DIY: Calcium Reactor


One of the best ways to maintain alkalinity and calcium in the reef aquarium is the calcium reactor. The basic idea of the reactor is the reverse process of calcification. A calcium carbonate media is dissolved using carbonic acid (generated by addition of CO2 to water) to provide the Calcium and bicarbonate ions, in the same proportion that is used during calcification [2]

CaCO3 + H2O + CO2 <-> Ca2+ + 2HCO3-

So the calcium carbonate reactor is basically a device that brings the three ingredients together in a manner so as to allow efficient production of Ca and bicarbonate.

The DIY calcium reactor on the picture has been  made  in June 2004. Its stable and compact construction, the easy operation,  the small footprint and the low price of parts have made it the good choice for DIY. The picture on the left represents calcium reactor  filled to capacity with coral sand. Ca reactor 3 months later, when one third of  coral sand is already dissolved, is shown on the right picture.

Picture 1Picture 2


My DIY Ca reactor basic data
Dimensions: footprint 14x14cm (4.7"x4.7"), total height 45 cm (17.7")
maximum capacity : 2,3 liters of coral sand
Internal circulation:  1000 liters per hour
maximum production : dissolving up to 0.9 kg  (2 pounds) of coral sand per month

The basic part of my DIY calcium reactor is 12 cm (4.7")diameter and 40 cm (15.7") long  tube, made of 5 mm (0.2") thick acrylic.  Most of Ca reactor parts ,including pump are inside of this tube, so size of tube actually define also size of complete reactor. CO2  is taken up by an injector system. Bubbles of CO2 which have not been used are caught on the top of reactor and are injected into the reaction chamber again. In this way not a single bubble can leave the reactor without having been used.

This reactor( 12 cm diameter and 40 cm high) can be filled with up to 3000 grams of coral sand (2.3 liters). If necessary it is possible to dissolve up to 0.9 kg  of coral sand per month by this Ca reactor.

The same design can be used also for larger and smaller  Ca reactors. Actually, the most important advantage of DIY Ca reactor is that we have chance to customize dimensions of reactor, based on available space and tank size. I selected size, that fits well in my cabinet bellow aquarium.

Description

The mixture of CO2 and H2O is continuously circulated in the chamber through the calcareous medium in a closed circulation loop. Water from the tank/sump enters the reactor through an inlet and exists through a outlet, both of which are connected to the chamber with calcareous medium.

The following schematic show all important parts of my DIY Ca reactor illustrated with different colors:

-CO2 injection and reinjection system with orange color,
-internal water circulation with blue color,
-water flow between tank/sump and Ca reactor with gray color and
-valves with red color.

 

Legend
3.) Pipe connected to bouble counter, ...., C02 bottle.
4.) T part used for connecting  injected CO2 and unused CO2 caught on the top of reactor .
5.) Pipe used for connection to MaxiJet 1000  pump inlet.
6.) Regulation valve used for setting the speed of unused CO2 dosing. If valve is closed unused CO2 dosing is also closed.
7.) ON-OFF valve, which is normally closed and it is opened only during initial filling of Ca reactor with water.
8.) Pipe inside reactor.
9.) Regulation valve used for setting of the water flow between sump and Ca reactor.
10.) Pipe outside reactor used for collecting water from Sump.
11.) Pipe inside reactor used for connection to MaxiJet 1000  pump inlet.
 
 

Internal circulation

The MaxiJet 1000  pump is used for internal circulation of water inside reactor. My DIY reactor  has a top to bottom circulation loop. Water flow through the coral sand downwards, from pump outlet on the top of the reactor to the bottom, where pump sucks water through 16 mm PVC pipe. This pipe is connected to the pump MaxiJet1000 inlet.

The internal recirculation rate is 1000 liters per hour, while typical input/output rates are in several liters/hr (depending on the settings).  Water entering the reactor comes in at tank alkalinity and Ca levels and effluent leaving the reactor has much higher alkalinity and Ca. The amount of CO2 added is typically measured in bubbles/min. Unfortunately there is no standard bubble size, so this is a dubious measure when comparing different reactors.

CO2 injection system

The CO2 injection system is represented in the following picture. System consists of  the:

CO2 return valve (1) ,
bubble counter (2),
pipe (3),
T part (4) used for injection of unused CO2 caught on the top of reactor and
pipe (5) used for connection to MaxiJet 1000  pump inlet.

Picture3

Water flow between tank/sump and Ca reactor

Water from the tank/sump enters the reactor through an inlet and exists through a outlet, both of which are connected to the chamber with calcareous medium. Inlet system consists of pipe (10), which is connected to sump and pipe (11) inside reactor used for connection to MaxiJet 1000  pump inlet. See also picture 1. Outlet system consists of pipe inside reactor (8) ,  regulation valve (9) used for setting of the water flow between sump and Ca reactor and pipe connected to the sump.

There are a number of ways to supply the calcium reactor with water from the tank. The following methods are compatible with my DIY Ca reactor:

1.) Siphoning water into the suction side of the calcium reactor's MaxiJet pump. Personally, I use use this method.
2.) Simple gravity method.
3.) Peristaltic pump to supply water to the reactor. According to my opinion,  this the best method, but you will need peristaltic pump.

CO2 reinjection system

The bubbles of CO2 which have not been used are caught on the top of reactor and are injected into the reaction chamber again. The CO2 reinjection system consists of  the:

pipe inside reactor, which is used for catching unused CO2,
T joint ,
pipe with  regulation valve (6) and 
T part (4) used for connection of unused CO2 to main CO2 injection system.

The regulation valve (6) is used for controlling the reinjection of unused CO2. If regulation valve (6) is closed, reinjection of unused CO2 is stopped.

DIY pictures

Slika 5: Sistem za kroženje vode v reaktorjuSlika 6: Pokrov 3mm pleksiSlika 7: Pokrov 3mm pleksi z montiranimi uvodnicami

Literature

  1. Huntington Simon, A Guide to Using Calcium Reactors

  2. Sanjay Joshi,Calcium Carbonate Reactors

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