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FAQs on Algal Filtration: ATS, Algal Turf Scrubbers

Related Articles: Algae Scrubber Input/Update by Bryan, How to make a simple Algae Turf Scrubber (ATS), By Simon Trippick, Nutrient Control and ExportMarine Set-Up, An Introduction to Reef Systems, Refugiums, Reef FiltrationMarine System PlumbingMarine Aquarium Set-UpMoving AquariumsMarine Biotope, Marine Landscaping

Related FAQs: Algal Filtration 1, Algal Filtration 2,
FAQs on:
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Mud/Algal Filtration, Refugium Substrates/DSBs, Reef Set-Up, Reef Set-Up 2, Reef Set-Up 3, Reef Set-Up 4, Reef Set-Up 5, Reef Maintenance, Sumps/Filters, Sumps/Filters 2, Marine System PlumbingMarine Aquarium Set-UpLive RockLive Sand, Fish-Only Marine Set-ups, Fish-Only Marine Systems 2, FOWLR/Fish and Invertebrate Systems, Reef Systems, Coldwater Systems, Small Systems, Large SystemsBest Marine Set-Up FAQs 1, Best FAQs 2, Marine Set-Up 1


ATS guide part 1. Santa Monica Algal Turf Scrubbers  - 02/04/19
Bob and Crew,
Attached is a Part 1 of my new series on turf scrubbers. See if it will work for you, and have a great Monday coming up.
Santa Monica Filtration
<Looks good. Do you want this posted next to your olde article? Bob Fenner>
Re: ATS guide part 1 - 02/04/19

Either that, or under the Nutrient Control section of the Marine Maint page.
<Oh! Will definitely link in all applicable subject areas. BobF>

Progress with <DIY> algal turf scrubber     5/18/12
Dear Bob,
I have no question today. I just wanted to keep you posted on the progress with my DIY bucket ATS. My experiments are by no means scientific. Not rich enough to set up controls etc, however, on my FOWLR system which is now well stocked 1.5 years on, I had mild nitrate and phosphate issues and a more pronounced silicate problem.
Initially I set up an RDSB and this did help but could never bring the values all the way down to zero. So finally 5 months ago I used an old salt bucket and modified UGF plate and set up a vertical double sided screen ATS.
It took quite a while to get going but now I harvest 2 cups of bright green hair algae every week.
 N P levels are consistently at zero. And I am now able to feed my tank 4 times a day with supplemental feedings every few days of shrimp and other fresh fare. The colours of the fish, shrimp and anemones have never been better. Also using carbon and mechanical filtration prior to returning water from the ATS to the display has resulted in me never having problems with water colouration.
<Ah good. A principal concern (and for what it portends... excess phenols, scatols...)>
Maintenance has also become extremely easy and my viewing glass needs only to be cleaned at the weekly maintenance day. Overall I am so much happier now.
My skimmer does not produce much skimmate anymore, only really doing anything in the 48 hours post harvesting.
I think its time the hobby does more research into this area for I think this is an extremely efficient, very cheap method of filtration. Probably why aquarium products manufacturers dismiss it.
<Mmm, no... there's money to be made in promoting, supplying ATS, parts, pumps...>
As for people who have had bad experiences it is likely due to poor set up and maintenance or some other factor as opposed to the ATS method in itself.
I hope my information is of some use to someone.
Thanks and many warm regards from perpetually sunny Sri Lanka.
<I thank you for sharing. BobF>

Turf Scrubber vs. Refugium in Fish Only Tank   10/14/11
Hello Wet Web Media Crew,
<Howdy Tien>
I am buying a 200 gallon corner tank and will most likely keep it a saltwater fish only tank. It has wet/dry sump that I am considering adding a 2 chamber refugium to. One chamber for a deep sand bed and the other for live rock and algae.
However I have also considered using a turf or algae scrubber.
<These can work... though are more work/maintenance... and often result in water colour issues>
My goal is nitrate removal for healthier fish. I know refugiums provide food/microorganisms for corals but that wont concern me with a fish only tank. Which do you feel would be better for nitrate removal in this
<The DSB and/or refugium are superior.>
Thank you,
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

"Santa Monica" and ATS   6/13/2011
Hi crew. I have been following Santa Monica's claims since he showed up on WWM. I am puzzled by some of his claims. For example, he says that algae does "all" the filtering in the ocean. This would not be true even if one excluded bacteria, as mangroves and sea grasses do plenty. Indeed, sponges are capable of doing a lot. Is he saying that live rock only filters once it hits our aquariums?
<I don't know re this last... as I am not he; but do agree that all of nature (biotic and no) "filters" in ways>
I can easily see how his own ATS could serve as a macro refugium on steroids, but his scientific claims give me pause. What do you think?
<That the stmt by SM is his, but heavily biased, perhaps for intended effect. It is not factual. Thank you for expressing yourself here. Bob Fenner>
Re: "Santa Monica" and ATS  6/13/2011

Thanks for your reply, Bob. Santa Monica also describes what comes from algae as "food," in part indirect food by feeding bacteria that form part of the food chain to feed corals. His claim, then, is that we want to keep this food, which a skimmer and AGC remove.
<Mmm, no; not all nor altogether>
If we exclude algae that do have noxious exudates, his position makes sense. But as you have pointed out many times, allelopathy must be considered, and in a typical reef tank, it is tough to avoid it completely by stock selection (even if one can certainly avoid much of it). So, how could a skimmerless tank address this issue, according to him?
<A lucky set of circumstances, balance twixt useful (and not noxious or too much so) chemoautotrophs, simple photosynthates and their predators I'd guess>
I would be interested in posing questions like this one to Santa Monica elsewhere on WWM if he would be willing.
<Mmm, does he list his email addy?>
Since SM has managed to get you to reconsider ATS (as you seem to have done), I have become curious as well, in particular about the potential for powerful denitrification and removal of phosphorus.
<Have looked at these units, this concept since the early 80's... seeing such as part of Adey's work at the Smithsonian... and have friends who have had their dealings w/ him, this tech... None of it that I've encountered has been totally satisfying... I.e., these systems have their obvious downsides, limitations... simple water discoloration, rate limiting use of useful chemicals for other purposes, the metabolism limiting and allelopathies you hint at.>
Re: "Santa Monica" and ATS  6/13/2011
Bob, I couldn't find any email for him, just his web site. I think I'll not depend on "a lucky set of circumstances [etc]. . . ." Hey, I love the smell of skimmate! Best, Sam
<Yikes! And you, BobF>

Outdoor reef tank with large sump, algal scrubbers f'  5/27/10
Hello most appreciated and helpful crew.
<Howzit Wilhelm?>
It's been a bit since I last sent in a question (I've been researching and using the search features), but I'm at the point where I would like some specific assistance or at least a nudge in the appropriate direction.
I've been running our outdoor FOWLR tank, outdoor Amazon freshwater tank and indoor reef tank for the past year. The FOWLR tank is 180g with 70g sump, clams, Chaeto and filter feeders in sump, green-lined puffer, snowflake eel, Volitans and lunar wrasse in main tank. The freshwater tank doesn't have any algae problems at all with the Plecos, live plants and stock that do a great job - that tank is absolutely thriving. The sw tank does get a lot of algae growth, but pulling the algae off the rocks and scraping the glass/acrylic keeps it under control and the livestock seem to be doing very well feeding
off silversides, krill and occasional fresh seafood from the great Monterey fish markets. The EuroReef skimmer is pulling tons of skimmate regularly and doing a great job.
After reading Calfo's "The Book of Coral Propagation," I'm considering moving my 120g reef tank outside to take advantage of our temperate climate and natural sunlight. The model I'm considering is a 240g, well-plumbed (2
x 3" drains in an 18" x 6" internal overflow) to an adjacent 300g Rubbermaid stock trough with DSB, coral rubble, mangrove, to allow for natural reef growth. In the current 120g system, the btas have split twice and the soft
corals appear to be thriving. I've been researching whether to try a skimmer-less, algae scrubber system or go with multiple skimmers for water quality.
<Both worth trying, using>
I do not want to use ozone, uv, reactors or other devices if I can avoid it. I want to let the live rock, coral rubble, oolite sand, filter feeders and macroalgae/mangrove take care of the system naturally and allow for the natural sunlight to work over artificial light if I can. I reviewed a friend's tilapia setup using greenhouse material and he's getting great results.
So, I'm asking the experts, am I missing something here or does this setup look workable and does the crew lean towards algae scrubbers over skimmers?
<As stated... you might want to contact Morgan Lidster/Inland Aquatics
re his input, latest on algal scrubbers... They can/do work, given useful design, some upkeep.
Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Can you be kind enough to find me Simon Trippick's email address. ATS filter maint.   2/15/10
Dear Sir,
<Hello James>
I have read an article I think by Simon Trippick if I'm not wrong on the subject
<You are not wrong!>
How to make a simple Algae Turf Scrubber
<The only article I have ever written! I've a long way go before I reach the dizzying heights of Bob and some of the others for sure!>
on the website http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_6/volume_6_1/algae.htm
. I have a question regarding the algae turf scrubber I would very much like to ask of him. Can you please forward my question to him, I'd very appreciate if you can give me his email address or forward my email to him for his suggestions.
<You are at the right place here James>
I'm setting up a 250 gallons tank and planning to use a horizontal ATS scrubber placed in the sump such as this one I found somewhere in the net. <Ok>
My question is, is it necessary to take out the grown algae and scrub it off with tap water?
<No, I hope my article was not confusing in any way - the screen should never be 'scrubbed' at all, yet alone with fresh water. This would set the whole thing back months.>
Or can I just cut off the water, stop the pump, weekly scrape the algae instead?
<Yes, just periodically remove some of the algae by hand>
I'm asking is because if I need to take it out once a week for fresh water scrubbing, I may have to come up with a design that makes it easier to take out the algae panels.
<No, you only have to remove it when you take apart the sump, or change something underneath it. I used the compartment underneath to keep live rock in, and I would cycle a couple of pieces in and out of my tank every
now and again>.
If I don't, I'll just copy the pictured ATS. Any reply will be of great help. Thanks.
<No problem James, write back if you have any more questions, and do have fun with this project - I did!>

Re: Can you be kind enough to find me Simon Trippick's email address, ATS op.   2/16/10
Thank you Simon.
<No problem James!>
I live in Taiwan and it's Chinese new year.
<Wahey! Enjoy!>
I can't wait till the stores open next week. My project begins next week.
I'll let you know how mine goes.
<Ok, will be interested to know>
Sincerely yours,
<Cheers, Simon>

Algae Filtration 9/5/09
Hey Crew!
<Morning Craig>
First, I've been reading WWM for several years and thanks so much for the valuable information. You guys have helped me avoid some major blunders and the website has helped me with several disasters.
<Ah good>
My question is about redundancy. I'm upgrading my sump from a Rubbermaid tub to a 55gal aquarium. My design/layout idea is this. The first section where the water comes in has a 14" tall baffle where water will flow over the top (like a spillway) to get an initial gas exchange. The next section is for the protein skimmer and a series of baffles to gas out any bubbles from the skimmer. Then into an 8" Oolitic DSB refugium with some Chaeto then moving into another section where the liverock for critter production will be before moving to the pump to go back to the aquarium.
<Could make the oolithic sand and LR/critter area the same/one...>
I read about the "Algae Turf Scrubber (ATS)" on your site and was thinking about adding this between the skimmer and DSB/refugium to add even more filtration. From the design pictures it would look to do more gas exchange as well. I know the skimmer already provides gas exchange also.
<Usually to beyond saturation...>
Would the ATS be redundant to the spillway and the algae in the DSB or would it do more or something
different with filtration?
<Is something different... these units can be "touchy" to maintain, but once fully active and going, can be useful in addition>
Would it be better to add this as the spillway and just use the skimmer in the very first chamber?
<Is a better approach>
Furthermore, the author said he took the turf algae from the main aquarium and seeded it with that to get it started. I've got a Sailfin Blenny that eats so much you'd think he'd pop so I fortunately don't have algae in the main aquarium so, where would I get it (LFS?)
<Will... "show up" of its own accord... the spores are about in all systems>
or would it eventually begin to grow on it's own?
And my last question, if some of the turf algae made it back into the main aquarium, would it grow to become a nuisance algae?
<Not likely, no>
Again, thanks to all you guys, past and present, that put your time and effort into this website to keep all our stuff alive.
<Welcome! Bob Fenner>

Algae Scrubber Question 4/30/09
Dear Crew,
Thanks again, it's been a year and a half now with my first tank, and it is flourishing! Zoanthids are creeping over everything (including the hated turf algae... yay!), the star polyps are encrusting, xenia is growing, and the fish are happy (or as happy as a fish can look....). I really owe you guys all the credit for the advice I have found here.
<Am glad we have aided your success>
I have been having a problem with red turf algae. It is covering EVERYTHING, and little I can do seems to slow it down. I added a new skimmer (AquaC Remora for the old Prizm skimmer), and the water cleared up a lot, it is crystal clear all the time now. I also increased the photoperiod from 10 to 12 hours (I found on your site that the red algaes don't like excessive light... is this helping or hurting?).
<Helping if this is truly a Red/Rhodophyte... I'd be looking at a bit of it under a microscope... might be a BGA>
I'm using a mix of 36W of T5 10,000K lighting, and 65W each of 10,000K CP and Royal Blue Actinics (really nice colour!). Added a few more turbo snails, and a lawnmower blenny that appears to nibble on the algae. It is still creeping forward though. I also use active carbon, nitrate sponge, and phosphate sponge in a converted wet dry filter. Tank is 29 Gallons.
<Ahh, hard to manage such small volumes>
I have a highish (I think) bioload (2 Percula Clowns, 1 Fire Shrimp, 1 Purple Firefish, The Lawnmower Blenny, and then a Small Coral Beauty Angelfish who is just in a holding pattern until I get a bigger tank, soon...working on the landlord)
<I see... have them over for dinner possibly...>
Water parameters are as follows. Nitrates, ammonia, nitrites and phosphates are all at 0 (due to the algae I imagine, if it were to suddenly be removed I imagine there would be a spike in chemicals, I'm sure they are still there).
<Very likely so>
pH is 8.0 - 8.2 and stays fairly stable. Temp is around 82C, though occasionally goes to 84 (rare, and I turn on a fan to cool it). I do a five gallon water change per week (miss the occasional one, rarely, usually during exams...), and add Seachem marine buffer when needed (diluted in large volumes of fresh water). Overall I'm thrilled with the tank, besides the algae.
It has been about 2 months since I incorporated all the changes, and still no change in algae growth, it's still going. The Zoanthids and GSP's seem to be growing over it in places, but I'm worried it might choke things out.
Should I just wait, and eventually the critters will reduce this?
<Best to keep "working on it">
I don't know what else to do to reduce my DOC levels.
<In a word... raise your RedOx... Please read here:
and the linked files above... the efforts at increasing this will clear your system>
I could add a sump/refugium, but I'm afraid of hang on overflows and flooding.
<Keep studying, reading till your fears abate>
I have been reading about
algal turf scrubbers, and they seem promising...
<Am not much a fan of... for reasons archived on WWM>
though I'm skeptical of people who use them without skimming or any other filtration. I've copied a diagram of what I'm thinking of... let me know what you think. I found a design on www.algaescrubber.net, using a 5 gallon bucket, I'd put it above the tank in a cabinet, so it will gravity feed into the tank, regulated by a ball valve. I also added an overflow tube, just in case the main return from the scrubber failed/blocked, and the bucket started filling. I also added a mesh box containing filter floss, bags of active carbon and other media if necessary (will replace the hang on filter) as I have heard that water colour is an issue with this method of filtration.
<This is so>
Also would help to
prevent particulate matter from getting back to the tank. The overflow is
overkill maybe but I'm paranoid about flooding the landlord's hardwood.
<Best to be a little paranoid in this world>
I would put the lights on a timer, on a reverse photoperiod from the tank lights for maybe 16 hours or so. Could I put it under the tank with another pump putting the water back in to the display (I guess really that's just a sump) or would this get too complicated, require overflows from the display to the bucket?
<Could... but I'd go for a full time refugium here instead, w/ RDP>
I could theoretically drill holes for overflow and return in the back/top of the tank.... but I can only imagine drilling a fully set up tank is a nightmare.
<Mmm, nope... see WWM, Glassholes.com>
So what is your opinion of my ideas (I'm sorry, I know there's a lot of them, my fiancé© thinks I am insane, we just covered a section in class on OCD... sigh). Also, your opinion of turf scrubbers in general...
<See here: http://wetwebmedia.com/algfiltf.htm
and the linked files above>
would this work for my system if I slowly manually remove algae from the display (difficult, it is tremendously resilient... my hat off to nature AGAIN) whilst the algae in the ATF grows?
Thank you so much for your time! More diagrams to follow later, I've got plans for a new bigger (200 Gal) system, but I wouldn't want to transplant and possibly 'infect' a giant setup with this turf algae. It starts growing on new rock within days, and you can mark growth over a 48 hour period. You guys are awesome by the way... I'm a medical student, and see many parallels with what I will soon do (patient comes in with problem, you give them a solution, and they go out and try things until it hopefully goes away, or come back with new questions).
<You are observant>
Cheers for now!
<A pleasure to chat with you. Bob Fenner>

Algae Scrubber FAQ's   12/25/08 Hi Bob and Crew, <Hello, Benjamin here.> It's exciting that I'm writing my first letter to you, since WWM was my first place of learning for a whole year or so. I'm writing now because I have my first bit of information that might be of use to your readers. You have received several questions from readers about building Algae Scrubbers (or "Algae Turf Scrubbers", ATS). I spent the last 1.5 years studying just filtration, and was fortunate to be asked to mod an algae scrubber forum, where I set up the first Algae Scrubber FAQ. So, if I may, here is a link to the FAQ which is the result of thousands of reader inputs, hundreds of scrubber builds by these readers, and several scrubbers that I've built and am currently running: http://www.algaescrubber.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=68 Modern scrubbers (meaning, starting this year) fortunately have almost none of the shortcomings of scrubbers built previously. Just about every perceived drawback has been corrected, usually with just a small change in operation. Anyways, feel free to link to or post the FAQ. And I'd be happy to answer any questions there might be. <I'll let Bob handle the link at such...see what he and others have to weigh in here. I, for one, have followed both the old studies and some of your recent work with great interest....have a prototype of a bucket system running behind me at the moment...week 3. Thank you for your concise, scientific approach to this new material!> Regards and Happy Holidays, <The same!> Santa Monica <Benjamin>

Algae Scrubber FAQ's, Forum    12/25/08 Hi Bob and Crew, <Bryan> It's exciting that I'm writing my first letter to you, since WWM was my first place of learning for a whole year or so. I'm writing now because I have my first bit of information that might be of use to your readers. <I thank you> You have received several questions from readers about building Algae Scrubbers (or "Algae Turf Scrubbers", ATS). I spent the last 1.5 years studying just filtration, and was fortunate to be asked to mod an algae scrubber forum, where I set up the first Algae Scrubber FAQ. So, if I may, here is a link to the FAQ which is the result of thousands of reader inputs, hundreds of scrubber builds by these readers, and several scrubbers that I've built and am currently running: http://www.algaescrubber.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=68 <I see... a forum dedicated to their discussion: "Algae Scrubbers Everything you need to know about building your own Algal Turf Scrubber. Reduce/remove nitrate and phosphate and reduce water changes, for marine and fresh water fish tanks."> Modern scrubbers (meaning, starting this year) fortunately have almost none of the shortcomings of scrubbers built previously. Just about every perceived drawback has been corrected, usually with just a small change in operation. Anyways, feel free to link to or post the FAQ. And I'd be happy to answer any questions there might be. <Again, much appreciated> Regards and Happy Holidays, Santa Monica <Thank you for your efforts. Bob Fenner>

Thinking about changing my filter methods... Shark sys., ATS...   7/12/08 I have searched your web site and have done numerous goggle searches only to be more confused. I have a 180 gallon tank with a wet-dry filter and a euro-reef protein skimmer that has been running a little over two years. My skimmer goes through cycles where it produces lots of skimmate and times when it produces none. <Not atypical> My ammonia and nitrite levels are at zero almost constantly however my nitrates are constantly out of control. <Numbers please> I have a fish only tank with large predator fish, a bamboo shark, <...!> lion fish, two damsels, and a wrasse. I have about a 120 lbs. of live rock which recently has lost lots of its coralline algae. I am considering adding either a algae turf scrubber, or a refugium or both to possibly add to or total replace my wet-dry. <Good idea> I like the idea of not have to do water changes all the time. But I have also read some negative things about the algae turf scrubber system. <Some makes, models have inherent flaws, difficulties... Do give Morgan Lidster/Inland Aquatics a call, email...> I would just like your opinion of how to provide the best filtration for my tank. My shark is very important to me and I have dedicated a large amount of my time and wallet to ensure that he gets the best so far he seems unaffected by the high nitrates but I do not want to wait till be shows signs of stress. <Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/sharksystems.htm and the series of FAQs above in this cat.> I do perform water changes but I think that a tank should be able to remain somewhat more stable then mine tends to be. Any help would be appreciated. I also have been reading about the Ecosystem refugium what is your opinion on these. <Very nice units, method...> Thank-you for your time. A-Garrett Arnold <Bob Fenner>

Re: Thinking about changing my filter methods.... Shark sys., ATS...    7/12/08 My nitrates tend to be around 100ppm in between water changes. <Mmm, too much> I am not against doing regular maintenance on any means, actually tends to be some of the fun for me, however I am worried about the fluctuations in the nitrates on my fish. <Not so much the fluctuations, but getting back, staying at a lower concentration> My finance and I are going to be getting married in about 6 months and we would like to put a bigger tank in our new house. We are looking at a 400-600 gallon. However, I'm just worried that If I can't keep a 180 in near pristine conditions how will I fair with more water volume. <Incongruous comparisons... In so much that you are apparently aware of sources, consequences, means to control> I already struggle to make enough water to do adequate water changes. <Not the water changes that are at fault or salvation here> I will give the Inland Aquatic guy a call. Do you think I would benefit from using both a ATS and a refugium? <Very likely so> Thanks for your response -Garrett <Read: http://wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm and the linked files above. BobF>

A source for Algal Turf Scrubber Equipment   9/27/06 Hello, <Hi there> I have spent a number of hours searching the web for a source of ATS equipment for a friend, and have been unable to find anything of value. I currently use an MMFI Algae Scrubber (along with GAC and vigorous protein skimming), but I don't consider MMFI a viable source anymore. I understand that feelings are mixed on ATS, but consider them useable as part of a comprehensive filtration system. Could one of you please let me know where my friend could by a commercially built ATS? <Mmm, yes. Contact Morgan Lidster at Inland Aquatics: http://www.inlandaquatics.com/> I enjoy your website, and appreciate the effort that you put into it. By the way Bob, that "Edge you mah cate yo'self."  to Lee was especially funny, if a bit cryptic for him. It took a few minutes to translate, as I was laughing pretty well when he spelled it out to me. I hope you can pardon his rudeness, he was pretty much at wit's end during that fiasco, and has his aquarium in good shape at present. <No worries> Best wishes, and thanks in advance for your time even if you can't help me! Russ Schultz <Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Looking to install Sump Using Overflow Box Question... actually RMF's take on ATS "algal scrubbers"   2/1/06 Hello and Thanks in advance if you can help me. <What if we can't but try real hard? Partial credit?> I currently run a 90 gal reef tank and am looking for better results out of it. As of right now, my main source of filtration is an hang on tank ATS (algae turf scrubber) I also use a small Protein skimmer (Aqua C remora) and canister filter to help out with particulates. The best my tank looked was when it was about a year old. Very beautiful, everything was thriving. But it has been on a slow decline ever since (tank is now about three years old) <Typical... with these "scrubbers"> I have noted poor growth and colour in most SPS corals ( only four colonies have really done well)  I have lost several SPS corals regardless of how much flow they received. Water tests indicate perfect levels (ammonia, nitrate, phosphate, pH, Ca, Alk salinity etc.) <More to the world...> But I believe it is a result of the ATS either leaching into the water (water has developed yellow tinge) or not effectively pulling everything necessary out of the water. Or both. <Yes... common, inevitable...> The AquaC skimmer does pull out dark skimmate on a daily basis but I believe it is doing very little considering the volume of water compared to size of skimmer. Long story short... I feel I am relying on Scrubber too much and would like to include a larger skimmer into my scheme of things. I am confident that I would see better results.( don't get me wrong...lots of things in the tank are growing beautifully...but room for improvement <Not the skimmer that is lacking or can improve here> So I'm looking to keep the ATS for the benefits of the reverse daylight pH effect and for it's surge which I also like. But I would like to remove the AquaC skimmer and replace it with a CPR overflow box to siphon water from tank into sump so I could install larger skimmer and eventually calcium reactor ( I'm about done with the 2 part stuff,) <The reactor would help, and the addition of a sump/refugium> Could this be done considering that I have a fluctuating water level due to the twice a minute surge of water from the Scrubber? <Not easily, no... unless the scrubber was rigged to a constant volume area of the tank or sump> Would the water level drop below the Overflow and lose siphon? <Possibly... depending on how this was all arranged> I am planning to use the airlift attachment pump but did not know if this was possible or too risky. <Is> In case you are not familiar with a HOT scrubber....it works like this. A dedicated pump for the ATS sits inside a surface skimming box. The pump draws water from the aquarium to a tray which fills up ( about 1.5 gallons ) and then dumps into one side of the aquarium. <Am very familiar> So the water level drops about an little over an inch in between dumps. Would this compromise the overflow box? <Yes... can't be used here unless the above-mentioned modification is made> I was looking to get a overflow that did 600gph and a return pump Mag Drive 700gph ( 500 gph at three feet ) Also, the skimmers I was considering were: ASM GX2 approx $240 MRC MR1 approx $300 or AQUA C EV120 approx $350 any suggestions? Thanks again. -JOSH <I would categorically abandon the algal scrubber... these units are poorly devised, maintenance headaches... responsible for the poor health and outright death of many marines... and look to other filtration technology. Bob Fenner>

AT Scrubbers and Nutrient Import/Export 8/13/04 Please excuse if this is a duplicate message. outlook is being bad. <no worries... good to hear from you> Hello to all the crew at WWM and an enormous thanks for all the information that you provide!  The reading on the site has kept me busy late in the night and added fuel to a rekindling fire to be involved in this hobby that I have been gone from for several years.   <'tis most excellent to hear> Years ago I purchased an Algae Scrubber from MMFI for my then-current tank, though ended up having to get rid of the tank but kept my unused scrubber.  On the site it is stated that scrubbers "take out too much of some things and produce too much of others." I would like to know what these are and what can be done to aid.   <I frankly don't feel like commercial AT scrubbers help or hurt much at all... they are simply too small.> Having perused the pages and BBS, it seems that in addition to removing phosphates and nitrates scrubbers also remove calcium and affect alkalinity.   <true to a small extent... but so do our corals, and were not leaving them out of reef tanks ;) And even without a scrubber, you will still have to supplement minerals like Calcium. So, the point is moot IMO... do enjoy your scrubber if you like> I intend on supplementing my scrubber with a mechanical/chemical filter using activated carbon which will be cleaned regularly, a protein skimmer which will be used as necessary, <please do consider using a skimmer full-time! It is far more beneficial to water quality than you may know... and I can assure you it will export more nutrients than most algal scrubbers> plenty of live rock, and daily small water changes (for what it's worth.)   <excellent> I am not anxious to get rid of my scrubber as I have already spent the money on it and it seems to me a viable filtration method. <modest capability at best (just look at its surface area compared to the surface area of your display interior walls or live rock (which grow diatoms, algae, etc.) or even the sump interior. AT scrubbers are frankly overpriced and a poor value in my opinion. But $ aside, they still are a useful technology. Again... just not a good value for what you get in return> Any advice for controlling nutrient export and maintaining water quality and proper useful supplement levels will be greatly appreciated.   <be very systematic with your water changes to replenish trace elements... and be very systematic in your harvest of algae. These will go a long way towards success with AT scrubbers> Once again thanks a bunch, and I look forward to your response.   Justin <best regards, Anthony>

- Algal Turf Scrubber - Hi, I have a 75 gallon reef aquarium with a remora pro protein skimmer, and I hate it. The skimmer works fine, but is WAY to loud. And I don't like changing the cup every few days. <Ok.> So, while on a trip to inland aquatics, I viewed their filters, and their methods. I asked a worker how often they did water changes on a reef in the "little room" (I don't know what to call it), they said they had never done a water change, and the tank had been set up for many years. I understand all I have to do is clean or hose out the algae from the plastic mesh once a week. And I love the way the scrubber dumps the water in the tank like the real ocean like waves. I read an article at advanced aquarist I believe and it said the filters are inexpensive. I asked them, and they said they had one not assembled for $550. Is that inexpensive? <Depends on your budget.> I don't think so! <Then that's that.> Well I will probably be buying one within the next month or so if you think it is a good idea. What do you think? <I'm not a fan, quite honestly although your statements about the skimmer noise and cleaning lead me to believe you won't like the noise from the wave dumper and its associated maintenance very much either. Suggest you read up on these - there is more to read in Sprung/Delbeek Reef Aquarium vol. 1, and Dynamic Aquaria by Adey/Loveland - Adey being the person who spearheaded this technique. I tend to lean on the side presented by Sprung/Delbeek that while these filters do work and work well, they tend to turn the water green which is less than appealing. Likewise, the system you saw at Inland Aquatics is a culture system and not necessarily what is ideal for individual tanks. I can't force you to "get used to" the noise your skimmer makes, but I do think you're better off the way you are now.> Thanks, Adam <Cheers, J -- >

- Bubbles and Dump Buckets - I've been reading your site, and in great detail. There's so much useful stuff here, it will probably take me months to go through it all! Anyway, another question for the crew! I had been toying with a small turf scrubber for a reef tank (strictly supplemental to a skimmer/refugium setup), and had been contemplating having the surge fall into a far end of the tank through a confined open air sheet. Splash out wouldn't happen, but... I've now been reading through the part of your site where people go on and on about bubbles, and... Am I to take it that my idea for helping oxygenate the tank (open air fall) was maybe not such a good idea? <In the case of a dump bucket system, you don't have anything to fear from micro bubbles.> Anyway, I'm having second thoughts about the turf scrubber, but I still want some kind of surge device, ala Carlson. Should it return under the water, instead of splashing into it? <Splashing is just fine. In my opinion, the whole micro bubble issue is overblown - it is a genuine problem and does occur, just not as often as some folks make out, so that a large portion of the posts you may have read are really about the aesthetic issues of air in the water and the perceived problem of micro bubbles rather than an actual problem.> I'd seen net photos of some turf scrubbers that had some very heavy surges. They appeared bubbly. I was simply assuming that bubbly was okay. No, eh? <Bubbly in this case is fine.> Joe p.s. I'm okay with the noise. :) <Cheers, J -- >

Problem with MMFI algae scrubbers Hello! I thought I'd warn anyone buying a Algae Scrubber From MMFI Aquaricare. I bought a filtering system from Mark A. Reinke. Owner of the company. After I paid off my filtering system in December, I called, and asked Mark when he would send me my system. He said in March. I asked him why it would take so long to get my system. He said there were so many orders, that it would take that long to send it. Well, the very next month, the website is still on the web, but is under construction, and is updated often. But you can't reach him by the website, phone, or fax. I went to the Denver BBB, and he has five complaints against him this year, for not sending people their systems, or not replacing leaking and faulty algae scrubbers. I've contacted a legal aide service to help me get my money returned to me. Almost five hundred dollars. So buyers beware! < Thanks for the information, we'll pass this on. > Deborah Mitchell <  Blundell  >

EZ algae filter system? <Hello Acer> Hi - I have been reading you site a lot. Have you ever heard of a company called EZtank? they are saying that you only need an algae scrubber unit and no protein or wet/dry do you have an opinions on this type of filter and what is it.< It probably is very similar to the Ecosystem which has been around for a while.  I've seen the Ecosystem in action and it definitely keeps the nuisance algae from growing in the display tank.>Their web site is difficult to navigate and I cannot figure out the actual makings of the product. I am setting up a 75 reef with 2 Jebo 48" lights=460 watts of PC lighting. Have live rock and sand from existing 55 gallon salt -fish only setup. <The Ecosystem is basically a 10 gallon tank with baffles and the bottom media is "Miracle Mud" or something like that.  It comes with a PC mini hood.  Caulerpa or some type of higher algae is required for the system to work.  You might want to go to www.premiumaquatics.com.  They have it and also a link to the Ecosystem company.  I've never heard of EZtank yet.> ?? on the rest of setup. If the algae scrubber does what they say then I really only need a sump/refugium for an isolation area and to grow plant food- no actual filtration.<That is the filtration. James (Salty Dog)> I love your site, thanks for the help, Acer  

Algae scrubbers Robert I have had an on going fight with problem algae for about 3-4 months now. I have a 600 ltr tank with trickle filter, protein skimmer, MH lighting 10000k, lots of live rock, phos guard, no plenum, with nitrite 0, nitrate 5, ph 8.3. The algae started all of a sudden when the tank was about 11 months old (skimmer not working properly, MH old and changed colour, all ok recently), Question would you recommend using a algae scrubber to reduce problem algae in the tank or perhaps any other thoughts, as I'm lost to the problem, I have recently been changing water with the real stuff about 20% monthly, I had been until then using artificial. Thanks for your help Robert Haywood (Queensland Australia) <Please do read over the "Algae Control" and Algal Group survey pieces, FAQs stored on the site: www.WetWebMedia.com... I would use live macro-algae, perhaps add a sump/plenum here... maybe some purposeful algae eating animals (all detailed on the WWM site), and leave your system to slowly re-center itself. You appear to otherwise have a good grasp of what is going on. Bob Fenner>

How to set up a coral tank I have not had the opportunity to visit the Smithsonian to see this tank, though I had heard it has had its problems (I am, however, a big fan of the Algal Turf scrubbers from Inland Aquatics that are based on Adey's designs).   Of the public aquariums I have visited though, none have had the sort of wonderfully healthy, thriving reef systems that can often be found in the homes of dedicated hobbyists. <Do know these scrubbers very well, and am of the decided opinion they do/can work... but akin to U.S. consumers and older sports cars, they're decidedly not "the market" for the west due to vagaries of simple maintenance...>There is an unfortunate gap between the hobbyists (many of whom have great skill but often don't speak the scientists lingo or have the technical knowledge or understanding of the scientific method the scientists have) and scientists.  I have seen both sides, as I have my feet firmly planted in both realms.<Surprisingly (to me), I have made my living for decades by straddling this same transparent chasm... with a third spot thrown in which is the industry/business side of ornamental aquatics... And have rarely met anyone else who states as you do...> I have sometimes been shocked by how inept some scientists I have known have been in the basic husbandry of the organisms they were working with (not just corals, but fish and plants as well...my main area of training is actually in plant and insect ecology), and dismayed by the lack of respect they often have for hobbyists who often have incredible finesse with (and tremendous natural history knowledge of) the same groups of organisms. <I concur... a great shame and loss to both parties> Just out of curiosity, what realms of endeavor regarding corals and reefs do you walk in?  Are you a hobbyist, scientist, diver, marine livestock dealer, or ...???? (or possibly several of the above?).  I recognize your name as someone active on either the Coral List or the ReefKeepers list (or both?), but I don't recall what your connections with corals are. <An industry/business facilitator by practice, "content provider by income", consultant a few times a year to the public and private sides of livestock, drygoods and "habitat" (mechanicals and controllers) aspects of the interest. Mainly I write, make photographs (and video for many years, but never sold a second), and sell same in the print, electronic worlds. Much of my efforts can be perused on the site:  Home Page . I do call many of the "A" players in the marine livestock trades friends, and do write for dive, in-flight periodicals... even the occasional underwater natural history essay... And give freely of my image work to the ASIH, FishBase... where you might have seen my name mentioned.> Thanks, by the way, for your e-mail....I wasn't quite sure how my comments would be received by coral-list members, some of whom I fear might take offense to my comments! <To heck with them and me for that matter should any object to an honest person's exhortations. Many of the NOAA listserv people have an all-too secular agenda here.... To keep their funding, jobs... Express yourself> Bill <Be chatting my friend. Kia orana (Cook Maori for "Life to you"), Bob Fenner>

I would like your opinion on using an Algae Turf Scrubber in a reef > aquarium. I have done quite a bit of research on ATS systems and am considering setting up a 200g tank with an ATS. It sounds like a great idea, but I don't know... > Thanks, Chad Headlee >> Am not a big fan of these stock units as stand alone filters... without chemical filtrant intervention I have found that they generally do not produce high water quality... However, in the hands of an intelligent, diligent operator, this is a very useful primary filtration mode. Bob Fenner

AT Scrubbers and the like???? Bob, I am wondering if you have any experience with algal turf scrubbers (AT scrubber), algae filters or any type of filtering system utilizing algae? I have read some good things about these various systems. However, it is always from the makers of such systems and I have yet to find someone using one. Also, I have a large lawnmower blenny that has pretty much exhausted all of the natural growth on my live rock. I am hoping that there is something else I can feed him or maybe "smear" on the rocks for him to forage for. I thoroughly enjoy him but if he begins to lose weight I will have to find a better home for him. Thanks for the help, Brad >> Am familiar with algal turf scrubbers, commercially and from a science/history point of view.... Saw some of the early work of (all places) the necropolis of Natural History Museums, the Smithsonian... through their development in the seventies, install of the dismal (yes, a failure IMO... many, many dead, dying organisms...) "main tank" in 1981... Am not a big fan of these systems commercially... they partially work to drive the mechanisms of filtration in the claims... but many by-products of this "driving" are detrimental... not just the unsightly color of water that is produced... that the hobbyist must address: chemically filter, massive water change-out... or suffer poor livestock growth, health consequently. Like the use of skimmers and other technology, algal filters have their upsides and downsides... They "take out too much" of somethings, and "produce too much of others"... Are they "worth it" for hobbyist use? IMO, no. But there are many people who disagree, and a few institutions who have installed and fight with these sorts of approaches continuously. Bob Fenner 

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