How to Determine if You Need a Calcium Reactor
Maintaining proper calcium and alkalinity levels in a reef aquarium is critical to the health and growth of your corals. Many beginning reefers use a two part supplement such as Brightwell Aquatics Reef Code A & B to maintain consistent levels. Another way to maintain consistent alkalinity and calcium levels is by using a calcium reactor. These can be a bit pricey to acquire and tricky to set up, so before you decide to buy a calcium reactor consider the following points to determine if you need a calcium reactor for your reef aquarium.
If you have a large reef aquarium and find yourself spending a lot of money on gallons of two part dosing supplements, using a calcium reactor instead may be a more economical solution. Sit down and do the math. Calculate how much you are spending over the course of a year on the two part manual dosing supplements, and how much it will cost for a calcium reactor, reactor media, CO2 tank, solenoid and regulator, and CO2 refills. The ongoing costs of maintaining a calcium reactor are in the CO2 refills and the reactor media, so project how much you will need over a year. If the cost of the reactor and refills is less than the cost of the two part supplements over a year's time, you are a prime candidate for a calcium reactor.
If you have a very busy work, social or family life outside of your reefing hobby that puts a strain on how much time you can devote to maintaining your reef tank, then you may want to consider setting up a calcium reactor. Remembering to dose all the supplements your reef demands can be difficult when you have so many other important things in your life that require your time. Be sure you reef doesn't suffer and keep your calcium and alkalinity stable by setting up a calcium reactor. It's one less thing you'll need to worry about and your corals will benefit greatly from the consistent dosing.
Another warning flag that may indicate that it's time to set up a calcium reactor, is if your calcium and alkalinity levels are constantly in flux. Stability is key to a successful reef, and your calcium and alkalinity levels are two of the most critical components of a healthy reef, especially considering how the two parameters affect each other and the corals' ability to utilize calcium effectively. If your tank experiences fluctuations of calcium and alkalinity on a regular basis, you should probably set up a calcium rector to help stabilize these two important parameters.
Lastly, if you find that you are experiencing great success with your reef and are enjoying tremendous growth, you should probably consider switching to calcium reactor. Given the proper conditions, corals can grow rapidly and their demand for calcium will grow as well. Setting up a calcium reactor will help you keep pace with your corals growth ensuring that they get a constant supply of the good stuff they need to keep getting bigger! This is especially true if you start fragging your excess corals and want to keep your trimmed corals healthy and growing back fast.
Setting up a calcium reactor can see like a costly and confusing endeavor. However the long term benefits to your corals, and the time and money you save once you have your reactor set up and the parameters dialed in, will probably outweigh the hassles if you meet any one or more of the criteria mentioned above.