Reed Mariculture
Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 22

Thread: Calcium Reactor Installation and Tuning

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Location
    La Plata, Maryland
    Posts
    49

    Default Calcium Reactor Installation and Tuning

    I setup my calcium reactor on January 1. I think I am getting close to having it tuned. It is a Geo 612 with an AquariumPlants.com CO2 regulator. I purchased the reactor, regulator and CO2 tank off of Craigslist. After cleaning the reactor in vinegar and water, installing the plumbing on my manifold and having the CO2 tank inspected and filled, I was finally ready to start setting up the reactor.
    20170723_130018r.jpg 20170723_230820r.jpg
    I am using Two Little Fishiesí ReBorn mixed with ReMag for maintaining magnesium. They are mixed in a ratio of 90% ReBorn to 10% ReMag, by volume. The CO2 is controlled by a PH probe in the reactor that is monitored by my Apex. The Apex can turn the solenoid on and off as needed to control the PH in the reactor if the bubble rate is too high. This keeps the reactor from turning the media to mush, sending alkalinity through the roof, turning the tank milky white and killing everything in sight. I have one PH probe in the reactor and one PH probe in the tank. The tank probe has the ability to turn off the CO2 should the PH in the main tank fall too low.
    20180102_082614r.jpg 20180102_082620r.jpg
    A ball valve turns the feed from the manifold on and the return from the reactor drips into the center section of my sump. There is also a circulation pump on the calcium reactor itself. The pump circulates the water in the reactor through the media constantly. Reactors can be designed for upward or downward flow. Downward flow lets the small pieces of media collect at the bottom, forming a sludge that will have to be cleaned. Upward flow causes most of the small particles to be carried out with the effluent. This cleans up the reactor at the expense of your pump impeller having to pass all of those small pieces. I let the reactor, supplied by my manifold, and its circulation pump run for a couple of hours to purge any air from the system before turning on the CO2.

    I am no expert, but care should be used when handling a CO2 tank. High pressure tanks are dangerous and need to be handled with care. CO2 in high concentrations can asphyxiate humans. Get out of a confined area to get some fresh air if you suspect a leak. Be sure to have your tank inspected and install it securely so it will not fall over. High temperatures can make a tank explode, so donít install it in front of sources of heat. Follow the directions from the manufacturers of your tank, regulator and reactor. Failure to do these things may result in damage to equipment, serious injury or death. (yours or the inhabitants of your tank) Look online about CO2 tank safety and ask the people who inspect and fill your tank about how to handle it safely.

    After I turned on the CO2 and started the bubbles going into the reactor it was time to do a little initial programming on the Apex. Here is my code, with an explanation to the right, for the outlet where the CO2 solenoid is powered on the Apex Energy Bar:
    Fallback OFF CO2 OFF if communication is lost
    If pHRx > 7.08 Then ON CO2 ON when reactor PH is higher than 7.08
    If pHRx < 7.03 Then OFF CO2 OFF when reactor PH is lower than 7.03
    If pH < 7.80 Then OFF CO2 OFF if display tank PH is below 7.80

    I initially tuned the valve on the reactor to drip at 10ml per minute, set the Apex for PH of 6.60 to 6.65 in the reactor, set the regulator for one bubble every 4.5 seconds and set the regulator pressure at 6lbs. My beginning alkalinty (dKH) was 7.7.

    On day two my alkalinty had risen to 8.2. The goal of the calcium reactor is not to change the levels within the tank, only to maintain them. This meant that I needed to stop the rise in alkalinty. I really was not sure how much to adjust, so I did what all great scientific minds do when faced with a problem they do not understand, I guessed. I left the drip rate at 10ml per minute, raised the PH in the reactor to 6.65 to 6.70, increased to 5 seconds per bubble, and remained at 6lbs pressure on regulator. The net result was that I increased PH by .05, slowing the melting of the media in the reactor. I also increased the bubble time by .5 seconds. The bubble timing had no appreciable effect because the Apex was still forced to control the CO2 using the probe and outlet on the Energy Bar. On this day, my Calcium was 415 and Magnesium was 1380.

    By day three my alkalinity had risen to 9.9. I knew that I had to stop the rise or face impending doom. I turned off the reactor and waited a day. On day four my levels were 8.7 for alkalinity, 425 for calcium and 1360 for magnesium, before turning the reactor on again. At that point, the drip rate was 10ml per minute. I raised the PH in the reactor to between 7.05 and 7.10. Also, I increased to 6 seconds per bubble with 6lbs pressure on regulator. The Apex was still controlling the CO2 regulator because the bubble rate was too high.

    On the morning of day five, alkalinity was 8.5 and calcium was 455. The drip rate was 10ml per minute. I lowered PH in chamber by .05 to between 7.00 and 7.05. I went to 7 seconds per bubble with 6lbs of pressure on regulator. That night I checked again and alkalinity had risen to 8.6. I left the drip at 10ml per minute. I increased the PH in the reactor up to between 7.05 and 7.10. I increased the bubble rate to 9 seconds per bubble with 6lbs pressure on regulator. I tried something new and measured the effluent at a PH of 29.4. The effluent is the water being dripped from the reactor back into the tank. Most of the things I have read say that a PH in the high twenties to low thirties for the effluent is a good place to begin. Over the next couple of days I made a couple of small changes to the PH in the reactor. By day seven my levels were as follows: alkalinity of 8.1, calcium of 415 and magnesium of 1400. The only changes in the setup were to set a PH between 7.03 and 7.08 in the chamber.

    By the eighth day levels had begun to stabilize at an alkalinity of 8.1, calcium of 420 and magnesium of 1360. I have yet to get the bubble rate slow enough that the Apex does not have to intervene in controlling the PH in the reactor. I kept an eye on the alkalinity levels over the next week as they bounced between 8.1 and 8.3. The effluent PH final settled in around 18 to 20. I think the reading depends on the PH in the chamber at the time of the test, as well as the natural up and down of the PH in the tank water during the course of a day.

    It is now day eighteen and the reactor is maintaining steadily at an alkalinity of 8.2 to 8.3, calcium of 420 and magnesium of 1360 to 1380. I am using a Hanna electronic tester for alkalinity and Red Sea test kits for calcium and alkalinity. Considering that human error is involved, this seems to be pretty consistent. My ultimate goal is to maintain alkalinity at 9, calcium at 450 and magnesium at 1350. If levels remain consistent for another week, I will probably use some two part additive to reach my calcium and alkalinity targets, sit back and watch the corals grow.

    There are a several things I have learned in this process that I wanted to mention. A calcium reactor, solenoid, aquarium controller system and all of the associated equipment looks like something that should be at NASA. First, if your budget allows, my advice is to get a controller, learn to use the basics and then move on to controlling equipment like a calcium reactor. You donít have to be a rocket scientist, although it would probably not hurt, to use a controller or reactor. It is all quite manageable if taken in reasonable chunks. An aquarium controller is a valuable piece of equipment that can be used to do many different things. They can control pumps, lights, feeders, skimmers, ATOs and heaters. They will monitor PH, conductivity, ORP, flow and temperature. If you like DIY projects you can even make them do some other really helpful things like change water automatically. Personally, I would not run a calcium reactor without the added security of the controller helping to avert disaster.

    Secondly, donít be intimidated by the reactor. It looks complex, but if you can learn to test calcium, alkalinity, magnesium, setup dosing pumps for all of these things, and do it successfully, you can definitely run a reactor. The easiest way to dial in a reactor is probably not the way I did it. I used the PH in the reactor with a constant drip of 10ml. The easier way might be to adjust the flow rate of the effluent coming out of the reactor. After the reactor is running and the effluent PH is set at a starting point, then it would just a matter of adjusting the dose up or down with the valve. Increasing flow would increase dKH and decreasing flow will decrease dKH. You test, make adjustments and test again until you get a stable level. Once you have a stable level you just need to use additives to reach your desired calcium, alkalinity and magnesium so the reactor can maintain them.

    The last three reasons are stability, stability and stability. Corals, especially SPS corals, love a stable environment. A calcium reactor is a great way to add this stability to a system. It doses the system constantly. In the past I would dose my tank twice each day. This would cause a spike in PH every time. There is no spike with the calcium reactor. The corals are supplemented on a consistent basis, fueling consistent growth. I could have supplemented the demand in my tanks with other methods, but the determining factor for me was the stability that is inherent in the design of a calcium reactor.

    I could find many articles and videos about how to setup a reactor, but none that actually walked through the process with the adjustments and results. If you found any of this interesting, let me know. I have at least one other project planned that may be of interest to othersÖ but thatís a topic for another day.
    Jeff

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Maryland
    Posts
    1,049

    Default

    Thanks Jeff. This is a very valuable thread! I will definitely refer to this when I am setting up my calcium reactor.

    We could definitely use more threads like this one. This is the kind of stuff we need to share to help other members when they are doing similar projects. I know you are very good when it comes to setting up equipment to make your systems run better. I would love to see a write up on your other projects and also your automatic water changing system.

    I would love to see others in the club also write up some of the projects they have done. I am in the process of writing a piece on my chaeto reactor project. More to come in this.

    Thanks again Jeff for taking the time to do this level of research and writeup. This is awesome!
    Lynne

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Location
    La Plata, Maryland
    Posts
    49

    Default

    I am currently investigating what may be a minor water chemistry issue resulting from a water change. However, I am not ready to discuss that specifically at the moment. I am more interested in discussing which brand of salt mixes people use. Also, have you ever tested a batch to see if the calcium, alkalinity and magnesium values advertised are correct? If so, what were they?
    Jeff

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Location
    La Plata, Maryland
    Posts
    49

    Default

    I checked the alkalinity of the tank on the evening of day 21. The alkalinity level was 8.2. This level had remained consistent over the course of the last 72 hours. After this test I changed 10% of my total system volume. I usually do a weekly water change of this size. I measured the alkalinity of the tank two hours after the water change and found the alkalinity in the tank to be 8.1. I wanted to know why this had happened, so I decided to do a little research to see what possible explanations existed.

    If the alkalinity of the tank had fallen due to a water change then I saw two likely reasons. First, the salt mix value was lower than the tank value. The advertised parameters of the mix I use are as follows: Calcium at 445-450 ppm, Alk of 9.0 dKH, Magnesium at 1380 ppm. I checked the calibration of my refractometer with calibrating fluid to verify it is accurate. I am using the mix at 1.026 after mixing it for 24 hours with powerhead. The other option is that there is an inaccuracy in the alkalinity tester. I am using an electronic tester, but there is still the possibility that the vial was not perfectly clean, I did not add the perfect amount of reagent to the sample or it is the advertised .3 dKH variance in the tester.

    Mathematically, ignoring all possible testing errors, the resulting alkalinity in the tank should be a weighted average of the alkalinity of the two saltwater solutions. (This ignores the almost immeasurable effects of differences in minor elements, such as phosphate, between the two solutions. However, this will work for our purposes.) I did a 10% water change, which means I had 90% of the water left in the system. I changed 10% of the water with fresh saltwater, which should have had an alkalinity of 9 dKH. The tank, 90% of the new solution had an alkalinity of 8.2 from the original tank water. This means the expected alkalinity after the water change should have been: .1(9)+.9(8.2)=8.28.

    If the 8.1 reading after the water change was correct, then we can also determine mathematically that the alkalinity of the new water was below 9. We can determine the minimum alkalinity that would be required to get a reading of 8.1 on the tester. The equation would look like this: .1X+.9(8.2)=8.1. After solving for X, the answer is 7.2. This means that the alkalinity of the saltwater could be as low as 7.2 to result in the tester reading an alkalinity of the overall tank at 8.1. Now the maximum alkalinity of the new water can be determined that would result in a reading of 8.1. The equation would be: .1X+.9(8.2)=8.19. Solving this means that the alkalinity of the new water could be as high as 8.1 to yield this result. So this means that the alkalinity of the freshly mixed water is expected to be between 7.2 and 8.1 when tested.

    I tested some of the saltwater that had been mixed for the water change and found it to have an alkalinity of 8.0. This falls within the mathematically predicted range of 7.2 to 8.1. This also means that it is below the advertised value of 9. The tester says that it has an error range of plus or minus .3 dKH. This means that the actual reading of the new water could be no higher than 8.3. We know that the alkalinity of the new water is at least .7 dKH below the expected value. If this is the case, this presents a dilemma because I planned to use the salt mix to maintain my alkalinity at the advertised 9 dKH.

    What have we learned from all of these mental gymnastics? We have learned that the alkalinity of my salt mix seems to be lower than advertised, at the time it was tested. I am curious to see if the parameters are any different after mixing the water for a shorter period of time. I have always mixed it for 24 hours before use. The directions say that it may be mixed as little as one hour before use. I would like to see what the levels are if it is mixed for a shorter period of time. On a side note, I also tested calcium and magnesium in the newly mixed water and found them to be 400 and 1440 respectively. The calcium is below the 440 that is advertised, but the 1440 is higher. My calcium also fell after the water change, so I want to see how the length of mixing time impacts that as well.

    Lastly, we have learned that I can over-analyze almost anything.
    Jeff

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Maryland
    Posts
    1,049

    Default

    I just had a flashback to high school algebra for a second there! I guess that math class was good for something after all. LOL

    This is actually a good example of how your salt mix may not be providing what you think it is. I was also looking for a new brand of salt so I started reading threads from other sites about salt mix comparisons. I have not tested my salt mix before a water change but I think I will before the next one. I am switching to Tropic Marin Pro Reef Salt. I received some samples from MACNA and did a small water change on my tank and my coral instantly perked up. I bought a bucket but I still have half a bag of instant ocean I am trying to use up. All of my fish are in quarantine at the moment so I am using the Instant Ocean on the hospital tank.

    Tropic Marin Pro Reef is supposed to maintain alk around 8.5 dKH, calcium 450 and mag 1380. I will let you know. Thanks for the in-depth investigative reporting! This is awesome.
    Lynne

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    St Leonard
    Posts
    313

    Default

    Jeff, what salt mix are you using? I used Instant Ocean for years and have come to the conclusion that the reason for my very low alk is because of the salt mix. I changed to Red Sea Pro about a year or so ago. Testing that brand, it was dead on what they advertised and seemed to help my tank issues
    Ken Higgins
    120 gallon reef
    50 gallon fresh water

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    waldorf
    Posts
    488

    Default

    like I said many times before you set it and forget it. beats buying two part and constantly checking parameters

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Location
    La Plata, Maryland
    Posts
    49

    Default

    Have you been mixing your saltwater too long? This seems to be a strange question to ask, but it seems that it is absolutely possible.

    I will preface this information with the following statement: The only area of science I have seriously studied is computer science (and you shouldn’t get those wet). Could I be wrong? Yes. Should you take my word for it? No. If I am wrong do I want to know? Yes, because making mistakes is an effective way of learning what not to do next time.

    I am using HW Marinemix Reefer Salt. I mixed a fresh batch last night, set a timer for one hour, and tested the water. What I found was the following: alkalinity of 10.1, calcium of 425 and magnesium of 1500. This led me to believe that the levels must be decreasing due to precipitation during the mixing process, so I made a call to the company where I had purchased the salt.

    I found out that it is best to use this product as soon as it is clear after mixing. The reasoning behind this is HW does not contain many of the things that can be present in mixes that are made by evaporating sea water or using the byproducts of desalination plants. Being completely synthetically produced means that the product is completely free of nitrates, phosphates, silicates and other impurities. Therefore there is no need to include any binder to the mix.

    What is a binder? A binder is a chemical that is often used in salt mixes to hold onto heavy metals, such as copper and iron. One such binder that is used for this purpose is EDTA (Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid). It forms a strong bond with heavy metals and makes them less available to organisms in the aquarium. There is some debate about the necessity, and benefits, of including binders like EDTA in salt mixes. Most of this stems from the fact that many binders will not only bind to heavy metals, but to a lesser extent, with calcium and magnesium. However, some brands claim to various types of compounds to neutralize trace heavy metals often found in tap water. So if you don’t have an RODI unit and use tap water in your tank, perhaps this is a benefit.

    Based on what I think I understood from our conversation, the lack of binders means that in my situation the synthetically made salt is less stable than the mixes produced by other methods. This is because of the absence of some of the impurities left by the other processes, as well as the compounds used to bind them. However, the stability is brought to the mix by the chemical and biological interaction that takes place once it is added to the aquarium.
    It would seem that if you are going to use a salt that has no binders, you should not mix it long before you plan to use it. If it mixes too long it will be unstable and the parameters may not be what you want. Do you really want to wait around for an hour before every water change while you wait for your water to clear? Probably not. However, this does not necessarily mean that you should run right out and buy a salt with binders. While salt with binders may remain more stable until added to your aquarium there is a trade-off. Do you really want to achieve stability by adding things to your aquarium that have to be referred to by acronyms because they are impossible to pronounce? There is a personal choice to be made about stability versus purity. This is the question I will have to ask myself when it comes time to purchase my next box of salt. However, right now I have another whole box of this salt to use first. One factor in my decision will be that my corals have never looked as happy as they have since I started using this salt and it is hard to argue with results.

    When I perform my next water change I will test the water before the water change, mix the water about one hour ahead of time and test after I have finished. This method, along with my usual testing, should show the effectiveness of this process over time.
    Last edited by ichthus; 01-24-2018 at 03:02:23 PM.
    Jeff

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Maryland
    Posts
    1,049

    Default

    I had always been told to let my salt water age before using it. I always mixed my water and let it sit for a few days. I guess that is why I couldn't get the alk up by doing water changes. LOL Then I recently heard what you stated above on a BRS video. They also said you should use the mixed water fairly quickly for the same reasons you gave. I guess I will be mixing and using my water in the same day from now on.

    Thanks! This is good advice.
    Lynne

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Location
    La Plata, Maryland
    Posts
    49

    Default

    I cleaned my tank on the evening of January 21st. I used a siphon hose to clean algae out of the overflow, changed the filter sock, emptied the skimmer and performed a 10% water change. I noticed that the polyp extension was not as good on my SPS pieces as before the maintenance. This caused me to do a little investigating. I found that after the maintenance the ORP and PH of the tank fell for several days. It looks like PH is beginning to recover, but ORP has not followed the same pattern. Is this an indication of some problem i am overlooking? I am curious if it might have anything to do with the fact that I am adding CO2 to the system through the calcium reactor.

    ORP PH 1.25.18.jpg

    You can see on the graph that the PH of the tank on Jan 20th was 8.15 and the ORP was 339. Yesterday, the PH of the tank had recovered to 8.13, but ORP was only 300. The PH on these two days was nearly identical, but the ORP was different by 39 points. I never pay much attention to ORP because I do not run ozone. Most information that I can find says that a value between 200 and 400 is common. It seems that the two have an inverse relationship to each other on the graph, but it looks like they do track up and down together on the average. Early this morning I put a small powerhead in my sump aimed toward the surface. I was just trying to create some extra surface agitation to promote oxygen exchange and raise my PH. I believe that if the average PH of the tank increases, the average ORP will as well. Does anyone have any insight about whether I should be concerned that the ORP is not recovering? Also, will increasing the average PH increase the average ORP?
    Jeff

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •