Pros vs Cons: Calcium Reactor vs Kalkwasser Reactor

Discussion in 'Equipment, Lighting, Hardware, Aquarium Filtration' started by revhtree, Jun 5, 2012.

  1. revhtree

    revhtree Owner Administrator Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter Photo of the Month Award R2R Excellence Award

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    Pros vs Cons: Calcium Reactor vs Kalkwasser Reactor


    Quick Run Down:

    Calcium Reactor: A calcium reactor uses crushed coral, or calcium reactor media (which is made up of dead coral) and dissolves it into the reactor using Co2. The Co2 lowers the PH inside of the reactor dissolving the crushed coral. This out flow is called the effluent and has a very high amount of calcium and hardness (alkalinity). You will dose this in your tank at a constant rate to keep your levels up.

    Kalk Reactor: The kalk reactor uses basically a pickling lime, or kalkwasser to do some what the same thing. But this is done via auto top off or some sort of doser and includes much more maintenance. A kalk reactor is a holding device that mixes up the kalkwasser with the water. Then at set times you dose this in your tank.


    So in your opinion what are the pros and cons of each of these reactors?
     
  2. dnov99

    dnov99 Well-Known Member R2R Supporter

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    Biggest Con of Kalk reactor that I myself can attest to, is that there are often times that it can malfunction and flood your system with kalk and potentially crashing your entire system. Once my ATO became stuck in the on position and that was the result. Luckily I was home and was able to act quickly. This happened twice and I have since disconnected the kalk reactor. I also know of several people that have crashed their system from using a Kalk reactor.

    I love my Calcium reactor and the key is getting a top quality reactor and regulator and getting it dialed in correctly.
     
  3. stylaster

    stylaster Reefer since '90 R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award

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    I run both on my system. The kalkreactor is tied to my float switch so its only on when the water level gets low enough. To prevent any disasters it only draws from a 5 gallon bucket of ro/di. If it got stuck on it would only pump that much kalkwasser into my 120g system. Now normally the bucket for the top off has about 3 gallons of water in there. I manually fill that bucket. So far after 4 years of running it that way i have never had an issue.
     
  4. Mstansbery

    Mstansbery Well-Known Member R2R Supporter

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    Agreed. Simple two part with timers/dosing pumps is what I have resorted to after ~5yrs of experimentation. For me having a solenoid, regulator, effluent line or any other piece of these types of equipment offer too many variables that have potential for failure. IMHO reducing variables is the best approach.
     
  5. maharsreef

    maharsreef Well-Known Member

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    Good Quality Ca rx, set it and forget it. As someone mentioned earlier, Kalc reactor has too many malfunction possibilities that could crash a tank.
     
  6. dmatt88

    dmatt88 Well-Known Member

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    Not to mention calcium buildup on pumps etc.

    Calc reactor. Set n forget.

    ....... I'm Matt n im a reefaholic.
     
  7. AZDesertRat

    AZDesertRat Well-Known Member R2R Supporter

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    I can't speak for kalk reactors but I cannot think of a single bad thing about my calcium reactor. It takes a little adjustment in the beginning but it is truly plug and play, set and forget after that.
     
  8. revhtree

    revhtree Owner Administrator Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter Photo of the Month Award R2R Excellence Award

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    For some reason I have bad luck with my calcium reactor solidifying my sand. Any ideas? This has happen to me on two different tanks.
     
  9. WWC

    WWC WWC Staff R2R Supporter Platinum Sponsor Gold Sponsors

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    kalkwasser all the way!!!
     
  10. kuyatwo

    kuyatwo Well-Known Member

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    I just dialed in my geo ca reactor was a lot easier this time around. I went with a aquariumplants electronic regulator and Milwaukee ph controller, I was using a avast Kalk reactor I finally got to the point where I had to dose alk manually to keep it balanced my bioload was soaking up the alk faster than it can be dosed by the Kalk reactor


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  11. mcarroll

    mcarroll Well-Known Member R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award

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    These statements should be completed by "Your mileage may vary." ;)

    I'm not denying the experience either of you are claiming, but (unfortunately) that's far from the typical CO2 reactor-user's experience. Try Googling: "calcium reactor" crash

    From my own and aggregated experiences from others I'd have a tough time recommending a calcium reactor to anyone, unless kalk and DIY two-part ingredients were just not available for some reason. That is to say low cost is the main reason to run a reactor (IMO) and when I just purchased a 5-gallon bucket of Calcium Chloride for $20 and Arm & Hammer for less than $1/lb, that main reason just gets a lot smaller. Dosing pumps aren't without their setup complexities, but they're much easier to set up and to use than a CO2 reactor-based system.

    Another thing is that from Rev's post, it appears un-clear what a kalk reactor is, but somehow we all know what kind of calcium reactor we're thinking about - a CO2 reactor.

    A kalk reactor can be set up just like a Calcium reactor and controlled by pH - even with CO2 injection. The same kalk reactor could instead be controlled and fed by an automatic top-off switch. (Not sure there's anyone left doing this. Calcium reactor media is so much easier to manage.)

    To me, the key difference between calcium and kalk is that kalk does not require the use of an expensive CO2 reactor to be deployed. Something as dead-simple as Tunze's 5074 dispenser is really all you need. If you dose vinegar with your kalk, you can even simulate the effect that CO2 has in a CO2 reactor and get a higher dose of kalk.

    -Matt
     
  12. AZDesertRat

    AZDesertRat Well-Known Member R2R Supporter

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    If you are having trouble with a calcium reactor then something is not correct, they truly are set and forget. Your drip rate or your bubble count, the media you are using, or the effluent pH is incorrect and you need a dual chamber reactor to get the pH under control.

    They are as simple as anything can be as far as a reef tank and reliable as heck. The only issue I ever have is cleaning the needle valve on the effluent drip occasionally as the calcium builds up on it. To simplify things I have two valves I rotate in and out so I can always have a clean one. I tried many different valvs and ended up using the cheap blue airline valves which ctand up the best.

    The instructions on www.geosreef.com are right on for setting one up.
     
  13. Anemones Clowns & Corals

    Anemones Clowns & Corals Member

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    We use both.

    We run the kalk at night to help keep the ph up.
     
  14. creefer

    creefer Well-Known Member

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    Great post mcarroll. I have been struggling with this decision on my new tank. I have just set it up and have been dosing 2 part manually. In my previous tank I was dosing vinegar enriched kalk. This did a couple of things for me. It helped to keep my pH up as I was having issues with low pH and it kept my calcium and alkalinity where I wanted it. I was not controlled by any other means than a float switch with my ATO but I was not using a reactor. I was mixing it up in 5 gallon batches to cover my evap in that tank for 5-6 days.

    With the new tank I have more evap and have considered using a kalk reactor that would be controlled to turn off if pH got to high but remain undecided. I don't wish to dump the $$ into a CA reactor at this time. I'll either automate 2 part dosing or set up a kalk reactor.
     
  15. mcarroll

    mcarroll Well-Known Member R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award

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    Concerning The $$
    Complete, automated two-part dosing only cost me about $160 - including DIY peristaltic pumps (or Aqua Lifters, I've used both and costs are similar) and the cost of a Reefkeeper Lite. You could shave $120 off that price and use lamp timers, but they aren't quite as flexible and you'll get so much more out of the ReefKeeper (or similar) - but they will work.

    About your concern over pH control and volume of dosing
    When setting up any kind of new automated dosing, you will be required to monitor it closely with Ca and alk testing until things are stable. You do *not* want to be over-dosing with any kind of system, and it's possible with all of them given the right circumstances. Play it conservative and don't try too hard to meet all your dosing needs with a reactor - a weekly or monthly tune-up with two-part would be fine in my book. You'll get it right soon enough. I would honestly start with two-part dosing and then set up a simple Tunze (or similar) kalk reactor on your ATO output once you have some significant amount of coral growth and Ca+alk usage. This will help you avoid the possibility of over-dosing and the need to worry about the doses of kalk you're adding. (Read that kalk+vinegar link I posted earlier if you don't understand this - good stuff there!)

    Just For Reference
    Personally I play it the other way around and dose kalk only as a supplement via the Tunze reactor I linked to earlier (5 gallons/week ATO of ~100 ppm Ca) and meet the bulk of my tank's dosing needs with two part - about 780 mL each of Recipe 2 every day and 20% weekly water changes with Reef Crystals. I didn't add the kalk reactor until I was dosing around 150 mL each of two-part (Recipe 1), so even running "at maximum" with a full load of kalk, it just made a dent in what I had to dose of two part. I had the dosing adjustments figured out within 1 or 2 nights of testing and dosing. Easy!

    To The Ca Reactor Fans
    All I will say to the die-hard Ca reactor fans and those still wanting to give a CO2-reactor a try is that to have your best shot at a good experience, do not buy a packaged reactor kit from anyone. The price is low only because they skimp on parts and this (a CO2 reactor) is one of the worst things to skimp on. Both flooding your house with water and your tank with CO2 are distinct possibilities if (when!) something goes wrong.

    So if you're going Ca-reactor...
    • Buy a real regulator from the same place you buy/rent/fill your CO2 tank from - it will be a commercial model and it will not break unless you fill it with saltwater by accident.
    • Buy a so-called "digital bubble counter" from the planted tank people - don't mess around with crappy needle valves at all. (They have a combo regulator+bubble counter for $230 that I'd also be comfortable with.)
    • Buy a real check valve so you don't fill your regulator with salt water by accident - get the one listed with the "digital bubble counter" or buy something industrial/commercial.
    • Buy a proper airline pinch valve to control your water flow - the PV-2 by Flow Rite is the only thing I'd recommend. US Plastic sells them...others too I'm sure.
    In the final analysis, the reactor itself is the least critical part of the system...a cheap-o reactor backed up by a top-flight CO2 injector system (this plumbed to your Ca reactor would do nicely) and tuned properly will do just as well as a high-dollar reactor.

    This still doesn't take any of the complexity or risk out of the system vs two-part dosing or make it as simple to deploy as kalk. :)

    -Matt
     
  16. AZDesertRat

    AZDesertRat Well-Known Member R2R Supporter

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    My calcium reactor consists of a Milwaukee A-957 regulator which has been great since day one once I figured out the psi the recommend is too low for accurate control so run it between 10 and 15 psi on the secondary side. I used to have a Milwaukee SMS-122 pH controller which als owas bulletproof until the day I replaced it with a Reefkeeper Lite which was only because the RKL added more functionality. The reactor itself is an ebay cheapo from a place that used to advertise as AcrylicCity.I wouldn't recommend it to anyone as there are much better reactors around today for around the same money but mine has been working for over 8 years with minimal problems, mostly due to the O-ring fit, nothing to do with the manual bubble counter, regulator or controller.
    Nothing I have tos expensive or top of the line and they all function quite well. No expensive digital bubble counter, no expensive regulator, just a standard CO2 grade check valve and no expensive pinch valve. None are necessary.
     
  17. arotbart

    arotbart Well-Known Member

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    Both

    I use both. I have a 180 G display that is 95% sps. I have an MTC Calcium reactor and love it. I was dosing two part at first, and the demand became too high (and expensive), so i installed the CA reactor. MTC is super old school. no ph control inside the reactor or anything like that. Its a simple dual chamber (they were the first to come up with dual chamber to allow excess CO2 to bleed into the 2nd chamber). Set it and forget it. Then when my reactor was maxed out i added TLF Kalk stirrer to my auto top off. The CA reactor did not so much as max out, but to keep the levels where they needed to be, I had to crank up the CO2 bubble count, and found my PH too depressed at night (even with fuge on reverse light cycle). So, I dialed down the CA reactor when I installed the TLF Kalk Stirrer, and now everything is really spot on. My ALk stays pretty stable b/w 8.5 - 9.3, Ca is right around 470, and MG hovers around 1320. I played around with different types of Kalkwasser and found RowaKalk to be the purest, strongest and less likely to clump up in the stirrer. I usually clean out and dump my used Kalk every 10 days to 2 weeks and reload with a 2/3 of cup to a full cup of the Kalkwasser, and add some NatureReef Reef former concentrate (about a capfull per week to the Kalkstirrer) to give it a little extra juice!!

    now with the stirrer and the reactor, my ph goes from 8.0 in the early morning to 8.35 at night right before lights out.

    and i have to say, kalkwasser is like steroids for the SPS. They absolutely just love it....
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2012
  18. mc-cro

    mc-cro Well-Known Member

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    My reactor has been going basically trouble free for 10yrs. It has been running off a Milaukee controller, and I forget what kind of regulator. Reef Fanatic relabled it if I remember. I would never run an SPS tank without it. If you set it up right, you cant overdose your tank.
     
  19. Coraloliseffect

    Coraloliseffect Well-Known Member

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    With calcuim reactor proponents, they keep echoing "if you set it up right".... life will be golden.
    what defines right? form wrong? Tips?
     
  20. s2nhle

    s2nhle Well-Known Member

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    Maybe, this link will helps. BTW, I am still using Kalk w/ vinegar and 2 parts dosing vs. calcium reactor.
     

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