|Sheet of glass||$5|
|2 light fixtures||$18|
6 light bulbs
Our set up is perfectly designed to build a very effective up-flow algae scrubber. This is easy to build, and costs almost nothing. We built ours for less than $20. It required us to purchase two vanity light fixtures at $9 each (3 bulbs each) and at Michaels craft store we purchased a screen for $1.
This set up is simple, inexpensive, easy to build, and WORKS!
The most complicated part of this device is putting a glass dividing wall into the sump tank to create a compartment. This dividing wall must be the width of your sump, and about 2" shorter than the top of the tank. We need a compartment that is about 2-3" wide. Narrower is better, but we have to fit our water pipe in that drains from our display tanks.
We already have the water coming into our tank through a pipe. All we need to do is have that pipe run to the bottom of our sump tank compartment, instead of dropping it in at the top. We then add a 90 degree elbow, and run across the bottom of the compartment. This cross piece will be drilled or cut with multiple holes to allow the water to flow out along it's length. Do not plug the end of the pipe, or place it against the side of the tank. It should have at least an inch of clearance. This will allow larger flows of water to flow unrestricted when the dump tank creates surges, without causing back pressure or restrictions in the pipe.
We first start by roughing the surface of the plastic screen with a coarse sand paper. This provides a surface that algae will be able to grip to to grow. This screen is now placed into our compartment and fastened in. It can be fastened down by several methods. You could build a small frame out of thin plastic pipes and use zip-ties to attach it, then just place the frame into the water and place something above to keep it submerged. We went even simpler. Our screen is about an inch too long to stand vertically in this compartment, and so we curve it slightly with the top end tucked under the lip of the aquarium. It's so simple it's stupidly brilliant.
Now we need to add our lighting. An algae scrubber needs massive amounts of lighting. Our unit uses 6 bulbs that are 23 watt compact fluorescent (curly bulbs that replaced the old standard lights). That is a total of 168 watts of fluorescent lighting and the equivalent of over 600 watts of standard bulbs, it's a lot of light. This is why we have a cabinet for our aquarium, or place our sump in some hidden area of the house. This amount of light is required, as we need to encourage the algae to grow, and grow fast.
The lights should be on a timer, as the algae needs a period of light, and a period of dark. An excellent timer device is the CORALIFE AQUALIGHT DIGITAL POWER CENTER as it has day and night settings. When the day time ends, the night lights come on. This is where you connect the lights for your UAS.
If you are using a computerized control system, then simply program one outlet to come on at night and off in the morning, using the same time schedule as your display tank lights.
Now inspect your UAS screen on a weekly basis, and clean it when it is getting too clogged. No need to wipe off every strand that appears as it grows. The purpose is to grow algae here, so let it do that. Remove excess as required, but leave a little growing to re-start your next batch.