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Shimek's Salt Analysis Hello! <Hi there> My question may actually be more of a comment or a discussion re-starter. The observations below may have even been brought up before, but I couldn't find any such evidence. <Okay> I know there has been a lot of debate about Shimek's use of label values for the composition of Crystal Seas Marinemix Bio-Assay salt (found at http://reefkeeping.com/issues/2003-03/rs/feature/index.htm ).  However one may dispute his conclusions though, it is difficult to ignore the large difference in the survival of the larvae in the different brand salt solutions.  Having my degree in biological science, his methods APPEARED to be fairly sound.  But there was one section in his methods that was not well documented:  HOW he actually made the synthetic saltwater solutions.  Does anyone know what the water source was that he used to prepare the synthetic saltwater solutions and how he did this exactly? <Let's ask him. Will bcc here> The reason I'm asking is that I noticed something quite peculiar.  As you probably already know, 2 of the 4 tested brands (Marinemix Bioassay & Bio-Sea Marinemix) had much, MUCH higher survivability by comparison than the other two brands (Instant Ocean & Coralife).  Is it just coincidence that Marinemix Bioassay & Bio-Sea Marinemix are the only 2 out of the 4 that also contain an incorporated DECHLORINATOR?!? <Interesting note. I also have a couple of life science degrees, and more than a casual interest in "test models" and their oh-so-common shortcomings...> There was also a huge disparity in the number of surviving larvae in the water samples from "Hobbyists A & B" who BOTH used Instant Ocean.  Hobbyist A water had survival close to that shown for Shimek's Marinemix Bioassay & Bio-Sea Marinemix samples while Hobbyist B's survival rate was on par with Shimek's demonstrated results for Instant Ocean.  Shimek proposed an odd explanation for the disparity citing some unlikely chemical reactions occurring during the freezing process of the Hobbyist samples.  Having worked in a water quality testing laboratory, I find his explanation tenuous.  Isn't it more likely that the difference is because (according to Shimek himself) one Hobbyist's source water was RO/DI and the other's was WELL WATER.  Well water--WHICH IS OFTEN CHLORINATED! <Yikes... some experimental bias now!> So, did Dr. Shimek use tap water in his experiments?  Did he dechlorinate the water?  Or did he unwittingly giving an advantage to the Marinemix Bioassay & Bio-Sea Marinemix samples on that fateful day? <Ron?> Unless he stands up and says something, we may never know.  And in the interim, we are all left scratching our heads over the validity of the study's methods & conclusions and, ultimately, the very worth of his report. Sincerely, Stephen Barker <Thank you for writing. Bob Fenner>

Re: Shimek's Salt Analysis Marinemix Bioassay has no dechlorinator.  . The salts were mixed with distilled water. <Thank you Ron. Suspected you were well aware of avoiding bias in experimental modeling. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Re: Shimek's Salt Analysis From Shimek's report: "The Crystal Sea Marinemix - Bioassay Formulation is essentially the same as standard Crystal Sea Marinemix which it differs from only in lacking the dechlorinator found in the latter salt (R. Spellman, pers. comm.)." Sure enough.  I stand corrected.  I must have misread this the first time through. <Happens> If Dr. Shimek used distilled water, then I find it even harder to ignore the survival of the larvae in the Crystal Sea Marinemix - Bioassay solution over the others--regardless of whether one thinks it is due to the amount of heavy metals in the salt or not.  His statistical analysis using ANOVA was very sound and convincing. <Now you're taking me back in time... analysis of variance... shades of non-parametric testing!> Crystal Sea Marinemix - Bioassay does indeed appear to be a better synthetic saltwater medium.  While I understand that Instant Ocean and others have been used for 30 years with no problems, larvae are typically more sensitive to their saltwater environment than the adult specimens we tend to keep in our aquariums. <Yes, for certain> However, there is that weird disparity between Hobbyist A & B samples. <Does Ron discuss this... as in the Discussion part of his dissertation?> But there is so much room for variables that these could muddy such results.  I only wish that Dr. Shimek would have had the chance to perform his same tests on multiple lots of the salt mixes while he was at it to eliminate the issue of lot consistency, too. <Ahh, a common bugaboo... the number of replicates or trials in any experiment> Thank you very, very much, Bob, for clearing my mind more on this issue and contacting Dr. Shimek!  And thank you, Dr. Shimek, for your quick response! I am now even more intrigued by this subject than ever! WWM is so cool!  I had no idea that I would ever get such quick answers to my questions! Stephen <Glad to be of service. Ron, anything else to add for posterity? Bob Fenner>

I Give Up !!!! (Toxic Synthetic Water... not, Bob's response) Bob, I just read an article by Ron Shimek that is very discouraging. He is claiming that through feeding and commercial salt mixes, a build up of toxic trace substances builds up in our closed reef system. He claims that after 4 years, this build up is so toxic that it is lethal to most animals and that the reef tank should be broken down, sand and live rock removed and discarded. <I heard this ridiculous scheme/proposal at the MACNA get together in Dallas a few weeks ago... I am amazed that Ron wastes the exposure he could have in helping others on such zany notions... Of course, the formulations utilized by most commercial manufacturers have kept many (hundreds) of species alive in captivity longer than their known spans in the wild...> He also claims that there is no way to remedy this situation except for using natural sea water from the beginning. He goes on to say that a salt mix used by the scientific community for may not contain these substances and that\all that is needed in any salt mix is salt, calcium and some buffers and that anything else will cause toxic buildup <IME he's absolutely wrong... the rationale for storing, filtering NSW has been worked out and tested for decades.> I have a 300 gallon reef tank with mucho corals, fish, sand, live rock that didn't come cheap. Am I doomed to have to tear down my tank in 4 years and take out my wallet again ? <No> Let me know your take on this. Thanks, as always, Chuck Spyropulos <Thanks for raising the issue... Ron.S is also the mental giant who advises maintaining captive marine systems in the mid 80's F... he should be challenged, then shunned for such "publicity stunts" IMO. Amazing. Bob Fenner>

I Give Up !!!! (Anthony's response) Charles... Rest assured that you can enjoy a fantastically successful marine aquarium for having used a quality synthetic sea salt and please do not give a second thought to Dr Ron's assertions. Bob has very concisely summarized all that you need to know and the entire hobby agrees, save for Ron and some misinformed followers. This topic has been put to rest by the very few respected authorities that even cared to address this ridiculous notion on scientific bulletin boards and hobby message boards alike. No one can offer an explanation for why this learned man (who of course has important things to otherwise contribute to aquarium science) has proffered such a wacky assertion short of publicity. Whatever the reason... all agree that the hypothesis is assuredly bunk. Reef aquarists have kept coral more than 20 years captive in synthetic seawater and had them spawn repeatedly. Fishes have been kept far longer and many years beyond their natural lifespan. What more is there to say? Fully realized lifespans and reproduction in our captive charges. Its a beautiful hobby for so many reasons... please enjoy it and share your enthusiasm and experiences. Don't give up because of one kook. If that's all it takes, than I suppose you would have given up on the political system many presidents ago :) Best regards, Anthony Calfo

Re: Salt mixes Hello, I read a reply on your site today about salt mixes that are liquid and concentrated and more economical than the dry mixes commonly found at aquarium supply stores and on line.  The reply also says that in addition to the liquid slurries of salt you have to add something else to them?  What else needs to be added when mixing the salt for makeup water?  I think I may have missed something here?  Also, where would I find these mixes and do I need to be a wholesaler to buy them or can I order through the manufacturer?  Who would I need to contact to purchase these mixes?  I like to do weekly water changes on my 240 gallon total system and am planning on my propagation business to expand in the future and would want to use something more economical and practical than the dry salts that I am now using (Instant Ocean 200 gallon buckets).  Please advise if at all possible.  Thanks a bunch as normal, Jeff <Hi Jeff, these mixes are for gigantic holding systems for wholesalers and large scale breeder/growers with constant loss dosing systems. Most of the better known  grower/breeder/wholesalers/importers (30,000 gallons and up) use IO or an equivalent dry mix, but they buy wholesale and bulk, not 200 gallon buckets. For your size idea, this would be a more appropriate suggestion.  If you are going to maintain a few hundred gallons to a thousand gallons or so, regular salt mixes are easily your best bet. You might look into business licensing as the best option.  More on the business on WetWebMedia.Com!  Craig>

Salt Mixes ATT: Anthony  3/6/03 Hello Anthony while reading this months Reefkeeping magazine, I ran into an article written by Dr. Shimek which shows that Instant Ocean salt has a higher toxicity then other salts such as Bio-Sea and Forty Fathoms/Crystal Sea Salt Mixture for Bioassay Research. <what a pile of crap... "toxicity". Decades tried and true and now its toxic...heehee> The article can be found here http://reefkeeping.com/issues/2003-03/rs/feature/index.htm and wanted to see what you thought about the article and what salt do you prefer and why. <I have read the report Dr Ron has put forth and am very sorry to see it. This really is an enormous can of worms... but in short, of all the things that Dr Ron is an expert in... chemistry does not seem to be one of them. I say that in all seriousness and with all do respect for the man's  considerable and appreciated (certainly by me) contributions to the hobby. But he still is not a chemist... and several highly regarded chemists that I trust and respect have riddled his data as unreliable. I myself, am no more qualified to conduct the experiments to confirm or deny the reports. Frankly, though... I think it is complete bunk. If you have the time to browse through the WWM archives you will see replies made in response to this subject. The gist of it, though, is that synthetic sea salts have been time-tested: period. We have fish and invertebrates on record over 30 years old in the mix... and I'm not talking just hardy fishes and corals either (ocellaris clowns at 32 years old!)... Blue faced and Navarchus angels over 20 years in France... numerous German aquarists with 15-20 year old reefs producing tons of coral. The proof is in the pudding as far as I'm concerned. I personally like Tropic Marin if I'm spending someone elses money <G>... or Instant Ocean or Omega for the best value and quality without paying too much. Instant Oceans quality control has been the industry standard for 30 years. Best regards, Anthony>

Good salt, bad salt.... (04/02/03) Guys, <And gals. Ananda here tonight> Have any of you seen this recent analysis of some popular salt mixes? http://reefkeeping.com/issues/2003-03/rs/feature/index.htm Up until now, I have exclusively used Instant Ocean, but maybe.... Sincerely, Mark Schwartz <I quote from the article: "The constituents of the other salts were not independently analyzed, and I had to rely on data provided by the manufacturer of Crystal Sea Marinemix Bioassay Formula. For the Bio-Sea Marinemix, I used the data from one of the advertising brochures describing the salt." I am leery of trusting data that is not independently analyzed. The data from the manufacturer's claims form the basis of a large part his paper. I have studied the S-15 Report at length, and found many holes in the data and its presentation. I posted some of my questions in a forum, where they were either flamed away or not addressed by the company owner, who was in on the discussion. More comments about Dr. Shimek's article here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/seah2ofaq3.htm --Ananda>

Dr Ron's so-called salt toxicity theory 3/7/03 I read the article at this link   http://reefkeeping.com/issues/2003-03/rs/feature/index.htm and did a little research and thought I'd share my findings. First of all, the data from table 4 is not all scientifically gathered.  "The data for Instant Ocean and Coralife salts are from Atkinson and Bingman, 1999. The data for Marinemix-Bioassay Formula were provided by the manufacturer."  In other words, the info for Marinemix is marketing... you and I have had discussions about this topic haven't we Anthony.  ;) <heehee... indeed we have> Second, I did an internet search on the Marinemix product and found more than one source to support the position that this stuff is crap, and the marketing is a bunch of lies. http://www.aquacraft.net/w0008.html says... www.northcoastmarines.com/salt_comparison.htm www.calgaryaquariumsociety.com/Articles/ Web_Site_Review_Marine_Aquarist.html <yes... it really is unfortunate> All these sites comment on the S-15 report tested various salt mixes, and the last one is a very objective view on the report itself. <the S-15 report has been an industry laughing stock for quite some time> The report basically says that all the salts are bad and that their marketing claims are not valid.  We all knew that already though, didn't we!!  And so the point is that the values for Marinemix were marketing, the values for Instant Ocean and Coralife were scientific.  And the differences in survival rate of the urchin larvae could be any one of a number of causes (including batch differences).   <very much agreed> I'm surprised that someone would make an article that is supposed to be scientifically based, and publish manufacturer's marketing in his article, and base a lot of conclusions on it no less... shame, shame! Jeremy Calgary, Canada <your sentiment is shared whole heartedly by many! Thanks for the convenient links too, my friend. Will post on the dailies :) Kind regards, Anthony> Salt Mixes <Anthony Calfo in your service> I have read in the site that Instant Ocean is as good as any salt mix. <or better... they have extraordinary quality control and consistency> I came across this web site (http://www.aquacraft.net/s9911.html) that claims the result of an independent study shows significant differences in the composition and batch-to-batch consistency of various brands. What is your opinion about the "S-15 Report" that makes these claims? <the report is ancient history and very biased/inaccurate according to many respected industry professionals whose word I am likely to heed> Instant Ocean is rated very low and Bio-Sea Marine, Coral Marine and Marine Environment are rated very highly (of course they sell all of these brands too). <now you are talking <wink>> Is there a real difference? Cost isn't particularly high for these, compared to buying Instant Ocean at a LFS so I would give them some thought if they were really better. What is your opinion on the brand names mentioned above? <In my Mariculture greenhouse and retail store in the past ten years... I have used literally tens of thousands of gallons of Instant Ocean. I have had giant clams spawn sexually in it, corals reproduce asexually and sexually, fish spawned and reared their own fry unassisted by me, and I watched jellyfish medusa grow to full adulthood (over 6") over a two year period all in Instant Ocean seawater mix. I have absolutely nothing but respect for Instant Ocean and highly recommend it to anybody who wants something tried and true. Best regards, Anthony Calfo... author of the Book of Coral Propagation, Volume 1>

Salt Hello, <<Hello, JasonC here.>> Just a real quick question. Have you heard anything about the Marine Environment dual phase salt mix? <<no, but I'll check out the link.>> http://www.northcoastmarines.com/Marine_Environment_Salt.htm It claims to match seawater the best. <<And many other manufacturers make similar claims. I'm not entirely convinced after giving the site a read. Is a fairly bold claim. You'd probably do just fine with Instant Ocean or Tropic Marin.>> Thanks, Kevin <<You are quite welcome. Cheers, J -- >>

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