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Algal scrubber

With the permission of the author, I would like to re-post here an interesting
message that appeared on the Discus-L list:


Date:    Tue, 1 Apr 1997 11:37:41 EST
From:    Bruce Blumberg <blumberg at AXP1_SALK.EDU>
Subject: Re: adivice on plants, filters and water

----------------------------Original message----------------------------
HI Doug,

        I do have some experience with an algal turf scrubber for a discus
tank. I bought one from MMFI (advertises in FAMA) a couple of years ago. It
was placed above the tank and water pumped to it via a powerhead. The whole
setup was rather noisy and the discus did not appreciate the turbulent
water flow. The scrubber more or less worked however, every time the pH
dropped the algae died off. Moreover, I had periodic outbreaks of small
critters in the scrubber which absolutely consumed the algae. My sword
plants which had been 2' tall (in a 70 gallon tank) nearly died off,
despite regular addition of Tropica plant food. I did have the impression
that the water quality was better overall, however I didn't do many
measurements other than pH and NO3. I stopped weekly water changes and only
changed water when the pH dropped so low that the algae started to die off.
In the end, I got tired of the whole thing and dismantled the scrubber. The
tank is now back to an Eheim 2217 filter, the plants are growing and the
discus appear happy.

        My overall conclusion? Scrubbers do work, but are noisy, smelly and
probably not worth the trouble (at least mine was). I think that the
scrubber is best utilized by circulating water through it into a sump with
separate plumbing to and from the tank. This way the actual flow to the
tank can be slow enough to keep the discus happy. I doubt that the scrubber
will be advantageous in trying to maintain a planted tank since it will
probably require quite significant quantities of plant food to keep both
the algae and plants happy.

        As for keeping Discus in a heavily planted tank, see the series of
articles in Aquarium Fish magazine by George and Karla Booth about 3 years
ago.They describe a very elaborate planted tank utilizing principles from
"The Optimum Aquarium" and Dupla materials.


Bruce Blumberg, Ph.D.
Staff Scientist - Gene Expression Laboratory
Salk Institute for Biological Studies
10010 North Torrey Pines Road
La Jolla, CA 92037

EMAIL: blumberg at axp1_salk.edu or blumberg at hermes_salk.edu (alternate)
PHONE: 619-453-4100 x1301
FAX:   619-455-1349