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Algae and salt mix brands: SW Salt Mix Selection and Water Chemistry: 10/16/2009
Good morning.
<Hi Keith.>
I have a question in regards to switching of salt brands and reported outbreaks of Cyano, BGA or film algae. On many boards you can find praises of certain salt brands and also as many negative comments, primarily "I switched to brand B from brand A and now I am battling Cyano". If salt mix A tests negative for phosphates, silica and nitrate or at least at the same concentrations as salt mix B (still low undetectable amounts by most kits) is it more so the relationship between alk, ca and pH, and the differences that different salt brands have in that regard that contribute to a stable system seemingly becoming unstable?
<Heheheh, I am familiar with these comments\statements\arguments.>
I am just trying to understand this because I find negative reports on just about every salt brand out there.
Now granted, I have no idea if these people that talk poorly about the brands check their IO
filters regularly, or bump up alk or ca to balance each other out too quickly (affecting pH), or even if the are overstocked or lax about maintenance but swear when they changed from brand A back to brand B all was well.
<That is the key issue there. This is also why I take those comments with a huge chunk of salt and rely on personal experience >
At the same time I can find just as many different reefers praising these same salts (Brand A) and saying they had disasters when switching to brand B. These brands are so diverse too in praise and disappointment with equally good and bad reviews of each brand, mostly Reef Crystals, IO, Red Sea, Oceanic and Coralife....all the brands my chain store stocks
<I'll throw my two cents in on these brands based upon my direct experience:
IO: Never had a problem, changed to a different brand because I wanted more Ca
Reef Crystals: I had a lot of the Ca precipitate out of solution while I was mixing it. I was not the only one in my area to experience the same thing. Others in my local reef club did not have this problem. May not be exactly fair, but I am done with Reef Crystals.
Oceanic: No complaints other than it is ground so fine, it tends to get everywhere
Rea Sea: Never Used
Tropic Marin Pro: What I currently use. Expensive, but no complaints. >
My LFS that is a really good LFS with actual reefers and marine biologists as staff use Oceanic but all there tanks are running through a HUGE intricate basement sump using many types of reactors, skimmers the size of a hot water tanks and as well they have an abundance of clams and stony corals through out their displays and sale tanks not to mention their lighting!...so again saying this is a great salt with that much technology is a lot different in need than my modest tank with softies and a few LPS running a simple HOB skimmer, a refugium, powerheads and PC for lighting.
<Not really, it is just a question of scale. A bad salt will produce bad results regardless of your equipment.>
Currently I use Red Sea Coral Pro (8 months), which up until lately consistently mixed up at 1.025 at Ca of 460, Alk of 8 and pH of 8.2 through 4 tubs of salt mix. I have to add alk twice a week but Ca and pH seems pretty stable between WCs but it is hard to find that salt locally all of a sudden and the 5th tub I bought was very high in alk (17+ dKH) and below 300 in Ca.
<May have gotten a bad\poorly mixed batch.>
Red Sea did exchange the bucket, but it took some time.
<Good service on their part.>
Oceanic is the only salt that is a 100% locally available to me, not to mention the local support of users of this salt from the reputable LFS, It seems that from most peoples findings, it's Ca and Alk are about the same as what I was getting from Red Sea at SG 1.025 but with better mag...some have said the mag might be a bit too high though.
<As long as it is not sky high, I would not worry too much.>
I have also read that many people mix ca deficient salts with great alk 50/50 with salts with great ca but lower alk for make up water as well, but with just as many people saying never to do that because of all the other unknown chemical reactions that might alter the mix useless in the end to what they are trying to achieve....it's perplexing.
<I wouldn't do that simply because every brand's mixing ration to water is different. I would rather use a good reliable brand, and then correct the mixed water for alk and Ca before adding it to the tank.>
I realize results may vary on all salt brands,
<They will vary slightly from bucket to bucket in the same brand.>
all tanks are different and have different needs, but if a salt mix were to be changed how gradual should the process be and does the switch and the adjustment time in regard to levels of Ca, Alk, pH and Mag have more to do with possible blooms than any salt mix just being a bad brand if it starts out Phosphate, silicate and Nitrate free?
<That is a distinct possibility, the best way to determine that is by repeated testing and see if a trend emerges. As to switching out brands, I change about 20% of my water per week, so I introduced the new salt with each water change.>
<Here is a link to one of many pages here on salt brands by manufacturer:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/seachemsalt.htm >

Re: Algae and salt mix brands: SW Salt Mix Selection and Water Chemistry: 10/18/2009
Thanks Mike,
<Hi Keith.>
One last question, On the Oceanic brand, when you used it did you need to bump up alk or did it tend to stabilize in the 8.5 or so range?
<I had to bump it up a bit, but nothing too extraordinary. 1 teaspoons of Baking soda for 50 gallons of water got me to dKH of 10>.
Was Ca extremely elevated or like 480-500?
<Looking through my notes, it was in the 440 - 470 range>
<<One thing to keep in mind is that salt mixes are just that - mixes. No two batches or production lots are going to be exactly the same. I look for parameters within a range rather than a set value.>
Someone reported a Ca of close to 600 at 1.026 but also an alk of 13 and I think one or the other would have precipitated while aerating...so again,
<Likely so.. >
I guess I need to take this all with a grain of salt and use my own experiences,
<Exactly. Now granted, if 50 people started posting that brand X of some supplement killed their tank, I would be very cautious about adding it to mine.
I just always want to experiment safely you know, where my tank will be happy and safe during these tests.
BTW, I had the same problem with Reef Crystals, chalked up my clean powerhead and heater, as well as the inside of the bucket while mixing!
<Chalked my pump to the point it stopped running and had to soak everything in vinegar..>
So, like you probably not fair, but I don't view that salt as an alternative in my "quest".
<I really think there was a bad batch of RC out there. I've seen\heard too many stories of this from different parts of the country to be coincidental. Perhaps we should start comparing lot numbers.>
Thanks for the reply and help sorting some of this out.
<My pleasure.>

Bad batch of salt burning my corals? Oceanic   6/27/08 I have a question about some oceanic salt i purchased which happened to coincide with a sharp downturn in my corals, snails, and starfishes' health. <Okay> I didn't notice the problem until the 3rd water change I did, which by that time the corals were already distressed. I put 12 scoops of salt in my water change tank, then added the water, used a power head to stir up the salt and dissolve it, and I put a heater in to get the temp up. I used R.O. water, and the salt dissolved almost immediately like Oceanic does, and it looked fine, I came back about an hour later, and the water was milky white. In addition to the water being white, there was a very fine silt settling on the bottom and sides of the tank, and the powerhead. <Alkaline precipitant.. insoluble calcium carbonate> How it ended up in my tank was I had previously been using white buckets, and hadn't noticed the cloudiness, I noticed it a little when I put the water in, but it seemed to go away really quickly and the fish in the tank were, and still are seemingly in perfect health, so I didn't think much of it. I had the water tested and the parameters were fine according to my LFS, <For future use, I would recommend purchasing your own testing kits so that you can keep an eye on your aquarium. LFS testing is usually done with cheap, inaccurate dip strips, and their view of 'fine' often isn't.> no ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, calcium was 450, and alkalify was in the 3.75 range. I am thinking that the silt that seemingly reconstituted after initially dissolving may be settling on or coming in direct contact with the corals and burning them. <Most likely not burning them, a precipitate is inert, but irritating yes. Other things may also be at work here.> My questions are, any idea what this silt might be? Also, I switched salts, and using the same water did not have the problem, so I am pretty sure it was the salt. <I have had only bad experiences with Oceanic salt. You get what you pay for.> As far as getting rid of this stuff so my corals and anemone can come back home from the friend who is keeping them for me, what might you suggest? I am thinking 15% water change each week till I have the water completely turned over, and in addition to this lightly targeting the top of my sand, and my rock to get rid of anything that settled. <Just do a couple big water changes to get rid of any remaining particulate matter, and you should be fine.> I know it is still there because my friend gave me a small piece of xenia to use to see if the water had improved for corals, and it turned white overnight. <Could be because of lighting, water chemistry, moving, fragging, etc. Not a single-variable test by any means> My parameters as of now, and which have been steady are: ammonia 0, ph 8.4, nitrate, 0 creeping up to 5 or so by the day i do water changes, nitrite 0, phosphate 0, calcium 450, alkalinity 3.75. Again, through all this my fish are showing absolutely no signs of stress, have no visible spots or injuries, aren't scratching on rocks, and are eating great. Sorry for being so long-winded, but I have not been able to find any insight into what might be causing the corals and certain inverts to die like this while the fish do so well. Btw, I did buy a kit and test for copper too, there was none. <If things have actually died, I would begin to suspect things other than just precipitate from alkalinity troubles...metals in the tank, medications, etc. Otherwise this should just be a problem of corals irritated by the grit in the water.> Any help would be greatly appreciated, Chris. <Best of luck. Benjamin>

Re: unidentified Algae, BGA Thank you for your reply Bob.  I spoke with Boyd Enterprises regarding their product Chemi-Clean. <Very nice boys... I knew their father, Dick Boyd... a real innovator>   Would you recommend I try this product in my reef to rid the Cyano that is very present as "red slime" in my fuge and as the "blue-green Cyano" you recently identified from the reef pics I sent you?  They claim this product will have no adverse effects on the reef nor will it create any phosphate problems.  Do you agree and is it worth a try? <Mmm, not entirely. Try as I might, I have not been able to find what this product is... other than that it does not contain Erythromycin...> By the way, Boyd himself (son) also made a few recommendations to me.  He suggested I switch from Oceanic Salt mix to Tropic Marin. <A good idea> My Calcium is high 500 and has been as high as 550+ with no addition of Calcium.  He claims that when testing Oceanic, many batches contained very high Calcium levels 700+. <Yikes!> I am going to test the calcium on the batch I am currently using. He also recommended that I stray away from feeding my reef the delicious frozen concoction 3X per week made basically of Eric H. Borneman's recipe and try "Phycopure" made by Algagen and perhaps some "Cyclops Eeze".  <Another worthy suggestion> It was also recommended to continue to feed my fish pellets/Nori as I have been on alternate days. He felt my frozen cube recipe was just blowing too many nutrients around the reef.  Your thoughts would be appreciated. <All sound good. Bob Fenner> Thanks again. Paul Maresca Calcium and carbonate hardness Hi Guys.. (No gender bias intended) <None taken> Man what a great site. I've been doing this long enough to remember the only good source of info being printed materials like Moe's Marine Aquarium Handbook, and college textbooks on marine biology, not that they weren't, and still are, a great source of info. It's almost mind-blowing the amount of good (as well as useless) info out there now, and its great to have such a knowledgeable and respected staff to sort through the bull%#$@ or fish poop as it may be. <Ha!> I work at a local mom and pop LFS part time, and doing some aquarium maintenance service. I've been working on and off for the last 15 years or so in the fish trade starting as a employee at a pet store in New Mexico while I was going to college there, still the best job I ever had and was lucky to start out at a place where there were so many knowledgeable people who cared about the hobby, just wish there was more money in it :) Anyway, I'm rambling and haven't even asked my question. <I understand... had/have a similar background> The query involves a problem I'm (as well as a few customers of mine are having) with KH and CA concentrations (I know I know don't fall asleep yet). Just wanted you to know that I have a pretty firm grasp of the fundamentals, although I'm constantly amazed by what I don't know, and I have perused the previous posts pretty thoroughly, but I'm still stuck. The Issues are dangerously high calcium, 650ppm and up depending on the test kit, (and I have tried several) accompanied by a higher than normal K. I know this is next to impossible as the only issues I've had in the past entailed proactive measures to keep CA and KH up to reasonable levels. This is not; however, an isolated event as I have seen this problem several times, and all without some kind of precipitation event AKA "snowstorm". With my customers I have always assumed it was due to blindly dosing with 2 part buffers and not testing for results until too late. <Commonly this is so> I always recommend the cessation of any additive as well as a series of water changes to get things under control. <Our standard spiel as well> Magnesium levels were also checked and adjusted as I've found low levels of this can skew CA levels. <Yes> I was always amazed at the congruous high levels of CA and KH, as I thought this was impossible, or at least very unlikely, for more than a few hours at a time, something has got to give, but I've seen this happen for weeks based on testing and retesting with differing brands of reagents. <Can indeed "happen"... with the influence of other compounds present...> Here's the kicker, for me anyway, I just set up a 30 gallon reef tank in my office not the first (or the 20th) I've set up and I'm having the same issue! Me, this does not happen to ME, I solve other peoples problems, I don't actually HAVE problems, lol, I'm really not that egotistical no problems to solve equals an uninteresting hobby, right. Jeez someone edit me I'm getting long winded, and now I'm writing about how long winded I am and. Its just that I don't get out much and.... AHHH!!!! <Perhaps a small vacation...> The new setup is a 30 gallon cube with a 5" DSB, 40 lbs live rock (or "once live" rock, freebies from the bottom of the rock culturing pool) Remora skimmer a couple powerheads and about 80 watts of PC light, pretty standard. I've added nothing to the tank except Oceanic salt mixed with RO/DI to the sg of 1.024, and a few hermits. My calcium levels are 660ppm and my KH is 130 mg/L, yes that is not a misprint, and it has been there for over a week. <This is likely due to the Central Garden and Pet salt mix> The tank appears to be normal no precipitation normal new live rock stuff coming out, tube worms, few bristle worms, the Aiptasia and the rock anemones seem to be doing fine lol, little bit of diatom growth, start of some green algae. This is where I would normally start dosing some calcium gluconate to kick off the coralline algae but I don't think that's prudent, obviously. My other parameters are normal pH 8.0 (a little low maybe) NH3 up a little for a few days now at 0, same with NO2, no phosphate, no NH3 yet. Like I said I have added no life except my "once live" rock and the hermits.  Should I do anything proactive to bring these ridiculous levels down. <Yes... switch synthetic salt brands> Something beside a water change, and yes, the salt mixed with RO and tested in a separate container tests out equally scary. There is some variance between test kits but they all test within 20-30 ppm for Ca2+,and 10 mg/L KH. I'm worried that at any second my tank is going to turn into a 30 gallon snow globe, no shaking necessary with the help of my powerheads keeping the flakes in suspension, not what I had in mind. Help. <We've had a few reports re the Oceanic brand and these issues. Look into making a deal (for volume) for Instant Ocean IMO... Bob Fenner>

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

- Marine Salt Mixes - Bob, I know I've read some of your expert opinions here on the different marine salts and I believe you were in favor of using Tropic Marin with Instant Ocean also as an acceptable synthetic salt. <Bob is out of town - JasonC here in his stead.> Do you have any feedback on the new Oceanic Systems natural sea salt mix? <I have no personal experience with it... I don't switch between brands unless I just can't get the one I need.> It boasts all these great things like some other sea mixes. Is it really any different or is it an acceptable or good sea salt in your opinion? <I'm sure it is quite acceptable. Have seen it all over the place - the parent company of Oceanic is huge and quite capable of pelting the market with all kinds of positive press.> I saw it advertised online and in TFH which I'm been subscribed to and I know you discussed this topic and are one of the editors there at that magazine. The latest TFH I know the advertisement says that they received the Editors Choice award by Pet Product News. <Not sure what that really means - is not quite the good housekeeping seal of approval, and even then, what does that mean?> Since it is new can you tell me anything about the product if it is revolutionary in some way? <I doubt it - revolutionary that is. I'm sure it's a fine salt but doubt they've latched onto something new that no one else has tried.> Oceanic claims patent pending technology but is this really a superior sea salt? <Pending being the operative word - they may never get that patent.> I normally would go with Instant Ocean because of the price but really the 160 gallon bucket they give you, you might as well pay a little higher price for another 200 gallon bucket of salt. I was hoping you could give me your take on Oceanic sea salt mix and if you believe it is a good or acceptable sea salt or would you consider it inferior to the likes of Tropic Marin or Instant Ocean. <I'm sure it's on par with Instant Ocean. Tropic Marin is hard to beat for quality, but recently due to valuation of the dollar, seems to have gone from expensive to extremely expensive. My LFS wants $115 a bucket for it - I switched to Instant Ocean which is still an excellent salt.> I can't find much information with an analysis or testing of the salt maybe because its too new. Thanks. Dennis Jacksonville, FL   <Cheers, J -- ><<Oceanic and TFH/Magazine are owned by the same co... Central Garden... RMF>>

- Marine Salt Mixes, Follow-up - I've looked up some articles on the website that reference Oceanic salt mix. Wasn't sure if this is the Oceanic mix I'm talking about. <I'm aware of only one Oceanic aquarium salt.> In the articles they reference Oceanic as if it were not such a great salt. <Is possible - is best to ask around - see if you can find people who've tried it.> If it is not that great then I will go with Tropic Marin for the 200 gallon pail price as it is really not that much more considering if the salt is superior to Instant Ocean and I'm getting more gallons to the bucket. <It's a bigger bucket.> There also doesn't seem to be that big a difference in the extra shipping and handling price for a 200 gallon mix over the 160. I guess all salt doesn't weigh the same. <Freight in those weights seems to be have a more level playing field.> Thanks. <Cheers, J -- >

Calcium/Alkalinity Question... junk salt mix 7/16/05 After having about 90 lbs of live rock "curing" in my 46 gallon bow tank for about 2 months, I finally found a time window in which to cut it back to about 65 lbs, add aragonite substrate and, in the process, change out all of the water. Things seemed to be looking great... "Steve" the unidentified polyp that had developed during curing came out intact, the water is crystal clear, testing at 1.023-1.024 salinity, pH of about 8.3-8.4. New things that had not been showing themselves during that first two months seem to be popping out everywhere. <Neat!> I got to looking at different supplements and what not, but decided to leave the LFS with only calcium and alkalinity test kits before purchasing anything else. Well, the alkalinity came out to 5.5 meq/L (15.4 dKH according to their conversion table in the SeaTest kit) and 540 mg/L of calcium. These are considerably higher than what is recommended. Should I worry? Is it the Oceanic sea salt I am using? Could it be a result of the fresh aragonite? Bill <The crappy salt mix... I would switch brands. Bob Fenner>

- New Salt - Hey Crew. What's your thoughts on the new Oceanic Systems Natural Sea Salt. <I doubt that Oceanic actually makes this salt, but more than likely just re-brands someone else's salt.> All I hear is it's suppose to mix fast because of Micro Crystals. I hear nothing on the quality or trace elements. http://www.oceanicsystems.com/seasalt/default.htm <Well... I've not used this salt so I can't really say much more than I already have.> Have a great day! <You too. Cheers, J -- >

Oceanic Systems Sea Salt 3/9/04 Do you have any experience with or know of any one who has tried Oceanic Systems new Sea Salt.  I was wondering what the trace mineral parameters might be as compared to other brands.  Thanks in advance for your response. Terry <Hi Terry. I have a sample of Oceanic salt that I haven't used yet.  I spoke to one LFS owner who has used it without incident and claimed that it had a Ca of 475 when mixed to sg 1.025.  You may consider contacting Oceanic for an analysis.  HTH  Adam>

Oceanic Systems Sea Salt Follow up 3/9/04 I called Oceanic and spoke to someone named Matt.  I find it hard to believe but they apparently either have not done any independent testing or will not seemingly admit to it.  WOW 475 seems a bit high as compared to most other brands.  Any thoughts? <I also find it hard to believe that Oceanic doesn't have analysis results to offer, but there are some possible explanations.  Many brands don't produce their own salt.  They contract to another company to mix it for them to their specifications.  I also suspect that most rely on the analyses of each chemical component from the chemical supplier.  These often only state purity, and don't give a breakdown of what the impurities are (except in prohibitively expensive grades of chemicals.).  Ca of 475 does seem high, but possible.  There is a group that is conducting some analyses and experiments with several major salt brands.  Hopefully they will include Oceanic.  There is no doubt that their results will generate a lot of discussion!  Best Regards.  Adam>

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