Algae based aquarium filter - My experiences with a few


New member
Hi everyone,

Thought I would post my experiences with various lights and filters to grow macro and micro algae to clean up water. My tank was looking really down for the last several years as I've been battling bubble algae and losing the fight. A hundred emerald crabs later and I admitted defeat. A little background on the tank; it's a 75 gallon mostly SPS tank. Kessil AP700 light, NYOS160 skimmer in a Trigger 26 sump. The tank has been up for about 5 years, and despite growing pounds and pounds of SPS, yes it was just riddled with algae. Funny how things work.

The first thing I tried was a Santa Monica Drop 1.3 algae scrubber. This type of scrubber sits below the water surface and uses a strong air pump to push air and water through the unit. There aren't too many reviews of these units online, despite being around for several years. I tried the Drop scrubber for over 18 months myself before finally cleaning it and relegating it to the unused fish toy bin. Overall, my impression of it is that it is really nicely designed, well-thought out, but unfortunately it never grew anything. It actually really odd to me that there aren't any google images that popup when you perform search that show the filter with lots of growth (aside from the manufacturer's images. So the pluses of this device for me is really that it's super compact and well thought out with little to no light spill out. I guess it also requires little maintenance? The major downsides are that I'm just not convinced these things really work as submersible scrubbers. Additionally, the bubbles are very loud and cause salt creep to go everywhere.

The next unit I tried was a kessil H160 Tuna Flora.


This thing is awesome, high power, and can definitely grow algae (chaeto) for sure. I set up the light and bought some chaeto from the LFS. It worked great for growing algae. I set it up in the middle section of the Trigger sump. I ran into major issues with this light in case anyone else is considering a similar set up. First the light spillage caused microalgae to grow everywhere that there was no chaeto. So in every other section of the sump, including the skimmer body itself, was slowly covered in algae. That was super frustrating and a pain to clean. The second major issue that I had was that the top of the chaeto would routinely grow out of the water and fry in the bright light, thus killing a lot of it off. It required constant rotation to keep it alive. So the major upsides that I see to this set up are that it's very easy to harvest the chaeto, you just reach in and grab. Aslo, the light itself is super high quality and really effective at growing the algae. The downsides were that the light spillover makes a mess of your sump and you really want to build light blockers to contain the light. Additionally, I had the issue with burning the top of the algae. I think this is more of a problem with the extremely small trigger 26 sump. It gives you very little room to work with in the refugium section and the algae guided towards the surface based on how the flow through design works.

Over the last month (with a lot of time on my hands), I decided to completely redo the aquarium and start over. I ripped out ALL of the live rock and replaced it with new dry rock. I fragged all of the old corals and mounted them onto clean rock. I even removed the equipment from the sump and used an old Magnum 350 (fantastic filters!) to clean out all of the old gunk and spilled GFP and ROX carbon.


While cleaning out the sump and NYOS skimmer I realized that the air tubing on the skimmer became brittle and cracked after 5 years of ozone. Oh well, the skimmer was down until replacement tubing could come in. I decided to give the Drop 1.2 another chance and took it out of retirement. I was really sad how the Kessil experiment worked out and I still wanted to try chaeto. So I bit the bullet and bought a Pax Bellum Arid n18 macroalgae reactor. The unit looks fantastic. I seeded it with about a golf ball size chunk of cheato. I set up the Drop and the Arid each for 18 hrs on and 8 hours off but staggered them so that one would always be on. I really like this idea. I hated the salt creep of the Drop from all of the splashing bubbles so I 3D printed a shield for it contain the splatter. What a pain.


Here the Drop is right beneath the 3D printed sneeze gaurd


Yesterday was 2 weeks since the start of running both. I didn't take a picture of the Drop because to no surprise, it didn't grow anything. I was however, really please with the Arid unit. I definitely surpassed my expectations.

Again this is 2 weeks of growth


I still like the idea of running two algae filters on opposite schedules, so I'm giving the Drop ONE LAST CHANCE. I'm going to try to drive water through it with a small pump and see if I can get it to grow chaeto. I really like this idea because then if the Arid crashes (it will become anoxic with a power outage), I will have some backup chaeto. So here it is trying for the last time.


I've now cleaned the Arid and reseeded it with another small clump of cheato. This thing is fantastic.


So what are thoughts on the Arid. I posted my review on Marine Depot but they never seem to post them if I include anything negative. The positives on the Arid is that it really does grow algae well. Super well in fact. i can't believe how much grew and how little I've had to clean the aquarium glass, I'm kind of blown away. The advantage to this approach is also that there is no light spill over into the sump and that none of the algae is burning in the bright light. So over all, it was very successful at what it was designed for.

The cons: I have the arid n18 and the maintenance of pulling out the algae is really a chore. This will get old very quickly if I have to do it weekly. The unit really needs to be torn down so that you can wipe simple microalgae that grows on the light tube. Otherwise I think you are losing a lot of the efficiency. The unit does not come with disconnects either and have to be purchased separately. My unit sits outside the cabinet which is good for easy access. But still I was worried that when I disconnected the tubing a siphon would start from the sump as the inlet to reactor is at the bottom of the filter. I saw all of this coming, so I did buy the Arid quick disconnects. These are not that good. They don't cut off the flow as the old Marineland Magnum or eheim quick disconnects do. So you need to move the filter into a pan or bucket before you disconnect. Once I did this, it was okay and only took about 1/2 hour start to finish to clean out the filter and reseed the algae. It's all worth it, but only because the filter worked so well.

So overall, these are my experiences with these various algae based filters. None are perfect but most work. They tend to have their own pluses and minuses. Hope this helps someone,



New member
Arg! So for some reason absolutely NONE of the images came through. So frustrating. Let me try here again.



New member
OK. I'm sorry, I just don't get it. I hit the "Insert Image" icon and post the link. Why doesn't it show up?


Team RC
Thanks for the review, I have the Tunze Macro Reactor and I will give that a go. I have heard that Arid's works very good. It seems that these reactors need to be higher than the water level of the sump so they are easier to maintain and do not make a mess.


New member
I think that's right. Higher is better. I really do think some sort of disconnect is a good idea as well. I image the Tunze will be similar in that the growth will be overwhelmingly chaeto, but that the coating of microalgae in the chamber will cut down light. I feel like I'm already seeing substantial growth in one day.

Please post back your experience with the Tunze. I still would love to run two of these things on opposite cycles and there just aren't enough reviews of any of them out there. I use a lot of other Tunze products so I image it should be pretty good.



Active member
I’ve run a Turbo’s Aquatics ATS on my 57 gallon tank over the last year. I can attest that it is a top of the line piece of gear and it’s design makes it very easy to tune the growth through dimmable LEDs. It’s set up also allows for hassle free harvesting and cleaning of the growth screen. For my relatively small tank however, it worked extremely well... too well. I have recently taken it off line as my tank was running way too clean, registering 0 PO4 and 0 NO3. For the time being, I will keep it off and only run my skimmer as I try to increase and maintain a balance of nutrients for the benefit of my corals.

Bob Nell

New member
I got a Tunze to supplement an older design tray type scrubber on a 300 gallon sps dominant system. I am pretty happy, as it seems to be doing exactly what I expected. However, it only spins for 3 days and then stops. I wait to clean weekly, at which time there is a significant amount of micro algae on the cylinder. I use it externally and spend about 15 minutes to clean and reassemble. The scrubber takes about the same amount of time.