Maintaining proper mineral levels is a critical part of maintaining a successful reef tank. In high demand systems where a multitude of calcifying organisms constantly reduce Alkalinity, Calcium, Magnesium and certain trace element levels, water changes alone are unlikely to keep up with their needs. To stop minerals falling to dangerously low levels (which may detrimentally affect the health of livestock) there are a number of strategies that can be employed. The installation of a Calcium reactor is one of these methods, and widely regarded to be one of the best ways of providing balanced mineral supplementation over the long term.
With a number of SPS colonies being introduced into our test tank recently, we decided it was time to ‘upgrade’ our own regime and move from using just Kalkwasser as our means of mineral replacement (via top-up water) to the installation of a Calcium reactor. Having been impressed with the Hydor Performer 600 during its unboxing review late last year we decide to install this model on our system. Before we get on to the main review, let’s just say that initially, the assembly, installation and operation of a Calcium reactor can seem pretty daunting. You’ll need to make a decision on how you are going to feed the reactor, what you are going to use for your CO2 source, how this is CO2 is regulated, and how the reactor itself is managed. There are also safety issues to consider and we’d suggest that you research the use of CO2 carefully.
With all of our components gathered, the first part of the project was the assembly of the reactor and this actually proved to be far easier than we had expected. Although the reactor may initially look quite complicated, the Performers instructions were easy to follow and, working through methodically, we actually had the unit fully completed in about half an hour. All the components necessary were included and the unit fitted together very well. This reactor uses semi-rigid pipework and John Guest push-fittings which are extremely unlikely to leak if fitted correctly. We did notice that the feed water drop counter was shown upside down in the booklet but this was pretty obvious before we fitted it. Although we verified the reactor was completely watertight during the unboxing review, we decided to run it ‘in sump’ for space reasons. Actually it fitted just perfectly in our return pump section with a footprint of just 18 x 25cm. With the reactor body in place, we filled the media chamber about half full using Caribsea Extra Coarse ARM media (review due shortly), sealed the lid, and then set up a simple gravity feed from our weir to fill and supply the reactor. We did consider the use of a peristaltic pump, or a T from our return pump, but went for the siphon method on the basis that it didn’t require additional power supply, wouldn’t generate any noise or cause disruption to other equipment. Whatever the case, the tubing provided should allow for any of these feed methods if you so choose. The control of incoming water flow is achieved by using a tap on the drop counter and this assembly usefully clamps to the side of our sump so we can monitor the flow easily. The tap is fine and allows for acceptable adjustments. A bubble counter is also included to monitor the CO2 injection rate and again, this works perfectly.
Although its not obvious at first glance, and not mentioned in the instructions specifically, this unit does have a probe holder so can be used in conjunction with a pH controller. At the top of the airlift tube (visible on the left of the first image in this review) there is a screw fitting and a rubber bung that can be removed. We found this took the probe from our TMC controller perfectly.
Back to the operation of the reactor and we are pleased at how quiet the Seltz mixing pump is proving to be. The unit isn’t silent but once the cabinet doors are closed it is barely audible. This reactor is also fitted with a venting tap so that any accumulating gas can be driven off occasionally. After a couple of weeks we are happy to report that the unit is working well. No leaks have been noted and it seems to have settled. We also think it also looks great and would therefore highly recommend this unit based on our initial observations!