RSS First hand experience with the DaStaCo automatic calcium reactor

MASA Admin

8 May 2007
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DaStaCo’s calcium reactors are a unique application of using acidified seawater to continuously dissolve calcium carbonate media to supply minerals to fast growing SPS corals. Where all other calcium reactor designs use a solenoid valve that is controlled through the use of pH measurement, the DaStaCo Extrema and EXT reactors use a simpler float valve in a dedicated CO2 reaction chamber to create a constant state of CO2 saturation.

Hailing from Belgium’s Aqua Marine Supply, the DaStaCo calcium reactors have mainly been the perview of European aquarists. We’ve been eying the novel float-valve controlled DaStaCo reactors from across the pond for some time now but last week we finally got our chance to work with, install and test a jumbo model of the DaStaCo EXT calcium reactors.

Unique Corals is the current U.S. dsitributor for DaStaCo calcium reactor products and as such, wanted to test out the new calcium reactor design on a very large system. For this test we installed a DaStaCo EXT model 13 calcium reactor on a very large coral aquarium system with a combined volume of 5,000 gallons.

The DaStaCo EXT Model 13 comes with two chambers that hold 10 gallons of volume good for 100Kg of media (220 lbs), a single float switch in the reaction chamber, and comes with an included CO2 regulator & solenoid valve, plus a heavy duty, 12 liter per hour peristaltic dosing pump. What makes the whole DaStaCo calcium reactor system work is a smart power strip/controller bar which automatically adjusts the rate of CO2 addition and the feed of aquarium water being administered to the calcium reactors.

The control center for the entire DaStaCo calcium reactor

One of the real downsides to using the DaStaCo calcium reactors in the Americas currently is that the whole system is engineered only for use with 220 volts so a heavy duty 110v to 220v voltage converter is required to power the controller bar, and all the subsequent items that are plugged into it. Once you get past that one technical hurdle of using a converter, the rest of the installation is quite a breeze and arguably easier to set up than any other calcium reactor model currently out there.

Where in a conventional calcium reactor design you would need too have a pH controller, and therefore a pH probe, properly calibrated for a pH of 7, in the DaStaCo the CO2 reaction chamber and the bottom mounted float switch handles all the rest. The maintenance on the DaStaCo is expected to be much less than traditional calcium reactors since you won’t need to worry about the exact pH of the water volume inside the reactor, nor have to concern yourself with the periodic recalibration and replacement of the probe over long term usage.

The other unique aspect of the operation of the DaStaCo line of calcium reactors is that they recently started recommending a type of reactor media that is a form of marble chips, about the size of pebble stones. The DaStaCo calcium reactor media was introduced last year and it is an extra pure form of calcium carbonate in limestone form as tested by Triton Labs in Germany to be free from ‘undesirable’ impurities.

The high purity and density of calcium carbonate within the DaStaCo reactor media ensures that no unwanted trace elements are dissolved into the aquarium water. Also, the extra large media size allows water to naturally channel through, preventing back pressure and reducing the need for extra high power pumps to drive the calcium reactor.

There’s over 200 pounds of high purity DaStaCo calcium reactor media in these two chambers.

We’ve had the DaStaCo EXT Model 13 running for less than a week now, and we’ll be tweaking the dials and playing with the settings to get the maximum dissolution rate from the effluent water. We’ve tested the alkalinity coming from the DaStaCo and stopped counting drops at 50dKH but we realize that aquarium tests were not designed to test such highly alkaline water.

We’ll be modifying the test over the next few days to determine the actual alkalinity coming from the reactors. Also, the current effluent rate is a puny 12 liters per hour, and we’ll be installing an additional dosing pump to get that number closer to the maximum 40 liters per hour that this DaStaCo reactor can handle.

Three gallons per hour of effluent is more than enough for a reasonably large reef tank but with this system measuring out at around 5,500 gallons, it doesn’t matter if the alkalinity comes out at 100dKH if it’s just not coming out fast enough. There are a lot of other neat features of the DaStaCo that we’ll be diving deeper into as we shore up our thoughts on the DaStaCo design for calcium reactors, but for now we just wanted to give you a taste of something new.

Currently the reef aquarium hobby is in a love affair with dosing pumps, and directly dosing all of the separate constituents of seawater in a measured way. Dosing reef elements is a very precise way to replenish the mineral balance of reef aquarium water, but it can get rather costly if you’re dosing liters of additives on a daily basis.

The hardcore stony coral keepers will mostly not stray too far from calcium reactors used in conjunction with elemental dosing and/or also using a kalwasser reactor. Stay tuned for our updated review of the DaStaCo calcium reactor and our long term impression of how this approach performs on a commercial-scale coral reefing environment.

The entire DaStaCo EXT Model 13 calcium reactor is about the same size as an adult reefer.

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