Discussion in 'Reef Octopus' started by Jeremy@CoralVue, Jul 9, 2018.

Calcium Reactors and Related Equipment Part 1

What is a calcium reactor? What are the advantages & disadvantages of a calcium reactor? What do you need to setup a calcium reactor? This is Part...
  1. Jeremy@CoralVue

    Jeremy@CoralVue CoralVue PR Manager R2R Supporter Gold Sponsor

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    Messages:
    375
    Likes Received:
    120
    Location:
    NW Indiana
    This is Part 1 of a 3-part video series dedicated to calcium reactors. Our goal at CoralVue is to help reefers like you maintain successful reef tanks by providing you with the key information that will make using a calcium reactor easy to understand and use.


    In this first video I cover what you need to know before installing and the components necessary to properly set up a calcium reactor. Below is an outline of the video for your convenience.


    What is a calcium reactor?
    Corals, invertebrates and even coralline algae are constantly using up calcium and alkalinity in our aquariums. A calcium reactor is a piece of equipment that helps simultaneously maintain alkalinity and calcium throughout the day attaining the ultimate in stability and growth of stony corals.

    What are the advantages & disadvantages of a calcium reactor?


    Pros
    • Fully automated dosing of calcium and alkalinity. A calcium reactor is capable of supplying a tank system with enough alkalinity and calcium carbonate 24/7. You do not need to mix your solutions as the calcium reactor infuses tank water with all the alkalinity and calcium needed.
    • Scalability. A calcium reactor is a perfect solution when your 2-part dosing is no longer cost effective. Using 2-part solution on aquariums with high coral load or large systems may become too expensive. There is a calcium reactor for every size tank!
    • Does not increase salinity or add chloride to your tank water. A calcium reactor takes water from your tank and saturates it with melted coral skeleton. It does not add any salt or elements other than what is in the media itself.
    • Long term cost effectiveness. The cost of keeping a calcium reactor is very low. Technically you only need to top off the media on average 3-4 times a year. In comparison to 2-part bottles, the media is very inexpensive. If your reactor is using a pH probe, it only needs to be replaced once a year. CO2 bottle refills average between 10-20 dollars and you only need to refill them 1-2 times a year depending on the size of the bottle.
    Cons
    • Upfront cost. The initial investment of setting up a calcium reactor can be nearly 2 times higher than most automated two-part dosing systems due to the equipment required.
    • Intricate setup. Setting up a reactor takes consideration and planning. You must make sure that the reactor is properly sized for your system. Patience as the reactor does not get dialed in overnight. It is a process of constant tweaking based on the ever-fluctuating demand. And Safety… You are dealing with pressurized containers.

    [​IMG]

    What do you need to setup a calcium reactor?

    Calcium Reactor
    We must find a reactor that fits our tank needs. Most reactors out there have a suggested tank range. We need a reactor that is large enough that does not require constant upkeep but not too large where it becomes inefficient and you are wasting money by overbuying and wasting energy by running excess.


    [​IMG]

    A reactor must have an efficient, powerful & good quality recirculating pump

    The recirculating pump is the heart of the calcium reactor. It mixes water and CO2 gas that creates a semi-acidic water solution that allows for the media in the reactor to melt and release alkalinity and calcium back into the water itself.

    The recirculating pump also dictates the performance of the reactor. It forces water to run through the media multiple times before leaving the reactor and back to the tank. The more times the water cycles through the media over and over again, the higher the saturation of available alkalinity and calcium ions.

    [​IMG]

    A reactor must have a water-tight pH probe holder

    Most media in the reactor starts to melt when the pH dips below 6.7. The pH probe allows us to monitor and even control the pH level. If the pH level in the reactors is too high, media will not melt. On the other hand, if the pH level is too low, it can waste your media by turning it into sludge, which can restrict flow and destroy your recirculation pump.

    [​IMG]

    A reactor should recirculate injected CO2

    In the old days, reactors used to accumulate “air” at the top of the main chamber which eventually would purge back into the main system. It was wasteful, caused instability and countless frustration. Most reactors today incorporate a more efficient way to recycle the CO2 and keep the pH level low while using less CO2 in the process.

    [​IMG]

    A reactor should have a bubble counter

    A bubble counter is a simple and convenient way to visually monitor the amount of CO2 actually being injecting into the reactor. The benefit of having a reactor that has an incorporated bubble counter is that it is self-filling.​

    Media
    When choosing your calcium carbonate media for the reactor, there are couple things to consider:

    Melting point. The lower the pH, the more CO2 will be required.

    Size. Smaller media usually has a higher pH melting point and will melt faster than larger media. We want media that is porous with lots of surface area and won’t restrict flow.

    [​IMG]

    The type of media you choose will dictate how the reactor will perform. Cleanliness of media seems to be a thing of the past as most available medias are from good sources.​

    CO2 tank

    Carbon Dioxide has many uses but is most commonly used for carbonating your favorite soda. Carbon dioxide is a nonflammable, colorless, odorless and more importantly, when mixed with water, it forms a weak acid capable of dissolving calcium carbonate media.

    [​IMG]

    Carbon dioxide can be supplied in different purities but for our application, commercial grade CO2 used for welding is good enough. We do suggest steering away from CO2 used for Paint Ball purposes as sometimes it is mixed with other elements or gases.

    CO2 Regulator and Solenoid

    When picking out a regulator look for one that has two pressure gauges. One gauge that measures the pressure of the CO2 in the cylinder and the other to measure the delivery pressure. NEVER use a regulator made for gas other than CO2.

    [​IMG]

    It’s best that the regulator can steadily output low pressures under 10 psi.


    A good CO2 check valve is also required to prevent damage to the regulator due to back flow.


    pH probe & Controller

    Here are two things that are not required but fall into highly recommended list to make your life easier. As we mentioned before, most media in the reactor starts to melt when the pH dips below 6.7.

    [​IMG]

    A controller makes managing the pH level much easier especially if the regulator or needle valve is not precise enough to maintain a very stable CO2 bubble rate.

    It will monitor the pH level and keep the CO2 flowing when the pH is stable or too high but turn it off if the pH level gets too low.


    Feed Source
    The feed source is by far, the root of most issues with a calcium reactor. As we were doing research for this video, we encounter a large amount of misinformation online. Contrary to popular belief, calcium reactors do not require a large feed pump to push water into the reactor. Having a big pump with lots of flow does not equate to stable effluent.

    Keep in mind that Calcium reactors are not built to really run pressurized. A slight pressure of up to 5psi is all you need to operate safely. Anything higher may result in joints and seals leaking. Anything more than 10 psi and you could possibly blow the lid off!

    [​IMG]

    We need a pump that is going to feed the reactor at a very low flow. That is it. In essence, you want the feed pump and the CO2 to have equal pressure into the reactor. Issues arise when one of the two is higher than the other.

    [​IMG]

    For this reason, the best way to feed a calcium reactor is by using a peristaltic dosing pump like the Kamoer FX-STP. It allows real time flow adjustments between 0 and 120 ml/m to easily overcome inconsistencies and set the reactors effluent with just enough pressure at a predictable metered rate.​

    This is just the first episode of a 3-video series where we will cover calcium reactors. Our goal is to help reefers like you maintain successful reef tanks by providing you with the key information that will make using a calcium reactor easy to understand and use.

    On episode 2, we will show you how to assemble, install and setup an actual calcium reactor running on a live system. Stay tuned. I hope this comes in handy for someone in the R2R community looking to setup a calcium reactor. Thank you.
     
    Antics, jlanger, GoVols and 10 others like this.

  2. Anirban

    Anirban Valuable Member R2R Supporter Reef Squad R2R Excellence Award Reef Tank 365 Partner Member 2018 Build Thread Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2015
    Messages:
    4,398
    Likes Received:
    5,979
    Location:
    Chapel Hill, NC
    Nice one...:)
     
  3. YumaMan

    YumaMan Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2017
    Messages:
    128
    Likes Received:
    122
    Thanks for posting this information, I think it will encourage folks to consider the benefits of CaRx. Hey, I'm sold! Perhaps mention should be made of incorporating a small amount (5% ) of magnesium media in the reactor. Also, the caution regarding water pressure v. CO2 pressure is generally helpful, although in my system the pressures are not equal ( although not greatly different) and nothing leaks or has blown up. My setup is a DIY, however, and I took extra precautions plumbing everything. Thanks again, nice presentation graphics.
     
  4. Jeremy@CoralVue

    Jeremy@CoralVue CoralVue PR Manager R2R Supporter Gold Sponsor

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    Messages:
    375
    Likes Received:
    120
    Location:
    NW Indiana
    Thanks for the feedback. I did not get into using other medias like magnesium chips because this is a series dedicated to beginners. Magnesium chips require lower PH levels to melt. In my experience magnesium chip and even some magnesium rich Rx media tend not to melt till levels get below 6.5. At this acidity could complicate things if using the wrong media.
     
    GoVols and Flippers4pups like this.
  5. revhtree

    revhtree Owner Administrator Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter Photo of the Month Award R2R Excellence Award Partner Member 2018 Article Contributor Build Thread Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2006
    Messages:
    36,439
    Likes Received:
    28,413
    This is great stuff! Thank you for taking the time!
     
  6. Jeremy@CoralVue

    Jeremy@CoralVue CoralVue PR Manager R2R Supporter Gold Sponsor

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    Messages:
    375
    Likes Received:
    120
    Location:
    NW Indiana
    Thanks Rev. Here to support the R2R community :)
     
    GoVols and Flippers4pups like this.
  7. Flippers4pups

    Flippers4pups Fins up since 1993 R2R Supporter Reef Squad Leader R2R Excellence Award Reef Tank 365 Build Thread Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2016
    Messages:
    5,490
    Likes Received:
    13,817
    Location:
    Lake Saint Louis, Mo
    Was just talking about this yesterday here in the forum! Excellent write up, @Jeremy@CoralVue!
     
    GoVols and Jeremy@CoralVue like this.
  8. salty joe

    salty joe Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2015
    Messages:
    160
    Likes Received:
    64
    I think the tendency to lower pH should be listed in the 'cons'.
     
    GoVols, SteadyC and Flippers4pups like this.
  9. Rakie

    Rakie Federal Coral Reserve R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Tank 365 Build Thread Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2017
    Messages:
    2,805
    Likes Received:
    4,433
    Location:
    Southern California
    Very good write up -- I also second @salty joe -- Lowered pH should be listed as a con. I know a few people struggling with this issue right now.
     
    GoVols and Flippers4pups like this.
  10. FLSharkvictim

    FLSharkvictim Shark Advocates Intl R2R Supporter West Palm Beach Reefer Tampa Bay Reef Keepers Build Thread Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2016
    Messages:
    778
    Likes Received:
    496
    Location:
    Redington Beach, FL
    Superior write up, since i AM currently will be in the market for a Reef Octo Cal reactor.
     
  11. barista7105

    barista7105 Member

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2013
    Messages:
    40
    Likes Received:
    72
    Location:
    Indonesia
    Following.. Nice write up
     
    GoVols and Jeremy@CoralVue like this.
  12. Jeremy@CoralVue

    Jeremy@CoralVue CoralVue PR Manager R2R Supporter Gold Sponsor

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    Messages:
    375
    Likes Received:
    120
    Location:
    NW Indiana
    Thank you
     
    GoVols and Flippers4pups like this.
  13. Jeremy@CoralVue

    Jeremy@CoralVue CoralVue PR Manager R2R Supporter Gold Sponsor

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    Messages:
    375
    Likes Received:
    120
    Location:
    NW Indiana
    Thank you. Hope this helps when you get started.
     
    GoVols likes this.
  14. Jeremy@CoralVue

    Jeremy@CoralVue CoralVue PR Manager R2R Supporter Gold Sponsor

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    Messages:
    375
    Likes Received:
    120
    Location:
    NW Indiana
    Thanks for your comments. It was originally in the script but removed because from testing and research we found that when a calcium reactor is properly setup with the correct media pH is not greatly effected. For the same reason I also left out that using a calcium reactor adds micro elements but because it is not substantial enough it was left out as well.

    I believe that unless the user is chasing pH numbers the impact on pH will likely go unnoticed. When I was testing out a new media that required a pH lower than 6.5 to melt and was dosing a 120ml a min, my pH on my system was only effect +/- .002 difference on my 300gal system. I do realize that as homes become better isolated we struggle with sustaining higher pH levels and why I will cover how to deal with buffering the effluent pH in the future troubleshooting video.
     
    GoVols and Flippers4pups like this.
  15. chevythang92

    chevythang92 Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2018
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Ofallon IL
    Exactly what I'm looking for in the process of setting up my first calrx up and been doing research for the past month or so will definitely be following .
     
    GoVols and Ranjib like this.
  16. Ranjib

    Ranjib Valuable Member R2R Supporter Reef Squad R2R Excellence Award Build Thread Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2016
    Messages:
    3,745
    Likes Received:
    5,466
    Location:
    Foster City, Bay Area
    Very nice article. I always found calcium reactors a bit of dark art :) , so this helps a lot.
     
    GoVols likes this.
  17. GoVols

    GoVols "VFL" R2R Supporter Reef Squad Leader MTRCMember R2R Excellence Award Reef Tank 365 Partner Member 2018 Article Contributor Build Thread Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2016
    Messages:
    7,567
    Likes Received:
    16,310
    Location:
    In-The-Boro, TN
    Great write up, Jeremy

    I love RO products, but when it comes to Cal Reactor's I just have to have an 2 stage GEO.
    The man made media's call for most of the low melting points.

    Also you don't need an peristaltic feed pump. My reactor came with the .5 Sicce and I use the 1.0 Sicce as the feed pump.

    I don't drip the output, but run an constant tiny stream.
    I would high recommend using Apex Fusion to map out the ph inside the main reactor.

    I tuned in and run my cal reactor by these two video's:


    This one is @hybridazn output's stream.


    I don't use the carbon dosser, but it's an No Brain-er regulator.

    The upfront cost is high to setup one up right, but two DOS pumps are expensive too.
    Two and or three part dosing can be an big expense over the long haul too.

    Just wanted to add to the conversation, and truly mean no disrespect.

    Regards, GoVols
     
  18. LE0

    LE0 High end Collector R2R Supporter Reef Tank 365

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2014
    Messages:
    200
    Likes Received:
    118
    Location:
    CT
    I run my Calcium reactor like the first video for years now and keep the PH in the reactor at 6.9 with magnesium chips with the output open, It keep everything very balanced. I personally feel thats the simplest way to run a calcium reactor and I also dont use a feed pump i run it from my manifold.
     
    GoVols likes this.
  19. GoVols

    GoVols "VFL" R2R Supporter Reef Squad Leader MTRCMember R2R Excellence Award Reef Tank 365 Partner Member 2018 Article Contributor Build Thread Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2016
    Messages:
    7,567
    Likes Received:
    16,310
    Location:
    In-The-Boro, TN
    Yeah,
    I run the large Reborn Media with 10% of Zeomag in stage 1. It does the job and my mag is always about 1420.

    I picked up two tips from Randy on how to keep the calcium in-balance with the alk.

    1) Don't let your display's water go below .35ppm
    2) Shoot for an alk of about 9.0 dkh
     
  20. Jeremy@CoralVue

    Jeremy@CoralVue CoralVue PR Manager R2R Supporter Gold Sponsor

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    Messages:
    375
    Likes Received:
    120
    Location:
    NW Indiana
    This is how I have ran my calcium reactors for nearly 10+ years and it does work well and is probably the simplest way to set up a Rx but also has its drawbacks especially on small aquariums where impacts of Ph are more prominent. When I started running the KH monitor on my system I felt I could stabilize my alkalinity even further to have greater success. Since changing to a dosing pump I was able to easily dial in the dosage with further control and my PH is not impacted from the calcium reactor as much when the house is closed up.
     
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice
Loading...