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Denitrate Tower - "Safe Denitrification"

Postby kmuda » Thu Dec 17, 2009 9:46 pm

I’ve had a few questions about my Denitrate Tower, so I thought I would provide a thread with a few details.

The “Denitrate Towerâ€
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Postby Malawi_Junkie » Fri Dec 18, 2009 12:24 am

Man, I don't know what to say but IMHO overkill.
A+ for creativity but it's a little much don't ya think. I guess you really can't overfilter your water but is it worth all your effort, is this really cutting down on your maintanence or adding to it. All the equipment kinda takes away from the fish.
You have obviously worked very hard and thought this out so if it works and your happy then thats what counts.
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Postby KaiserSousay » Fri Dec 18, 2009 6:31 am

daughter calls “King Kong’s Bongâ€
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Postby kmuda » Fri Dec 18, 2009 8:15 am

Malawi_Junkie wrote:Man, I don't know what to say but IMHO overkill.
A+ for creativity but it's a little much don't ya think. I guess you really can't overfilter your water but is it worth all your effort, is this really cutting down on your maintanence or adding to it. All the equipment kinda takes away from the fish.
You have obviously worked very hard and thought this out so if it works and your happy then thats what counts.


The intent has never been to "cut down on maintenance". The intent was (is) to provide optimal water quality.... and your not going to beat zero nitrate. I also have very soft water with a KH of only 2dGH. A side effect of the denitrification is that my KH does not erode, resulting in fluctuating PH values. So I've killed two birds with one stone (so to speak). Very healthy and stable water.

For me, the water itself is as much a part of the hobby as the fish. Understanding the biological and chemical processes involved is a perpetual learning experience.

As for the "monstrosity", I started small. I've tried many configurations over the last three years. I could see results, just not "enough" of a result, so the filter got bigger, and bigger, and this is what I wound up with. It's is what worked.
100g- Oscar, Male Convict, 3 SDs - 20 gallon sump
55g - 20 Year Old Kissing Gourami + friends
55g - Pleco - 55g - Angelfish
29g Livebearer Community
4 Cats, 1 Sheltie, 1 wife, 1 old lady, and one of sub-adults broke back in.
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Postby prov356 » Fri Dec 18, 2009 8:58 am

Fantastic, fun stuff, good job. =D> You should submit this for inclusion in the forum library.

[quote]One of three things occurred. The micron filter itself is made of cellulose, cellulose is an organic carbon source. Perhaps there is enough break down of the micron filter material that it is serving as an organic carbon source for the denitrifying bacteria. Another possibility, this one is at least a certainty, is that the micron filter is removing all detritus (even microscopic) which allows the pores of the media inside the filter to remain open, enhancing denitrification efficiency. The final possibility is that it is serving no (or limited) purpose…. that the filter was going to achieve zero nitrate creep and adding the Micron filter was only a coincidence. The only certainty is that the Micron filter limits maintenance requirements of the denitrate tower as absolutely no “gunkâ€
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Postby kmuda » Fri Dec 18, 2009 9:55 am

The "denitrification media" I'm using is a combination of SeaChem deNitrate and Eheim Ehflilav (about a 5 to 1 ratio, deNitrate to Efhlilav). All of the media is about 3 years old. It was last cleaned about 4 months ago when I moved from one (less successful) design to the current simplified design. The primary function of the Ehfilav is to prevent the deNitrate media from compacting.

The media is the real expense in this thing. While deNitrate is comparatively inexpensive, I have at least 4 of the 1.6kg buckets of it in use, at $29 per bucket.

For cleaning, I dump the media in a large container (33 gallon Rubbermaid trashcan reserved for fish use), fill it with water, swishing it around by hand to get the easy to clean stuff from the surface of the media, rinse it well (think of rinsing sand before using as a substrate), then boil it in multiple pots on the stove.

As you mentioned, flow rate is critical. Right now I monitor the flow rate by eye. I know what the outflow stream is supposed to look like and adjust the flow regulator if I sense a difference. I would love to have a flow meter on it but have not been able to find one that works at 30gph.

I recently allowed the flow to slow to a trickle (was not on purpose, life got in the way). I would guess it was at a trickle for a couple of days. The results were denitrification rates decreased and nitrates increased. I did not detect ammonia or nitrites, although that would be the primary risk (incomplete denitrification). If allowed to run at such a slow flow for too long, hydrogen sulfide would become a concern (and is one of the reasons I included Ehfilav in the media mix, to prevent the filter from compacting, reducing flow, and establishing the equivalence of a 7' deep sand bed). My experience is that there is virtually no reduction in flow for 2 weeks, so if you change out the Micron cartridge every two weeks, it should not be an issue. But that is on my tank, which is very heavily filtered elsewhere (C-360, 2217, 2215, HOT 250, Penguin 350, several air driven sponge filters). If you are less filtered you may not make it two weeks. I do, however, consider the Micron filter essential to success. If nothing else, it allows the filter to go numerous months without maintenance. On my "to do" list is to add a 100 Micron filter in front of the 20 to see if this expands the life of the 20 (which it will). But I gain nothing if I have to replace the 100 Micron every two weeks. I just have to try it and see.

The current build uses clamp fastened rubber couplings (on each end) that are easy to remove. Remove them and dump the media out. These are a "hazard" if you put too much pressure on the filter as they can pop off, which has happened once in the last three years but not with this particular design (that was a fun cleanup). With the current design, I stress tested it for a couple of days at full flow and they stayed intact. Since I am running at a very much reduced flow, I consider the current risk minimal but I do check them each weekend to ensure the screws are tight and the couplings have not moved (using a permanent marker I traced a line on the PVC where the coupling should be. If I see white behind the line, the coupling has moved, thus far they have not moved). But this was the driving factor behind "King Kong's Bong", using the threaded plugs to eliminate this concern. I have not stress tested "King Kong's Bong" yet. It's been too cold to play with water outside. :D
100g- Oscar, Male Convict, 3 SDs - 20 gallon sump
55g - 20 Year Old Kissing Gourami + friends
55g - Pleco - 55g - Angelfish
29g Livebearer Community
4 Cats, 1 Sheltie, 1 wife, 1 old lady, and one of sub-adults broke back in.
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Postby bulldogg7 » Sat Dec 19, 2009 1:21 am

The "denitrification media" I'm using is a combination of SeaChem deNitrate


so the seachem denitrate doesn't work?
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Postby kmuda » Sat Dec 19, 2009 10:09 am

Since I am achieving zero nitrate creep, I would assume the deNitrate media is working. As I stated in prior posts, the primary purpose of the Eheim Ehfilav media is to prevent the deNitrate media from compacting.

EDIT:
I should also clearly clarify that I've been through several builds over the last three years (all using SeaChem deNitrate). Not all of them worked as well as the current one. The only thing I can testify to is... in my tank...

1. A 7' tall PVC pipe filled with a combination of SeaChem deNitrate and Eheim Ehfilav
2. A flow rate of 30gph
3. Prefiltered by a 20 micron filter

Has resulted in zero nitrate creep for the last several months. Actually, this is not entirely accurate as when I allowed the flow to reduce I started getting nitrates again. This corrected itself a few days after I corrected the flow.
100g- Oscar, Male Convict, 3 SDs - 20 gallon sump
55g - 20 Year Old Kissing Gourami + friends
55g - Pleco - 55g - Angelfish
29g Livebearer Community
4 Cats, 1 Sheltie, 1 wife, 1 old lady, and one of sub-adults broke back in.
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Postby kmuda » Sun Dec 20, 2009 10:08 am

I thought I would show you guys evidence of what this filter will do. Below is a pic of nitrate tests from last week. I perform daily nitrate tests and have a photographic record of them going back a couple of years.

The only true "zero nitrate" readings are on Friday and Saturday. The preceeding 5 days the filter was recovering from a drop in flow rate.

Image

I did not perform a water change this weekend, so we'll see what happens next week.

Back several years ago, I declared war on nitrates. I can honestly say it can be done. Zero Nitrate creep can be achieved. The remaining question is how long and how finicky. Thus far, it's been over a month and the filter has remained effective and stable, as long as I do not let the flow rate drop.

I have another experiment ongoing at the moment concerning nitrates but I need to start an additional thread to detail those results, but let me throw this out there.

Here are nitrates on each of my 4 "primary" tanks as of 10/24/09.
Image

Here are nitrates on each of my 4 "primary" tanks as of this weekend (12/19/09)
Image

Each pic is an accurate representation of a weeks worth of nitrate creep on that particular tank as nitrates are reset to zero each week via 100% water changes. In the October 24th pic, this included the Oscar tank. While I continue the 100% water changes in the other tanks, water changes have been drastically reduced in the Oscar tank with no water change being performed this week. None of the reduction is a result of decreased feeding or increased water changes.
100g- Oscar, Male Convict, 3 SDs - 20 gallon sump
55g - 20 Year Old Kissing Gourami + friends
55g - Pleco - 55g - Angelfish
29g Livebearer Community
4 Cats, 1 Sheltie, 1 wife, 1 old lady, and one of sub-adults broke back in.
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Postby fox » Sun Dec 20, 2009 11:35 am

For the last 5 or so years I have been controlling nitrAtes with plants. I have tried different combinations and nitrAte levels and find having a nitrAte level of 10ppm or so gives the clearest water collumn. If I let it go lower I start to get some weird algae that goes away as soon as the nitrAtes rise to 10ppm or so again.

I have gotten 0ppm nitrates with dozens of very large fancy goldies in a large tank w/ out doing a WC for 1 month. Guilt set in and I started a WC schedule every 2 weeks anyways and gave the excess coons tail and duck weed to the fish as treats.

I have since scaled down the plant growth to slower growing varieties and no more floaters that require the most maintenance. This keeps my weekly nitrAte levels at 20ppm with a very heavy fish stock and 25% weekly WC's. I have gone 2 weeks with this setup and still maintain 20ppm nitrAtes, I have yet to go 1 month as I generally do not mind doing the maintenance on my tanks.
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Postby kmuda » Sun Dec 20, 2009 4:43 pm

I would like to emphasis that my attempts at nitrate reduction are not an effort to reduce maintenance. They are an effort to provide the best water quality as possible.

In general, I deal with large fish such as Oscars and this has been where my focus has been. When it comes to large cichlids, I've experimented using plant filters and came to the conclusion I would need a heavily planted tank about twice the size of the main tank to make much of an impact on nitrate reduction. In fact, if you review the above photos, the "Kissing Fish Tank" is a planted tank, heavily planted with Wisteria (Hygrophila difformis), a monsterously fast growing plant, as well as crypts and various swords. The plants effects on nitrate accumulation have been virtual nill. This tank happens to be my worst nitrate accumulator. I've also tried other super fast growing weeds such as water lettuce and anacharis.

For large fish at least, I don't think you will achieve significant nitrate reduction using plants. I am aware of one individual who managed to get nitrates to zero on his Oscar tank using terrestrial plants (which are better consumers of nitrate than are aquatic plants), but he turned one room of his house into a "filter room" using a waterbed as a sump. The room was packed with lighting and tomato plants growing hydroponically. Water from the tank was cycled through these plants. The entire setup was way to extreme to be feasible. I only mention it as an indication on how difficult it is to achieve significant nitrate reduction using plants (at least when dealing with large fish).
100g- Oscar, Male Convict, 3 SDs - 20 gallon sump
55g - 20 Year Old Kissing Gourami + friends
55g - Pleco - 55g - Angelfish
29g Livebearer Community
4 Cats, 1 Sheltie, 1 wife, 1 old lady, and one of sub-adults broke back in.
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Location: Fort Smith, Ar

Postby fox » Sun Dec 20, 2009 7:30 pm

I am getting very good results with my 2 small 12" f.rostratus, 2 smaller 9" venustus along with the other 2 dozen+ smaller cichlids with the smallest sizing a bit larger than 6" and a 40G sump/ fuge. I guess those Large Oscars are producing more trAtes than your planted solution could handle. Refugiums work, and very good at that, if you put the right effort into setting one up. I have found it takes about three months to get one working.

We raised Orandas and PearlScales for sale here to our local fish suppliers so I am pretty aware of good water conditions and its importance. Orandas get large, ours were in the 10 - 12" range and are very delicate, getting sick if you just look at them crooked. We would keep 30 or so in a tank and water conditions were very important. We found plants, duckweed and hornwort, to be great trAte scrubbers. Plants look pleasing also in the LivingRoom if you set the fuge up properly for show. There are a thousand roads that lead to Rome, and they all will get you there.

Good luck with your bong :thumb:
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Postby BenHugs » Tue Dec 22, 2009 4:29 pm

I'm all about tinkering with my tank I'm not sure I want a 7' tower in my living room though. I have a highly stocked african cichlid tank with planted fuge a philodendron growing out the back and a DIY protein skimmer that is actually working for me. I often toyed with the idea of putting a de-nitrifier into my system but the hydrogen sulfide part always scares me off.

Does the hydrogen sulphide stay in the water column or can it be "bubbled out"? Is it dangerous to the humans living in the room?
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Postby kmuda » Tue Dec 22, 2009 8:38 pm

I want to emphasis.... the 7' Denitrate Tower I am using is not an an anaerobic filter. It is what I term "safe denitrification". There is little risk of hydrogen sulfide or incomplete denitrification, which is a larger concern.

That said.....

Denitrification is dependent upon the amount of organic carbon in the tank. In anaerobic conditions, if there is not enough organic carbon then you wind up with incomplete denitrification, where nitrates are converted back into nitrite or ammonia. If there is too much organic carbon, you wind up with hydrogen sulfide production. In order for there to be "too much" organic carbon, you would have to be performing supplemental dosing with an external carbon source (sugar, alcohol, etc...) or you would have to make the mistake of allowing uneaten food or intact poo into the filter. Aside from that, the risk of "too much" organic carbon is pretty slim while "not enough" is almost a certainty.

Which is where the concept for the 7' tower comes into play. It is not anaerobic so the risks normally associated with denitrification filters do not apply. If there is not enough organic carbon to support denitrification, I just get reduced rates of denitrification, not incomplete denitrification. The micron filter eliminates the possibility of any organics (aside from dissolved organics smaller than 20 microns) from entering the filter and I don't dose with an external carbon source. So there is no risk of hydrogen sulfide production, and, as stated, the filter is not anaerobic, so hydrogen sulfide cannot occur. To the bacteria that produce hydrogen sulfide, the slightest hint of oxygen is toxic.
100g- Oscar, Male Convict, 3 SDs - 20 gallon sump
55g - 20 Year Old Kissing Gourami + friends
55g - Pleco - 55g - Angelfish
29g Livebearer Community
4 Cats, 1 Sheltie, 1 wife, 1 old lady, and one of sub-adults broke back in.
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Postby Pali » Sun Jan 03, 2010 7:04 am

Very nice filter :thumb:

I might missed it, but is there a reason the filter is standing vertical or could it; Let's say be made into a U shape, and mounted horisontal under the tank for a "prettyer" look :wink:
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