Since the dawn of mini reef tanks, exporting nutrients to keep aquarium water clean has always been one of the most important tasks to having a successful, thriving tank. Between activated carbon to protein skimming, carbon dosing and denitrification, algae scrubbers have been in the conversation of nutrient export since the beginning but it’s making a big resurgence with the increasing popularity of chaetomorpha reactors.
Chaetomorpha Reactors are one of the more interesting newer developments in the reef aquarium hobby. Some models like the Pax Bellum A.R.I.D. are the hot rods of chaetomorpha reactors, but there’s plenty of simpler and cheaper ways to get concentrated macroalgae scrubbing from basic media reactors.
After all, there is a small difference in performance and efficacy between a tank with a light on it and a dedicated chamber to grow macroalgae in. There is no doubt that some of the sophisticated Chaeto reactors are finely tuned for the mission of growing macroalgae, but any old reactor with some light on it will get you 90% of the way there.
A perfect example is this LED-wrapped media reactor created by Ricky Tang of UPLights. With a stockpile of flexible LED strips at his disposal, Ricky took a SeaSide Aquatics dual media reactor and wrapped them in a blue & red horticultural LED strip. The blue and red LEDs are perfect for driving photosynthesis and while they may be weak, they are so cheap that it’s easy and affordable to wrap a long string of them to light up the entire body of the media reactors.
One big consideration with using these off the shelf LED striplights is to limit any exposure to moisture. These non-waterproof strips will not only be damaged by exposure to moisture, but could also be a fire hazard since they are not completely sealed like some other dedicated aquarium LED light sources.
Nevertheless, this kind of DIY Chaetomorpha reactor should be very effective at growing macroalgae in a dedicated area outside your tank. It’s extremely rewarding to grow a big crop of Chaetomorpha and removing macroalgae that’s been nourished by the waste in your aquarium water is the kind of nutrient export that will never go out of style.