10 Tips to Prevent Biofouling on Water Quality Instruments

For most users, field servicing of water quality sensors is a significant part of their monitoring budgets. The Alliance for Coastal Technologies estimates that maintenance costs due to biofouling consume 50% of operational budgets. So a reduction in the number of field servicing trips can have a huge cost savings.

Using anti-fouling components is one of the best investments you can make to save money for your program.

Reducing the growth of biological organisms on your water monitoring instruments:

  • maintains the sensitivity and accuracy of your water quality sensors by reducing drift
  • reduces needed site visits to clean instruments
  • prolongs the life of the sensors and your investment
  • makes cleaning and maintaining equipment faster and easier

In productive, high-fouling waters (such as warm marine waters), a water quality instrument equipped with anti-fouling features will easily allow you to double your deployment times. Furthermore, at less fouling intense sites, an anti-fouling equipped sonde could allow you to triple or even quadruple your deployment times!

Anti Fouling Deployment Chart

Deployment times with and without anti-fouling

Anti-fouling components can consist of a variety of easy-to-use items. From something as simple as kitchen plastic wrap and duct tape to more sophisticated copper-alloy guards and wiping mechanisms.

Tip 1: Copper Tape

Most water quality probes have either plastic or metal housings. While copper-alloy housings offer some measure of biofouling protection, plastic and metal (non-copper) housings do not. You can apply excellent anti-fouling protection to these probes by wrapping the housings in copper tape in a two-step treatment.

Copper tape (YSI part #616189) has excellent anti-fouling properties and uses a very strong water resistant adhesive. However, if you apply copper tape directly to the probe, you could end up with a sticky mess later when the spent copper has to be removed. To prevent this from happening, first apply clear packing tape to the water quality sensors. The clear tape acts as a barrier and makes removal of the old copper tape much easier after deployment.Anti Fouling Copper Tape

Cut a 3-inch piece of packing tape and press it onto the sensor so it is as tight and bubble free as possible. Press out any air bubbles or wrinkles by rubbing the surface with the body of a permanent marker.

Next cover the sensors with the copper tape. Press on the tape so it is as tight and bubble-free as possible. Press out any air bubbles or wrinkles by rubbing the surface with the body of a permanent marker. For the conductivity-temperature sensor, use a sharp knife to remove the tape from around the vent holes on the side of the probe.

You can expect the copper tape treatment to last 2-6 months before needing to remove and reapply the tape.

(Special precautions apply if you have an fDOM sensor that is calibrated in Quinine Sulfate standard.)

Tip 2: C-Spray Solution

C-Spray is an environmentally safe, nanopolymer spray that keeps non-wiped surfaces slick and challenging for biofouling settlement. C-Spray is based on a solution used in many marine and boat applications to keep the growth of microorganisms and barnacles to a minimum.

Once the prepared sensors are installed on the sonde, apply a light coating of C-Spray Protective Solution on the sensor bulkhead, the sides of the probes and the probe nuts to make cleaning after deployment much easier.

  • Try NOT to spray the solution on the sensor optics (the top face of the sensors). If C-Spray is applied to the optics, then the optics will have to be buffed with a microfiber cloth to ensure optical clarity.
  • Do NOT apply C-Spray on the pH or DO probe faces and allow to dry. If applied, rinse with tap water within a few minutes of application.

Download 10 Tips Antifouling eBook


Additional Blog Posts of Interest:

Top 5 Challenges to Collecting Water Quality Data - Challenge 1

Trouble Collecting Data with Your Water Quality Sonde? Try This!

5 Easy Steps: Replacing the Optical DO Sensor Cap on YSI EXO Sondes

YSI Expert Tip 1 of 7 - Getting Your Sonde Ready for the Field Season


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