My DIY Algae Scrubber (with results)

Discussion in 'Anything DIY Related' started by abgg118, 7 Mar 2010.

  1. abgg118

    abgg118 MASA Contributor

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    Hi guys,

    I've been a bit (well, very) quiet lately - working too hard and not getting time for the more important things in life, like DIY.

    I've built myself an algae scrubber (don't worry, I'm not going to throw my Skimmer away [​IMG])

    To start off with I've had this red plastic water/whatever container for a while now, and it seemed it would be perfect for housing the scrubber. I sawed off the top.

    [​IMG]

    For the top pipe spreading the water over the "planes" I took 40mm PVC pipe and cut a lslot into it, as well as some small "indents" in the slot to let water through more easily - it was pretty haphazard but it turned out just fine when the water flowed eventually, covering both sides pretty evenly. At the end I siliconed a "wall" into the pipe, but did not close it completely. This means there is an overflow if the slot ever becomes clogged. You'll see later how perfect the container was to handle this overflow.

    [​IMG]

    Got some halogen pond lights (50W when submerged, 20W when not) at Builder's Warehouse. I was planning on putting one on either side but decided 2 was needed per side or it would not cover the entire screen with enough light. So the other side is still lightless at this stage - maybe I'll get another one or two of these lights to build into that side.

    [​IMG]

    Better view of the lights siliconed into place (watertight fit). It remains to be seen whether the sides get too hot for the silicone, but so far so good - most of the heat is on the part outside the container.

    [​IMG]

    Here you can see how nicely the overflow pipe fits into the "handle" of the container. If the water flows over this and into the handle it merely falls down into the container as if it went down the screen (the handle is not solid).

    [​IMG]


    I took the original cap of the container - which is another great fit - and made a whole in the middle. What's so great is that the cap has got this "inside bit" instead of being one solid piece, and I turned this bit around so that the "nipple" pointed to the outside. The return pipe then fits nicely over this. Fastening the cap tightly keeps the whole thing watertight.

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    One with the lights on and the screen and flow-bar roughly in place, showing coverage.

    [​IMG]

    And there it goes, water running pretty smoothly over the screen (about 40cm wide). For the screen I used a normal "paint advertisement board" - those ones made from some kind of plastic material, not cardboard of course - that I got for free from a local hardware shop. I sanded this down with course sandpaper after splitting it in two. I want two screens so that I can remove one for cleaning while the other stays in place for the water to run off on. It also makes it possible to swop them around to be exposed to the different sides of light, should that be needed.
    On the left is the "input" with the white "cord" holding things very steady. To the right the white "cord" pulls the overflow end of the pipe into the container handle, keeping everything steady on that side. The Omo buckets is to get the height so that the return flows back into the sump through gravity.

    [​IMG]
     
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  3. abgg118

    abgg118 Thread Starter MASA Contributor

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    This is after day 1. There was a slight bit of growth already, but too small to see on the photo. Of course, I originally rubbed some algae into the sanded screens to seed everything.

    [​IMG]

    Screen on day 7. More growth, very visible now.

    [​IMG]

    I've covered the top with normal plastic bags (folded so that the lowest point will cause any condensation to drop back into the container rather than flow down a side of the container, to keep evaporation at the top to a minimum - I've also covered the whole thing with a towel to keep "things" out of there.

    [​IMG]

    These last few days there has been much more growth already. I don't have the lights on a cycle yet, but I'm also not running them 24/7 - I'm manually adding a few hours of darkness every two days or so.

    I hope this goes well and my in-tank algae reduces! Hold thumbs ...
     
  4. abgg118

    abgg118 Thread Starter MASA Contributor

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    Hi again,

    Thought I'd post an update - nothing scientific just some pics of the growth. Originally, there were only a few small corals and 3 fish swimming around in about 700liters of water, so not much was growing. However, after I stocked up with some extra fish and corals and started feeding more all around, the growth really picked up in the scrubber.

    We left off last time on day 7, 27 Sep 2009, with only a few spots visible. Also, I had 2 spotlights on the one side, and did not yet have a light on the other side of the screen. I eventually put a more dispersed kind of light on the other side. The difference in algae growth is very apparent - on the side with the 2x50W spotlights I get intense growth around the spotlight areas, waning when you go further away, as expected. On the side with the 40W incandescent light I get slower growth, but more spread out on the screen, again as expected.

    This is on 14November, at about 8weeks, when I harvested the side with the spotlights.
    [​IMG]

    On 31 December 2009 I harvested both sides (yes, I'm aware that I spent the last day of 2009 scrubbing off algae ...). The difference in the growth "patterns" are clearly visible.
    [​IMG]

    I know this method will give scientifically irrelevant variable results, but I squashed the water out of the algae and that's the size of the ball of algae growth from both sides combined:
    [​IMG]

    On 20 February 2010 this growth fell off from the screen on it's own. The algae itself (the yellow parts) was very "hard", not soft and squishy at all (on the spotligght side)
    [​IMG]

    By this time I had some extra life in the water and the algae were starting to show increased growth rates. Two weeks later (6 March) I harvested both sides again, and the harvest can be seen below.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Going forward I will harvest one side at a time to ensure there's always some left over to keep growing uneffected.
    Oh, and the cycle is about 16 hours of light a day, on a reverse schedule.
     
  5. Annoying

    Annoying

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    WOW thats amazing growth! Great job, how much did the scrubber help with algae in the tank?
     
  6. RiaanP

    RiaanP Moderator

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    Simple waterproof idea for a scrubber. Nice idea.

    You should be able to harvest every weekend. BTW, I did check those exact same waterproof lights this morning at Builders warehouse. Luckily I decided against it, you just confirmed my issue I had with it.
     
  7. abgg118

    abgg118 Thread Starter MASA Contributor

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    I can only think it's that they are too concentrated or produce heat?

    I'm staying with the two of them on one side and will have the less concentrated source on the other side - at the moment it's not yet "built in" and just shines through the hole - I'll silicone it in later to make the entire thing water tight up to a certain level.
     
  8. abgg118

    abgg118 Thread Starter MASA Contributor

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    Difficult to say. There is still hair algae growing in the tank (especially on the back glass). It remains to be seen whether the rocks stay cleaner of hair algae than in the past (I've always had trouble with hair algae taking over). But seeing the amount of growth, it has to help at least a bit - all those nutrients are taken out of the system - so it should help the battle along ...
     
  9. RiaanP

    RiaanP Moderator

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    I got a scrubber that I harvest every week. Also I got cheato that is still growing. If scrubber was 100% effective then my cheato should have died slowly by now. And I still have algae on my back glass growing.

    So my scrubber needs an upgrade :)

    Actually, what I'm trying to say, I found that although the scrubber do grow, you will still get algae in the tank. But a lot less, enough for tangs and snails to eat. No algae and your herbivorous snails will all die. In my mind, the scrubber is not the ultimate weapon against algae in the display tank. But it helps a lot.

    And that is still a big nutrient export you do. And that is a big plus. In a closed system, only methods to get stuff out is either skimmer, water change or scrubber.

    So, although the scrubber is not Mr Perfect, I believe in a scrubber. It helps.
     
  10. abgg118

    abgg118 Thread Starter MASA Contributor

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    Yes, the 4 snails are definately making a mark on the in-tank algae, but I guess the nutrients still stay in the water that way - at least they eat the algae and the nutrients get a 2nd (and more) chance of going out through the scrubber.
     
  11. Hill

    Hill

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    Have you looked at upgrading the scrubber lights, increasing the scrubber size or optimising the flow rate over the screen?
     
  12. RiaanP

    RiaanP Moderator

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    Scrubber size estimate, ROUGHLY for a 500L system you need 300*300mm double sided screen or 300*600 single sided.
    Mega Powerful Nitrate and Phosphate Remover - DIY! - Marine Aquariums of South Africa

    My scrubber is 450 by 250 double sided on a 250L system.
    One 45W CFL bulb a side. 3000L/h.
    Plenty of growth per week. I clean both sides, and within one week both sides are fully matured. 16 hour lights on.
    Well back globe could come closer by 2 or 3 cm. And I could add extra globe per side. But I found good enough growth accross the sceeen. But yes, there is more right in the middle. Will get better performance if I can get proper reflectors instead. But the front reflector and globe combo should be able to move out of the way when I remove the screen, or want to turn the cheato ball over.

    And I got a lot of nerita and turbo snails. Rather have them in my tank than to upgrade the scrubber. And I got plenty of pods in the cheato. And again, I rather have them.

    And cheato ball is growing under the same globes as used by scrubber. So if globes are not correct, neither should grow.
     
  13. Max98

    Max98

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    Hi.

    Are you still running your scrubber?

    Did it make a difference long term?
     
  14. xtreme

    xtreme

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    Hi
    Very very nice idea you had;)
     
  15. IMarine

    IMarine

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    excellent build there ,i got to do this on my new build
     
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