While I believe these units are not so much of a needed item,
they do have their use in providing a steady calcium supply to your
aquarium. Although, most, if not all aquariums calcium level can be
maintained through dripping in lime water (kalkwasser), there are those
hobbyists who enjoy having various equipment components to automate
their systems as much as possible, that and it can add enjoyment to the
hobby for those that like to tinker with equipment. As with any piece
of equipment, there are of course concerns and risks involved. It is up
to you to determine if the benefits outweigh the risks.
Since there are a great many models being produced, I will
not try to explain how each individual model is put together or set up.
If you have specific questions concerning your model, you should
contact the maker of your reactor or you can get online and post your
question(s) to other hobbyists who may already be using the same
This is the calcium carbonate compound that will be added to the
reactor chamber and through being subjected to low pH levels, is
dissolved into a soluble form and sent to the aquarium to provide and
maintain calcium. Since calcium carbonate is a compound, it can be
found in many forms, some forms dissolve a lot easier than other forms.
Just as there are a great many reactor models to chose from, there are
also a great many media products available as well. To determine which
media will provide the most easily dissolved of the calcium carbonates,
I have found that this link
provides a good insight into the various compounds and their ease of
solubility. Also be aware that there may be impurities contained within
the media. These can have an effect on the health of your livestock and
the system as a whole. If possible, do try and find out what impurities
any of medias contain.
This of course is what will be needed to drive the reactors chamber
into a low enough pH to allow the media to be dissolved. How low the pH
must be taken will be determined by what type of calcium carbonate
compound(s) are used as a media. A pH level of 6.5 to 6.7 seems to be a
good average to allow the dissolving of most calcium carbonate
Since the CO2
will be kept in a pressurized cylinder and that the CO2
poses a health risk, You should be aware of the safety precautions
needed when working with and storing a hazardous material. Hazardous in
that the gas itself displaces oxygen and if in enough of a concentrate,
it can suffocate you. Being a pressured cylinder allows poses a danger
in that if knocked over or allowed to get hot enough, it can explode or
become a projectile if the valve is suddenly knocked off releasing the
gas much like a rocket engine.
- You should also invest in a peristaltic pump to supply water to the reactor. Peristaltic pumps are very
good at operating against pressure and provides a steady flow. A simple rotary
device controls the motor's speed, allowing easy and very precise adjustment of
the flow even at low flow rates. Be sure to get a high quality unit that is
specifically designed for constant operation. Most pumps sold for
the aquarium hobby are not suitable.
Tuning the Reactor
- Set the reactor at a fairly low CO2
bubble count and a low effluent flow rate. Most manufacturers suggest
guidelines of their own, which is where I would start out with and make
adjustments as needed.
Adjust the pH within the reactor to approximately pH 6.5 to 6.7 for dissolving
the medium. First, measure the pH of the effluent exiting the reactor with a
test kit or pH probe (I believe a pH meter/probe
is a must have item when using a reactor, a typical test kit will not
be accurate enough). If the pH is too high, reduce the effluent flow
rate; if the pH is too low, increase it. Allow a few hours for the
reactor to respond to the changes, and repeat this step until the pH
value is between 6.5 and 6.7.
Monitor the tank alkalinity level to ensure that the reactor is supplying enough
calcium carbonate to replace that being used by the animals in the tank. An
alkalinity test kit may be used to measure these levels (1 mEq/L change in
alkalinity is only 20ppm calcium!). For future reference, it is a good idea to
keep a logbook of the tank's alkalinity level and any adjustments you have made
Measure and record alkalinity every few days and compare the
readings. If the alkalinity level is falling, increase the amount of CO2
so more of the medium is dissolved. Conversely, if the
alkalinity level is rising above the level you want, reduce the amount of
so less of the medium is dissolved.
Making adjustments to the CO2
rate will affect the pH level inside the reactor. A quick fix to keep the pH
stable is to make the same adjustment to the effluent flow rate as you make to
. For example, if you double the CO2
rate, double the effluent rate as well.
Keep in mind, that you may encounter problems with the pH of the
aquarium when using a reactor, as such, daily readings must be taken to
ensure all levels of pH, Calcium, Alkalinity and Magnesium are where
they should be.
Calcium Carbonate Reactors
- The basic idea of the reactor is the reverse process of calcification. A calcium
carbonate media is dissolved using carbonic acid (generated by addition of CO2
to water) to provide the Calcium and bicarbonate ions, in the same proportion
that is used during calcification.
A DIY Calcium Carbonate Reactor
- A calcium carbonate reactor is something that is very easy to build. There is
nothing to their design and you can pick and choose a design that suits your DIY
Not truly a reactor in the sense that one thinks of
usually, but a fluidized filter that allows a media to be
kept in suspension to allow greater water contact with the media. As
the name suggests, having the media, be it carbon or another binding
material kept up within the water flow allows for great contact between
the water and the media. Since they are
"water in / water out"
units, there is
not a great deal one needs to know about their operation. There are
however, concerns with the use of the some types of binding materials.
The below links raise a few of those concerns. When purchasing
these units, be sure to include an inline ball valve in order to
control the amount of water flow going into the unit, if not the media
will most likely be kept pinned at the top and not being tumbled in the
flow as meant to be.
From time to time the sponge pads will become clogged with debris and
will need to be cleaned periodically to ensure the correct flow is
going through the unit. Most units make their cleaning a simple task as
the hoses can be quickly disconnected while a simple screw on/off lid
allows for quick and simple cleaning and media replacement.
Iron Oxide Hydroxide Phosphate Binders
- Many solid inorganic materials are sold to aquarists to bind phosphate. Most of
these have been developed for binding phosphate and other ions in industrial
situations, and have been adapted for use in marine aquaria.
How do you accomplish chemical filtration if your filter is not made for it?
- A good Q/A article with suggested brand names / models.
Again, not something for the faint hearted or those that
get nervous around what can seem to be, complicated equipment. While
not a single unit, or something that you just connect and turn on. They
can be simplified in thought by simply being a means in which to
introduce ozone into your aquariums water to oxidize (destroy) organic
compounds. As is the case when working with any type of gas, there are
safety concerns to be aware of.
Ozone is toxic to all life forms on this planet. Including
those in your aquarium as well as you yourself. It is imperative that
you know the risks and how to avoid them by the proper use of the
equipment. In an enclosed room, a malfunctioning ozone generator, or
one that was not set up correctly can elevate the ozone levels within
the room quite quickly. Concentrations as little as .03 ppm can start
to cause throat irritation. Things only get worse for you as the
concentration level increases. Please be safe if you attempt to use
Ozone and Reef Aquarium
- Ozone is often used by reef aquarists to "purify" the water. To most aquarists
that means making the water clearer, and it certainly does that in many cases.
How to optimally accomplish that task without risking the aquarium inhabitants'
or the aquarists health, however, is not always obvious.
The use of Ozone in recirculating aquaculture systems
- Ozone is a clear, blue colored gas that produces an easily detected pungent
odor at concentrations as low as 5 parts per million (ppm) in atmospheric air.
At higher concentrations of ozone the air becomes acrid and extremely hazardous
DIY Calcium, Oxygen and Ozone Reactors
- A collection of plans for making any one of these units yourself.
NOTE: I feel it is important to
stress that any of the reactors are not a vital "have to have"
component in order to be successful with your aquarium. There are much
easier, and more simple methods to obtain the same results that you
would get from any reactor.