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SantaMonica

Chaeto Reactors compared to Algae Scrubbers

With more people wanting to use natural filtration for their tanks, we are going to look at the two main types of units that you can put on your system: Chaeto reactors (or "algae reactors") and algae turf scrubbers (ATS). We won’t be looking at refugiums however, since those have mostly a different purpose. This will be a multi-part post; the next post will start with the basics, so if you’d like anything in particular to be covered, let us know.
 

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Deffo interested in cheato reactors IF they can be made and sold relatively cheaply. The ARID reactor looks the business but is ridiculously expensive for what it is which is why many have taken to the DIY route. If you could produce something in the middle ground (effective but cost conscious) I'm sure it would appeal to many.

For the purposes of this thread I would like to see a direct comparison of effectiveness between a cheato reactor and one of your ATS. IS one better at low or high nitrates? Positives and negatives etc. As the turf scrubber 'produces' GHA from scratch whereas the reactor simply grows cheatomorpha that is required to be added to kick things off - which route is best? Of particular interst to me is phosphate reduction effectiveness.

Look forward to your updates 

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Chaeto Reactors compared to Algae Scrubbers, part 1 

All macroalgae operate basically the same, chemically. They all use light, photosynthetically, to absorb nutrients from the water (i.e., filtering) and to grow biomass. Just like trees. The differences between types of macroalgae are in the physical structure of the macroalgae growth and the way the structure affects nutrient absorption speed, which means filtering. Here are the main differences as far as aquarists are concerned:

Chaeto: Pronounced KAY-toe. Chaeto is the nickname for Chaetomorpha, and it looks like a green dishwasher cleaning pad. It has no "roots" and thus does not attach to solid surfaces. It grows in saltwater only, and is not eaten by many fish.

Green Hair Algae: Includes Cladophora "angel hair" and Ulva "Easter basket" types. It has "roots" which attach to solid surfaces. It grows in freshwater and saltwater, and is eaten by almost all herbivores.

Slime: A solid algal growth, bright green to brown to black in color, that attaches to solid surfaces but not very securely.

Chaeto Reactor: A device that has water running through it, with chaeto growing in it. Also known as an "algae reactor". A chaeto reactor does not allow air to enter; only water, and these reactors usually have a lid attached with screws to keep water in and air out.

Algae Scrubber: Also called a Turf Scrubber, or Algal Turf Scrubber (ATS). A device that allows air and water to interact to create a turbulent air/water interface like waves on a beach; it grows green hair algae or slime that attaches to solid surfaces. 

Reactors and scrubbers are different from refugiums; a refugium (“fuge”) is a space in a sump where macroalgae is placed, and a light is put over it. Refugiums have very slow flow, and very low light penetration, compared to reactors or scrubbers. You could modify a refugium to be a reactor, and with more mods you could make it a scrubber. But then it would no longer be a refugium.

All oceans, reefs, lakes and rivers are naturally filtered by photosynthesis. This means that algae does all the filtering of these waters. This is why algae is at the base of the entire aquatic food chain, and why algae biomass dwarfs the biomass of all aquatic animals combined. But for algae to absorb nutrients out of the water, the algae must grow. And to absorb nutrients faster, the algae must grow faster. 

Next we will look at what makes different types of macroalgae absorb nutrients differently.
 

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