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FAQs on Marine pH, Alkalinity 1

Related Articles: pH, Alkalinity, Marine Alkalinity, Synthetic or Natural Seawater, Water Changes/Changing, Understanding Calcium & Alkalinity, The Use of Kalkwasser by Russell Schultz,

Related FAQs: Marine pH, Alkalinity 2, Marine pH, Alkalinity 3Marine pH/Alkalinity 4, Marine pH 5, Marine pH 6, Marine pH 7, Marine pH 8, & FAQs on: The Science of Alkalinity, Importance, Measure, Sources, Use of Additives/BuffersTroubleshooting/Fixing, Products by Name & FAQs on pH: Importance, Science, pH Measure/Test Gear, pH Controllers & pH Buffers/Buffering, pH Anomalies (Troubleshooting/Fixing), & pH Products by Name, Manufacturer, & FAQs on: The Science of Calcium & Alkalinity, Importance, Measure, Sources, Use of AdditivesTroubleshooting/Fixing, Products,

Checking your work on the PH Page... To do: corr on root, subwebs  1/6/2008 Hey Bob, I just tested my aquarium's hardness for the first time and was looking up the results to see if I should make any changes. I live in Florida, and all of our water comes from the (limestone) aquifer, so I shouldn't have been surprised to find it is rather hard. Sinkholes here (dissolved limestone!) occasionally swallow houses, roads, and seem to have a taste for Porsches (http://www.tampabaydisaster.org/fldisasterkit/sinkholes.html). <Heeee!> Anyway, I started reading articles about hard water conditions and what does well in them to make sure my plants and animals are going to be happy with hard water, and all. I got to your "PH, Alk, and Acidity" article (http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwph,alk.htm) and I have to offer some corrections to your "fancy mathematical expressions." (Cheeky kids these days. Think they know everything!) The fancy mathematical expression for pH is that it's the negative (or one over, the reciprocal) of the logarithm (base 10) of hydrogen ion concentration, or -log10 [H+] or *1/log10 [H+]* Underlined should be *log10 1/[H+]*. -log10 [10-7] = log10 [1/10-7] = log 10 [107] = 7* * In our example of "pure" water this is *log10 [10-7]* Should be *-log10 [10-7]* <Yes, the negative log, or the inverse/one over the base ten log..... some formatting is disappearing over time, and movement...> Maybe one last example (or two). Let's say the hydrogen ion concentration is *10-7.8 or 0.00000078. *What is this solution's pH. That's right,* 7.8, *like much of our beloved southwestern "liquid-rock" tap water. A pH of 7.8 is a concentration of [10-7.8], or [10+0.2 * 10-8], or [1.58 * 10-8], or 0.0000000158. A concentration of 0.00000078 is a concentration of [7.8 * 10-7], or [10-6.1]. pH of 6.1. Discus tank! Going *from a pH of 6.5 to 4.5* is a difference of *100 times less * concentration! In context, from 6.5 to 4.5 is 100 times MORE acidic. From 4.5 to 6.5 would be 100 times less acidic. But the articles were very interesting. As were the results of my tests. My planted livebearer tank's GH was 14 DH, but my KH was only 3! Hm. Probably time for some baking soda, then? <An inexpensive means...> I see in an article by Neale Monks that my range for livebearers (Platyfish, with some Corydoras) should be from 5-10. <About this, yes> It seems odd to me that water from a source rich in calcium carbonate should be high in calcium (& magnesium) but low in carbonate... Are my plants so hungry that they ate it all? :) <This and "escape" from the surface as gas, yes...> Thanks in advance, Bill <Thank you! Bob Fenner>

High pH 10/30/05 I have a small reef tank (40 gallons) with two fish (clown and tang) and about 5 soft corals. I have about 40 lbs of live rock and 2 inches of live sand. Based on your recommendations I have an Aqua C Remora skimmer. When I decided to add the corals (about 5 months ago), I added live sand (to bring it to the total above) and 200 watts of compact fluorescent lighting. I have had generally good luck since then - no fish or coral problems, but my PH runs very high. At first I thought it was the water I was adding and I found a bottled water that has very low pH and have been using it ever since. I have resorted to using pH down products and after I use them the water ranges from 8.0 to 8.3 for a day or two, then goes higher (sometimes 8.8 or so when the lights are on). This pattern is consistent and, although I've found numerous conversations about people with low PH on your site, I can't seem to find much about the opposite problem. As I say, I haven't killed anything yet, but when I see one of the corals looking stressed, I check the PH and sure enough it is high. Does this perhaps have something to do with Alkalinity that I do not clearly understand. I'd like to get it under control.  <Jeff, it is very unusual to have high pH in a marine system. pH is generally higher during the day and slightly lower after the lights are off. For starters I would try a different test kit. Also, when taking the water sample for the test, take it from mid level in the tank. I'm also wondering what your dKH reading is. James (Salty Dog)> 

High KH Low Ph 10/30/05 Hello,  <Good day> I am new to this website so I hope my questions has not been asked. Looked but did not find it. I have a 40 gallon reef tank. I have very high kH, low calcium levels, and PH that seems to stay close to 8.0 (use pH probe). I do have to buffer with Kent Marine pH Buffer daily to keep it at 8.0. My problem, I think stems from dosing to much Kent DKH buffer. The pet store told me to buffer the DKH daily to combat my low ph.  Well I think that may have been bad advice. The KH got so high that I actually got hard water build up on the glass and in my filter lines. My inverts and snails turned up side down and quit moving I cleaned the filter hoses and powerheads out with vinegar and made sure that I washed it all out with fresh water.  I then did a 15 gallon water change the snails and inverts reacted immediately they came back to life, but the KH is still off the charts and the calcium is low and I am having a real hard time maintaining the pH. My first question is, does the Kent PH buffer that I am using hurt things more then improve . I also noticed that when I did the big water change my green brain coral improved greatly. But lately it seems to be retreating again.  I have been adding calcium daily (Tropic Marin Bio-Calcium) but it does not seem to be rising. My guess is that the High KH could be my main problem. But I am not clear if that is it. I use RO for all water changes and fresh adds. How can I get the PH and Calcium up and should I worry about the really really high KH levels.  <First, lets not confuse KH with Dkh. KH is measuring carbonate hardness only. Don't add any more buffers to the tank. Do 10% water changes as you should be doing. Buffers should always be thoroughly mixed in freshwater before adding to the tank. You should measure your dKH with marine alkalinity test kit. After a couple weeks check your ph and dKH levels and see where they are at. Reply with the original query and we'll take it from there. You will have a difficult time maintaining calcium levels with high dKH levels. In the meantime read the info I have here. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/alkalinity.htm  James (Salty Dog)> Thanks for your help  <You're welcome>  Problems with High pH Dear Bob, <<JasonC here filling in for Bob while he is away diving.>> I installed a 180 gal. reef tank 3 weeks ago with Iwaki pump, gigantic skimmer, K2R Ca reactor ,,Co2 reg, etc. with 200 lbs. cured rock, 120 lbs. live sand with detritus form previous tank. Filled it up with hard tap water from Newport Beach and Amquelled it. Ph was above 8.6 at the time. Started up everything and it cycled in about 5 days. Have 5 healthy fish and some soft corals...all doing fine. Problem is I can't get ph down. It vacillates between 9.1 in a.m. to 9.5 at peak light period. <<that is high>> Effluent ph is 6.8 and everything "should" be working correctly. <<hmmm... perhaps too early for calk-reacting, need things to settle a bit.>> Would you recommend I buffer the water (if so, with what?) or let it come down "naturally"?? <<I would get to work on that immediately - use Arm & Hammer baking soda - works wonders. Somehow, I think your buffering capacity is off... the Sodium Bicarb will help this. Use the Google Search feature on WWM to look as there are many FAQ's about the use/methods of baking soda. >> Thanks, Doug <<Cheers, J -- >>

pH/Reactor Advice II Hi Steve: It turns out that the brand new pH test kit that I bought with an expiration date of 2005 was defective! I mean this kit was brand spanking new. Absolutely amazing. My pH was most likely around 8.1 all along knowing what I know now. It is now around 8.2 mornings/8.4 evenings because I started to add buffer to correct my false low pH before I figured out what was going on. There's a lesson there for me and anyone else reading this. Just by coincidence, FFExpress is having a sale on pH meters -- very cheap compared to $1,500 in livestock. Sorry to bother you, and elated to know that my tank is doing much, much better than I first feared. <No bother at all. Glad to hear things are OK. Do remember to get the reagents to calibrate the pH meter if you get one.> As for the Ca reactor, I need to play with it some more to get a better handle how it performs and its sensitivity. It's only been two weeks. I was just trying to see if I could get any additional input from you while trying to dial it in. <Now rereading your first query, you seem to be pretty close at 20 bubbles per minute. A little more tinkering and you should be set.> I will never use the Chemi-clean again. Felt very funny/leery using it the first time because it goes against everything you guys preach. Cyanobacteria came back anyways, probably because I only used a half dose of the stuff originally. Either that or the stuff is snake oil. <Probably the half dosage. Most of these Cyano killers are erythromycin and it will kill Cyanobacteria as well as some other things and turn your tank a funky color a lot of times. But does nothing to stop it from coming back later.> Very small bloom right now. Will try to correct with reduced lighting, water changes, good feeding practices, perhaps macro-algae... <A good course of action except for the reduced lighting. Your corals need their light.> Thanks again for your ear and your wonderful service. Jim <Do not hesitate to write again. -Steven Pro>

pH, CO2 and Calcium Reactor hi bob I need to ask a question <Todd, Anthony Calfo here in your service while Bob counts how many jelly beans will fit into his navel in anticipation of a Superbowl party bet> I use a calcium reactor on my 150 gallon tank lately the ph goes at 7.7 in the morning to7.9 high in the day <scary low indeed> I use a ph probe witch calibrate once a week am I getting to much co2 in the tank <possible, but not the only explanation... aerate a glass of water from the aquarium to see if the pH rises significantly. You may simply need to have better aeration in the display (although never aerate the sump where the reactor effluent drops)... although not likely the case. If you had excess CO2 overtime you might notice an increase in nuisance microalgae growth> and if so should I shut off the co2 let the ph rise and then continue the co2 <never make such drastic moves... good and bad things should happen slow in an aquarium. Is your effluent adjusted properly (slow drip/bubble counter coordinated?> if I do shut the co2 off I do notice the tanks ph starts to rise I keep the reactor at 6.4 ph thank you bob Todd from new York <another solution is to have a second reactor full of media inline to boost the pH on the outflow. Very effective and perhaps your best solution. Becoming the standard. Anthony>

Nitrates and Ph Hi Bob, <Steven Pro here answering for Bob while he is MIA.> Haven't written in a while. I hope you and your tanks are doing well. I enjoy reading Q and A on WetWebMedia site. Hate to bother you, but I couldn't find similar problem at the site. I have a 180 gallon reef with a plenum system. Four to five inches of aragonite and live sand, 200lb of live rock, a 30 gallon container beside the tank with a line to the sump with a float for evaporation. The system has been running for a little over a year now. I added a calcium reactor in August. Everything is doing fine. The corals are growing a spreading better than ever. I have three tangs, six green Chromis, one clown, one royal Gramma, one Banggai cardinal, and one six line wrasse. Numerous crabs, snails, etc. My water parameters are Ph 8.2. Output of reactor 6.4. KH is 8. Specific gravity 1.023. Calcium 425. Nitrates 100 (through the roof using a New Tetra Kit. I do a 10 gallon change every two weeks. But I since I found the nitrates so high, I just did a 20 gallon change yesterday. Tested again and readings were still high. I thought Ph was fine until I recalibrated my sharp ph meter. I found that the ph is lower than I thought. I add buffer to the RO water I use for evaporation in the 30 gallon container. Do I need to add buffer in salt water that I mix for water changes (RO water also) ? I use instant ocean salt mix that I mix in 5 gallon jugs with an air stone. Second problem: I am adding Kent Pro Buffer DKH every day. My calcium is at 425 and KH is 8. Should the calcium reactor take care of the KH? Do I need to use the Kent additive? <Your calcium reactor should maintain your calcium and alkalinity levels. I would recommend you add buffer to your RO water prior to mixing with the I.O. to reconstitute it.> I had an ick outbreak back in the spring. I tried to use the no ick marine, but had no luck. Gave up and quit treating and didn't lose a fish. Could the no ice marine have affected the anaerobic bacteria in the plenum causing the high nitrates I am now experiencing? I don't think I am over feeding (maybe a little) and as you can see in the photo, no problem with algae. <I would double check your nitrate test kit readings with another kit. It is possible your reagents are old or contaminated. Your corals look great and I would not expect that if you nitrates were really that high.> Any information or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. <Double check your RO water, too. Make sure that the prefilters are getting changed offer enough and that your membrane is working properly.> Thank you very much, Robert McNinch <You are welcome, Steven Pro>

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 advise. Chris <Glad to render/share it. Bob Fenner>

Re: PH, ALK, CA Hello Again, I am glad to hear that the reef book is that close to being on the market. It will be a must buy for me. <Great to hear/read> I wrote you yesterday about my PH, Alkalinity, and Calcium problems. I guess I need some clarification. You said we have too much A in the A plus B equals C. B is alkalinity and C is CaCO3. Cut back on A and or increase B. How do I best do this? <Mmm, by adding less of your alkaline or biomineral additives... Please read re these topics on WetWebMedia.com> You also suggest a calcium reactor. I am looking at buying one now. Maybe a Knop brand. I was wondering if you recommend a certain brand or type. <I do like the Knop line for its engineering, construction, use of quality components. There are other brands and new ones due to "hit the market" soon. I encourage you to ask actual end-users (other hobbyists) re their opinions. The bulletin boards, forms on the Net are great here. Ours: http://talk.wetwebfotos.com/ Bob Fenner, just back from giving pitches in the Midwest. Bob Fenner> Thanks Again, Chris

NO3 Test Kit and PH Buffer Hi Bob, I have a reef tank of about 180 gal and have been using Tetra's test kit for NO3 for some time. Recently I bought an API NO3 test kit and discovered a big difference in the test results. Very roughly, the Tetra test kit gives a result that is 4 to 5 times higher than the API one. Bob, are you aware of such a difference and why? How should I interpret these readings? <Mmm, there shouldn't be such a large difference as this... Do check for me if the "units of measure" are the same... "Nitrogen as Nitrate", Nitrate in ppm, what have you... and take a sample of your water to a local fish store and have them check your NO3 level... it may be that the reagents of one kit have "gone bad"> I have been using Ca Reactor for my reef tank since 2 months ago. Over the past 2 months, PH dropped from 8.5 to 8.1. It has stayed at this level (8.1) for the past 2 or 3 weeks. My KH is about 10 or 11. I am wondering whether I have added too much CO2 and is trying to reduce the amount.  <Hmm... the pH and KH levels are fine... you might experiment with letting the effluent pH (from the calcium reactor) be a couple of tenths of a pH point higher... and see what this results in pH and alkalinity wise over a few days...> My question is: would the use of Ca Reactor, with the right amount of CO2, be able to maintain a stable PH of around 8.2. <... yes... given one more principal factor... the type, amount of "feeder stock" that you're melting in the reactor> I also understand baking soda can be used to maintain the PH, but not sure whether I should go for this option together with the use of Ca Reactor. Your advise is much appreciated. Regards, David <Baking soda, sodium bicarbonate won't raise the pH in settings, levels of use in a situation like yours... you could add some calcium hydroxide solution (Kalkwasser), calcium chloride... but I wouldn't, am not concerned... a pH of 8.1 is fine. Bob Fenner>

Re: NO3 Test Kit and PH Buffer Thanks Bob for your very prompt reply. Both the Tetra and API test kits say they measure nitrate (NO3-) in ppm or mg/l. <Yes... these are equivalents> In particular, API says it measures total nitrate which may be 4.4 times higher than some other kits that only measure Nitrogen as Nitrate.  <This is so> But in my case, I got higher results from Tetra which does not seem to make sense to me.  <Simple stoichiometrics my friend... you can/could do the math... nitrogen as a percent of nitrate... three oxygens to one N...> I had in fact tried 2 different samples from different sources, one from my tank and one from tape water. The Tetra gave a reading of 20 ppm for tape water and 40 ppm for my tank. The API gave a reading of 4 ppm and 8 ppm respectively. <I believe both...> On the pH problem, I am not concerned about a 8.1 pH. However, since I noticed the drop in pH, I was anticipating a further drop and therefore planning ahead of what to do in case it drops below 8.0.  <Mmm... good to anticipate, plan... but you may never experience this "drop" due to sufficient alkaline reserve at or about the 8 or so point> I read somewhere in your website about an opinion that if nothing is done to maintain your tank's pH, you would expect the pH to drop by 0.1 every week and adding baking soda is a solution to this pH depletion problem.  <One solution, yes... as are water changes, ready-soluble sources of carbonate, bicarbonate in a system...> Just to make sure I get it right, is it true that the use of ca reactor, in a proper manner, should by itself alone, take care of the pH depletion problem?  <Yes... as well as biomineral, alkaline content, carbon dioxide availability...> And if one has to raise the pH level, calcium hydroxide (or calcium chloride) should be added, rather than baking soda? <At some point, yes... In most systems, the addition of sodium bicarbonate will not elevate pH beyond about 7.8... try it yourself...dissolve some in freshwater or some freshly made and pH depressed (maybe with the simple organic acid acetic, or vinegar, CH3COOH) seawater...> Am I also correct to say that adding baking soda will maintain or increase the buffer but not the pH? <... Mmm, yes... the baking soda will only increase the pH to a point... but will continue to add (to saturation) to alkaline reserve... at that point> I am somewhat confused about a high pH and a high buffer. Is it correct to say the two have no direct relationship, but a high buffer will help to maintain a constant pH (whatever it is, high or low)?  <Yes... you do understand> Once again, I thank you for your help, this is my third time receiving advices from you. Regards, David <We will keep going over these phenomena, pH and alkalinity, till you feel you understand them. One is a "point", the other "resistance" to change in that point. Bob Fenner>

HIGH PH??? Bob glad to see that you received the compasses please enjoy!! <Yes, thank you> I have a dilemma I have a 135 gl tank with 40 refugium lots of Caulerpa am-0 nitrite-0 nitrate almost -0 alk in the normal range calcium 450ppm but PH 8.6.....Three small Chromis, one false perc ,one yellow tang, one blue tang, two gobies ,a flowerpot coral, a tongue coral, polyps, mushrooms, three anemones ,one star, and crabs and snails...three MH 175 10k bulbs and two six foot VHO blues actinic...everyone looks ok but that PH bugs me should I take carbon out of the emperor ? Add more baking soda?....... Or the lights on too long? <I wouldn't be overly concerned with your situation... no need, reason to add to alkalinity with baking soda... your pH is likely only high during peak times of photosynthesis, other "rhythms" in your tank... you can modulate, mediate to some degree (a few tenths of a pH point) with modifying the lighting regimen... maybe experiment with having the lights come on more in the evening... off during the day, mid-day... Bob Fenner>

pH too high I'm very excited to find this website. Read your book and found it fantastic. <Very glad we have finally met> I'm a newbie and have just set up a seahorse tank with help from a great seahorse website but have had trouble with my pH going to high (up to 8.7) <Mmm, not to worry too much here...> when I was using my tap water that comes from a spring on our property. The water is full of calcium carbonate and from reading your book I'm guessing that's the problem. I tested it and pH was 7.6 with KH somewhere over 287. <...> Not sure exactly how much more as it took 18 drops to make the color change and the chart in the box ended at 16 drops (287). Otherwise water is great though, no metals, no nitrates or anything else bad. I would obviously prefer to use the tap water to make water changes for convenience but have resorted to R/O water for now to get pH under control (8.3) now. <A good idea> Is there something I could use to buffer the water to move the pH down?  <A few things... but best very likely to just use the extra carbonate hardness as a "plus" in your periodic water changes... with it drifting down (decreasing in concentration) with time> All the products I find on the market are to move it the other way! There is one freshwater product called pH down but I'm not sure if I should use it on a saltwater tank or if it is safe to use on a long term basis. <You could... this is Aquarium Pharmaceuticals sodium phosphate likely...> I was also wondering if I could boil the water to get the calcium to precipitate out and if that would lower the pH? Thanks for your help, Penny <Yes, this would as well... Mmm, as stated, I would just "let time go by" and use the tap or a mix of the tapwater and Reverse Osmosis to keep your alkaline reserve, pH "about right"... No worries. Bob Fenner>

Another high pH question Thanks for your prompt response! <You are welcome> So it sounds like I shouldn't be concerned about the pH being up to 8.7?  <Not much... this will come down with time> I know that some invertebrates are particularly sensitive to pH. Is this only if its fluctuating or just if it varies too far from the norm? <Mmm, both> I would like to keep a brittle star, peppermint shrimp, cleaner shrimp as well as feather dusters (and a scooter blenny) eventually in with the horses. All of these would be OK with that kind of pH?  <Better to wait for it to drift down to 8.5 range... do you have an alkalinity test kit? Please do read over the marine alkalinity AND pH sections posted on WetWebMedia.com> I currently have some Nassarius and Cerith snails as well as a few Red Leg Hermits. Merry Christmas and thanks for all your help! Penny <A pleasure my friend. Bob Fenner>

pH levels Mr. Fenner, <Hi there> I have my 90 gallon system up and running for a month now with about 90 lbs of live rock, a bunch of turbo snails, 2 cleaner shrimp, hermit crabs, 4 Emerald green crabs, 2 Percula Clowns and a Royal Gramma. Ammonia is zero, Nitrite is zero, and Nitrate is between 5&10. My PH Level a week ago was 8.1 to 8.3, but today it is a purplish colour that I don't even see on the green to blue scale.  <Bizarre> I am not sure what to make of this PH level. Is this too high or too low?? Everything seems to be doing just fine. John Kummer <Think something is amiss with the kit. Do "check the checker" here... test a freshwater (tap) sample, some newly made-up seawater... and get on down to a LFS (local fish store) and have them check your kit against one of theirs. Bob Fenner>

NANO REEF: alkali ionization filter purifier? I have a question. Alkali ionization filter purifier keeps water ph 9. <A bit high for most uses> I have 150gallon reef tank. so I want to this water fill my tank as supplement. My tank vaporization about 0.6~1.1gallon. Is this good idea? or harmful for my tank? <If you let the water set overnight, or aerate it, does the pH drop at all? If not, I would use an inorganic acid to lower its pH value down to about 8.4 if this is near what your system/aquarium water is at. Bob Fenner> Thanks in advance.

KH question Hi Bob, could a long term high KH (18+) deplete a tank of calcium. thank you. >S <Yes, for sure. Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marphalk.htm Bob Fenner>

pH levels Hey Robert quick questions....... What should the ph levels be in a 170 gal reef tank. Ok and what do you think??? Honestly .... Glass of acrylic for a 170 Gal reef tank??? <These are answered in various places on the www.WetWebMedia.com site. Go there, use the Indices or the Google search feature. Bob Fenner> Thanks for your input!! Walter

pH problems Dear Robert ( Bob ) Fenner, I am most delighted to know that you can help us on problems with aquarium. I hope you could kindly assist me to resolve my question below:- <I will try> The PH of my marine tank ( containing Live-rock, 5 Anemones, Hard and soft Corals and 2 nos Crown Fish )is usually 7.7 and when added with Seachem PH 8.3 ( Raise and maintain pH to 8.3 ), the pH raises to 8.6.immediately but will gradually drop to 7.7. Question #01 : How do I maintain the pH to be 8.2 constant. <There are a few "stock" ways... the addition of a product (buffer, alkaline booster) as you mention, added soluble carbonates, bicarbonates from rock, substrate, adding oxidizing influences (e.g. aeration, photosynthetic organisms, ozone...), alternatively removing reductive influences like overfeeding, overstocking...> Question #02 : What affects the changes of pH in marine tank and why do it always drop to 7.7. <Point at which the systems buffers are "set"... where there is sufficient resistance to further dropping (up to a point)... Do you understand the relationship between pH and alkalinity? Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marphalk.htm> Question #03 : What do Box Fish ( Coffin Fish - small species ) feeds on or what substitute can I feed with. I have tried blind shrimp and invert min but were rejected. <Please read the areas on Puffers and beyond: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/puffers.htm You need to experiment with other meaty foods, live rock> I would most appreciated if you could kindly assist me in resolving these problems. Thank you in advance. <You're welcome my friend. Bob Fenner> Jun Margaret

Total Hardness Values? Hi! My husband and I have recently started up a 55 gallon salt water aquarium with some hard corals and hardy fish such as a yellow Sailfin tang and a blue surgeonfish. I am still quite a beginner in knowledge about all the necessary water tests required and their corresponding safe ranges. I have learned that the calcium level (Ca2+) should be between 400- 450 ppm and the alkalinity (general hardness) should be 105 -125 ppm. <Mmm, these values really don't need to be this high or narrow in range... 300-400 ppm is enough calcium for most all systems, and halve the general hardness...> However, I can not find what the general range for Total hardness should be or the ratio between Mg2+ and Ca2+.  <About three to one> Many sales personnel only tell how many capfuls of ProBuffer solutions to add to the tank weekly and other elements including Magnesium. I really want to know more about the values expected so the corals will continue to survive in months to come. <Good planning> Could you please tell me what the Total Hardness values should be in mg/l and the needed ratio of Magnesium and Calcium to provide a healthy environment for my hard corals such as green brain corals, daisy corals, and yellow polyps. <For all types of organisms the approximate values are mentioned above> Thank you for any information you can provide for me. Amalia De La Cruz <Much we can discuss if you'd like. Bob Fenner>

Re: How to Remedy High PH Robert, Thanks so much for the quick reply. About www.wetwebmedia.com, you need to contact your ISP or whoever is hosting your domain name and tell them that the name no longer resolves. <Zo and I have done repeatedly today... Thank you for this> About my problem....don't laugh, but it was a false alarm (I think) I tested with another kit today and it read exactly 8.4  <Not laughing... very common> My other kit was pretty much useless and led me to believe PH was much higher. I'm still trying to find the cause of my polyps and now some red mushrooms not opening up fully though. <Could be a myriad of things... some hints on the site if it ever comes up again...> Would raising calcium too quickly cause a problem?  <Absolutely... among other things, your alkalinity is likely greatly depressed... and your livestock need both this and biomineral content> This is all I can think of now. I've been adding calcium like crazy lately. When I bumped my Alk up my calcium (which was always constant) fell from 450 to just under 300 in a couple of weeks.  <Umm, a few things to talk over here> Maybe once I get the parameters constant and leave everything alone things will bounce back? <Ah, well stated, yes. Bob Fenner> Thanks again, Steve

Re: How to Remedy High PH Robert, My CA depletion was a direct result of raising up my Alk to 13-14 dKH (from a very low 8 dKH). I've been using SeaChem Reef Calcium which claims to not deplete Alk. <What? Not realistic as you know> But I've continuously been testing Alk and keeping it in this range while striving to get the CA up. BTW, is it normal to have a harder time maintaining CA in the desired levels when your Alk is in this 13dkh range? <Yes, by far... please read through your reference books' sections on alkalinity and biomineral content... and the WWM site... they're often directly mutually exclusive... one precipitating out the other...> About the possibility of my polyps not getting enough biominerals...My system is almost exactly 1 yr old now and I've done about six (6) 15-20% water changes (2 changes now past 2 months per your recommendation). All using Tropic Marine Sea Salt. I've always gone easy on the carbon and I supplement iodine and Mag (on top of buffers, CA, Aragamilk) per bottle directions weekly but don't test (I really do need to find a more accurate iodine test kit too).  <Yikes... do test for anything you add... you want to keep the magnesium about three times the concentration of calcium... these also will exclude each other... as any/all alkaline earth elements...> Do you think some important trace element can still be exhausted in a system this young? <Yes> I'll settle down on the questioning now. Don't want to take up too much of your time. <No worries do read through all associated with the following: http://wetwebmedia.com/alkmarfaqs.htm Bob Fenner> ...Steve

Hello (pH, effects of system size) Welcome back from your trip! I've been quiet--but things have been good! The new system is awesome. It's the 180 gallon Oceanic I emailed you repeatedly about while I was planning for it! <Ah, yes> It seems the newer system has solved most of the problems that were nettling me.  <Not atypical... larger is definitely better... more stable, flexible, forgiving...> The pH has stabilized and is now ranging from 8.3 - 8.55. (Is this too high?  <No> It still seems to be climbing some. . .) <Seems is the operative word here> I've added a bubble-tip anemone for the maroon clown--and he's fallen in love with his new home. I also added a Kole tang--what a great fish! (He got beat up pretty bad the first night by the Z. tangs, but settled in after a day or two.) I decided to forget about the green Chromis and leave my fish load at 11 total fish. (The Kole was the only addition to the bigger system--and I don't have any plans to add any more in the future.) When they're all full-grown, my stocking level will be 1" per 6 gallons. It's just too stressful on me AND the fish to make new additions! <I understand> With the stabilized pH and biominerals (alk 3.8 meq/L and Ca at 460) the coralline has started to really take off. I do seem to have more in the refugium at this point than in the main tank, but I'll just give it time.  <This is wise, wisdom will hopefully come with age as well> (It's growing in the display tank, too, but more slowly. I now have difficulty seeing through all the coralline spots on the side of the refugium.) The macroalgae is going wild--I have to harvest from the display tank and the refugium weekly. Nitrates started around 3 ppm in the new system and now are down to about .5 ppm. It seems I've finally managed to put together the system I should have started with in the first place! I'm now able to sit back and enjoy it without feeling like I always need to be adding something, tinkering with something, fixing something or beating my head against a wall trying to make something work. This is what reefkeeping is all about! <Yes my friend> Thanks for all your past help and ongoing commitment to help us make our reefkeeping experiences the best they can be! We'll be chatting. And I still owe you a pic! : ) <Be seeing you. Bob Fenner>

pH too high (maybe, but why...) Mr Fenner- Hello again. I mailed you a couple of days ago about controlling Caulerpa racemosa in my 55 gallon reef tank. Thank you for the advice. I have another concern. That is the pH of the tank. It used to run about 8.3 which from what I understand is about as high as is should be allowed to get. But the Alk was only about 1.7, still everything was OK. I have been trying to raise the calcium levels by adding the Bionic two part solution and I have noticed my pH seems to be rising (which the bottle warns of). It is probably around 8.4 now (kind of hard to tell on those charts, they jump from 8.2 to 8.6 - 8.8). So I started to look at some other calcium treatments. It looks like they all have the potential to raise pH. I really do need to raise the calcium level. It is testing around 300 and should be 400-450 according to what I have read.  <Yikes... a bunch to state here... for one, you need a better (more accurate) test method for pH... and two, alkalinity, calcium and pH... do you understand how these are related? I wouldn't become overly concerned either about the transient rises in pH... or the 300 ppm reading for free calcium in your water... You do want to elevate both alkalinity AND calcium together... Please read over the sections posted on our site: www.WetWebMedia.com on these qualities> I know there are additives to lower pH. Would you recommend trying one of those. <No. Not needed or desirable> I don't want to overshoot and end up too low! I do a 3 gallon water change every week but it doesn't seem to make much of a dent in the problem. Any ideas on how to address this or am I worrying about nothing?  <Mostly the latter...> By the way, a few stats on the tank might help out... tank has been up about four months 55 gallons approx 80 lbs of white base rock approx 45 lbs of live rock about 2-1/2" of aragonite crushed/sand mix Yellow Tang Firefish lots of hermits and snails two cleaner shrimp two peppermint shrimp two small corals (the dealer called them Flowerpots one of which is doing great the other could be better) two powerheads two Emperor 400 power filters more fish to come... clown(s), blennies or mandarin... Thanks again for any advice you can provide. Greg <Take the long term view here... and just use the two part B-ionic product as labeled... and not worry. Bob Fenner>

Unsolved pH mystery Hi Lorenzo... <Yikes, now it's Bob back again> I'm hoping you can help me. My 135g FOWLR tank has been up and running for 10 days now with 7 green Chromis and 15lbs of cured live rock gradually get to 50-60 lbs). Temp. 76, Salinity 1.20 and just starting to cycle. 1.00ppm ammonia. 280 watts of VHO lighting, a Eheim canister, tidepool II wet dry and Aqua Clear 150 skimmer. Used reef crystal salt mix and the LFS I bought tank from came out to set everything up. Told me to check temp, salinity and ammonia and not to be concerned initially with Ph as good quality mixes are generally at 8.2. Anyways, I decided to test Ph from the get go and never got a reading that matched color options. LFS came back 5 days after set-up (in the a.m.) and he too got an erroneous reading so blamed solution and took sample back to his store, called and said it was 8.2..Told me to come get another brand of solution and this one too gave me a pale erroneous result every a.m. (very pale shade of 7.8) Took sample to another LFS this a.m. who did 2 tests and said it was 7.8 probably due to lights not having been on. Suggested I wait an hour or 2 after lights on and test again and might want to consider adding a Ph buffer. Well, tested every 2 hours and didn't get an accurate reading until 8 hours after lights came on of 8.2 using 2 different brands of solution. <Yes... the readings were likely all accurate... that is, you were measuring what was there at the time...> Read all the articles and FAQs on this site regarding Ph and see others have mentioned a slight variance in PH from a.m. to afternoon readings but not to the extreme that I've been encountering. Sorry for the length of this but wanted to give as much detail in order to clearly state situation. Thank you so much. (When Bob gets back, you're surely going to need to get away ;-) <Think that Zo is off already... working at his regular computer code-writing day jobs no doubt! At this point I wouldn't be overly concerned with the pH variance you're observing... do look into using at least sodium bicarbonate (perhaps on a weekly basis) to augment your system's alkaline reserve... Once the rock is settled in, and more life is established in your system, more of this will stabilize. Bob Fenner>

Re: unsolved Ph mystery Dear Bob...Thanks so much regarding the Ph mystery on my new tank...all prior attempts to find info regarding cycling effects on Ph had been in vain. Wanted to let you know that I have appointed myself president of the "Bob Fenner Fan Club" here in Michigan. <!> I'm frequently at my 3 LFS, (increasing live rock) ...and when I see that dazed look in other "newbies"...trying to decide which book to buy...I tell them your "conscientious..." is a must have...I also give them your website & after running into them at a later date...they are most impressed as am I. A sincere thank you for all that you and your cohorts there do for this wonderful hobby...it is so reassuring to know, as a final resort...that you are there. Barbara <Thank you for "pumping me up"! Definitely important to "know what one's about" (values, focus, direction-wise) and "be on a path" of discovery and fulfillment in life... and to have such "interrator agreement" as your kind encouragement... fantastic. Bob Fenner>

MarpHAlk Hi Bob, <Hi> I am having trouble with raising the alkalinity in my 100 gallon saltwater tank above 2 meq/liter or increase the calcium level. This tank has a 30 gallon sump, that contains about 12 gallons of the tank water circulating through it as part of the filtration. The filtration consists of a trickle filter in the sump, and an Aqua C EV-150 protein skimmer in the sump. Besides the circulation from the return pump (Little Giant 3-MDQX-SC (875 gph)), the tanks also has 2 Maxi-Jet MP 1200 powerheads (295 gph/each). Lighting consist of four 96W Power Compacts (2 10000K super daylights and 2 9600 Actinic), which is on timer for 12 hours light/12 hours dark. The combination of trickle filter and the protein skimmer results in a large amount of fine bubbles in the sump, with a portion of this pumped into the tank and circulated by the powerheads, so the oxygen level is very high in the tank. The tank itself consists of 120 lbs. of Carib-Sea aragonite sand and 80 lbs. of live rock (the rock is heavily covered with coralline algae and these came from a two year old 240 gallon reef tank, so there was no measurable ammonia spike for the first 2 weeks after being added to the tank). The rocks also were covered with lots of life (worms, sponges, etc.) but also star polyps and button polyps. Brown algae appeared within 1 week of the live rock introduction. The tank is now 6 weeks old and consists of the following inhabitants: 10 blue-legged hermits 5 Turbo snails and 5 Astrea snails 12 Cerith snails 12 Nassarius snails 3 Mithrax crabs 2 Tropical abalones 9 Mushroom corals 2 small colonies of Zoanthus and 1 colony of Star polyps 1 Mushroom leather coral (Sarcophyton sp.) 2 Pajama cardinals 1 Banggai 1 Lawnmower goby 1 Pseudochromis Assorted tubeworms, bristleworms, and other life that came with the rock My tank water parameters are as follows: Ammonia - 0 Nitrite - 0 Nitrate - 0 or to low to be measured by the test kit I am using |Calcium - 300 pH - 8.2 to 8.4 (8.4 is reading obtained after lights have been on for 8 hours) spg - 1.023 Temperature - 78 - 80 degrees F I do a water change every week, replacing 4 gallons/week with 1 week aged saltwater. Evaporated fresh water is replaced daily with bottled distilled water that I have added Seachem Reef Builder to achieving an alkalinity of 4 meq/liter in the distilled water. Additives consist of daily addition of Two Little Fishes C-Balance at 30 ml/each component and, 3 times a week, Combi-San. The fish are fed twice a day, and as I only feed them small amounts for a couple minutes, all is eaten, unless it gets under a rock or a snail/crab grabs it. Currently, all of the life in the tanks appears to be doing good. The corals are all open, with the leather coral becoming larger and polyps fully extended and the star polyps slowly covering the rock they are on. Also, the various herbivores have been able to keep the brown algae down, to where it is primarily growing on the tank glass and sand, before being eaten. Additionally, coralline algae and animal calcareous tubes are beginning to appear on the back and sides of the aquarium glass. The protein skimmer I empty every day and clean once a week. So my frustration is that I am not able to raise my alkalinity and my calcium is low. I have been testing it every two days and the alkalinity sits around 2 meq/liter. Should I increase the amount of Reef Builder I add to the make-up water and/or increase the amount of C-Balance? I have started to add Salifert Calcium, but I am concerned of adding to much and upsetting any balance I have in the aquarium. <Hmm, yes... very likely the combined effects of die-off/moving/rapid regrowth of biomineralizing life... are conspiring to "use up" both alkalinity and calcium (et al alkaline earth elements) here... I would likely "goose" the system with the materials listed (or just calcium chloride and a lesser amount of calcium hydroxide by night... dropping off the chloride and adding baking soda/sodium bicarbonate later... as calcium exceeded 400ppm... but/and in essence this is what these products are... and what you will be doing by their use> Sorry for the long winded message, but any information you can supply would be much appreciated! Thank you, Kevin <No worries, and you will see results in a few days to weeks from your increased supplementing efforts... no problems with taking all this slowly at this juncture. Bob Fenner>

Re: High pH Bob, Slowly but surely the pH has been coming down, as of this morning it was 8.41. If anything, I learned that patience is truly a virtue especially in this hobby. <As in general my friend> Looking to spend some of my holiday loot. In your past responses to individuals looking for RO systems you have mentioned that the hardware stores have them at a much more reasonable price. I went to Lowe's and Home Depot, both large hardware chains in my area (central NJ)  <Hmm, just got in from Garfield this AM...> and their RO units were about two hundred bucks. The only thing I can gather is that I misunderstood your advice and that I should purchase one of the single water purifier units that they sell (not RO) for $60+?  <Nope, you had it right the first time... "a couple of hundred bucks" is about par for this course... the cost per gallon will finish out at under a penny... and of course you can/should use the water for drinking, cooking and maybe house plant uses> I am currently using the Aq. Pharm. DI unit which works well for me but is very costly since the cartridge only makes about 45 - 50 gallons before it needs to be changed. <Yikes... bunk source water.> Would I be better off spending $80 for the Kent Bare Bones units? <Yes, but best off with the R.O.> One other thing, I noticed my Berlin HO skimmer is not making much of a foam during the lights on period, but does during the lights out period. Any cause for concern or is this natural? <The latter> Nick <Be seeing you. Bob Fenner>

Re: High pH Bob, Update: (As I did last time I left my past inquiries and your responses for reference.) My pH climbed to 8.62 but about 10 days ago started to come down and is currently at 8.53!  <Hmm, now I'm starting to feel bad... did we ever discuss how you were testing for pH? Have you had your "tester" tested?> I added my one survivor a Perc Clown and five new Chromis and all are doing fine. I purchased the 1060 Eheim for my Berlin HO Skimmer and you were on target. This is by far a superior product to what I had, unbelievably quiet with no detectable vibration.  <Great products, for sure> It does come with a sponge filter that I left in place. Is this ok since it is running my skimmer?  <Yes, good idea to put on your regular maintenance list to take off, rinse, squeeze every week or so> Also I purchased two booklets, by Bob Goemans, over the weekend to add to my growing marine library he thanked you at the end for your help.  <A fine gentleman and real asset to the interest> A couple of quick inquiries: Hagen has this product called Green X that is supposed to remove phosphate, nitrite and nitrate. Any info/opinion on this product? <Not a fan of this product at all... toxic, dangerous... not effective.> After the holidays I plan on adding a Kole tang to my tank and would like to add one more tang, which one would you suggest based on the current inhabitants (listed above), compatibility.  <Any of the Ctenochaetus would do... the strigosus (the real Kole/Yellow-eye) or striatus would be good choices> I have a 75 gallon with 80 lbs. of live rock and plan on adding some mushrooms down the road. Thanks for all of your advice throughout the year. I hope you and yours have a happy and healthy holiday season. Nick <You as well my friend in fish. Peace to you. Bob Fenner>

pH Monitors Dear Bob, I'm looking at the Pinpoint monitor. I'm not planning on connecting it to a controller. I was under the impression that these monitors were left in the sump at all times as a constant pH monitor.  <Some, yes... other electronic pH meters are intended for periodic use... still others are utilized with pumps/valves to feed materials into a system to modify the pH.> My thinking was that as pH is arguably the first sign of things going bad (or good), it would make my life easier by not having to do a standard test all the time. Please educate me... <The first sign? Likely your animals' behavior/appearance... But pH is a useful window for "slower", "longer-term" changes... Some diurnal pH fluctuation is to be expected, and the reductive events in a captive system will trend pH downward... but you can have entire wipeouts without a shift in detectable pH...> ...and YES to not posting that (leak remedy) on the web. I could see it now, someone trying to seal up a dripping leak with Scotch tape. YIKES! I'm going to see if the method holds. Tearing down a tank is the pits..... <Ah, glad to find we're in agreement> Thanks again, Tony PS Just a note, my son (13) recently set up his first FO 29 gal. tank. Now, he's using your book (CMA) for a reference. He loves it, too. His filtration is an undergravel filter... that all. He's got a damsel in the tank now. He plans on getting only hardy fish (Dotty's, triggers, etc.) If you could add only one of the following (Skimmer, canister filter, fluidized bed) which would be the most beneficial. His budget is meager at best. I help him out, but, want to teach him to save a little dough for the things he wants. <All worthwhile lessons. The skimmer is my first choice... maybe the less-expensive new "Prizm" by Red Sea... Bob Fenner>

Re: pH Monitors Thanks again, Bob. Two more and I'll leave you alone.... 1 - Are the Pinpoint monitors supposed to remain in sump all the times? <They can (but do take out the electrodes for periodic cleaning) or can be utilized periodically... like moved between tanks for measuring, then stored... I would do the latter.> 2 - Is the prism skimmer quiet? I've got a Turboflotor. How quiet is it compared to the Turboflotor? <Only have second hand experience here, but yes, are much quieter> Thanks again for all your help, Tony PS The web site gets better all time, keep up the good work! <You're welcome. Thank you. Bob Fenner>

Baking soda... hi bob, quick question...is a teaspoon of baking soda per 10 gallons a safe quantity to add to the aquarium each day to raise the alkalinity? I plan to add the sodium bicarbonate to my top-off water and gradually add it? or can I just pour it into the aquarium all at once? your website and book has been most informative...thanks, mike <This should be okay... depending on the starting alkalinity... and need, use of the livestock for such... I would get/use an alkalinity test kit with this protocol... and do gradually place it... in dissolved system water or make-up... not all at once... and thank you. Bob Fenner>

pH Monitors Hi Bob, Santa Claus is coming to town, and I was thinking of asking him for a pH Monitor. They seem very useful, but are they more trouble than they're worth, i.e.; will I have to constantly have to re-calibrate it, buy a new probe every x months? Any input on these "gadgets" would be greatly appreciated. <Is this for linking to a specific controller? Or just a time to time "pen type"? If the former, look to the manufacturer's recommendations. The latter? Most all the inexpensive models are fine... For new purchase of the former I like PinPoint... the latter? I use a YSI (Yellow Springs Instruments) And nah to having to recalibrate them if they're stored properly (moist, in standard solution) or buy new ones all the time... they last for years if properly cared for.> LEAK UPDATE I month ago I wrote you about a leak in my tank. After writing to you, I talked to my LPS and asked him if he had any advice. He showed me one of his tanks that cracked right in front. He put a piece of cellophane tape over the crack, then put some silicone sealant over the tape. He said it was there for a year now. As my leak was coming from under the tank frame, I figured I'd give it a shot. (much better than tearing down the whole tank). I'm happy to say it seems to be holding. My leak was very minute, actual water drops never reached the bottom of my tank stand. I got a "growth" of salt creep which was manageable. So, one would want to consider that before trying this. Have you ever seen any one use this quick fix? If you have any comments on this I'd appreciate it. <Have seen it... and done such things myself... as you can appreciate, not a good suggestion to post on the Net... Would/do encourage the resealing if this tank at your earliest convenience... and investigation as to the cause of the leak (likely an uneven surface the tank is on...)> Thanks as always for your help, and have a Happy Holiday, Tony <You're welcome my friend in fish. Bob Fenner>

High pH/sodium biphosphate Bob, I have written in the past regarding my high pH problem 8.62-8.65. Is it safe to add sodium biphosphate to my saltwater tank? I see plenty of products that lower pH but for freshwater tanks. What are the potential consequences if I was to use these products in my saltwater tank? Nick <It, the addn. is safe, but of little practical use in a marine system... don't add more phosphate... And the stated pH is not really "too high"... Just look to the causes of the current situation, and be patient... the reductive events of a going captive system will cause the pH to trend lower. As long as the system is cycling entirely, the pH should be of little practical significance... Bob Fenner>

Re: High pH/sodium biphosphate Bob, I will not add any more pH additives and will be sure to look for the book today! I am concerned about your reaction to the white chalk/milky build-up on my inside glass. Any suggestions on what it may be or more importantly how to clean it/stop it/reverse it from happening? I am NOT adding CO2, it was just suggested to me that my pH might be high because of the possibility of low CO2 due to excessive surface water agitation. Nick <Hmm, the chalky lime material on your viewing panels is an insoluble precipitate... not to worry about it... and it can be removed (gingerly) with a plastic card (e.g. credit type)... And the CO2 question... I feel like I've come into this en medea res (in the middle of things)... don't worry about liberating this essential material... as you're not adding any "extra", your systems respiration will steadily, sufficiently renew what is necessary and desirable... Unless you get involved in adding carbon dioxide (e.g. through a calcium reactor, directly with a pH monitor...) you will not be doing anything contrary by overly agitating the surface... in fact, during the day/light phases of photosynthesis, you will be introducing more CO2... Bob Fenner>

Re: High pH/sodium biphosphate Bob, Thanks for your quick and honest reply, basically your stating I have wasted my money...again. Since I have been adding the sodium biphosphate I have noticed this white chalk/milky build up on my inside glass that is difficult to remove. Is this sodium biphosphate or a reaction of another biomineral due to it's addition (i.e. precipitation of the baking soda I was once using to raise alk)? I stopped using sodium biphosphate and went to the Aq. Pharm. product Proper PH 8.2 but ironically the pH goes up. <Yikes... stop adding either the biphosphate or the Aquarium Pharm. product and start studying! You're soon to have no livestock and a tank you can't see through... In reviewing my notes to you just yesterday... I stated to NOT add this material. I'm sorry if this is/was unclear.> I have also been told I am probably driving off CO2 at a rapid rate and was instructed to turn off my Eheim wet/dry and cover my tank. <What? No... are you adding carbon dioxide to this system some how?> I have done this for about a week but no affect as of yet. Any thoughts on this approach? <Too much to state here... Again, get your hands on Baensch Marine Atlas v.1 and read the front parts through> Since I don't have any fish or inverts (besides what's left of my live rock) how much CO2 can my tank be producing? Nick <Bob Fenner>

Re: High pH/sodium biphosphate Bob, I have left my past inquiries and your responses for references. Just wanted to give you an update. I tried to add two Chromis to my tank even though my pH was still high 8.67 on Saturday. I spent approximately four hours trying to acclimate them, but by Sunday they were both dead. What is unusual is that upon inspection on Sunday they both died with their mouths full extended and their gills open, pH poisoning?  <Not pH per se... but yes to chemical poisoning... I definitely would dump the tank, clean it thoroughly, rinse the Dickens out of the gravel and re-set it up with new water> As of Sunday I have left the lights off completely and what remains is only the live rock. The pH as of this writing is 8.77. I plan on following through with my weekly water changes of 20% and will wait until after Christmas to decide the tanks fate. Nick <Be chatting my friend, Bob Fenner>

Re: High pH/sodium biphosphate Bob, Hope your Thanksgiving was a happy and healthy one. Learning my lesson, I prepared for this Thanksgiving and wore my BIG pants:) <A good idea, suggestion> As I did last time I left my past inquiries and your responses for reference. As of your response to my 11/15 inquiry, I broke down my entire tank on Saturday 11/18, gave it a thorough scrub down and put it all together. The pH was at 8.39 after the first twenty four hours. Everyday since I have noticed a slight increase in pH and as of last night it was 8.53. My day/light period is about 8 hours a day, it was about 12 prior to the breakdown. I plan on getting back to 12 hours per day over the next couple of weeks. Also on Wednesday, 11/22 I added three Chromis and they are doing fine, so the breakdown did eliminate the chemical poisoning, but I am concerned about the rising pH. Can over filtration be causing the high pH (just a guess, I am at a loss to why this is happening)? I don't plan on doing anything else at the moment until next Tuesday, which is my regularly scheduled water change. <Bizarre... am cogitating furiously... simple elevated aeration and/or photosynthesis will/can elevate pH a few tenths of a point... and some parts of what folks use as substrates, rock, decor likewise... Am inclined not to panic (yet), and believe a bit of the residual mix of materials from your "supplement madness" days are at play here... and will self-correct with a few weeks time passing...> On a different note my Rio 2500 pump that I was using with my HO Berlin Skimmer burnt out on Sunday. As the consumers/critics have warned (the pump lasted approximately 8 months) this is an inferior product, I just wish I would have known before my purchase. I tried to get a phone number for them but none is provided on their web page. Any suggestions as to a different pump? I was told the MAG Drive Supreme 500 would do. What do you think? <Argghhh, look under the name riopump.com for the big complaint... too many of these do go out, some disastrously as first or later order events... And instead do make the fabulous choice of an Eheim pump instead... the best in the short and long haul,,,, energy, safety, quiet, service-factor wise... Available most everywhere folks sell real gear in our interest. BTW, some of they "supp." matter may have mal-affected your Taam-Rio product...> Nick <Bob>

pH and Alkalinity I'm using Seachem tests. They call it "total alkalinity" and recommend a value of 2.5 -3.5. I'm more concerned about the pH. I thought we are all striving for the 8.3 - 8.4 range. <8.0 is fine... not worth what it can take with the tools you have to try elevating, keeping it steady at a higher point> A while back you mentioned having "The Conscientious REEF..." ready to go. Will it be coming out soon? <No, unfortunately... no publisher on the horizon... nor cash, skills and knowledge to do the whole project (editing, layout, sales, distribution) myself... Have to wait, keep updating sections, hold out for...? Microcosm?> Thanks again for all of your help and advice. I really do appreciate it. I feel much more confident going into this tank with all of your help. Keep up the good work, as I'm sure others feel as I do.  If I can save even one coral............ Tony >> <And I thank you, again. Bob Fenner>

I need help please!!!! I have a 55 gallon marine tank which has been set up for 3 weeks now. I have one damsel in there, and since my nitrite and ammonia were practically at zero I added a Bursa trigger in there. Yesterday, I saw the fish looking very stressed and near death. I tested all components of  the water and they all checked out ok. Except, the PH had dropped to around 7. I did a 25% water change, and added two air pumps into the tank. I also added a marine buffer. Is there anything else I can do to bring the PH back up? What causes this dramatic drop? Thank you >> The pH dropped to 7 even? This IS low... and a cause for concern... does this tank have a lot of dead, dying live rock? No buffering gravel... What brand of salt mix did you use? Or natural seawater?... You need to bring the pH back up,,, but not all at once... and you need to understand the concept of alkalinity/alkaline reserve.... Do read over the pieces on these topics (pH, alkalinity) about marine systems stored on the web site: www.wetwebmedia.com and we'll talk when you can answer back. Bob Fenner

pH levels I currently have a 30 gal that has had live rock for 7 weeks. Every-thing appears to have been cycled and weekly tests reveal stable water conditions of: ph 8.0, Ammonia 0.1, nitrite below 0.2, nitrate 0, salinity 1.020 -1.021. Have several small corals that arrived with live rock that are doing well, two turbo snails, and a nice variety of algaes on the rocks as well. Ordered two small anemones, a green brittle star, and a flame scallop. Evidently, the ph needs to be at least 8.2.  Will the addition of an air stone raise the ph level appropriately? >> >> Don't obsess over the pH of your solution... 8.0 is fine, you can add the airstone... and it will come up with aging of the live rock, growth of photosynthates... Do however raise your spg (about a thousandth per day), up to 1.025 (near natural seawater) as this is better/best for your non-fishes... like the corals on your live rock, and new livestock. Bob Fenner

I have a 125gal reef tank that always seams to be a bit short on alkalinity.. what's the best way to raise it with supplements? >> >> Hmm, this is a deceptively difficult question... Let's see... it really depends on how you're raising your biomineral content and pH... and the use of other materials in your system...  A most-likely scenario: If you're using Kalkwasser... dripping it in slowly, at night... and not depleting (therefore) the carbon dioxide in your system... You can easily boost alkalinity by the simple addition of baking soda/sodium bicarbonate... If you're putting the Kalk in too much, too fast, and there is insufficient carbon dioxide to neutralize the hydroxide (the OH- of the Ca(OH)2) of the Kalk... you are going to be precipitating out your calcium, magnesium, strontium... with the addition of "alkaline buffering" materials.... Does this make sense to you? Bob Fenner

pH level I set up a new 46gal bowfront marine aquarium about seven weeks ago. Initial ph levels were quite low (below 8.0). Several treatments of Marine Buffer recommended by the aquarium shop I've consulted has brought the level to slightly above 8.0. However the product stated that it would bring ph to 8.3 and maintain it at that level. I used city water treated with Amquel water treatment for initially filling the tank and Instant Ocean brand salt. Why is my ph low and how can I safely raise and maintain the level? I currently have a yellow tang and 2 camel shrimp in the tank. >> Could be a few things holding your pH back... but not to worry... a pH of 8.0 is fine, even desirable.... don't worry about this issue, and stop pouring in the Buffer... as it is probably making essential biominerals rate-limiting....  Your pH is not low.... Please read over the materials on pH, Alkalinity, Calcium et al. links posted at www.wetwebmedia.com for much more... this is a complex, yet important area for you to understand. Bob Fenner

Alkalinity Bob: I have another question, this one re alkalinity. I have a strange problem which I only recently noticed when I decided to check my pH and alkalinity.  My pH is quite high, although stable, at 8.6. But my alkalinity is quite low, at 1.1-1.7 ppm according to my test kit. I checked various books, but there's no discussion of high pH and low alkalinity. My pet dealer is also stumped. What would you advise? Is this harmful to my tank inhabitants? The only change I've noticed is that my leathers have been closed more  frequently.  Thanks for your help -- Matthew  >> Hmm, let me guess... you use Kalkwasser (calcium hydroxide) solution regularly...? You're experiencing the all-too-common experience of inadequate carbon dioxide, too much Ca(OH)2 being added too much too soon... exhausting available carbonate, (if there were any) carbonates.... raising pH in the process...  There are two other (much less common) scenarios that produce the same relationships between pH, alk., and calcium concentrations... but I'll stick with this guess. And yes, this is an unhealthy set of conditions... You DO want something resembling natural sea water (NSW)... a pH of 8.2 or thereabouts, calcium of about 400 ppm (plus, minus 50 ppm or so) and alkalinity in the 4,5...8 milliequivalents per liter... All best achieved by calcium reactors... can be achieved through dual type additives... only very rarely with Kalk.... Bob Fenner, who would/does advise a thorough investigation into alkaline earth/biomineral phenomena and their relationship with alkalinity... and an established program of using additives or skipping ahead a few years to where most everyone is using calcium reactors.

Re: Alkalinity Bob; you're absolutely correct that I overdosed Kalk solution. I will look into the calcium reactors you recommend. Meanwhile should I do a big water change?  >> Ah, amazing, eh? Yes to the big water change...  Bob "Sherlock" Fenner

Confused about alkalinity Just purchased a Salifert alkalinity test kit. My saltwater reads 4.34 meq/l with a pH of 8.0. Isn't that alk. reading too high? In the books I've read it stated that alk. should be roughly between 2.8 and 3.5. The books tell how to raise the alk. But they don't address what to do if it's high. I don't add any supplements. I mix my saltwater using a reef mix salt and tap water. I don't understand why alk is so high? John >> This is not a HIGH reading... but about right... in all respects, and considering useful measures of pH and biominerals (calcium, magnesium, strontium especially), a reading above 3.5 (in your units) is fine/desirable. Bob Fenner, who will get off his duff and write a one-piece understandable treatise on this issue... and soon... or suffer carpal-tunnel syndrome.

pH swings Hey Bob, I recently bought a PH monitor for my 30gal reef. I have been monitoring the PH level which seems to be fluctuating a little too much. In the morning the monitor reads around 7.7-7.8 and then at night it reads about 8.1-8.2. Is this fluctuation something I should worry about, or is this spread a normal reaction to day and night characteristics?  <A more than natural than not cyclicity... I wouldn't worry unless your alkalinity was low... like less than 3.5 millieq./l> I starting dosing Kalkwasser to see if this would help stabilize and raise the PH a little better. I have heard that large PH swings are due to low alkalinity, is this true?? <Oh, yes... gotta start reading all the queries ahead of responding...> Should I add a buffer in addition to the Kalkwasser? If so, should I only add it when the alkalinity is at a certain level, or is it safe to add it maybe once a week?  Thanks for the help Bob, Patrick >> <Okay, now HAVE read the whole missal... yes, good idea to check, augment alkalinity along with use of "supplements" such as Kalkwasser... YOU need both alkaline reserve AND biominerals... one w/o the other is not only worthless, but dangerous to your captive life... Many approaches to this question... Maybe take a read through the materials on these issues posted at my site: www.wetwebmedia.com and get back to me if you're unsure of how to proceed... Bob Fenner>

Alkalinity I have had a 75 reef tank for 9 months. My corals have done ok. I add Kent liquid calcium daily. I recently heard from someone that adding calcium lowers Carbonate Harness/Alkalinity. What is Alkalinity.  Should I start testing it. >> IMO, yes, all reef keepers attempting to house/grow biomineralizing life forms (e.g. hermatypic corals, photosynthetic gorgonians...) should measure Alkalinity... variously defined as Carbonate hardness or Acid binding capacity... and measure most frequently as dKH (often KH in the west) or milli-moles per liter...milliequivalents per liter or mg/l of CaCO3... these are all ways of looking at the same phenomena... a concentration or capacity to resist downward movement in pH if you will.... and supply needed carbonate for metabolism... And, it's not so much that adding "calcium" by itself that lowers carbonate/alkalinity, but the format in which it is added... Most notoriously the addition of Kalkwasser, Calcium hydroxide in a carbon dioxide (high pH) deficient system... will likely precipitate out the carbonate as CaCO3... The desired reaction of adding Kalk: Ca(OH)2 + 2CO2 <> Ca(HCO3)2, Calcium hydroxide plus carbon dioxide becomes/unbecomes Calcium bicarbonate... using carbon dioxide in the forward rxn, and elevating pH consequently... but at higher (normal pHs for many marine systems... especially ones w/o CO2 infusion... you'll start to see why I'm such a HUGE fan of calcium reactors employing carbon dioxide infusion:) CA(OH)2 + CO2 <> CaCO3 + H2O, the Kalk and Carbon dioxide in the water (from whatever source... becomes/unbecomes calcium carbonate (precipitate) and water... What often becomes of folks fallaciously pouring in supplements that are mutually incompatible... Bob "who wishes we all had a grasp of simple chemistry, or that he had the big bongo bucks from mis-used supplements" Fenner And who realizes that all this may "seem Greek", and apologizes for any added confusion, but could/would not answer this query in any other way

pH Bob, I know you're tired of me <Never, my friend> but this time it is a real problem with my aquarium. I recently have been testing my ph and it read much lower than it was suppose to be. It is usually right at 8.2 or 8.3 like it is suppose to be, but then yesterday it was at 8.0. I figured it was just fluctuating at bit, but today it was at 7.8. So I added the proper amount of SeaChem marine buffer, I checked a hour later and it was all ready up at 8.0 again so I figured it was working and I would add more the next morning, But tonight I checked the ph and it was back down to 7.8, what is wrong? Is this normal when adding buffers, I have never had to use them before? If it isn't what are possible problems, or at least the most likely. I am waaaaaaaay under the tanks limits so I know it isn't over stocking, I do water changes regularly, I feed them once a day to every other day, what is up, I can't find the problem. My ammonia is 0ppm, my nitrite is 0ppm and my nitrate is 5ppm. Again it is a 55 gallon fish only tank. Help. John Moyer >> <May well be some part of alkaline reserve missing in your brand of salt mix... And/or your very soft tapwater... And/or the reductive tendencies of your sort of filtration (do you "drive" nitrification with a wet-dry, or fluidized bed filter?)... At any length, 7.8 is not the end of the world... and better than having a pH that is too high... Do keep on the supplement routine you're on... and things will be fine. And, do consider adding some macro-algae to your system... it will help all the way around. Bob Fenner

Test Kits? Hi Bob, Thanks for the info on test kits, and for the baking soda suggestion. I'm in the process of adding it (didn't want to add it all at once, so I'm doing it over three days). Follow up question: Would it help further if I also added some sodium carbonate, or will the bicarb reach equilibrium as a bicarb/carbonate mixture on it's own? Perhaps I could mix up a stock buffer solution, and add when I add my Kalkwasser... Any dangers here? Thanks again, Randi <Very perceptive on the carbonate/bicarbonate question... Yes, just add the bicarbonate... it would turn (more to) carbonate in a more alkaline environment... And some dangers in mixing Kalkwasser and the bicarb... best to settle on some of both... and a "mid-ground" in alkalinity and biomineral concentration... Nothing wrong with 350ppm calcium with 3.5 or higher alkalinity... 400-500 ppm calcium with low alkalinity is worthless... Add the materials separately... IMO... or buy a pre-made dry mix of the two and mix/add it at once... or best... look into a calcium reactor... I see one in your future... and you're happy... Hmm, I would send those test kits back... sounds like the reagents have had it... I mainly use Hach and Salifert test kits... fast, accurate, and inexpensive considering we do many tests...  Coralline algae can/does spread quickly given propitious circumstances: plenty of biominerals, high alkalinity (3.5+) and a paucity of competing and predatory life forms... it can cover an entire system in a month at about the best...  Hmm, do me a favor, and add a few teaspoons to your tank (about one per ten gallons) of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and check in the morning to see if you can register any alkalinity...  Bob Fenner >>

Alkalinity I have a 75 gal reef tank with a wet dry, U.V, Berlin skimmer VHO lighting.  I am currently having trouble maintaining proper alkalinity. my ph is between 8.2 and 8.4. my alkalinity is 1.7. I am currently using c balance a& b. my tank is set up as a reef tank with about 110 lbs of live rock. In addition my phosphate level is at .01 and I have no nitrates, but I do have hair algae. I purchased the clean up crew and I have a lawn mower blenny along with a scopas tang, but they do not seem to be doing a job on the hair algae. any suggestions as to how to raise alkalinity? someone told me to use baking soda, but I do not know how much or how often. any help would be appreciated >> Simple baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) will/should raise the alkalinity some... try a teaspoon or two and see if it moves the reserve a bit... this is a simple, safe material that can be added daily in small quantities. Do look into a better product that will both raise alkalinity and provide valuable biominerals... my fave brands are Kent Marine and Tropic Marin's lines... Bob Fenner

pH and Alkalinity I use RO water. What about continuing to add the baking soda once the tank is set up? Also I see that you don't seem to like Kalkwasser. What should be used in its place. My "dripper" puts about a gallon of the mixture in every two days. By the way, Bob who answers everyone's questions so generously, you are the best. thanks. <You can/could continue to use the baking soda almost indefinitely... as a source of carbonate/bicarbonate (it will change depending on the pH of your water)... and the Kalkwasser is safe and effective for temporarily boosting pH and adding calcium... but there is much more to "this story".... and not using "other" sources of alkalinity and alkaline earth materials can/does lead to problems (some notable ones are the precipitation of phosphate... not entirely a "good thing", exclusion of strontium, magnesium uptake)... All can be avoided though, still, by using these two adjuncts AND frequent partial water changes... can you imagine how? I'll bet you soon will be able to. Bob Fenner>

Coral questions hi I have a 55 gallon reef, with, a colony of button polyps, a finger leather, a toadstool leather, a green open brain, a pineapple coral, a pagoda coral, a purple sea fan a large growth of Caulerpa around 50 pounds of live rock, three tangs, yellow, hippo, and Kole, one Sebae clown and small Chromis, many small hermits and snails, I have no algae problems and water levels are great everything in the tank has been in there for almost two years, but it seem that none of the corals ever grow. why is this. I have 4 55 watt power compacts on the tanks I add calcium iodine and strontium and molybdenum. the polyps have propagated on to other rocks but the brain coral and pine apple coral don't ever change it seems like there's a little tissue degeneration on the pine apple coral and the sea fan, I also have a sponge that seems to be dying. can you give me some advice. thanks >> Ahh, many good "clues"... I suspect that your calcium and alkalinity are both low... You don't list values... do you have test kits that will give us the ppm and meq/l of these? Your Caulerpa may well be "hogging" up all/most of the available calcium... and the mechanism you're utilizing for introducing the bio-minerals may not have an alkalinity enhancing component... or worse, be driving down the alkaline reserve in your system. As a preview of coming attractions, know that you need both... calcium and alkalinity to have your biomineralizing organisms grow. Okay, for all you sharp-eyed browsers, the CF lamps might be getting too old at two years as well... but there is a statement that the corals "never grew"... I would check the incept dates on the lamps and change out one "set" soon and the other a month later. Oh, as this (the lack of intense, full-spectrum light) will hold back your coral's growth as well (but not the Caulerpa as much...) Bob Fenner

Sand Stirrer Questions I have a 55 gallon tank that is over 4 years old that I am slowly converting into a reef tank. The one thing in my tank that I believe is holding me back is my gravel. The gravel is Carib Sea's Special Grade Aragonitic Sand. The problem with this sand is that is has many shells in it that are fairly big. They are so big, that many of my hermits crabs (Scarlet Reef, Blue Leg) have taken the shells as new homes. Since the sand bed is very course, I am wondering if my tank is able to keep sand stirrers in it. I want to keep sand stirrers like brittle stars, Cerith snails, and cucumbers so I do not have to gravel vacuum the tank anymore and use the sand to lower nitrate. Can these sand stirrers live in such course gravel? If not, would it be better to get rid of the entire sand bed and replace it with live sand? I get what is best for my future reef. I would mind spending the money to replace the sand bed. Currently the tank has 30 Lbs. of Live Rock and my clean-up consists of 4 Scarlet reef hermits, 3 Blue-Leg hermits, 2 Astrea Snail, 3 Trochus Snails, 1 Cleaner Shrimp, and 1 Blood Shrimp. >> The sand stirrers you mention (and fishes used for the purpose you don't list) will/would be fine with your current substrate. Rather than the coarseness of the gravel, I'm more concerned with its existing alkalinity... it may well be near-exhausted... in easy solubility... so if you don't replace all/some or augment it with new, do keep your eye on your system water alkalinity. Bob Fenner

Live Rock Hello, All I can say is that it is getting pretty bad when I can not trust my local fish store to test my tank water! I bought two tests and these are the real numbers: 315 Calcium 3.0 Alkalinity More Calcium? How do I raise the Alkalinity? Also, Coral-Vite has been highly recommended to me by several people to increase algae & live rock growth. What do you think? John Heiberger >> Hmm, need to know a bit more about your system, livestock and goals (all this will make sense in a while). Tell me about your set-up... filtration, live rock/sand... And what do you have for livestock now, future plans... Lastly, what are your goals? Growth, maintenance, reproduction... color improvement, fragmentation of corals... And a little history on your additive background... what have you put purposely into the tank? Bob Fenner

Raising ph? Hello, my ph level seems to be remaining constant at about 8.0, My tank is about 6 weeks old, what can I use to raise the ph and maintain it over the long term. thanks >> Well, there are a few things you can do to raise your systems pH... but I wouldn't at this stage. A pH of 8.0 is nothing to worry about. Let the tank "settle in" for a couple of months and don't worry much about any given pH point at this juncture. Bob Fenner

Question: I have a 55gallon Reef tank which has been established for over a year. There is about 90lbs of live rock, and no sand in the bottom. My Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, PH, CA are all great, but I am fighting against a low Alkalinity. I change water (reverse Osmosis) 10% every week, and add C-balance every 3 days to my tank. I am also adding 3 times a week a Kent alkalinity buffer. I used to have a live sand (2") in my tank and was fighting a high Nitrate, so 5 months ago I removed it and everything is doing fine. Is there anything I can do to raise my alkalinity? For cosmetic reasons, I would like to add a thin layer of crushed coral in my substrate, do you see any problem with that?

Bob's Answer: Hey Bob, how low is low? And why are you concerned? Yes, there are a few ways I know you can raise your total alkalinity et alia res... and no problem with adding a little crushed coral IMO (which will minimally elevate the meq./l. of alk. for a short while...) The easiest and best way to raise alkalinity and provide necessary elements and molecules in captive marine systems are devices that "melt" down a base material that mimics the make-up of the reef and its organisms and delivers same in solution to the main/display system in a somewhat controlled, but not-necessarily high-tech fashion. Yes, these are mainly the CO2 systems with oolithic Aragonitic material... but do look beyond this statement to what you might fabricate to do about the same... Beyond and in the short term, simpler than this are additives/supplements that have one or more materials of useful kOH to add to the system. Kent Marine makes the best that I'm aware of...  

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