by Richard Back
Recently there has been surge of algae reactors in the market.
Let's learn a thing or two about them!
How does it work? How well does it work? Will it be good for your aquarium?
We got our hands on Carolina Aquatics' Multi Use Reactor Pro 180 to test it out for you.
How does it work?
Algae reactors are made to give macroalgae an ideal environment to thrive. As macroalgae grow, they will use up nutrients in the water making our tank water cleaner in the process, lowering our nitrates and phosphates naturally.
It's made out of smokey white color of acrylic (still opaque enough for you to see the shadows of your algae in the reactor) which I thought it was nice touch since if the body was made out of completely transparent material, light produced by the low temperature spectrum of LEDs can cause algae bloom in the sump if there is sump near by. Setup roughly took about 15 minutes with all the hose connections, putting the algae in and doing the screws on top. It comes with easy to pull out, 3 chambers where you can put bags of carbon or any media of your choice as well as putting macroalgae(s) of your choice. LEDs are in low color spectrums like warm whites and red LED and is encased in waterproof enclosure. I have gotten my hands on their 180 model which is rated for 180 gallons (which I think is highly under rated) and the LED said it's powered at only 27W. (My Apex showed that it was taking 28w and 0.3A to power but I'm certainly not complaining about extra 1W).
I usually run very clean system and to test this unit so I raised my nitrate levels very slowly and very carefully. By turning off skimmer few hours a day, feeding more and by stop doing 40g biweekly water changes but instead went with 5g-weekly changes only to syphon detritus out of my tank. Really not enough to fluctuate any nutrient levels of my total water volume. (210g display + 30g sump) I started testing daily using salifert test kit until it reached very close to 25ppm. Once it reached my target nutrient level (0.07 P04, 25ppm N03), I went ahead put this unit to the test.
How well does it work?
I have ran this unit for 4 weeks without major water changes. I have sent my water to be professionally tested from my good friends at Aqua Medic USA's Aquarium Water Testing lab that's located in Colorado. 3 days after I sent out my sample water, I have received an email. Super fast turn around and I really liked the comparison notes such as good, high. I get my water tested periodically to see where my level is in my tank and to see how accurate my notes are using hobby grade test kits.
I then logged into their site to look at everything in details. (Only posted the nutrient section)
as you can see, nitrate level went down from 25 ppm to 14 ppm (mg/l). Phosphate level went down from 0.07 to 0.04 after the reactor. (Hanna checker) It definitely does what it advertises.
Will it be good for your aquarium?
Absolutely, there are tons of beautiful, mature tanks out there that utilizes algae reactor to keep nutrient levels in check. Sanjay Joshi, Bradley Syphus are great example of successful reefer that uses algae as one of primary weapon to combat nutrients.
"What about DOC (dissolved organic carbon) from algae?" When I spoke to Julian Sprung about this couple of months ago, I was told that you wouldn't have to worry about DOC from algae that's coming from such a small reactors. If it makes you feel better, good carbon can clean that up as well as having good, properly installed UV sterilizer.
What kind of algae and light cycle should I run on this unit?
I strongly recommend chaetomorpha as your choice of macroalgae as you don't have to worry about the algae going asexual in the aquarium causing damages to your beloved animals. If you run chaetomorpha you can run both inverted light schedule or 24 hours a day. You don't have to worry about rest period for this algae although there are reports that says that it grows faster on less than 12 hour life cycles. I purposely ran this with chaeto 24/7 light schedule and have experienced no ill effect to any of my corals or fish.
If you are thinking about ways to reduce nutrients in your system, instead of turning to chemicals to do so, do give algae reactors a thought or a try. Nature's way to reduce nutrient in your system is effective and harmless to your aquarium. Additional benefit to algae reactor is that it will also raise the pH of your tank because algae will absorb C02 in the water.
We will get a group of dedicated writers that will share ideas, product reviews and thoughts.