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HarleyGuy

How to setup a Calcium Reactor

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Hey all. I haven't posted in quite a while and was asked to start a thread on the setup of a calcium reactor since I want to set one up one on my 120 system.

This would include listing the required hardware, setup and config, and ongoing "tweaks" if needed. .

I'm going to setup Ty's old Calcium Reactor on my system and am looking for input from all you experts out there. 🙂 Thanks!

First question:  What do I need from a hardware perspective?

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A GOOD regulator and a pump to feed it or feed from your return. Possibly a secondary chamber after the main to raise the pH back up before it hits the tank. And a Co2 monitor of some type if you’re not running an apex with an extra pH Probe to do so.


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Is Milwaukee a good regulator? I'm running an APEX so I can add another PH probe. Please explain the setup of this secondary chamber. 

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Noooooo! Don’t get Milwaukee!!!.

 

 

Trust me, you’ll end up replacing it in less than a year. Bite the bullet and buy a good one, Stainless Steel or get a Carbon Doser.

 

Basically the 2nd chamber is just another reactor of just media that the effluent goes through before going back to the Tank. Any upflow cylinder equipped with RODI input and output will work. Mine is a PM. There are several on the market.

 

 

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Juiceman has it covered.

Things you'll need:

1) PM CaRX Reactor
2) Media (I like TLF Reborn)
3) CO2 tank (5lb usually works for most, I run a 20lb)
4) Regulator (don't get Milwaukee, get Carbon Doser)
5) Feed pump or through manifold from return pump.
6) pH probe and inline kit (since i know its not drilled for one)
https://www.avastmarine.com/products/probe-holder
You'll add that to the effluent to monitor pH. Just use PVC and John Guest fittings.

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For as long as I’ve owned a CaRX I’ve had to constantly baby sit the effluent flow.  Faster stream helps but I still have to watch it because it slows down over time. I ran it off the manifold for a bit and it was even worse.  Isn’t an issue for some so maybe it’s just my setup.

A couple weeks ago I bought a peristaltic pump:  https://www.bulkreefsupply.com/fx-stp-peristaltic-dosing-pump-kamoer.html.  This is the first pump like this I’ve seen specifically sold for CaRXs.  Peristaltic pumps are commonly used in the hobby but in the past you had to go search for a used Masterflex on eBay and it still cost a lot (no thanks).

I’ve only had it a short time and can’t speak to it’s longevity but so far it’s freaking awesome.  Calibration is easy and the flow rate is exactly the same as when I first set it up.  My alkalinity is also exactly the same where before it would fluctuate by 0.2 - 0.5 dKH (depending on how disciplined I was about adjusting the effluent valve).  It feels pretty solid and robust so I’m hopeful it will last.  One of the coolest toys I’ve bought for my reef.  BRS did a video on it if you want to see it in action:  https://www.bulkreefsupply.com/video/view/dose-your-tank-24hrs-with-the-continuous-duty-kamoer-fx-stp-doser-brstv/.

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Also +1 on carbon doser.  It’s much easier to use than others I’ve had.  I use a smaller sized media in the second chamber and TLF reborn in the main.  Works great.  Interestingly enough I rarely have to dose magnesium since switching to that a few years ago.  

Another effective way to raise your tank PH is to run an airline from outside to your skimmer air intake (if you can).  Possibly the most effective strategy though is to not even worry about PH and move on with your life.

My final piece of advice is to start with a higher PH (6.8 - 7.0) and work your way down.  Melting a reactor sucks.

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i put older media in second chamber.  i also put old dead corals in there...crush em up a little.

my milkwaukee has been in service for 3yrs w/o issues *knock on wood*

i use vegetable glycerin in the bubble counter, got tired of refilling the water.

this is an excellent start:  http://www.melevsreef.com/articles/how-to-set-up-a-calcium-reactor

when tweaking, make sure to remember whatever you are using to trigger the CO2 is a switchable outlet, it has finite on/off cycles.  make sure when tweaking, you are not flipping it too frequently.  in my aoex config, i have a 5min delay on it.. i then have to adjust ph/efluent/co2 counter to cover that 5min gap.

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A while back I got a hint from Adam at Batttlecorals about keeping the effluent drip rate steady.  It's worked very well for me.  He told me to use one of these between the calcium reactor and the effluent valve:  https://www.autohausaz.com/pn/0014775601

 

 

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10 hours ago, HarleyGuy said:

Is Milwaukee a good regulator? I'm running an APEX so I can add another PH probe. Please explain the setup of this secondary chamber. 

I use a smith dual gauge regulator. I think they are less than $100. I use a milwaukee ph controller. You can use your apex.

There are a few ways to set the reactor up as you will find. I have mine set so the Co2 bubble rate is constant and keeps a 7.0 ph in the reactor without the controller having to cycle on and off. It is set to shut off the Co2  only if the ph gets too low in the reactor. (below 6.8 in my case) I use reborn media. My drip rate is very fast, almost a stream. This keeps it from wanting to clog and slow down. I also put Neo-mag in mine so i do not have to dose magnesium.

There is also this youtube thing running around the forums

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwlvfgDvQqg

The secondary chamber is for the excess Co2 that passes thru your first chamber. It allows you to use less Co2 because you are passing it thru more media, thus using it more efficiently.

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Personally I've never run into an issue with the Milwaukee regulators. If anything that's the one piece of equipment I haven't had troubles with to this point! Granted I run my calcium reactor a little differently than most, mainly due to my distrust of pH probes and the continuing functionality of equipment. For example I don't run my CaRX based on pH levels of the chamber like many do. The reason for this is that pH probes drift. If you're working in a lab, you calibrate your probe daily. Who among us wants to calibrate our probe weekly or monthly?! I'm FAAARRRR too lazy for that. Instead I just leave the probe in to monitor if I still have flow, if my CO2 tank has run out, or if something weird is happening with my reactor.

 

Instead of using pH as my control method, I simply use a timer on my Apex for the CO2 solenoid. Every half hour it clicks on and delivers CO2 to my reactor for 18 minutes and then shuts off for another 30 minutes. Then I simply control the effluent of the reactor or increase the amount of time the solenoid is on to adjust my alk levels. It has worked for me so far. 

 

Jolt added a link to a fuel filter, this is a great idea when it comes to controlling slow effluent flow rates. When detritus and tiny bits of reactor media start getting into your needle valve, it clogs it and slows it down forcing you to purge the valve periodically and reset the flow rate. I use one of these aqualifter pre filters to keep junk out of my valve. https://www.bulkreefsupply.com/aqua-lifter-pre-filter.html?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIyaT6ir3O3AIVi_hkCh1s6ADCEAQYASABEgK2oPD_BwE

I would also recommend adding a second CaRX chamber to follow the main. Not only does it help bring up the pH, but it also helps create enough back pressure on the source flow into the reactor that it helps control your effluent flow and keep it stable. That's just been my experience with it so far.

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Those aqualifter filters are a great find Gig'em!

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5 hours ago, jolt said:

A while back I got a hint from Adam at Batttlecorals about keeping the effluent drip rate steady.  It's worked very well for me.  He told me to use one of these between the calcium reactor and the effluent valve:  https://www.autohausaz.com/pn/0014775601

 

 

huh, inline filter... duh!  i think ill take one of those very old inline Di canisters and fill it w/ filter and try it!

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Good ideas all around! I'm definitely going to order some vegetable glycerin. How often do you have to clean the filter of debris?

I've been running a calcium reactor since 2013 and only recently found a trick that works for the effluent tube. Thanks ARC members! I was running a slower 1 drop per second effluent with the needle valve at the end of the effluent tube. Sometimes the needle valve would build up with dried deposits (calcium?), slowing the drip rate. Other times a bubble of gas would form in the effluent tube and stop the drip altogether. Moving the needle valve inline fixed the first issue and increasing the effluent rate to 55 ml/min fixed the second. In the last 8 months my effluent has been running smoothly and hasn't stopped once! I test Alk once a week to make everything is in line and adjust the needle wheel if I need more or less output. 

Make sure you have a check valve on the CO2 line to prevent water from entering the solenoid and corroding it. 

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Wow, all very good ideas. I love the idea here for "dialing in" the reactor based on tank values and PH in reactor (starting high and stepping down). 

Also, I will put together a Visio diagram of hardware based on the recommendations above and share it here.

Question on the secondary reactor, would a BRS mini reactor work? (I would need to step down the input and output from 1/2"  to 1/4").  I'm a big fan of BRS reactors.

If not what small footprint reactor would you recommend?

 

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Thanks! It works great, I haven't had any issues with it, just have to open it and clean the sponge from time to time.


How often down it clog? And you don’t have to change the effluent rate?


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1 hour ago, HarleyGuy said:

Question on the secondary reactor, would a BRS mini reactor work? (I would need to step down the input and output from 1/2"  to 1/4").  I'm a big fan of BRS reactors.

no, you need a chamber that has recirculating water.  you then introduce co2 to that recirculation to reduce the ph to eat at the media.  you then introduce a water supply to the chamber to push out the effluent (or water w/ all the good stuff).  these BRS canisters are meant for single upflows... ie rodi/gfo/carbon

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6 hours ago, Isaac said:

 

Hi Isaac/All, 

I was referring to a secondary reactor to run effluent thru to increase the ph. I was under the impression that those are flow thru standard reactors and that CO2 was only injected in the primary reactor. That's why I was thinking BRS reactor. Is this all wrong?

Also, I still need a recommendation for the secondary reactor. I'm looking at a Bubble Magus C100-2. It looks well built and is priced at $60.

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6 hours ago, Isaac said:

I love visios.. but nto sure ya really need one, this page has a picture w/ flows:  http://www.melevsreef.com/articles/how-to-set-up-a-calcium-reactor

calcium_reactor1.jpg

This is a great pic thanks. I'm still going to post a visio to cover all the other items above that people have on their setup and the secondary reactor as well. 🙂

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15 minutes ago, HarleyGuy said:

Hi Isaac/All, 

I was referring to a secondary reactor to run effluent thru to increase the ph. I was under the impression that those are flow thru standard reactors and that CO2 was only injected in the primary reactor. That's why I was thinking BRS reactor. Is this all wrong?

Also, I still need a recommendation for the secondary reactor. I'm looking at a Bubble Magus C100-2. It looks well built and is priced at $60.

its possible,.. you'd have to use one of the plastic inserts to make sure the water flow is upwards.

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