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FAQs on Calcium and Alkalinity in Seawater 2

Related Articles: Calcium and Alkalinity Explained, Calcium, Biominerals, The Use of Kalkwasser by Russell Schultz, Calcium Reactors, Marine Maintenance, Marine Water Quality, Magnesium in Seawater, Strontium in Seawater, pH, Alkalinity, Marine AlkalinityLive Sand, Marine SubstratesReef Systems, Refugiums

Related FAQs: Ca/Alk 1, Ca/Alk 3, & FAQs on: The Science of Calcium & Alkalinity, Importance, Measure, Sources, Use of AdditivesTroubleshooting/Fixing, Products, & Calcium, FAQs 2, Calcium FAQs 3, Calcium FAQs 4, Calcium Reactors, & FAQs on Calcium Reactors: Rationale/Use, Selection, Installation, Operation, Media, Measuring, Trouble-Shooting, By Makes/Models, & pH, Alkalinity, Marine Alkalinity, Marine Alkalinity 2, Marine Alkalinity 3Marine Supplements 1,

Balancing Calcium and Alkalinity 5/21/05 Believe it or not, I've actually read that article several times.. I think what you're trying to say is as long as you have a balance between Alkalinity and calcium, it shouldn't be a problem. So in my situation, I'm going to have to slowly drop Alkalinity to the desired range (8-12dKH), and then maintain both calcium and alkalinity, right? <Yes, true... all changes should be slow. Yet I wonder/fear you may engage in a see-saw regime of supplementation that many folks do when trying to cure an imbalance. In most cases (this one indeed) I usually recommend an even-keeled sea salt like Instant Ocean and large water changes several over a couple weeks) to dilute the imbalance and return you to par. kindly, Anthony>

EVS 2-Part Solution Alk/Cal Hello Crew,  <Hello Steve> A few weeks back a reader of your website asked the crew if you could use just 1 part of the EVS solution. Their situation was that they needed to raise their calcium, a crew member did not know the answer so they diligently emailed EVS and they stated they never received a response from EVS at that point in time. I read your website just about everyday and I never saw a response.  On 04/24/05 I emailed EVS because this is my situation, Cal 470, Alk 7.2, PH 8.2, and I want to raise my Alk, I never received a response, did you guys?  "Dear EVS, When using your 2 part buffer system can you use just 1 of the solutions. Example: my calcium is at 470 and my alkalinity is at 7.2 can I just use part 1 to raise my alkalinity? Also if the situations were reversed and I wanted to just raise my calcium could I just use part 2? Thank you for your time in advance. Thanks Steve" <Not to my knowledge. With customer service like that, I wouldn't be using their products to start with.>  I have purchased this product and I don't know if I can use it in this application. Any good products that you can suggest for just raising just my Alk, but really I just want an answer from EVS. Copy of orig. message below.  <Steve, I see no problem just using the alkalinity booster. I really dislike the two part supplements for the very reason you are stating. I've tried those once and was in the same boat you're in. Most of the two part supplements have to be purchased in two parts even though you have much left of the other part.  Much better to use products like SeaChem or Kent Marine. These companies DO respond to their customers. James (Salty Dog)>  Thanks Steve 

Re: Fw: B-Ionic Calcium Buffer System Dear Crew, I did get an answer..... Steve <Ahh, thank you for sharing. Will post. Bob Fenner> In a message dated 4/24/2005 " Dear EVS,  When using your 2 part buffer system can you use just 1 of the solutions. Example: my calcium is at 425 and my alkalinity is at 7.2 can I just use part 1 to raise my alkalinity? Also if the situations were reversed and I wanted to just raise my calcium could I just use part 2? Thank you for your time in advance. Steve" Steve, Sorry for this late reply. No problem using more of one component than the other in order to tweak the chemistry back in balance. Be careful with the component 1 (alkalinity) in that you don't exceed 1 ml/per gallon per day and/or allow the pH to exceed 8.45. Best Regards, Bob Stark (ESV)

Kalk and Lighting Hi! its me again, I would just like to know if the effect of a 1 tsp and a 1/4 tsp of calcium hydroxide on a 1 gallon of RO water will have the same effect on the pH? <Ah! Worth trying to see, eh?> For example, both will increase my pH by .1 - .2 . My pH is at 8.1-8.2 , and I want to increase the pH to 8.3-8.5 but at the same time minimize the amount of calcium introduced to the tank because I only have 4 stony LPS corals at the moment namely Elegance, Hammer, Open Brain and Pineapple brain and some zoanthids. I'm keeping my calcium at 350 mg/L.  My lighting is 3 40W 6500K daylight and 3 Marine Glo blue fluorescent lamp which says that it simulates deep sea light and it does a great job in bringing out the fluorescent pigments of the corals. What are your comments in regards to the Marine Glo fluorescent lamp? <They are puny in the intensity, quality of light produced> Because initially I was thinking of buying an Actinic 03 lamp but I ended up buying Marine Glo but no regrets so far. Which is better? And as always, thank you very much. <Keep reading my friend. And take care not to elevate the water's pH more than about a tenth of a point a week... using pre-mixed, adjusted water. Bob Fenner>

B-ionic supplement Good evening (or rather morning) crew.  As always, you guys are second to none!  My tank is only 4.5 months old........slowly getting things in place.   I've learned not to rush anything.  I've been meaning to raise my calcium levels up over 400ppm so I can begin adding corals and such.  I've read many a good thing pertaining to ESV's B-Ionic two part calcium supplement.  My calcium is in the 330ppm range and my alkalinity is 11dKH.  With regards to the two part system, do I need to add both the alkalinity and calcium parts in tandem with each other to effectively raise my calcium?  Haven't found anything in the FAQ sections about this. I wouldn't want to add both, just to see my alkalinity skyrocket.<Eric, that's exactly what I don't like about the two part supplements.  I've used this before and I've found I rarely used the alk supplement.  Bad thing is you have to buy A & B, unless that has changed.  My favorite is SeaChem's Reef Advantage Calcium (dry form).  I emailed ESV specifically about this, but have not heard back (gee, I thought the customer was supposed to be important!).  I have not yet started to add anything as of yet.  Thank you for any thoughts or suggestions. <You're welcome, Eric.  James (Salty Dog)> Always appreciative, Eric Alkalinity/Calcium reactor Hello guys. I have a bit of a confusing situation (at least for me). My tank has been set up for three months, with a Knop-C calcium reactor from the start. I had ARM media in it for the first 6-7 weeks. Without dosing anything additional to the reactor, calcium was fine between 400-450ppm but alkalinity always remained low at 6-7 dKH. I tried several things including drip rate, bubble rate, etc but it was impossible for me to increase alkalinity and calcium started to drop to the 320-340 range. I decided to buffer the water with Coral Builder (just alkalinity booster) and occasionally got the dKH to 8, but in general it remained at 6-7. I read the FAQs and discovered that some people recommend Korallith Media over ARM because of its consistency, so about 4 weeks ago, I switched media to the one Knop recommends. After much testing my calcium remains at 340 and my alkalinity (without Coral Builder) remains at 6-7. My effluent is roughly 15-17 liters per day, with a 20 bubble count per minute, at dKH of 17/18 and a pH of 6.8-6.9.  What's really weird is that the calcium of my effluent is only 260 so I can only assume that some interaction of calcium between CaCO3 and Ca is going on here and later it gets converted to calcium in the tank and hence I am losing alkalinity but calcium is stable at 340.  My tank is 120 gal, full of live rock with coralline algae growing in the walls, especially on plastic and acrylic surfaces, less on glass, 5 medium SPS, 4 medium LPS, and a couple of mushrooms and zoanthids, Remora skimmer, EV-120 skimmer, carbon, ozone (ORP @300-350), Carlson surge device, PO4 zero, NO3 zero, Si 0.25ppm, 400w 10,000 plus 175w 20,000, Iodine at 0.06-0.08ppm. My current course of action is to dose buffer everyday (as per the manufacturers recommendations) until I get a dKH of ~10 while at the same time raising my drip rate of the effluent so I can lower its alkalinity and hopefully convert some of the reactor alkalinity into calcium and get the effluent dKH to 15/16 and raising calcium. Do you think this is the right way to go, or is there something I am not seeing or understanding clearly? I am worried that once I get to a dKH of 10, it will drop back down if I stop buffering. The reactor should keep this up for me, shouldn't it? As well as calcium? Do you have any ideas on why my calcium levels an d alkalinity are declining so rapidly? Do I need a bigger reactor, maybe the Knop S-IV? Thanks for all your help, it is greatly appreciated. <You're welcome>  Cheers, Franz <Franz, I'm thinking the CO2 level is too high. CO2 will dramatically lower ph and alkalinity. Check on that, otherwise I would get in contact with Knop as they would know more than anyone about their reactors. James (Salty Dog)>

Calcium/Alkalinity, Salt Brand Switching Hi all. After reading your site I'm afraid I might have made a mistake in switching my salt mix to Oceanic's. Both calcium (620 ppm) and alkalinity (10.2 dKH) levels are now considerably higher than normal ranges. Not knowing the mix could be the problem, I stopped dosing calcium supplements and began a series of water changes which has not worked. Seeing as I bought my mix in bulk, I am curious if there is any way to lower the calcium, alkalinity while using the Oceanic salt mix or should I just toss it? Also, could the high ranges have caused the death of my sea colt? Many thanks for the site. It has taught me greatly! <Scott, changing the salt mix should not have caused any problems, certainly not the loss of your sea colt. I'm guessing you were adding more calcium than the system needed. There is no way of lowering calcium levels outside of water changes. Your alkalinity is not high. Normal ranges we look for are between 8-12dkh. Discontinue the calcium additive until your calcium level returns to normal (375-425mg/l). James (Salty Dog)> 

High Ca/Alk In New Tank Hello WWM crew,  <Good Morning> I have question. I just set up my tank a month and a half ago, I have 55 gal with aragonite sand 3 .5 inches thick, use Oceanic salt, and DI water. I do not add any chemical additives (as in trace elements). There was a similar post like this but the person added additives which I haven't. Anyways, my pH is 8.1, Ca is 520 ppm, and alkalinity is 6.4 meq/L or about 18dkH. What could be causing the high Ca and Alkalinity? Is this detrimental to my system? I don't have any corals in there but would like to. Right now I only have live Fiji rock and a few fishes, about 70lbs of rock. Can I start adding or should I lower these numbers first? Please help, thanks!  <I'm thinking you're reading the residual of the new aragonite in the system. It's not dangerous, if you want to add some corals, feel free. I'm sure a couple weeks down the road your readings will drop. James (Salty Dog)> 

Calcium and ALK problems 3/11/05 Hello Bob, <Anthony Calfo in his stead> You have been a great help to me in my marine aquarium endeavors. Anyways I had a question about high alkalinity and Ca levels. My tank is 1.5 months old a 55 gallon, using Oceanic salt... <yikes... trouble with this brand of salt... do see the high number of complaints with ALK and this salt on the big message boards like ReefCentral if nowhere else> ...aragonite sand 3.5 in. The reading for alkalinity is 6.4mq/L and Ca is 520ppm, pH is 8.0. Why are my alkalinity and Ca so high. I do not use any other supplements (Ca additives) and I used DI water. Please help. Thanks--Saurav <do test the quality (Ca and ALK) of your source water and what this adds to the final product water after salting. You may need to soften or partially demineralize your source water if it is very hard... or use a more compatible brand of sea salt for your source water. Also read the article "understanding calcium and alkalinity" in our archives (do a keyword search for it from the index page at wetwebmedia.com - best regards, Anthony> 

Calcium and carbonate hardness Hi Guys.. (No gender bias intended) <None taken> Man what a great site. I've been doing this long enough to remember the only good source of info being printed materials like Moe's Marine Aquarium Handbook, and college textbooks on marine biology, not that they weren't, and still are, a great source of info. It's almost mind-blowing the amount of good (as well as useless) info out there now, and its great to have such a knowledgeable and respected staff to sort through the bull%#$@ or fish poop as it may be. <Ha!> I work at a local mom and pop LFS part time, and doing some aquarium maintenance service. I've been working on and off for the last 15 years or so in the fish trade starting as a employee at a pet store in New Mexico while I was going to college there, still the best job I ever had and was lucky to start out at a place where there were so many knowledgeable people who cared about the hobby, just wish there was more money in it :) Anyway, I'm rambling and haven't even asked my question. <I understand... had/have a similar background> The query involves a problem I'm (as well as a few customers of mine are having) with KH and CA concentrations (I know I know don't fall asleep yet). Just wanted you to know that I have a pretty firm grasp of the fundamentals, although I'm constantly amazed by what I don't know, and I have perused the previous posts pretty thoroughly, but I'm still stuck. The Issues are dangerously high calcium, 650ppm and up depending on the test kit, (and I have tried several) accompanied by a higher than normal K. I know this is next to impossible as the only issues I've had in the past entailed proactive measures to keep CA and KH up to reasonable levels. This is not; however, an isolated event as I have seen this problem several times, and all without some kind of precipitation event AKA "snowstorm". With my customers I have always assumed it was due to blindly dosing with 2 part buffers and not testing for results until too late. <Commonly this is so> I always recommend the cessation of any additive as well as a series of water changes to get things under control. <Our standard spiel as well> Magnesium levels were also checked and adjusted as I've found low levels of this can skew CA levels. <Yes> I was always amazed at the congruous high levels of CA and KH, as I thought this was impossible, or at least very unlikely, for more than a few hours at a time, something has got to give, but I've seen this happen for weeks based on testing and retesting with differing brands of reagents. <Can indeed "happen"... with the influence of other compounds present...> Here's the kicker, for me anyway, I just set up a 30 gallon reef tank in my office not the first (or the 20th) I've set up and I'm having the same issue! Me, this does not happen to ME, I solve other peoples problems, I don't actually HAVE problems, lol, I'm really not that egotistical no problems to solve equals an uninteresting hobby, right. Jeez someone edit me I'm getting long winded, and now I'm writing about how long winded I am and. Its just that I don't get out much and.... AHHH!!!! <Perhaps a small vacation...> The new setup is a 30 gallon cube with a 5" DSB, 40 lbs live rock (or "once live" rock, freebies from the bottom of the rock culturing pool) Remora skimmer a couple powerheads and about 80 watts of PC light, pretty standard. I've added nothing to the tank except Oceanic salt mixed with RO/DI to the sg of 1.024, and a few hermits. My calcium levels are 660ppm and my KH is 130 mg/L, yes that is not a misprint, and it has been there for over a week. <This is likely due to the Central Garden and Pet salt mix> The tank appears to be normal no precipitation normal new live rock stuff coming out, tube worms, few bristle worms, the Aiptasia and the rock anemones seem to be doing fine lol, little bit of diatom growth, start of some green algae. This is where I would normally start dosing some calcium gluconate to kick off the coralline algae but I don't think that's prudent, obviously. My other parameters are normal pH 8.0 (a little low maybe) NH3 up a little for a few days now at 0, same with NO2, no phosphate, no NH3 yet. Like I said I have added no life except my "once live" rock and the hermits.  Should I do anything proactive to bring these ridiculous levels down. <Yes... switch synthetic salt brands> Something beside a water change, and yes, the salt mixed with RO and tested in a separate container tests out equally scary. There is some variance between test kits but they all test within 20-30 ppm for Ca2+,and 10 mg/L KH. I'm worried that at any second my tank is going to turn into a 30 gallon snow globe, no shaking necessary with the help of my powerheads keeping the flakes in suspension, not what I had in mind. Help. <We've had a few reports re the Oceanic brand and these issues. Look into making a deal (for volume) for Instant Ocean IMO... Bob Fenner>

Re: calcium and carbonate hardness, Oceanic salt mix Thanks for the reply. <Welcome> I have heard by some that Oceanic brand salts have higher than normal CA levels, but lower KH. My batch seems to have high levels of both. <This is a highly inconsistent product> I have heard some GREAT reviews of this salt so thought I'd try. My guess is that the people who have had good luck had a pre-existing set up and switched to Oceanic. If they had low CA and ALK then a PARTIAL water change with this dissolved rock could actually improve their water conditions, in a reef that was already established and calcium hungry. <Correct> But for new setups, never again. I will be switching back to IO or TM, so will all my customers. <Ah, both good products> Just ordered my Reef Invertebrate book, can't wait.  A.J. Ginther <I look forward to "hearing" your review. Bob Fenner> 

Clear film following addition of baking soda? Good Morning and Thanks in Advance. I'm in my third week of cycling a 29G hex tank. I notice this morning that there's a clear film that totally surrounds the tank. The film is 4 inches below the water line and about 1 inch wide. The location of the film is almost exactly the same depth as my power head. I try to scrape the film with my finger nail without success. I did add 2 teaspoon of baking soda the night before. Please help.  << Well it may be a residue that didn't dissolve. I wouldn't worry much about it and I'd give a week or two. I think adding two teaspoons of baking soda may have been a little much. Next time I'd add a half or quarter teaspoon at a time. > < Blundell >

R/O water treatment part2 2/22/05 One follow-up question: If I use B-Ionic, is there any reason not to use it to treat the ro/di water in the Brute, before that water is used to make synthetic seawater or to top-up the tank? Thanks, Tom <B-Ionic and similar two part additives are shipped as two parts because mixing them will result in a useless insoluble precipitate. For this reason, they must be added separately (I even suggest several hours apart), and cannot be mixed in make up water. Also, you could add one or the other part to your make up water, but IMO, this would be complicating a very simple process. Hope this helps. AdamC.>

Water chemistry problem Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2005 Okay, I want to give this up and get a hamster. I recently moved from a 40 gallon /w 20 refugium to a 12 gallon.  I didn't have a ton of livestock, so it all fit perfectly fine.  It is now three days later and I'm having major problems.  I've been doing large water changes (75% or so) in the event of a small cycle.  I WISH that were my problem.  I did a water change, and tested the SW mix to be a pH of 8.3.  Dandy.  I put it in the aquarium.  5 hours later, it's 7.0.  (not to mention dead clam, my fish are dead, and my cleaner shrimp is dead).  So I do another 100% water change.  Same thing, 4 hours later my pH is down to 7.4.  I've been using tap water (like I've been doing 11 years) so I decide to try distilled water.  I buffer it to 8.3 with alk buffer + IO salt mix, and do an 80% water change.  I come home from work (5 hours later) and it's 7.5 again.  I test my calc - kinda low, 325 PPM, so I should be able to add alk buffer ok to up the ph - right?  WRONG.  The instant I add a SMALL amount of alk buffer I cause a precipitation.  OF WHAT?  My calc is LOW!  my pH is LOW!  ARGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!  Words cannot describe the frustration.  Could it be a bad batch of salt? K I'm going to go sit in a corner and bang my head against the wall. <Mmm, something is definitely awry here... DO keep that bag of salt sealed against exposure from the air... This is definitely the chief suspect here... the formulations of all major brands of synthetic are purposely over-buffered... none have the direct capacity to cause precipitation with what you describe... DO mix up some and test in "just a jar"... and relate what you observe, pH, dKH, calcium, magnesium concentration. BobF>

Re: Water chemistry problem Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2005 Hun, I'll be on YIM in like 5 min. We'll troubleshoot. =) It's going to be OK!! & def no hamsters, no matter what Bob & Anthony say.   A pH drop is only due to a few things..     Calcium reactor  (not your prob)     Low alkalinity (hmmm...)     Too much CO2 because of inadequate aeration (see how to test for that below..)     Too much CO2 in the tank because of the air in your house    Excess acid being made from a nitrogen cycle Aim Re: D'oh! How to test.. http://reefkeeping.com/issues/2004-09/rhf/index.htm

Re: Water chemistry problem Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2005 hard to say from the limited info, but one scenario that fits: something done (usually one good slip of a supplement - too heavy handed, or extremely skewed source or tap water) starts a precipitous reaction (can be Ca or Carbonates) and anything done during the precip (like water changes or "reverse" supplements) to correct it only fuels the reaction! The infamous example is a "snowstorm" of calcium... but it works just the same with carbonates settling out. And the snowstorm isn't always so literal/obvious (cloudy water( but the chemistry tells a different (real) story. I dunno if this is your situation my friend. I just flew home tonight. A bit of a rough weekend after all :( Am bushed too... I'll be online for a bit if by chance you are up to chat... else I'll be available to help out if needed/wanted. Ant :)

Re: Water chemistry problem Ok, Instant Ocean (a 250 gallon bucket with a sealing lid, so no air contact long term) mixed with distilled water and nothing else yields 375 ppm calcium, 2.5 meq\L alk, and a pH of 8.1 Not the best, which is why I usually alk buffer it. My mg kit is out of reagent, I'll have to get some more. Any thoughts? <Yes. Very different than the dropping pH, snowstorm in your principal system... Why is this? BobF> 

Re: Water chemistry problem As an added note, any additives cause precipitation...and there is precipitation all over the glass, and a large crystal on the Kalk drip tube (which I've stopped). No ideas... <Mmm, well, you've gots a wild mix of bi/carbonates and alkaline earth materials joining together... the all-too-usual result of a/the Kalk habit.... worse in small systems.... older, less-well maintained...> pH is sitting happily at 7.5, can't raise it, both Kalk and alk buffers cause more precipitation... <Time for the MASSIVE water change... make that transfusion.   BobF>

Alk/Ca skewed.. water changes to cure 2/18/05 First I want to say thanks for all the help in the past. In the few years I have been keeping an aquarium, I have made many mistakes and the information on this site has got me (and the critters) through all of them. <thanks kindly... do tell friends about our site> The setup is a 72 gal bowfront that has been running for about a year now. It is an upgrade from a 50 gal setup that we had for about 2 years that we got when a pet store went out of business. So far it has been stable and easy to maintain. The over flow drains through a filter sock to a 20 gal sump with a Turboflotor skimmer and I also use a SeaClone hanging on the back. <unless these socks are cleaned near daily... they degrade water quality by allowing solids to linger and dissolve, and rob them from (suspension) skimmers that could otherwise export them> I get a cup or so of the stinky stuff every couple of days between the two. I also have a home made refugium on the back of the display that is full of critters as are the overflow box and the sump. There is about 110 lbs of Fiji rock and 4-6" fine sand. I have been lax in doing water changes (about 10% every 3-4 weeks) but the water quality has always been very good with the exception of the calcium always testing on the high side. <do investigate why... supplements, hard water, etc. And please do larger, more frequent water changes: Dilution is the Solution to Pollution. Else "things" will catch up with you over time> I added an elegance and bubble coral about 3 weeks ago, and the next day they both looked great. The second day the elegance looked great but the bubble did not expand fully. After about 4 days the bubble was not opening so I tested the water and found that ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, and phosphate were all zero (as usual) but ph was at 7.8 (afternoon), alk was at about 2.0 meg/l and calcium was at almost 600 (I don't use any calcium supplements at all). <yikes... scary if accurate. Do test your readings on other brands of test kits... LFS service perhaps?> Over the next 4 days I dosed with small amounts of Kent Superbuffer and did 3 small water changes (about 10% each). Within about 4 days the ph was up to 8.3 in the evening, alk was up to 3 meg/l and calcium was back around 500. <still high on Ca and dangerous over time. If your tap water is not high in Ca, then the sea salt and water changes if big enough should bring these numbers into a safe and more balanced range> That was about a week ago and the bubble is still opening less each day. It is not near anything else and in a corner with light flow. It is also at the same place relative to the lighting as it was in the LFS and under the same lights as the LFS (4- 65w pc 2 are actinic) What am I missing? <patience... needs time (weeks) to slowly recover. Be sure to feed this very hungry (naturally) coral 3-5 times weekly with small bits of meaty food> The tank is currently stocked with: 5 green Chromis, 1 percula clown, 1 hippo tang, 1 sunrise Dottyback, 1 mandarin (I know, but the fuge seems to do the job and the other guys seem to leave him alone), 1 serpent star, 10-12 Nassarius snails, a dozen or so hermits and a small crab that I have only seen twice and can't identify. There are also uncountable zooanthids (hitch hikers) several purple mushrooms, a small cluster of xenia, a colony of green star polyps, several Ricordea, 2 small colt corals (I think) and the latest additions are an elegance coral and a bubble coral (the problem child). Any advice you could give would be appreciated, and thanks again for all the help in the past. your fellow fish addict. Chris <best of luck! Anthony>

Another pH / KH question I apologize upfront for asking yet another question on this subject. I am not a stupid person but the more I read the FAQ and articles on water chemistry the more frustrated I get. So I ask that you believe that I took your oft repeated advice to read the FAQ and articles first before asking a question on a subject that has been covered front to back and back again. I had a FOWLR tank for 3 years and just recently got back into the hobby and started adding soft corals (mushrooms and polyps) with the associated supplements. I never paid much attention to water chemistry with a FO tank but am getting serious now about being a "Conscientious Aquarist".  What I have- 65 Gal show tank, 80 lbs live rock, 40 lbs live sand, trickle filter without the bio balls for a sump, Coralife PC fixture with 1 10K and 1 Actinic bulb that are each 96W, 2 Maxi Jet 1200 pumps inside the tank for circulation, a Mag 5 pump through a SQWD to return the sump water to the tank, and a SeaClone 100 (with the bio ball pinwheel mode) in the sump (will buy an ASM or Aqua C skimmer within the next month). After reading one of your articles on water changes, I have started doing 5% water changes twice a week. <Ten % weekly is all that is necessary>  I have a refugium on order that I plan to stock with micro algae. Livestock: 2 Black Percula clowns 1 Toadstool Mushroom 6 Ricordea mushrooms 9 blue mushrooms 12 purple mushrooms 1 colony of large button polyps 1 feather duster crabs, snails, and 3 peppermint shrimp for cleanup. Water chemistry 1.024 SG Ammonia 0 Nitrites >.3mg/L Nitrates 20 ppm ( hope the refugium brings these down) <It will once the macro algae takes hold. Leave the refugium lights on 24/7, that way they will never release Co2 which can lower pH.> pH 8 KH 15.7 calcium 480 Temp 78 I am concerned about the pH and the KH and the safest way to get them under control. From what I have read, if I continue the water changes and watch my calcium dosing (currently using Reef Advantage calcium) and get it down closer to the lower end, the DKH should come down over time. Is this an accurate assumption? Next, how do I get my pH up to 8.2 while trying to get my KH down between 8 - 12? Should I deal with one at a time? If so, which first and how?  <Welcome to the frustrating world of water chemistry. When you add any kind of calcium supplement, it will raise the dKH some due to the calcium carbonate present. A pH of 8 is not detrimental to the health of your animals. Your dKH of 15.7 is high enough to maintain a proper pH. You do not have to add any kH supplements unless the level falls below 8 dKH. If you want an accurate pH reading you should get a pH meter. Most pH test kits are not super accurate. Case in point, my tank pH runs around 7.9 (Fastest kit), and newly mixed Reef Crystals read the same pH. Go figure. I took a water sample to my dealer who has a pH meter and the pH read 8.1.>  And, for my still learning and inexperienced self, please recommend whether I should continue to use the Reef Advantage or Kalkwasser or something else. <Use the calcium supplement that you like to use. Kalkwasser is more of a hassle but cheaper to use and has the most effect, but it does have to be dosed carefully or a major pH swing will occur.>  Thanks for your patience with beginners like myself and for spending your free time to assist aquarist all over the globe. You are a credit to your profession and hobby. BTW, "The Conscientious Aquarist" is on the "to buy" list.  <Good to hear. James (Salty Dog)> Calcified substrate Greetings. First off, I want to thank Bob, Anthony and everyone else on the crew who helped me attain such respect and pleasure in this fascinating hobby. I have a 75G reef set-up that has been growing strong for a little over a year now, with everything flourishing beyond my expectations.  Today, while vacuuming the substrate, I noticed a couple of areas that seem to have calcified. I'm assuming that I'm probably overdoing the Kalk drip. <Yes, very common> In trying to maintain a calcium level at the 500-520 range, I began dripping Kalk 24 hours a day as make-up water. Too much? <Yes... rare that conditions, desires would dictate wanting to elevate calcium beyond 450 ppm...> Would it be prudent to remove the calcified areas of substrate? <Yes...> Upon removal, should I attempt to break it up, rinse it and re-use it or just discard it? <Likely simply discard... hard to practically get the materials back into solution... and there may well be other solutes you'd rather discard> What other method would you suggest in order to maintain the 500-520 range I am after. I have been using Kent Kalk mix. Can these levels be attained and/or maintained using a liquid supplement? Thanks again, guys (and gals)! Greg <Mmm, might I ask what it is you're seeking to do with so much free calcium concentration? Hard to maintain alkaline reserve, and many important chemical reactions are driven aside in this pursuit... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/calcalkmar.htm  and the MANY files linked above. Bob Fenner> 

Re: calcified substrate Hey Bob, Thanks for the quick reply. In reviewing the e-mail I originally sent I realized I had erred in what I had told you regarding the calcium level. I had stated 500+ when in fact, I'm running around 385, which has been my intended target all along. I attribute my error to being that it was about 3:30 this morning when I pounded that out. OOPS! Thanks again and thanks for the link to the calcium/alkalinity page. Greg <Oh, what's that line from the "Wizard of Oz?"... "Well, that's a horse of a different color altogether!". Bob F, still barely awake and it's ten!> Of water changes and parameters... del Bob I am now in my fourth week of weekly water changes of 5 gallons on a 55 gallon tank. When my tank started 2 years ago I followed the GARF bulletproof reef, until after one year something happened and my tank water turned brilliant blue... <!> ...the fish headed for the bottom and I lost my yellow tang. Recently I have begun to religiously test my water after finding a calcium kit (SeaTest) that I could distinguish a color change with 8). Now for the question(s) upon first test my calcium was upwards of 580.  <Yeeikes!> I have not put any sort of calcium, Kalk etc in this tank in over a year.  <Uhhh, likely one of two things... you made some funky Arago concrete mix... and have been poisoning your system since... and/or your test kit is off... Easy to check both> I am very careful when I mix my reef crystals salt not to overshoot with salt as I know that can cause problems. <Not this much... I hope. Have you tested some newly made-up water for calcium?> After these four water changes (I have been deep vacuuming my sand bed a little with every change), my calcium level has dropped down to a more reasonable 450. My concern is with my ph (7.7) and alkalinity of 5, my water comes from Wal-Mart and I believe carries a pH  of 7.7, what do I need to add to this to bring up these 2 parameters without sending my calcium back through the roof, a recommendation would be great. <Mmm, am even more convinced of your adventure with cement... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/calcalkmar.htm  Antoine's piece on Calcium and Alkalinity... and the "Related FAQs" (linked, in blue, above)... you've driven up calcium with the cement in your tank... and this is mutually exclusive of alkalinity...> I have debated about riding this out to see if the calcium would drop down into the 350-400 range and finding out my parameters are at that level.  <Should, in time... but this may well be a long while... whatever the source of excess calcium, you should remove it... "cure" it outside the system (likely with an acid wash technique... this is gone over on WWM as well> Also I have 2 Maxijet 1200's and a CPR BakPak 2r as filtration with my 75 pounds of live rock, is this enough for filtration with a four fish bioload with about 10 different soft corals and mushrooms. I have thought about a hang on filter (last canister filter ended up putting 5 gallons in the basement from the second story), I would also appreciate a recommendation on that. <Mmm, please read... on WWM re such arrangements... sumps, refugiums... all there for your perusal... you can use the search tools there or the indices> Many many thanks to you all, this site is a tremendous help to all who seek advice.  <Help yourself. Bob Fenner> 

Re: Of water changes and parameters... again To the best of my knowledge all of my rock was live not cement it was all purchased locally at a reputable LFS, could this problem be coming from an accumulation at the bottom of the sand bed which I have slowly been cleaning?  <Mmm, no. But, I am curious (enough) to suggest a bit of science here. How about isolating some of the LR... in some water of known quality, and seeing if the calcium, alkalinity shift over a few days, weeks time?> These calcium parameters are coming from the email I had with you previously about having to cut the sample of seawater with RO water. At original test at 580 my alk was at 6 and has since dropped to 5? I thought about adding a buffer to my water change regiment to try to bring this up, but am a bit leery at this point. Thanks again <I am leery too... Again, do think about how you might isolate variables, test... the source water, the mixed synthetic water, elements/decor in your system to ascertain the source of this anomaly. Bob Fenner

Of water changes and parameters de James I am now in my fourth week of weekly water changes of 5 gallons on a 55 gallon tank. When my tank started 2 years ago I followed the GARF bulletproof reef, until after one year something happened and my tank water turned brilliant blue, the fish headed for the bottom and I lost my yellow tang. Recently I have begun to religiously test my water after finding a calcium kit (SeaTest) that I could distinguish a color change with 8). Now for the question(s) upon first test my calcium was upwards of 580 I have not put any sort of calcium, Kalk etc in this tank in over a year. I am very careful when I mix my reef crystals salt not to overshoot with salt as I know that can cause problems. After these four water changes (I have been deep vacuuming my sand bed a little with every change), my calcium level has dropped down to a more reasonable 450. My concern is with my ph (7.7) and alkalinity of 5, my water comes from Wal-Mart and I believe carries a pH of 7.7, what do I need to add to this to bring up these 2 parameters without sending my calcium back through the roof, a recommendation would be great. I have debated about riding this out to see if the calcium would drop down into the 350-400 range and finding out my parameters are at that level. Also I have 2 Maxijet 1200's and a CPR BakPak 2r as filtration with my 75 pounds of live rock, is this enough for filtration with a four fish bioload with about 10 different soft corals and mushrooms. I have thought about a hang on filter (last canister filter ended up putting 5 gallons in the basement from the second story), I would also appreciate a recommendation on that. Many many thanks to you all, this site is a tremendous help to all who seek advice  <Hello Aron, here is a link that should help you understand the relationship between calcium and alkalinity. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/calcalkmar.htm  James (Salty Dog)> 

Populating a refugium + importance of ALK + Calcium testing Hello, <Hi there> I have been reading your Forums for a couple of weeks now and am set aback at the amount of information. <There is... much to know, relate> I used to run a LFS and went out of business because I was too honest (I was not moving the junk/gadgets). <Hee hee! More important (of course) to be yourself... not gain the world and lose your soul...> I consider myself an intermediate level reef keeper - I know a lot but not hardly enough ;) .  OK, on to my questions: About my system: 55 gallon Reef - In wall installation accessible via closet. 75lbs of live rock DSB 3inches 4 in places Tunze Skimmer 3110/2   *Small I know  :(  I may DIY one, I have an old Seaclone I would like to Mod. <Maybe for experimentation... I'd stick with the under-sized Tunze> 2x refugiums, one is sump/fuge combo 20gal - the other is sump/fuge combo 25gal driven by one Mag Drive 350gph. Temp 73 PH 8.3 Ni Am = 0 Na less than 10 ppm Cal? Alk? 2x 802 powerheads CPR overflow Fluval 302 running carbon only Lighting - Giesseman 350watt 10000K Livestock: 2 Domino Damsels - 1 Sailfin Tang <Hard to add more with those Dascyllus present> 20 snails/20 hermit crabs 1 BTA  (MIA) 2 cleaner shrimps 1 peppermint shrimp 1. I hear everyone talking about all the cute little bugs in their refugiums - How does one *populate a refugium?? Does it just happen by itself? How do I get all kinds of critters in there? <Can add directly (as in a "kit", e.g. from IPSF.com, InlandAquatics.com...) or the self-producing LR route> 2. Can I have only micro Algae in the refugium or should there also be live rock?  both refugiums have DSB's. <Better to have LR and macroalgae...> 3. If I am using store bought water form a Winemaking store (completely deminerialized)  + instant ocean, and a 10% water change once per week, should I still have to watch my calcium levels or should they even out? <Likely will be okay... is there something "that wrong" with your source water? What? I would get/use test kits for Calcium (though not Magnesium Strontium) and alkalinity if you were/are concerned> *I have good purple coralline growth* <Bingo! I would not worry re the above> 4. What is the importance of checking the Alk levels? <Mmm, another "window" on what's going on, might go on in ones system. Many folks, mainly due to over-crowding, over-feeding, lack of maintenance have shortfalls of alkaline reserve... suffer further troubles in algal proliferation, livestock health as a consequence...> 5. I have been having problems with algae in the display tank (the reasons I recently installed the fuges) I have been told it is red slime algae, but it looks brown - It covers everything in it's path - heck it even grew on my Yellow Cuke. It looks like an old opaque spider's web.  I cannot understand what is causing this... any hints or things to look out for? <Cyanobacteria/BGA can be any color (is it slimy?)... with time, the refugia will clear this up... I would not be concerned> 6. On a side note - I bought a BTA about a week ago and he seems to have disappeared. <Happens... if "unhappy" can scrunch down to a very small zot in size> I thank you in advance for all information/help/pointers/tips you may offer. <Glad to share> PS Where do I see the answer to my questions once you answer them - do I check in the Forum? <We send all back to queriers, and later post to the Dailies, then later to separate FAQs files. Bob Fenner> Robert Martin Calcium low and alkalinity high Guys, GREAT SITE-GREAT INFO-What a country we live in. One quick question. << True for wherever you may live. >> My 100 marbles: ALK/CAL, are all out of joint. My water is at the level that my calcium can't get over 240 or so. Why? Because my ALK is off the charts. 300 gal enclosed system. 225 display, two 30 gal refugiums and about another 30 gal between sump and hoses. Display upstairs, all equipment in basement. I'm a lucky guy. MTC double chamber cal reactor. I don't know how my ALK became so high. My question is how can I get my ALK down so I can get my calcium up. << Well first, a big water change.  Second don't use your reactor and don't add any buffers.  Just add a calcium product like Turbo Calcium. >> Without doing any real harm to all the aquatic life in the display. Was I running to much or too little Co 2 ? Too slow of a drip rate out of the reactor? << That I can't help you with.  I'll bet you can find some online discussions about reactors. >> THANK FOR ANY HELP AT ALL.          MIKE <<  Blundell  >>

Correcting High calcium, Low Alkalinity 1/22/05 Thanks.... you mentioned a large water change, how large should I go my tank is a 46 gallon... <one or two 50% water changes in the next 7-10 days to get back to par before adding ESV> ...and it looks like I will get another yikes from you, I have used Oceanic since I started this tank. <Yikes! Hmm... in the sense that they are able to achieve the much touted "high calcium" levels by... er... cheating on the buffers (flat Alkalinity). That's not necessarily a bad thing. Some people favor this... others struggle with it (ahem). ;)> What brand do you suggest? <Tropic Marin is the best quality hands down... and IO is the best value brand sea salt IMO> I have read horror stories about IO that people have to dose their top off water and there mixing water do bring up the balance to match there tank water. <In my greenhouse of eight thousand gallons... I'd buy IO in 8K gallon mix pallets. Now that I only have a three thousand gallon fish room, I use less salt. Heehee... to say that I have had a good experience with IO quality and QC over many tens of thousands of gallons of water in the last 10+ years would be an understatement. Its a good salt my friend... they are the industry standard> So basically then by me dosing just the ESV 2 part mix, will not bring my readings of CA 420ish, pH 8.3, and dKH 10 - 12? <it will... once you start with the same ratios, however low that might be. But if your ratios are off to begin with (as they are now... skewed by your sea salt)... the liquid going into the aquarium will not make the corrections... it is not omnipotent... just balanced. You have to pay more for the former ;) Anthony> 

High dKH and high Ca Hi there crew! << Hi. >> I've got a problem with high alkalinity( 20dKH) and calcium ( 800ppm).PH is 8.5 in evening before lights go out and 8.4 in the morning before the lights go back on. Ammonia 0,0 Nitrites 0.0 and nitrate 5.0. Tank size is 55gal. << High, but not troublesome. >> <What? AdamB, you're high! RMF> I was wondering. If I can raise the dKH, will the Ca level drop or will the dreaded "snow storm" event occur? << Possible, I wouldn't raise your dKH anymore than it is. >> I have never added calcium or buffer. << Really?  Then how in the world did it get there?  My advise is to just do a small water change to help calm things down. >> My tank is 13mnths old reef with Berlin filtration. Growth of coralline and gorgonians are extremely slow. Please help! <<  Blundell  >> <Shame, shame, shame> Phosphate, Calcium & Alkalinity Hello Guys: Could you please try and help me with a problem that developed suddenly in my aquarium?  I have read the FAQs and want to make sure I am pursuing the proper course of action.  Aquarium is one year old.  Tank is 240 gallons with 200 lbs LR.  Sump is 15 gallons with Euro-Reef  CS8-3 skimmer which flows into 100 gallon non-lighted refugium with DSB of 8 inches aragonite.  I follow good husbandry schedule with 10% weekly water changes, activated carbon run in sump continuously and changed monthly.<Sounds like a nice system.> I use Salifert test kits (test once per week) yielding the following range of results: NH4 0.25 ppm, NO2 Undetectable, NO3 2.5 - 5.0 ppm, Ca 380 - 420, Alk 3.0 - 4.0 meq/L and PO4 Undetectable.  Electronic pH meter ranges 8.17 -8.28 and electronic salinity ranges 1.0240 -1.0250.  A 4 stage RO unit with Instant Ocean salt mix is used for make up water.  B-Ionic 2 part balanced additive dispensed over 8 hour period daily and evaporation top-off via reef filler pump at 1.5 gallons daily with RO water.  I am feeding fish once daily and decanted the frozen food.  A "live" commercial brand phytoplankton was administered 4 times a week.  Everything was running fine. <I am very suspect of an ammonia reading above zero.  I would compare this with another kit.  Otherwise, it sounds like all is well.> I tried a different "live" commercial brand of phytoplankton for one week  and my phosphate increased to 3.0 ppm.  My alkalinity increased to 5.71 meq/L and calcium 450 ppm.  The pH increased to 8.48.  What I am thinking is that the high phosphate level has inhibited the calcification process thus causing the excess amount of calcium and alkalinity in the water column which in turn is driving up the pH.  What do you think? <Sounds logical, but I wouldn't expect the change to be so dramatic or fast.> Could the commercial phytoplankton have caused such a dramatic increase in phosphate in such a short time period? <Yes.  One brand in particular takes care to was the phyto free of fertilizers.  Other brands may not.> Does the calcification process shut down so quickly in response to the elevated phosphate? <This is the part I am suspect of.  Phosphate will slow calcification, and my do so quickly, but I am suspect of the rapid rise in Ca and Alk.> I have done 10% water changes every third day for one week but the phosphate level still remains at 3.0 ppm.  I stopped the B-Ionic dosing and the calcium and alkalinity are slowly decreasing.  The RO water and Instant Ocean mixed with RO water both have undetectable phosphate levels.  Why do think the phosphate level in the tank remains so high?  Thank you very much for your help.  I am worried about my live stock.  Joe <I would continue this regime until the phosphate decreases, or consider a commercial phosphate remover.  Seek out Iron based products (red color) like RowaPhos, Phosban or Salifert and avoid alumina (white color) based products.  Since the introduction of the phosphate seems to be a "one shot" event and not a chronic problem, you should be able to get it under control easily.  Good luck.  AdamC.> Aragamilk and low pH HI my name is Peter. I used a buffer Aragamilk in my tank yesterday and my ph is lower then the day before. << It is only a sort of buffer.  Meaning it is suppose to increase calcium and alkalinity, although without being able to dissolve many people question its usefulness. >> I use test strips and before( according to colors) it was higher before I used that product. please help my xenia is not looking very well today. I got Aragamilk from my local store to increase my ph , but actually it is lowering my ph. I do not know what to think ? << I would add either Kalkwasser (which increases calcium and alkalinity) or probably better yet is to just increase the buffer part of an additive.  Like adding one half of the B-Ionic supplements.  I should ask here, since you didn't state; what is your pH?  Maybe it isn't that low and you shouldn't be worried.  Maybe it is so low that you need to do a large water change. >>           PETER <<  Blundell  >> Low calcium It seems Anthony has answered most of these calcium questions I have read on the site.  I am too having trouble getting my calcium up.  Measurements in tank are amm, nitrite, nitrate 0.  Phosphates .1.  PH 8.3 (day), 8.2 (night), KH 300 ppm (just learning how to measure this, I guess if I divide this by 17.9 I get the dKH #, which would be 16.8, which seems extremely high, not sure though.  I got the 300 ppm number by using a test strip). temp 79, calcium 325.  I think the KH may be too high in here and that is why I can't get my calcium levels up.  I read Anthony's answers on a lot of these and know now that this balance can get corrected by large water weekly water changes.  I am now dosing with Kent A and B. Would it be ok to do 10 to 15 % water changes biweekly vs. a 25 % change weekly to get the balance corrected? << Somewhat.  If you are adding both A and B it is tough, because you are adding a balanced solution.  You are better to just add the calcium component for a while.  Or, additionally add a liquid calcium product.  Once you have a proper balance, then adding A and B is great to raise both alkalinity and calcium. >> Also, If I am incorrect on the KH vs. dKH calculation please let me know.  I saw this on an Aquarium Pharmaceuticals fresh water test kit so it probably is not.  Just for kicks I used it to test my water and it said I have a dKH of 12.  Thanks crew. <<  Blundell  >>

Alkalinity and calcium out of whack Hey there, I have spent several days reviewing all your topics and  FAQ's of your site. I live here in Ocala, FL and I have a 29 Gallon Reef Tank. << I have a 29 gal as well. >> Up until recently I never tested Phosphates. Never knew it was a cause for hair  and other nuisance algae and also the lack of coralline algae growth. First lets deal with the Phosphates. Phosphates:   I do constant water changes and sometimes  extreme water changes to try and get them down. I also use Phosguard to try and  help and all with no success. I know we need to find the source of the problem  first. I mostly have Florida Aquacultured Live Rock in my tank. In my 29 g I  have about 45lbs of it. I have heard that some of these rocks are mined in  Phosphate mines and then tossed in the ocean and then recovered years later.  However the Phosphates continue to leak out for several years. I have only a  couple of fish in my tank (Foxface Tang and Gregory Damsel) and many shrimp and  cleanup crews. I feed very little and always rinse my food. I have a few corals  (mushrooms, acros, Montiporas, xenias, star Galaxea, and other LPS and SPS and  more softies well as inverts). I use an Aqua C Remora hang on protein skimmer  which I remove a good amount of junk about every week or so. I also have an  additional hang on mechanical filter which I rotate carbon and Phosguard in the  pouch. My sand bed is about 3 inches deep with an additional 1in of crushed  coral under that. When I first tested my Phosphates about a month ago it was off  the chart which ranged from 0-2.0. I am guessing it was about a 3.5 or somewhere  right in there. << Do you use RO water?  Or tap water?  Also, I'd be careful of how much you are feeding. >> After water changes every day of about 3 gallons and weekend  water changes of about 12-15 gallons I have now got it to a 1.5 and it stays  there. Never dropping any lower. I just changed out 12 gallons on Saturday and  again 12 gallons on Sunday and it was the same at 1.5 the next day after the  water change. I use an RO unit for my water which tests 0 before mix and after  mix. << Okay, that is good. >> So whatever it is, it is a constant threat in my tank itself. << What kind of refugium and macro algae do you have?  Growing algae is a huge benefit to the aquarium, and will reduce your phosphates. >> Now onto the next problem: Alkalinity: My alkalinity in my tank has always been  high on a basic test kit. I purchased an advanced test kit about 3 months ago to  get a better read on it. It measures in meq/L. Every day I test my ALK in my  tank before and after water changes and I always get a reading of at least 7.0  meq/L or 19.6 dKH. My Ph is always at 8.2, rarely every fluctuating even at  night or day. My calcium is a problem all in its own. We will get to that as  this progresses. Now I needed to determine the source of my high Alk and I was  able to do so. My RO water of course has 0 ALK but a PH of 6.8, after mixing my  Salt (RED SEA) to achieve a SG of 1.025-1.026 I get a PH of never higher than  7.6 and an ALK of never higher than 3.8 meq/L. I needed to raise my PH so I  always did so using Proper PH 8.2. I did a test after adding the Proper PH and I  got my PH to 8.2 which was perfect but my ALK went to 7.8-8.0 meq/L. Ok now I  found the source of my high ALK. I tried using Reef Builder to raise the make-up  water to 8.2 and when I did it was worse. My ALK was now at 8.4 meq/L. Problem  here is trying to raise the PH without the extreme raise in ALK. I have been  told to maybe try using different Salt mix (have not done yet), add calcium and eventually alk will drop (never worked), Aerate make-up water prior to  mixing (been there done that, no change), Aerate after mixing for at least 24  hours and not add Buffer (did that and no matter how long I aerate its always at  a PH 7.4-7.6), and lately I got the suggestion of Kalkwasser and dosing on that  which I haven't tried yet. Before I spend money on different salt mixes or  additional additives I wanted to first come here for help. I was using a 2 part  additive for my Calcium and ALK, but of course Calcium went up and way up on  ALK. I have stopped using that and tried the Calcium only. By the way my Calcium before any additives was at 300-320 in my make-up. When I read the tank before additives its always at about 250-280 due to being used up by the corals. Which is why I was adding Calcium to get it up to about 420. << High alkalinity really isn't a problem.  In fact I recommend it.  But out of balance calcium and alkalinity are easy to fix.  First of all, DON'T use any additives!  Just do a small water change and stop adding stuff.  It will take a few weeks, but it will all level out.  You only need to add elements in a tank that is really growing something. >> My other levels have been a little fun as well. My ammonia is pretty  much either 0 or barely above that. Never in the .25 or higher range though. My Nitrites however are always at .1-.2 range. My Nitrates have been showing up a constant 1.5-2.5 as well. However on my test kit a Nitrite reading of .2 or less and a Nitrate reading of 2.0 or less means 0 Nitrates. So I am not particularly  conserves with the Nitrates at this time. They were a lot higher, but with daily  water changes they have been a little easier to keep in that range. So when you  get a chance get back to me with suggestions. My last resort is to remove all  inhabitants, replace all live rock and sand bed, and start completely over  again. I hope we can avoid that. << No don't do that.  I think you really need to stop testing you water and just wait.  Just go 8 weeks doing nothing to the tank and see what happens.  I think most of these types of balance problems come from trying to fix things, instead of letting these mature.  Give it time and don't worry. >> Thanks for your time, Shane Garner <<  Blundell  >> Calcium and alkalinity 9/8/04 Hello Anthony! <cheers, my friend> This time I have another problem: My alkalinity has dropped to 7dKh and Calcium is above 500 ppm (Salifert test kit). <no worries... do two large water changes in the next 10-14 days (50% or greater) and then simply resume dosing with your two-part supplement (mixed well each time) only> At the same time PH ranges between 8.15 and 8.50 (light period). I checked the Alkalinity and calcium  because my Leather coral did not seem to be very healthy lately. By the way, can this be the reason for the illness of my clown? <not at all likely my friend> I use B-ionic every week and the levels have always been: Calcium 420ppm and alkalinity 12 dKH. <if you have forgotten to shake it lately with each dose, then it got dosed disproportionately. It is very important to shake the supplement well before every use as the ingredients can separate in solution (different liquid densities like oil and vinegar)> I am thinking of stopping adding the Calcium part of B-ionic and add only the first part, but I am afraid that this will raise PH even higher. <yikes... this is too dangerous IMO. Instead, dilute the tank with water changes to get back to balance... then resume dosing in balance with the two-part supplement> Your advice will be appreciated. Thanassis, who wishes to had time to join you in Italy... <be chatting soon :) Anthony> Precipitate (9/5/04) Hello, <Hi. Steve Allen tonight.> Twice now I have added 1 tsp of Sea Chem Reef Builder <That's 4 times the dose recommended on the label of 1 tsp per 40G.> to my 10 gallon tank of "Water Change Water" after I aerated and added salt. <You should put the buffer in first, before salting.> After a day the tank gets cloudy with a fine white powder. <Something precipitating most likely carbonate.> The fresh water consists of RO and I use Coralife Salt. Can you tell me why this is happening, or is there something I need to test for? The alkalinity tests at 4.5 meq/L. <Not exceedingly high, but high enough that you should be able to get to the target (>3 mEq) by using 1/4 teaspoon as recommended by the manufacturer. And add it before salting and wait a few hours to add the salt.> Michael <Hope this helps.>

Calcium and Alkalinity 9/1/04 Hello Crew. <cheers, Norm> You really have a wonderful site. Just one draw back, sometimes I find too much information and get side-tracked from what I started looking for. <its all good> Just kidding of course. A little information first. I have a 125 gallon reef with a 40 gallon sump. I have a few small fish (no where close to overloading) A Maxim clam about 3", 2 large polyp stony, and 4 small frags small polyp stony some soft corals, a couple of starfish, 1 brittle star (that I keep really feed well so he leaves my fish alone) various snails and hermit crabs. 100lbs live rock and 100lbs crushed coral of 2 different sizes mixed, no fine sand. I do 20gallon water changes every 2 weeks. salt is 1.023 and stays steady. ammonia 0, nitrate 0, nitrite 0 pH is 8.2 to 8.4 depending on how long the lights have been on. I need a little help on a calcium, alkalinity problem. Up until about 6 weeks ago I was dosing Kalkwasser until my calcium level started climbing. I figured I would stop for a couple of days and let it come down from the 520 level it reached. <520 almost certainly sounds like a misreading to me... do check this test kit against another brand/kit. An actual 520 is quite volatile (precip)> That was six weeks ago. It came down to about 480 after a couple of days and has stayed right there. My alkalinity is what will not stay put. I have been adding about 2tsp baking soda every other day to keep it about 10dkh. <yikes... way too much - you are feeding/fueling the reaction> Any ideas on why the calcium is staying up so high and the alkalinity keeps dropping and information would be great. Thanks, Norm <my strong advice is to do one or two 50% water changes in the next two weeks to dilute the problem/imbalance. Then resume dosing smaller amounts (two part liquid solution or a Ca reactor ideally) and test with a new Ca test kit to be sure/for reference. Best of luck, Anthony>

Can't get my Ca and Alk up. Hi, << Hi there, Blundell here. >> I have my reef for about 8 months and yet still fighting to adjust Calcium/dKH right. I'm adding Kalkwasser daily with osmolator but my parameters won't stay high: << Hmmm, >> Ca = 380 mg/l dKH  7/8? pH = 8.1/8.3 << Those levels aren't bad.  Not high, but not bad.  I would look at the water you are adding to the tank, and see how that water tests. >> I make 15% weekly water changes. << Well I have good news and bad news.  The bad news is that by changing 15% of your water, you may not be able to raise levels, as you are always pulling them out, and adding water (which may be at a lower level).  The good news is that if you are changing 15% water every week... well you don't need to add any chemicals.  I would stop adding anything, just do water changes, and test again in about 3 months. >> What in your opinion should I do? << Give it time. >> <<  Blundell  >>

Calcium, Alkalinity in Large Tank? 8/2/04 Ryan: <Brian, hello> Thanks for your help in the past.  <No worries!>  The culprit was a very large crab that must have come on one of his other pieces or rock.  Either way, the trap caught him.  <Great to hear!  Perhaps you'll quarantine your next batch?> On another note, my 265 is up and running. It is stocked with many pieces that appear to be doing very well. I have however noticed in the last week white dots growing all over the back glass. It is not the typical coralline growth that normally appears but has the same texture. It is hard and difficult to get off the glass. They are specks about the size of the ball in a pen. Any idea what they are?  <A type of worm...related to a feather duster, likely.  Once your nutrient levels stabilize,  the population should dwindle. You can take them off with a credit card.>  Lastly, I have been using b-ionic and Kalkwasser in the tank. Calcium level is good at about 420. Chiller keeps temperature at about 80 degrees.  <75 is where you're aiming...tropical animals kept at 80 have been shown to have shorter life spans and slower growth.> Ph is looks good and salinity is too. What do you think of bionic and do you recommend something else? <I use B-Ionic myself, and have always had stellar alkalinity and calcium levels.   But, this could be costly dealing with large tanks, so many use a calcium reactor in conjunction  with Kalkwasser to keep it "semi-cheap."  Good luck my friend, and let's see a pic once it's all done!  Ryan> - Calcium and Alkalinity in a New System - Hi, My 120 Gal tank has been set up for over 1 week now. It now consists of 200 lbs of rock (half cured) and a few small fishes. The tank is probably undergoing the N cycle as evident from the increasing nitrite ( from 0.3  to 0.8 mg/l), ammonia and nitrate more or less being the same at 0.25mg/l and 10 ppm respectively. <Also as indicated by the amount of time the tank has been up and running.> I also noted that the PH and alkalinity are rising from 8.7 to 9 and from 11 dKH to 14 dKH. Calcium however dropped from 360 - 280 ppm.  These changes occurred within 2 days.  I could see stress in some of the fishes. <Why do you have fish in a tank so new? You should let the tank settle in before you put in anything that would suffer from the chemical swings that are so common in a new tank.> Please advise what I should do with the Ca/alkalinity balance, could Kalkwasser do the trick? <No, it will make your problems worse at this juncture.> Is the N cycle normal or I need to do some water changes. <Please consider returning whatever livestock to the store and let the tank settle on it's own. Many of the chemical parameters you list will settle themselves out in a matter of weeks, but it's just too soon to put even damsels in the tank.> I didn't put on the skimmer for the time being while the bacteria were growing. <If you have live rock in the tank, then you should be running the skimmer as well.> Regards Philip <Cheers, J -- >

- Calcium and Alkalinity in a New System - Hi, J <Hi.> Thanks for your quick response. <My pleasure.> The fishes are hanging on and seem OK. <It may seem this way, but I doubt they are without stress.> If not, I will transfer them to another tank. <Would advise you do this now.> Because I am using the right now bacteria, TriBased Palletized Carbon and the PH rock of HDL, I expected the cycle to complete within 48 hrs. In fact it didn't. <Personally, I do not put much trust in such concoctions, and have only seen quick cycles with live rock. Even then, I wait several weeks to a month before I add livestock - you should too.> The PH was actually 8.4 after calibrating my meter. Today (10 days into the setup), ammonia dropped to zero.  There was a brown algae boom however. Can you  advise please about what I may need to do about  the falling Ca which now measured 260 ppm. <Thought I was clear about this before - you should wait a couple of weeks before addressing this issue. Let things balance out on their own before you start on any additive program. The tank is simply too new to be stable.> Regards Philip <Cheers, J -- >

Understanding Calcium and Alkalinity 7/31/04 Cheers, Todd Sorry for the delay in reply... been keeping quite busy over here :) > wanted to drop you a line and thank you once again for helping me! after quite a long time I think I finally understand the relationship between ph, alk. and calcium and their importance to each other. <excellent to hear!> I wonder how many people out there who have been keeping saltwater tanks for years do not still understand the importance of how these three things work in conjunction with each other? not to say that > I have become some pro, but I do believe after I went back and read you coral propagation book again, I now think I can sleep knowing that what I'm doing in the tank is right. I reread the "marbles analogy" again and again and went and got some accurate testing supplies. wow! thinking of water parameters within the context of that analogy opened my eyes like never before, so I had to write and thank you for writing in a style that even aquatic morons like me can understand. <Hey... I resemble that remark <G>. Quite welcome my friend. A fave Emerson quote of mine, to paraphrase, "Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing." I give it as I like to receive it.> I started testing again and was I surprised that what I thought was a good regimen was completely bad, well maybe not comp! > lately, but far off course. I never understood that if you add something in many cases you are displacing something else or lowering it to a not so good point. I never realized that water can only handle so many dissolved substances before you get to the point of diminishing returns, refrigerator and took a look at the contents of as box of baking soda and saw the ingredients. sodium bicarbonate, an acid neutralizer! <bingo... you win the hairy kewpie doll <G>> and thought what does alkalinity measure? your waters ability to neutralize acid so that your ph level doesn't sway to much back and forth. I know bicarbonates are only a part of alkalinity but you can understand that the wheels were turning in my head now. <yes... indeed> I started a new regimen about four days ago and these are my readings as of today.nh3-0 nh4 0,no2-0 no3<10ppm ion,alk.6meq/lph between 8.2 and 8.4,ca.345,salinity 1.026 I believe I can tweak the calcium up a little to maybe 380 to 400 and that will drop the alkalinity to about 4/5 meq/l, that is where by the literature! <exactly... your Ca is no biggie... but that Alk is still scary high> > e I want to be? I now hope that I have a good plan and I also have been changing water twice a month and keeping my skimmer clean, I also add Combi-san once a week for trace element replacement. please tell me if I have learned well  or do I need  to go read some more? cheers, Todd Biondolillo <it sounds like you are quite on track my friend. Keep on live rockin in the free world :) Anthony>

- Calcium & Alkalinity - Hello <Hi.> My alk and calc relationship is giving me problems. First of all I cant seem to get my ph much over 8 (Salifert) at any time. I do 10% water changes weekly with RO/DI, aerate the water for 1 day then add salt. <Would suggest that you add buffers to your RO/DI water before you add the salt. RO/DI water is demineralized and needs replenishment... you'll deplete the buffers in the salt otherwise.> and aerate the salty water for another day. The new water is about 8.2-8.3. I dose with Kalk every other day for my calcium. it wont seem to get above 350-375. <That's not a shabby number for calcium.> I was adding c-balance 2 part and my alk and KH was real outta whack so I stopped. My alk and KH fell back into order and my calcium was near 400. so I resumed the 2 part daily. My alk is beginning to climb again, along with the KH. and my ph and calcium remain too low. What more can I do?? <Consider a calcium reactor, but more than this... what in your tank needs this high level of calcium? Cheers, J -- >

- Calcium & Alkalinity, Follow-up - I want to get a clam so before I do I want things in order. <Better to consider a calcium reactor then... you will certainly purchase one in calcium additives by the end of the year.> I do buffer the rodi and the ph really doesn't move. <Buffer with what?> I am very wary of that because previously I over buffered and the ph was still low but the alk went off the charts. <Is why I always recommend testing before and after any such additions. Cheers, J -- >

- Calcium & Alkalinity, More Follow-up - I use Seachem reef buffer. I'm mixing up water as we speak. I added a very small amount and tested. didn't move from the 8.1 it tested at before I added it. <I'd consider using baking soda instead - while I'm willing to bet the Seachem product has some Sodium Bicarbonate in it, do try the straight baking soda - will boost the pH.> I aerated the water for 24 hrs before I added anything. The Alk however is around 14. <All the more reason to try something else.> I have tested the rodi plain and it tests at zip phosphates, 1ppm solid on the TDS and very low Alk. I use instant ocean which could be why the Alk is so high right now. <I've heard this a couple of times of late about Instant Ocean, but it may be worth mixing up a small batch to see what happens when you add no buffers at all, just the salt.> I just added a couple hrs ago. maybe it will settle overnight. <Will take at least that long.> tomorrow is my water change day <Cheers, J -- >

- Alkalinity/pH - I have a question. I have been adding a PH 8.3 buffer by SeaChem to maintain my ph. I check it with a Coralife PH pen. It gets to about 8.1 but the alkalinity is high. The calcium is 500ppm. Is it better to use Kalkwasser? <Just to raise the pH? You could but your calcium is already high - would lay off the pH 8.3 stuff and just stick with normal water changes for a while... see how things balance out.> It seems from using this product my water hardness goes off the charts. <Your calcium is likewise high - I'd stop all additives for a while.> Chet <Cheers, J -- > 

- High Calcium, Low Alkalinity - Good afternoon, I apologize in advance for asking questions that have likely been covered ad nauseam.  With the overwhelming amount of information out there, I couldn’t find any discussions that seemed “just like my situation.” <No worries.> I understand that I’ll likely receive a lashing for what I’m about to describe, but, here it is…  I have been running my small reef system of about 50 gallons (including two 15 gallon tanks tied to a 25 gallon common sump) blindly for the last six months.  I’ve been dosing a two-part calcium supplement and a few other odds and ends without testing water chemistry. All of my inhabitants seem to be faring well (mostly species of Acropora and Montipora making up the majority of the biomass).  I’m building a new tank soon, and decided to start tracking water parameters for a while before moving everyone.  That’s when I noticed my error in judgment. Currently, my dKH is at 3.8 (1.37 meq/l) and my Ca is an astronomical 690 ppm.  I’d love to know what the other water parameters are, but the test kits are in the mail (that’s why I haven’t tested in so long… I ran out).   These tests were done with Salifert test kits, and I tested my other tanks and my freshly made water and those came out fine, so the test kits seem to be working.  For my Ca, I had to begin an additional syringe of the reagent and multiply the ml. used (1.38) by 500.  Over the last three days my dKH has been 5.6 – 5.1 – and now 3.8 after a water change. I understand the “marble” analogy.  Since I discovered this imbalance, I stopped dosing everything and have done two 10 percent water changes, but I am steadily seeing the my alkalinity drop.  If I understand the marble analogy correctly, if I try to bring the alkalinity up, I’ll make it snow? What is the best remedy at the moment?  Any help/advice would be great. <Think the water changes will help, especially if you lightly buffer the replacement water. Same goes for the calcium additives... good think you've stopped. Don't continue additives until calcium drops... should do so naturally as your stonies use up the calcium.> I always knew grad. school would change my priorities, but I figured it would be limited to eating, sleeping, and physical activity…. NOT THE FISH TANK! Thank you for your time. You guys are doing wonderful things for the hobby. Mike ps. for a reply, do you e-mail me directly, or do I look for it on your site? <Both. Cheers, J -- >

Maddening Problems With Simple Solutions? Hello, and thanks for taking the time to read my email.....(Greatly Appreciated!!!!) :) <That's what we're hee for! Scott F. at the keyboard today> Here is the problem, well two problems.... <1> My alk is consistently too high 6.5 meq L-- 18 dKH and my pH is stuck at 7.9--8.0  causing serious problems with corals. ( make up water is RO ) I need to lower the alkalinity so I can raise pH...<2> I have an EcoSystems  Reefugium mounted above the tank which has gravity fed return into display. The amount of bubbles that it releases as the water enters into the display is entirely unacceptable (I believe its a 1 1/4 " return line). I have contacted them on this matter and they have no insight to the problem. Please help i am ready to dismantle it and start stamp collecting instead!!!!!Much Thanks in advance Anthony Pastorelli NYC Fireman  Bayside, Queens, NY <Well, Anthony- please don't take up stamp collecting yet! I suppose a simple approach to the high alkalinity problem might be to either dose more Kalkwasser (which has the effect of lowering alkalinity over time), or possibly using some (gasp!) un-buffered RO/DI water when you mix your salt...As far as the microbubbles are concerned- I'd try to construct some kind of "baffle" under the return with acrylic, or even use the most simple of all techniques- employ some sponge under the return flow to help catch 'em...Just some thoughts, but maybe they will work, or at least inspire you to try similar ideas...Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Kalkwasser Question Dear Bob- Hello, I have been reading your articles and FAQs and have come across some varying opinions concerning the boosting of ca and alk to a tank from what others have informed me. I have a 46 gal FOWLR and have decided to partake in corals. My questions are: what would be the best product to supplement ca and alk? Also, what is the best way to administer the supplement? Are mechanical dosing pumps necessary? How do you in the beginning stages boost the ca levels without harming current inhabitants? I recall Kalkwasser being high on your list while others have told me Bio Calcium by tropic Marin is more beneficial to a system.  Only one problem is the budget-I know that you favor calcium reactors and have heard of their wondrous contributions to reefing but under monetary constraints I am unable to purchase this machine. I plan to save up and eventually purchase one but the coral bug has bitten earlier than expected.  I understand that I hit you with quite a few questions but any insight would be greatly appreciated. Sincerely, Steven Marandola <Well-stated opinions here. For most (the vast majority) of small, home-based systems "two-part" supplements (like B-Ionic) are best IMO... they provide sufficient/excess alkalinity and biomineral content safely and reliably. I do not endorse the use of Kalkwasser generally... too toxic, unstable to use, easy to get "out of balance" (with magnesium, alkaline make-up) in general... But, Kalk can be a very useful adjunct to other means of boosting, maintaining conducive water quality, particularly with situations where folks have similarly boosted lighting, and a concurrent desire to enhance growth, biomineralization. Reactors are still the best available, most appropriate technology, but I agree with you re their cost. Perhaps a marine club near you will have a "do it yourself" reactor get-together (many do) and you can make your own, find a CO2 cylinder (still the most common types in the U.S. use carbon dioxide, though there are other moda), regulator, needle-valve... at a low price. Considering what folks "put into" their systems, mainly electricity, but also supplement, and livestock cost-wise, reactors are not expensive. Bob Fenner>

Small areas of live rock turning white. 2/17/04 Dear sir,  Tank You for your great site. I ve been  through the faq 's but couldn't find any answer for my problem with my FOWLR tank.  It's a 125 Gallon with wet dry filter under the tank with bio balls and Protein Skimmer and lots of live Rock. Fishes: 2 Ocellaris,1 small Picasso Trigger ,1 Yellow Tang 2 small Snowflake Eels,2 Bubble Tip Anemones .  All my readings and test are fine salinity 1.022,Temperature 24 c, PH 8,1-8,3 , Ammonia 0,Nitrate 0-5,nitrite <3   ,.I did a % 25  water change yesterday with RO Water. I do it weekly)  My problem is that some small  places of my life rock Mainly on the purple algae) are  turning white. Can you help me out here. <You did not list values for Calcium or alkalinity.  Both are very important for the health of coralline algaes.  Water movement is also very important.  I would be surprised if they are low if you really perform 25% weekly water changes, but I would check them.  Too much or too little light can be an issue as well, but lighting adequate to maintain a BTA should be adequate for corallines.  Also, some corallines will die out because conditions aren't favorable, and other varieties will replace them.> Thanks for being there. I nearly spend 2 hours a day at your website :) <Glad you enjoy WWM!  Best Regards.  Adam>

Calcium/Alkalinity Supplements WWW Team, I know that you normally do not like to endorse products, but I am receiving conflicting advice from 2 LFS that I go to.  I currently use ESV 2 part B-Ionic Calcium Buffer System which was recommended by one of the LFS.  The other store said that this stuff is bad due to increasing phosphates and causing hair algae, even though the package states that it does not increase phosphates.  They recommend using Kent Marine Calcium and Pro Buffer.  I have noticed a little hair algae, but not overwhelming, and I have not tested for phosphates (I know I probably should).  Which LFS is right? Do you recommend one product over the other? Thanks for your help <I can only speak with my personal experience with both of these products. I have used the ESV B-Ionic for several months at a time and have never experienced any elevated phosphate or hair algae because of it. Kent Marine calcium and buffer worked best at raising the calcium and alkalinity levels. Overall, I would purchase the Kent product.> Hope this helps, Graham Stephan

The Calcium and Alkalinity Dance Hi, <Hi there! Scott F. with you today!> I've read through all your ca and alk faq's, but I want to get a couple things straight. First off, I have a 220g FOWLR and my most important worry is my fish. I want to keep a higher dKH for ph stability, say around 12? <Sounds good to me...> But I also enjoy good coralline growth and have a good supply of all types of supplements for calcium. <Careful! Haphazard or mis-applied dosing of calcium supplements can degrade alkalinity and really throw the ionic balance of your tank water out of whack. ALWAYS test for calcium, pH and alkalinity when using any calcium supplement> I realize the target Ca level could be anywhere from 350 to 450, but I'm scared of the snowstorm effect and precipitant damaging my Euroreef skimmer pumps. What should I aim to keep my calcium at? <In a fish only tank, 300-350ppm is a good target, IMO.> what confused me was an online reef chemistry calculator that said a balanced ca level for a dKH of 12 was 450 and the balance for calcium grew larger as each value for dKH grew larger. I read here that each are "mutually exclusive" so what does this balance mean? and what should mine be for my application? <Good questions, and there are many thoughts on this. Personally, I would not be overly concerned about Ca levels in a FOWLR tank. I'd be more concerned about alkalinity (buffering ability of water), since fish are heavy eaters and excreters, capable of driving down pH with copious amounts of waste products. even as a reef enthusiast, I think that it's not a great habit to get into- trying to shoot for a specific "target" number. I'd accept high alkalinity and a lower calcium level, especially if the inverts tend to be doing well. Let your animals be your guide here. Regards, Scott F> http://www.kademani.com/reefchem.htm thanks, Brandon

Calcium/Alkalinity Dance Hi there Crew, I keep wanting to ask you more &more. <Ask away!> Sometimes I cannot believe I found this site. Many times reading The "Conscientious Marine Aquarist" I have often wondered wouldn't it be great to have a website on these lines? I do thank you, each and every one of you, for the guidance and support you have given me so far. <Thanks for the kind words!> So here we go another question (or three) Calcium 260 ppm.......??? How can I safely raise the calcium quickly and why is the KH and Alk as high as they are? <I'd recommend proceeding slowly when attempting to make any environmental changes in an aquarium. High calcium and high calcium levels are almost mutually exclusive in most aquariums. It's a balance, basically- and you'll want a reasonable calcium level and a reasonable alkalinity reading. I'd recommend using a balanced two-part calcium/alkalinity additive, like C-Balance or B-Ionic. Both are very effective if instructions are carefully followed> Is this simply a case of bad husbandry and overfeeding? In which case I need a new back ! But hell, what do you do in a circumstance like that?....as a result I lost my job so things really are difficult at the moment. I'm not saying that to whine, but as a genuine question to you as to what to do when something like this happens......per-lease do say sell the fish !! Mind you I have never had fried batfish ! Cheers to you all You are a great bunch. Simon <Hang in there Simon! I have a feeling fried batfish taste lousy, although I must say that triggerfish do taste pretty good! You could either use the aforementioned two part additives (although they can get pricey), or your could begin careful additions of Kalkwasser, and measure the calcium and alkalinity levels as you go...A relatively inexpensive and simple way to go! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

- High Calcium & Alkalinity - Hello, lord I love this site and the information! I am very new to the marine aquarium.  Have spent many enjoyable hours on this site.  I have had my tank for 5 months.  It is a 70 gallon tank, with an Excalibur skimmer, AquaClear wet/dry.  I do water changes everyday of about 2 gallons.  I test the water every week.  NH3=0, nitrites=0, nitrates=20 (I have not been able to get this down under 20, I am looking at a 350 Magnum, or Fluval 404 for chemical/mechanical filtration). pH=8.2, salt 1.024.  I use either, RO water, DI water, or spring bottled water, sometimes tap water treated with Amquel, but I age it for at least a week in a large (brand new) garbage can.  I have about 50 lbs of live rock and a going to get more in time.  I have 5 clowns, 1 flame angel, 1 Foxface tang, 2 damsels.  2 peppermint shrimp, 1 coral banded shrimp, about 10 turbo snails, 2 hermit crabs.  2 yellow polyps, 3 mushrooms, 2 green star polyps.  (oh... one anemone, that I bought at a LFS BEFORE,  I read the articles on this site)  It seems to be fine, except it has not attached to anything, but it does stay in one corner.  The clowns love it and have settled down very nicely....right now one of the clowns have taken to one of the green star polyps as home.  I researched and read about just about everything except water hardness. I have a Ca+ kit... (sea test), I used it a few times but thought something was wrong with this kit as I could not get a reading... I would use about 50-60 drops before the color would change.  My LFS said my kit was reading wrong.  Tonight I just bought a KH kit  (Hagen) .  The KH was 100 mg/ml, however the GH was over 2000 mg/ml.  So with a high Ca+ and a high GH my water source is very, very hard, yes? <Quite possible, yes.> So apparently my Ca+ kit was working....am I in big trouble??? <Only if you keep adding calcium or alkalinity buffers.> I live outside of Buffalo, NY, and as I was talking to my husband about this, my son said "Duh...this area has very hard water, which is the first thing they learned in chemistry..."  (son is 17)... I had chemistry too, I guess I was not paying attention to that little detail... <Or it had little application on the day.> Will this give me trouble? <Again, only if you are trying to supplement calcium or alkalinity through other means.> My tank has just started to grow nice purple coralline, algae is under control with my nice tang, who now eats Nori seaweed to help with his diet, so does my cat who loves the seaweed.  Do I do anything?  If so, what??? <Regular water changes, don't add anything for calcium/alkalinity.> I am having so much fun with this tank, and the learning process.  I checked on most of anything I bought before hand, took my Marine book (yours) to the store with me, read on the Internet.  But I never thought about the Ca+, I thought I would worry about that later as I added more live rock to build up my reef.  Anything in excess is toxic... help!  Do I panic? <No.> or can I ignore... <Don't ignore either... will pay to keep an eye on things.> Thanks so much for any help! Kris <Cheers, J -- >

pH and alkalinity I've sifted through a bunch of FAQs all over the web, but I can't seem to find a specific answer for my situation.  First, I have a confession.  I am a lazy hobbyist.  I mean really lazy.  I have a FOWLR tank that's been running for 2 years without a water change.  It would have been 4 years without a water change, but I moved and the only acceptably lazy option was filling up with new water.  ;-) <Wow!  I consider myself lazy, but you have me beat!  There is a certain amount that can be said for a relatively "hands off" approach, but I have to say that I am in favor of at least occasional water changes.> To my credit, I keep very few animals and they've all been with me from the beginning.  I have a 120 gal tank with a 45 gal sump/refugium.  I can't remember how much live rock, but there's quite a bit.  My substrate is about 1.5 to 2 inches deep in both the tank and sump, and it's all live sand.  I have a purple tang, mandarin goby, Flameback angel, cleaner shrimp, and a peppermint shrimp.  I have the resident snails and hermits, and a colony of polyps that hitch-hiked in on some live rock and multiplied rather nicely.  The newest addition to the tank is a queen conch.  She was one inch long when I put her in a year ago.  She's now nearly 5 inches long and will be donated to the public aquarium next week. <You definitely have benefited from having a relatively light bioload.  Actually.... probably a very appropriate bioload, just light by hobby standards.> I pretty much never test my tank, but I've been thinking about delving into corals.  I have a PC/MH fixture, so I know I'm set on lighting.  I also have an extremely healthy 'pod population.  I began testing my tank this week (all Salifert), and here is where I'm at: Ammonia - 0, Nitrite - 0, Nitrate - 0, Iodine - .06, Calcium - 410, dKH - 5.1, pH - 8.0, (I don't have a phosphate test) The pH looks a bit low, but the alkalinity is really low.  The odd thing is the pH is constant.  I tested when I first setup the tank, and it was always at 8, with dKH at 12.  After I moved, I tested again for a while b/c I was unfamiliar with the water out here, and it was always 8 (don't remember the dKH).  I have an RO/DI unit; I have no idea if that has anything to do with my pH or not. <RO/DI leaves the water fairly pure so that the pH and alkalinity are determined by the buffers in the salt mix.  A pH of 8.0 is a bit low, but should come up with higher alkalinity.  Your alkalinity should be corrected weather you pursue keeping corals or not.  A higher alkalinity will help limit pH swings in case of some unpredictable event (pump failure, etc.)> So here are the million dollar questions: <Stand by for my $.02 answers!> should I try to raise the pH, and if so, what's the best way to do it? <Try raising your alkalinity first, and the pH should come up a bit.  If you don't have a protein skimmer, consider more water movement/aeration to help remove CO2> Will I be forever dependent on artificially altering the pH? <Alkalinity is always "consumed" and as such will have to be replenished, but there are many ways to accomplish this.> Should I be concerned about the dKH? <Yup, particularly if you plan on keeping corals.  IMO, alk is more important than pH or calcium (especially in the short term).  Most corals simply will not tolerate low alk.> Kalk isn't an option for me because it goes against all things lazy. I'm also not crazy about keeping the necessary ingredients on hand as I have a 7-year-old who loves to play chemist. <Kalk is not one of my favorite options anyway.  Consider two part additives like ESV's B-Ionic, Kent's tech CB or Two Little Fishies C-balance.  SeaChem and others also offer separate dry alkalinity and calcium products, and Tropic Marin offers a dry combined product.  You will have to correct your alkalinity first, and then supplement calcium and alkalinity in a balanced fashion.  All of the products I listed are pretty safe (esp. compared to Kalk), but like anything should be stored out of the reach of curious young hands.> Please let me know if there are any natural or easy and non-messy ways for me to resolve my pH.  If there are not, is it possible to keep corals in a tank with a constant pH of 8.0? Thanks, Becky McAlister <As stated above, treat the alk and the pH should follow.  There really isn't any "natural" way to accomplish this short of a very deep sand bed and very low stocking levels (both extreme beyond what is practical).  Two parts are a bit expensive, but offer a great deal of convenience, and some brands come with or can be fitted with child proof caps.  HTH.  Adam>

- Got the Calcium Up, Now for Alkalinity - Newbie here, been learning a lot reading all on this site but can?t seem to get water chemistry right.  New (started March 03) marine 42 gal bowfront tank with Eheim canister filter, internal powerhead, Prizm protein skimmer, JBJ compact fluorescent lighting, 80lbs aragonite sand on a plenum (5in depth sand), 50lbs live rock with a mix of 10-20 snails, one fire shrimp, one blenny, and an assortment of about 10 hermit crabs.  Used Kent super buffer dKH at recommendation of LFS during initial cycling... Noted white precipitate on interior of live rock and ceased usage upon receipt of Ca test kit showing +1500mg/l, and then noted decreased ALK 5-8KH upon discontinuance of buffer.  Been doing weekly 10% water changes with RO/DI water, averaging SG 1.025 for about three months now with the Ca now recording 1025mg/l and Alk 5KH. Algae blooms under control with Fe power in canister and water changes, along with snails/crabs.  Water is crystal clear and other than an occasional cannibalistic hermit (which are getting quite large now), inhabitants seem to be doing fine except for the fine crop of bristle worms in the rock that need to be culled out by trap (caught one that was about 4in long, kids swear they saw a worm ?sting? one of the crabs in mortal combat?... The crab didn?t make it, being devoured by the other crabs in short order). <Interesting.> Temp 80F.  Water quality now is PH8.0 (consistent) KH 5.0 Ammonium 0 Nitrite 0 Nitrate 0.2 Phos 0 Cal 1125mg/l.  Using Coralife sea salt and RO/DI water to temp of 80F and matching SG mixing overnight in a 5 gal bucket prior to water change.  Know need to get the ALK up, but don?t want to go back to the Kent buffer for fear of precipitation. <I wouldn't be overly concerned with pushing the chemistry in any direction in particular. Your calcium is high, add some animals that consume it and once your calcium gets a little lower, you can worry more about alkalinity. Water changes will solve the problem, but over months.> Would like to add some corals and maybe a clown pair... But need to get the balance right first and wondering how long these water changes will need to happen to balance it all out... or what else should I be doing. <Again, this is the long patient approach. Could just forget about both calk/alk for a little while and start livestocking slowly, monitoring all.> Any advice would be appreciated... <Cheers, J -- >

Reef - Additives/ Testing WWM, Hello.  <Howdy, Steve Allen tonight.> I finally received my Salifert Calcium, Magnesium, and KH/ALK test kits. <Good, it's best to supplement only what you have tested and found deficient.>  Here are my results: Magnesium- 1410 KH/ALK- 16 dKH Calcium- 450 I also tested last week with slightly lower calcium.  I added SeaChem's Reef Advantage Calcium to raise it slightly. <450 is good.>  Also seems good to me. (3X the Ca is a good number.> About the ALK....HOW DO I LOWER IT? <Water changes, nothing drastic. Follow Scott's guidelines & things will normalize. See here:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/scottsh2ochgart.htm> It seems WAY to high? <Actually not terrible as range should be 8-12 dKH.> A few weeks ago (before I had test kits) I added two capfuls of SeaChem's Reef Carbonate, which I believe caused the tank to become very cloudy.  Could this cause the extremely high dKH? <Possible; you certainly don't need to be adding more at this point.> For additives I have SeaChem's Reef Advantage Calcium, SeaChem's Reef Builder, SeaChem's Reef Trace, and Epsom salts. <A better way to replenish these trace elements is Scott's water change regimen.> I have only added a small amount of Reef Advantage Calcium to raise the calcium slightly.  I have not used the Reef Builder or the Epsom salts. How often should I use the reef trace?  <see above> I have a feather duster, toadstool leather, polyps, mushrooms and 80 lbs of HI rock/ live rock in a 75 gal tank. <No big calcium consumers here, so you won't need much supplement. Again test periodically and supplement only that which runs low.> Also, I am considering upgrading my lighting to Custom SeaLife Power Compact with Moon-lite 4x65. <Nice unit. I love mine.> I can't afford VHO, and this seems like a good alternative? <How big is the tank? What do you plan to have long-term?> Thanks

- Alkalinity & Calcium Adjustments - Hello crew hope all are well. Quick question when raising calcium and alkalinity to acceptable levels should they be raised at same time or separate times, first one then the other. Rocky <Depends on how you are going about it. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/calcalkmar.htm Cheers, J -- >

- Nitrates, Calcium & Alkalinity - Dear WWM, Thank you for all the great information you have provided on your site. I have spent many hours reading about various topics. I used to go into my LFS with all kinds of questions, but rarely did I ever get any answers. I would probably still be very lost if I hadn't found the site. I have a 75 gallon FOWLR. I have a couple questions for you. I know that you guys have gone over these topics extensively, but I can't seem to find what I'm looking for. I have a very large lionfish, a large snowflake eel, and small Picasso trigger. My nitrate level stays high ranging from 25-50 ppm. I change 20% of the water weekly and have even changed 20% two times a week for about 3 weeks, but the nitrate doesn't seem to go down. I have large fish in a small tank and I have a wet-dry so I'm sure this is what keeps the nitrate up. Do you think that I have anything to worry about with these levels. Are my fish too messy to consider taking out the bio-balls. I have about 25 pounds of live rock and could add some more, but not a lot because the lionfish wouldn't have any room to swim. I would love to get a bigger tank but right now I just can't afford it. <As you guessed, your high nitrates are a result of the wet/dry filter and continued exposure to these isn't good for the long term health of these fish. My suggestion to you would be to lose the wet/dry and put in a proper sump where you can have additional live rock without sacrificing the space for the lionfish. Likewise, a good quality protein skimmer would help deal with those excess wastes.> My next question is about calcium and alkalinity. I have read almost everything about this on the site and also purchased Anthony's book, which I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was signed, but I can' t seem to understand a few things. I have been trying to raise the calcium in my tank to get some coralline algae growth. I have been using the slurry method to dose Kalkwasser to raise the calcium and also to keep the pH up. Without using Kalkwasser it stays between 7.9-8.0 and with it about 8.18. <Really much too low for pH.> For some reason the alkalinity of my tank stays at 13-14 dKH. <What is your calcium level?> I have tried to get it to go down with water changes, but it doesn't seem to work. <Could be an issue with the test kit - seems to me with an alkalinity that high, your pH should be closer to the normal range [8.2-8.4]. Likewise the Kalkwasser additions you've been doing should also boost the pH to some extent.> I just want to know if I should keep using Kalkwasser or what I should do. <I would, if only because your pH is so low.> I don't want to cause a snowstorm but I want to continue to use Kalk. What should I do? <I'd haul a water sample down to your local fish store and get a second opinion on the results. Cheers, J -- >

Calcium/Alkalinity Dance This is my tank -90 bow front FOWLR (145lbs) -100 gallon sump/fuge w/ 7 inch DSB lit on reverse daylight schedule -650 gph flow through sump -1200 gph closed-loop circuit -1/2 inch sand bed in display tank -Aqua C 180 EV skimmer with Mag drive 950 pump -2-65 watt 10 K full spectrum PC 12 hrs per day -2-65 watt 03 actinic blue 14 hrs per day -2-300 watt heaters -2 bags of carbon (app 1 cup each) replaced alternately once per month -ammonia - 0 -nitrite - 0 -nitrate - below measurable limits -temp - 78 -s.g. - 1.025 -pH - 8.22 - 8.35 -RO water for everything -mag - 1250 ppm -Total Alkalinity -  3.5 to 4.0 meq/l Inhabitants -2 true tank raised clowns -1 regal tang -1 5 inch Naso Tang -1 flame angel Questions: For 3 months now my calcium has been hovering around 225 to 275 ppm.  I use Seachem test gear and it tests good on reference sample.  I drip 2.5 gallons of supersaturated Kalk every day for evaporation top-off.  For first 6 weeks that I was using the Kalk I dripped it into the sump, app 1 drop/sec. This didn't work well because eventually I had coated everything with precipitated calcium, a royal pain cleaning up! <I can imagine> Now I drip the Kalk into the return coming from the tank to the sump.  One would think that that would be enough water turn over to mix the Kalk with tank water before precipitation can occur.  When I make my supersaturated solution, I take 2.5 gallons of cool aerated R/O water, vigorously mix 2 teaspoons of Kalk/gallon of R/O water, let sit in a sealed container overnight, siphon the middle 90% of solution into a Kent Aquadoser, and then set at app 1 drip/sec for 24 hour evap make-up.  By the way every day I add 1.5 teaspoons of buffer to keep alk at 3.5 to 4.0 meq/l.  For the last 6 weeks I have been dripping the solution into an area of high circulation.  Why does my calcium level stay so low?  I have a hard time believing that my LR w/ no corals would use up that much calcium.  My coralline is growing, but not very fast, please help me out because I want get these problems cleared up before I even attempt to start keeping clams and SPS.  Thanks in advance for your in depth response. <Well, I'd wouldn't be doing you any favors if I came up with some far-fetched theory as an answer. It's strictly basics here, IMO. If you may recall, in its most simple terms, there is a dynamic with calcium and alkalinity. High calcium levels and high alkalinity are generally mutually exclusive. Anthony touches on this brilliantly with his "bowl of marbles" analogy in his "Book of Coral Propagation. At the risk of over-simplifying, you can only fit so much "stuff" in a given quantity of water...If the calcium level is high, alkalinity will generally go down, and vice-versa... You can't have it all, but there is a certain compromise. I'll bet if you backed off on the buffer, you'd see the calcium level rise a bit. In the end, your animals' responses and growth will be the real indicator. Rather than getting overly fixated on a specific number, trust the reactions of your livestock...Hope this is of use to you. Regards, Scott F>

- Ahhh! Confusion! - Hehe.  Evening folks :)   Alright, here's the deal.  I've been reading so much on your site in regards to KH/CA maintenance and trace element dosing, and I feel as though I may be a bit more confused about it all now than before I started my research.  I also have a few more questions in regards to the tank, but I'll try and take it easy on ya :).  I have had many successful marine tanks in the past, but they have all been seahorse/pipefish tanks, and I've never had to pay attention to some of the more in-depth husbandry techniques that a reef requires. I have a 20 gallon nano reef, which is very young, btw, and I have come up with a regimen that I believe will satisfy this tanks requirements.  I currently am housing a pulsing xenia colony, a yellow polyp colony,  a green Ricordea polyp, a blue mushroom rock, and a couple button polyps that came in on my LR.  The only fish inhabitants of the tank are a Firefish goby and a little neon goby, both of which are happily gobbling on frozen Mysis, Selcon/Zo?enriched live brine shrimp, and ocean nutrition pellets (I'm huge on a varied diet after seeing the incredible results with my syngnathids!).  I also have 20 lbs. of Marshall island, Fiji, Kaelini island LR (Premium Aquatics rules... I thank your site every day for introducing me to them!).  I have an AMiracle overflow draining into a homemade 10 gallon sump/fugium, returning through a Mag 3 into a DIY return manifold.  This refugium has a 6 inch DSB (grain size ranging .02 to 1.4mm), which will be seeded with the kit from IPSF (arriving in 4 days), and will house Gracilaria (sp.?), Halimeda, Ulva and Chaetomorpha algae... heck with the Caulerpa.  I also am going to take some of the hundreds of Cerith snails I have now (started with 4 six months ago...hehe) and put them in the DSB as well.  Onto the lighting.  I built a hood with 2 55W PC fixtures in it, which is just about perfect for the coral livestock I intend to keep, I believe.  I am using one 10,000K bulb and one 12,000K bulb, which really gives the tank a blue appearance.  It may be a bit too blue for me, but I think I'm getting used to it... I don't want to drain out the nice yellows/reds and such, which this lighting scheme seems to a bit (not much, maybe a hair... can't rightly say to be honest).  Anyways, that is the overview of my set-up.  Now onto the questions.  First off, is it safe to say that all my trace element requirements could be easily satisfied with a strict regimen of water changes......say, 2 gallons every 5 days? <Sure.> Will this also satisfy the CA/ALK requirements of this tank? <Probably, it doesn't sound to me like you have any heavy calcium consumers, which might require additional supplementation.> I will be housing strictly soft corals/mushrooms and MAYBE a LPS (an open brain, if anything), although I am not sure. I guess I was figuring with the abundance of fine sand between the display tank and the refugium my CA and ALK levels would be partly maintained by the dissolution of the aragonite. <My thinking as well.> My main question about CA levels is all this talk about calcium chloride and it's ill effects when over-used.  I have C-balance, and I was going to dose it in small amounts, but after reading all the posts here, I'm worried that I will skew the ionic balance very easily in such a small tank. <If I'm not mistaken, C-balance is a two part system. As long as you use both parts in equal measure, you should be fine.> Is it safe to say that the regular water changes will remedy any potential imbalances that may be experienced when dosing with the calcium chloride? <Not sure... depends just how out of balance you are.> I'm just trying to figure out if I need to dose anything at all, with the exception of iodine, if I employ frequent water changes. <Even with the iodine, you're best off to test for things you think you might have to supplement.> I know if this was a SPS tank I would have to dose Kalk and all that jazz, but I do not want to get anywhere near that stuff, and I don't think I need to given the CA requirements of the proposed livestock. <I concur.> I figure, given the small size of the tank and the absence of stony corals (well, there are a couple wee pink fuzzy frags on my LR...which are growing!), I could get away without dosing anything at all and simply change a few gallons of water every couple days. I will say that I plan on dosing SeaChem reef calcium for my coralline growth, as I love a nice coralline growth as much as I love the corals. I know I need to dose carefully with it...I plan on halving the recommended dose to start, and SLOWLY increasing the dose to one that seems to work without causing any algae blooms. My only fear with this is that the gluconate calcium is in chelated form... if it is, it is safe to say that a problem algae bloom would be a sign that it is too late and I am in store for weeks of battling? <Not sure about the formulation of C-balance, but you could send a query to Two Little Fishies and get a clarification.> Would it be better to dose it daily as opposed to 2x weekly, as listed by the manufacturer? <I'm always in favor of at least starting off by following their directions - they are written for a reason - and then follow that up with testing to make sure that whatever it is has the desired affect.> Alright, enough of that. Last question.  I am planning on trying to go skimmer-less with this one, as I plan on keeping a very light fish load, and I have a lot of macro growing in the refugium. It seems as though I still should use a skimmer though, after reading what you guys all seem to concur on here.  When I say light bio-load, I mean really light, as in what I have now and that is it.  I have always kept my tanks as such, and I've always had healthy, clean tanks due to it.  I understand that an increase in bio-load on such a small system would most certainly require the employment of a good skimmer, but for my set-up, I'd like to at least try going without it.  Any comments/criticisms on that notion would be welcomed :) <Sounds good to me.> Sorry for rambling on and on guys, but I figured I'd get it all out at once. I appreciate your site more than you know....it's been such a huge help, so....thanks! Sincerely,
<Cheers, J -- >

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