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The SURF4x (TM) is the stronger-LED version of the SURF4, and has 12 LEDs instead of 8 as on the SURF4. These Xtra LEDs allow the SURF4x to grow green in water with higher nutrient levels over 0.2 ppm phosphate, where the lower-power SURF4 would grow dark or black instead. And in addition to growing green sooner in higher nutrient water, the SURF4x will grow more, faster, most of the time (the top layer of floating algae in the scrubber will generally be about 50% thicker than on the SURF4).
Other than the more powerful LED light (which also fits the larger SURF8), the SURF4x is identical to the SURF4. Simply lift up the LED lid and pull the algae out. And you can feed some of the algae to your fish and snails if you want to (fresh is best!)
The SURF4x starts with four bubble openings at the bottom, where upflowing air bubbles (from strong air pumps, sold separately) flow up into the growth compartment and bring aquarium water with it. As the bubbles and water enter the growth compartment they rub the algae-attachment ribbons and get blasted by the super-red 660nm LED light. The bubbles then circle around and around inside the growth compartment, rubbing against the ribbons and the Green Grabber super-rough rock-hard attachment textures as the bubbles rise up to the water surface. This repeated rubbing of bubbles causes algae to start growing on the ribbons and textures; freshwater grows thin stringy algae, and saltwater grows thicker, denser algae. The air then goes out of the top of the unit, quietly and with practically no salt spray, and the water goes down and out four holes in the bottom, without any bubbles remaining. The SURF4x growth compartment is one full inch deeper than the SURF2 or SURF2x (3" compared to 2"), which further keeps all bubbles at the top, and bubble-free water at the bottom, where the water exits.
A few features of the SURF4x provide real usefulness and are available on no other algae scrubber except the other SURF models. First, the enclosed growth compartment increases the dwell time of the water and bubbles inside the unit so that they rub the algae many times before leaving the compartment. This actually reduces nutrients (nitrate, phosphate) to a level lower than the outside water, which allows greener growth to occur sooner (lower nutrients grow greener algae) inside the unit, especially in high-nutrient aquarium water. In other words, the SURF4x creates a lower-nutrient ecosystem inside itself which is different from the rest of the outside water. Also, the position of the air bubble inlets (below the growth) causes the bubbles to flow through the growth no matter how thick the growth gets. This is in contrast to waterfall scrubbers which mostly flow water on the outside of the growth, leaving the inner layers of growth without flow.
Another feature which was highly requested was quiet operation. Since the SURF4x does not touch the aquarium glass or sump glass, and since it`s made of heavy material surrounded by foam, it is by far the quietest algae scrubber ever made; as a matter of fact it`s almost silent (the air pump is usually louder). The thick and heavy gauge plastic growth container is coated internally by even thicker and heavier Green Grabber textures, and is surrounded on the outside by 1" (2.5 cm) of closed cell polyethylene foam. This stops virtually all sound from going sideways. And the 3/4" (19 mm) thick LED lid is filled with super dense polyurethane, which absorbs more sound than a rigid structure would, and much more than a non-sealed structure would. Lastly, the path that air has to take to get out of the top requires the air to first go sideways towards the foam, and then upwards along the foam; this allows the foam to absorb any remaining sound exactly the way foam absorbs sound in a studio. So while you may hear very muffled bubbling if the filter were next to your bed at night, you will hear nothing if there is any other activity occurring in your house. And as growth fills the compartment, even more sound is absorbed.
Another great feature is the elimination of salt spray (for saltwater). Since the air must come up through the narrow space between the LED lid and the foam, all the salt spray remains in the growth compartment where it is washed away by the water. And if the top of the unit does ever need to be "washed", just push it under the water surface for a few seconds and let water flow over the top; no need to take it to the sink.
The SURF4x comes with dual power supplies, each one powering six LEDs (total of 12 LEDs). Not only does this provide backup, it allows you to start the scrubber with less light which sometimes helps growth start faster in low-nutrient water or new tanks, or after a really thorough cleaning.
Comes with 6 ft (180 cm) of quad vinyl airline, but requires a 4-outlet air pump, or two 2-outlet pumps, that can pump at least 10 total liters per minute (0.4 cfm), which small low-cost pumps cannot do. Pumps that say they can handle 20 or more airstones, or pumps with 4 tubing attachments instead of one, are best. You can have as much air as you like, however; 10 lpm per inlet (40 lpm total) is no problem, because the bubble rings which circle around the air inlets prevent large bubbles from escaping. It is the air bubbles which move water into the growth compartment and up the growth surfaces, and also supply carbon dioxide (CO2 in the air) to the surfaces, which allow algae to grow in the filter. The more bubbles, the thicker the algae can grow. Large bubbles even create openings in the algae for light to reach further down into the growth; thus reducing dark areas. The bubble rings also shield the bubbles from strong powerheads or flow that some sumps have, so that all the bubbles go up into the SURF4x.
The LED lid contains 12 red (660 nm) 3-watt LEDs, which are attached to an aluminum heat sink which is painted black to reduce heat; it does get warm. The LEDs will give the aquarium or sump a slight red color at night when the aquarium lights are off, but this will occur less as the SURF4x fills with growth. You will need to get a timer so you can run the LEDs for up to 22 hours per day (not 24). The LEDs never needs replacing.
The SURF4x will need to be cleaned ("harvested") every 7 to 14 days or when thick with growth. Just lift up the LED lid, grab a handful of algae, and pull it out. You can even feed some of the algae to your fish. You usually do not need to take anything apart, or take anything to your sink, once the growth get thick.
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