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FAQs on Marine Water Supplements 1

Related Articles: Marine System Additives, Marine Maintenance, Understanding Calcium & Alkalinity, The Use of Kalkwasser by Russell Schultz,

Related FAQs: Marine Supplements 2, Marine Supplements 3, Marine Supplements 4, & FAQs on Marine Supplement: Rationale/Use, Science, Measuring, Using, Troubleshooting/Fixing... Products/DIY & Brands, & Biominerals, IodineCalcium and Alkalinity

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Trace Element Toxicity/ Safe Additives Hello there, I am writing with some concern. Please feel free to direct me to the appropriate link regarding this question so that I may read for myself...I could not find it on my own, searching your site with key words "additive toxicity; supplement toxicity." I just read (or did my best to read and comprehend) an article in the most recent issue of an online reef keeping magazine. The topic was in regards to Trace Element Toxicity (?). This gentleman (a PhD) warns that the trace elements that reef keepers add (I assume in forms of commercial additives) to their tanks create a ticking time bomb.  <thank you for your discretion about the author, etc... rest assured that I do know exactly who you are talking about. Many industry professionals have an interesting perspective on this chap's views. My opinion is that much (even most!) of what he has to say in general is very important and useful for the hobby. However, enough of it is so ridiculous and far-fetched as to be patently inaccurate if not harmful to aquarists that do not have enough experience or knowledge yet to make an informed decision. My criticism of his more controversial opinions (additive toxicity, high aquarium temperatures, telling new aquarists to feed shovels full of food to their tanks before they even know how to work a skimmer, etc) is based on one crucial argument: he hasn't lived the practical and commercial side of the industry to fairly make such statements. He hasn't been a wholesaler, retailer or merchant in charge of tens of thousands of gallons of livestock systems. Hasn't been a fish farmer, or a coral farmer... hasn't spent years collecting fishes and navigating them through import... any of the previous would impart considerable experience and wisdoms on the practical aspects of aquarium husbandry and water quality dynamics by virtue of the volume of water and animals held (and done so with great care for how much $ is involved!). Are any or all of the previous necessary to speak on the topic: absolutely not. But by the same token... tossing around a PhD earned on the field study of temperate species decades ago has little to do with tropical aquariums today.>  He states that in NSW, the trace elements are significantly lower than what would be found in hobbyists' reef tanks. This addition/abundance of unnecessary trace elements in aquaria in time will ultimately kill everything.  <20 years of reefkeeping stands in stark contrast to this theory> Am I making sense...I am not even sure how to phrase my question.  <you are understood clearly> My understanding is that excess elements can be absorbed by the algae, coral, and inverts to a point, but when they die, they release the trace elements back into the system, causing a spike in the amount of elements to the system...a dangerous thing.  <are you planning on massive die offs?> This is why it would be advisable to siphon out detritus and non-coralline micro-algae, besides for aesthetics. The writer contends that anything above the amounts/levels found in NSW is responsible for premature death to the inhabitants.  <heehee... he also suggests keeping reef aquariums at 86F because that's what the water was like in Fiji the when he dived there (he also uses skewed NOAH data)... of course, the following year Fiji experienced the worst bleaching event in history for those high temps as filmed and documented by Dr Bruce Carlson who has more dive time logged in one year than the PhD author, you and me combined will in a lifetime> According to the writer, the corals we purchase are either pollution tolerant or have mutated into a species that can sustain the excess trace elements  <that's funny... so they have mutated on an evolutionary scale of 10 -20 years but 2000 years of domestication with the cat and we still can't get the little bastards to some when called. His theory is too convenient> (I was also reading a debate he was having with chemists in an online forum...ReefCentral I believe... this previous statement was not in the article). Anyway, I am considering stopping the intentional introduction of trace elements into my tank.  <whoa! partner...lets reconsider this if you actually want your corals to grow> The writer also stated (I think in his forum debate) that all commercial salts include trace elements and that these are much higher concentrations than found in NSW.  <that is true by necessity because if they were AT NSW then every tank would need daily 100% water changes to stay at NSW levels. By mixing high... we start at little above NSW and end a little below NSW and that serves the greater good for most aquarists that don't want to be a slave to water changes. For what its worth... if I was going to stop supplements... I would simply do large weekly water changes for supplementation. A fine idea IMO... just laborious and not for the same reasons that the Dr professes> My only additive is called Oceans Blend, which contains 70 elements (on the label)...it's a two-part additive with the trace elements added to the Ca part, Alk part is just Alk/Ph mixture. Maybe I'm sounding like I don't understand what's going on, but I am concerned about the life in my tank.  <a knee-jerk reaction caused by an author that knows how to keep himself employed with controversy perhaps :p> Am I doing more harm than good? The writer stated that corals and other life can be sustained in such polluted environment (i.e., our tanks) for about 5 years at best before succumbing to "old tank syndrome," when the system/life ceases to function at all.  <hahahahahhahha......Hehehehehe......hahahahahhahha. Ahhh... maybe we should buy him a ticket to Germany to see Stuber, Olsen, Knop, etc tanks with 10, 15 and 20 year old "poisoned" corals. > Should I add just plain calcium and ph/alk buffer???  <indeed the foundation. Iodine has a stable life of about mere hours in SW... I would add a small amount of iodine too> If I'm getting trace elements in the salt mix and food,  <but not in the ratio that they are consumed in the tank...> plus from the LR and other unknown sources, then why should I add additives?  <good heavens... can you test for all trace elements and know what those sources are actually contributing if any at all? Better yet... can you test for your own dietary trace element and vitamin input OR does your body take in more than it needs and safely excretes the rest... understand my friend? Anything to excess can be toxic but nothing has suggested that aquarists are adding too many trace elements or iodine, strontium, etc. The suggestion is causing unnecessary fear!> Can you suggest some products that are just plain calcium with no trace elements?  <why is it that excess or supplemented calcium is not a poison but trace elements are? Dubious logic IMO> How will this affect the balance of elements; that is, aren't some elements toxic or useless without others? Can calcium be used alone or does it have to react with magnesium or that other long word that I can't spell (begins with an "S"; strontium or something like that)?  <strontium OR calcium combine with carbonates to make aragonite> This was just one study he initiated, and it is my opinion that its conclusions may not justifiably be generalizeable... <I'm not sure that they are fair if they are even sane...heehee> I question his methodology (didn't see a lot of info) and would have liked to of read more about his controls for confounding variables, reliability measurements, etc.  <yep... I'd like to see a year of his hard science against twenty years of anecdotal evidence from aquarists. And by the way... aquarists have spent millions of dollars on the private keeping and study of such organisms in the process and it hasn't been in vain. We have a lot of corals in captivity that are well over 10 years old. Some much older!> Several of his points were countered by "chemists" in the debate in the forum...but I don't know if these people work for additive companies.  <I assure you that they have no more ulterior motives than he does> He does state that aggressive protein skimming and water changes reduces the amount of trace elements, but is, as I understand, not enough. He goes so far as to advise the use of NSW in tanks, for those who can get it...unwise IMO,  <WOW...staggeringly dangerous advice for most new aquarists. He can take credit for killing a lot of animals with that advice> as I agree with this sites concerns for the intro of parasites/pests and man made pollutants.  <big time> My apologies if this has been addressed in a previous FAQ. <nope...thank you!> Thanks a bunch, Randy M. Yniguez, MA <---who wishes he had paid more attention to his Research Methods instructor in grad school! <no worries. Even after the above dialogue I will tell you that I do not use trace elements myself. I simply don't agree that supplements are toxic the way that most people dose. My preference is indeed for aggressive protein skimming and frequent water changes (weekly or more). With kind regards>

Re: Trace Element Toxicity/ Safe Additives Hello there, <cheers, my friend> Thank you for your comments.  <my pleasure> My skepticism and reassurance from your response will prevent me from doing potential harm to my tank inhabitants.  <good healthy skepticism, indeed.> I will continue to treat my tank as I have been doing so far with weekly water changes and careful husbandry/maintenance, as I have so far found nothing but success  <exactly my friend! We don't need to be chemists to enjoy the hobby... instead we can follow simple established recipes for success or just look at our animals and tank health to know that what we are doing is good> (i.e., everything is still alive/happy/healthy looking; LR has cycled as expected; and water test parameters indicate a safe environment for my livestock) . In the future, I will consider just switching to a Ca reactor,  <indeed your best long term solution when used correctly... a little Kalk supplementation too wouldn't hurt> or supplement with Ca Chloride and Ph/Alk supplements only,  <there are documented problems with Ca Chloride regular and extended use (skewing ALK dynamic and precipitating ALK). Simply using Calcium hydroxide and buffer will be fine (mostly Kalkwasser alone in truth)> without the additional trace elements mixed into the two-part additives; perhaps additional Iodine as you suggest. The doctor's article did strike me as peculiar in light of the testimonials of "successful" reefers on various websites/chats/forums, many of whom state keeping corals/fish/inverts for many years under regular/frequent addition of trace elements.  <indeed it is the crux of criticism of our colleague who hasn't lived the industry and application of the aquarium hobby to the extent that many other successful folks have. His points may be valid... but theirs are equally strong or greater IMO. Aquarium science on paper and tested through clinical trials with sea urchins and their eggs, for example, doesn't always translate accurately to the real hobby. Heehee... scientists!> Thank you for your time and insight. Your site's info/input is crucial for making informed decisions. Thanx a bunch, -RY <---with more questions/comments to come, in the near future I'm sure <looking forward to it. Do continue to keep an open mind. With kind regards, Anthony>

Corals and Calcium Good evening all. <cheers> First a quick hello and to let you know that my recent trip to Sri Lanka went well, we took 2 days to go snorkeling in Hikkaduwa. Quite neat, a little polluted though.  <sorry to hear the latter> We are subsequently planning a trip back again and are hoping to be able to stop in the Maldives for 4 days for some serious diving and snorkeling sometime in October. <magnificent!> Ok on to the tank. Since I last wrote, regaling you with my algae woes the matter has indeed gotten better. If you recall I was overrun with hair algae and diatoms. After tearing out my hair <the algae or your follicles?> and trying to rectify the problem, I had upgraded the lights, the skimmer, bought a Diatom filter, etc..., I decided to switch to distilled water, seems to have made a huge improvement.  <all excellent> I was using tap water and even though it showed up as having no silicates/phosphates etc at the LFS where I had it tested, they told me that there could be organophosphates that are very difficult to test for.  <agreed> I now purchase distilled water heat, buffer and mix for a few days before changing the water. <K> I have also recently purchased a Lawnmower blenny, he seems to ignore the hair algae and goes for the brown soft algae that grows on the live rock. <cool... keep an eye on his weight though. Feed extra as necessary> I also cannot seem to maintain my calcium levels above 400.  <no worries... that is likely too high anyway (this coming from a coral farmer!) I add Kent turbo calcium on an every other day basis and it seems to have no effect I am hovering around 350 or so.  <Arghhhh!!!! please... no calcium chloride! It builds chlorides and skews the Ca/Alk dynamic. It should only be used for emergencies> I also add magnesium, Iodine and strontium weekly. I am also adding Kent SuperBuffer DKH once a week for the PH and general hardness. Here are the tanks stats. 120 Gallon, temp 76 Salinity 1.025 PH 8.4-8.6 GH 13 Nitrates 0 Nitrites 0 Ammonia 0 Calcium 350 ish Lighting: 4 65W PowerCompact 10,000K 2 65W actinic Berlin Skimmer, get about 1/2 -1 cup of black scum daily Assorted powerheads and an Eheim pro canister filter. about 65 lbs of live rock. <dude... read the work of Bingman if scientifically inclined or the passage in my Book of Coral Propagation if you want the laymen's interpretation. Your Ca and ALK are FINE. It is unnatural and almost impossible to keep both levels at the high end simultaneously. You risk a precipitate snowstorm if you try. Your Ca is sub-400 because your Alk is nicely high. But both are more than high enough for calcification in reef organisms. Relax my friend> Inhabitants. 1 Banggai cardinal 1 Pajama cardinal 1 Lawnmower Blenny 2 Ocellaris clowns 1 fire goby 1 Scopas Tang 1 brittle star (never see him except for the odd arm sticking out at feeding time) 2 Cleaner shrimp 3 blue legged hermits 2 fighting conchs (amazing at keeping down the diatoms) 1 green sea mat coral 1 Leather coral, that has doubled in size in about three months, always covered in polyps it is about 8" across and around 4" high. 1 xenia frag, which has split about 6 times since getting it 4 months ago and is creating a nice colony on top of the LR. The tank is almost 1 yr old. <sounds like a fine tank> I just purchased a Bubble coral and placed him in the tank yesterday, he was fully extended and even ate when fed last night. Tonight however he is all deflated and had a string of mucous coming out of it mouth (presumably.)  <perhaps excrement> Should I assume that he needs a few days to become adjusted to the new tank conditions. He looked great in the shop. <acclimation yes, unless you fed food that is too big. No large chunks or mucous regurgitation follows and starving occurs even though you think you are feeding it (most regurgent occurs at night). Food for this animal should be meaty foods of marine origin finely minced and nothing larger than 1/4"> Also my fire goby keeps disappearing for days on end, just when I think that he is gone, he appears at feeding time? Any suggestions? <Tijuana> So mainly it is the calcium and the coral that I am concerned about as I would like to get some more coralline algae growing in the tank. <you can also add Seachem's Reef Calcium.. it is a sugar based calcium: great for corallines but useless for coral growth IMO> Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, and look forward to hopefully a rewarding holiday in October. Thanks again, you guys rock. Julian Hunt <grazie... Anthony>

Reef Vital DNA Do you guys know what is in the Marc Weiss product Reef Vital DNA. <yes...fairly well> Unless my nose has deceived me I fear I have paid $20 for a bottle of prune juice. I don't have a hidden agenda, I just want to buy the best food per dollar ratio.  <we are agreed. I personally will not put anything with unlabeled ingredients into my tank> I have heard good things about Liquid Life BioPlankton, and have just started dosing it. Is this the best food for filter feeders on the market, or am I believing the hype again? Thanks, David. <depends on your filter feeders... phytoplankton substitutes are all the rage now but very few popular invertebrates can actually ingest it (many complications about preparation and dosing). If you have a lot of gorgonians or Neptheid soft corals...fine. Do experiment as per mfg dose. But be more judicious if you have more of the popular zooplankton feeders. Again, all dependant on the specific invertebrates that you keep. Kindly, Anthony>

Marc Weiss Products? Dear Bob and/or crew), I have noticed in your replies to many inquiries in various FAQs you have recommended not using products such as Coral Vital or Reef DNA etc. I have read the hype, paid handsomely, and have been using the products for a couple of weeks. Please let me know if I should stop and if so why. Is it they just don't work or could they actually be detrimental. Your advise is appreciated. Mike Mahoney <I will give you my general opinion on supplementation. I will not use any product that will not tell me what specifically is in it. Then, I will only use things demonstrated to be useful/needed (calcium, carbonates, iodine, etc). And lastly, I try to only use things whose concentration can be tested for so that the dosing can be monitored. I hope this helps. -Steven Pro>

Cool Corals Products: Reef Secure request for trial Dear Bob, My name is Brad Kretzmeier, owner of Cool Corals Products. We have recently released our first product to the Marine Aquarium industry called Reef Secure. It is an all-natural mineral supplement for all saltwater applications. It adds over 60 elements, can directly feed filtering organisms, helps to reduce organics, removes coloring in water and will improve protein skimmer performance as well as mechanical filtration. We have done extensive research testing into this product and, we feel it yields very positive effects on tanks. Also, we have had many people testing this product and all have been exceptionally happy. <It is my opinion that such a product does have placement potential in the current trade/hobby market> I believe that Dave Adkins, with Aquarium Lighting & Supply has already contacted you via e-mail regarding this new product. We are interested in you possibly doing a testing/review of this new product. If all goes well, maybe even something for FAMA if you like it well enough. <Perhaps. As you might know I don't "do endorsements" per se, but do write "happy stories" re ornamental aquatics.... and the folks at FAMA (and the foreign mag.s that put up with me) are often open to their publication> We would be glad to send you some product for testing and brochures for more information on the product if you like. If you are interested in tested this for us and/or need more information, feel free to contact us by e-mail or phone. <Please do send along what you'd like gone over... and industry notes re who will be distributing same, in sizes, labeling... Our addr. 8586 Menkar Rd., San Diego, CA 92126> Sincerely, Brad Kretzmeier Cool Corals 800 Main Street Lafayette, IN 47901 Phone: 765-742-2936 Fax: 765-742-5733 Email: coolcorals@aol.com <Be chatting. Bob Fenner, WetWebMedia.com>

Re: Daily Fish Email out WWM Bob, I have a friend who has just developed a new Marine supplement additive. Do you want a sample, can you review and or see if you like it and promote/suggest based on your findings? David Adkins <Will take a look/see at the supplement. Our addr.: 8586 Menkar Rd. San Diego, CA 92126.> BTW Daniel at Eheim hasn't returned my call. <Will cc him here. May not have gotten your call. Bob Fenner>

Re: something not quite right Bob, <Chris, Anthony Calfo here answering questions and feeling warm and fuzzy... and not because my back needs shaved, either> I've been searching for awhile for answers to my problem, and am quite tired.... so I figured I'd ask. I have a 180 gallon reef, 2yrs old, and my basic test are within the testing limits.. Ca 500, Alk 2.8, ph 8.2.  <I disagree... your tests are inaccurate (perhaps hence the troubles below). It is extremely difficult to achieve and maintain 500ppm of calcium. I'm nearly certain of this and your poor coralline algae health is testimony in part. Also... what is you alkalinity measure in? meq/l or dKH. Even in milliequivalents it is low, but in degrees of hardness it is outrageously low. And a pH of 8.2 during the day indicates a buffering problem (again... the readings). A healthy marine aquarium will range 8.3 (dead of night) to 8.6 (peak light/day)> I originally purchased 250 lbs of live rock, over the last year the pink, red, purple corallines have diminished and the only real growth of coralline in the tank is on the filter boxes (none on the glass) <yes...above problem> and it is green. my lighting seems to be ok( 220 w compacts 11-6, 96w compacts 9-8, and 80 w Fluor. (blue) 8-10. I purchased a iodine/iodide test kit from Seachem, I followed the "break-in" procedure properly, and did a test with my water... it's result showed I had elemental iodide/iodine? could this be the problem? any ideas or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. <nope, bud. You need to start your sleuthing with new test kits. Let me know what you find out, please. Anthony>

High PH and Alkalinity ok CA Hi Bob, Heard the rumor that you may write a book about reef aquariums. Would love to read that!! I read the website almost daily since I found it. <Thank you my friend... a good part of "The Conscientious Reef Aquarist" is written... just having to wait on my fabulous publisher (James Lawrence, now Microcosm/TFH)... for their excellent help, editing, lay-out, production, sales and distribution-wise.> I have read a lot about water quality and just can't seem to find the answer to my problem. First the set up: 75 gal tank, RO water, LR, LS, CPR BakPak, 3 powerheads, 1 carbon power filter currently running w/o carbon), 2 light hoods 1 compact 300 watt and 35-45watt 50/50, 35-45watt actinic that are on from 11:00am to 10:00 pm. Temperature 80. Second, the pets: Blue hippo tang, purple tang, 2 damsels, false Percula, banded goby, Foxface, abalone, 2 mithrax crabs, turbo snails, brittle star, impatient Cuke, Cerith snails, fire shrimp, 2 cleaner shrimp,1 green striped and 1 purple mushroom rocks and a sun coral hate to forget anyone) The tank has been established for well over 2 years and has been moved twice with no deaths. They currently all seem pretty happy and acting as normal. We have had a lot of coralline growth lately, which is good since it has receded over the years. I add, according to the directions, Kent products like calcium, strontium, iodine, coral Accel, essential elements, coral Vite. I have others like calcium with buffers, dKH buffer, cycle (Hagen product) but haven't used them for a few weeks. I started adding all of these potions a couple of months ago because of the lack of coralline growth and the LFS suggested all kinds of additives to help everything under the sun or at least everything in my aquarium. <Yes... the supplement "habit"... can be dangerous... almost always expensive...> I have a Hagen testing kit and all water parameters are fine except high PH and alkalinity. PH 8.5-8.7 usually, but last night the test gave me a purple color (not on the chart) and Alkalinity was 220! <Yes, the source of your biominerals, mainly calcium, is precipitating out your bicarbonate... making the solid calcium carbonate... the powdery white stuff in/on your substrate... You've got too much of "A" in A plus B equals C, with the alkalinity being "B", the CaCO3 being "C"> The Calcium tested last night at 420ppm. I did a 10 gal water change last week because of high PH and Alk. but I still have high results. I haven't read anything about this type of problem before and am wondering what to do. <Cut back on "A", and/or increase "B"... or better still, do some calculating of what these supplements are costing you and build or buy a calcium reactor for pH, biomineral, alkaline and CO2 input, homeostasis> Also, I read that cukes are a mistake.  <The one you have (Impatiens) is fine> I bought mine as a part of a clean up package from FFExpress and am wondering if the Cuke should be in my tank. It should be safe from power heads, maybe could contact heater. It spit out its guts after we first put him in the tank but seems to be fine now. I rarely see him since it is in the live rock all the time. What do you think? Why is he a part of a clean up crew if he is potentially very dangerous? <Not that much worry... It's the larger species like the "Australian Sea Apple" that are much more of a concern> Thanks for all your help and expert advice. Chris <Glad to render/share it. Bob Fenner>

Novice at work! Hello Robert, I just read about feather dusters in the FAQ section of http://wetwebmedia.com/ But I am still uncertain what's going on with my invert. For about 2 weeks it began to stay in it's tube more than out. Now, for about 3 days, it hasn't come out at all. The tip of the tube seems to be 'sealed' up! I don't know if the color has changed, ( I'm embarrassed to say) but in the middle of the tube it is a very dark brownish/maroon color. <Yikes... often not a good sign> I have a 55 gal, 60lbs. LR, crabs, T snails, a couple camel shrimp, and 4 damsel fish. I have recently added many supps every week consisting of, Seachem's: Reef Builder Reef Advantage Strontium Reef Advantage Magnesium Reef Plus vitamins and amino acids Reef complete On the day after I add all these, I add Reef advantage Calcium <How much of all this...?> Yes, I have visited www.garf.org . This is where this novice has learned most of her stuff. Am I all wet?? I need a site where I can find ANSWERS! So here I am, asking you for some help. Thanks very much for your time! Pam <I will gladly help you (and all others) if I can... We may need to start "further back" in the set-up, history of this system. To expedite matters, get us ahead faster than "going back and forth" please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/tanktroubleshting.htm re troubleshooting... I would stop adding biominerals (Sr, Mg, even calcium) until you know about what these are concentration wise in your systems water... do you have an alkalinity test kit? A history/values of what this has been? I suspect this is low... The vitamins are fine to keep adding. We'll be chatting. Bob Fenner>

Re: Novice at work! I went to the site Robert: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/suppleme.htm, and all I can say is,......... WOW, lots of info, daunting, but I got the message! Maybe all my supplements are NOT a good thing. <Decidedly not... many have negative reactions with each other...> But it's very difficult when you are new to the Reef World.  There is so much info out there, it's hard to sort out the 'truth of the matter' .  <Everything... is difficult at first my friend.> Maybe the best way to do this is to ask, "Is he selling something"? www.garf.org does sell, but they are also very knowledgeable as far as I can see. I'll stick with you Robert for the time being, <Do not "stick" with "either of us"... but decide always for yourself on the basis of your understanding> you appear to be the most dedicated, informative, knowledgeable and passionate person I've seen out there in the great WWW. I love your site and have made it my Home Page. So, this means you'll be hearing from me often! Pam <I look forward to our sharing. Bob Fenner>

Reef plus hi I was wondering how important reef plus is I only have 1 coral at the moment a leather coral adding 11 and a half capfuls a week seems a bit much just for one coral should I be adding this much for one thanks for your help have a happy new year <Alkalinity, biominerals are important... particular products are not. Please read over the Marine Index on WetWebMedia.com Bob Fenner>

Messed up tank Hi Bob, Merry Christmas! I need help with my 60G reef acrylic tank .. I was stupid enough to dump too much buffer (water Kent buffer) into it last week and half of the front glass is now coated with "white stuff". <Yeeikes!> I tried scrapping it off with my credit card and with the cleaning pads but still there is a lot of "white stuff" left. Good thing is I am actually moving this weekend so I would get a chance to give it a good clean. Do you know of any good way to get the "white stuff" off? <Not w/o emptying the tank... gently wiping with dilute acid (like vinegar, acetic) on a sponge, or better, swishing successive washes of it (white is better) onto the panels... Or letting time go by... it will wear off... Don't scrape! Bob Fenner> Thanks again! Brian

Reef plus I haven't set up with corals just yet but are hoping to sometime next week I have a 432 liter tank and the reef plus say to add 5ml per 80L or to desired amount needed for corals 2 twice per week will I really need to add this much because in Australia they charge $20 a bottle and this will run out just about every month <Mmm... I would study the simpler aspects of reef aquarium water chemistry and with the gained understanding, use of test kits, determine what values you are trying to achieve and look into less expensive means of accomplishing what you're looking for. Please read through the links posted here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/Marind4of6.htm under Water Quality, Tests, Testing. Bob Fenner>

Mushroom question Hi Bob, Please clarify for me just one more time, because both GARF and one of your associates told me that mushrooms only need iodine supplementation and only need calcium suppl. if you want coralline algae growth. I know I have to maintain good water parameters (pH, Alk, temp, ammon, etc.), but I am trying to simplify my tank in both expense and time in going with the mushrooms. To ask it again, do I really need to supplement for calcium, mag, stront, etc, in these non stony corals? <Not supplement... but understand that these are essential elements... you/they need to have sufficient concentration in the systems water for health, growth... A good idea to test, understand what is/may be involved in possibly augmenting... Please do yourself and your livestock service and read more widely. Don't ask just myself, or any other concern on the Net what is advised. A ready source of more useful, "balanced" information are books, chatforums (ours: http://talk.wetwebfotos.com/), magazines, clubs...> I read your web site recommendations but the specifics were not there. Farewell again. <Do keep journeying for a more complete grasping of what you seek. Bob Fenner>

Sea lab #28 hello Mr.. Fenner this is the first time I have asked any question of your self but I have been reading and checking info on your site for about 12 months now and really value your opinions my question is have you ever heard of sea lab #28 it states that it automatically maintains calcium, and all trace elements found in the sea. do you know of this to be true? <Do know of this product... it's been around for many years... and our old companies (retail and service) used to offer and use it... A worthy addition to very small (ten, twenty gallon) non-reef systems. Larger ones are better dealt with two part supplements, calcium reactors... and testing. Bob Fenner> Dave Beene

Re: concerned Also, I recently started using liquid calcium and coral vital to promote growth on the live rock. <Drop the vital of any sort> Could you elaborate of this any further? A reputable aquarium store told me to use the coral vital with the calcium. <Yes, the "vital" product is not vital... in fact a "sugar pill" of dubious to detrimental use> Your books talks about daily or automatic additions of calcium.  <Calcium and other alkaline earth materials are necessary. Do continue monitoring, adding these> I would imagine that means only if your test kit tells you your levels are low. The reason why I ask is because I added calcium once and my level has been good ever since. <Then no need to add it further. Bob Fenner. Please take a read through our principal site, www.WetWebMedia.com re supplements (in the many FAQs files), and write back if anything is incomplete, not clear to you.>

Supplements Hi again, Still have more questions, this time on supplements: 1. I have heard that using Lugol?s solution for iodine supplements in the aquarium is quite controversial; however, would it be good to use Lugol?s solution as a dip for incoming inverts (coral, etc.) and mix a solution of KI as the supplement? What percent mass by volume would you recommend the KI solution to be? <Yes... as a matter of actual practice this is exactly what I do, and institute in culture and collection stations... Stock solutions, treatments are a bit "tricky"... as you can well appreciate... the amount applied is highly variable... depending on stocking considerations of animals that use/need iodide... dosing frequency/protocol... make up of the system contents and filtration... My best advice/what I do is to administer a given amount and test the next day... and above all, carefully observe your livestock.> 2. I?m curious about making a CuSO4 solution for use in a quarantine tank. I know there are two ways to make a stable for (citrated or chelated) but I?m not sure exactly how to go about the procedure (I have access to a high school chemistry lab). Specifically, what percents of CuSO4 and citric acid do I use for the citrated for (please specify units, i.e. volume/volume, etc.)?  <Approximately ten percent by weight of the citric acid granular... to copper sulfate pentahydrate...> What ligand compound do I use for the chelation process and what procedure do I use? <Most formulations involve alkano-amines... These procedures are proprietary... but you can get a good glimpse of all by a visit to a college library, perusing the Chem. Abstracts on-line...> 3. Somewhat off the topic, how do I recharge the Tap Water Purifier? I tried to use a weak HCl solution but when I tested the new batch with a TDS test it read about 2900 mg/L whereas the entering water is about 400 mg/L. <Yikes... best not to try recharging these ion-exchange resins at all... In fact, you sound like a candidate for a simple reverse osmosis unit... this will get you clean enough water for the lowest possible cost... and no waiting, muss-fuss...> Thanks again, Kevin <Looking forward to further "conversations" with you. Much more can be said on the large topics, ideas you present. Bob Fenner>

Reef tank hello again Robert, thanks very much for replying to my last email. my query this time is trace elements should I dose iodine, calcium etc and how much. I have had my reef tank for 3years and never added anything. <You may not have to, or benefit from such additions... many "non-driven" (i.e. not boosted lighting, carbon dioxide or other factor) systems do fine with "regular" maintenance (e.g. water changes) and maintenance (e.g. feeding)...> my tank is 50 gallons, I have 5 tubes 2 4foot LifeGlo 1 4foot triton 1 4foot MarineGlo 1 4foot marine white. with mirrored inside hood. 1 Fluval ext [303] 3 internals,1 with carbon, 1ext protein skimmer, I have a selection of soft corals [13] which are all doing great plus I have also cut off 6 small frags ? they are also doing well, 1tube anemone, 2 mushroom corals,2 lots of xenia, plus loads of Caulerpa. fish are 2 damsels, 1 watchman gobie,1 cardinal, 1coral beauty. my nitrate 0 ph 8.4 sg 1.22. I do have a touch of troublesome algae but nothing to serious. I cant help thinking if I dose with supplements it could be better. I feed the corals through a syringe with various foods. could you please help me on this query, and any helpful hints on my set up. cheers Paul. <Hmm, "nothing succeeds like success" (Zig Zigler I believe)... I wouldn't add anything to this system if you're happy with the results thus far... If you do develop a supplementing habit, do test and record your inputs, measures... Bob Fenner>

Any suggestions? I started adding supplements to my tank about 4 months ago. At first everything was opening up and looking excellent. Now, everything still looks ok but my very large octopus coral and elegance coral have been closing up on a daily basis. (I've had both corals for many years) The octopus coral has 4 large stalks and they seem to take turns closing up. These are the supplements I've been adding and the amounts in a 75 gal tank, with live rock. Nitrate, etc. levels are fine and I do regular water changes. Red Sea Vita 5 ml. 1 time per week Red Sea Green 5 ml. 1 time per week Kent Marine Tech-M 12 ml. 1 time per week Kent Marine Tech-I 6 ml. 1 time per week Kent Marine Strontium & Molybdenum 6.5 ml. 1 time per week Kent Marine Essential Elements 6.5 ml. every other week  These are all per instructions if you don't have test kits to test levels. Any suggestions what might be going on? <Well, you might have an accumulation problem, but not too likely with what you list, given that you're also doing regular partial water changes. I would definitely invest in at least a calcium and alkalinity test kits here. If these two corals continue to look bad (no problem if they're regularly opening/closing), I would effect larger water changes (like 20-25% weekly) and add a unit of activated carbon to your filter flow path. Do you feed your corals? You might try soaking their meaty foods in a vitamin preparation prior to offering. Bob Fenner>

Lighting & Supplements Bob, I read most of the FAQs and got the impression that you don't really believe supplements are necessary. Your book left me with that impression, too, though I have not checked it for that specific detail recently...Your answer below seems to confirm that... <Yes... I agree with your assessment> So, when you say you agree that biominerals should be supplied and there should be an alkaline reserve, are those things usually supplied by frequent water changes and substrate changing? <Yes... synthetic salt mixes are formulated to have more biomineral and alkaline content than NSW (natural seawater)> Should I be testing for Ca to see if I NEED to supplement?  <If your animals require it, yes> I don't test for that at the moment, so I have no idea what my Ca level is. I do change about 6 gallons of water (just under 10% of the 65 gallon tank + 5 or so gallons in the sump) once every week or two. Most of the time, it's every week. Sometimes I slip and let it go two weeks. My Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, pH, and phosphate levels are consistently good, so I think the water changes are adequate. I think I read on your WetWebMedia site last week that I could change the water less frequently than once/week and still maintain good water conditions. <You are right. Tienes razon. Bob Fenner> Thanks again, John

Re: Lighting & Supplements Bob, Re: supplying biomineral and alkaline reserve I am a bit confused about which supplements I need and which I do not.  <An easy area of confusion for sure> I get the impression that I should test for Ca and probably supplement Ca. Is something like Red Sea's Calcium + 3 (Ca, St, Mo & Io) a good product, or do you recommend another way?  <This is an okay route to go... folks should test for whatever they're adding... Please read through the "supplement" FAQs posted on the Marine part of our site: www.WetWebMedia.com for more here> I am not sure I want to add more equipment (e.g. calcium reactor) if I can avoid it. <I would add no more gear than you want, need/is necessary... Most folks can/could get along fine with simple water changes, using/augmenting substrates periodically... in non-boosted (overlit mainly) systems... Bob Fenner> Thanks for your help, John

Re: Lighting & Supplements Bob, It's been a while...I hope you have been well. I was hoping to get down to Baltimore for MACNA, but my new son keeps me close to home these days. I am sure I missed a good show. <perhaps your "show" was better> In late April, I added 2 Percula clowns and a fair amount (40 lbs?) more live rock along with some attached macro algae to my 65 gallon tank. They joined the engineer goby and yellow tang and a bunch of snails and crabs (hermit and right hand). I also replaced the 60 watts of fluorescent lighting I had with 110 watts of compact fluorescent lights (55w actinic blue, 55w white) and added two power heads to increase circulation in the tank. <Much better> During the month of June, I made more frequent water changes (6 gal changes every 4-5 days rather than every week) to get the tank in good shape for my vacation. <Okay> My neighbor came to care for the fish. I checked your book and WetWebMedia and it seemed daily feeding was not required. <Correct for most situations> I told her feeding them every 3-4 days was sufficient and told her to replace the main sump filter pad once a week. We were away for about 3 weeks. Upon my return, the tank looked fine. The macro algae had thickened and when I tested the water I was pleased to find the Nitrate level at 6 mg/l, though KH was down to 3. I started adding super dKH every 3-7 days and built it up to 5 in a month or so. The Ca level at that time was 300. The yellow tang began to show signs of deterioration in the tail fin and the top fin. It has now spread to the bottom fin as well and has gotten much worse. He still feeds and behaves normally. I tried soaking his food in lipids and vitamins (Zo?and Zoecon), but that didn't seem to help; the deterioration continued. <Strange> The other thing I have noticed in the past couple months is that all the crabs seem to have died. <Not good> The one parameter that I seem to have trouble with is, of all things, temperature. As the temperatures cooled outside, the temp in the tank dropped from around 29-30 deg C to around 27 deg C. Over the past few weeks it has fluctuated from 27.6 - 29.1, depending on the time of day and outside temp. I am thinking I should boost the setting on the heater to around 29.1 so it doesn't drop below that. <I would add another heater here. How many watts do you have currently?> The current test values are: temp: 27.9 salinity: 1.0225 pH: 8.3 KH: 4 <I would continue to raise this> nitrite: 0 phosphate: 0.5 nitrate: 0 Ca: 260 <And this value> Clearly, the problem areas are KH and Ca, though I am not sure how much of a problem they are in my system, since I have fish and live rock and snails only. <These deficiencies are important... for your live rock and fishes> The nitrate level has never been this low. The macro algae is working. <Yes, perhaps too well. As stated, whatever means you're employing to bolster alkalinity and biomineral content, I would increase them> I have attached some photos of the tang and tank. You might be able to see some of the macro algae has turned white. I assume that happens when the light gets blocked from above... <Mmm, not the only reason> Questions: 1) I would like to thin the macro algae. Should I do this gradually, or can I remove 1/3-1/2 of it all at once? <Can do all at once> 2) I have read about putting crushed coral in the sump and changing it every 6 months. I'd like to do that, since changing the substrate in my tank is a major task. How much crushed coral should I put in the sump for this purpose? <An inch or so is generally about right... you can/could have a deep sand bed, plenum there... these are discussed on the WWM site> 3) Since the arrival of my son, I have been less diligent about changing the water. I tend to make 6 gal changes every 2 weeks, rather than every week. It seems that the water quality is not suffering. <Okay> 4) Any idea what caused the crab die-off? <Could be the deficiencies mentioned> As always, thank you for your assistance. John <Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Carbon, trace elements Mr. (?Dr.) Fenner, <Just call me Bob, please, no doctorate.> My questions concern the use of activated carbon and potential trace element depletion. From your previous discussions, I gather that the pros of high quality carbon outweigh the potential/theoretical cons.  <Yes. In almost all settings, circumstances... the types, amounts of materials removed of more use than retained> I am currently addressing a case of HLLE with vitamin (Vita-Chem, Zoecon) and Iodine (Kent Marine) supplementation of food, but I have removed Chemi-pure because of concerns regarding additional trace element depletion. Unfortunately, despite active biological filtration and protein skimming, the water clarity has decreased. <Yes... do agree with your approach, concerns, and understand the inputs, consequences you are observing> 1) As long as vitamin/iodine supplementation of food and regular water changes (20% every two weeks) are continued, do you envision a problem with re-adding "fresh" Chemi-pure? <No> 2) How frequently do you recommend supplementing with Vita-Chem, Zoecon, and Iodine (i.e., do you rotate these additives)? <About once a week with all as a general use, and no to rotation... they are miscible/mixable> (Note: My current lighting for this fish only system would not sustain live rock or growth of Caulerpa algae as you have recommended for HLLE.) <Hmm, perhaps a separate sump/refugium that can/could be linked/attached to the main system?> Thanks for your input. <You are welcome my astute friend. Bob Fenner> Dana Ascherman

Re: carbon, trace elements Bob, Thanks for the prompt response--I'm impressed! Just to clarify regarding my 2nd question: you suggest combining each of these supplements with the food concurrently, but only once per week (?even though instructions for Vita-Chem suggest 5 times per week). <Yes... and not to be confusing... even "spilling" some into the tanks water directly> I assume that adding vitamins/iodine to the water confers little additional benefit if the fish are eating supplemented food. Sorry to pester you. <Not necessarily... as they do drink it... but other living mechanisms in the system also directly/indirectly benefit, in turn benefit the system, other life... and never a bother> Dana Ascherman <Bob Fenner>

Walter Quality hey bob, I bought my Knop calcium reactor from AquaDirect about 8 months ago...all was going great for the first six months. although I had no calcareous algae, which I can't figure out why it never grew (I did have a green hair algae problem), but besides all of that, I had a wide variety of soft and hard corals (leathers, polyps, frogspawn, gorgonians, flower pots, anemones, etc.) everything was fine up until about a month ago. I noticed a lot of my corals as well as anemones started to look bad, I tested the water and found that my calcium level was down to like 200-250 (it was previously around 450-475), also my ph was dropping...I used buffers to raise my ph but even when I raise it to like 8.25 on my ph monitor, it eventually evens out at like 8.05-8.10...anyway, all of my corals and anemones have all died, and I can't get my calcium level back up. I change the media in the reactor about every 1 1/2 to 2 months, I use RO water, and do regular water changes, all other water parameters are fine, as well as the fish in the tank, but most of my corals, about $800 dollars worth, are dead...what went wrong???...why can't I get my calcium level back to what it was????...I'm pretty disappointed right now, as would anyone who just lost $800 worth of coral...any suggestions would be greatly appreciated???....here is my tank.... <Yikes! Something amiss here... too much carbon dioxide? How low was the pH of your effluent? Perhaps a contaminant in your melt-down material?> 55 gallon 4 55 watt power compacts 2 Fluval 403's Amiracle protein skimmer UV sterilizer Knop calcium reactor RO/DI unit come to think of it, here when I noticed things in my tank were looking bad. it was after I started to add marc Weiss' "coral vital" to my tank daily, as directions stated...also, it was after I put a pretty big piece of orange tree sponge in the tank, too...I don't know if any of these would have the effect on a tank, but they are the only things I could put my finger on that was different to my tank after it started to do bad <Ooh... either one could be a/the large contributor to your problems here... Don't believe in magic formulas (I do not, would not use anything by Weiss...) and Sponges can be very big trouble if they go sideways (start dying, releasing toxins, fall apart)... Why didn't you write earlier when all this was "starting", "going on"? Did you try massive water changes, chemical filtrants, cutting out the "vital"? What results from any of this? Bob Fenner>

Supplement use Hello again Bob, I must say, I'm truly impressed with and your site. I recently wrote you regarding a Chili coral problem along with a few other short questions. You answered them all promptly and so far (I took your advice) they are all helping my tank friends out. <Ahh, good to hear> One area you left me curious about was the supplementation aspect. It seems the more I read about these, the more confusing the data gets.  <Yes... a small world of understanding human nature here... folks (well-intended for the most part) "selling" concepts, products and fields of knowing that are huge as "parts a and b"... as if the universe was an arithmetic operation... Not simple (though well-enumerated science exists describing the interaction of pH, alkalinity (carbonates, bicarbonates, borates...) and the biominerals of notice to hobbyists... My personal fave example is the NPK numbers folks are more familiar with as terrestrial plant fertilizers... aquarists are familiar with nitrogen and phosphates (the last decade or so), but what about potassium? Umm, "we don't have a test kit for that"... Anyhow, another example of how valuable exposure to the real world aquariums are.> Since our last exchange, my tank has a few new guests. They are in no particular order: Live rock and small amounts of live substrate, many reproducing mushrooms, three Feather Dusters, Colt Coral (going wild), Pulsing Xenia, Chili, Trumpet or Candy Cane (not sure which one it is, they look so close to me) <Caulastrea furcata? Both names apply to this species> Brain and a very large elegance. The tank is also shared by a few fishes and other small inverts. All tank inhabitants seem to be doing just fine. The tank is a few years old and I've been at this for over a decade. <A good long time... > The tank is a 40 gallon tall with a double 24 inch power compact, a wet dry sump rated for a 75-90 gallon, protein skimmer, UV filter and four wave master controlled power heads. It runs great and highly stable. The supplements however are a never ending source of mystery.  <A well worded revelation/admission... their mis-use and folks mis-communication re them is a tremendous source of mystery to me!> Everybody has an opinion on which one will save me all my worries. Can you please point out which ones if any I should be using given the above mentioned parameters. <Likely, for the lighting, size system, types of livestock... "just" calcium, alkalinity, pH... periodically iodide/iodine... The other biominerals will "come in" as components of salt mix, contaminants in your supplements in sufficient quantity, proportion...> I don't expect any brand names, unless you feel one makes a difference over the other.  <How much time do you have here? There are huge differences in the lines offered... > I currently use Combisan full spectrum as directed by label, Calcium, again as directed (400-450) and I'm finishing my stock of Coral Vital Reef Energizer. I know how you feel about the latter and I trust your opinion on it. I just can't throw it away unused.  <By the same token, why not pour old molasses in your system rather than tossing it?> On the same subject line, what's your take on Cycle. Should I ever add it to the tank?  <No, unnecessary to the extreme... like taking sand to the beach as the saying goes. I would change out/add more/new live rock every six months or so... this is a good practice in old/established reef systems> The brochure makes a very interesting pitch. Your comments are appreciated and I just placed an order for latest book. Keep up the good work and thank you. Brett <Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner>

Update (Feather Duster...) Just a quick status update--the featherduster worm's new tube is up to an inch long now. It looks like the combination of Selcon and cleaner shrimp are resolving the issue with the white patch on the purple tang as well. I've been keeping sheet algae (soaked in Selcon) available for them at all times to graze on, and feeding one cube of frozen brine shrimp (also soaked in Selcon) every other day. I looked closely at the purple last night, and it looked like the white patch was much less pronounced than it was on Monday. Thanks for the advice on that one! I also think all the inhabitants will be much healthier as a result. <Ahh, good> The fan cooling system I installed has considerably increased evaporation. The temp at night right before lights-off has been 80-80.5, and in the morning, 79.5. I'm now adding between a half-gallon and a gallon of fresh RO/DI water a day.  <Yes... no worries here... a simple matter to top off daily...> On Wednesday, when I took out the protein skimmer for its daily cleaning, it looked emptier than it should have been. The water level in the tank had gotten too low, and the water wasn't running into the filter box fast enough to keep up with the main pump, which resulted in the water level in the protein skimmer being too low to allow the waste to overflow into the cup.  <Also a factor is the maturing of your system... as it develops, less collectant...> The extra waste that was inevitably left in the water may account for the dead sally lightfoot crab, although nothing else in the tank appeared to be adversely affected.  <Possibly... most crabs are "touchy" re sudden salinity changes> I'm adding water daily now to keep the level maxed out and avoid a tragic mishap that could occur in that situation. (This also makes me realize that I'll have to have someone very dependable if I go on vacation.) <Or perhaps rig up a safe "automated" make-up system... there are a few designs, off the shelf, DIY options here... float valves, inverted pop bottles... best to have a knowledgeable, caring friend come in to check as well...> I've been researching calcium reactors and how to build one. That will probably be my next project, as it appears that the benefit would far outweigh the dollars and effort spent in doing it.  <Yes, assuredly> I have read about them on the web site. Once using one, I understand that I shouldn't need to add supplemental calcium or buffering agents.  <Yes, this is so.> Is iodine the only thing that would need to be supplemented?  <Most likely, yes> What about strontium/molybdenum?  <These are generally fine... part/trace of "feeder stocks" melted down in the calcium reactor... You will see.> As far as adjustment of the reactor--does that just involve daily water tests until an equilibrium is reached? <Hmm, yes... but very much safer, less testing/adjustment than liquid, solid supplement protocols> Many thanks for your previous advice and counsel. Have a safe and happy weekend. James A. Deets <I will my friend. Life to you. Bob Fenner>

Vitamins, Additives en toto One more question. Well, maybe two. <Ah...> Do you suggest buying the minerals (strontium, iodide, etc.) separately or buying products like Sea Chem's Reef Complete? Also, is it necessary to buy test kits and monitor these levels regularly? <I suggest what I actually do... use a calcium reactor for biomineral (Ca, Mg, Sr), alkalinity and pH ... and any other additives (vitamins, iodide/iodine...) separately... Thanks for asking/making me state this right out.> I guess I was on track with the ordering of 25 pounds of live rock last week. Just waiting for it to get here. I got Marshall Island and Tonga Branch. Should be cool. <Very nice!> Haven't killed the pesky critters in the worm rock. Seems the holes must be a little deeper and curvier than I anticipated. A toothpick didn't do the trick other than to plug the holes. Maybe I can starve them to death. (doubtfully) Need to find something thin and flexible to shove down the holes. <Yes... or in all likelihood, these will not prove to be problematical... consider my friend, that many more organisms will be introduced in/on your new material... the vast majority self-controlling... enjoy them, your system, yourself...> Thank you for your help. <And you, your sharing your unfolding. Bob Fenner>

Low Calcium Hey Bob, just got your book, Conscientious Marine Aquarist. Great work! <Thank you. Lots of good help> I've got a problem with keeping up my calcium levels. I've got a 58 gal. Oceanic tank, some live rock, one fish, and Seaflor substrate about 1 1/2 inches thick). My calcium readings are about 170ppm. <Hmm, this is low... by about half.> I've been adding Turbo Calcium and it does bring it up some, but I started wondering about my salt water stock. I use a 32 gal. container to mix/store my salt water. I use Kent sea salt. What should my calcium readings be on a new batch of water be? I have only 250ppm.Should it be higher? <I would encourage a few things here... For one, the use/trial of a salt mix with an artificially boosted biomineral and alkalinity content... my pick? Instant Ocean...> The salt is mixed with R/O water. Here's my main question; the water comes through a water softener before the R/O, would this have any effect on my readings? <Yes, the device is removing much of the alkaline earth (remember your Periodic Tables? (Ca, Sr, Mg...)and also the carbonates of these. Much, likely half plus of all the hardness...> By the way, I'm using a Salifert test kit, and my alkalinity is around 3.5 and PH 8.1.I hope to get a calcium reactor in the future when I can afford one). <Thank goodness... this is the best solution> I would appreciate any help, and I hope I've given you enough info. Thank you for your time, Steve.  <You could add more/more soluble substrate, a bunch more calcium-rich live rock, live macro-algae, carbon dioxide (like with the reactor...), or a supplement mix (a two part, one of alkalinity boosters, the other biomineral)... get involved with the Kalkwasser game (carefully, with test kit, knowing what you're doing) and possibly calcium chloride... What do you want your value to be and for what reasons? Are you keeping animals that utilize biominerals directly? If not, I would not be overly concerned... If so... please read through the FAQ sections on Supplements, Calcium Use on the site: www.wetwebmedia.com Bob Fenner>

Coral Vital Down Under Dear sir, I have been reading about Marc Weiss Coral Vital with much interest. Could you please tell me if this product is as good as they say and does it do all it claims e.g.. help suppress algaes, encourage coral to open further etc. The one problem I may have is obtaining Coral Vital in my home of AUSTRALIA. Could you let me know if it is "down under" or maybe let me know Marc Weiss email address. thanking you, Robert Haywood 64 Lucida Place. ILKLEY. 4554. Queensland. Australia. <I am not a big fan of these sugar water supplements... With some investigation and money savings you can read over the utility of glucose (et al. simple carbohydrate) use in ornamental aquatics in older European pet-fish literature. Not a cathartic, and not materials that can be used with no downsides. I don't use Weiss' Vital, miracle solutions and don't endorse their use by/for others. Bob Fenner, in Sydney airport keying... on his way back to California!>

Additive Madness, System driven out of whack!I've got a 38 gals. reef aquarium with the alkalinity and ph low. The alkalinity is at about 1.5 and ph 8.0. <The pH is okay... but the alkalinity needs to be boosted... and this is not too hard to do cheaply and safely...> The tank as live sand of about 4" to 5" about 40 pounds of base rock and live rock and maybe 20 pounds in the sump. (The base rock or in a saltwater systems for about 5 years.) <You'd do well to add more live rock... every six months or so this should be done with systems more than a year or so old> Fish (Purple Tang, Royal Gramma, Watch man goby) Invertebrates (Cleaner Shrimp, Pistol Shrimp, Coral Banded Shrimp, Snails, Scarlet Hermit Crab and blue hermit crab, two feather duster.) I'm running the aquarium with a 10 gals wet dry that the BioBale was remove the return pump is a Mag 7 in the aquarium I've got a Maxi-Jet 1200 for water movement and for skimmer I just bought a Turboflotor Multi 1000 that came with the AquaBee pump. At first the skimmer was not collecting a lot and I had to clean the collection cup every day or it would clog and stop collecting. Now it look to work better but it is very clear and it does not smell bad (Is this ok like that).<Sounds better> I was doing water changes 5% weekly but I talk to someone at aqua medic and suggested to I do only 10% monthly and the skimmer would perform better and it did but I'm sure if it was only that.<Ten percent every two weeks would even be better> Lighting is 2 30watts Triton and 2 30watts Blue Moon. Corals (Mushroom rocks that came in distress and almost everything die on it and I've got a polyps that is not so bad.Would appreciate help on that matter. (If you need more information I will be glad to send you the information you would need.)Thanks Richard.<Consider adding a teaspoon of dissolved (in aquarium water) baking soda (yes, simple sodium bicarbonate) to your system daily till you find the alkalinity at 3.0 or more of your units... and do get/use a calcium test kit... and monitoring this aspect of water quality... and read over the parts on our site re supplementation:   Home Page . Soon you will know what path to set upon. Bob Fenner>

Supplement Madness Time? I need some help bob. I have a 55 gallon reef tank with 2 Fluval 403's, an Amiracle protein skimmer, a UV sterilizer, and a Knop calcium reactor. my ammonia is 0, calcium is 480, ph and alkalinity are good, but my nitrates are high <How high is high?> and my nitrites say "warning, test weekly". they have been like this for about a month.  <Have you had your test kits tested? Maybe a bit of live rock still "transitioning"... I wouldn't worry... as the grand arbiter in these matters is your livestock health... which you record as fine> Everything in my tank is doing fine, leather corals, frogspawn, a maxima clam, starfish, crabs, shrimp, clownfish, yellow tang, etc...I have about 55 lbs of live rock and crushed coral for substrate. I recently, about a week ago, cleaned out one of my Fluvals and put twice as much "bio max" media in (I took out the carbon and replaced it with the bio-max, knowing I have another Fluval running with carbon in it). I also do about a 4 gallon water change per week... <Both good ideas, acts> is there something I could do to get the nitrates and nitrites to lower, perhaps something to put in the Fluvals, like Seachem's "Purigen" or "Hypersorb"...maybe a water treatment like Aquamarines "nitrate reducer". my water movement is good, with 2 power heads at different levels in the tank...what about a R.O. unit?...will this help?, what kind do you suggest? does it need to be an R.O/D.I. unit?...how are the "pure-flo" RO filters, or the Kent Marine Hi-S RO systems....thanks again for your help...Jeff <Starting with cleaner) water as in using an R.O. device is always a good idea, but I wouldn't start the chemical filtrant habit just yet... Instead, add a bit more live rock and place some macro-algae in your main system and/or sump with a light source... this is the much better route to go to reduce metabolites/nutrients. Bob Fenner>

Question on additives Sir, I have your book and have enjoyed it thoroughly. My question is, do you have any experience or comments about Sea-Lab Marine Aquarium Products ? - Sea Lab # 28/14, and # 15. Thomas J. Evans >> Some, and these are relatively safe products... have used them myself. Bob Fenner, who thanks you for your kind words.

I understand that calcium and alkalinity are somewhat mutually exclusive from your prior discussion. I know that the recommended reading for calcium is 400-420, but  what is the proper reading for alkaline?  <Somewhere around 3.5 meq/l or multiply this times a factor of 2.8 for dKH... A few degrees above is fine... but all else being equal (it's not), elevated alkalinity (depending on how it's done) can/does diminish biomineral solubility> Also, adding baking soda, as you > suggest does that help balance/promote pH, alkaline and calcium levels? <Sodium bicarbonate/baking soda will elevate, balance pH, but only to about 7.8... will raise alkalinity, but does nothing, unless added in very large quantities to mal-affect (and adds no calcium) calcium concentrations. Bob Fenner> My Alk is now about 10-11 DKH. I have to add baking soda to my top off water to keep it at these levels though. My calcium has dropped to about 350. Adding more of the two part does not seem to raise it and I do not want to over dose the stuff. I do regular water changes so that should not be a problem. Is 350 enough to keep LPS corals happy? Any suggestions? Thanks Again, Andrew >> Three hundred fifty parts per million of free calcium is fine, in my opinion (of course), for Large Polyp Stony Corals. There are proponents of 400, 450, even higher ppm for these and other captive biomineralizing life. To get to such higher concentrations without loss of dKH/alkalinity can be tricky... and for the sake of this discussion we'll assume we're only talking your circumstances here: Careful use of Kalkwasser (calcium hydroxide), freshly made, drip added, in a high water movement area, at night time... could be utilized as well as calcium chloride to raise your calcium without impugning alkalinity. What could/would be gained however? Not much in my estimation. Turns out, the mineral content of Natural Seawater (NSW) is not a constant in the wild... and measures taken at organism/water interfaces in particular turn out to be much different than captive conditions. What is more, the rapid "soft" growth of hermatypic corals et al. in aquariums is not necessarily desirable... My point otherwise made is that "all sorts of considerations" and "drives" (light, lighting, heat, nutrient availability, biomineral content...) need to be "taken together" or "balanced" in ones approach to keeping/growing aquatic life. The static readings you list for alkalinity (divide dKH by 2.8 to get milliequivalents per liter) and calcium are fine for medium to "boosted" captive systems... Not the fastest growth possible, but better, IMO. Bob Fenner

Additives Hey Bob! Getting ready to start purchasing stuff for the 90 gallon reef I am going to set up. Is CALXMAX from FFExpress a good idea. Will this take care of having to add calcium supplements for clams and corals, but yet be safe in terms of NOT lowering my alkalinity? Is Calmax better than a Kalkwasser? What do you think of adding Limewater for calcium? <This two-part alkalinity and biomineral additive is better by far than Kalkwasser (more stable, less antagonistic with its twin goals. Limewater addition for calcium is a poor idea in my estimation... The best of all present technologies is calcium reactors with carbon dioxide use> Also, I am assuming if I have any soft corals or anemones or clams (maybe even hard corals) do I HAVE to add strontium, iodine and magnesium? If I have to add them, can you just add the recommended dosage and be safe or do you absolutely HAVE to test them? <Not absolutely, but a good idea to add these periodically... once a week or so... and no to having to test for them... In sufficient added concentration they will "disappear" within the next treatment period> Once again, THANK YOU!! I really appreciate your time! Clint >> <Why I'm here. Bob Fenner>

Hello Bob, I have two Q's today...... 1 - I have old supplements (Combi-San, Iodine, etc.). They are about 1 year old. Can I still use them without killing everything. I used old copper about ten years ago and wiped out my tank. That's my concern. <These additives are fine at this age... still safe, effective.>  2- I will be storing fresh and pre-mixed salt water for top offs and weeklysalt water changes. I'll be using those Tupperware type containers. Not the transparent type, to avoid algae. I'm planning on making up about a 1 month supply. Do I need to keep a powerhead and heater running at ALL times, or can I turn it on a day before the water is to be used? <The latter, though I would put the powerhead on initially for a day or so... maybe on a timer>  Thanks again and hope all is well, Tony Revinski >> <It is, thank you. Bob Fenner>

Test Kit Question Is there a conversion for ppm to mg/L?  <Yes, one to one... parts per million is equivalent to milligrams per liter (think about this... one thousand milliliters in a liter, one thousand milligrams per milliliter... one thousand multiplied by one thousand is a million...> My calcium "mini lab test" by Red Sea Fish is measured in ppm's, but my Seachem Reef advantage that I use to supply calcium uses mg/L and dosage is based on that. The Reef Advantage recommends a level of 400 mg/L-is this the same as 400 ppm's (which is what level my calcium test recommends). Also, is calcium related directly to alkalinity? Thanks for your (always) well thought out answers-appreciate it. Carolyn >> <Ah, you and I are on the verge of great discovery! The measures are the same for the calcium... but alkalinity is a very different matter... and something that really throws many people... Please, please, puhlease read through the "Water Quality" pieces stored on my site: www.wetwebmedia.com for a going through of much of this information... I'll be necessarily brief here: Alkalinity is a measure of resistance to downward movement in pH.... there are many chemical species that have equilibrium pH's that are above 7.0 in measure and unfortunately called "alkaline" materials by definition... but the various (mainly carbonates, bicarbonates) dissolved minerals in your system (and ones that are relatively soluble and can/will dissolve as the waters pH drifts downward) come into play at their various pHs and depending on their concentration, "buffer" the pH at these points... till they are "consumed", "exhausted" through combination with organic, inorganic acids.... And you do want/need such chemical species, alkaline materials, buffering capacity (all other names for alkalinity) in a viable captive marine environment for biological processes to occur expediently... Now, you've asked the bazillion dollar question about the relatedness of calcium (among other biominerals like the alkaline earth family of element's Strontium, Magnesium... which are also required in small concentrations) and alkalinity... The way many people attempt to "manage" these two variables (alkalinity and calcium et al. minerals) is often at odds.... To wit, the utilization of Kalkwasser (Ca(OH)2) in a carbon dioxide deficient setting.... This stuff (among others, but this is the grand example), placed too much, too soon (it needs to either be dripped into a system at night (when CO2 is highest) slowly, in a place of great circulation... lest it combine with the most common source of alkaline reserve (bicarbonates, carbonates) and precipitate out the biominerals they're attached to.... besides over-elevating pH (Kalkwasser at saturation has a pH of about 12)... Should I draw out the reaction paths here... their energetics? Please do take a look over the WWM materials... and you'll soon see why I'm such a big fan #1 of understanding what we're doing with our systems, and #2, calcium reactors. Bob Fenner

I have a calcium question.  I have had this problem before and it just went away. Every thing is fine, KH, ph, ca, so I don't check for ca for a while. Then I checked the ca and its about 150. I was using reef-complete so I switched to c- balance because it was the first time it was available) and was up to about 275 in 2 weeks. I don't know if I should add a bunch of additives . I'm only using half the maximum dosage. I still seem to see growth in coralline and corals and snails for that matter. Could it be getting used faster that it goes in ? I haven't ever had much luck with Kalkwasser. I'm don't want to overdose on liquid supplements. Anyway, what do you think? Can I mix brands (sea-chem and c-balance and turbo-ca) ? Let me know what you think . Thanks Mark >> >> This is a BIG issue... You do need BOTH calcium (and traces of other biominerals) AND Alkalinity to sustain biomineralizing life forms (like coralline algaes and corals)... and there are a few ways to supply both... And most folks do a dismal poisoning job of this... For one, do get and use both calcium and alkalinity test kits... and try to gain an understanding of what are in the products you're pouring your money into... before you pour them in your tank... I would not mix the chemicals above... C-balance by itself should get you where you (probably) want to go... but do check your alkaline reserve... It may well be worth your while at this point to do a large water change to reduce the amount of negative chemical interactions in your system... In the short term, once your calcium is nearer to 350+ ppm... do consider adding simple baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) if your alkalinity is below 3-4 milliequivalents per liter... Bob Fenner

Trace Element Questions Dear Bob, I have an 810 gallon tank with variety of soft and hard corals, but not as many as I would like. I also have cleaner shrimp, filter feeders and two rock urchins plus plenty of algae. I presently feed the corals trace elements which the pet store recommended. I feed 140ml of Tech M, 140ml of Tech I, 70ml of strontium and molybdenum, 80ml of coral-Vite, MicroVert, and calcium. All these are Kent Marine products, since that is only available to me. Could you tell me if these are enough? Could you also tell me why these elements are important for the corals or where to find out this info ? I would desperately like to know about these so called "trace elements" and any other recommendations you may have. Thank you very much for your assistance. >> Thank you for writing. This is quite some tank... and yes to the various chemical additives you are placing... if two conditions exist: You are boosting your photosynthetic animals growth with intense light as well, and you have a desire to do so. It's important to be clear here, so allow me to state the above in a different way. In such a large system, you may well be under-illuminating the corals... less than they can take up the supplements you're adding (here's where the real value of test kits come in)... And/or alternatively, you may have little interest in boosting their metabolism/growth. If indeed you do have a LOT of lighting (as measured by a PAR meter, or a lumen meter at the animals placement, or by bioassay... the animals' growth)... then the cost of supplementing, versus supplying "enough" minerals, alkalinity, trace elements, vitamins... exogenously (via supplementation) might well be "worth it". On the other hand, if by the measures listed, and your desire (maintenance, slow growth versus something more robust)... the light issue and supplementing question are irrelevant... You don't "need" much of either.  Now, on the issue of "where to find the info." on coral husbandry, scientific topics of nutrition/growth... in the hobby literature, start with Fossa (Sven) and Nilsen (Alf), Modern Coral Reef Aquarium series... two volumes in English currently (more in other languages if you can read them). For science... start with "subscribing" to the Coral List Servs... and following their threads, information sources listed there: coral-list@coral.aoml.noaa.gov (type in the word subscribe in the text area and send)... And, we'll be chatting. Bob Fenner

Trace Element Questions Dear Bob, I have an 810 gallon tank with variety of soft and hard corals, but not as many as I would like. I also have cleaner shrimp, filter feeders and two rock urchins plus plenty of algae. I presently feed the corals trace elements which the pet store recommended. I feed 140ml of Tech M, 140ml of Tech I, 70ml of strontium and molybdenum, 80ml of coral-Vite, MicroVert, and calcium. All these are Kent Marine products, since that is only available to me. Could you tell me if these are enough? Could you also tell me why these elements are important for the corals or where to find out this info ? I would desperately like to know about these so called "trace elements" and any other recommendations you may have. Thank you very much for your assistance. >> This mix of additive products along with feedings and water changes should supply all essential nutrients to your animals... including the "incidental" microbes. What do they all do? Hmm, as with ourselves, marine life needs certain types of atoms/molecules in a range of concentrations in order to sustain life, foster growth... The more predominant materials are termed major nutrients (like amino acids in proteins, fats, carbohydrates) and the less common, but still vital substances called "trace" or minor nutrients... This is a good part of what you're adding in the way of supplements. Without any or an imbalance (to a point) of these necessary elements/compounds your aquatic life would exhibit/suffer from "deficiency", nutritional diseases... Sort of like Berri berri, scurvy, kwashikior, brittle bone... problems in humans... Now, what the individual types of atoms/molecules do... their metabolic roles... this can be found in a few places... I would encourage any earnest marine keeper to read over the "Modern Coral Reef Aquarium", Sven Fossa, Alf Nilsen, and Hans Baensch and Helmut Debelius, "Marine Atlas, v.1"... and for folks who really want to "get into" the topic of reef (coral) nutrition... to subscribe (it's free), to the Coral List Serv: coral-list@coral.aoml.noaa.gov by sending a message with just the word "Subscribe" in the text frame.. w/o the quotation marks... and follow the references and conversations listed there. Bob Fenner

Chemical addictives? Hey Bob: I thought I would drop you just a thought. I was looking through my past notes and correction of errors I keep since I have been in the hobby for the last 1 1/2 years and I noticed most of my major deaths comes from over adding chemical and trace elements. Let me explain.  I have a 55gallon reef with some fish. running protein skimmer, carbon backpack filter, U.V. sterilizer, Undergravel filter, 1" crushed corral, gravel tidy netting then sand 1", 1 powerhead, liverock, pc lighting, and 2 air pumps ( 1 for the skimmer and 1 for just air). I also do about 20% water change every 2 weeks with corral life salt mix and distilled water.  I add Kent corral-Vite trace elements on Sundays and Kent's coral essentials on Wednesdays. My levels are always as follows PH--8.3 ammonia--0 nitrites--0 nitrates--.10 to .20 alkalinity--2.5meq/L calcium--450 ppm My calcium is always high. But I am always having to add the alkalinity booster. Containing more calcium. Plus consistently adding the trace elements as advise by the LFS.  My coralline algae is spreading. My star polyps are spreading and growing. My Xenia's have more than double in the last month. And my fish (purple tang 4", bi-color blenny 4", sand sifting goby 4", citron clown 1", mandarin 3", flame hawk 2", 2 Percula clowns 1.5" and 5 starfishes) and F.F.E. cleanup crew look fine. I got so many starfishes remember the story I sent you about the one losing it's legs?).  My livestock looks pretty good most of the time. Right now my elegance is starting to show the "burn" from super saturation. I have experience this once before by when I was using a bio-calcium supplement that says it has everything needed and I used it strictly by it's direction. And burned up several torch corrals, elegance corral, tangs, and basically killed off a tank full.  I have come to the conclusion the adding of all these chemicals can be more dangerous than not having a regular cleaning schedule. But my problem is how can I add the trace elements and chemicals needed to keep the ph and alkalinity up to par and the needed trace elements to promote growth for the corral and fish. Without the calcium "burn"? All the chemicals and buffers seem to have a high calcium content. And how can I know when to add some of the other needed trace elements since all trace elements can't be tested for? This is a problem for me and probably all the other inexperienced hobbyist. KJ  >> Amen, and I can't believe my luck. I swear I did not put you up to writing this query/statement... besides, it's better written than I could have done! Yes! Many more organisms are bumped off from "supplement madness" than none being added at all. This being stated, YES, calcium (and some Mg, Sr...) and carbonates, bicarbonates et al. for buffer capacity are necessary... but/and how to "add them"? There is a whole line of approaches here: predicated on the bases of what the hobbyist is intending to do, what they're set-up comprises, gear and livestock-wise... In order of importance (Sez Me!) these are: 1) Proper set-up... live rock (of the right types...), substrate... other decor, can/will add these materials in moderation... once again, depending on your set-up circumstances and goals... Crowded systems (with biomineralizing biota), that are boosted with intense, high PAR light... are going to become alkaline earth and buffer deficient... 2) Water changes... especially with synthetic salt mixes... (versus natural waters that have very little useful "supplement" material in them... add a substantial amount of assimilable matter of utility. 3) Calcium, aka Kalkreactors... that incorporate highly soluble "reef based" starter feeder stock of mineral and carbon dioxide to melt it down... are going to be HUGE in the hobby/trade... People are FOOLS for not utilizing these units IMO... for about a hundred dollars a year (compare this with the amazing sums people pay the "additive" companies per annum) you can have a very easy to regulate, phenomenal method of supplying about the right mix of about the right types of minerals... without the always-accruing eventuality of poisoning from selective supplementing.... 4) "Balanced" additives. A few companies actually have compound mixes or miscible solids/solutions that "work" together to yield high alkalinity and high calcium and moderate pH... (Kent, SeaChem... a few others). If you're going the supplement madness route: USE ONLY ONE COMPANY'S LINE. Is this clear? HOPE SO! 5) CaOH (Kalkwasser, lime, pickling...), Calcium chloride, polygluconate calcium... and as far as I'm concerned: THE REST. Are tools of last resort... Along with regular, large water changes, these "additives" should be VERY CAREFULLY MONITORED... with test kits... I DO NOT USE THEM, OUR CORAL FARM DOES NOT USE THEM, THE COLLECTING, CULTURING FACILITIES WE HELP SET UP AROUND THE WORLD DO NOT USE THEM...  Bob Fenner, who IS going to expand this fervor into an article for the hobby press.

Hey Ho, go with RO! Thanks Hey Bob:  Thanx for the help on figuring out my chemical supplement and additives addiction. I would love to see a book concerning chemicals and water supplement. Maybe you can call it "Ideal Waters" for the inexperience marine aquarist or "Waters, Salts, lights, and setup" for the inexperienced marine aquarist. Personally I would love to write a book to help out beginners in this hobby but unfortunately I would have to entitle it  "How I Killed My First Fish". Maybe I just do a web-site. If you do write another book or article please include what kind of water is best used (for those of us that can't afford a reverse osmosis and de ionizer unit at home) Distilled, drinking, or spring water. I have started using spring water from hot springs are that has been micron filter and ozonated. So far the effects have been pretty good.  Please let me know where I can find more articles you have written. As the more knowledge I gain the better I get. I read the q+a on FFE everyday and gain helpful insights. Well my tank produce a new weirdness daily, so be expecting to hear more from me in the future. Thanks again, Kevin J >> Thank you Kevin... I would gladly co-write such a work with you... and if I had to have anything to do with it, the title would go something like, "How I killed my first several thousand fishes"... having been in the industry for so long.  A good part of what I write article-wise about marines runs in the hobby magazines FAMA and TFH in the U.S. (and a few other mag.s internationally). Am trying like no tomorrow to become sophisticated enough, get sufficient time together... to post run articles, ones coming up, pieces of books, and someday a few thousand images... on the www.wetwebmedia.com site. Am very hopeful that the e-tailer Petstore.com/FFExpress will have a real fine site with much of this sort of content someday... And do look further into an R.O. device. There are some very good units that retail for less than two hundred dollars... much cheaper than others efforts at bottled product plus the gas, time to go and haul all around... And better for you for drinking and cooking. Be chatting, my friend in fish, Bob Fenner

Alk./Buffers action Hello, I have a 55 gallon tank with 3 fish, some algae eating crabs and snails. it has been up and running for almost one year and has been very successful. however just recently my ph and Alk. dropped suddenly, without any changes made to my tank. why does this occur and how often can it occur? I was told about ph/Alk. buffers and I was wondering how these work? thank you very much. p.s. great web site! Kevin Human >>Very sage questions, and a very large cause of livestock (and hobbyist) loss. What happens is with time going by, even the best set-ups age in a few ways; the more soluble sources of alkaline reserve (gravels, carbonaceous d?or, live rock, the chemical species that are pH buffers in new seawater) get "used up"... Almost all aquariums are overcrowded, overfed, and arranged in other ways that present reductive (as in reduction/oxidation, or if you will acid/base) environments. In short, they become acidic with nitrification et al.. consuming all the alkaline reserve at ever lower pH points... These sudden drops in pH and alkalinity can occur within weeks to months to years depending on several factors (natural water has far less buffering capacity than synthetic for instance), like maintenance procedures (more frequent partial water changes prevent these drops), depth/make up of substrates, amount/make up of Live Rock. Now a sentence or two on how pH and alkalinity "work". I've had a go or two at this and articles on water quality are archived on the wetwebmedia.com website: pH is a given point on a scale of relative hydrogen/hydroxide ion concentration. Alkalinity/acidity are measures of resistance to change to lowering (alkalinity) or raising (acidity) the given solution from its pH. You should understand that these are related phenomena, but not the same... and it's unfortunately easy to be confused with similar sounding terms being applied to other matters, and so many people mis-using them. A simple example maybe: you can have two solutions (let's say fish tanks) that have the same pH, but with very different alkalinities. One may be well buffered, with a lot of resistance to lowering pH, and the other only requiring a little reductive influence (let's say, the death of a fish, addition of food, turning off of an airstone...) to have its pH take a plunge. The practical consequences of pH and alkalinity are profound. Biological systems (enzymes, individuals, environments) live within limits of both and suffer from rapid or extreme shifts in pH and/or Alkalinity. Your role as an aquarist (among other things) is to provide conditions to warrant against these shifts. Proper set up, care, and maintenance procedures do this. Bob Fenner >>

A chemistry question Dear Mr. Bob Fenner, First of all, I would like to thank you for answering my last question a few weeks ago pertaining to Cyanobacteria. Of course your advice worked and was appreciated. Now I have a new question of a little bit more technical nature. A year or so ago, I was in a chemistry class at my university and learned that Iron would bond to phosphate in much the same manner that it bonds to calcium carbonate and would precipitate out of solution. This idea appealed to me very much and immediately went home to conduct an experiment. I set up a ten gallon aquarium and with a whisper hang on filter. Then I filled it with water loaded with phosphate. I am not certain as to how much phosphate as it was off the scale of my dry tab test. Next I let the temperature equilibrate at 78 degrees and inserted a fair sized piece of steel wool in the back of the filter. This is where it gets interesting. I checked the phosphate again 12 hours later. There was no change but the water was cloudy with a whitish sediment forming on the bottom. 36 hours later I checked the water and it was devoid of any phosphate which my test would detect and the water was clearing. I have since asked a host of professors from chemists to biologists and even a geologist about the potential effects of either the precipitate or the iron on any living organisms in the tank. Most of them were willing to talk to me about possibilities but none could give me a hard answer and all were too busy to look into it any further. I have since heard of a commercial filtration system which uses iron as a phosphate remover in addition to activated carbon but that was only in passing and I couldn't find out any details about it. I am hoping that you might be familiar with this idea. I would greatly appreciate any information you may be able to pass on as I am too poor to experiment with fish on my own and I am not very keen on wasting a perfectly healthy fish or invert by accident. I hope that I am not just wasting your time or mine but this sounds like it would be a cheaper alternative to commercial phosphate removers if it really works. Sincerely, Your avid supporter and Fan, Byron Toothman >> Byron, you raise many important (at least to me) and interesting points. As a practitioner of the pet-fish arts and sciences as well as an ex-HS Chemistry/Physics and Bio. teacher (and avid reader since on the subjects), I am familiar with a bit of what you're referring to: Yes ferrous ion will precipitate out phosphate (hydrolysable, about the only form pet-fish hobbyists are concerned about), and No, most all the Phosphate removed in this fashion is gone... made insoluble. But, a bunch of buts here... Both some phosphorus and iron are necessary to all living things hobbyists like... but not too much of either one... Not to be seen as trying to appear elusive/evasive, there are other bits of the big puzzle to be lost by over-supplying iron... in whatever valence state... and a few other reasons (toxic ones at that) for avoiding this route... Instead, might I strike out for truth, justice and the ornamental aquatics way and suggest neither iron nor commercial phosphate removal products, but simpler boosted photosynthesis as a/the means of removing excess PO4? Here's my usual plug for "balance" twixt lighting, nutrients/feeding and purposeful Macrophyte, live rock, algae scrubbers...) photosynthesis... Bob Fenner

More Supplements? Thanks for the advice yesterday on the "death march" going on in my tank. We changed 15 gallons in the 55g in the last 24 hours, and the fish have appeared to stop "gasping" for breath. You mentioned about stopping adding trace elements/chemicals of any sort to the tank until it becomes "centered" again. I understand that, but, I have been adding powdered Vitamin C pretty regularly over the last year, and was wondering if you think its ok to continue that on a regular basis. I get it from Albert Thiel, and I know it is lab grade stuff, with no other junk added. I have used his "vital gold" and "KSM" religiously over the last 2 years, with excellent results; however, I an suspending using either product completely, until the tank heals itself. I was using those products every other day; once the tanks recovers, I'll probably reduce it to once a week. Thanks for your help again! Michael  >> Sounds good Michael. I would do as you list, and not to worry re the Vitamin C... unless you're throwing so much in that the pH is dropping... it will cause you and your livestock no harm. Better though to add it to their food for a physiological dose... as a liquid prep. or just dissolved solid. Bob Fenner

FO Supplement Use? Dear Mr. Fenner, I received conflict advice as whether I should add water additives such as essential elements and calcium hydroxide to my fish-only salt water tank. If I do weekly water change, do I need to add the above water additives to the water. Thank you in advance for your assistance. Regards, W. John >> Well, let's see, how to put this? If you are "boosting" your livestock's' metabolisms with high heat, light (for photosynthates), foods... you/your organisms will benefit from chemical water-feeding as well. Calcium hydroxide by itself, multipart buffering systems, and other materials that are compatible are this realm... If you're not boosting metabolism, you may not need much or any of this stuff... One would need to know what you have set-up wise, livestock, maintenance/operation practices and goals to suggest a given regimen or none. Don't be unawares of what you're doing on any count... i.e. don't succumb to the Madison Ave. western ethic of just pouring something in, without knowing what you're doing... the various chemical prep.s on the market are not very safe, or miscible... Read, and study till you know what you're doing. The possibilities of what can be done with the kinds, amounts of information you've provided are vast. Bob Fenner

Sally K., via email I have a 55 gallon reef, Berlin style, with just a foam fractionator and the live rock for filtration. I change 5 gallons twice a month. I have soft corals and a few small fish. Should I be adding Kalkwasser? <Strictly speaking, you probably do not need to add Kalkwasser; but if you're looking to optimize growth (through enhanced lighting, CO2 infusion, other supplementation); it would help. See my alternate suggestion below. To a lesser degree than "hard" corals many of the organisms that make up the biota of live rock, and soft corals utilize calcium from the water. A calcium hydroxide (Kalkwasser) solution regularly added (as water changes, make-ups) might be of use to you if you are not offering calcium otherwise (like a feeder, soft Aragonitic substrate, NNR system). I'd suggest you lay off utilizing non-calcium based "buffers" if you develop a Kalkwasser routine due to negative interactions at higher (8.2+) pHs. And I'd much rather encourage you to consider an alternative to caustic, messy Ca(OH)2 solutions. You might want to look into one of the commercial preparations that come "all in one", supplying trace elements like strontium, plenty of soluble calcium bicarbonate, and adequate alkalinity, elevated pH and buffering capacity. This approach is far more practical and less dangerous for your kind of organism mix.>

Question: I have a 550 gal. reef tank with SPS and a few soft corals. Two months ago, I installed a calcium reactor, but I was never able to get my calcium level above 220. I am still dosing Kalkwasser at night. My KH went up to 12(KH went up to 20 at one point which probably precipitated calcium). Could the media I am using be responsible for the low ca?

Bob's Answer: Sure could be Amar. What are you using? Should be some sort of soft, soluble, Aragonitic matrix... look for the words oolithic in the description. Also, could be you're not using enough CO2 (this is a carbon dioxide type, right?)... or, or... Give us the brand, set-up info., and take it easy on the lime water, mate.

Question: What additives are really needed??? I add these to my 180 gal reef tank: - Calcium with a reactor - Sr with a dosing pump - Iodine with a dosing pump All levels are measured weekly, also including pH, dKH, NO3, PO4, Mg. What about: Boron and Molybdenum. Seems like that is a little extreme, but I recently had a Mg problem that once corrected was a big help. So. . . And anything else. What about all these other additives made by all the companies. Thiel, Kent Marine Seachem etc. are they worth it, do YOU use them?

Bob's Answer: David, nothing is really needed to be added given an under-stocked, non-pushed, "balanced" system approach. The things you're adding and the way they're added is fine, but I would not expressly add anything more (incl. Mo and Boron). Your organisms will get enough of these elements from frequent partial water changes and feeding.

Question: I am having a hard time getting my calcium to 450. I have a newer tank and am dosing with Kalkwasser. I started using a calcium additive also. Now my pH seems to be too high, at or above 8.6, even though I am using a dKH buffer. The Alk dKH is about 10. I have tried Instant Ocean and now Kent Marine sea salts. I am worried that I will stress my fish and corals with an out of whack pH while trying to get the calcium up. Help!

Bob's Answer: Hey Bob. I'd either reconcile myself to the battle lost and be happy with Ca levels at or near 400ppm (not really a problem) or get out of the supplement dependency and purchase or put together a calcium reactor. Do look into these, they are the wave of the future...  

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