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FAQs on Supplementing Synthetic Seawater

Related Articles: Synthetic or Natural Seawater, Saltwater Impressions (Synthetics Review) By Steven Pro, Specific Gravity,  Water Changes/ChangingpH, Alkalinity, Marine Alkalinity

Related FAQs: Seawater 1, Seawater 2, Seawater 3, Seawater 4, Seawater 5, Seawater 6, & FAQs on Mixing, Storing, Moving, Physical/Chemical Troubleshooting/Fixing... By Make/Manufacturer: Natural Seawater. Synthetics: Aquarium Systems (Instant Ocean, Reef Crystals), Aquacraft (Marine Environments, BioSea...), Central Garden (Oceanic), Kent Marine (SeaSalt), Red Sea (Red Sea Salt, Coral Pro Salt), SeaChem Marine (Marine Salt, Reef Salt), Energy Savers (Coralife), Tropic Marin, Other Brands... About Buying Pre-mixed Seawater, About  Synthetics Manufacturers Advertising Claims...  Spg 1, Treating Tapwater For Marine Aquarium Use, Reverse Osmosis Filtration 

Many invertebrates are sensitive to quick or large changes in water chemistry... change outside the system, add/change slowly...

Copper and aquatic life 5/26/2010
Hi Bob, There are so many hobbyists are so misinformed about the present of copper in fish food that I thought the link below 'might' clarify the misconception. Even among the advanced reef keepers still warn fellow reef keepers the danger of copper in fish food! I thought you might be interested in this info. As well. Little learning is indeed a dangerous thing.
<Heeeee! Indeed>
Oceans, tidal pools, lakes, rivers, and ponds --all bodies of water that sustain life-- have copper present as a vital, naturally occurring element. Its presence as a basic component of the process that spawns the abundant species that swim, scurry, wiggle and wallow in the waters of the world has been established by Nature and confirmed by scientists.
It is, simply stated, indispensable because it is necessary for normal growth in living beings.
"The role of copper in small quantities is essential to marine life," says Dr. Karl D. Shearer, Research Fisheries Biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service, at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, Washington.
"It is a key component of enzymes, compounds that act as catalysts in the metabolism of organisms," says Dr. A. G. Lewis, an oceanographer and Professor in the Department of Oceanography and Zoology at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, B. C., Canada. "Because it is an essential metal, an adequate supply is necessary for normal metabolism," he explains
"Copper's main role in the body is through metalloenzymes and enzymes catalyze many different chemical reactions," says Dr. Kathryn Michel, Assistant Professor of Nutrition at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Dr. Michel adds that "the body is full of enzymes and any chemical reaction in the body has possibly enzymes associated with it. Copper is a very important component and absolutely essential to the performance of the enzymes"
She explains that "enzymes are critical to the development of bone tissue and the production of red blood cells. A copper deficiency would contribute to anemia."
Put simply, "enzymes won't function without trace minerals such as copper, which means there's no metabolism," says Dr. Shearer, the National Marine Fisheries Services biologist, who has worked extensively in the analysis and development of food for fish. With no metabolism there would be no energy to fuel the vital processes that sustain life in creatures.
Aquatic plants, which play an important role in marine life, are no less reliant on copper. It plays an important role in photosynthesis and respiration. Like marine animal life, plants get copper from copper that is dissolved in the water, copper that is present in other particles or sediment found in the water and copper in their food.
Levels of copper in fresh water and salt water have been found to be generally low. In the United States studies of raw, untreated surface water have shown copper content ranging from 0.001 milligrams per liter to 0.28 milligrams per liter. The mean was 0.015 milligrams per liter. In open oceans, copper levels ranged from 0.1 milligrams per liter to 0.39 milligrams per liter, with an average of 0.8 milligrams per liter.
These figures show how copper is effective in small quantities. Dr. Shearer says that "the normal level of copper in whole fish tissue is one to two parts per million." To measure such tiny amounts requires a spectro photometer, an instrument that gauges matter by zeroing in all the way down to atoms in molecules. Scientists heat animal tissue to extremely high temperatures until atoms begin to emit light. Different atoms produce light at different wavelengths. So "we measure (light) wavelength to get to know what elements are present in the tissue of the fish and we measure the intensity of the light, which tells us the amount present," says Dr. Shearer.
The amount of copper and other trace minerals in the growth and development of fish, crustaceans (shellfish) and mollusks such as oysters and clams may be minute in quantity but enormous in economic terms. Many of these species are part of the renewable foundation of fishing, a vast worldwide activity that helps meet a growing demand for protein.
Commercial and recreational fishing is practiced just about every where in the world, including such land-locked countries as Bolivia, in South America, and Azerbaijan, in Asia. Bolivians have been fishing the waters of Lake Titicaca for centuries, and the valuable caviar industry of the world is centered in Azerbaijan, on the Caspian Sea. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimated that in 1997 the world's food fish production reached 90 million tons, an almost threefold increase since 1960. Almost a third of that catch was raised on fish farms in a fast-growing commercial process known as aquaculture. Fish grow under controlled conditions within enclosures and are fed a carefully balanced diet that invariably includes copper.
At Bio-Oregon, in Warrenton, Oregon, a producer of formulated food for fish farms, Dr. Dennis Roley, says that "copper has always been a supplemental trace element." Because copper can be virtually recycled from healthy animal tissue, fish food industries find copper in organic forms such as copper sulfate in the offal of edible fish such as salmon that has already been processed.
By including copper in fish food, fish farmers are replicating what nature does so well in the wild: providing an environment that nurtures life and growth. In this respect marine life is similar to other species.
"The requirements for trace minerals such as copper are pretty steady among vertebrate animals," says Dr. Shearer. Interestingly, he adds, crustaceans, such as shrimp, lobster and crab, are in particularly need of copper because its serves as an oxygen carrier in their blood.
Dr. Lewis, the University of British Columbia oceanographer, notes that "copper concentrations in crustaceans may be elevated compared with other groups since many crustaceans use copper in a blood pigment"
That is why, if you look closely, blood on an uncooked shrimp looks bluish, a typical color of certain forms of oxidized copper. Copper in marine invertebrates plays the role that among humans is performed by iron, which is present in blood as hemoglobin.
It doesn't take much copper to perform its critical role in marine species. Data supplied by Dr. Shearer shows that Atlantic salmon and Channel catfish require 3 milligrams of copper per kilogram of feed. Rainbow trout and carp make do on 3 milligrams per kilogram of feed.
Although requirements have not been determined for every marine species, scientists do know that copper deficiencies in certain species can result in reduced growth and cataracts, among other symptoms. Conversely, scientists have observed that overly high presence of copper in natural waters, due to pollutants or produced experimentally, may badly damage gills, adversely affect the liver and kidneys of fish or cause some neurological damage."
Scientists are frequently frustrated in their efforts to study more closely the effects of too little or too much copper on aquatic species in the wild because it is unusual to find whole fish that have died slowly as a result of malnutrition. "In the wild animals with deficiencies get quickly eaten or decompose," says Dr. Shearer.
Dr. Lewis, who every year prepares a review of copper in the environment for the International Copper Association, says that copper plays an important role in other aquatic environments, too. It is a key component of marine plant life. It is commonly used to purify and distribute drinking water. It combats the growth of unwanted organisms that foul water intake lines, aquaculture facilities and the hulls of vessels.
In another link: http://www.copperinfo.com/health/aquatic.html
The requirements for copper is fairly steady among vertebrate animals. Crustaceans, such as shrimp, lobster and crab, are in particular need of copper because its serves as an oxygen carrier in their blood.
Some scientists believe that copper concentrations in crustaceans may be elevated compared with other groups since many crustaceans use copper in their blood pigment. That is why, if you look closely, an uncooked shrimp looks bluish, a typical color of certain forms of oxidized copper.
<Thank you for sending this along Pablo. As we discussed at last week's Interzoo, some Copper is indeed a good thing... An essential micro-nutrient, and useful as a preservative at times. Not harmful. I will gladly post this about on WWM for others edification. Be seeing you, BobF>

Buffers/Marine...Cloudy Water 10/17/07 <Hi Alan> After leaving the water for 24 hours with a power head in a 45 gallon rubber bucket, I added 2 tablespoons of Seachem buffer. Then approximately 2 hours later I added the Instant Ocean salt. When I went to view the newly mixed water, it was very cloudy and milky in appearance. Will I have to junk this newly mixed water, or can I add to the tank and the filter system will take care of this problem. I am scared to do a water change and then find out my tank will be cloudy and not become clear. <The Sea Chem buffer is normally dosed at one level teaspoon per 40 gallons and it is recommended to mix with at least one cup of freshwater before adding to the tank. Your dosing of two tablespoons would cloud the water more than the normal dose. You mention a 45 gallon bucket but not the amount of water you were mixing. I do not see any problems adding this water to the tank, and once mixed with the existing tank water, the clarity should return within 24 hours.> Regards <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> Alan

2 part solution: getting in balance 10/16/07 Hello, need some more expertly advise. I have a tank and refugium totaling about 65 gallons. Ca=340ppm Alk=3mEq/l and ph is about 8.8 <... I hope it is NOT this high...> (hard to match color for Aquarium Pharmaceuticals test. I have choose <chosen> to use Kent cb 2 part solution. I have heard that you need your system to be in balance in order for the 2 part solution to work. <Should be close to start, yes> Is it in balance enough to just add until both Alk and Ca increase as I would like? <Yes> I have a frogspawn and thought my calcium should be above 400ppm I have heard that you should do a big water change to help get system in balance before using the 2 part solution. For 65 gallons total water how many gallon water change would you suggest? <... maybe twenty gallons> Also, I have an r/o unit that I use for my water. I mix 20 gallons of salt water each month into a container for water changes and 20 gallons of fresh each month into another container for make-up water. Should I buffer these even with the use of the 2 part solution? <Yes, a good idea... use one of the two... wait a day, test... use the other> Also on another note, I heard that when using r/o water you should add buffer then salt? <Mmm, not necessary generally> The last batch of water I made I added salt and then the buffer. When I tested it had Ca=340 Alk=4.5mEq/l and ph about 7.8 I thought the Ca would be would be around 400 using instant ocean sea salt. Is the low Ca due to improper buffering application? <Shouldn't be... I'd check your test kits... and aerate the RO water before mixing...> Thanks for all your help! Without all of your help I would just have to accept looking at pictures of aquariums in magazines and on TV :) <Welcome. Bob Fenner>

pH and fresh water; books, web-sites of use, mixing salt mix... adding buffers to same  3/30/07 Dear Mr. Fenner, <Karen> I am new to the world of salt water aquariums. I have really enjoyed reading your book The Conscientious Marine Aquarist  ( Hopefully that was you who wrote this book because if not I will be embarrassed). <Was I> Your book had a lot of information that I have just not been able to get my hands on anywhere else. I think you and the crew at Wet Web Media are excellent. I would like to know if you have put out any new books out in the last year or so. <Mmm, the last was with friend Anthony Calfo, back in 2003... Reef Invertebrates... Another friend, Jason Chodakowski and I may finish this series (with two fish books, one on the cnidaria) some year soon> I like having books to refer back to and I also read information on the internet but I keep reading the same things on the internet. Are there any web sites that you like to go to and research information on Marine Aquariums? <I don't generally visit the various BB's in our interest other than to "get an idea" of what gear folks are using, favor... and general trends in what the hobbyists are seeing... Too much chit chat, disorganized subjective garbage to interest me... I do use fishbase.org almost daily, the Seaslugforum.com, the krib... Many other informational sites... And DO think that a "guide to indexing" such resources would be a worthy column... for an online zine (yes, this is an instruction)> I also have a question for you. When you buffer you top off water (Freshwater), can you also take that same water that is buffered as freshwater and mix it with your salt (my salt is Instant Ocean)? <Mmmm, in general, yes> I am wondering because I was thinking if you did that I thought it might raise the PH even more. <Yes, can... depending on the make-up of the source water...> Because when I mix my R/O water with the salt it comes out at around 8.2 PH. <This is fine. I would buffer, add other materials to the mixed-up synthetic... After the RO had been aerated for a while, the salt mix dissolved... it too aerated/circulated... tested...> Thank you for reading my E-mail and if possible please let me know what my water/ PH would do.    <Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Water Change... Alk./Biomineral balance, manipulation    1/10/07 Hi Bob, q here!  I hope you had a great holiday! <Thank you Q... I trust yours was as well> A question regarding water changes (please see below for tank specs). I was preparing water for a change in a 5 gal bucket (I typically change 5 gal of water every week).  Added salt to RO water, aerated for 3 days.  Yesterday, I began testing certain WQ parameters in the 5 gal bucket (pH, Ca, Alk, sal).  I noticed the pH of the water was a little low (7.95) so I did a quick calculation to determine how much powdered SeaChem Buffer product to add, based on product info on the label.  About halfway through adding the chemical I realized I had done the calculation incorrectly and was adding way too much Buffer. The pH of the water is 8.3 (of course) but the alk is through the roof. <How far?> Shortly after adding the Buffer, I noticed the water went almost completely opaque (I'm assuming a CaCO3 precipitate is being formed). <Yes, likely so> Before the water went cloudy I tested the Alk = 8.25meq/L. The Ca in the bucket was low to begin with so I added a little Ca++ solution to try to drive down the alk.   <Mmm, a slippery slide... Reminds me of a nation that invaded another country (more than once) and decided to try and "fix" the "imbalance" by throwing in more military, then "peace" keepers and money, then military... Doesn't work> I decided to let things stabilize overnight.  I didn't have time to test WQ this morning before work but I noticed the water had cleared completely. My question is, should I toss this water and start again? <Yes, I would... Likely I also would have just used the water with the too-high alkalinity... how much of the total volume would this represent? That is, how large a volume is your system?> Have I done anything to the water that I will not be able to correct, even if I manage to get the alk/ca++ back into balance? (affected other aspects of the WQ by having the alk so high?). <Mmm, the particulates might be trouble... not worth risking, or suggesting you risk> Also, my original intent was to raise the alk of the water change water above normal to help elevate the alk in my tank. <Mmm, then the addition of the original mis-mixed water would have been a route to go> Despite my almost daily additions of SeaChem Reef Carbonate, <Mmm, would not add this directly to your main system> I've watched alk in my display tank go from 3.5 to 2.75. <Still not a bad value...> Constantly adding Alk has depressed Ca from 400 to 330 (I've also been adding Ca supplement approx twice per week on days I don't add alk). <...> I add all chemicals with fresh, top-up water.  How high can I safely raise the alk of the water change water to help boost the alk in my tank? <Mmm... there are other factors that one must keep in mind... test for> I understand some of my tank inhabitants (Fromia) are sensitive to drastic changes. What is considered drastic? <Variable... by species, age/size, health... other factors...> I hope I've clearly explained the situation! Thanks q Some  tank info background: Tank: 40 gal FOWLR (approx 50lbs LR) Compact fluorescent lighting AquaC Remora PS (working incredibly well) 3 powerheads HOT filter Bought tank from a co-worker approx 6 months ago (they had it running for about 4 years) WQ: PH: 8.1 Alk: 2.75 meq/l Ca: 330 NH3: 0 NO2: 0 N03: <10 ppm (IO powder test kit can't read below 10) Temp: 79 Sal: 1.023 <I'd raise this to 1.025> Residents: 2  - a. ocellaris 1 -- Coral beauty angel 1 -- cleaner shrimp 1 - Red Fromia (in tank for approx 2 weeks) blue legged hermit crabs (5) snails (5) misc mushrooms and yellow polyps that came with tank. <Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/calcalkmar.htm and the linked files above... With just a bit more knowledge will come adequate understanding... of your situation, options. Bob Fenner> pH & Alkalinity/Salt Mixes & Buffering - 08/22/06 Hello crew, thanks for taking the time to provide valuable experience and information. <<Is my pleasure to assist when/where I can>> I use Oceanic salt for my FOWLR system.  The pH is generally 7.9 to 8.0, I don't monitor alkalinity but have read through your site that Oceanic brand sea salt mix does not have adequate alkalinity and a slightly lower pH than sea water. <<Mmm, indeed...better (proven) brands to be had (Instant Ocean, Tropic Marin)...but you can improve on this a bit with some buffering of your make-up water>> I haven't had any issues using Oceanic in my FOWLR systems for the last few years. <<Ok>> Should I be more concerned about this or is it not a concern as I am not trying to maintain a reef system which will require more control of these water parameters? <<The reef system is more demanding, true, but you should still strive to maintain natural saltwater chemistry for any marine system.  If the alkalinity of your salt mix is below NSW levels you can try buffering with simple sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).  This "may" also give an increase of a tenth of a point or so to your pH (aerate for 24 hours after adding to drive off the carbon dioxide used in the manufacture of the baking soda).  You might also want to consider replacing/adding some new live rock to add fresh buffers/earth elements to your system>> Thanks again for your help. <<Always welcome.  EricR>>  

Falling Out Of Solution? (Powdery Stuff In Prepared Water) Hello Crew, <Hi there! Scott F. with you today!> I submitted this question almost a week ago and had no response, so I am trying again. <Yikes! Sorry your query fell through the cracks...Happens now and then, unfortunately.> Twice now I have added 1 tsp. of Sea Chem Reef Builder to my 10 gallon tank of "Water Change Water" after I aerated and added salt. After a day the tank gets cloudy with a fine white powder. The fresh water consists of RO and I use Coralife Salt, I added nothing else.  Is this a "snowstorm" I have read about? I tested the Alkalinity at 4.5 meq/L after this happened. Can temperature change affect this? The tank went from 77 to 84 degrees during the day and when it got warm, I noticed the powder. Thanks for your time. Michael <Interesting thought, Michael- but I don't think that Reef builder would cause the "snowstorm" effect at this dosage. The cloudiness is apparently something in the buffer falling out of solution. Water can only hold so many dissolved substances. I have noticed this sort of phenomenon myself when using buffer products, and the water has cleared after a day or two. If the water tests okay, I would not be overly concerned about it. Sorry I could not give you a more specific answer, but it seems like it may not something that is very detrimental. Regards, Scott F.>
Re: Too Much Buffer Crewmates: I noticed today's question by Michael about adding Reef Builder to his make up water and getting precipitates in the tank water. I don't know why he did not get my response, which is posted at: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsupfaq3.htm  I would like to point out that he is adding a teaspoon of Reef Builder to 10 gallons of water. The recommended dose for this product is 1 teaspoon per 40 gallons, so he is overdosing by 4 times, which may explain his problem. Steve Allen. <Ahh, thank you for this Steve. Bob F>

Aging synthetic saltwater and Calcium additions Hi, Crew! <Alfred> The internet is full of information and misinformation. I like browsing through several reef/marine sites, and opinions vary from "XXX is great" to "XXX is the worst thing for an aquarium"... When I want good information, it's WWM that I go to!!!  This place has the BEST information for things aquaria, and the BEST advice -- I'm not saying that to flatter you guys; just saying it matter-of-factly. <Heee! Am taking your affidavit with me to St. Peter... Wait, I'd miss all my friends> To my question: I mix my synthetic saltwater, and follow the "Water4MarUse".  But this is what I do:  Aerate FRESHwater for a couple of days... Add salt and mix/aerate for another couple of days. In my tank, I dose Kalkwasser via drip (to replace evaporation). But what if my new saltwater mix is lower in calcium levels, and I do a major water change (say close to 100%)? <I would not change out this much water unless there was a real emergency> I know that adding lots of calcium to a tank will raise the ph too high, but what about if I add calcium directly to the aerating mix? This may raise the ph too high, but there's nothing there anyway... <A good plan> If this is possible (adding, say, a teaspoon of calcium hydroxide to a 20 gallon mixing container), when should I add it? While aerating the freshwater mix, or after I've added the salt? <I would add it after... adding before will work, but can/will create precipitation problems> I figured (and please correct me if I'm wrong) that if I aerate it (I normally aerate it for 3-7 days), the ph would "normalize" anyway. Then my saltwater mix for water changes would have higher calcium. Thanks, crew! --Alfred <There are a few ways to augment calcium and pH... These and their rationale are covered, archived on WWM. I applaud your efforts at pre-mixing, storing water... a very good idea. Bob Fenner> 

Salt Mixes    1/25/06 Good morning Bob, <James this morning.> I was wondering if you had a particular salt mix that you prefer. <I've been using Instant Ocean for 30 years.> The reason for the question is that I tend to add a lot of supplements to the mix that I am presently using.  I am using the Red Sea salt right now & I am always low in Mg, <I use SeaChem's Reef Advantage Calcium which contains both strontium and magnesium.> therefore I am always trying to work with the Alk & pH.  I have read about Marine Environment Salt but I wanted to ask the expert first. <There are several good mixes out there.  I'd feel comfortable with SeaChem, Kent, Marine Environment and Tropic Marin. Red Sea is OK, I just don't like the way it mixes up.  James (Salty Dog)> Cheers from Florida! <And no cheers from crappy Michigan.> Rick Waibel Jr.

- Mixing Saltwater - Hey guys! Oh! I forgot I also have a question regarding mixing up saltwater for the first time for my new tank. Can I just use pure ro/di water with the instant ocean sea salt as directed? Or do I need to add something to the ro/di water? <I'd add some buffer - baking soda will work - just to bring the water's pH close to where you need it, before you add the salts. Cheers, J -- >

- Adding Buffers... Preparing New Saltwater - Was wondering if there might be a link on the site you could direct me to for step by step instructions for making salt water.  I currently have a Kent Maxxima RO/DI 50gpd, and I only mix about 10 gal. at a time.  I was needing to find out the sequence I should follow as far as aerating, adding buffers, salt, etc.  I'm using Seachem Marine Buffer and Kent OsmoPrep before adding the salt, so I wasn't sure about what to do in between. <No worries... get your RO/DI water ready, add buffers, add a powerhead and heater... circulate water for a day or more if you can. Then use.> I figure this question has probably been asked of you before, but I couldn't find anything on the site. <I'm sure it is somewhere too but am feeling too sleepy to look - do the Search Feature button that is on the left margin of all Wet Web Media links.> Any info would be greatly appreciated.  Awesome site, btw. Thanks. Jim <Cheers, J -- >

Sea Salt and Calcium Questions Anthony, What brand of salt did you use in your coral propagation facility? <I used to use Instant Ocean primarily. Changes in the company recently have led me back to Tropic Marin with great pleasure> I know that you don't recommend the long-term use of calcium chloride, <absolutely not... it is a temporary supplement at best> and I understand why, but do you think it is appropriate to use it to set your salt mix to desired levels? <nope... not needed. The aspiration of an unrealistic high level of calcium presumes the need for all of that calcium and the precarious water chemistry that goes with it. Corals grow as well or better tapping 20ppm calcium off of a safe 400 ppm level as they do off of an unsafe 500 ppm level. Its still more calcium than most systems will ever come close to using/depleting between water changes and/or proper supplementation. This is a common mistake by aquarists (pushing Calcium unnecessarily high> I have used Instant Ocean and Tropic Marin in the past, which both mix up low in calcium. <not low mate... stable and safe. It is deliberate. rest assured> If you have used Instant Ocean in the past, did you add any magnesium supplements to set the salt mix to higher levels? <nope... large weekly water changes (or replacement of large volumes of water exported with sales from the pools)> I have also read that you recommend the use of Seachem's Reef Calcium in certain situations. <just really for boosting coralline algae the first 4-6 months if desired> Have you had any experience using this product on an aquarium where an ozonizer is employed? If so, is it safe to do so? <hmmm... good question. I've used so much ozone in the past (still do) that I surely must have. I do not recall any problems with it... but suggest you play it safe and take this one up with the techs at Seachem> Thank you for your time, Nick <best regards! Anthony>

Adding buffer, and ridding algae. Hi, Hope all is going well for all of you there.  I have several questions please.  First, I have read on your website that when preparing saltwater in a container for water changes the ph buffer should be added before the salt mix.  Why is this?  It seems it should be just the opposite as the buffer is for saltwater. << I don't add buffer to my mixed salt water.  But if I did, I would be like you and add it after mixing the salt mix.  I'm unsure of why someone told you otherwise, they may have a good reason but I haven't heard that before.  Maybe they meant you add the buffer to your freshwater, before you add the freshwater to your tank as top off water.  That I agree with. >> Also, I have read a couple of articles about people using hydrogen peroxide to treat algae  in freshwater aquariums.  Do you know if this if feasible in saltwater and if so what would be the dosage? << No I wouldn't do that.  First, because I don't think you should be trying to kill algae... it is the greatest!  Plus, if you do have an algal problem, I think there are many "natural" ways to take care of it. >>  What about barley straw extract in saltwater? << It would be better to describe what kind of algae problems you have, and then let us go from there to think of ideas. >>  Thanks for your help, James <<  Blundell  >> Hard Water 9/7/04 I have some updates and more questions.  I decided to leave my tank alone and setup a 10gallon that I had as a spare.  I used fresh water, not RO, mixed the salt, heated and aerated for a days or so.  Tested the water and found the alk to be through the roof at over 15 meg/L.   <indeed... it underscores how important it is to buffer RO/DI water before salting it... as the manufacturers presume a certain mineral hardness of average tap water among the many users of their products to get the alkalinity needed> I noticed that the water began to cloud and then everything got coated with a hard white film. I can hardly scrape it off my glass or heater.  I got suspicious and I measured my tanks alk and it was also high at 5 meq/L and PH at 8.1.  So I thought since I'm not using RO water I would try the 10gallon again with RO to see if my water was bunk.  So got RO water, aerated it and added instant ocean salt mix.  Heated it for 4 hour or so to the right temperature and measured the stats.  PH at 8.1 +/- .1 and alk was again over 10 meq/L.  I left it and after 12hrs I got the white coating and white stuff precipitated to the bottom of the tank. <that's bizarre for having used RO water (demineralized)> Did I just happen to get a bad batch of Instant Ocean salt?   <possibly... and easy enough to test for> I'm not using any additives or buffer so is there another explanation?   <do you do drugs? Hmmm... just checking> I think I'm packing it in for a while since I can't find the source of my problem.   <before you give up from this rather minor problem... would you consider using a different brand of sea salt and/or a different brand of test kit? Anthony> I appreciate your help guys.   Supplements and new seawater Hey Guys. I have a quick question about the old no matter how much ca you add, nothing happens. After reading much in the archives, (still reading) I am going with old dilution solution. My question is should I stop all additions (buffers, Kalk, calcium Marin plus) until things are back in balance. I'm still trying to perfect treating my RO water and think adding buffers to soon (before aeration) or to much may have been the beginning of the problem. Before I just added tons of buffer and calcium to the tank to keep balanced and Kalk made with untreated ro water. Anyway, thanks for all of your time. Mark <Hi Mark, If your ionic balance is shot, you need to perform water changes and test your water (pH, Calcium, alkalinity, magnesium) to see where you stand. You shouldn't buffer RO/DI water until after adding your salt mix and aerating for at least 12 - 24 hours before testing to see what, if anything, is needed. It is very risky just adding calcium, buffer and Kalk without testing to see how much is actually needed. Be careful, and test first!  Craig>  

New water pH (marine) Hi, <Anthony Calfo here in your service while Bob makes his way to the Outback...where the men are men and the sheep are nervous> I have a question about ph of new salt water. I am making my new water with Coralife salt mix. the bag says it should make water with a ph of 8.3 of so. <a minimum pH in my opinion... natural seawater is 8.45 and pH naturally falls fast enough in aquaria> I am making it using R.O. water (which tests at about 25ppm total dissolved solids -pretty good I'd say) <agreed but still needs to be aerated and re-mineralized before any marine use else it will waste buffers in salt mix and system water> after I make the new water, making it as close to 1.023 sg as I can get, I test the ph and I am measuring between 8.0 and 8.1 I use 2 different ph kits and get very similar results. these ph values seem too low to me, any thoughts on what is going on ? <above... aerate R/O for 12 hours first, then add SeaBuffer (carbonate, borate, bicarbonate) and mix for another few hours before use as evap top off or salt mixing. Yours is low because the raw R/O water has consumed alkalinity> thanks for all your great articles and info. Brian <a pleasure...best regards, Anthony>

Buffers WWM Guys, I am topping off and doing changes with RO water. Also, I use B-Ionic two-part mix for calcium supplementation and Instant Ocean to keep SG at 1.025, pH is 8.4. How would you recommend I buffer my RO water? I tried using baking soda and it precipitated out when I added Instant Ocean. Why did this occur? <You added too much buffer. The salt mix has buffering compounds, too, and with what you put in first, the pH got too high and drove the calcium to precipitate out of solution. I prefer to buffer my water after adding the salt. I aerate and heat the water first for a day. The add the salt mix and mix for another day. Lastly, I test the salt water for salinity, pH, and alkalinity and buffer according to the results of my tests. If you wish to buffer before adding the salt, only add enough buffering compounds to bring your raw RO water to a neutral pH.> I am interested in raising my calcium to 450 from 350 ppm. I have good coralline growth and tolerable slow growth in my SPS/LPS corals. Perhaps I could cut back on the Bionic I use if I buffered my water? <Perhaps, on use a calcium reactor to really accelerate growth. That is, if you have a large enough tank. I would find it hard to justify the expense if you told me you had a 29 gallon mini-reef. If 75 gallons or more, the money you save on supplements will outweigh the initial cost in a few years.> What should I use for this? <I think Seachem products, Marine Buffer and Reef Builder, but there are other fine products. Aquarium Systems SeaBuffer is also nice. -Steven Pro>

Salt Water Hi Anthony, just making another batch to try to complete the turn over my whole 125g tank. This time I thought I would try your buffer suggestion. I let the R/O water aerate with a power head for two days, added some buffer to bring the DKH up to 7, let that sit for a few hours, then started to add salt. When I was nearing 1.020 I noticed the salt was not clearing as fast a usual (usually takes 3-5 min to clear, as I add in 1 cup at a time) but did not think anything about this and continued to add up to 1.023. The water stayed cloudy for all last night, and this morning it is still not clear but not as bad as before. I also noticed a white precipitate sticking to the sides of my Rubbermaid container that comes off easily when rubbed.  <excess carbonates> Have I just precipitated all the good stuff out and now have a bunch of garbage water?  <nope... but do a ALK test to confirm> Why did this happen, was a buffer value of 7 too high for the freshwater before adding salt?  <hard to say but possibly... just because water passes through a RO doesn't mean it is always and forever pure. Do check the quality of the effluent for minerals (another ALK test to see if it is pure or just very low...hence, some minerals still getting through and less buffer needed)> I used Tropic Marin salt, <a very fine salt> my last bit before going to Instant Ocean.  <my preference> I also used my last bit of Kent SuperBuffer before opening my new Seachem buffer. Thanks Larry <best regards, Anthony>

Re: Salt Water Test done DKH 11, 400 mg/l calcium water tests O.K. so on to changing...thanks for the quick response.  <ahhh...yes> BTW I did purchase an ORP meter, and PH from Pinpoint,  <excellent!> my old Corning PH pen style meter needed daily  calibration.  <indeed not built to last...alas> After beginning changes of 15 gallons of water my ORP was at 235!! Seems like I have been getting lazy over the years, and have been changing less and less water creating more and more pollution... I do love to feed my fish.  <a common problem for many kind hearted aquarists> At least after all the water changes I'll be able to monitor better with the Redox meter. (another great suggestion from your book...yes I am reading some on vacation... not just while in the bathroom) <it is great to hear that not everyone reads my book with their pants around their ankles. A warm and fuzzy moment :)> Larry <best regards, Anthony>

Make up water Hi Anthony, I was testing some more new make up water and found the following. R/O water buffered to DKH 4 after aeration.  Add salt, wait 24 hours and check Calcium 420 mg/l, DKH 12, temp 78. <very fine!> All looks good but I thought I should verify the PH.... it's 8.0?  <not surprising for new seawater... even more mixing/time will raise pH> With a new mix I thought I should get at least 8.2.?? Is this O.K. for new water or do I need more Kalk or buffer?  <just see if regular Kalk doses in the tank get it up high enough (should). I'm afraid at these levels If I add anything I'll precipitate out the carbonates as I did early this week. Thanks Larry <good heavens no! they really are nicely in the ballpark already! don't believe all of the SPS reefer hype of max Alk and Ca levels...only serves... not needed for all>

Re: Acronym, Water Change Chemistry Hello again, I was just reading your web page Q&A's again. Great content. I have a few more Q's for you. What is FOWLR? <It stands for Fish Only With Live Rock.> Also, after adding buffer to my RO/DI makeup water to get it to 8.4 or higher do I use this buffered water for my Kalk slurry or do I use fresh RO/DI? <Aerated water but not buffer for the Kalkwasser.> To make water changes do I add the salt first and then the buffer or vice versa? <I prefer to add the salt first, Anthony the other way around. It probably does not matter much either way.> I've been using tap water for the Kalk doses because my RO/DI is tied up with the buffer and I figured it would be best to ask first. This has brought my PH up to 8.2 but still drops down to 8.02 but I am not giving up. Do I do this daily? <I does Kalkwasser just about every night.> I am adding one tablespoon of Kalk powder to a half gallon milk jug and then shaking for 5 minutes, letting sit for about 5 minutes and then sucking up through my protein skimmer inlet to mix well before going into the 60 gallon acrylic sump. <One tablespoon is an awful lot of Kalkwasser for a 60 gallon tank. I only use about 1/2 teaspoon nightly. Please get calcium and alkalinity test kits, if you do not already have them, to confirm your dosing regimen.> Thanks again for all of your A's, Jeff Reed <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Re: Water Changes Bob, Carried out a "full" test last night - here goes: PH 8.6 - 9.0 (more like 8.7, 8.8 - use the Dry Tab Wide Range test kit and the color chart only indicates 8.6 then 9.0!) <Yikes... this is dangerously high...> Ammonia 0.0 (NH3/NH+4) - Dry Tab Test kit Nitrite 0.0 (NO-2) - Dry Tab Test kit Nitrate 20 (NO-3) - Dry Tab Test kit Phosphate 2.0 (PO-3 4) - Dry Tab Test kit Specific Gravity 1.022 DKH 14.08 - Salifert Test kit Alkalinity 5.0248meq/l - Salifert Test kit Calcium 425ppm - Salifert Test kit Carry out a 10% water change every 2 weeks - de-ionized water mixed with Instant Ocean salt and Re-Mineral "M" supplement (will now not add this). <Good idea> Feed brine shrimp/mix and flakes everyday. Lights on from 11am - 11pm everyday. Replace Activated carbon in Fluval 203 every 6 - 8 weeks.  <I'd do this monthly> UV in-line with Fluval 203 filter. Fluval 203 also includes some mechanical filtration and polishing mat. Biological filtration carried out by external Eheim wet & dry filter (2/3rds cleaned in old tank water every 4-6 months depending on test results and fish behaviour). Protein skimmer - TurboFlotor 1000. Lighting by 2No 30W fluorescent tubes. Only require to clean glass lightly once a week and no algae problems to speak of. Now we have established that the dKH and alkalinity is way over - what is required to reduce this.  <Hmm, a few possibilities... Time just going by (reductive events in your system will trend it down), adding some live macro-algae, maybe some new live rock...> I have read a lot about buffering it up, but not down!!  <Yes, works both ways... "buffer" implies "keeping" a measure about some value... i.e. not allowing it to move/much "up or down".> Is it a case of "clean" water changes and more regular maintenance? <Perhaps...> Is there something I can add/remove in order to help?  <Difficult/good questions... once again, maybe...> Would the introduction of a calcium reactor now bring the tank back inline? <Ah, finally, a definite yes... is this a worthwhile investment for you?> I know patience is required to avoid any pH shock etc and that this must be done slowly, but any help would be appreciated. <Well-stated my friend. The changes you describe, obvious caring in your messages bode well for improved conditions here. Bob Fenner, WetWebMedia.com> Thanks for your help so far, Scott.

Re: Water Changes, supplements... Bob, Once again thanks for the clear advice. <You're welcome> I have read the web site details on pH and alkalinity and now have a much better understanding of this. Also re-read your Conscientious Marine Aquarist book on the subject (some similarities there!!). <Yes... consistency may be the "hob-goblin of little minds" in some fields, aspects of life... the keeping of living things, no> With respect to the calcium reactor - I have a FO set-up with one hermit crab (who did a terrific job in keeping the tank clean) - all from what I have read is that the calcium reactors are really there for invert/reef set-ups due to the need for essential minerals etc that these types of creatures require. Are you saying that we FO people should also use this equipment as well now (I say now as I have not previously read anywhere stating that this is a required piece of equipment for a FO marine set-up)? <Yes... all benefit from "good water quality"... high, consistent (here's that word again), pH, biomineral content, alkaline reserve.> If so I take it it is to replace supplementing completely or has time and investigation experienced the fact that our swimming friends now benefit from this? <As a replacement of almost all types, kinds of supplementing... as the three qualities listed above are most all that folks need tend to... but some organisms benefit from Iodide/Iodine, others from periodic addition of sugars (ala this and that "vital" et al. products), many other materials...> If this is now the "case" I take it that this is a sign of changing times (and more expenditure!!)? <Actually, much less expenditure... I make the analogy (for this example) with changing car engine oil... Yes, upgrading to a better brand or even just replacing same is an expense... But compared with poor performance otherwise and the specter of replacing your entire engine much more frequently? I'm not a mechanic... what I'm trying to state is that the alternative "supplement madness" is NO CHEAPER in that a few tens of dollars a month over a few years time is more money than purchasing, operating a calcium reactor... And the "SM" is far more unreliable, outright toxic to all... > I will test for the alkalinity etc tonight and advise tomorrow.  Thanks again, Scott <Be discussing my intelligent friend. Bob Fenner>

Salt mix ? I know you're a busy guy, but I have a question and value your opinions. I have just started a 72 gallon salt tank. I finished filling it yesterday with RO/DI water from a Kent Maxxima Hi-s 6o gpd unit. I have not added my substrate yet, as I wanted to mix the Instant Ocean in the tank and get the specific gravity right first. So, I filled it, brought it up to 78 degrees, and started 4 maxi-jet 1200's for circulation. I added Sea Chem Marine Buffer at the direction of a local pet store to reconstitute the RO water. I then added 15 pounds of Instant Ocean. The tank clouded up bad, which I expected, but it has been nearly 14 hours and it is still cloudy. I still need to add another 7 or so pounds yet to get the SG up, but want to know if the cloudiness will disappear first. Did I do something wrong or is this normal? Thanks so much for taking the time to help me, Collin Romanick <Normal, yes, for the order of operation you detail... The Buffer should have been waited on... and blended outside of the tank... or placed in a setting (like a canister, outside power filter between other media or in a Dacron bag...) where it could/would dissolve slowly with water passing by it... But no worries (as you don't have live rock, other life present), "this too will clear"... Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner> Sea H2O Bob--I'm thinking now that my brilliant idea on the reason I was having so much trouble with the calcium level may not be related to my RO/DI unit, although it seemed to make sense at the time. I'm thinking now it may have been caused by mixing the Tropic-Marin Bio-Calcium with fresh top-off water. Here's why. I've been buying RO/DI from the LFS since then. The LFS tested their RO/DI with a FW test kit at the shop and it showed a pH of 5.0 or 5.5. I tested theirs with my pH probe at home, and it showed 9.2! (The pH probe showed my own RO/DI at 9.4.)  <What? This isn't right... your probe is out of whack...> So I decided to test with one of my pool test dip strips, to compare results. The results were that my RO/DI water, on those tests, indicated a pH LOWER than the water from the LFS. Hmmmm. So now I have to wonder why I was getting such a reduction in Ca on water change days. I think a conductivity test of my own RO/DI water is in order. . . And I'm also thinking that my Ca reductions may also have been as a result of the Tropic-Marin not dissolving properly.  <Hmm, doubtful here...> I can't explain it chemically--all I know is that I would typically do water tests on water change days--which would prompt me to add more bio-calcium. So it's possible the relation is there. It did seem that whenever I added the BioCalcium, it depressed my Ca level. Perhaps adding it too quickly can lead to that result??? <Not unless there are other anomalies...> In retrospect, I didn't seem to have problems with Ca/alk when I would add the calcium product directly to the tank. Since it seemed to be "burning" my corals, that's when I started trying to add it to the prefilter area, and also to the top-off water. That seems to be when I started having serious Ca problems. . . Do you have any other ideas? Based on these tests (and my having a conductivity test done), I'm thinking of going back to using my own RO/DI unit.  <I would... the water should not be not be this low in pH to start with...> (I'm thinking I'll also have a conductivity test of the LFS water to compare quality of theirs with mine, just to have a point of reference.) With the increased surface area of the new tank, a more open canopy, the MH lighting and an array of fans for cooling, my evaporation rate I'm estimating will be around 3-4 GPD. So my water needs will about double, and water changes will also be doubled in volume. So I'm now incentivized to really find out if my RO/DI unit was the culprit, or if it rather was caused by my supplementation practices. I'd really like to stop having to make those weekly water runs to the LFS. BTW--I owe you an update--after using the Ca reactor for a couple of months, I've got Ca at 460 and alk at 4.12 meq/L!  <Ah, this is about right... much better> I have had to supplement with Kalk periodically to support pH, but I'm hoping the new system features will allow me to avoid the need for that. Another question on the new system. I added Southdown sand yesterday, and didn't wash it first. :( I've heard from both camps--some say wash, other not to wash.  <Yikes, definitely needs to be washed...> Needless to say, the water is like milk, and I spent several hours last night removing the thick foam from the surface. (Next time, I'll definitely wash it first. . .) I've been told it won't clear up until I add the LR. Is that indeed the case? <No...not necessarily.> Also, I tested the water params in the new tank tonight to see what I have. Ca was 440. Alk was really high at 7.2 meq/L! I think that's because of all the crud floating around in the water from adding the sand. pH was 7.85. No cycle yet, as all I've added is dry sand--ammonia tested zero, so there apparently was little to no dead organic matter in the sand. <Yes and yes...> My LR is arriving tomorrow--are these water params OK to add the LR? Will the pH come up on its own as the cycle starts and it has lights on it? <Yes and sort of yes... do add more of whatever you trust... to bolster the pH... just baking soda and water changes would be my choice...> Thanks again for your thoughts. I'm really hoping that I'll be able to see into the new tank again soon. . . <Gravel vacuum the substrate every chance you get during water changes... good luck. Bob Fenner>

More questions (seawater making) Hi Bob, (I'm getting to be a real regular around here) <Careful, you may end up answering queries...> A few questions: 1: As I mentioned before, I'm moving. If the house we purchase has copper piping for it's water supply, will the leeching that occurs contain enough copper to poison the tank for reef animals? <Generally inconsequential... not much concentration comes through to matter... but this is one of the myriad reasons I strongly suggest pre-mixing and storing synthetic seawater... per the rationale, protocol of the same name on the www.WetWebMedia.com site> 2: I'm going to get a Rubbermaid Brute (tm) for holding my water (thanks for pointing those out), would a couple of inches of aragonite (sp?) sand in the bottom be a good idea?  <Mmm, not really... more trouble to pump/move water...> I was thinking it could help buffer the water and lead to less of a ph shift when adding it. <Minimally... adding a bit of baking soda, like a teaspoon per ten gallons, would be much better> 3: I'll be living near (roughly 40 miles) from the Oregon coast, would obtaining a few gallons of sea water and using it to inoculate the tank be a good idea, or should I not bother since the local biome is so different than a tropical reef? <Not so much the difference in living component of this water, but the issues of potential pests, parasites and pollution would dissuade me from such usage.> thanks again! Mike <Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

Seawater stress  I have a 40 gal. tank and three weeks ago I added three fish and another live rock.. My ph has dropped to 7.8. I use RO water change 15-20 % a week. I just tested my RO water, without the salt added and the ph is 7.0. Does the salt raise the ph level ???  <Yes, it does, and should... in fact you need to add more, another source of alkalinity to sustain your pH, even elevate it. Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marphalk.htm> when I used to test the RO water it was always 8.2....but I had mixed in the salt already. I also use c-balance. <The RO only has a tiny amount of alkaline reserve... once "used up" at that pH level, the pH drops quickly to the next one of "reserve"> Also, I have had a yellow tang for 6 months and he always seems to get ick...( then goes to the cleaner shrimp ) every time I change water. I keep the temp. the same as the tank water. why would he seemed to be stressed when he is getting clean water ? <The "clean water" is too much different than what it has become "accustomed" to. Do study here... get in the habit of pre-making your new seawater... providing enough buffering capacity to keep pH in the 8.2-8.4 range. Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water4maruse.htm You will know soon, how to easily make-up, store and maintain higher seawater quality. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Cheryl

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