Algae Turf Scrubbers - myth or reality

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

  1. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    I defined that using your own statement. "Going from .2 to .1 is a huge change"
    That certainly seems "good". Well beyond good.

    Yes / No / Yes.
    Sentence 1/3) I guess I was not clear on the sample rate. You clean the screen every week.
    So the number I am talking about is a period of one week.
    Sentence 2) No. You cannot use actual level changes as a measure of "good", because that then
    is a statement also about the INPUT of PO4 into the system..
    To the extreme : If you continually pour plant fertilizer in the tank, the ATS will not keep up,
    but it still can be removing PO4 like crazy.
    Does that make it bad or good? - An impossible question.

    No, it CAN still be good, just not good enough to control a completely out of whack tank.

    Seriously : You are asking me to prove it is miraculously good.
    I think you are too used to the over-hype? :)

    Algae grows, using phosphate from tank -> algae removed = phosphate removed.
  2. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    Note: I am open to other definitions of "good", as long as they strictly relate to the ATS only.
    Might have to anyway, since I am hitting a complete block on finding data on hair algae to finish the equations.
  3. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    I was pointed to some interesting reading here:

    Basically, Inland Aquatics, a commercial seller of SPS coral, uses turf scrubbers extensively for their 45,000 gallon system.
    And they do not use skimmers.

    A fun quote:
    "I've heard many reports that SPS dont survive long in ATS systems, is this true?
    Nope. We've been culturing SPS for about five years."

    They do sell turf scrubbers as well though, so have a vested interest.
  4. Coral reefer

    Coral reefer President

    OMG it's the holy Grail! Just kidding. Don't let me stir up anything crazy
  5. JAR

    JAR Supporting Member

    What I find funny here is that in all the time spent typing up this argument you probably could have dismantled the ATS and set up a nice GFO reactor and be done with it. :D
  6. Thales

    Thales Past President

    Ah - so you want to show that cleaning the screen once a week will yield the same 27mg of PO4 that the 10 dry g of calurpra contains. That would be an interesting starting point. It seems way easier to test the PO4 in the water and see if it goes down or not. Of course, controls and test tanks would be better.
    Sure you can. Don't feed the tank for a week. Or even better, set up a control and several test tanks.
    Algae are not plants. You still have to show that the ATS will be removing PO4 like crazy, which hasn't been shown. It hasn't even been shown that calupra removes it like crazy, just that 10 dry g of it contained 27 mg of PO4, but how long did it take to grow and what was the effect on the PO4 in the water column (where we test)
    No - you just added the stuff about not being able to do a useful test because of inputs to the tank. 2 things - just don't add any inputs while testing and/or get your PO4 base/trend before the testing. If you aren't testing the PO4 that hobbyists test, you are getting no useful result. You care about the PO4 in the water, not the sequestered PO4. No one has said anything about testing an out of wack tank except you - I am just looking for some actual numbers instead of hunches.

    I let a tank at work go several weeks without changing the GFO and the PO4 stabilized around .16 - I got several weeks around that number. Then I added GFO and the PO4 dropped to .06 in a week which tells me something pretty useful. We care more about how much is removed, and how quickly not necessarily how much a particular media contains because that number may not show that information.

    Nope, I am only going by what you have been writing..

    How long did it take to grow? Was there PO4 in the algae before you started testing? Does the algae remove PO4 from the substrate its on? Does the algae adsorb bigger particles that have already sequestered PO4?
  7. Thales

    Thales Past President

    Morgan has been mentioned a couple times in this thread. And, since you made the distinction between old ATS and New ATS, it seems unfair to use them to support your position. :D
  8. GreshamH

    GreshamH Guest

    Not to mention he was forced long ago to stop sellinf them. He also was never known for 1) colorful sps 2) acropora
  9. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    Well sure - if your boring goal is simply something that works.
    But then I would have to prove that the iron in GFO does not increase algae growth, and thus kill acropora.
  10. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    Sort of a good point.
    You are right that I cannot use that to support my position directly.
    On the other hand, the reason I was emphasizing the differences in ATS systems was to explain how the
    problems with the old ATS turf algae may not apply to the newer hair types.
    Now if the old turf ATS systems do not actually kill SPS either, then the whole house of cards starts falling down on that supposition,
    and my distinction is immaterial.

    On a related note, a couple of other people have come out of the woodwork, stating that they have ATS + SPS + no carbon.
    (on that "scientology site", so not linking to it).
  11. Thales

    Thales Past President

    No you wouldn't! And, stop saying prove! :D

    FWIW, the very same kind of discussions happened when GFO was introduced.
  12. Thales

    Thales Past President

    Like Gresh says, IR was never known for great looking SPS.

    I think the killing of SPS is overstating what people actually think. Most who have an opinion on it think that the algae in the system can effect SPS negatively, slow growth, poor color etc over time. Work showing that algae can kill SPS has been used to support these ideas and the anecdote machine has converted it into 'ALGAE KILLS SPS". There have been plenty of systems that have run with algae filters in which SPS has failed to thrive.
    The guy with the 6 month old tank? Be ready for problems with using such a new tank as support for a method!

    Copy and post the pics when he posts them. Then keep track of the tanks over a year or two and then post those new pics. and the changes in methodology that he makes.
  13. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    Quick summary of my thoughts:
    Well, looks like work is heating up for a while, so not sure how much time I will have.
    So thought I would write a quick summary of my thoughts.

    I think everyone agrees that ATS systems remove nitrates remarkably well.
    They remove phosphates, but the jury is out on how well, and it is looking hard to get data.
    They remove a few other things like ammonia/iron/etc, but not sure how much, and rather irrelevant.
    Are they better/worse/cheaper than other methods? - that is opinion.

    I was rightfully dinged on this for using easy/hard interchangeably, so being specific.
    1) They are VERY TRICKY to get set up correctly.
    You have to get size, flow, and lighting just right, or they suck and cause problems.
    And a LOT of people fail to get it right before giving up. Perhaps most people.
    There are rules of thumb on size, like inches/watts per gallon.
    But we all know how accurate those are from lighting.
    So easy/hard depends a bit on luck with your estimations.
    2) They are mostly DIY, so can be EASY/HARD to build depending on the builder.
    You need an acrylic box, pipe with a slot, pump, and rough screen.
    Roughly on the order of building your own sump.
    3) They are EASY to maintain unless your design stinks.
    I am defining easy as something that takes less than 10 minute per week.

    Regarding killing SPS coral:

    There are almost no tanks that run ATS + SPS.
    There are good studies and data that algae can indirectly kill coral.
    But clearly not in all situations, or coral would not exist.
    I could not find any studies that linked ATS systems to killing coral directly.
    There are many arguments why an ATS situation differs from those study situations.
    There are arguments that different types of ATS systems differ in problems.
    Most importantly, if you find even a couple of tanks that have living SPS and run an ATS system,
    you have a very strong indication that the problem is not that serious.
    - Those tanks do seem to exist, for both types of scrubbers.
    Now it can be argued that it is still detrimental, but how much is speculation.
    Logically it would seem that running carbon reduces the effect, although
    without knowing the exact link, it is hard to say for sure.

    Other Risks:

    Risks can range from yellow water to death by electrocution.
    But it does not take all that much common sense to avoid the more serious risks.
    And there have clearly been a lot of people attempt them and fail, without serious consequence.
    So most of the risk is really just in wasting your time and money.

    My personal opinion:

    The hype on these things, especially at a certain website, it completely nutty.
    An ATS is simply a different way of removing nitrates. In my opinion a very good one.
    If you have a frustrating nitrate problem and have tried other methods,
    it is something to seriously consider. But you had better like tinkering.
    I had problems, went ATS, and my nitrates and phosphates have been undetectable ever since,
    even through a risky and somewhat foolhardy test of no water changes or skimming for 5 months.
    I would say running carbon is a good idea. Both risk mitigation, and in general anyway.

    So I do plan on going forward with an ATS.
    But smaller, and it will include skimming, some water changes, and definitely carbon.
    If it does not go well, I may give up on it fairly quickly.
  14. JAR

    JAR Supporting Member

    I don't find the goal boring when the results work well.
    If I was testing some new type of nitrate/P04 reducing media I might be interested in sharing/debating the results.

    The ATS seems like a PITA to maintain.
    It seems like it will work OK but, unless you are testing some special strain of algae, I just don't get it.
  15. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    Clarification : It depends.
    GFO is for phosphate and does nothing to reduce nitrate.
    So if your goal is nitrate reduction - GFO results might not be so good. :)
    Basically, GFO is not really a direct comparison to an ATS.

    Side reminder: Neither is carbon. Removes precursors, like a skimmer.
    A better comparison is something like Nitra-Sorb.

    Based on what?
    That rumor seems to have staying power like Obamacare death panels.
    I guess I need to make a video this weekend on cleaning my ATS.

    Not like all GFO reactors are a piece of cake either, and recharging nitra-sorb
    supposedly takes a couple of hours.
  16. Dan

    Dan Guest

  17. GreshamH

    GreshamH Guest

    Welcome to the thread :)

    FWIW Morgan (Inland) has been mentioned in this thread a few times all ready.
  18. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    The actual video was nice. I had been looking for that.

    Interesting that they run a dump bucket type.
    Makes me want to go back and rethink the argument on hair versus turf.

    Thinking and reading a bit more: I guess there are really 3 types of distinctly different scrubbers.
    1) Dump bucket - surge type.
    2) Semi-horizontal continuous flow.
    3) Vertical waterfall type.

    I originally clumped #1 and #2 together, but that may have been a mistake.
    (Incidentally due to reading that scrubber site a bit too much)

    Now as to why surge types might be better:
    The surge type allows for a lot of air to get to the algae, intermittently, which is clearly true.
    Now the theory, which is very questionable:
    1) That intermittent air effect allows turf algae to out compete other algae, which is
    supposedly a good thing.
    2) That air allows for better CO2/O2 exchange for the algae itself, allowing it to grow faster.
    Well, I do know that people add CO2 to planted freshwater tanks, since the plants
    become CO2 limited. Not sure the same argument holds here though.

    Not sure I believe all that.
    It sure seems to me that the simple #1 goal is to grow as much algae as fast as you can.
    And that really seems to be hair algae in a waterfall.
  19. Thales

    Thales Past President

    Was there a tank in that video that you wanted in your house?
  20. JAR

    JAR Supporting Member

    The big ass one with the algae see-saw! How cool is that for my 2 1/2 year old! :D

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