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Algae Scrubbers wi a planted tank

Discussion in 'General Plant Topics' started by Noledoc, Mar 30, 2011.

  1. Noledoc

    Noledoc Prolific Poster

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    I am putting together final plans for an almost 700 gal freshwater aquarium. It will be planted. I have a refugium associated with the tank that will contain about 140 gal of the 700 total, mostly bio filtration, (I have 480 nylon scrubbies in addition to foam that will provide a substantial bio filtration over and above whatever benefit the scrubber provides).
    Substrate will be Miracle Gro 1/2 inch beneath 2 " of Soilmaster topped wi pea gravel. My most important issue is with the combo of the algae scrubber with the planted tank.
    Your ideas and suggestions!?
     
  2. Gerryd

    Gerryd Plant Guru Team
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    Hi,

    Didn't you post this question in another thread?

    Is this a duplicate post?
     
  3. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    I think the user named "Santa Monica" has a massive thread here and also on Reefcentral on this topic.

    I do not think plants and scrubber work well. Chose one or the other. An emergent plant filter works very well also, or a bed of floating water sprite etc.
    Planted tanks have KNO3, KH2PO4, trace elements added to them, so the goal is not export of nutrients, it's growign plants, so we added ferts.

    Most folks view algae scrubbers(ATS algae turf scrubbers for the acronym) as utilitarian only, export of fish waste. at which they are well suited.
    Plants have much higher demands for nutrients though and are less responsive to higher and lows, preferring richer consistent ferts/nutrients.
     
  4. Noledoc

    Noledoc Prolific Poster

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    Gerry, forgive me, yes it is a similar post. I couldn't find where I posted it so, desperate to learn I did it again. Your response to the other post was every insightful.
     
  5. Noledoc

    Noledoc Prolific Poster

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    Tom, thanks very much. The tank will be so large that 50% water change weekly becomes an issue wi utility bills and backyard swamp land. I wondered if I can dump nitrates into the scrubber and do say 10% water change a week. Can you share more of your reasoning for seeing the scrubber as incompatible wi a planted tank? Even a small scrubber? I've been an admirer of yours for years. Can I get your autograph. ( tongue not totally in cheek )
     
  6. Gerryd

    Gerryd Plant Guru Team
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    Hi,

    Plants need macro and micro nutrients including N, P, and K. Nitrogen, phosphates, and potassium. Species can vary widely in their requirements as well as their intake rates.

    An algae scrubber REMOVES N,P, and K and thus could cause a deficiency in the plant growth.

    Leibigs law states that plant growth will be affected by the nutrient that is lacking the most.

    You would have to constantly dose these macros to compensate for the plant uptake as well as what the scrubber removes..

    Do you really want to be figuring this out regularly? You will be constantly measuring, adding, measuring, adding...

    Plus, the PLANTS themselves remove nutrients just as much as algae does. Just add more and faster growing plants and your nutrient export is complete. No need for a separate plant bed for nutrient export. The tank itself should be scarfing it all up...
    Hope this helps a bit..
     
    #7 Gerryd, Mar 31, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 31, 2011
  7. Gerryd

    Gerryd Plant Guru Team
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    NP. Been there and done that :)

    Just want to ensure you didn't miss any responses on the other thread....
     
  8. Noledoc

    Noledoc Prolific Poster

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    Thanks Gerry very much. It does help. On the other thread (the first of the duplicates and I STILL can't find it!) I believe you asked for a more in depth description of my planned set up. Here it is along with a few more questions.
    I'll have a 700 total gallon set up composed of two tanks, one a 450 gal tank. The other tank will be divided down the middle with a display on the front side with the back half of the tank - behind the middle partition - serving as a sump. I have 480 nylon scrubbies plus foam to use in the sump. The two tanks will share the same water and be essentially the same system.
    Now the sump (back half of the smaller tank) will have the diminsions of roughly 7 ft x 18" x 25". I had been planning to use baffles to direct the water flow up and down thru the scrubbies. The tanks will sit in a perpendicular fashion, an "L" shape. The two tanks will be made to looks like one "L" shaped tank built into a wall.
    I'm planning to draw water from the large tank into the sump. The display tank in front of the sump will get a measured amount of water flow and will be heavily planted and house nano species such as shrimp, Celestial Danios, cardinal tetras etc.
    The large tank will be about 12 ft x 36" x 25" and house angels, harls, and dwarf cichlids and a few more critters. It will be moderately planted but have substantial open areas in the front of the tank. My substrate idea now is to have a sprinkle of peat covered by an inch or so or Miracle Gro as per Diane H, covered by Soilmaster. On top of that will be a half inch or so of variable sized pea gravel.
    My biological filtration potential will be massive. I can use all or some of the 7 ft x 18" x 25" and pack it full of (first mechanical, then) bio filtration. I could use a substantial part to grow emergent plants or I could heavily plant fast growing plants or both. (I'm here to find out). In other words, I'll have the space to follow good advice and be creative and really get er done. What I think will get done is excellent removal of ammonia, nitrites and solid waste. What I'll be left with is nitrates. Big regular water changes could become prohibitive due to the massive volumes we're talking about. A 20% water change a week will be 140 gals. ( have to live with my wife, guys!!)
    My questions involve these issues:
    1. If I added an algae scrubber to the substantial biological filtration, would it be more of a help than a hurt? I'm looking here to allow me to reduce water changes by removing most of the nitrates.
    2. Sounds like the scrubber would complicate my desire to keep the nurtrients for the plants up to an optimal level. No I don't want to be chasing my tail here. However, if I follow the general tenents of EI, I would keep the ferts and additives substantial even if I were exporting the excess by way of the scrubber.
    3. Would I be able to alter flow over the scrubber screens (in response to more algae in the display >> increase the flow, to respond to starving plants >> less flow)? In other words, if my plants seemed to be starving, I could back off the flow >> removing less ferts and micros from the water >> making more available to the plants.
    4. Tom advocates using emergent plants and heavy planting to keep the nitrates low >> algae down. Regarding nitrates, would the extra plants be superior to algae in removing nitrate?
    5. In a large system with massive bio filtration available, would I need to have the 4x tank volume / hr flow thru the bio filtration? Since I will have a massive surface area to colonize bacteria, would I need the (Whitewater level) water flow? 4x tank volume/hr would be over half a gallon a second? How would this change if I do add the scrubber?
    I realize that this is a complex set of questions but I am hopeful to learn a great deal from you. Actually I already have.
    Thanks,
    Paul
     
  9. Gerryd

    Gerryd Plant Guru Team
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    Hi,

    Are you going to use c02 at all?

    Because if not, EI is not really designed for non c02 tanks....

    I personally think that with the size of the sump you have, plus all the substrate area that will become a bio-bed that an ATS would NOT be required.....If you plant heavily the plants should take care of export....

    I know that algae can consume very quickly so don't want to say that plants are better at it simply because of size.

    But, the higher the bio-mass the better overall IMO/IME..

    I would love to hear more about your plans including your plumbing.

    May I suggest some type of drain assembly that will allow for maintenance, draining, water changes that can be done with a few ball valves? Such a large tank HAS to have some functionality to reduce the manual labor..

    I and many others drop a spare tank and hose in the tank for draining right down the sink...we connect another hose to the tap to fill. We just add dechlorinator to the tank first...

    I will post more later, but I think you will be fine, but want to hear more of your plans..

    I can only advise to plan, plan, and plan some more. Getting feedback is always beneficial..You will get some good feedback here...
     
  10. Noledoc

    Noledoc Prolific Poster

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    Gerry, first of all thanks very much. Let me respond to your request for more information by describing the plans we have for the tanks.
    The two tanks will sit corner to corner in an "L" shape, the right front end of the big tank next to the left front end of the smaller tank. The smaller of the two tanks will house the sump in the back half of the tank with a water tight divider down the middle. The sump will hold a bit less than 120 gals.
    I'll pull water out of the big tank into the sump through holes drilled in the ends of both tanks. The water flow will be as follows:
    Water in the large tank will flow into a mechanical filter box in the back LEFT corner and down a PVC pipe the length of the tank (hidden by a styrofoam background) and out the drilled holes and into the sump. Water will make it's way up and down thru reams of scrubbies and foam (and possible thru fast growing, nitrate consuming plants or emergent plants), as well from left to right, into the pump (that end housing UV, heaters etc) where the water will be piped back into the right side of the big tank. It will flow naturally down the length of the tank and into the filter box for another trip.
    In the space behind the corner where the two tanks come (almost together) is a drain into the sewer and a cold water faucet.
    I will be able to do water changes easily by having a reservoir of aged water (approx 50 to 100 gals) that can be at least partially RO water in that same corner. Using a five foot syphon hose, I can drain water. Using a small pump in the reservoir I can refill.
    The pipes outside the tank will be limited to L shaped PVC pipes from the right end of the big tank directly into the left end of the sump, and water from the pump returning to the right end of the large tank, approx eight feet.
    Lighting I hope can be taken care of by using 3, 48", four-lamp T5 HO 6000k lights laid almost directly on top of the tank top-glass, giving me about 2 watts/gal (for the big tank) and the same general idea on the front, display part of the smaller tank.
    I'm not planning to cram plants into the large tank. I plan to plant about 75% of the tank heavily. For the smaller, display half, that will be 90% planted with plants friendly to shrimp and small critters. It will house nano species but will be about 120 gal in size. Water flow thru that tank will be regulated to be about 240 gal an hour. I hope it will be planted so heavily that this will help considerable with the removal of nitrates.
    I was thinking of using a small scrubber to sit diagonal on top of the ends of both tanks, drawing water from the left end of the sump, passing over the scrubber screen and draining into the right end of the big tank. I could vary the photo period of the scrubber depending on algae in the display tanks and/or nitrate levels.
    Here are my questions at this point.
    1. Can I use the plants or the small scrubber to reduce the need for massive water changes? ( I do have a wife who sees the water bill )
    2. Can I reduce the normally recommended 4 to 5 X / hr flow thru the bio filter seeing as how it will have enormous capacity to house helpful bacteria? I would think twice the tank volume an hour over so much bio filtration would do the job but I'm asking your opinion.
    3. What type of "plant scrubbers" would you recommend to use in the sump to reduce the nitrates? Floating, planted or even emergent plants? I've heard of using philodendrons with their roots in the water. What specific plants would scarf up the nitrates best?
    4. What do you advise regarding CO2? I believe I might need to consider this.
    Whew! This is such an enormous and complex thing to consider. I really appreciate your help!
    Paul
     
    #11 Noledoc, Apr 3, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 3, 2011
  11. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    You will find you get better lighting if you raise the lights off the top and still have plenty of light to burn, better spread etc.
    At least 12" above the tank's surface.

    I use 1.2 w/gal on a 350 and a tad more on a 450 gal and they are 28" deep and 36" deep.

    So you have more light than you think.........


    Here's the problem......you seem to associate NO3 is a bad thing that must be removed and removing will reduce water change needs etc.
    NO3 is not an issue..........

    NH4 from fish waste is however..........this is where plants, or algae help.
    You do not need added plants really here, you'll be running too lean on NO3 unless you have a truly massive fish load.

    I have packed tanks, fed 3-5x a day and still maybe at best only get 20% of the N from fish waste, the remainder is from KNO3 dosing.
    There's little need for more filtration. I'd suggets making the cleaning easier for the sump area instead. Sponge blocks are easy, or bag type micron filters etc.

    You also do not need massive flow through the filter, you can add supplemental flow with a wave maker in the tank instead, this will save noise, energy and cost vs a massive filter pump.

    Not needed at all here. If your goal is no other source of filtration and you require very low NO3, then perhaps, otherwise, let the plants do the work.
    Floating plants also work very very well. So for a reef tank, this is a good idea, for FW? Not really. Another possible use would be for feeding algae eaters as a source of live algae.
    Plants are better at larger volumes of NO3 and NH4 than algae.

    Plants should address the issue better, plants can be sold and traded easily, algae?

    I'd stick with 4-5x ands then add a wavemaker.

    Pennywort is intense, water sprite etc. Peace lilies are good as emergents.

    You can go either way, if reduction of water changes and slowed reduced plant growth is the goal, then sure, but the trade off is less fish bioloading.
    You 'll need to balance the inputs with fish and the out puts which are plants.

    So you do not get a blank check with a non CO2 approach.

    CO2 you will because the plant uptake goes from say 2-4ppm per week, to 2-4ppm per day, so you need not worry about NH4 or extra fish, and you can do water change sot reset things.

    A middle ground is Excel dosing, but on a large tank, it's impractical.

    So more fish loading etc and CO2+ more work/water changes etc.........or fewer fish, less water changes, to none.........
    Lower light is better with CO2 also, plant grow slow, but nice........ the plants spend all their resources obtainign light rather than scrounging for CO2 which can be a huge investment for the plants.
    Also, plants will compete with each other for CO2, so many species will not make it.
    Adding CO2 removed this issue, so you can pick and chose most any plant.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  12. Noledoc

    Noledoc Prolific Poster

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    Thanks Tom for this enormous wisdom. I'll be asking for a little clarification later but right now I'm going to just this sink in.
     
  13. Noledoc

    Noledoc Prolific Poster

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    In theory, if you had a system in balance and into that system you introduced an extreme excess of bio filtration surface area, would you need the 4 to 5 x / hr of tank volume to flow thru? I'm trying to find a way to reduce the turn over by increasing the availability of bio filtration.
     
  14. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Well, do you want the waste as NH4 broken down if say for some reason the plants stop taking up NH4 suddenly?
    Bacteria take time to colonize. Same for plants.

    Once they are well estblished, there's no requirement for a filter at all in theory.
    In practice, it's NEVER hurt to have a good filter.

    Amano and myself agree on a number of things, lots of filter is one of them.
    Other folks like the idea of filterless planted tanks.

    I find them sort of touchy myself.
    A few good wavemakers would do the trick in your tank, but the fish load will need to be reduced.

    You have such trade offs, and when you redo the scape or trim a lot, you have to be careful not to over do it.

    Many folks like to entertain the notion of the fish waste = plant uptake and all is happy in the jungle.
    This works in some cases, see "non CO2 methods".

    If you add CO2, then you have less waste light wise, so you are going to get dinged somewhere for energy efficiency.
    I can offer only trade offs, not perfection.
     
  15. Noledoc

    Noledoc Prolific Poster

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    Tom, thanks. Is it your opinion that a 4X tank volume filter flow (vs say, 2X) would make a significant difference if the plants shut down their uptake? And what could cause the plants to do that?
    I'm not familiar with a wave maker. Could you suggest a site with that information?
    One of my main concerns is algae. I do plan to use Miracle Gro planting soil, the variety that's recommended plus using your suggestions about Soilmaster. Likewise with your endorsement of frozen osmocote icles. I do want to have a rich substrate.
    Also, I believe your ideas about essentially a plant scrubber in the sump is intriguing. I would be interested in reducing the measurable nitrate to very little. If this happened, what is your opinion about water changes with such a big system? (700 total gallons)
     
  16. Noledoc

    Noledoc Prolific Poster

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    Could anyone offer suggestions regarding what type of soil I can use as a substrate? I'm going to the garden store and I want to know what to pick up.
    Thanks
     
  17. chopsticks

    chopsticks Prolific Poster

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    You need the bio filter as a backup if your plants for some reason stop taking up NH4, if this ever happens you'll want to have very a good filter

    http://google.com

    Potting soil is very messy, you shouldn't use it alone, you need use a very thin layer capped with something like Flourite, or use a substrate designed for planted tanks like Aquasoil.

    If you go with the soil route, this article may be useful: http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/?p=vB52554

    Nitrate, phosphate, etc. are your friends on a planted tank, you want them on moderate levels, so your plants don't have any nutritional deficiencies, if plants do have deficiencies, they will suffer, and you'll (the tank actually) get algae, read the IE thread.

    Regards,
    Juan
     
  18. Noledoc

    Noledoc Prolific Poster

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    Juan, thanks very much. I'll go to the site you listed nd check it out.
    Paul
     
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