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Thread: Fixing Scrubber issues/fine tuning algae growth on ATS or UAS

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    Fixing Scrubber issues/fine tuning algae growth on ATS or UAS

    From reading through many posts here and my experience with this over the last 2 years there seems to be some basic fixes for common algae scrubber problems.

    Obviously each tank is different so something working for one setup may not work exactly the same for every setup.

    Here is a list of common problems and possible solutions - that I have gathered from reading here.


    Algae growth is dark green ---- need to reduce feeding - amount of nutrients is high vs. scrubber area/light/flow. You could also increase scrubber area/ lighting hours/ flow.

    Burning or bare areas on screen --- light is concentrated on an area, use diffuser or back light off -- once screen matures it will fill in.

    Transparent algae on area of screen --- algae getting too much light in that area vs. other areas. Not bad enough to burn but still washing out. You can live with it or diffuse lighting and/or reduce hours of lighting on ATS.

    Black slime on screen - this usually happens in early stages of an ATS - as the screen matures this turns to green turf or hair algae [depends on kind of tank]

    NO3 or P not dropping or changing, even when using ATS for some time. Probably other issues in your tank such as accumulated detritus or crud in your sandbed, sump or somewhere.

    Ammonia and Nitrite are measureable in your tank..... You need to do something to get the bacterial filtering going. The ATS by itself cannot cycle a tank. Or you have something dead and rotting, -- other tank maintenance still needs to be done.

    Algae not growing on screen at all. Check lighting intensity, amount of feeding, and water circulation. Any of the these can be the cause. For a new ATS it may take several weeks for it to get up and running.

    Algae blooms, excess growth of hair algae, bubble algae and other nasty algae growing in your Display tank.... Lots of reasons why this can happen. You can battle it by having a strong enough ATS or UAS system, but you need to determine cause and deal with it. The relationship between the hours of lighting in a DT, water chemistry, and the capacity of your ATS are critical here.

    You can reduce DT lighting hours - reduce amount of feeding -- increase hours on ATS and/or increase capacity of ATS in some way by increasing hours of light, surface area and circulation [up to a point]
    Again, tank maintenance is important here as well.


    Some rules of thumb I have found by my own experience.

    1. You are always feeding more than you think you are. Size your ATS accordingly.

    2. BE PATIENT - do not make changes fast on anything in your tank.

    3. A change to your ATS or in your DT will take time to have an impact on your water chemistry.

    4. You are not growing algae -- you are using the ATS/UAS as a means to stabilize and control your water chemistry in your tank and have healthy happy fish, corals and other stuff.

    The algae growth you get and how much you clean off each time is only an indicator of what is going on.

  2. #2
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    Algae growth is dark green ---- need to reduce feeding - amount of nutrients is high vs. scrubber area/light/flow. You could also increase scrubber area/ lighting hours/ flow.
    Increased area, without increased light, will make the growth even darker. If you increase area, you must increase light even more, so that the light per unit area is higher, not lower. Or, just wait until nutrients come down.

    Transparent algae on area of screen
    Also, may be fixed by adding iron. But have not experimented with this enough.

    NO3 or P not dropping or changing
    Also, by definition, the scrubber is just not strong enough.

    Algae not growing on screen at all
    A recent discovery about this, is that on new tanks or on tanks with lots of nuisance algae and no measurable nutrients, reducing the intensity of the lights by putting a stocking or screen over the lights (thus dimming the light) will allow growth to occur sooner. This is different than reducing hours, and should only be done to get the growth started, because under normal operation a dimmer light will only grow dark growth.

    Algae blooms, excess growth of hair algae, bubble algae and other nasty algae growing in your Display tank.... Lots of reasons why this can happen
    One reason that is not well known, is that the scrubber is starting to work very well, pulling phosphate out of the rocks, which causes more (not less) algae to grow on the rocks for a few weeks/months. This is different from the glass and plastic parts, which will grow less, not more.

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    good writeup

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    Quote Originally Posted by SantaMonica View Post
    Increased area, without increased light, will make the growth even darker. If you increase area, you must increase light even more, so that the light per unit area is higher, not lower. Or, just wait until nutrients come down.

    MY EXPERIENCE AGREES WITH THIS. FOR DARK GROWTH - YOU NEED MORE SCRUBBING POWER - INCREASE AREA AND LIGHT IN PROPER PROPORTION. NEED LIGHT PER AREA HIGHER AND OVERALL SCRUBBING POWER HIGHER TO GET LIGHTER GROWTH.

    Also, may be fixed by adding iron. But have not experimented with this enough.

    FOR TRANSPARENT ALGAE - I TRIED IRON, TOO SOON TO TELL.

    Also, by definition, the scrubber is just not strong enough.



    A recent discovery about this, is that on new tanks or on tanks with lots of nuisance algae and no measurable nutrients, reducing the intensity of the lights by putting a stocking or screen over the lights (thus dimming the light) will allow growth to occur sooner. This is different than reducing hours, and should only be done to get the growth started, because under normal operation a dimmer light will only grow dark growth.



    One reason that is not well known, is that the scrubber is starting to work very well, pulling phosphate out of the rocks, which causes more (not less) algae to grow on the rocks for a few weeks/months. This is different from the glass and plastic parts, which will grow less, not more.
    I found in my experience that I needed to clean out the sump crud before the increased lighting and flow did any good to help clean up DT algae.

  5. #5
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    Well it is true that rotting stuff will put nutrients into the water. But a stronger scrubber will take the nutrients out faster too. I currently don't do any cleaning at all, any more; everything settles and rots (thus feeding the animals), and N=0 and P=0.1 today. Not bad for zero work.

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