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FAQs on Mud/Algal Filtration 1

Related Articles: How to make a simple Algae Turf Scrubber (ATS), By Simon Trippick, Nutrient Control and ExportMarine Substrates, Deep Sand Beds, Live Sand, Biofiltration, Denitrification, Live Sand, Live RockMarine Set-Up, An Introduction to Reef Systems, Refugiums, Reef FiltrationMarine System PlumbingMarine Aquarium Set-UpMoving AquariumsMarine Biotope, Marine Landscaping

Related FAQs: Algal Filtration in General, Mud Filtration 2Mud Filtration 3, & FAQs on Mud Filtration: Rationale/Use, Engineering/Placement, Maintenance/Replacement, TroublesProducts: Miracle Mud/Leng Sy, Other Mud products, DIY & Refugium Substrates/DSBs, Reef Set-Up, Reef Set-Up 2, Reef Set-Up 3, Reef Set-Up 4, Reef Set-Up 5, Reef Maintenance, Sumps/Filters, Sumps/Filters 2, Marine System PlumbingMarine Aquarium Set-UpLive RockLive Sand, Fish-Only Marine Set-ups, Fish-Only Marine Systems 2, FOWLR/Fish and Invertebrate Systems, Reef Systems, Coldwater Systems, Small Systems, Large SystemsBest Marine Set-Up FAQs 1, Best FAQs 2, Marine Set-Up 1

Hang On Ecosystem Mud Filtration system.

New Print and eBook on Amazon

Marine Aquarium Algae Control

by Robert (Bob) Fenner

EcoSystem Aquarium pioneers. Founder/Mgr. Leng Sy (diving fanatic, watch out!) and Sales Manager Bob Smith. At the July, 02 WWPSA show in Anaheim.

Bibliography/Further Reading:

http://www.algaescrubber.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=68 A forum dedicated to their discussion: "Algae Scrubbers Everything you need to know about building your own Algal Turf Scrubber

Paletta, Michael. 2001. The natural mud-filter method. A new method for marine aquarium filtration. TFH 4/01.

Dear Bob,

With the economic downturn continuing I decided on a low budget, ecosystem reef aquarium, I chose a 280l system (Betta 260) with a sump, Ive got 30 kilos of live rock and use live sand. In the sump I have miracle mud, chaeto algae plus a mangrove. The sump is lit 24 hours a day, and also houses carbon in a fine mesh bag.

                The sump water is fed back into the main tank by a 3000-lph pump and a 5000-lph pump provides circulation in the main tank. I do water changes of 20% every two weeks with H20 salt and RO water. For lighting I have an aquabeam 1000HD Ultra tile and I feed the aquarium inhabitants small amounts twice daily. This aquarium has been running for nearly nine months. Now to my problem! All my water parameters are good apart from nitrate, which I cannot seem to get down below 20ppm. I am trying to run this aquarium without a skimmer as I am using miracle mud. The livestock in the system are as follows: 1 yellow tang, 1 coral beauty, 2 clownfish and three chromis. Please help me! 

M Bird,

First off, thank you for providing so much detail here. Without pertinent data re the system, your livestock, nor substantive response would be possible. I am quite familiar w/ these systems, as Leng Sy of EcoSystem Aquarium and I are long acquaintances, even seasoned travel/scuba diving friends who have had involved discussions re his products and their applications. This may seem anathema to some, but 20 ppm of total nitrate is not a big deal in most settings, and types of captive systems and should not be relied upon as a measure of nutrient/metabolite accumulation in systems incorporating muds as media. IF you are not experiencing issues such as algal or cyanobacterial proliferation, I would not be concerned to the point of making attempts to lower NO3. To re-state this to make it clear, I would not use chemical filtrants of any sort, nor go overboard w/ water change-outs to remedy this situation. I take it your Chaetomorpha (and to a much less important extent the Mangrove) is living, growing. If anything I would get/use a skimmer and run it on a punctuated basis (perhaps a few hours per day), but otherwise, dont let the nitrate bother you here.

Seagrass tank Messing With Mud (Substrate Composition)  1/19/08 Howdy crew! <Hey there! Scott F. here today!> I am in the process of setting up a 40g breeder seagrass (Halodule wrightii) tank and have a few questions. <Glad to oblige; I'm a fellow seagrass fan!> Let me start my giving you some of my plans for the tank..... 5" DSB with some mud. Halodule wrightii. Yellowhead Jawfish or seahorses (still have to decide). plus the various snail...etc. I do not plan on having any live rock. (2) 55-6700k 85w fixtures This tank will be looped into my frag tank as well. My questions are: 1) I plan on having a mixture of some mud and live sand and was wondering if I should mix it all together or have one layered on top of another. Forgive me if this was already asked. <In my seagrass system, I mix the various substrate materials together. I don't think that there is any advantage to separating the materials.> 2) I have read a few articles stating that certain bacteria that thrive near the surface of the sand need the oxygen to live, but as you get deeper in the sand the bacteria that live do not need the same amount of oxygen. The article also stated that if the bacteria that live near the surface of the sand get too deep, the amount of oxygen they get is a lot less, thus causing them to die. This article says it is better to add small layers than to add it all at once. (http://www.miniaturereef.com/Deep%20Sand%20Beds.htm). So, basically my question is when adding the sand and mud is it best to add it in small amounts, so not as much bacteria dies off, or all at once? <If it were me, I would add all of the substrate material at once. I am a pretty simple guy, and I've never had a problem keeping this stuff simple!> Thank you for any and all information! -Elliott <Glad to be of service. Regards, Scott F.> PS: This is one of the greatest sites on the web concerning saltwater tanks IMHO!

Mud sump/Chaeto lighting  12/16/05 Hi All, <Hello Chris> I am setting up a miracle mud ecosystem sump and have a question regarding lighting the mud sump - I am thinking of using the sort of power compacts (PLET) that contain the starter gear in the base of the bulb and are designed as a direct replacement for incandescent (GLS) light bulbs. Example here - http://www.bltdirect.co.uk/cat615_1.htm What wattage would be suitable for the Mud portion of the 23x10x12" sump - mud area (where the Chaeto will be) is 10"x11.5" as per the ecosystem design, I have seen the 2410 sump for sale with 13w PC lighting - is this about right?  9w, 11w, 15w or 20w seem to be my choices in the UK <This light would probably work Chris, but you will need some sort of reflector above it to redirect the light into the sump.  I'd go with the 20w bulb.> Finally, what temperature (colour) range (Kelvin) would be most suitable for the strong performance of the mud/algae filter? I plan to probably use Chaetomorpha initially but I would imagine the needs of this would be inline with other algae. <6500-10000 will be fine.  James (Salty Dog)> Cheers Chris

Wondermud Hello Gurus of fish, I was wondering your take on the so called "Wondermud"? My local fish store says that I can replace my wet/dry sump for a sump with special mud in it. If I buy the set up that has a light for it I can grow some type of sea weed that will make my tank better. They said I don't even need a protein skimmer with it. I have a 80gl fish only tank with about 65lbs of live rock. I do have a few big  fish that keep my skimmer working. Do you think I even need this system? I guess I would just like to know more about it. Thanks for you help. Marty <Please read here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/mudfiltrfaqs.htm and the FAQs beyond. Bob Fenner>

EcoSystem Hello Bob...thanks for the invaluable advice you provide on this site to folks like me trying to educate ourselves rather than thrust ourselves into the hobby. This forum is an excellent complement to your book, as it provides added information that we can apply to our own unique situations. <Thank you for your kind, encouraging words> Now on to my situation...Based on info garnered from searches through this forum, I converted my wet-dry setup to the Berlin system by slowly removing the media from my Eheim wet-dry (which I know you don't care for anyway). So now I am completely wet-dry less and loving it. My only sources of filtration now are a Remora protein skimmer and a canister filter for using Chemipure and running my UV sterilizer. <Okay> I've had this system running for about a year now-here are some of the specs: Size: 46 gal hex Lighting: 130 Watt CustomSeaLife Power Compacts (88K+actinic) 45# LR 1" LS substrate 2 Percula Clowns 1 Hippo Tang 1 Yellow Tang Cleanup Crew from FFExpress Reef Relief Crew from FFExpress 2 Cleaner Shrimp Emerald Green Mushroom (that's what they called it at the LFS) Ammonia: 0 Nitrites: 0 Nitrates: <5 Phosphates: 0 Calcium: >400 Alkalinity: about 10 Ph: 8.0 (CO2 buildup?) Temp: 78F Always wanting to try new things, I'd like to put an Ecosystem hang-on filter (40 or 60) on the system. Here are my questions: <Ah! Of all things have just finished a call with Leng Sy, the owner of the company... we were diving together last month in Australia.> 1) Once I set up the new filter, can I remove the Protein Skimmer and canister immediately, or is there a cycling period? <I would leave all going for a week or more... then, actually, cycle the skimmer on/off a day on/off... for a while... see if you are generating any skimmate, if there is any discernible difference in water quality from your testing, observing your livestock> 2) I know there is some debate about using a protein skimmer in the Ecosystem method-what's your opinion with regards to my setup? <I am still a fan of "some" skimming with your set-up here and with most "mud" filtration arrangements> 3) What type of Caulerpa algae do you recommend for the Ecosystem filter? <C. sertularoides and C. taxifolia are my favorites for tropical systems Other questions while I have your attention: 1) What do you think of my current fish stocking level? <It's fine. I would not add more.> 2) Given that I am at the low end of the lighting curve (approx 2.8 W/gal), can you recommend any beginner corals that would do OK in my system? <Yes... Please take a read or use the Google search tool on our principal site here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/> 3) I've read a lot of confusing stuff about power compacts. Specifically, some "experts" claim they provide more light than some other sources of the same wattage. If true, does this mean that my W/gal ratio is actually higher than 2.8? <Mmm, "useful light"... is provided at the least cost overall (acquisition, install, operation) by metal halides... stipulating many things... that a given system/livestock mix can utilize MH's, that they are arrayed "properly"... CF's are the best available, most appropriate technology for the majority of captive marine systems... Enough intensity, wavelengths of PAR for the types of life kept, the "other" maintenance (e.g. chemistry, physics, biological dynamics) to accommodate...> Thanks in advance for your help (once again)! Walt <A pleasure my friend. Bob Fenner>

Re: EcoSystem HELLO BOB F. THANKS FOR SENDING THIS INFORMATION OVER TO US, WILL GIVE LENG A COPY ALSO. AS ALWAYS THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT BOB SMITH BOB SMITH <Real good. Bob Fenner> Hello Bob, <Hello> I work at a pet store, and we just got back from a trade show where we talked to the EcoSystem guys about their system. <Very nice people. Am sure Bob, Leng were there> After reading a lot about these systems online, and trying to ignore all the online nay Sayers who have never actually had experience with the system, I've concluded that these are a good, and even superior, alternative to a Berlin method. If you had to choose which way to point a store's saltwater section - Berlin-emphasis, EcoSystem-emphasis, or half-ass on both, what would you recommend? <Actually none of the above... they are unworkable in a general store setting (so strong an opinion as to state as fact). Retail settings call for much more rigorous, faster-reacting, one-pass "cleaning" than either Berlin (live rock and skimming) or Mud (algae with it or not) can/will produce. How much of this do you want to go over?> A few questions. EcoSystem does not recommend using a skimmer, but you do. <Talk with Leng Sy re this... there is "room to move" on their opinion here> It seems that those who recommend skimmers are recommending them for use under those extraordinary times with very high nutrient loads, like cycling live rock. <Or vacillating bio-loads like business (collection, wholesale, retail)> So, would selling an undersized skimmer along with EcoSystems, such as a BakPak 2R for a 75 gallon tank, or Remora Pro for a 125 gallon tank, be OK? <Sure> Or do you actually want a skimmer 24/7? <In most, many settings, I do. How 'bout you?> Next, do these systems basically do the same thing as a Berlin with live rock and a DSB, or are there other benefits? <Do the same? Yes, in that the Berlin and Mud systems end-result/purpose is biologically important molecules they don't.> Would you recommend an aragonite DSB (Such as Fiji Pink live sand, or Southdown sand) in EcoSystem tanks, or almost bare-bottom like EcoSystem recommends? <If I could "wave a/the magic wand" I'd have two or more sumps... one with the DSB of easily-soluble Aragonitic material, one of mud and macrophytes... I would not place a DSB arrangement in a mud filter... unless the sump was very large and demarcated/divided for both types of treatment> And what about a hang-on refugium, like CPR's AquaFuge, with Miracle Mud in the bottom and a Compact Fluorescent light - would this do the same thing as a hang-on EcoSystem? <Yes> I'm worried about us investing a couple thousand in these systems, and the local customers saying that's all neat and whatnot, but I'm just going to go to Home Depot and make it all myself and get the copycat mud online - is that commonly done, or is there enough reason to spend for the EcoSystem? <I suggest this, and it has worked for several retailers: set-up a good sized "demonstration system" with a lighted sump and labels underneath (and a hang-on demo. if you want on another), detailing what the system is, how it works, the components... They are worthwhile, do work, and will sell, given exposure and assurance (by successful experience) on your part. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Ben Maryland

Re: EcoSystem Bob, Just wanted to clear up a few things in my initial email that may have been badly worded. <Okay> >> If you had to choose which way to point a store's saltwater section - Berlin-emphasis, EcoSystem-emphasis, or half-ass on both, what would you recommend? I was asking which way you would recommend in terms of setting up customer's tanks. <Oh> Should we fully stay with Berlin systems, fully get into Ecosystem's line, or carry an incomplete line of both? <Actually both... there are definitely folks, settings that I would/do prefer one type of system over the other... How to be more specific here... Some people, by virtue of their present impatience, habits of over-stocking, over-feeding... I'd go with Berlin over Mud... Other folks, set-ups with more live corals (hard and soft), smaller fishes, appreciation for detail... I'd choose mud over Berlin... Not to be too much of a stickler, there are many settings (large systems, lots of variety of life... where I'd go with BOTH Berlin AND MUD...> For our store system, we have custom filtration vats. <I see> >> Or do you actually want a skimmer 24/7? You asked, "wouldn't you?", and I do use a skimmer all the time for Berlin tanks, but was referring to a skimmer on an EcoSystem tank. <Ahh... this question has come up a few times. Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/mudfiltrfaqs.htm and the many FAQs on "Skimmer Selection", "Refugiums", "Sumps"... or better, use the Google search tool on the bottom of the WetWebMedia.com Homepage with these terms> >> Would you recommend an aragonite DSB (Such as Fiji Pink live sand, or Southdown sand) in EcoSystem tanks, or almost bare-bottom like EcoSystem recommends? To this question, you responded that you would not put a DSB in an EcoSystem sump. Actually, what I was asking is if you would recommend an EcoSystem sump, and a DSB in the display tank, like is used on Berlin-style tanks. What are your thoughts there? <I see... there are applications where I would encourage/use a DSB in/with a mud filter sump... Though I vastly prefer to remote Deep Sand Beds in their own sumps for ease of manipulation> Thanks for your help again! Ben Maryland <Sorry for the lack of clarity. Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

EcoSystem (Mud filtration, w/ or w/o skimming) Hello Bob I did get your reply in regards to converting over from skimmer use to mud. Just a note if that's ok Bob; I like to see thirty to forty days using both systems, then over the next week start to back off the use of the skimmer. This gives the animals and the mud time to acclimate. Thank you so much for your support and best regards Bob Smith <Thank you for this Bob. Will place on our sites where your products, mud-filtration are discussed. See you at InterZoo. Bob Fenner>

Re: help with critter ID, good one for Anthony? II Thanks all! I'll look up some more about them and see what I can do to help them along in my little world. ironically, I saw them today at the tank on the checkout at one of the LFS's, and the LFS guy had the same ID. surprise, they got one right! ;) thanks again! <hmmm... sounds like this employee at the LFS might be a keeper...hehe> in case you don't get over to the chat forum to often, the 10g moved to a 20g to now a 29g, once we move the former 20g becomes a refugium, I'll be trying out Kent's Wonder Mud (hmmm, that sounds familiar... hmmm...) instead of MM. It's about 1/5 the price of MM. <remind me to tell you my thoughts about the whole mud methodology when I'm good and liquored up sometime> To go OT, (after all, what would a thread be like if I didn't go OT?), Kent says to NEVER light your Caulerpa 24/7, as that will cause a sexual crash.  <I agree,, although not for the same reason's) exactly> well, as I'm sure you're away (and for the benefit of those who aren't) Ly Seng says that you light the Caulerpa in an Ecosystem filter 24/7 to prevent a crash... any confirmation from independents backing up either side? <No it makes perfect sense to me that an organism evolved for time untold to live, respire, grow and reproduce (quickly at that) under a normal day night cycle should suddenly decide to remain in stasis, under an unnatural photoperiod... not grow or die easily but continue to take up nutrients because of sexy advertising (insert sarcasm: here). Anthony> 

Ecosystem 40m filter and water quality Dear Whomever is filling in,<Howdy> I have a 29g tank with 20# of LR, two 175ghp power heads and an Ecosystem 40m, utilizing 5# of Miracle mud and some proliferate and racemosa Caulerpa. The tank is about 3 mo old now and I have 1- 3" yellow tang, 1-percula, a sand sifting star, a couple of turbo snails, and some button polyps. about 3 weeks ago, I tried putting in a Trachyphyllia (green open brain). A few days later, the coral developed a small, blackish green spot, one at a time, under the translucent tissue. It festered out to the very edge of the coral and turns the tip black with some green algae protruding. As time goes on more become visible elsewhere. I cycle my 65watt smart light on for a 10 hr period and my water quality is usually as follows: nitrate - 12ppm, Phosp - 3 ppm, <As in three parts per million? Not 0.3, 0.03? This is way too much>  Ca. - 450 mg/d pH - 8.4 SG - 1.035 temp - 76 F. Salt brand is Instant Ocean. I do a water change every two weeks. Wheeeew!!!! Now that I have that out of the way. I know that most who have used the Ecosystem filter have had pleasant results. I think my numbers are a little high though. They claim that you do not need a protein skimmer. I am a little skeptical. <The owner of EcoSystem, Leng Sy and I were diving for a week together last month in Australia... we're friends as well as associates in the same trade... we have gone over this issue. I will cc him here. IMO/E skimmers are a good idea to use in conjunction with these products/approaches for some time, in many cases... I would/do use them> Do you have any ideas on what could be happening to the Brain Coral? <Yes... could be just color/looks "adjustment" to your (different) growing/living conditions (than the wild) and no big deal. Could be a result of exposure to too much nutrient... and a problem.> Considering I use Semiconductor Grade D.I. water from my work, I am shocked that my phosphates are that high. How do you rate the Ecosystem filter? Do you think I need a skimmer? <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/mudfiltrfaqs.htm and where the links lead you. Bob Fenner> Thank you, Jeff Seely

Re: Ecosystem 40m filter and water quality Dr. Fenner, <Anthony Calfo with the follow up, my friend> Thanks for the reply. Yeah, the phosphates were 3.0 PPM. I bought some of that filter pad with phosphate removing resins and put them in after the mud chamber and now I test @ about 1.0 PPM. Still way too high, but decreasing. <indeed> I have always fed the tank sparingly, once a day, with Nutrafin Marine Complete. also 5 ml. of phytoplankton weekly. <do you have corals/inverts that actually eat it? Gorgonians, Nephtheids, bivalves? Else this could easily be contributing to your phosphate dilemma. Many/most popular corals prefer zooplankton rather than phytoplankton despite the marketing craze!> We have nearly perfect 17.8 M? de-ionized water, at the plant, that I use for top-off and changes. I think you are probably right about too much nutrient. I do have some green algae growth in the sand, during the tank's lit period but gets removed in the nighttime. The Smartlight's lamp is only 3mo. old. Attached is a picture of the brain and some of the visible green algae. Does it look like excessive nutrients? <wow... this brain is bleached (as in, "has expelled a lot of its resident and necessary zooxanthellae). They bleach for many reasons. Temperature shock, excessive light, etc. Has it been fed very fine meaty foods (not chunks which get regurgitated at night) weekly at least of not daily? This is a very hungry coral that needs regular feedings...perhaps the reason for the state of duress if not. As far as your question is concerned... yes, excessive phosphates can be quite harmful to coral such as this by interrupting calcification... but would not cause the color change necessarily> Is there something I can do for that brain coral? <if the lights are not too bright, it simply needs regular foods and many months to recover> I did have a chance to read the mud FAQs (some really good discussions!). What would be your favorite hang-on skimmer for this type of application? <I don't personally rate many hang-on skimmers very highly, but have heard excellent feedback from aquarists about Aqua C models> Thank you very much for your help. jS. <best regards, Anthony>

Re: Ecosystem 40m filter and water quality (Note: Add image) Dr. Fenner, <Just Bob please> Thanks for the reply. Yeah, the phosphates were 3.0 PPM. I bought some of that filter pad with phosphate removing resins and put them in after the mud chamber and now I test @ about 1.0 PPM. Still way too high, but decreasing. <Yes> I have always fed the tank sparingly, once a day, with Nutrafin Marine Complete. also 5 ml. of phytoplankton weekly. We have nearly perfect 17.8 M?  <Is this a measure of conductivity, like micro-Siemens?> de-ionized water, at the plant, that I use for top off and changes. I think you are probably right about too much nutrient. I do have some green algae growth in the sand, during the tank's lit period but gets removed in the nighttime. The Smartlight's lamp is only 3mo. old. Attached is a picture of the brain and some of the visible green algae. Does it look like excessive nutrients? <Don't see the pix, attachment> Is there something I can do for that brain coral? <You are doing it> I did have a chance to read the mud FAQs (some really good discussions!). What would be your favorite hang-on skimmer for this type of application? <This is posted on the WetWebMedia.com site under "Skimmer Selection"> Thank you very much for your help. jS. <You are welcome. Bob Fenner><Ah, did see it. Yes to the green algae growing apparently on its margins. Nutrient, health-related. Reduce the "fertilizer" and all should clear up over time. Bob Fenner>

Skimming/Mud Filter I have a miracle mud filter and have read that you still recommend skimming. <Yes> If I am to skim for some part of the day, which part would you suggest? Daylight skimming? or Nighttime skimming? <Daylight is better than night, alternating every few hours is even better... If you perceive that you're not improving water quality (evidenced by higher Redox potential, dissolved oxygen, improved water clarity/color... improved livestock vitality, removed skimmate... you could/can turn the fractionator off.> I have e-mailed several people who use the miracle mud filter who claim they get the best Caulerpa growth when they do not skim at all. Thanks -- Chuck <Are they/you out to just culture Caulerpa? Bob Fenner>

Algae bed/Mud + Refugium? + Skimmer? Hi Dr. Fenner, <Just Bob please> I respect your experience and I appreciate your willingness to share it. I have read through all of your FAQ's on refugia and mud filtration and I would like to bounce a few ideas off you. I am just getting started down the road towards acquiring my first saltwater system. I've been reading for the past 6 weeks and have become a fixture at the LFS's. <A good place to study> The goal of my system is to have a healthy system with the lowest possible maintenance necessary. In addition to the common reef inhabitants, I am MOST interested in keeping one or two Mandarinfish and I am coming to understand the challenges they bring. I have seen some algae/mud systems (no skimmer) in operation and I am very impressed with the quality of the water they produce. I understand that the water in these systems needs to be turned over about 5 or 6 times per hour. Is it possible for this type of sump to act as a refugium and produce enough live food for the Mandarins to eat with the water moving this fast? <Yes> Secondly, what is the survival rate for the plankton if it is being pumped at this speed? <Very high. I would speculate in the ninety plus percentage... those critters are tough> So lets say that you believe the water is moving too fast to grow enough food or the pump is killing too much of the plankton and I add a true refugium above the tank to grow food and other species that aren't suited to the main tank. I'll move the water through here pretty slowly and gravity feed it back to the main tank. <Fine> Now I have crystal clear water and yummy food for the Mandarins. Finally, the skimmer question comes up. I understand you like them and I will probably end up with one. However, I will probably begin without one as an experiment to see how much fish-life I can safely support without one.  <Better to start off with one, then turn it down, cycle it on/off...> The research I have done and the feedback from others seems to indicate that an algae bed/mud system without a skimmer is sufficient if you keep the fish population fairly low. I'd like to do some tests on this theory and try to better understand if/when the skimmer becomes necessary. Finally, I'd like to hear your feedback on running the skimmer, the algae/mud bed, and the refugium together. My thought would be to put the refugium above the tank and the skimmer and algae/mud below in the sump with the skimmer coming after the physical filtration and before the algae/mud bed. <Okay> What of Leng's argument that the skimmer will take the plankton and trace nutrients out of the system? <To some degree true... But what of the advantages of running the skimmer?> Given that the algae/mud bed is lit 24hrs/day, I understand that the use of a refugium that is only lit 12 hours per day on alternate cycle from the main tank is optimal. Can you explain how/why this reduces the fluctuation in chemistry? <Mmm, optimal? Depending on the types of life employed, either lighting regimen can be "optimal" for the system, water overall. Alternating the cycle can save Redox, dissolved oxygen vacillations... leaving the light on continuously on the refugium/sump can accomplish the same> In this scenario (algae/mud bed lit 24hrs/day - refugium lit 12 hours per day opposite lighting of main tank) , what do you think of running the skimmer during the time that the main tank is dark and the refugium is lit. My understanding is that this is when the bugs stay close to the bottom of the refugium and are not brought into the tank in large numbers. Therefore, the skimmer would not be skimming the bugs during feeding time. <A good idea, hypothesis to try out> Would turning the skimmer on and off on a daily basis cause just the chemistry changes I am trying to avoid? Does the skimmer really kill the plankton I have worked so hard to grow? <Systems can be co-opted, marginalized in either case> What about Keep It Simple, Stupid. Am I going way overboard here. I feel that the benefit of biodiversity and food source from the refugium outweighs the cost of complexity. I'd like to get away with the algae/mud bed acting as this refugium - I'm just not sure if the algae/mud bed will feed my Mandarins. <Try it out> Furthermore, I am afraid that the skimmer will become necessary as I add more fish down the road but that's a complication as well. <Yes> That's about it, for now. Thank you immensely, -Jeremy <Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner>

Miracle Mud vs. Kent Marine Biosediment Dear Bob, I am constructing my own ecosystem style sump and I was curious as to whether the Kent Marine Biosediment was any worse/better than Miracle Mud. The Kent product is about one fifth the price and I would much rather use the less expensive product if there was little difference. -Adam <Have only just heard of this product... another erstwhile copy... Don't know anything about it firsthand, haven't heard others opinions. Would try the chatforums. Bob Fenner>

Eco-system  Hello Bob- Thanks in advance! I have read the FAQ's & cannot find answer to this spec. question so here goes... Am putting 5 gal refugium under 50 gal FO+LR w/sump (the 5 is a bit small...but all that would fit in stand). <Way too small, by at least half... do find another place (larger) or make your own to "fit around" impediments underneath...> Have purchased 10 lbs Ecosystem mud to go in there. The refugium flow rate is approx. 3-4x/hr. What is your opinion on installing a plenum under this mud? <Can work, generally unnecessary with Eco-System's product... and you don't have the room... am cringing as I key this, but have you tried to see what will happen if/when the power goes off, the pump fails? Please do...> From the FAQ's it seems that plenums are usually matched w/ a calciferous coral sand substrate....is there a specific desired calcium reaction involved here? <All sorts... principally simple acid-base reactions liberating carbonates, biominerals (mainly calcium)> If so, should I mix in some sand w/ the mud? Layer it?  Will this mud become too compact aka "sealed" to warrant a plenum here at all? <I would not use a plenum approach here... too much of the above problems possible, not much (enough) to be gained... and too much volume lost... Bob Fenner> Thanks again! Erik Nelson

Ecosystem filtration units Hello again Bob, Rob from Canada..... I have read everything I could possibly find about this filtration system for the past month or so. Got some good feedback from Mr.4000, spoke with Bob Smith (he's selling the product $$$$$$$ is his influence. It sounds very promising.....I think I will give it a whirl. <Very good> I have a couple of questions I would like to clear up before I go through with it.......I hope you can help! <I will try> First question......Are you really satisfied with this set-up? <Yes> Can a aragonite substrate be used in conjunction with the unit?.....Is there a correct amount? <Yes... and a qualified yes... good to monitor, modify per your setting...> What is the most effective Caulerpa (seen some different remarks on this)? <Thus far, C. taxifolia, C. sertularoides in tropical systems> Can established live sand be added to the mud (small amount) to trigger the creature cycle? <Yes> Is there any sort of shock to the system when a mud exchange occurs....i.e. 25% after a year? <Not much, typically not noticed> How many tanks have you viewed with this system running successfully? <A few hundred. Just back from seeing some very nice ones in the Midwest... some commercial settings like Preuss's in Michigan.> Will the following setup work?....>> new tank 180 - 200 gallon going to be a predator tank), 180 - 200 lbs of CURED liverock, substrate depending on answer above, water from my 55 gallon tank obtained from water changes to speed the cycling up and the ecosystem filtration unit? <Should... but I would add a skimmer (Leng and I go over this...) for this sort of livestock mix, size system (you can turn it off later if you find it removing nil...) and some other mechanical filtration> Last question.. (sorry about all the questions)...do you know where I could get a break on the cost of the mud.......Being from Canada sucks when your $ is worth just pennies. <Please do contact Eco-System directly re this... I will cc Leng Sy (hey, this rhymes!) here> IMO>>>>>>I get a kick out of those living is the U.S complain about how much the mud costs. <I understand.> Thank-you very much Mr. Fenner.......your site is very informative .....thanks once again! <You're welcome my friend. Bob Fenner> Rob !

Idea I had an idea after reading one of the posts on your message board and I did not know where to go with it. The post was concerning the CPR hang-on refugiums. I looked it up in one of my catalogs to see how big it was and noticed how expensive and small they are. I then thought about it and had an idea to use a Hagen Aquaclear 500 as a refugium.  <The "other shoe" is about to drop on these approaches... know of a couple of folks/companies looking into hang on, injection-formed containers... thank goodness... the price of such is about to plummet> I have done something like this before, but without lighting it. I just filled the basket with liverock rubble and it worked rather nicely. <Yes... Pete and I experimented with these (with/out skimmers, CO2 injection, different types of biomineral/alkalinity reactors, macro-algae, substrates (natural and not) for the last years... You've never visited here as I recall.> The current idea is to retrofit the lid into some sort of hood/light. They should sell well under the CPR units of comparable size. What do I do with the idea?  <Sold! Do check with the Chuas at All Seas for fab small CF lighting fixtures at very reasonable pricing here...> I could try to build one myself and write something up for one of the trade magazines (probably FAMA as they are the only one I have noticed will use brand names in their articles). Or should I approach Hagen directly? <We should talk... and you might want to chat all this up with Leng Sy (Ecosystem)... your idea has been "kicked around" for quite a while... and you will need something proprietary, semi-spectacular to at least notable to get beyond marketing...> I am not looking to become a manufacturer or become rich off of this one idea, but I do not want to see these in stores and get nothing either. <I will send this note to Peter.C (biz associate, partner in fun) for his input. His thought was to have the bodies of his/our units OEM'ed in Mexico, over the border... but have talked with Jason.K (Aqua-C) re jigs, fashioning at least the first few hundred, thousand units in the U.S. to make sure they're a go-er... As stated above, there are folks who want to have something like the Tetra-Tec HO unit body injection molded overseas... you should get hot on this if you intend to do anything... Bob Fenner> Thank You, Steven Pro

Zero nitrates w/ refugium vs. giant clam Hello Mr. Fenner- I have read all the refugium notes/FAQs and I'm sold on one. For my future 92 corner tank I will use a 20 gal hex for the sump and one for the refugium (have an odd-shaped stand). From my limited (but growing---thanks!) knowledge, I understand that giant clams actually like some nitrates.  <This is so... to a degree.> I plan to start as basically a FO system, but I want to set it up as properly as possible w/ long term reef results in mind. So, what is your "official" opinion on clam + skimmer + Miracle Mud refugium? Thank You! Erik Nelson <Of all timely notes... picked up Leng Sy yesterday on the way to going to Hollywood, giving a pitch to the combined L.A. and Orange County marine clubs... and Leng and I went over and over re skimmers, his mud product... We kind of agree that "skimming has its place" and in general, after some time, balancing (a few months typically), a not-too efficient skimmer can/should be cycled on/off (day intervals) to allow production of planktonic organisms, in the face of a dearth of removable materials... in most systems. Bob Fenner>

Issues For Discussion Dear Robert, <Howdy> Hello there, it's me again!!! I have a few questions to ask you, so please bear with me. <Okay> Michael and I are at odds as to what the comfortable salinity should be regarding my reef tank. He thinks that I should bring it down all the way to 1.017-1.019. The SCMAS group convinced me to bring the salinity up to 1.024 and up. Will you kindly help settle this question?!? Do I have it up too high and SCMAS is wrong or is Michael's assessment too low?!? Whatever you say, I shall adjust accordingly. Every time he comes to clean my fish tanks, he drastically brings it down by adding too much fresh water and brings the salinity down somewhere between 1.019-1.021 which kills a fish or invertebrate (or so I think). What to do?!? <By and large almost all captive marine systems should be kept near seawater spg... 1.025 or so... There are many valid reasons for keeping spg artificially low for periods of time... to save money on salt mix, reduce parasite pathogenicity, allow for greater oxygen solubility... But permanently leaving spg low has proven to be trouble... especially for non-fish livestock as you mention. I would elevate, leave yours in the 1.024, 1.025 range> As for the question of going to John Foster's house for the holidays, who's coming with you???  <Pete so far... Trying to get Di to go, maybe pick up Leng (Sy)...> I don't know yet if I am going as I find John's house situated in a very dangerous climb and extremely hard to locate that it confuses the dickens out of me. <Mmm, took us... six hours... last time to find...> Finding my way from Santa Ana to the hotel in Monterey was easier than John's house!!! He keeps nagging me to go to the Christmas Party and just seems to not accept a no for an answer. I e-mailed him as to what plans he had in mind as to how he's going to get me there, yet, he hasn't answered me at all. So I am quite stumped. I'd love to come, however, maybe, he can just pick me up at a gas station or grocery store @ the bottom of the hill close to where he lives at. I can just leave my car there. I can always hitch a ride down later on back to my car or he can bring me back to the same site after the party so that I don't have to guess where to go and I won't have to have a hard time finding a parking spot on those treacherous and winding roads leading to his place. What do you think of that plan?!? Should I let him know or should I wait to hear what he has to say?!?  <Good idea. If we can pick you up enroute let me know> How do you feel about a UV Sterilizer??? Is it beneficial or detrimental to a reef tank with the miracle mud installed in place?!?  <Some value... a handful of percent perhaps... in improved water quality, lowered total microbial population... See: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marphysf.htm> How about a protein skimmer?!? Leng Sy told me to take it away once I have my miracle mud in place!!!  <I'm more in favor, in most cases of "some" foam fractionation in addition to mud filtration. My opinions: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/mudfiltrfaqs.htm> I also noticed that Leng Sy's tanks were either all soft or hard corals. Why is that??? <Mmm, think he likes them> Is there any reason why he has it set up that way?!?  <Perhaps experiments? Maybe to show how nicely his rigs work. I'll cc him and ask him to respond on these questions and if he wants a ride up north> And the hard corals are either small polyped or large polyped corals. Not inter-mixed. Is it better if I do things the same way?!? <Not necessarily> Am I missing anything important with such a set-up?!? <Don't think so. Bob Fenner> Sincerely yours,  Aleida Ann Graichen

Miracle mud Hey there ,Walter Here. Can you Explain to me what this Ecosystem miracle mud thing is all about??  <You can check their website re this, or our site here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/mudfiltrfaqs.htm> I have a hard time swallowing this without using a protein skimmer. <I differ with the owner/manager Leng Sy here as well... most folks do well by using a skimmer in addition to a mud/refugium... at least for a few months...> How well does it work for reef tanks, and does it work??? I have my doubts maybe you can shed some light on the subject <Does "work"... have seen systems with this material, suggested set-up in many places. Bob Fenner> Walter

Assistance? Hi Bob! This is the 40 gal. gal here, I gave you a break due to my love of writing (after all there was a lot to catch up on): or to quote PF > I'll get to the questions and try to keep them under War and Peace in length... ; ) <Mmm, have seen, lived this...> (Seems to be a common aquarist's quirk. :-)) Anyway this actually isn't really a question... RE CRA: > Well, I can think of at least 7 people right off the top of my head who'd put down there money, maybe des could help proofread, she caught one of my typo's a real howler too... Yes, I am a very good non-pro proffer. Kind of obsessive and have a good eye. And yes, PF's was a great typo!! And yes, I would put money down sight unseen. I know it would be worth it. And will write to Microcosm. Though gosh, if you and Borneman are both having trouble, there must be serious problems at Microcosm!! <Mmm, to be clear/er... the "trouble" is typical of the book biz... "things take time", and lots of it... to go from putting words, ideas together in a manuscript through all the editing, layout, printing... to the markets... in these cases, years> On a different note to quote somebody or other: "by using a typical wet-dry you will find a surplus of nitrates produced... and need to find ways to rid the system of the same... Instead, more "balanced" filtration approaches like using live rock, macroalgae, a mud sump... won't." Where do you describe the "mud sump"? <Oh... let's see... do need to write a complete "piece" about <these... How about here: http://wetwebmedia.com/mudfiltrfaqs.htm I think I am eminently qualified to write something (or assist in writing something) here. I could be balanced (writing, not sure otherwise :-)). Just not this month. The state is coming for a review I expect some late nights and crazy goings on. (One of ten greatest lies of all time: hello, I'm from the Dept of Education and I'm here to help you. ) <An area that greatly begs your keen observation and writing skills. Please do pen this, send to... Sue Steele at FAMA and I will gladly cite, even excise bits if you'd allow, and post to WWM.> Thanks, Your friend in fish --Jane/des <Keep writing! Bob Fenner>

Re: Writing (on... mud sumps) Hi Bob! > > I'll get to the questions and try to keep them under War and Peace in length... ; ) ><Mmm, have seen, lived this...> Yep right now. More war than peace though. :-( >RE CRA: ><Mmm, to be clear/er... the "trouble" is typical of the book biz... "things take time", and lots of it... to go from putting words, ideas together in a manuscript through all the editing, layout, printing... to the markets... in these cases, years> I got the impression you had already written this? <Yes, I have it done... about 90%... the mechanicals parts need updating...> Is it just the writing, that's all? (all?!) My impression also you have enough photos for 20 books!! <Quite a few, yes> > sump... won't." Where do you describe the "mud sump"? >I think I am eminently qualified to write something (or assist in writing something) here. I could be balanced (writing, not sure otherwise :-)). <You're doing fine.> ><An area that greatly begs your keen observation and writing skills. Please >do pen this, send to... Sue Steele at FAMA and I will gladly cite, even >excise bits if you'd allow, and post to WWM.> FAMA, the magazine? Are they going to care that I only have 8 months or so experience (no freshwater either) with marine tanks? Don't they want credentials of some sort? <Only care that the writing is useful, clear. Credentials mean nothing.> ><Keep writing! Bob Fenner> Yep. This month VERY boring, repetitive stuff for work, next month the fishies! :-) > <Ah, now that's the Pleiades I know. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Your friend in fish --Jane/des

Re: nitrates high! Dear Bob, OK now I'm REALLY confused. I quote you from the site you referred us to: "by using a typical wet-dry you will find a surplus of nitrates produced... and need to find ways to rid the system of the same... Instead, more "balanced" filtration approaches like using live rock, macroalgae, a mud sump... won't." Where do you describe the "mud sump"?  <Oh... let's see... do need to write a complete "piece" about these... How about here: http://wetwebmedia.com/mudfiltrfaqs.htm Please read through these FAQs and use the Google search feature on our site (WetWebMedia) with the words "mud", "sump", refugium, Leng Sy...> Isn't our crushed coral what they call a deep sand bed that has denitrifying bacteria? <If deep enough, not too-circulated, depending on grade, composition...> Would rustling through it disrupt this even if there is detritus in it? <Yes, to some degree> Everything I read said the trickle, while expensive, was the safest way to go (aside from a totally LR system).  <The "safest" way to go about what? Live aquatic closed-system filtration? Depends on many qualifying criteria, but not the "safest".> If we remove the BioBale, how will the ammonia be broken down?  <By nitrifiers elsewhere in the system... once going (cycled) there are plenty> How will LR do anything different from the BioBale? What's the best course to transition? <All this posted on our site... Please read: http://wetwebmedia.com/liverock1.htm  and beyond in the "Curing LR" FAQs sections> Last night, we vacuumed out a huge amount of black gunk under the BioBale. Hopefully we did not kill any helpful bacteria (or that gunk wasn't anaerobic bacteria). Nitrates are still sky high. I'm reluctant to change much more water since it's now approaching 50% in 3 days. <Not clear to me here... what is approaching fifty percent?> If we go out and buy lots of cured LR, won't a lot of that die in the transition and make matters worse? <Some die off, but likely no problem.> Then, we REALLY need a protein skimmer, right? Even, then, isn't that too traumatic? <Do you not have a skimmer currently? You very likely would/will benefit from ones use> In answer to your light question, our light is 4x20 watts (2 actinic, 2 full spectrum). Can LR survive OK on that? <Yes> We planned to be fish only (except our hermit and cleaner shrimp). It gets hot and we did not want to go metal halide/chiller. <Do try at least "some" live rock... you will not be disappointed I assure you> I can't seem to find a place that sells macroalgae. Where do you get that stuff. I've been hearing about some Caulerpa ban??? Regardless, I'm sure our little tang would love to snack on it. <Do check with the etailers posted on the WWM Links Pages> You just can't win. Sorry to always be so discouraged. Even if our system crashes, it has be 8 months of happiness (in between the crises). Thanks, Allyson <Ah my friend. You are on the brink of clarity. Do keep your eyes on the prize and study. Bob Fenner>

Skimmer use with Eco-Systems Hi Bob It is me again. I have question about protein skimming. I have just bought the Eco System 40 a week ago. The Eco people say a protein skimmer is not required. I think a protein skimmer is required along with the Eco system. Before I received the Eco Sys. I had a protein skimmer running Berlin Method) all the time. It hung inside of tank with an air stone to operate it. If I need a protein skimmer I would like to get a good one. What is your suggestion? Thanks, David Garcia <Please see the WWM site re this issue. I do use, endorse the use of skimming with these units (as opposed to their owners suggestion). Skimmer selection on the WWM site as well. Bob Fenner>

Thanks! Hi Bob, >Are you sure I can't send a contribution for your page or something? ><You have done much my friend... to help me, others. Thank you for your contributions. Bob Fenner> Speaking of which, did you ever forward my comments re: Ecosystems to Leng Sy? (not sure they would be viewed as contributions :-)) <Yes I did... and I asked him if he had seen them and he said he had...> I would have liked to be a fly on the wall (goby in the tank??) when you and Leng Sy had lunch (dinner?) together. <If you're out in the southern California area, stop by and see him... he has a small showroom in Orange County...> Happy Birthday! See Jane's Law below. And I hope your moving went well and that Zo proved helpful. <Yes, he's visiting up north as of this AM... a bit sore but none the worse for wear I hope> I'm working on my next long question but thought it should wait a week or so. :-> (evil grin) --Jane J
<Looking forward to it. Bob Fenner>

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