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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone.

I currently don't have a calcium reactor, and always see other people with them running in their systems. I am apprehensive to add something to my system I am unfamiliar with and would like to get someone to "break it down" for me lol. I assume others could benefit from this information as well.

I definitely don't need an elementary explanation, but I'm also not a chemist by trade, so try and make the explanations "user friendly" (it seems as one person will always try to use every technical term in their arsenal, even when they are well aware that nobody is going to understand what the **** they just said) so please, don't be that person on this thread.

My basic questions are:

1. Why are they used as opposed to just dosing with the liquid chemicals?

2. Roughly, how do they work?

3. What are the drawbacks (if any)?

4. What tanks are they a "must for" (growing Sps?), and what types of tanks are they optional?, and what types of tanks not recommended? (never saw one on a nano?)

Finally,

5. What brand reactor and media do you recommend?

I really appreciate the time and effort anyone takes to answer these questions!
 

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My basic questions are:

1. Why are they used as opposed to just dosing with the liquid chemicals?

From my experience people use them so that the addition of chemicals is constant, and smooth. No sudden spikes when chems are added. Plus no mixing or anything, it does it automatically. Also since they are dissolving coral skeletons, the ratios of calc, mag, alk, and so on are pretty darn perfect. Plus if you are adding a lot of liquid chems, its most likely cheaper to run a reactor.

2. Roughly, how do they work?

Coral skeletons are alkaline, or base. You need an acid to dissolve them. Carbon Dioxide when allowed to dissolve in water lowers the H content making it a acidic solution. Same thing that happens in winter when your house is all shut up and your tanks pH tends to stay lower. Theres more carbon dioxide in the house and more in the tank from respiration. So you have a bubble counter that adds a metered amount of carbon dioxide gas to your tank water making at a certain strength acid. Then the water is passed over and through the media or skeletons. Since it is an acid it dissolves a certain amount of the alkaline skeleton to return it to as close to neutral as possible. Depending on the strength of the acid, aka how much carbon dioxide you use, with decide how much skeleton is dissolved. Thats how you adjust them. You control the strength of the acid. Now the effluent or output will be somewhat acidic still but will be loaded with all the goodies. That gets pumped into the tank at a constant rate ideally equal to your tanks usage. You should always monitor pH though because you can nuke your tank by lowering the pH too much either from the bubbles getting out of wack or just plain too much effluent. I hope all that makes sense.

3. What are the drawbacks (if any)?

Danger. The #1 reason I do not use 1. I dont trust them. They plug up. Ive heard horror stories of the constant effort to dial them in.

4. What tanks are they a "must for" (growing Sps?), and what types of tanks are they optional?, and what types of tanks not recommended? (never saw one on a nano?)

They make them in tons of different sizes. I imagine you could use one on a nano, but the risk of pH problems is greater. Everyone says eventually on a large SPS tank you will need them because you just plain cant keep up with the usage any other way. But I refute that. There are liquid dosers that you can hook up. Plus I have a 220 gallon SPS dominated tank and I still dose BRS 2 Part by hand every day. Never a problem, and my SPS grows like wild fire. Am I adding a lot? Yes! A ton! Will I eventually probably switch. Yes. :-(

Finally,

5. What brand reactor and media do you recommend?

Dont have any advice here since I never used one. Sorry.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
response

Thank you for the response! It was very informative!

To ask a question specifically regarding my tank, which is a dominate lps tank, is a calcium reactor overkill then?

I do dose, but I must say, I don't check my alk and calc levels all the time. Id say every 2-3 weeks I do check, and rarely is my calc below 350 ppm, and my alk seems to ALWAYS be at 6, even when I add alk, it doesn't seem to raise it any higher, and I know my calcium level isn't too high. I don't have a magnesium test, so maybe that is the next step.

I did do a week long test to see how much calc my tank used in a week, and it was 50 ppm per week, so that doesn't seem that much too me, but Im really not sure if that is enough to warrant a calc reactor.
 

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I keep my calcium up at 450 and my Alk at 10 and my Mag at 1400-1500
I would check you Mag all of these react together. If you can't get them to raise something is off.
 

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I keep my calcium up at 450 and my Alk at 10 and my Mag at 1400-1500
I would check you Mag all of these react together. If you can't get them to raise something is off.
Agreed. They all affect each other. Magnesium plays a pivotal role is raising them.

I keep mine at 450-500 calc, 8.5-9.5 alk since I dose vodka, 1500 mag. I use about 20 ppm calcium per day in my tank. With nothing but LPS I would think 50 ppm a week would be high, but I guess our water volumes are different so how much actual calcium that is would vary.

For LPS I would just keep dosing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I keep my calcium up at 450 and my Alk at 10 and my Mag at 1400-1500
I would check you Mag all of these react together. If you can't get them to raise something is off.
so if i can't get my alk above 6 and my calc above 400, does that mean my magnesium has to be too low? or could it be too high? or either?

I have also only used the api testing kits, so I wonder if maybe I should compare the values I get with a different brand. That is also why I don't test magnesium, because API doesn't make a magnesium test, so if anyone has any recommendations on a magnesium test, please let me know!

The digital testers look so sweet, but dang are they expensive! :(
 

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1. Why are they used as opposed to just dosing with the liquid chemicals?
I choose a cal. reactor because it got to a point where I was having a significant alk and cal swing throughout the day. The reactor doses around the clock and allows for more stability.

2. Roughly, how do they work?
Cal reactors work by adding CO2 to the water in the reaction chamber. This creates carbonic acid which desolves the media. The media enriched water is dosed into the tank and rises the alk/cal/trace elements.

3. What are the drawbacks (if any)?
It can have negative effects on the tanks PH. They are expensive to set up and can sometimes be a pain in the butt to dial in.

4. What tanks are they a "must for" (growing Sps?), and what types of tanks are they optional?, and what types of tanks not recommended? (never saw one on a nano?)
Typically they are used in larger/sps dominated tanks. Never are they a must for any system - Kalk reactors and dosing pumps are good alternatives.

Finally,

5. What brand reactor and media do you recommend?
I have a Aqua C RX1 and I love it. I use Carib Sea ARM for my media. I really like the course media.

I really appreciate the time and effort anyone takes to answer these questions!

Hope it helps, if you have any other questions - feel free to PM me!
 

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I would most likely go with a GEO.
I was kicked off reefcentral by a mod that went by GEO, so I would not buy a Geo.. lol. Mine is home made. Never had an issue with it other than the $350 I put into it so far, but that saved $1k on dosing chems so far I would guess.

Like anything else in the aquarium industry, when they work good they are great, but when they fail they are a pain in the ***************************************************************************************************************************. you get the picture right?
 

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so if i can't get my alk above 6 and my calc above 400, does that mean my magnesium has to be too low? or could it be too high? or either?

I have also only used the api testing kits, so I wonder if maybe I should compare the values I get with a different brand. That is also why I don't test magnesium, because API doesn't make a magnesium test, so if anyone has any recommendations on a magnesium test, please let me know!

The digital testers look so sweet, but dang are they expensive! :(
I use Salifert Test Kits for everything, they are easy to read and I'm color blind..lol
 

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Ca, ALK and Mg have to be at minimal levels before the animals can take them out of the water, so if your tank only drops 50 ppm that does not nessesarily mean that is all it would use if it was at constant "proper" levels. Low levels does slow down the growth and maybe even weakens the growth a little, but it would take chronic low levels to seriously hinder a corals health. Basically if growth is a big thing to you so should dosing and testing be, especially ALK if you want good strong growth. If it is not that big, then just try to maintain a steady supply at moderate levels. Best of luck.

Thank you for the response! It was very informative!

To ask a question specifically regarding my tank, which is a dominate lps tank, is a calcium reactor overkill then?

I do dose, but I must say, I don't check my alk and calc levels all the time. Id say every 2-3 weeks I do check, and rarely is my calc below 350 ppm, and my alk seems to ALWAYS be at 6, even when I add alk, it doesn't seem to raise it any higher, and I know my calcium level isn't too high. I don't have a magnesium test, so maybe that is the next step.

I did do a week long test to see how much calc my tank used in a week, and it was 50 ppm per week, so that doesn't seem that much too me, but Im really not sure if that is enough to warrant a calc reactor.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I use Salifert Test Kits for everything, they are easy to read and I'm color blind..lol
Great to know! I tried one Seachem iodine test before and the colors were so close, I couldn't decide what the value was! Not to mention there was a whole bunch of steps, involving powders and liquids and all this crap, so once finished, I wasn't even positive I did it right!!! That has been the only test I have used besides API, so I've been a little paranoid about trying other brands!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
1.
2. Roughly, how do they work?
Cal reactors work by adding CO2 to the water in the reaction chamber. This creates carbonic acid which desolves the media. The media enriched water is dosed into the tank and rises the alk/cal/trace elements.
Thanks! Finally an explanation I don't have to pretend I get lol! I definitely think a reactor would be a bit overkill for my tank, but at least now I know why!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
All I have ever use is API for the majority of my testing needs. But I would not trust their tests for Ca or ALK... (do they even have a true ALK test? or is it just carbonate hardness?)
-confused it's carbonate hardness..... which i thought was the same thing? help! It says the values should be between 8-12, and I thought that's what people say their alkalinity should be at, as well........ I'm so confused, lol.
 

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I used to have the same problem. My calc and KH was always low. I started dosing some serious Mg, and in a couple of weeks i had desirable levels. Ever since i have stayed stable just by dosing small to normal amounts of all three on a regular basis. I would try a bottle of Mg before investing a lot of money in a Ca reactor.
 

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Yes API has calc and alk as someone else stated the alk is messured in dkh not ml/q or whatever. I have used api and salfert and have cross checked readings on multiple brands. Nothing wrong with the cheaper api kits they work just as well as any other chemical test. You are right about not having a mag test though I use a salfert and there is powder liquid and its more involved then the standard api tests, so are the calc and alk tests.
LPS wont use as much calc and alk as sps but they do need it, and as someone stated if you keep them at optimum levels they will grow faster and stronger. I have purchased lots of different corals from different places on quick story. I purchased a neon candycane from someone 3 heads they said the skeleton of this coral is always very fragile be very careful with it. Well I got it home and while trying to place it (this was when I first started out so give me some slack) I crushed 2 heads. I really didnt use much force at all. Needless to say it died. I got another and skeleton was like paper, same person again. This time it stayed in the sand, it took along time for it to grow. I went to a lfs and got another one the base on this was like rock, very strong. After about a month in my tank it had gone from 2 heads to 4 and was starting to divide again. The other was looking good but still no new growth twice as long in the tank. I went to the lfs and they told me it sounded like the calcium and alk were probably off in the growers tank and it was putting on mass before it was going to start to grow. I went home to check it out and sure enough the skeleton was twice as thick as it had been . I try to keep my Calc at 450 and my alk (previously) at 10dkh trying to go down to 8dkh I am getting some tip issues on my sps. So I am also setting up a calc reactor going to be much easier then dosing.
 

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I use a Koralin 1502, the co2 rate is controlled by a Milwaukee SMS122 than its just a matter of setting the drip rate which is easier to set the faster the rate, it's hard when you only need it to drip say once every 3 seconds but I'm at a little faster than a drip a second and it's been pretty constant but just like pretty much everything on our tanks I try and just take a quick look at it dailey and it's never went faster only slower so not too much of a big deal. I occasionally still need to dose kalk in the form of Kalkwasser because calcium reactors are more alkalinity reactors than calcium reactors.
 
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