Anyone using chemical media on their reef system will almost certainly have delved into the wonderful world of fluidising reactors at some point. There’s something mesmerising about seeing your chosen media churning and swirling, happily doing its job. More importantly of course, fluidisation is also a great way to avoid ‘caking’ and to make sure you get the best efficiency out of your media (as opposed to ‘passive’ use, in a mesh bag for example). It’s more than likely that this research hasn’t left you with a clear ‘winner’ though, indeed uncertainties about reactor sizing, pumps, volume, construction, plumbing options and the like often result in something of a ‘hopeful’ purchase. In this review we aim to take some of the guess work out of this buying process by bringing you one of our ‘hands on’ reviews.
On this occasion we have a neat little reactor that we’ve been after since seeing a demo model at Aqua2013. Having used Bio Phos 80 Phosphate removal resin before (in third party reactors and media bags), the idea of a reactor tailored for its use was immediately appealing. Just before we go on to our thoughts on the reactor though, we’d like to say how much we like Bio Phos 80 media itself. Having used a range of different Phosphate removal resins over the years, Bio Phos 80 really impresses us with its low dust content (which means it requires comparatively little rinsing). This anhydrous GFO is also slightly different to other media in that it is said to be coated with a special polymer that improves both resilience and porosity (and thus adsorbative ability). As such, this media can be fluidised relatively aggressively without significant abrasion or migration of particles into the display system. Furthermore, every 100g of Bio Phos 80 is rated to remove up to 4ppm of PO4 from 1000Ltrs of salt water or 4ppm PO4 from 2000Ltrs of fresh water which makes this a high capacity, long-life media in most circumstances. Of course, GFO is already a proven method of Phosphate and Silicate removal. Just be aware that this is a powerful media though. Actually, like other GFOs, Bio Phos 80 has the ability to rapidly reduce PO4 and SiO2 levels to zero and, particularly for PO4, this may adversely affect corals if they have adapted to higher levels. Bio Phos 80 may also affect pH and Alkalinity, trace elements and heavy metals. In short, it should be used with care, particularly if being deployed on a system for the first time (even if other resins have already been in use). Thankfully Bio Aquatek do make this clear on the media labelling.
Moving on to the reactor itself, the first thing that really appeals to us is the ‘plug and play’ nature of this unit. Fitted with a dinky Sicce Syncra Silent 1.0 which consumes just 16 watts and pumps just under 1000lph, literally all you need to do is add media, put the lid back on and plug it in. In operation this unit is extremely quiet indeed it doesn’t even register on the noise app we generally use in our reviews. The Sicce also has a useful (if basic) flow adjustment and we’d recommend that when you add media and turn it on, you have it set in the lowest flow setting to ensure that no small particles are ejected from the reactor. The flow can then be turned up although you will probably have to lift the reactor out of the water to achieve this (as the adjuster is a little stiff in our experience). The reactor chamber has a capacity of just under 1 litre and will handle up to 500g of Bio Phos making it useful for a wide range of system volumes despite its compact size. Designed to be freestanding in a sump, the reactor certainly looks and feels well-made and we note it is constructed from class A acrylic & ABS. The key lock head, which fits neatly onto the matching base plate, is also a really nice feature and assists in the assembly of the unit and in understanding how it actually works. The fluidising plate in this reactor is also novel and as a design feature evidently disperses flow evenly through the media. Although this generally works well and prevents channelling, you may find that the sponges clog (especially the bottom one) if you stir up any detritus in the system. Although these sponges allow for fine media to be used we didn’t find that cleaning them was very easy without losing media or making a mess. A lot depends on how often you find the sponges clog and we suggest you tailor the amount of media used to match the frequency of sponge cleaning (essentially renewing media during this operation).
So that concludes our ‘hands-on’ with this unit. Retailing (at date of writing) for £149 this is a great value, cleverly-designed and well-constructed reactor that comes with everything you need to get running. We say again, this includes a really nice feed pump and some very effective media. Take note that the unit is also versatile in that other media can be used if so desired (providing they aren’t smaller in grain size than Bio Phos 80). All-in-all we think this makes it an excellent tool to assist in controlling Phosphate levels, just be aware that you may lose media when the sponges are cleaned and plan accordingly. § Chamber Diameter: 7cm § Footprint: 13cm x 14cm § Capacity: 0.9 L § Height: 28cm