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calcium reactors
aquarium water
saltwater aquarium
calcium carbonate
reef aquariums
Calcium Reactors In A Saltwater Aquarium
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Aquariums do not maintain a healthy chemical balance in a confined, unnatural environment. Although your aquarium may seem to mimic a natural habitat, it takes care on your part to help maintain a healthy balance. There are many mechanical devices, chemicals and tools to help ensure that your saltwater aquarium can grow and flourish. It is important to decide on the type of environment you wish to keep and understand the needs each one will require. One important device to consider is a calcium reactor with a carbon dioxide injector.

What is a Calcium Reactor?

A calcium reactor is a container that is filled with calcium carbonate (CaCO3) media and is used to help balance the alkalinity levels of an aquarium. Aquarium water passes over the calcium carbonate media while carbon dioxide is injected into the chamber. This produces a carbonic acid solution which dissolves the calcium and lowers the pH, making it acidic while dissolving the calcium carbonate. The water is then returned to the aquarium where the calcium can be used by the coral to aid in building skeletons. The object is to dissolve the calcium to provide bicarbonates and calcium at the same rate that is consumed during calcification. It is primarily used in reef aquariums to help corals grow.

Required Equipment

Very few calcium reactor kits come with all the equipment you will need straight out of the box, so it is important that you know what you will need and select your reactor accordingly. Each element will be discussed in more detail here.

Each calcium reactor should consist of the container to hold the calcium carbonate media, a recirculating pump, and an input for the carbon dioxide. Some reactors will come with a bubble counter. If the one you select does not, it is recommended that one be purchased.

The calcium carbonate, or media, is placed in the reactor container. Most calcium reactor sets do not come with the media, so it will need to be purchased separately. The most important thing to consider when selecting your media is the pH level that is required to dissolve the media. For an average aquarium, a pH of around 7.7 or less is required inside the reactor for it to begin to dissolve.

The recirculating pump is required to supply the calcium reactor with water as well as return water to the aquarium. The recirculating pump pulls water from the aquarium, moves it over the calcium carbonate media and returns it to the aquarium.

A pressurized carbon dioxide container is required for a calcium reactor to work properly. This container will be kept within your living quarters, so it is advisable that you take a few safety precautions to protect yourself. First, each time you have the CO container filled, ask that they inspect the container for structural integrity. Secondly, because you will be living around this container, make sure it is secured in a safety cage or use safety straps. In the event that the container should get knocked over and the collar is broken off, the container will take off like a rocket and can cause serious damage to you, your family and your home. Thirdly, carbon dioxide is a colorless and odorless gas that can cause you to asphyxiate. Open windows when you are working with the tank in case of a gas leak. Finally, do not place your carbon dioxide container near a heat source. High heat, such as heat from a radiator, can cause the container to explode. If you are apprehensive about setting up the reactor, contact a company that can come set up everything for you. You may be able to get a recommendation from your aquarium supply store.

Calcium reactors are an essential part of an aquarium set up that will contain coral. It is important to consider all the specifications of each available reactor and make your decision based on aquarium needs and the amount of maintenance you are willing to put in. Calcium reactors can be tricky and it can take some time to get the pH levels stabilized. However, with a little research and patience, your aquarium will be successful.


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