jlanger's Algae Turf Scrubber Build and Documention

Discussion in 'DIY Forums' started by jlanger, Dec 19, 2016.

  1. OP
    jlanger

    jlanger "The North Remembers"
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    April 28th, 2017.

    Thirteen day cycle.

    The ATS keeps chugging along. The two week cycle time seems to be the sweet spot for algae production. I continue to get algae growth along the bottom of the scrubber box that has me considering some options for future upgrades; wider box or taller box/shorter screen.

    [​IMG]

    Harvest yielded 2-½ cups of algae with a dry weight of 8.55 ounces.

    [​IMG]

    The harvests have been relatively consistent over the past couple of months using the two week cycle.
    My water parameters have remained consistent also. The nutrient levels aren't dropping much by any means, but they are definitely not rising either. I haven't tried dosing iron to increase the algae production rates, nor have I altered any feeding amounts to the tank.
    Just the other day, I added a filter sock to my sump; prior to the ATS. Immediately, I noticed how much cleaner the water is when it gets to my filter floss after the ATS. It will be interesting to see if the "cleaner" water affects the production of the ATS; my thoughts are that it won't, but I'll keep an eye on it.
     
    #81 jlanger, Apr 28, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2017
  2. coralreefer

    coralreefer I contributed!
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    Any updates Jason? How are the nitrate levels? I'm finally getting ready to pull the trigger on making a chaeto reactor and may eventually go ATS but my DIY skills are lacking.
     
  3. OP
    jlanger

    jlanger "The North Remembers"
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    Sorry about the lack of updates, but they've been rather consistent for the past few months.
    I'm still maintaining a two week cycle with the algae harvests in the 2-3 cup range with a dry weight of around 8 ounces or so. 2a.gif
    The nitrates have remained somewhat stable around the 6-8ppm. It's evident that my ATS unit is limited to maintaining nutrient levels with my current husbandry practices. I would get better results with a unit that was lit from both sides or I dosed elements to further encourage algae production.
    I am planning another large (50%+) water change in the next week or two, so I'll see how that impacts my nutrient levels and the performance of the ATS.
     
  4. OP
    jlanger

    jlanger "The North Remembers"
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    June 18th, 2017.

    Fourteen day cycle.

    It's been a while since I posted any photos for any updates, so here's today's harvest.

    [​IMG]

    The algae from the past two weeks was so thick and heavy that it was falling off the screen as I was holding it up for the photo.
    That was just the algae that was growing on the screen. I've discussed how I am getting algae growing on the scrubber box. There was almost a full cup of algae that was left inside the box after I removed the screen.

    [​IMG]

    In all, there was well over 3 cups of algae completely harvested.
    The dry weight of the harvest came in at a whopping 17.40 ounces.

    [​IMG]

    For those interested in my ATS, I will be showing and demonstrating the scrubber at my house meeting this next weekend. So if you have any questions or would like to see it, stop on by. Even though it will only have one week's worth of algae growth on the screen, if you're interested in picking up some algae to seed your own scrubber, just ask.
     
    #84 jlanger, Jun 18, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2017
  5. OP
    jlanger

    jlanger "The North Remembers"
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    July 02, 2017.

    Fourteen day cycle.

    Another good cycle and harvest.
    For those of you that attended my house meeting and viewed how much algae was on the screen after one week, here's what the second week ended up looking like.

    [​IMG]

    What that photo didn't show you was the amount of algae that remained attached to the inside of the scrubber box. You can see in the photo where there is a definitive edging to the algae from where the algae pulled apart.
    Here's a top down photo of the inside of the scrubber box showing what that algae looked like.

    [​IMG]

    The harvest was another three to four cups with a dry weight of 14.85 ounces.

    [​IMG]

    If the algae continues to grow on the side of the scrubber box, I may end up making a new box. When the algae first started growing on the box itself, I used a typical algae blade to scrape it off the polycarbonate. Those minute scratches left by the blade have made a foothold for the algae to attach. If I would have cleaned out the box with a cleaning pad, it may have postponed the eventual algae growth on the box. The real issue is that as the algae grows on the side of the box, it causes the clear polycarbonate to appear frosted and it may start to limit the amount of light reaching the screen.

    Over the past month or so, Bill Capman and I have been designing some ATS units for his college lab. We're very close to start making parts and testing the first unit. Those units will be based off of this design with some updated improvements and safety precautions. One of the new ideas I came up with was to make the lid for the scrubber box out of the black polycarbonate to help limit light from reaching the spray bar. It's probably not going to make much of a difference, but any little bit helps. I have machined a new lid for my scrubber box so I will install that lid after my next harvest. It will be interesting to see if there is a change in the amount of algae that grows on and above the lid.
     
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    jlanger

    jlanger "The North Remembers"
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    July 21st, 2017.

    Nineteen day cycle.

    More of the same for results. Harvested about three cups of algae with a dry weight of 13.85 ounces.

    [​IMG]

    I have discovered that if the algae gains a foothold on any of the polycarbonate surfaces, it will grow from there.
    The lid to the scrubber drawer has slowly been getting algae growing onto it, and by this last harvest, the center rail of the lid was completely covered and supporting algae. In the photo above, you can no longer see the top of the algae screen or that center rail.
    The scrubber box itself has become a good location over the past handful of harvests for growing algae. The prior update showed how the algae was attached and growing inside the scrubber drawer at the base. This is evident by the "missing" algae from the bottom of the screen in the photo above. As the algae attaches to the polycarbonate, it causes the surface to craze and become less transparent. It hasn't really affected the growth rate of the algae, but it does affect the maintenance of the unit.

    [​IMG]

    My thoughts as to why this has happened is that I was using a metal bladed scraper to clean out the drawer. The metal blade caused minor scoring lines that allowed algae to establish a foothold. I will be making a new scrubber drawer soon to replace this one; and I will only be using cloth rags or a Magic Eraser to clean out the drawer from now on.



    And another update...
    Over the past couple of weeks, I completed the first of Bill Capman's ATS units for the college lab. This new ATS unit has an updated design and it's really making me think about updating my unit with some of the new design elements we incorporated into Bill's unit. And if I do, I'm also thinking about adding the second LED fixture to maximize the unit's potential.

    Here's a sneak peek at Bill's ATS unit... with just one LED fixture, of course.

    [​IMG]
     
  7. OP
    jlanger

    jlanger "The North Remembers"
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    August 6th, 2017.

    Seventeen Day Cycle.

    More of the same; harvest-wise, so no photos.
    Over two cups of algae with a dry weight of 11.65 ounces.
    My nutrient levels have remained very consistent; NO3 tested about 8ppm for the umpteenth time.

    Only thing to really note is that the black lid did cut down on the amount of algae growing above the lid. But since the algae screen did have algae on it, some algae did attach to the openings in the lid on the machined surfaces.

    The slight drop in the algae weight may be due to the algae growing on the inside of the box. As I've been contemplating the construction of a new clean box, I'm debating on building myself an entirely new unit that incorporates the updated design and has a second LED fixture.
     
    #87 jlanger, Aug 6, 2017
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2017
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  8. OP
    jlanger

    jlanger "The North Remembers"
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    Due to a minor case of the lesser of the LARS afflictions (Lazy Ass Recording Syndrome), I haven't been updating this thread with my harvest amounts. It's not that I haven't been keeping up with harvesting algae from the unit, I've just not recorded the results. All harvests have been consistent with what I have been previously recording, so it makes for less interesting posts to this thread. But after today's harvest, I felt it was time to at least record the date and [lazy] result.

    November 24th, 2017.
    Harvested over six cups of algae; no weight or photos.
    (Our house was full and I didn't want to explain as to why I was weighing and photographing algae).

    I believe that this was another scheduled two week harvest but due to the LARS, I cannot be for certain. The algae that is growing on the algae screen has not changed much over the course of the past three months. The algae grows into a thick mat of 1-½" thick covering the entire screen. Algae continues to grow on the lower two inches of the scrubber box.
    What makes me wonder about the length of the cycle is the jump from an average harvest of about 4 cups to a harvest of six cups. Two weeks ago was when we went over to Rhinelander and I know I performed my scheduled water change prior to that weekend. But I'm not 100% certain I harvested the algae that same day. Last weekend was the TCMAS Fall Expo and I know that I did not harvest any algae during that water change. So this could've been a three week cycle, but I don't know why I wouldn't have harvested algae prior to the expo on it's scheduled two week cycle. And theres no way I could've gone four weeks between harvests.
    Conclusion... I got lazy recording my harvests.


    In other related news...
    I completed the last three ATS units for Bill and the Augsburg University lab.
    I would really like to take the design changes from those units and implement them into a new unit for my tank. I also think adding a second light source (thus doubling the screen capacity) would help my system keep the nutrients down. This single light unit isn't keeping up with the current nutrient load of my system; nitrates rising again. What is keeping me from doing so at this time is that I'm considering a restart to my 120gal system; new tank, new rock, new sump and filtration. Decisions, decisions.
     
  9. capman

    capman I contributed!
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    Why the restart of the 120? It seemed like a really nice tank when I saw it. Does this have to do with the GFO issue you told me about?
     
  10. OP
    jlanger

    jlanger "The North Remembers"
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    The restart has more to due with the loss of all of my montipora corals. Since the losses, the blue mushrooms have invaded the open spaces; along with other unwanted pests like vermitid snails and bubble algae. I've tried various methods of controlling them, but nothing has been completely successful. The only way to eliminate them entirely is to start over with new rock and transfer over just the corals I want.
     

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