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What's in the Box?

Posted 01/14/2012 at 06:00 PM by Aaarrrggg

Time to find out what's lurking in the box!


Ta da! It's a [URL=""]Pellet Reactor Kit from Dr Tim's Aquatics![/URL]

[LIST][*]Bashsea Pellet Master Reactor[*]500ml of NP-Active Pearls[*]8oz bottle of "Waste-Away" bacteria[*]Rio Hyperflow pump[/LIST]
What brought this on? Well my nano has been getting a bit of nuisance algae of late (the long filaments you can see in the cardinal pics) and it's got me thinking about nutrient control in the big tank. I had looked into algae scrubbers, but was ultimately put off by them needing a light. Even if I didn't have the problem with the glass cabinet doors letting light out, I still don't like the idea of having a light in the sump -from both an electricity bill and safety standpoint.

Enter the pellet reactor! Which is essentially the same as an algae scrubber, but utilizing bacteria instead. The pellets provide a home and food source for the bacteria, which consume nitrates and phosphates from the water as they grow (just like chaeto.) The protein skimmer then removes any fattened bacteria that drift out into the water, taking the nutrients they've eaten with them (equivalent of trimming chaeto.)

This is my first reactor of any kind and I was excited to get my hands on it. It feels very sturdy and it even has Dr Tim's logo etched into the top, which I thought was a nice touch.


The only thing that didn't come with the kit was the tubing... which led me to the awesome discovery that they sell all kinds of tubing on Amazon Prime! I went for White Silicone Tubing (1/2" ID) The instructions say you have to build up to the correct dose of pellets over the course of a few weeks, so I only put a little in to start with.




I'm no expert, but the pellets appear to be tumbling really well. As the reactor is new there was a bit of air trapped inside, but after a few hours (and some shaking) all the pellets you can see stuck at the top, sank down to join the rest. As per the instructions, I squirted a few turkey basters full of "Waste-Away" into the reactor pump. Apparently that should help things get kick started. It says to add it for 3-4 days, but as it's only a 8oz bottle, there's actually only enough for 2 days. I'm a little miffed there isn't more provided for the larger kit, (the small one has the same 8oz bottle,) but I'm not in any particular hurry, so it doesn't really matter... I figure I'll just spread what I have out over a few days instead.

The pump started out VERY loud. I shook all the bubbles out and left it a day to settle in, but it was still noticeable over everything else (skimmer, return etc.) I was all ready to send it back, but as a last resort I moved it from where it was (chamber after the skimmer,) to the fuge and after a day in there it finally quietened down. I think microbubbles from the skimmer must have been collecting in it and rattling around.

While I was under the hood I decided to sort out some issues with the skimmer. Lately it hasn't been skimming as well as I'd like. The water lvl has needed to be up higher than the recommended max lvl to stop it uploading it's residue before it reaches the cup. I've come to the conclusion this is due to 2 things:
[LIST=1][*]The gate valve is under the water lvl. In the instructions it says it's "recommended" that it's kept above the water. It doesn't go into specifics on why this is, but I'm thinking it could be causing some of the problem[*]The pump has rubber feet that keep slipping through the gaps in it's eggcrate shelf; causing it to sit as a bit of a funny angle.[/LIST]
The space saving skimmer is kind of annoying because the pump has to dock into an opening on the bottom of the skimmer. It's quite a loose fit, so after you wrestle the skimmer into position in it's (barely big enough) chamber, the pump has a tendency to slip out... and once the skimmer is in place there's absolutely no way to squeeze your hands in there to adjust the pump position.

To fix issue number one I used larger pipes to raise the skimmer another couple of inches. The second problem was solved by a usefully sized tupperware lid. It happened to fit perfectly into the base of the skimmer; holding the pump in place and giving it a better surface to rest on, (it's even red to match!) It's been skimming much better since.


Here's how the sump is looking now:


I think my next purchase will be a carbon reactor. I'm hoping I might be able to plumb it into one of the return lines, but I may just chicken out and get yet another pump.
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