Upflow Algae Scrubber®
Floating Surface Upflow Algae Scrubber®
with Green Grabber® surfaces, and strings for saltwater
"It Floats Like A Boat!" (TM)
Eliminate water changes. Remove nuisance algae, nitrate and phosphate. Cultivate seaweed for feeding.
Click the "image gallery" button above for more pics
Ten cleanings (harvests) of the SURF4 in four months:
Reef2Reef review of the SURF4:
Ten more cleanings in three more months, with more air:
Sixth 10 days of growth of the SURF4:
Second 12 days of growth of the SURF4:
First 17 days of growth of the SURF4:
Video overview of the SURF4:
Unboxing and installation of the SURF4:
Videos of the smaller but similar SURF2:
First five cleanings in saltwater:
Next eight cleanings in saltwater:
First harvest at 13 days in saltwater:
SURF4 dimensions: 8" wide by 10" long by 4" thick (20 cm wide, 25 cm long, 10 cm thick).
Operates on both 120 and 240V. Can be shipped to any country; you can find shipping costs by putting the item into the shopping cart; be sure to click "display rates"
Get the no-overflow advantage of an upflow scrubber: since it is ALL underwater, it can't overflow onto your floor. And now the LED light is coated with an extremely tough black epoxy to maximize protection from water, salt, and physical damage.
Finally an aquarium or pond filter that offers drop-in installation, reduction or elimination of water changes and nuisance algae, along with almost no-light and almost no-sound, and possibly most important, one-handed cleaning with no disassembly required. It operates the way the oceans and lakes do, using algae to do all the filtering, and truly can replace all other filters in your aquarium or pond.
The SURF4 (TM) is the larger version of the SURF2, which was the world's first floating surface Upflow Algae Scrubber® (also called a UAS®). It is also a Ribbon Scrubber®, which is what allows the algae to be removed from the scrubber with one hand without needing to disassemble anything or take anything to the sink. Simply lift up the 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!)
This SURF4 floating surface scrubber has over 48 square inches (300 square cm) of extremely rough Green Grabber® algal growth surface which can grow up to a 2" (5 cm) thick block of green hair algae. This is about four small handfuls, and is designed to absorb the nutrients from this much feeding per day:
4 Frozen cubes, or
40 Pinches of flake, or
40 Square inches (250 square cm) of nori, or
11 grams of pellets
The physical size or number of gallons or liters of water in your tank, sump or pond does not matter. If you feed more than the above amounts, you can get multiple SURF4 units; multiple units are preferred over one larger unit because you can clean one unit per week, and because you'll always have one unit filtering while the other one starts growing again after a cleaning. Multiple SURF4 units are also good for backup.
Click the "image gallery" button above for more pics, or click here:
The SURF4 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 or pond 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 SURF4 growth compartment is one full inch deeper than the SURF2 (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 SURF4 provide real usefulness and are available on no other algae scrubber except the SURF2. 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 or pond water. In other words, the SURF4 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 SURF4 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 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.
Bubble removal is probably the most-requested feature. Any and all algae scrubbers, whether they are upflow, waterfall or horizontal rivers, all have bubbles which must be removed. The internal growth compartment of the SURF4 keeps bubbles inside the almost 3" deep internal water level, only letting water out of the four small holes at the bottom after the air has escaped out the top. Thus, no bubbles get into the aquarium, sump or pond water; only a little red light, which gets less as growth gets thicker.
The Green Grabber algal growth attachment surface is so rough and prickly that is might be the roughest thing you've ever felt. A cactus might be sharper, but that's about it. Rough surfaces are critical for allowing algae to attach and grow and thus provide strong absorption of nutrients. The rock-hard protrusions stick straight out 1 to 3 mm. Previous algae scrubber screens were made from "slippery" plastic canvas that is used for sewing and knitting; algae take a long time to attach to it. Green Grabber growth surfaces are not plastic at all; instead they are rock hard and have jagged rough edges and points (don't let children play with them). Green Grabber surfaces are so good at grabbing algae and letting it grow, that if you have high nitrate and phosphate you may start seeing tiny growth spots within hours instead of days. And the white color of the Green-Grabber surface reflects as much light as possible, allowing lots of light to reflect back to the algae.
The main advantage of the SURF4 or any algae scrubber is that if you size and operate it properly, it can be the only filter for your pond or tank, even replacing waterchanges. It can, however, also be used with other filters. Some other filters such as carbon dosing (Zeo, pellets, etc) may slow down the scrubber, but nothing will really "hurt" the scrubber except possibly large amounts of algaecide or copper medications. The SURF4 cannot even dry out, since it's always under water.
The SURF4 comes with dual power supplies, each one powering four LEDs (total of 8 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.
The SURF4 will run on both 120V and 240V, and each power supply comes with a 10 ft (300 cm) power cord with a U.S. plug. If you require a different plug you can get two adapters at any local hardware or travel store, or online, or you can cut off the U.S. plugs and install your own plugs from a hardware store. They are simple 2-wire plugs.
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 SURF4.
One powerful air pump which works exceptionally well for a low cost is the Fusion 700 from JW Pet, which we sell separately HERE
. It is quiet and has two outputs which are adjustable by turning the control knob; the two outputs perfectly match two of the air inlets on the SURF4, and thus you will need two of these pumps for the four inlets. Another even more powerful and completely silent pump, although more expensive and without a control, is the Whisper 300 from Tetra, which has 2 outlets, thus requiring 2 pumps. Possibly an easier solution is a large capacity multi-outlet pump like the Coralife Super Luft SL-38, which has 4 adjustable outlets built in, and makes plenty of air, but is relatively noisy (it also gets warm enough that you can feel the heat when you walk by it). Make sure to put any pump above the aquarium so that it will not drain any water if it shuts off.
If you are planning on multiple SURF4 units, the pump to get is the HAILEA air pump in the smaller model ACO-9720 which is 25 watts and 30 liters per minute (for two SURF4 units), or the larger model ACO-9730 which is 50 watts and 60 liters per minute (for four SURF4 units). These pumps are completely waterproof, solid metal, and very silent (as silent as the Fusion 700) so that you will only hear the scrubber working, not the pump. However they are large (the size of a soccer ball), and heavy (8 or 12 pounds; 4 or 6 kg), and they use lots of thick rubber inside which gives a "new tires" smell for a few weeks. They are available in either 120 volt or 240 volt versions, and are easily found online; the 120 volt USA version is available here:
The LED lid contains 8 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 pond, aquarium or sump a slight red color at night when the aquarium lights are off, but this will occur less as the SURF4 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 SURF4 will need to be cleaned ("harvested") every 7 to 21 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.
The SURF4 comes with a 6 month warranty: Warranty is for replacement or repair only; not a refund. Costs for shipping back to us are covered if you are in the U.S. Costs for shipping back to us are not covered if you are not in the U.S., however we will pay for shipping back to you. In either case, you will need to ship the entire unit back to us before we can ship a replacement. Warranty is limited to repair or replacement, and does not cover fish loss, personal injury, property loss, or direct, incidental or consequential damage arising from the use of it. The warranty and remedies set forth above are exclusive and in lieu of all others, whether oral or written, express or implied. We specifically disclaim any and all implied warranties, including but not limited to lost profits, downtime, goodwill, damage to or replacement of other equipment and property, and any costs of recovering animals, plants, tanks or other aquarium related items and/or equipment. We are not responsible for special, incidental, or consequential damages resulting from any breach of warranty, or replacement of equipment or property, or any costs of recovering or reproducing any equipment, animals or plants used or grown with this product.
Can be shipped to any country; you can find shipping costs by using the shopping cart; be sure to click "display rates". If you don't have a zip code, enter "zip code" instead. Note that shipping outside of the USA will probably require you to also pay an import charge when it arrives. We cannot mark it as "gift". The lowest cost overseas shipping is generally USPS Priority Mail International. The size of the shipping box is 12 x 9 x 6 inches, (30 x 23 x 15 cm).
SURF4 size: 8" wide by 10" long by 4" thick (20 cm wide, 25 cm long, 10 cm thick). It requires at least 4" (10 cm) of water to operate in.
"SURF4 is very well put together, and it's almost silent (my overflows are actually louder)". -- Unknown
"There are many types of filters available for aquariums, but none are as natural as algae scrubbers. They can even serve as auto-feeders of fresh algae for the fish. Here is the SURF4 I just started; when the lid is on, it's almost completely silent" -- Mdbannister on the R2R site:
"I'm getting good results from my SURF4 and HOG3.. It's bringing my phosphate down and starting to get some decent hair algae my tangs love" -- Dane Wilcox
"WOW! 173grams. Two weeks growth [on the SURF4]. We LOVE it! The growth rate of the chaeto in our refugium had been steadily decreasing over the past six weeks or so. Yesterday, it became obvious that the chaeto had started to melt/die-off and needed to be removed from the system" -- Mike&Terry on the R2R site:
"Has been up and running now for a few weeks [SURF4] and seems to be working pretty good took awhile to get the growth growing but now it is working really good." -- Jeff D. Battilocchi on Amazon
"I love how my four SURF4 units are constructed" -- Tim Caldwell
"Happy to report that the SURF4 is growing lots of hair algae" -- Kidtango on the R2R site
"Currently I have two algae scrubbers that I purchased from Santa Monica. SURF2 and SURF4. SURF2 is powered by Fusion 700 and SURF4 is powered by Coralife Super Luft SL-38. I can grow significant amount of algae in both" -- T.C. pic of SURF4:
Growth from Reef4Life on the scrubber site:
"Big fan of SM Algae Scrubbers. Loving my SURF4" -- Kidtango on the R2R site.
"The SURF4 is working great! It is growing well now and has made a huge change for the good in my aquarium. I will definitely be purchasing from you guys again when I upgrade my tank" -- Laura Jans