Algae Turf Scrubber - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 09-29-2016, 10:14 PM Thread Starter
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Algae Turf Scrubber

Are Algae Turf Scrubbers (ATS) used in the freshwater planted world? An ATS is an ideal location for algae to grow and consume nitrates and phosphates in the sump portion of the tank, keeping it out of the display area. Usually it is in the form of a grow light, screen for algae to grow on, and water flow over the screen, located in the sump. The idea behind this is the ATS consumes all of the resources starving the algae in the tank. The reason I ask is I am not sure if what algae would consume on the ATS would take away from what the desirable plants need. This works spectacularly well in the saltwater world and totally cleans the display of algae.

Current Tank: 125g reef ready with 40 gallon sump. ATI 4x80 watt T5 with 2x Super Flora T5 Giesemann, 1x ATI Purple Plus, 1x ATI AquaBlue Special. GLA CO2 system, Flourite substrate, Digital Aquatics Controller.
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 09-30-2016, 12:06 AM
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would be interested to see if this has been attempted...


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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 09-30-2016, 12:29 AM
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I think the point of an ats in stripping nutrients out of the tank is counter productive. A lot of tanks are so heavily planted that we are actively adding additional nutrients into our tanks, the same ones the ats would be removing
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 09-30-2016, 02:20 PM
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In theory it works for planted tanks. I am on both sides of the fence with this. I think if one your not dosing Co2, and if your not trying to keep a pristine tank, But your more for maybe a Dirted tank or a more natural setup I can see where it is in theory a good source of filtration. I have been researching this method for a long time now and even thought about going that route if i was to do saltwater. So if your tank has a lot of algae or it is a new tank I can see where it will help If you have a lot of rooted plants I can see where an ATS will not harm your plants that rely on the substrate for feeding. If you have stems and other plants that really get their nutrients from the water It could potentially be a problem. However i also see it as Algae grows in all tanks. even if it isnt very noticable it is still there by spores. So why not grow it in your sump and keep it out of your tank. Most algae even in a heavy planted tank, will still grow and over take a tank if we don't intervene, so an ATS really in theory shouldn't hurt a planted tank. But I think the splashing of the water from your ATS can reduce your Co2 in the tank and that can harm your plants. also the ATS is adding O2 to the water as the algae filters it and taking Co2 from the water. so with the splashing and or the gentle fall of the Ats (however your set it up) The oxygen exchange will be I think greater vs a fully heavily planted tank, and therefore could out compete your plants for Co2. Even though there is a good debate about Co2 and O2 and the effects of atmospheric exchange. vs. injecting Co2. On paper it would seem it could work, But I don't know if it would be a long term kind of set up for a planted tank. as for a non planted tank, I think it is probably the best source of filtration. But If you were to do a Dirt tank It could be good in the beginning to help rid of extra nutrients in the water and could also help keep the algae from forming in your new tank. But it really needs to be experimented on and see how it does in a planted tank for the long term. I always wanted to do a Ats with a planted tank. But never could justify it. Maybe you should do an experimental planted tank with a Ats. and document it. and let others know of your progress and how it does long term.

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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 09-30-2016, 08:12 PM
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I'll just chime in another nickle...

When I first got my new light and planted my previously established tank, the algae began to go wild. I set up a bubble bar on one side (as a pseudo algae scrubber) and let the algae grow there while I kept it cleaned off elsewhere. As the plants took hold, I cleaned that glass and used fiberglass window screen as a shade cloth to reduce the light....in two days the algae was beaten.

I suppose you could use an algae scrubber if algae is an issue (like an initial setup) but as mentioned, it likely wouldn't be necessary long term in a reasonably planted tank.
UaruJoey 'king of DIY' has a good design on Youtube.

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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 09-30-2016, 10:47 PM
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If you were setting up a FW tank with out live plants, then an algae scrubber could do wonders by absorbing nutrients, and preventing algae in the display tank. This would be similar to what is done in a SW reef system with an algae scrubber.

In a planted tank, the goals are arrived at quite a bit differently. Here you want to maintain a balanced amount of ferts in the tank, so your plants can grow. If you remove these by using an algae scrubber, the plants tend to do poorly.

As a note, it's quite a "mental gear shift change" maintaining a SW tank verses a planted tank. In SW you want nitrates and phosphates as close to zero as you can get them. In a planted tank you want those nutrients to be balanced and a bit above zero.
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 09-30-2016, 11:38 PM
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I have a 150 gallon planted discus tank so I feed beef heart and do keep an algae scrubber in my sump.My plants grow like weeds so I would have to say there are still plenty of nutrients for the plants.This is a high light co2 tank and I dose csm+b and potassium on alternating days. I still have to keep an eye on my nitrates and phosphates and because of the beef heart nitrates are usually about 40 and phosphates are between 1 and 2 but it works for me.I still get algae in my tank but clean the tank and do a water change every sunday
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 10-08-2016, 01:36 AM
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Here is my 2 cents.

I use ATS for my reef tank. Works great. It's a waterfall type, so algae has access to atmospheric CO2, which is the limiting factor in plant/algae growth

It's possible to use similar ATS for FW tank as well. However, there are better choices - bog plants or even a philodendron. Higher plants are more efficient in nutrient removing than algae and given CO2 advantage (aerial plants), they will clean water better than anything else. Same approach used in wastewater treatment. I use these plants in my FW tank sump
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