Dosing organic carbon has become a popular technique in reducing nitrates and phosphates in reef tanks. Basically, by constanly supplying an organic carbon source to a reef tank, it encourages bacteria to grow and reproduce rapidly. Because of this, nutrients in the water (including nitrates and phosphates) are used up and thus lowering their levels. I have been carbon dosing (vodka) since August 2009 — I know it works.
A new kind of organic carbon product came out late 2009 — biopellets (solid organic carbon pellets). Due to its popularity, other companies started manufacturing and selling their own biopellets, and by the end of 2010, there were so many different biopellet products in the market.
Hobbyists started using their media reactors for biopellets only to find out that to make the biopelelts more effective it should keep tumbling and not clump up and clog inside the reactor. DIYers started modding their reactors, removing the foam pads and replacing them with circular plastic meshes. A stronger pump was needed to keep the pellets tumbling. Then came biopellet reactors.
I have been waiting for a good biopellet reactor to reaplce my vodka dosing routine. When GBD blogged about the upcoming reactor from LSS Laboratory and Reef Octopus, I was all over it. Well, I finally got one and here are my impressions.
Read the full review and a special coupon offer after the jump.
The Super Reef Octopus biopellet reactor actually comes in three sizes. What I purchased was the BR-110 800ml biopellet capacity model which is 4.3-inches in diameter and 14.5-inches tall. My order came in a white box that had a Coral Vue (the primary US distributor) sticker at the upper right. The reactor was neatly packed.
I was wondering what pump to use for the reactor but except for the labels outside the box and a paper that showed parts and assembly instructions, there were no other reading materials like operating manual and warranty card inside the box.
Except for the plumbing parts, the reactor comes almost fully assembled. It comes with true union connectors for both water input and output. I’m a fan of true unions as it makes it easy to screw/unscrew the connected hoses, without (re)moving the pump in your sump.
Thumb screws at the top make it easy to open the reactor. A rubber o-ring where the lid settles makes it leak-free.
The middle PVC tubing slides on to the lid. A rubber o-ring on the tubing makes fit tightly to the lid and keeps the pumped water travel the long tube.
Another component of the reactor is the mesh cup that slides though the middle tubing. The mesh is made of like nylon netting material and is fine enough for the pellets to not pass through. The cup sits on an acrylic ridge built on to the chamber.
The most important feature of the reactor is the ‘fluidizing’ cone bottom which evenly disperse water upward from all sides. Because of the cone, there should be no dead spots and clumping.
I’m sure you are eager to see how the reactor performs so I shot a short video of it in action:
While the reactor looks great and seems to work perfectly, there are some problems I have noticed. Frist, and there must be a reason to this, the mesh cup was created to be shorter so as to not be flush to the lid. When you start pumping water in the reactor, there is a tendency for the water to push the cup up, hovering it above its seat. When adding biopellets to water for the first time, you can’t help for some pellets to float due to maybe some tiny airpockets trapped inside the pellets. Some also cling to micro bubbles when you first start the pump. In any case, when these pellets float up and settle between the cup and its seat, trapping them there. You can probably shake the whole reactor to have the pellets fall, but surely, this will become a problem everytime new pellets are added.
Second, because the middle tubing is fitted to the lid, it can be a challenge to replenish biopellets without lifting the tubing slightly. Lifting the tubing will mean a problem re-seating it back to the bottom of the reactor without squishing pellets or avoiding pellets to enter the tube. Stirring the the pellets with the tubing helped, but I’m sure several pellets made their way inside the tube. If they get pushed out when I start the pump then great, but what if they get stuck inside and restrict the flow, worse add dead spots?
Aside from the two problems I noted, the reactor seems like it’s doing its main job perfectly — keep the pellets tumbling and avoid clumping, no foam pads to avoid clogs, and no need to use expensive pumps to keep the pellets tumbling. If you are into biopellets, then this is a great reactor to get.
The Super Reef Octopus Biopellet Reactors come in three models:
- BR-70: 2.75″ Diameter X 14.5″ Tall (300ml biopellet capacity) – $130
- BR-110: 4.3″ Diameter X 14.5″ Tall (800ml biopellet capacity) – $160
- BR-140: 5.5″ Diameter X 14.5″ Tall (1000ml biopellet capacity) – $199
Now for the good news! I have spoken with two online shops and they have agreed to give exclusive discounts to Reef Gizmo readers! Use the following coupons to get a 5% discount on any of the Super Reef Octopus Biopellet Reactors for a limited time (until Feb. 28, 2011):
I hope you all enjoyed my review.
If you purchased the reactor, let me know how you like it.
Here are my full unboxing pics: