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DIY Bio-Nitrate filter

Discussion in 'Freshwater Equipment, Products, & DIY' started by AbbeysDad, Feb 25, 2012.

  1. AbbeysDad

    AbbeysDad AC Members

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    60g, unplanted tank.
    It's a long story but I discovered that my tap (country well) water was very high in nitrates 60ppm+!
    Even though I was doing proper housekeeping with gravel siphoning, 50% weekly water changes and filter maintenance, I was having peculiar fish losses.
    I decided to make a denitrator filter. It uses a kitchen type lock top canister, a combination of Seachem Matrix and Seachem De*Nitrate and a Tom aqua lifter pump. See Photo log.
    I'm in the process now of cycling the filter/tank using Seachem Stability.
    As you can see from the water test photo, Nitrates are very high. I will report on progress.
     

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  2. AbbeysDad

    AbbeysDad AC Members

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    How it works... much like a canister filter on a much smaller scale, an airline siphon tube comes from the tank into one of two T's in the top. The holes for the T's were carefully drilled smaller to make for a press fit, then sealed on the inside with GE 100% silicone just to be sure. The inlet T has one end plugged with silicone so it really acts like an 'L'. Another tube attaches to the 'L' a runs down a corner under the dispersion plate to the center of the canister. The disperison plate is simply the top of the 2L Seachem Matrix jar drilled with holes. Over this goes a filter pad then the mixture of Seachem Matrix and Seachem De*Nitrate. The other T in the top center has the tube that connects to the Tom Aqua Lifter (3.5gph), then a small piece back into the tank. Very, very simple.
     
  3. fwiffo

    fwiffo AC Members

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  4. fermentedhiker

    fermentedhiker AC Members

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    Neat idea, although I probably would have skipped using the De-nitrate initially so that you could better evaluate how it works at nitrate reduction. Not that the De-nitrate won't help, but you will have trouble knowing if it was just that and has nothing to do with the filter or it's design.
     
  5. AbbeysDad

    AbbeysDad AC Members

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    Thanks! I just might get some Fluval Nitrate Remover to get my levels down so the bio-filter can handle.

    I had been using about 1.5 Liters of Matrix in a dedicated AquaClear 70 filter (set to low flow of 100gph~). Although it served as a very good bio-filter, it didn't seem to do much for nitrates. The lower flow, De*Nitrate and more product seemed to be worth a try. The DIY filter has 1 liter of Matrix and 2 liters of De*Nitrate. (Matrix and De*Nitrate are the same product, de*nitrate is just smaller and requires a lower flow for denitrification.

    It is my hope that with this filter and good tank/filter maintenance, if I can achieve and maintain very low nitrates, I will be able to do less frequent, lower volume water changes (even with my water) and still have a very balanced water chemistry. Along these lines, with reduced water change frequency/volume, I may periodically use activated carbon.
     
  6. AbbeysDad

    AbbeysDad AC Members

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    Btw, it is the macro pores in the Matrix/De*Nitrite that creates the platform for the anaerobic bacteria. Aerobic bacteria colonies exist on the surface using the oxygen, while anaerobic bacteria can colonize within the pores where little/no oxygen exists.
     
  7. SubRosa

    SubRosa Banned

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    How do you treat the water you drink? 60 ppm is 3x times the federal drinking water guidelines for nitrate.
     
  8. platytudes

    platytudes AC Members

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    I agree with Sub, sounds like maybe R/O might be a good investment...nitrates are not good for people, either. Do you have a shallow well, or runoff from agriculture in your area?

    Love your filter by the way! Such a simple design, and so clever :)
     
  9. fermentedhiker

    fermentedhiker AC Members

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    You're missing the point of my comment. If a nitrate reactor is designed properly the entire chamber(or nearly so) is anaerobic and so there isn't any need for special media. Anything with surface area will do. The fact that De-nitrate is designed to work anywhere in regular filters as your comment points out, means that you can't be sure if your reactor is creating the correct environment or if it's just that you have enough de-nitrate to do the job. I'm not saying it isn't a good choice for media, just that it makes it hard for you to evaluate the efficiency of your design.

    Either way I hope it works.
     
  10. AbbeysDad

    AbbeysDad AC Members

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    Thank-you! I did not know I had such high nitrates until recently...although it makes sense. My well is 110 feet deep, but across the road is 95 acres of a farmers field that gets organic and chemical fertilizer. As for drinking water, my wife became seriously ill over 25 years ago and although unrelated, as a precaution, we began having bottled water delivered...and have ever since.
     
  11. AbbeysDad

    AbbeysDad AC Members

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    I made no such comment...Per Seachem, De*Nitrate will only work for denitrification in filters with flow rates less than 50gph. There are very few filters with any real media capacity that have such a low flow rate.

    Commercial denitrators for my 60g cost anywhere from $280 to over $600. The efficiency of this DIY filter is the very low cost ! (well, presuming it works).
    Although many commercial denitrators use a drip flow rate to starve the chamber of oxygen, why not use an inexpensive media that facilitates the process better? I'd also suggest that the macro pores of the Matrix/De*Nitrate products creates an overall platform area that far exceeds many other medias.
    If necessary, I can slow the 3.5gph flow rate to reduce O2, but I shouldn't need to - I'm pumped that this will work.
     
  12. AbbeysDad

    AbbeysDad AC Members

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    I modified the dispersion plate, added more media and a filter pad up top.
     

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  13. zmkm

    zmkm AC Members

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    cool. but why do you need this?
     
  14. platytudes

    platytudes AC Members

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    To filter nitrate. His tap water is already higher than the ideal of less than 20 ppm.
     
  15. AbbeysDad

    AbbeysDad AC Members

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    I guess you didn't read the thread :-( Fish, fish waste, food and plant waste produces ammonia. Ammonia gets oxidized into nitrites and nitrites get oxidized into nitrates. If the cycle was to complete, the nitrates would be broken into nitrogen gas - hence the nitrogen cycle. Nitrates build up in the water and that's one of the biggest reasons for the weekly water change...to dilute the nitrates. Oh some would argue that we're also removing pheromones and other crud, but in fact these are also just nitrogenous compounds that break down into soluble organics.
    Anyway, as it turns out, I have very high nitrates in my well water. I can do a huge water change and not reduce the nitrates in the tank water. Now nitrates can be tolerated by most freshwater fish up to a point, but high nitrates negatively affects most fish in overall health and longevity - think of it as a water quality issue.
    Most agree that nitrates should be less than 40ppm, with 20ppm or less even better. My well water is about 60+ppm.

    The more conventional nitrate filter or reactor uses anaerobic bacteria to extract the oxygen molecule from the nitrate, harmlessly releasing nitrogen gas. Conventional nitrate reactors use a trickle flow to starve the filter chamber of oxygen. The aquarium water is very oxygenated. When it enters the filter, the oxygen is used up by aerobic nitrosomonas and nitrobacter bacteria to process ammonia and nitrites. As the water moves ever so slowly up the chamber into oxygen starved areas, anaerobic bacteria colonies exist and convert the nitrate into nitrogen gas that gets harmlessly expelled into the air.

    This DIY filter, uses the Seachem Matrix and De*Nitrate media to facilitate oxygen depleted regions without such a low flow. The media is very porous with macro and micro pores. Aerobic bacteria can colonize the surface and deplete the O2 while inner pores contain little O2 and anaerobic bacteria can thrive.

    It is my hope to manage nitrates at a very low level so I can reduce the volume and/or frequency of water changes to either use purchased water or my well water for more modest water changes and still have a very healthy water quality.
     
  16. Auburn.Tigers

    Auburn.Tigers AC Members

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    That's great, I hope it works well for you! I've made similar filters that were gravity fed so water moved down the column with the outflow at the base. Is there a biological benefit to having the water flowing the other way or does it work better with the equipment setup? Or perhaps both?


    Sent from my iPhone using MonsterAquariaNetwork app
     
  17. SubRosa

    SubRosa Banned

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    Nothing says country like the smell of "organic fertilizer" when the soil warms!
     
  18. AbbeysDad

    AbbeysDad AC Members

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    Well, it can be 'fresh'. Was bad enough in days of old with a conventional spreader. These days they use huge tanker trucks and spray the 'tea'. 'nuff to knock a buzzard off a $hit waggon!
     
  19. AbbeysDad

    AbbeysDad AC Members

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    There is no biological benefit in direction of flow. I have even read about DIY units that use 4" pvc pipe laying on it's side with inlet at one end and outlet at the other. I set this up quite like a commercial canister filter that uses a siphon to draw water to the bottom of the canister and pump out from the top. The only real advantage here is less head height to pump the water back to the top of the tank.
     
  20. Auburn.Tigers

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