An Easy DIY Aptasia Burner
by, 01-26-2010 at 05:42 PM (8206 Views)
First, I'll start off with a small disclaimer - I did not create this idea on my own. It was an idea I elaborated on to suit my own needs. This tool is something plugged into your household outlet and put into your fish tank with open ended wires allowing electricity to pass through the water. I cant be held responsible for any injury to yourself or your livestock. Use at your own risk. With that said. Ive used this on several large reef tanks including one of the premier Seattle area LFS's display tank.
Now a little history followed by step by step instructions to build one for yourself. If you're brave enough.
Last summer a fellow reefer was being plagued by majano anenome's and started hunting the web for solutions to rid herself of the problem. She stumbled across a thread where someone had documented their own trials and tribulations while trying to rid themselves of the majano plague. The most successful, lowest impact solution was a device consisting of a doorbell, door bell wiring and a twelve volt flashlight battery. My friend bought all the components, built one of the devices and then showed it to me. I used the tool and thought it was creative, but extremely awkward to use and lacking in the power needed to be effective without standing at my tank for an hour killing only a few aptasia. Also, when the battery died, a person would have to go buy another one.
Being skilled in residential electrical work, I immediately thought of a sixteen volt doorbell ballast. I went home and thought about it a little more, wondering if the extra voltage would harm my fish or corals. I had to try to see if it would work. Later that week, while my family was out of the house, I went to work removing the ballast from the ceiling of the hall closet and taking the brass doorbell off the front of the house. Fortunately, I had a coil of small guage wire left over from a garage door installation laying around, so my experiment wasn't going to cost a dime. Or so I hoped...if my experimental tool electrocuted my tank, it could potentially cost thousands of dollars in livestock losses. I was even further concerned when I looked closely at the ballast and realized it produces ten amps at sixteen volts. My high school science teacher taught us it's not necessarily the volts that kill, but the amps. I surely wasnt going to stick this in my sytem and flip the switch.
I thought about my system for a minute and realized that I could isolate my refugium by turning off the return pump and removing the overflow pipe. Within a few minutes, I had the refugium isolated, the tool built, and I was ready to test it out. I stuck the prongs into a cluster of aptasia, pushed the button and to my surprise, only the anenome being physically electrocuted reacted badly; it shrank up to a small ball and slowly started to dissolve. Every aptasia surrounding the victim was unaffected. I tried it several more times in the refugium and then feeling more confident in the tool's safety, I put the refugium back on line. I decided to test more for stray voltage before taking it into my display tank. I continued zapping aptasia in the refugium and after each zap, I stopped and checked my fish and corals for abnormal behavior. Everything was fine, so I decided it was time to kill some pesky aptasias and the one majano in my display tank.
As I zapped away, I realized I was starting to have fun pushing the button and electrocuting the pests that have plagued me for so long. This tool was so effective for me, I tried it on some wild mushrooms with great success. Then the pocillopora babies that were growing all over the tank under all of my colonies came under attack. Much to my suprise, only the branch of SPS coral that the wires were touching would retract polyps as it was being electrocuted. I realized that it wasn'tnecessarily the electricity killing the corals, but more the heat generated from it passing through the flesh and water between the wires. The last thing I tested on the first day was a large, agressive, encrusting montipora that was overtaking another montipora and several acroporas. I was able to burn back the growth edges without the whole colony ever fully reacting. My adapted invention was working!
But there was one very valuable lesson I learned that day... sixteen volts at ten amps doesnt feel good when its electrocuting you.Not necessarily deadly, but why take a chance? Having so much fun, I became careless and ended up getting both hands wet. Remember, I said I had a brass doorbell from the front door. I also didn't have my new invention plugged into a GFCI outlet. One good buzz from my contraption and I knew I needed to fool proof it before I could show it to my friends, so I made some PVC isolators that you'll see in the pictures which follow.
First, gather the supplies needed.
A door bell ballast, plastic doorbell, doorbell wire (18 guage wire), wire nuts, grounded electrical cord, electrical tape, metal coat hanger, two six inch lengths of 1/2" PVC pipe and one end cap. (Not all supplies shown)
Next, use the wire nuts to attach the grounded cord to the ballast, match the colored wires to each other and twist them together with the wire nuts. Then strip the doorbell wire about 3/8 of an inch. Use the screws on the ballast to attach the wire. I covered the wire nuts with tape to help keep them from being pulled apart.
The next step will require tools to make the PVC handles to protect yourself from the copper wires. I used my belt sander to cut the side off the pipe so the door bell switch is hidden in a durable sleeve. A dremel will work just as well. I had to use some scrap acrylic to keep myself from pushing the switch apart inside it. Slide the sleeve over the free end of the wire leaving about six feet out of one end for the burner assembly. Splice the wire as shown in the picture, use the acrylic backing for the switch and slide the switch inside.
Then build the burner handle. This is as easy as drilling two 1/8 inch holes in the end cap. Slide the other piece of PVC over the wire. Feed the wire wire through one hole and the coat hanger into the other. Put the end cap onto the pipe and you have a handle. Then tape the wire to the coat hanger with electrical tape leaving about an inch of wire hanging past the hanger.
This leads us to the last two steps - baring the wires and killing aptasia anenomes.
Here is a picture of my finished product and a carry case made from two inch scrap parts. The case is handy for lending it to friends.
I find that I have to literally burn the aptasias to a pulp. When its foot is a glob of pulp floating away, or sticking to the wires I know it will not regrow. As with any pest removal remedy for our reef tanks. The burner has its place in my routine. I do still occasionally mix up a kalk paste for killing aptasia, but not very often. Just recently, I was able to kill a small anenome living inside of a large SPS colony. I never would have risked putting a kalk paste into the middle of a colony but the small wires fit right in and the pest was gone in no time.