evidence and experience. The argument could be made that volume of growth = exported nutrients = waste removed, and a pound is a pound. But then why does my UAS L2 - on a tank with very low bioload/feeding and the tank is covered in algae - grow just as much algae as my L2 waterfall on a tank that remains very much more algae free and is fed 4x as much? That's a pretty big discrepancy.

    Someone has to point these things out. I guess if that means I and others on this site can be viewed to be "at war" with SM, so be it. Not sure there is any other way to come off. This may sound magnanimous of me but it really doesn't matter to me if someone buys one of my units or one of his, as long as they feel they have made an informed decision as to what is right for them, they know what they are getting, and know what to expect. I really mean that.
  7. I have been using various home made scrubbers for about 3 years at this point. The earlier concepts of the waterfall scrubber that SM promoted worked pretty well. CFL lamps shining on a screen in a bucket worked wonders.

    Later versions of waterfall scrubbers - such as what Bud sells - using LED's work great as well.. I have my own home made version that has been up and running for about a year - working fairly well, but not perfectly.

    SM has stopped making these in favor of his HOG and SURF.

    The HOG versions from SM also seem to work OK, but are limited in that they really don't seem to work if you have a system with over 50 Gal. I tried various versions - one bought from SM and two that I built myself with much larger surface area. Went back to the waterfall system.

    SM's early work on scrubbers - and others that started doing them such as Bud - proved the concept that turf algae scrubbers work really well to export nitrates and reduce phosphates - and work to filter a system along with other filtration systems. --- at least as well as if not better than stuff like miracle mud, Macro Algae in a fuge, and stuff like that.

    SM to me is caught up on selling his products - and pushing his new products such as the SURF and so on - which from what I see posted on his site really don't work all that well except when used in his own systems.

    SM seems to be a practical hands on guy who tries to explain what is going on in a vocabulary that he understands. However, he gets really defensive when people question him.

    Turbo likes this.
  8. acorral

    acorral Member Customer

    Just my 2c... SM's forum used to be an open place for debate science and learning around algae and aquariums... Things started to change when he started with the whole UAS thing with the calendar for releases and licensing stuff, patents and all that... Later on he started the banning but as long as I know many of the valuabke comments on his sites where posted by active users on this forum so I consider now this place for ooen debate letting aside who manufactures and sells scrubbers, we are all learning here.
  9. acorral

    acorral Member Customer

    Soon we will have the chance to have a benchmark... One could always choose not to "use" or "embrace" certain type of benchmark setup... But as long as more than one manufacturer agrees on the method then who doesn't stick to that rule is the only one loosing credibility.
  10. Matt Berry

    Matt Berry Active Member Trusted Member

    What benchmark method are you referring to?
  11. acorral

    acorral Member Customer

  12. Joel

    Joel Member Customer

    I actually just took a Coastal Plant class at college last semester, it had a lot of coverage of nutrients, especially in estuary systems. The professor who taught it is a pretty sharp cookie who doesnt seem to BS. She actually covered repeatedly that when measuring a system after lowering nutrient loading, phosphate based nutrients will decrease at a much slower rate than nitrogen based nutrients, especially in calcium carbonate rich systems. According to her, this is because phosphate based nutrients are absorbed into rocks and soil, especially calcium carbonate, and slowly leach back out into the water as the phosphate in the water drops below the quantity it was when the rock was loaded.

    That being said, let me toss out an alternate hypothesis as to why lowering phosphates in the water might promote algae growth on rocks:

    When phosphate in the water is higher than or equal to phosphate concentration in rocks, algae on rocks and micro algae/bacteria in the water have to compete for phosphate in the water column to grow, since phosphate on rock surface likely does not stay there long, as it is either flowing in or not moving and any dwelling on the surface is quickly consumed. These free floating micro algae/bacteria have an advantage over rock algae because they get more water exposure, light and nutrient access, although they do get removed by mechanical filtration and scrubbers, thus removing some nitrogen and phosphate and keeping their numbers low in a good system.

    In a system where the phosphate in the rocks is higher though, phosphate is constantly flowing out of the rocks and into the water very slowly. In this scenario the free floating micro algae/bacteria loose out, since anything growing on the rocks gets first crack at the phosphate as it flows past, which gives them a definate edge. As the numbers of the free floating guys goes down due to phosphate deprivation and mechanical removal, the rock based algae gets better access to light and nitrogen in the water, thus accelerating their growth even further.
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2015
    Pny likes this.
  13. I was reading an old article by Randy Holmes-Farley http://www.advancedaquarist.com/2002/9/chemistry

    Interesting reading. Although this is over 10 years ago, it still is relevant. He notes that algae growth is also related to the PH in a tank as well as the phosphate level.

    I also was reading that phosphate levels in the water column of less than .02 limited if not stopped the growth of algae.

  14. Joel

    Joel Member Customer

    It is so algae species specific.... Different species can be so requirement specific.

    The thing is that in the aquarium hobby basically recognizes what, maybe 10 types of algae? When in reality there are millions if not billions of species non vascular at least partially or facultatively photosynthetic organisms that could fall under the term "algae" and only a small portion of those have been classified by science, with a microscopic portion having been studied in any depth.

    Hobbyist A might have 100 species of "algae" that grow fine at .02ppm of P, Hobbyist B might not have a single species that grows with P that low. Or they might have a few in common but the light, flow and PH difference might allow tank A Algae X to absorb what little P exists, while tank B Algae X doesnt get enough to grow, so it just hangs where it is in a tiny crevice waiting for its chance to burst forth.

    My first big saltwater setup was in my apartment located right on the Texas gulf coast, I didnt feed more than a few small pellets of food a week, and I took out BUCKETS of brownish green snot out of that tank every week for MONTHS, during this time I was running a DIY ATS a lit sump and running a very low light cycle AND seeing test results of 0 N and P.

    I even tried growing calurpa in the sump by cleaning out a spot and putting a spotlight right above it. Even wiping off the leaves and giving it plenty of light and flow it died completely within a week, likely due to nutrient starvation. Eventually I was even putting in rocks with green hair algae hoping to start GHA growing in the tank, it died too.

    The only thing that got rid of that snot was scrubbing it all off, filling the tank with tap water, and DUMPING in H2O2 and letting that circulate for a couple weeks.

    After reading some scientific fisheries articles related to the Gulf of Mexico, i actually think it might have been caused by a group of species commonly refered to as Texas Golden Alga, that are usually only found around the gulf coast.

    Some other reefer who lived on the east or west coast would likely have never had been exposed to the spores for it, and even if they had the EXACT same tank, filters, light, and water chemistry, they would have never would have had the possibility of it growing in their tank like I did.

    Sorry for the long rant about an extreme example, but it just shows another example of how hardly anything is as simple as it seems. So saying something like "X amount of P or N will kill all algae in your tank" simply isnt correct, it might be ok as a general rule of thumb, but you will ALWAYS find exceptions.
    Turbo likes this.
  15. Matt Berry

    Matt Berry Active Member Trusted Member

    Looks like we have some serious product overload going on at santa-monica.cc, with several new products added. Eleven products under 2 cubes per day:

    Drop .2
    Hog .5
    Drop .6
    Drop .6x
    Hog 1
    Hog 1x
    Drop 1.2
    Drop 1.2x
    Hog 1.3
    Drop 1.4
    Drop 1.4x

    I have to bite my tongue...but seriously...:eek::confused:o_O
  16. Joel

    Joel Member Customer

    Thats crazy.
  17. Garf

    Garf Member Trusted Member

    So is SM ;)
  18. Turbo

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

    I hate to say this...but the more I talk to people, including university professors and reefkeeping experts (like Fest speakers, etc) it appears that while SM's explanation of "flow" is kind of a dumbed down explanation of what happens in a reef tank, the principle behind the concept seems to be plausible.

    I don't like his "factual" way of explaining what is going on, because is makes it seem like he knows precisely what is going on - when it just happens to be a theory that fits the visible evidence. And it should be presented as such.

    I have yet to find another explanation other than 1) loosely bound organics that feed algae at the surface of the rock/substrate or 2) phosphate solublizing bacteria (PSBs) slowly causing the release of bound organics, or a combination of the two

    I also think his "X lbs of rock = Y cubes of food/day equivalent" is as much of a educated guess or rough estimation as is his cube-equivalent ratios. Again, stated as fact, but truly just an estimate.
  19. Garf

    Garf Member Trusted Member

    I think the flow out of rocks conundrum is really just a readjustment of the rocks in a new tank. Algae loves a scraped screen just as much as a newly introduced piece of rock. Once this rock is no longer new (may take a month, may take 2 years) algal succession takes over. I'm not dissin scrubbers, just that other processes are happening within the tank at the same time. There's no doubt scrubbers can reduce nutrients, but to a level of GHA starvation is highly unlikely.
  20. Joel

    Joel Member Customer

    Yea, he really annoys me sometimes with that crap. He pulled that on me several when I was trying to figure out my slime issue. The attitude of THIS is the way it is, THIS is the ONLY way it could POSSIBLY be and anyone who disagrees with me is 100% wrong.

    I still remember when he was accused me of running 5 watt lights on my scrubber because it wasnt growing correctly, to which I replied they were in the mid 20s range, which was pretty normal back then, then he just said I was wrong. The fact that I had tried several bulbs of the same wattage and had no reason to lie about it made no difference to him.

    There is no room for him to learn, because there is exactly one and ONLY one side to every issue: his.
    Garf likes this.

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