Algae Turf Scrubbers - myth or reality

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by rygh, Dec 13, 2010.

  1. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    Not much, you are right.
    Most of it boils down to opinions on what is better, and opinions on pros/cons on each approach,
    which varies with setup/personality/goals/etc. Maybe fun to argue about, but gets old, and no
    expectation of some grand solution.

    The key disagreement that I wish we could prove would be if scrubbers truly kill SPS.
    I would say evidence is weighted toward yes, but so many holes in those arguments,
    and so many counter arguments, it is too hard to tell.


    Good point about Scientology and that scrubber site.
    I did end up posting there, quite nicely I thought.
    He kinda went off the deep end, talking about girls dying from drinking too much water.

    Minor responses:
    You misquoted a bit, the vodka dosing was what I said could kill things if done wrong.
    I ran a vertical first, switched to a 30-deg horizontal, which I have now, but regret due to lower performance.
  2. GreshamH

    GreshamH Guest

    Ahhh we had some BAR MODeration on this thread, good to see :)

    EDIT: no, I am in the wrong thread :lol:
  3. houser

    houser Past President

    Arguments = case making (not heated, etc...) This is a great conversation!
  4. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    Brought on a funny thought:
    I recently ordered 160 pounds of #1 aragonite, based primarily on your advice.
    Advice, if memory serves, from a person with a bare bottom tank.
    What was I thinking???
  5. Thales

    Thales Past President

    Ha! You should go to that bare bottomed website! Then Dave will really have to adjust his chair!
  6. houser

    houser Past President

    Already did...
    Googled pink hentai since I did not know what it meant :O
  7. tuberider

    tuberider Guest

    You were thinking selectively.

    Just like in this thread how you have touted your experience and at the same time have mentioned that experience means nothing, whatever suits the moment.

    FWIW, I have experience running cascading ATS if that means anything to you, but I guess that all depends ;)
  8. Coral reefer

    Coral reefer President

    Bare bottoms? Pink hentai? Bar might get put on the no browsing at work watchlist if this sort of talk continues
  9. It takes me 10 min to do a 25% w/c....couple flips of a switch and thats doesnt always have to be a PITA. Even when i had my 180 gal up...a w/c took less than 30 min.

    Nothing will solve ALL our problems directly. Just as with an ATS.

    Maybe a waste of your $. Without proper understanding of how to dial in a piece of equipment to suit your system ANYTHING can be a waste of money. I myself have been running one for a few years and haven'y had detectable nitrates since. With that said i would not parade it as superior to any other method tried and tested.

    Minor? Setting up a method of filtration that has the potential to nuke the very animals that i strive to keep happy doesn't necessarily constitute itself as "minor" IMO.

    I too see this as an oxymoron

    This would be like having to choose a fitness trainer and having the choice of Lou Ferrigno and Peter Griffin. Id go with the advice from the seasoned one with the track record. From personal experience, it was in my early BAR days that Jeremy brought me from keeping sps ALIVE to having sps THRIVE. Its this experience that sets this forum apart from others IMO.

    A couple years ago this were much more simplified.

    wana know how to feed your reef? = Ask Gresham
    wana know the mating habits of Metasepia pfefferi? = Ask Rich
    wana know about the Pauli exclusion principle? = Ask Mike
    how about the basics & odds and ends that confuse most? = post it and Jeremy and Norm are all over it
  10. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    I guess I need to clear up a few things.


    "Beyond that little minor "killing coral" concern,"
    Was meant sarcastically. Yes, that is a huge concern, and I am still actively researching it.
    Almost all of the rest of the issues are opinions of what might be better and why.
    That is the one show-stopper argument if true.


    "Brought on a funny thought" = Meant to be funny.
    I have no regrets to taking advice from Jeremy on good sand to buy.
    It was meant as a joke on the irony of taking advice about sand from a guy who
    does not use it in his tank.


    Regarding other comments on me not caring about peoples previous experience with ATS:
    I clarified this in bold previously as:
    "The results and impressions of a horizontal "TURF" algae based system are largely
    irrelevant to the discussion on waterfall hair algae based scrubbers."
    Which I still believe to be true, since they are so different.
    And yes, that applies to my own experience on horizontal-turf as well.

    Now I could be wrong on that, and a lot of other things. No problem.
    And in the case that people had old experience on waterfall hair scrubbers that
    I originally did not know about, fine, that is obviously VERY relevant.

    But please do NOT interpret it as me saying "I am the super expert and think the opinion
    of other experts does not matter."
    Seriously - I am not a complete moron - I would not say that.
    And if any posts seemed that way, I apologize, and that was not the way it was meant.
  11. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    I am going to stay very tightly on topic here, since straying into other
    things I have far less experience with was clearly a very bad idea.

    Good question, and since that I should not take any statements off that other site as fact, I better look it up.

    There is a good article here on general phosphate issues.
    And a good quote:
    "Nevertheless, growing and harvesting macroalgae (Figure 2) remains one of the best ways to reduce phosphate levels in reef tanks (along with other nutrients). "
    That was a statement really about refugiums though, not ATS, if you read the article.

    There is also a good paper here that lists the percentage of phosphate in various type of algae.
    That is critical, since you need to know how much actual phosphate is removed as you remove
    the algae.
    Some, particularly Caulerpa racemosa, are high, in the 0.08% range.
    Unfortunately, hair algae was not listed. ARGH

    In the first article, they did the calculation on Caulerpa:
    "If one were to harvest 10 grams (dry weight) of this macroalgae from a tank, it would be the equivalent of removing 24 mg of phosphate. That amount is the equivalent of reducing the phosphate concentration from 0.2 ppm to 0.1 ppm in a 67 gallon tank. All of the other species tested gave similar results (plus or minus a factor of 2). Interestingly, using nitrogen data in the same paper, it would also be equivalent to reducing the nitrate content by 2.5 grams, or 10 ppm in that same tank."

    In a bit more searching, I found a commercial ATS site, (industrial sewage, not aquariums)
    And in their MARKETING notes, they say it is great at removing phosphorous.
    But that is corporate marketing...

    Even more interesting is this USDA article on agricultural turf scrubbers.
    Where they say among other things:
    "Analysis of air-dried algae (shown above) from an algal turf scrubber showed that the algae captured most of the nitrogen and phosphorus in the manure."

    So I think there is a decent amount of evidence that an ATS can reduce PO4.

    On the other hand, 10 grams dry weight is quite a bit of algae.
    And reducing from 0.2 ppm to 0.1 ppm in a 67 gallon tank is not that big of a change.
  12. Thales

    Thales Past President

    There are tanks that have macro 'reactors' that have PO4 issues - remember Randy wrote that in 2002. Just growing the macro doesn't seem to necessarily effect the PO4 concentration in the water. We are also missing the information about how fast macro has to grow to uptake x P04 - P04 sequestered in algae doesn't necessarily say anything about the concentration in the water. Make sense? You can put a paper towel in a bowl of water and then determine how much water is in the paper towel, but that tells you nothing about how much more water that paper towel can uptake (and in this case it would be 0). Can algae uptake PO4 sure, but I haven't seen much evidence that shows that ATS or AS uptake PO4 or how much PO4 can be reasonably expected to be exported by such methods.

    Going from .2 to .1 is a huge change. Its cutting the phosphate in half and making it much closer to the .05 goal that most shoot for.
  13. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    No argument with the first statement, but that does not in any way imply the second.
    It only states that the reactors are not keeping up with the phosphate being added.
    For the second statement to follow, you would have to measure zero phosphate level change,
    with NO ADDITIONAL INPUT of phosphate.

    Sure. But we get that by measuring ppm, and multiplying by tank volume.

    Well, that second article gave the percentage of phosphate in the algae.
    (Well, at least for those they show. It is a possibly dangerous assumption that hair is similar)
    That times the dry mass of the algae you scrape gives the answer.
    I will see if I can find some numbers, or a way to measure mine accurately enough.
  14. JAR

    JAR Supporting Member

    This is getting funny.
  15. xcaret

    xcaret Supporting Member

    TWO funny

    South of the border an ATS is kind of a "must"; lots of people swear by them.
  16. Thales

    Thales Past President

    BTW - Santa Monica is a dolt:
    I went looking at his site for more info, but reading his crazy town rants make me want to jam forks into my eyes.

    He has done more to hurt the idea of ATS than he needed to. And he is selling stuff - which he said he was never going to do when he was spamming all the forums.
  17. Thales

    Thales Past President

    No one said the first statement implied the first. The word 'seems' is pretty important. :D The rest of the above - you lost me. Randy was not talking about reactors. And, P04 can continue to rise without additional inputs as it 'escapes' from rock, substrate etc.
    The concentration is measured in ppm - no volume calculations needed. The levels in the algae and the levels in the water aren't necessarily linked. You could have high concentration in the algae, but even higher concentration in the water. Just because there is x P04 in algae doesn't mean there is a lower concentration in the water or that algae is the best filter ever.

    That seems to have little to do with ATS or AS - different algae.
    The amount of po4 in the algae means little. We want to know the amount of PO4 in the water, and then the amount of PO4 in the water after an ATS or AS was added. Or you could do it the other way - remove the ATS or AS from a system and see what the PO4 does in the water. Of course doing any of that without a control is just more anecdote.
  18. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    Yep. Lets take a piece of science and warp it. Phytoplankton is a HUGE percentage of biomass in the ocean,
    which relates to ATS systems how???
    The over-hype definitely scares a lot of people off.

    Oh - and the funny thing - he hates LEDs.
    Basically : "To risky, you should go with tried and true T5/CFL."
    The irony of that....

    But my biggest problem with him is actually his lack of concern for safety.
    Pushing those unsealed bucket designs - scary stuff.

    On the other hand, there is a fair amount of good info on there (often from others)
    So like a whole lot of things on the internet - can be good and bad at the same time.
  19. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    Regarding the other confusion on PO4:
    I think we are talking about different things, hence our comments to each other not making that much sense.
    I will restate it a different way.

    First: I am only trying to prove that "An ATS is a good PO4 reduction method".
    Not that it will keep all tanks perfectly PO4 free all the time. No miracles.
    To do that, I only need to prove that a given cleaning can remove a decent
    percentage of the phosphate that would be in a normal tank.

    The formula for amount removed is fairly simple.
    Amount removed = percentage of phosphate in algae * amount of algae removed.
    So from that first article, they did the calculation on Caulerpa:
    "If one were to harvest 10 grams (dry weight) of this macroalgae from a tank, it would be the equivalent of removing 24 mg of phosphate."

    The amount you need to remove to be "good" is a bit more complex, but still straightforward.
    A good amount = some percentage of your total phosphate.
    The total phosphate = ppm level * volume (really mass) of your tank.
    So again from the first article:
    "That amount [24 mg] is the equivalent of reducing the phosphate concentration from 0.2 ppm to 0.1 ppm in a 67 gallon tank."
    And from your statement, that .1 ppm is a "huge" number.

    If you note, that actual phosphate level of your tank is irrelevant in the above statement.

    My old tank is a roughly 65 G.
    IF my ATS can remove something close to 10 grams of algae, and
    IF hair algae is moderately similar to caulerpa algae in phosphate percentage,
    THEN an ATS is a good remover of PO4.

    Hopefully no arguments on all of the above.

    Now I was hoping that thinking various algae was reasonably similar in phosphate percentage
    would be ok, since several pretty different other ones were. But sounds like that is a problem.
    So I will keep looking on that.

    I was also hoping to find an old chemistry scale, but no luck there either.

    So stay tuned on actual results.

    But I hope that clears up the thought process.
  20. Thales

    Thales Past President

    Define 'good'. Making a value judgment needs support and definition of some kind. Change the above to "An ATS is a method that removes 'some' PO4" and I have no issue. Jumping to 'good' needs more info.

    Not prove, show or provide evidence. :D

    Its only a 'good' remover of PO4 if it removes it in a timely fashion. For that we need to know the actual level in the tank and how quickly it goes down due to algal growth. If it takes 6 months to remove .1 ppm of PO4 its not really all that 'good'.
    Also, the actual PO4 level seems critical. If the level is 3.0 (yes I have seen that number) then removing algae that contains the equivalent of .1 ppm is not that good as it only changes the level from 3.0 ppm to 2.9 ppm which is a small number and algae is not at all 'good' at removing PO4.

    And removing the algae doesn't actually effect the concentration of PO4 in the tank at all - it simply removes the PO4 that is already sequestered in the algae.

    The 'good' makes it hard to swallow. (also which hair algae - do they all work the same?)


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