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About Synthetic Seawater Mixes

Related Articles: Synthetic or Natural Seawater, Saltwater Impressions (Synthetics Review) By Steven Pro, Makeup water and storage; Marine Salts; A quick comparison of a few available salt mixes 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, Supplementing, Storing, Moving, Physical/Chemical Troubleshooting/Fixing... By Make/Manufacturer: Natural SeawaterAquarium 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 

Synthetic Seawater Reviews:


Re: Live rock with green hair algae; now mixing "cheap" synthetic SW      6/4/17
Well, while I'm asking questions that I have a hard time finding answers too.
Off this same guy with the live rock, I got SUPER cheap salt. He had both the Instant Ocean Sea Salt and the Instant Ocean Reef Crystals.
I don't plan on doing corals in the near future, can I mix these two salt mixtures or do I have to stick to one exclusively (I have been using reef crystals)?
<Can be mixed; the "reef" product contains a bit more alkaline earths, alkalinity...>
Thanks for your time.
<Welcome. BobF>

Solidified Salt    2/19/13
Hi Crew, Last week I bought a box of Tropic Marin salt mix. Although I don't see any defects in the packaging and I'm sure I didn't spill any water into it, I noticed today that half the contents of the box have congealed into a solid mass of salt. Do you think it's okay to use this salt (after breaking it up), or could this solidification affect the salt's chemical properties and cause problems if I use it for my water changes?
Thanks, Jerry
<No problem using this salt... to their credit, Tropic Marin makes their synthetics w/ dehydrated ingredients (not all other companies do this; hence their spg's being off when mixed)... Air can sometimes get into packaging, clumping occur... this does not change the make-up of the salt, but it will require a bit longer to dissolve. Like all salt mixes, preparing a good day or more in advance is suggested. Bob Fenner> 

Cloudy Water In Freshly Mixed Salt Water   1/8/12
Hi Crew,
First off I want to say that I have been following your website for a long period of time. I have decided after a number of years to get back into the marine aquarium hobby. I have read Bob Fenner's book CMA, cover to cover and have referenced it a number of times.
<Me too>
As for my question/problem. I am setting up a 75 gal FOWLR tank. I am using Instant Ocean salt mix. I did a search on WWM, and found some references to my problem.
<Mmm, yes>
I have decided, after doing some research to mix my salt water in separate containers, rather than in the tank itself.
<A good idea, alternative>
I am using 2 new, clean 5 gal buckets. This way I have a better control on the preparation. I use cold tap water, heat it to 73-74 degrees and add Seachem Prime to condition the water.
<Mmm, not really necessary w/ new synthetic... but if you're going to add, do so after the salt is mixed and stored>
(I know the advantages of using RO water). I then slowly add the salt mix, Instant Ocean, mix the solution, and aerate the water using large air stones for 24+ hours.
After adding the newly mixed salt water, over a number of days, the water in the tank is cloudy. Almost like a cloud/mist/fog or haze. There is also a white haze on the powerheads and parts of the glass. When I checked the water in the containers with a clean glass, the water was clear.
<Likely an interaction of alkalinity, alkaline earth (Ca, Mg...) components in your source/tap water and the IO mix>
I used 2 powerheads in the tank constantly for water movement. I added the last of the water last Monday and started running 2 power filters with activated carbon. After a search on WWM and reading one of the questions posted, I turned off the powerheads and filters yesterday afternoon.
Interesting, the cloudiness is more pronounced when viewing the tank from the end, rather than front view.
<Yes... more particulates to look through on the long side eh?>
Temp is 74 degrees. PH is 8.2. SG is 1.023.
<I'd raise this last a bit... 1.025 or so>
I don't want to add live rock or live sand until the water is clear. I didn't have this problem with my previous set-us years ago.
<Mmm, not likely trouble to add the LR w/ this condition... In fact, will help clear>
Hopefully, the crew can be of assistance with my question/problem.
<Maybe a read through here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/caalktrbfix.htm
Sorry to state, but am not quite awake quite yet, so can't seem to come up w/ a search string... Cheers (yawn), Bob Fenner>

Subject: Query titled Re: Please help regarding doing a third bath! -- 10/28/10
<I have never heard of this salt mix, "OceanPure" bit would be contacting the manufacturer for a refund if nothing else, and switching to another brand and testing that as well, to make sure that you have got this right. Simon>
The OceanPure product is put out by ViaAqua and recently introduced to the market. I have heard very good comments about it, and have heard nothing negative. Several etailers are now selling it, including Marine Depot. Cheers, James

Bob's salt 11/8/2009
Hello Crew,
Just a very quick question, what brand of salt does Bob use for his tank?
<I presently don't keep marines (too much traveling), but our service company used to use a good deal of Instant Ocean (the formulation, consistency has changed) and Bio-Sea years back. IF cost is not a consideration, I'd use Tropic Marin's products nowadays. Bob Fenner>

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.>

Mad Readings In Marine Salt Mix 8/4/09
<Hello Valeria>
I've purchased two marine salt mixes, Instant Ocean and Tropic Marine, which I intended to use to prepare a mildly brackish water. Just as a test, I prepared 1L of each salt mix at 3g/L concentration in DI water, mixed well and let stand over night. Next day I measured the dGH and it read approximately 30 (600ppm) in both mixes while dKH was 2 and pH 8.2! I don't understand how that's possible. I prepared the same solutions 2 more times with the same outcome. DI water on its own measured 0 dGH and dKH. I've never used marine salt before, so I may be doing something wrong. Looking forward to your expert opinion.
<You are not doing anything wrong, marine salt mixes are formulated to provide a pH of 8+, and a dKH of 3+ppm. Your dKH reading of 2 is expected using DI water. When you mix your sea water with fresh, to provide mildly brackish conditions, these readings will drop somewhat, depending on your freshwater parameters.>
Thank you,
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Changing Salt 7/13/09
Hello everyone.
<Hi DiAnn>
I have a question about changing salt mixes. Am switching from Oceanic to Instant Ocean and am wondering how to do this without incident. Can I just start mixing Instant Ocean into the weekly water
change water? I use RO water and do a weekly 5 gal water change in a 55gal fish and live rock tank.
<Will be no problem dear, from time to time I will switch brands to evaluate different mixes.>
Thanks for any info,
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

SALT MIX, AZOO brand/sel.  6/30/09
Hi everyone at WetWebMedia;
<Hello Wilberth.>
I hope you´re all doing fine, I send some questions in the past only when I can´t find the answer on your site,
so once again I´m bothering you.
<No bother my friend.>
Since the salt mixes price here in Mexico city its getting too high I found a salt mix that still has a moderate price:
AZOO REEF SALT, what is your experience with this one, do you recommend it?
<I would have no problem using this salt personally, price counts!>
Thanks again for your time and wisdom advice.
Greetings from Mexico city to all of you and specially Bob.
<Scott V., Fresno, CA...Bob will see this too!><<Hola Wilberto! Como que va? RobF>>
Re: SALT MIX 6/30/09
Thanks a lot Scott, keep your excellent work.
<Thank you Wilberth, we will sure try. Scott V.>

SALT MIX, switching brands  04/20/09
Good evening marine experts;
First of all I want to thank you for your quick and accurate answers. Bob, how do you like Mexican reefs?
<I do think Bob, and at least one or two other crew members do enjoy diving in Cozumel, and other areas in Mexico.>
hope very much... my question this time is about a salt mix, here in Mexico Instant Ocean(which i currently use),has raise the price in about 35% last month, too much since I use a bucket every 5 weeks on my 350 gallons tank, there´s a new brand here that is very reasonable in price, "Tetra marine salt pro" do you recommend it?
<I've never used it myself, but I have heard good things about it. Just be sure to "acclimate" the tank to the new salt, by using a mix of 25% new salt and 75% old salt, then 50% new and 50% old, then 75% new and 25% old, etc...>
Kind regards from Mexico City.
Sara M.>

Salt Mix and Cyano/BGA -- 02/11/09 Hello Crew, <<Hiya Mark>> Love the site and use it often. <<Me too!>> I've been battling BGA in my 90 gal reef for about 4-6 months now. <<Not atypical mate'¦once entrenched it is very difficult to eradicate>> Tank was setup in April of 2008. I've written to you previously about this and got some good advice. <<Ah'¦good>> After increasing the light over my refugium the Chaeto in my sump finally started growing and the BGA subsided. <<Excellent>> In December I thought I had this stuff beat. I had also removed my larger sized Aragonite and replaced it with the sugar fine sand. <<Another good move'¦but do you also have lots of vigorous water flow to help keep detritus in suspension?>> I make my own RODI water, and do 10 gal changes every week. <<Hmm'¦ I might consider increasing the time betwixt changes (say 10% every two weeks or even 20% every month) to see if unfinished chemical processes, or introduction of fuels/pollutants from the salt mix, isn't causing the problem>> Auto top-off is buffered RODI water. Tests 0 TDS. Well it subsided for a while and is now back. I haven't changed anything other than adding a few small coral frags which are doing well. I don't feel like I'm overfeeding, none of the fish food ever hits the bottom, and I feed my corals only once per week, less than an 1/8 tsp of Coral Frenzy. I have a small Hammer & Torch, small frag of Zoanthids, small frag of Blastomussa wellsi, an orange plate coral, and a couple of Hawaiian Feather Dusters. All fish and corals are doing just fine. Water Chemistry is just fine, I'm not registering any Nitrates because it's bound up in the Chaeto and BGA, <<Indeed'¦as is any Phosphate>> Ammonia Nitrite, zeros. No measurable Phosphate. I do not have a Magnesium test kit. <<Get one (Seachem)'¦ Ensuring optimum water parameters for your corals health/vitality/growth will help with battling the BGA>> Calcium 425, dKH 9, pH over 8 and steady. System set up in late April 2008: Tank: 90 gal acrylic, with 1 center overflow. I modified the standard drain and increased it to 1.5" and made a stand-pipe for noise reduction. <<Ah!... Very good>> Approx. 60-70 lbs of Live Rock, and less than an inch of aragonite substrate, sugar fine. <<Okay>> Filtration: I built a 3 compartment acrylic sump, with dimensions of 30"x18"x18". Total volume of the sump under operation is about 20 gal. A 6 gal Inlet area holds an AquaC EV-120 running on a Mag 5, produces well. <<Indeed'¦a very good skimmer'¦and a great company with excellent customer service>> The 6 gal center compartment is for return via a MAG 7, and the 8 gal right compartment serves as a refugium that over flows back to the center for return. The tank drain is split off with most of the raw water going to the Skimmer, and flow to the refugium is controlled with a gate-valve. I have over 4" of aragonite (1-2mm size) in the refugium along with a clump of Chaetomorpha. I'm running a bag of carbon in the sump return area, as well as Seachem PhosGuard. <<I'm a huge fan of Seachem's products'¦but for this one (Aluminum is known to be harmful to corals/inverts). I suggest you switch from this Aluminum/Alumina based Phosphate remover to an Iron-based product'¦and utilize a fluidized reactor re>> There is no "filter media" in this system. None of the pumps has the foam suction filter on it. The only Mechanical filtration is the skimmer. <<I see>> Lighting: Tank has (2) 150W 10K Coralife Metal Halide Fixtures (new bulbs in October 08) and 2x55 watt PC Actinics for looks. Metal halides are on for about 10 hrs, Actinics come on in the morning, go off, and come on again in the evening. <<Sounds fine>> The question I have regards my salt mix. <<Ahh'¦.>> I use Reef Crystals and I just looked at the description of it on a web site: "Formulated for reef aquarists. The first salt mix to contain an extra measure of calcium, selected trace elements, and vitamins to assure extended availability of substances that are depleted very quickly in thriving reef aquariums. Also helps detoxify harmful copper and other heavy metals often found in domestic water supplies." I noticed that the last time I did a water change after removing as much BGA as I could by hand, that the BGA returned more quickly than when it does if I don't do a water change and just remove the BGA. <<Mmm'¦>> The description says something about vitamins. Was wondering if this could be fueling the BGA? <<Could be I suppose'¦ I too experienced a like incident with this salt mix. In fact, I have a problem with Aquarium Systems salt products altogether. I used Instant Ocean for more than 30 years until the company went through an owner/management change which then coincided with me receiving multiple batches of bad salt mix for months (everything from not-before-seen inconsistencies in Alk and Calcium levels between orders, to buckets coming to me as SOLID BLOCKS). This went on for almost a year'¦it pained me to do so, but I have moved on to another salt mix as a result>> I also removed some of my LR and rinsed it in tank water during the last change. Grasping at straws here? <<Perhaps not>> Should I look at another salt mix like Tropic Marin? <<I LOVE Tropic Marin'¦but dang is it expensive! You won't go wrong if you choose do so'¦but also have a look at the excellent offerings from Seachem (is what I now use)>> I don't want to spend more money on salt if it's not going to help. <<Understood'¦ But I do consider the Seachem salts to be superior over what you are using now>> This junk covers my substrate about every 3 days with a very thin film, and is getting into my LR now. <<I do think changing salt mixes is worth a try>> Thanks, Mark <<Happy to share. EricR>>

Re: Salt Mix and Cyano/BGA - 02/12/09 Thanks EricR, <<Welcome Mark>> I forgot to mention that I also drilled the tank for a closed-loop. <<Excellent>> I have a MAG 18 running a loop around the top, with 4 outlets, 1/2" each. <<Ah! Super>> I'd say I have decent circulation in the tank, but it's not excessive. <<Okay>> As far as testing for magnesium levels, I've read that as long as you use a quality salt mix and do regular water changes that it should the magnesium levels should remain in a good ratio with the calcium. <<Indeed, all things being perfect'¦but these small bits of captive ocean we strive to keep are usually anything but. I by no means want to dissuade you or anyone else from doing frequent partial water changes as I think this IS the single best maintenance practice. And it's very possible you are correct in your assumption re the Magnesium levels'¦ But when things go awry'¦as has happened with your Cyano outbreak'¦it's best to check/know for certain what your water parameters truly are>> Knowing what it is would be better, so I'll get a test kit. <<Very good>> I'll try cutting back on water changes and see what happens. <<And just to be clear'¦ Not 'cut back' in the literal sense, but rather try slightly larger volume changes a bit further apart in frequency>> I'll also get a bucket of Seachem Reef Salt and see what happens. <<Is good stuff>> I haven't really noticed any inconsistency in the Reef Crystals, and I pre-mix my salt immediately after a water change in prep for the next one. <<Ah good'¦ It is important to give the newly mixed solution some time to 'mature'>> I have a 29 gal tank in the closet next to the display with pre-mixed salt water, and I use valves to pump the new water back through my closed-loop during water changes. <<Neat>> The dKH and Calcium seem to be consistent from batch to batch and bucket to bucket. <<Perhaps Reef Crystals has remained more consistent'¦though there is still the suspicion of something feeding/fueling the BGA. Allowing the water more time to mature may help if this is the case. And you might even consider adding a small amount of tank water to the mixing container a few days after mixing a new batch, to introduce microbes that might possibly reduce/consume any 'problematic' elements>> Thanks again, I'll keep trying. Mark Gustin <<Happy to assist. Eric Russell>>

Consistently Low pH � 12/06/08 Hello Crew, <<Hiya Chris>> I realize you have been asked many times about low pH (as I have read most of the previous inquires), but as I cannot seem to resolve the issue, I thought I would throw my system setup at you to see what you thought. <<Okay>> I have been having a pH range of ~7.85 - ~8.05 (give or take .05 in either direction any given day) for about 6 months now. <<Not bad really though we generally suggest a range a bit higher than this for more �wiggle room�>> I have been using strip tests, a pinpoint monitor, as well as a Milwaukee dip tester, all have been calibrated (again and again and again) and read about the same. <<I see'¦ All the same, I would pitch the strip tests'¦>> Tank has been running for almost a year. Specs, current parameters, and inhabitants are as follows: Tank: - 150 gallon - 44 gallon sump (about 20 gallons of water) - Sump Refugium Section - Chaetomorpha, and a couple other types. 65w light run on reverse lighting from main lights - Octopus Extreme 200 Skimmer (in sump, works very nicely) - Mag 18 return pump - Kalkwasser drip top off (made with RO water - ~5 on the TDS) - 2 Hydor Koralia 4s (slighted aimed upward to create water surface agitation) - Tank canopy with an open back and 3 inch fans pushing/pulling air across the surface - T5 lighting system - 6 48 inch bulbs (3 10K and 3 460nm). Parameters: - pH: ~7.85 - 8.05 - Alk: ~10 DKH - Calcium: ~425 - Magnesium: ~1300 - Phosphates: 0 - Nitrates: 0 - Ammonia: 0 - Nitrite: 0 - Average Temp ~78F degrees Fish/Inverts - 1 Naso Elegans Tang - 1 Yellow Tang - 1 Tomini Tang - 1 Regal Tang - 1 Mystery Wrasse - 1 Mandarin - 1 Red Hawk - 2 Percula Clowns - 2 Banggai Cardinals - 2 Bartlett's Anthias - 3 Lyretail Anthias - 7 Blue/Green Chromis - 1 Cleaner Shrimp - 1 Elegant Star - 1 Sand Sifter Star - 1 Brittle Star - Various Snails (about 10) - Various Crabs (about 15) Corals - About a dozen SPS frags or small colonies (Acropora, Montipora, Stylophora) - About a dozen LPS pieces (torch, xenia, open brain, bubble, etc) - Various Zoanthids <<This is a lot of biomass for this tank; some might even say it is overstocked. This large biomass may well be a large portion of your pH issue>> I do weekly water changes of ~10-15 percent. Water change water has a pH of ~8.2. The Kalkwasser top-off drip has a pH of ~14. Water changes and Kalkwasser drip both use RO water that I produce using my RO unit (pH of ~7.0, but not used in main tank by itself, meaning salt or Kalk is always added to raise pH). <<Very good>> I initially was using Instant Ocean salt for water changes, but as my SPS started to increase I switched to Red Sea Coral Pro salt, this is when I believe I started to see the pH change and is the only thing that recently changed (other than inhabitants) around that time-frame. <<Then this may be a clue>> However I cannot see how this salt could be the cause of the problem, I have heard many others using this salt with nothing like this as the contributor. <<All the same, trying a different salt brand is an easy test. I am not and have never been a big fan of Red Sea's salt mix for reasons of inconsistency between batches. I had used Instant Ocean fairly consistently (with the occasional foray to checkout a new mix) for more than three decades until recent changes in the company and my own bad experiences with the mix caused me to abandon that once very consistent brand. If cost is not a consideration then Tropic Marin is the way to go'¦ Else I would suggest you opt for Seachem's quality salt mix>> Prior to the salt brand switch I had a pH ~8.2-8.4. <<This is very telling'¦ Don't you think?>> I have read all the forums on dissolved CO2 and gas exchange, but with the Koralias and Octopus Skimmer, I figure I am getting plenty of exchange. <<Maybe so>> I did do a small test with about 1 gallon of water and an air line and let it run for about 12 hours, and yes, the pH did rise to a more respectable number. <<Hmm'¦>> But I don't see how that could be the case in my main tank, like I said with the Koralias and Skimmer I figure I have enough air and water movement (would have to add a considerably large air pump to make more of a difference) . <<The evidence before you would seem to suggest that �something� is up re the CO2 levels in your tank. The problem may not be the lack of circulation, but more an issue with CO2 accumulation within the house itself>> I have also read about the sealed up house deal and by opening a window can help. <<Indeed though not always a practical solution>> However, the tank is in a very large room with plenty of air movement, so not sure this could be the source (even if it was, not sure I can leave a window open 24/7). <<The size of the room is not a factor re the trapped/accumulated CO2. And I agree, leaving a window open is not the best answer>> Could my T5 lighting configuration be a factor? <<Not the lighting so much as maybe the hood restricting air movement/gas exchange>> I think I have enough wattage, 6 48" bulbs over-driven by Icecap ballasts should be putting out 85 watts per bulb. Could the spectrum I am using be a factor, the 3 10K and 3 460nm? <<I doubt this is the root of your issue'¦ But still, I would replace one of the actinic bulbs with another 10K bulb just to provide more �useful� light spectrum to your photosynthetic organisms>> I realize pH is affected by the lights, <<Indirectly yes in driving photosynthesis>> does the spectrum impact it as well, <<Indeed in its ability to drive photosynthesis>> meaning do I need more 10K vs. 460nm? <<In my opinion, yes>> Not sure what else to try here. <<A different salt mix'¦>> I thought for sure the Kalkwasser drip would resolve this. <<Is not a panacea>> I have been dripping for about a month, and things started to look like it was improving, but it settled back in the usual low range. <<This does sound like an issue with accumulated CO2. And it may resolve itself with the advent of warmer weather/better air circulation in and out of the house>> It is difficult to keep a steady drip rate through the gravity method (clogs and all), <<Yes, a real pain to administer this way... I use and much prefer a Kalkwasser reactor for such dosing>> but it seems to be helping somewhat. <<It will to some extent. But if there is an excess of CO2 within your system the Kalkwasser will be quickly precipitated out as mostly insoluble calcium carbonate>> I would guess that I am dripping ~1-1.25 gallons of Kalkwasser per day. <<I generally suggest folks dose Kalkwasser as a direct replacement for the daily evaporation of their system>> My LFS told me that 7.8 - 8.0 is acceptable as long as Alkalinity is up (which it is). <<Indeed'¦ Just not much room for error>> I am just not happy being at the bottom of the acceptable range. Fish/Corals seem happy (but I am no expert, coral isn't exactly growing super fast, but all looks healthy). I realize I have a large fish community and maybe the bio-load they cause could be a factor. <<To some extent, yes, this is what I am thinking as well>> I feed ~1.5 cubes of frozen (rotate Mysis, Brine, Zooplankton, Reef Formula) daily, as well as a ~3x3 inch sheet of Nori about 3-4 times a week. I also add a couple of tablespoons of DTs Phytoplankton once a week. <<I am a firm believer in feeding one's fishes, corals, system et al, very well>> Sorry for the long winded message, but I thought I should give as much info as possible. <<No worries>> Thanks in advance for any assistance you can provide. -Chris <<Well Chris, all-in-all I see no reason to be overly worried at the moment. Yes, I think you should see what you can do to raise the overall pH of the system, but as long as your current reading remains stable your livestock will likely be fine. You can try reducing the bio-load and changing salt mixes which may show some improvement'¦ But just how much will depend on how high the accumulated CO2 levels are in the house/room where this tank resides as I believe this too is a contributing factor here and one not always easily addressed. A Google search re may yield some ideas worth applying. Regards, EricR>>

Tunze reef excel salt mix   10/4/08 All, <Matt> Just wanted to tell you what a great site you have. I only have one question that regards synthetic salt mixes, well only one brand. I see that Tunze is now manufacturing a lab quality synthetic mix. They call it "Tunze reef excel". Their claim is that the composition is based on the latest international marine biological findings as well as analyses, and that it contains traces and bio elements in quantities which are identical to those in natural sea water and that it is a further development of hw brand sea salt. Do you have any experience with this salt mix <I do not, but have "heard" only good about it> and would you recommend it. I am a big user of Tropic Marin <I as well> and have used it for over three years with good results, but I am always looking for something better for my fish and corals. Regards Matt <Well... in general I'm an old "fuddy duddy" re changing anything for changes sake... "If it isn't broke...", but up to you. Bob Fenner>

Re: Consistently Low pH  12/07/08 Hello Crew, <<Hey Chris>> Thanks so much for the input, it was extremely helpful. <<Ah, good>> I think I will try the following things to improve the pH (one at a time to try to isolate the cause). But before I try them, I have a few follow-up questions if you don't mind before I proceed with action. <<Okay>> 1) Change in salt brand (Cost may become an issue, so what's the deal with Instant Ocean? <<Can't say specifically'¦ I heard there were some changes made at the company (management), and over the past year or so I have heard several accounts from others re consistency issues with the salt, along with my own similar findings re. The icing on the cake for me was when I received multiple shipments (about 6 buckets en toto) of the 160g buckets that came as SOLID BLOCKS of salt mix>> 2) Not recommended?). <<You'll have to judge for yourself, but for me, I've moved on to the excellent line from Seachem for my salt mix needs>> Also, would sudden change is salt have any ill effects on my inhabitants? <<Not in my experience (assuming a move to a quality mix), and certainly not in the proportions associated with routine water changes>> 3) Exchange one of my 460nm bulbs with another 10K. 4) Would like to try something with regards to accumulated CO2 but not sure of a couple of things: a) What are the contributors to CO2 in the system? Is it just the air in the room that is sucked into the system via skimmer, etc? <<Indeed'¦ The accumulated CO2 in the room is what is available to the system>> Are there more contributors? <<Sometimes'¦ Such as inadequate water circulation or an improperly tuned Calcium reactor. There are likely some other thoughts re in the FAQs on the topic>> b) What test(s) can I perform to verify excess CO2 (other than the one I already did with a small amount of water being aerated)? <<You can try a test kit like this one (http://www.aquaticeco.com/subcategories/519/Test-Kits-by-LaMotte-Carbon-Dioxide/), but aerating a small amount of water outdoors like you did is the best way to determine the effects on your pH, in my opinion>> c) What options do I have to resolve excess CO2? <<You must first determine the cause/source>> By the way, I live in Southern California, so the weather (or lack there of) is pretty consistently beautiful ;-) if that helps with regards to CO2 issues. <<Mmm, I see; if the house is newer/well sealed you can still have problems with accumulated CO2. If this is the issue, then improving air-exchange within the home will help. But just how to go about this depends on you, your resources, and how committed you are to making this improvement solely for the sake of your reef system. There are whole-house air exchange systems available, but unless you are an accomplished DIY'er this will require a qualified contractor to install. And either way, these are not a cheap alternative. Try the easier/less expensive options first. Maybe such measure as the exchanger will not be necessary'¦ Or maybe some purposeful searching on your part on the NET will yield another alternative>> Side question on feeding: Does the amount of food being fed to the fish contribute to the bio-load within the tank? <<Certainly>> I ask because I never could figure how much food to feed. <<No easy or pat answer here>> The only advice I ever got was the old "feed as much as they can eat in about 2-3 minutes". <<Mmm, I see'¦ But do your fishes appear healthy? Robust? Exhibit strong coloration?>> The 1.5 cubes I feed each day is gobbled up in about 30 seconds (with the exception of when zooplankton is added as it takes them a bit longer to get it all). <<Considering your livestock load, I do think this is inadequate>> Basically, can I safely double the amount of feeding without consequence? <<Can't say there won't be consequences (they may even be good ones!), but I would at least double this amount of frozen cubes (be sure to provide some variety) and add some New Life Spectrum pellets as well'¦ And feed all TWICE a day'¦>> If I wish to fatten everyone up a bit. Remember Nitrates are at 0 (if that means anything). Not really sure what all contributes to the bio-load. <<Everything organic'¦ But do also consider, well fed fishes; besides just looking better, will be more resistant to illness and are often less aggressive towards tankmates>> Note: With regards to using a Kalkwasser reactor as opposed to the gravity drip. Besides being a bit on the pricey side, canisters seem to be on the small side and would have to be refilled quite often when being used as evaporation replacement. I currently use a 20 gallon container with a small Mag pump for circulation. Only needs to be filled once every 10ish days. Maybe the use of a dosing pump on my current system would work better than a gravity drip. <<Probably so>> Also, I thought Kalkwasser was a panacea (ha ha, just kidding). <<Many do [grin]>> Once again, thanks in advance. -Chris <<Happy to assist. EricR>>

Re: Tunze reef excel salt mix  10/6/08 Mr. Fenner, <Matt> Thanks for your expert advice, I love your site and read it everyday. The reason I was asking about reef excel is that I am getting a little older <Heeee! I'm getting a lot older!> and do not like the ideal of having to clean the glass on a daily base due to the green film algae that I seem to always have with the Tropic Marin salt. I just want to set back and enjoy all my hard work that has gone into my reef set-ups. So if you or know of a good salt mix that compares to Tropic Marin but does not have the film algae issues please let me know. <Don't think it/this is the salt here... likely "just" "recycled" nutrients from foods. I'd take other avenues... bioaccumulation, transport... maybe assiduous use of chemical filtrant/s> I have used IO and s few other salt mixes but seem to always go back to Tropic Marin. <Is a mighty fine, consistent product> I currently have a 90 gallon soft and mushroom coral set up. My other set-up is a 125 gallon LPS/SPS with two Tridacna clams. The 90 gallon unit has two Sunlight Tek T5 (HO) light fixtures each with 4 x 54 watt Giesemann T5 (HO) lamps. The 125 gallon has two Giesemann Reflexx light fixtures, each with 4 x 54 watt lamps. I use Giesemann Powerchrome "Aquablue, midday and one pure actinic lamp in each set-up. <Good fixtures> With this set up I have had orange tube coral (Tubastrea aurea) reproduce into separate colonies in my LPS/SPS set up. I do a 25% water change every Sunday in both set-ups and do not add any additives to the tanks. <Good for you> In fact my corals grow so fast in both set-ups that I have to sell frags back to my LFS. There is so much stuff on the internet these days, some of it true and some of it so very untrue, that one really should seek the advice of a true expert like yourself or the WWM crew before they just decide one day that they want to have a marine set-up and go out and jump into the hobby. By the way in my 125 gallon set up which I have had up and running for five years now, I Have the following list of fish: One (1) Copperband butterfly (I have had it for 3 years) One (1) Blue and Yellow Hippo Tang (I have had it for 2 years) One (1) Sailfin Tang Desjardini (I have had it for 3 years) One (1) Yellowstripe Maroon Clownfish (I have had it for 4-1/2 years) One (1) Court Jester Goby (I have had it for 2 years) One (1) Green Mandarin (I have had it for 4 years) One (1) Flameback (African) Angelfish (I have had it for 3-1/2 years) One (1) Ruby Head Fairy Wrasse (I have had it for 4-1/2 years) One (1) Scott's Fairy Wrasse (I have had for 1 year) In the 90 gallon set-up I have the following fish: One (1) Purple tank (I have it for 1 year) One (1) Spotted Mandarin (I have had it for 1-1/2 years) One (1) Clarkii Clownfish (I have had it for 1 year) One (1) McCosker's Flasher Wrasse (I have had it for 2 years) My feed all my fish the following: H20 life frozen fish food, H20 life Aquarium Seaweed, New life Spectrum pellet fish food, Ocean Nutrition pellet fish food and Nutramar or reef nutrition live Copepods. Thanks For all your hard work. Matt <Ahh, thank you for sharing input re your success. Bob Fenner>

Should I Change Sea Salts 8/24/08 I have a question about the current sea salt I have been using. I am currently using Kent sea salt in my 46 gallon reef aquarium. I only have one hard coral, which is my torch coral, but all the others are polyps and I am planning on getting more polyps and some mushroom corals. I have done some research and I read that polyps and mushrooms do not use much calcium if any. Is this true? <Not to the extent of SPS or clams.> Anyway the only life forms in my aquarium that defiantly use calcium are my snails, coralline algae, and my torch coral. I also have my banded coral shrimp which needs iodine for molting. My calcium results have been very high. They have been in the range of well over 500 ppm. I know I should keep calcium levels at about 420 ppm. <Yes, I would work towards lowering this.> I am thinking that the Kent sea salt is meant for more calcium demanding reef aquariums unlike my own. I was thinking about purchasing Seachem Marine sea salt. The Seachem Reef salt has calcium levels of about 420 ppm (so it says anyway). I just was wondering if I should change to a sea salt with less calcium. <If this salt is your sole source of calcium, no other additives, then I would start looking for others that may be lower once mixed with your particular makeup water.> I am assuming Seachem Marine sea salt has less calcium than the Seachem Reef product. I just want to purchase a good quality product like Kent, but without the extreme extra supplements. All I need is a quality sea salt that has just the right amount of major and minor trace elements for my 46 gallon reef aquarium with a low demand of calcium. <Really just about any major brand salt qualifies.> On one last note, I perform 15% water changes every two weeks. Is this enough to not having to add supplements that is normally in sea salts anyway or do some supplements get depleted much faster than others? <In a lightly to moderately stocked tank, yes. As your corals grow in number and size, you may very well find that water changes will meet their needs. More than likely you will end up needing some sort of Ca/Alk supplementation, testing will tell you. When that point comes you may want to return to the high Ca salt!> Thank you for your time and help, I greatly appreciate it. <Welcome, Scott V.>

Manganese effects, growing Chaetomorpha  5/1/08 Again, Hello Crew <Wayne> I've been reef keeping for about 2 years now. You folks have been a great help every step of the way. I'm asking for help again with something that I was unable to find on your FAQS. I hope you can help. <Me too> I have a 210 gal system. I use RODI water. I've always kept a refugium with Chaetomorpha. No matter what the setup, I've never been able to get the Chaeto to grow. I've tried different lights, different lighting schedules, different types of flow through the refugium, I've dosed Iron, replaced old Chaeto with new Chaeto, tried tumbling it and not tumbling it. I currently have it on a 16 hr light cycle...on at 5pm off at 9am. I don't dose iron currently, and do 15gal water changes weekly. During this time, I shake the detritus off the Chaeto ball. Again, this is done weekly. No matter what I do, the stuff just won't grow. I've always used Instant Ocean Salt mix. Do you think changing my salt mix could make the difference? <Might, yes> Also, it just occurred to me that I have elevated levels of manganese in my tap water (well water). I don't believe the RODI system will remove Manganese from my water. <Actually, it should> The TDS readings rarely go above 2ppm. I've never had any problems keeping livestock. I've kept SPS, LPS, Softies, different inverts and fish without a problem. All except Turbo Snails. They always die off after about 1-2months. I'm thinking this is due to the snails my LFS supplies are cold water species. <A possibility, yes> Anyway.. what do you think about changing salt mixes? And the manganese issue? Would these 2 affect my Chaeto growth? <Could definitely. I'd switch to a good brand, like Marine Environments, Tropic Marin...> Thanks again! Wayne <Do grant us your further observations. Bob Fenner>  

Switching Salt Mixes 3/12/08 Hello again! <Hi Ryan> It seems I may have run into a problem with a bad batch of salt. I'm now wondering if switching would be a good idea? I currently use Reef Crystals and have seen you sing the praises of Tropic Marin, would you switch? <That would be your decision. I've been using Reef Crystals since it's inception with no problems at all. Tropic Marin is a good salt mix but whether it is worth the extra money, I do not know, have never used it.> Let me explain the problems I've been having. First of all my salt water mixing bin has been getting coated with a brown slime a day or so after mixing, I assumed this was due to using a pump that was dirty, or a dirty heater, I've since then cleaned both with bleach (yes I rinsed and used dechlorinator after :). My tank has been getting a lot of brown algae on the acrylic, and a few spots on some live rocks. Well since this has happened the problem seems to progress after doing a water change. I really thought this was some sort of dinoflagellate, but after doing some posting on a forum it was ID'd (not positively for sure) as chyrsophytes, related to dinoflagellates but not quite as nasty. After thinking of all the things that could cause this I finally narrowed it down to my salt, or at least a good possibility. I then decided to do some searching and found that Reef Crystals recently had a bad batch go out, this was a few months ago, but I have a little stockpile of salt in my house, can't miss a deal you know! <Was this "bad batch" confirmed with Aquarium Systems or hear say?> I contacted the seller of the salt and they told me when it was purchased and asked if I could do a calcium test. I tested the calcium at 310 with a SG of 1.024, too low. I told the supplier of the salt about this and they asked that I check the other bucket I have, that one tested at 410 with a SG of 1.022 (didn't bother mixing to 1.026). Obviously something was off with the first bucket. I'm not concerned about the missing calcium, but I am concerned about what took it's place in the bucket. If certain trace elements were added in higher doses, I believe that could have initiated the algae "bloom"? I have done some reading and it seems one of the big causes of chyrsophytes is molybdenum, is that correct? If it is, then perhaps that was the entire problem? Well this leads me back to my initial question, would it be best to switch? If so, what should I switch to, the Tropic Marin? I can continue to use the Reef Crystals but I will always test every single new bucket I receive from now on, I should have done that in the first place. I have one last question for James. I read a FAQ on this site about RO/DI and how he suggested using tap water (as a last resort) and adding Chemipure into the "bin" along with the water. After a day or so the water appeared nice and clear. I'm wondering if this would be a good process for all of us to get into, even if we use RO/DI? What about using Chemipure or Chemipure elite after adding the salt, would that help remove an PO4 contained in the salt mix? <Yes.> I guess I'm just curious about this and would like to hear some more information about his technique with the Chemipure. <I just use Chemipure in an old canister filter and filter the make-up water 24 hours before adding the salt. Do remove the Chemipure before adding the salt. Since your likely to ask, I'll give you my water parameters before I send this email. Ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrate 0.5, phosphate 0, calcium 360, Alk 9.6 DKH, Mg 1300, Ph 8.2, SG 1.025, and temp. 79. Thank you for any help or opinions! <Ryan, I will forward this to my contact at Aquarium Systems. Is best to hear from the horses mouth than others. I will send you the info I receive from Aquarium Systems. James (Salty Dog)>

Re: Switch Salt Mixes 3/14/08 Hi James, <Hello Ryan> you asked for more information, or proof that Reef Crystals salt had an issue lately. This is the latest thread I could find. Thank you for your reply, I have a link for you. http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=1315373 I will be sending the company I bought my salt from 2 cups of salt to verify my test results. <After looking at the link, seems like the problem is sporadic but still an issue. Thank you for updating us. Haven't heard back from Aquarium Systems yet, but do not expect to in the near future with the amount of emails they must be getting by now. James (Salty Dog)>

Salt Mixes And A Fish Nanny 3/7/08 Hi again, <Hello Peter> I have recently use the Corallife Sea Salt mix for 2 years, and I have Red Sea Salt mix. Can I use the Red Sea Salt mix over the previous salt mix I use? <If you mean mix the salts together, no, I would not. Just changing brands is fine.> Also I'm going away for 3 weeks.... I need some advice how to maintain the tank for safety for that long. What can control the light, automatic on, and off? Is it the programmable timer? <Yes, available at any hardware store.> Do I need the automatic feeder thing in my tank? <Your best bet is to get a fish nanny/friend. You will have water evaporation in this time span that will more than likely cause your filter to fail and possibly burn up. As for feeding, the auto fish feeder will be fine. I would use a high quality food for this purpose. An excellent choice would be the New Spectrum Pellet food. The 1mm size works great.> Thanks <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> Peter

Re: Mixing Salts And A Fish Nanny 3/8/08 Hi again <Hi Peter> I mean not mix the salt together. I was wondering if I can use a different brand salt mix for next water changes since my previous Corallife salt is empty, and my available salt mixes are the Instant Ocean, and Red Sea Reef Salt. <Sure, and if it were my choice, I'd go with Instant Ocean. I think it dissolves better than the Red Sea brand.> I have an Algae Blenny, he looks like a tropical freshwater Pleco, but this guy looks more pretty than a freshwater Pleco :) I have some questions about how to feed him when tank is running out of algae. Any diet I can feed this fish? <Do read here and linked files above, all you will need to know. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/algaeblensart.htm> Thanks <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> Peter

Which Salt? 3/2/08 Hi guys. Jake here I know you guys must have a forum on this, but I looked forever and could not find anything on it. I was at the LFS and they told me that that marine environments and BIO-SEA salts were a million times better than IO. <There is a minimal difference, if any. Instant Ocean is a constantly good salt.> I use IO and have a pretty good bit of nuisance algae. They said the IO salt was a cause for that. <Hmmm, no, do look into other factors. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/avoidingalgaeproblesm.htm and related FAQ's, articles.> I was just wondering is the BIO-SEA salt really that much better than IO? Is it really worth the money? <Not my money. I have nothing against the Bio-Sea, I just have no problems with Instant Ocean either.> Thanks again you guys, Jake <Welcome, Scott V.>

Salt Mix Analysis  2/21/08 Hi Bob, crew, <Sara> Have any of you seen this yet? It's great! http://www.aquariumwatertesting.com/AWT_Salt_Analysis_0208.pdf Rightly so, the study doesn't declare a "winning" or a "losing" salt. It only helps demystify the chemical make-ups of the different brands (from alkalinity to Bromine to salinity... great info!) Best, Sara M. <Thank you for this. BobF>

Re: Salt Mix Analysis  2/21/08 Oh, it has been pointed out to me that the sample sizes used here are very small. That seems like a valid concern, but I still think it's pretty interesting info... I've at least never seen such a broad chemical analysis of salt mixes attempted before. Sara <Me neither... as we have discussed the "S-15" report is largely propaganda, other "reports" have serious sampling and statistical analyses issues. BobF>

Questions About Reef Supplements and Salt Brands (Quality) -- 02/20/08 Hello, <<Howdy>> This is Sandra. <<Eric here>> I've recently set up a 28g JBJ Nano HQI and it's been up and running for 34 days now. <<Okay>> I had a 135g homemade custom 15 years ago but haven't kept a reef for over 10 years now. <<I see'¦well, now like then, a larger tank is still easier to 'keep.' If you can manage the expense>> Back in those days, there were not many brands of supplements and additives except Kent Marine for the most part. <<Ah, yes'¦I also remember when Instant Ocean and Tropic Marin were the only salt-mixes on the store shelves'¦when 'every' saltwater aquarium had an under-gravel filter'¦when shopkeepers told you a saltwater fish didn't live for more than a year'¦ (am I telling on myself?)>> I've searched and read as much of your site as I can and am now starting to get double-vision. <<Hmm, seems to be a common complaint here [grin] >> I have a few questions on what are the best brands for some items. I will not be adding any supplements or additives without testing first. <<Very good>> I won't take up your time asking for things I don't already have a test kit for. I'm primarily going to be keeping soft corals and maybe later down the road one clam and one or two hard corals. <<Mmm, do perform a keyword search on our site re 'Allelopathy', as mixing these animals can be problematic'¦especially in a system as small as yours>> The possible additions I would look into adding when required are as follows: Kalkwasser Strontium & Molybdenum Iodine Magnesium Iron <<A couple comments here'¦ First, in a system the size of yours these elements can be cheaply and easily replenished through frequent partial water changes (which is the single best maintenance practice in the hobby)'¦ Second, if you do determine supplementation is necessary, you might find that a two-part Calcium/Alkalinity supplement is safer and easier to use than the Kalkwasser on a system of this volume'¦ Just some food for thought>> I currently have all the tests for these in addition to the usual Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, pH, KH, Calcium, refractometer, and phosphate. Most of the tests are Seachem. <<These kits are good value for the money, in my opinion>> I use RO/DI water. There are just so many brands out there now to choose from that I'd like to see if there is a preference as to which brands are the best. <<My first choice for any of these would be from the Seachem line of products. Two Little Fishies and ESV would be fine alternatives>> If there is anything else that I should test for and add when necessary, I would be interested in knowing that, too. <<The iodine test kits (from any hobby manufacturer) are widely considered to be very erratic/inaccurate'¦I prefer to simply dose this element (daily) based on the manufacturer's recommendation. And aside from testing the Nitrogen cycle (Ammonium, Nitrate, Nitrite), and of course keeping track of pH and salinity or specific gravity, I think regular testing for Alkalinity, Calcium, and Magnesium will get you by just fine'¦and as you learn your tank, then only infrequently at that>> Also, the best brand of salt mix. <<Another controversial topic (but then what isn't in this hobby). I used to feel that Instant Ocean, though not the 'best' mix available, provided a very consistent and quality mix for what was likely the 'best' price. But for quite some time now I've noticed a difference'¦an inconsistency in the formulation/end-product I hadn't seen before (I used this brand for more than three-decades), as well as in the packaged state of the product (many buckets coming to me as a 'solid-brick' of salt). I suspect this to be due to changes in management/formula/manufacture. So'¦I made a switch'¦ If money is not an option, then go with Tropic Marin'¦ If the price is a concern, then go with Seachem's salt mix. Or, you can do what I began doing a couple months ago and use a 'blend' of salt mixes. I now buy and blend three different salt-mixes for my reef tank (Tropic Marin, Seachem, and Reef Crystals..yeah, old habits'¦). I can't say that there's any real scientific advantage to mixing these particular brands'¦but I do feel doing so gives me the best of what each has to offer, without the possibility for disruption from obtaining a 'bad lot' when using a 'single' mix. At any rate, my system seems to be doing better since making the switch>> I've asked many people on forums and get different answers from almost everyone. <<And I'm certain were you to ask us all here, the answers would not be the same>> Your help would be greatly appreciated. <<I hope I have been of help>> Thank you so much. Have a wonderful day. Sincerely, Sandra D. Vacaville, CA <<Happy to assist. Eric Russell...Columbia, SC>> P.S. Any links that answer the questions are welcome, also. <<Try these to start: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_3/cav3i3/Salt_Impressions/Salt_Impressions.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_4/V4I3/Salt/salt.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/suppleme.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/calcalkmar.htm And be sure to look/search among the links at the tops of the pages. EricR>>

Vibrant Reef Salt Mix  1/10/08 Morning Crew... <Scott> Scott Wirtz from Blue Marlin in So Cal here again.... <Howzit?> Has anyone used Vibrant Reef salt mix? My distributor, which shall remain nameless, recently switched to carrying only this mix and swears that it is better than all the rest. Since I started using it my life has been a nightmare...from uncontrollable Ph and Alk, to fish deaths. I actually threw out the last few remaining cases just to get it out of my sight. My rep told me that the company reformulated it and it was the best on the market and her other accounts loved it. <Mmm, I have not... http://www.vibrantreef.com/> So its back to Tropic Marin for me... <A standard... the best product on the market... for many years...> I just wanted to see if anyone had any experience with this salt mix. Thanks, -- Scott C. Wirtz Owner Blue Marlin Aquatic Creations (webpage: www.bluemarlinaquatics.com <Do keep an eye... here: http://wetwebmedia.com/synthsaltmixes.htm where I accumulate/post "odd" brands of synthetic salt mixes input. Cheers, BobF>

Re: Vibrant Reef Salt Mix  1/10/08 Thanks, Bob. I just cant believe that Sea Dwelling is carrying this as their sole synthetic salt mix. (Whoops, did I just say that out loud?) They used to carry Instant Ocean, Reef Crystals and Kent. Have a great day ! -- Scott C. Wirtz Owner <Do ask Scott or Eric... even Carl re... maybe they think it's that great... Cheers, BobF>

Saltwater mix   12/24/07 Could you please tell me what causes a hypersaturated solution of salt mix to form clumps and remain in suspension instead of precipitating back down and forming regular salt granules? <Mmm, a "cheap" brand made of too much "ordinary seasalt" as a/the principal ingredient... and/or being exposed for too long to the atmosphere... "clumping"... ahead of use...> Thank you P.S. Any opinion about "The Reef Set"? <The Humann/DeLoach works? They're excellent... I own/use them very often. Great photography, ID notes, wonderful production values (comb binding, paper quality)... Bob Fenner>

Re: White powder on live rock, reading    11/3/07 Thanks Bob, a quick follow up if you don't mind. Given my low dKH, ph usually 7.8 to 8.0, should I switch away from Oceanic salt. <Mmm, maybe... am not a fan of this brand... as you'd see had you read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/oceanicsalt.htm> The system is running well, coralline growth, etc., without any supplements but I'm concerned about the buffer. If so, is there a salt that you think would help with the ph and dKH without significantly impacting the system? <Yes... posted... see the linked files above the citation> From reading on WWM, it seems that maybe Reef Crystals or Seachem Reef may be a better choice. Or should I stick with the oceanic and buffer Alk. <Ahh! You have read... I would try switching to either> An unrelated question: I have a system with one false Perc. He is in good shape but I was thinking about introducing another false Perc because of their social needs. He has been in the tank for about four weeks, it is another 50 gallon set-up. Is it too late to introduce another? Sean <Not too late. See WWM re Clown Sel. Bob Fenner>

Changing Salt Mix -- 09/12/07 Hey Guys, <<Greetings>> I am sure you have been asked this before, <<Maybe>> but I couldn't find it. <Okay>> Based on your input and others, I want to switch from Red Sea to IO or Reef Crystals salt mixes. (having trouble keeping Alk high and sometime CA too) However, I have enough RS mix for 200 gals. Not wanting to throw away $/salt, I was thinking I could either mix a 50 / 50 batch of RS and IO together going forward or do alternating H2O changes with each brand until RS was out. <<Rather than 'alternating' as you mention, I would do the 50/50 mix>> These great "money saving" ideas so often cost me more in time and/or troubles, I thought I might stop and ask your input. <<Mmm, yes... And though I have heard some folks tell of having issues when 'suddenly' switching salt brands...if switching to a better quality mix that has been prepared correctly, I would think it could only be of help>> Thanks. <<Regards, EricR>>

Salts, purposely over-rich in alkaline reserve    7/25/07 I am new to your site, and I have found it very informative. <Good> I just started a saltwater tank and have found it to be a little tough on keeping my Alk. Levels at a mid range. <Mmmm, due to?> It seems the I.O. salt I am using has a high Alk. level and I thought the levels should be @7.5 but I am at 12-13. <Yes... formulated thus> I only have L.R. in the tank and I am on a RainSoft system. I have read up on the salts and it seems most out there are high, is there a reason? <Yes... are made for "average" hobbyist conditions... with reductive (as in RedOx) settings that "eat-up" alkalinity/alkaline reserve... to prevent rapid drops in pH... By design. Bob Fenner>

Severely frustrated... questionable LFS pre-made synthetic saltwater   7/4/07 I have tested the water (that I get from my LFS) that I use for water changes and got some results I don't know what to do with. The water is free from NH3 and NO2, but the NO3 reads about 5-10 ppm... and there is a modest coating of brown algae on the bottom of the container used to store the water (the water is a tad old, as well, maybe a month or so). <Mmmm...> I am not sure that that amount of NO3 would provoke the terrible algae growth in my tanks, but I guess it can't help. What do you suggest I do with these results? <Take them to the store, pose your concerns to the management> I plan on informing the store of this issue, procuring a new source of salt water (or still there, if it was just a faulty membrane) and raising calcium in my tanks to increase competition from corals and coralline algae. Any other advice or comments? <Yes... get/use your own water filtration device (likely a modest investment... Reverse Osmosis alone will very likely do...) and a couple of pieces of gear (a good trash can... my fave is the Rubbermaid "Brute" line, a cover, a pump, likely a heater, electrical multiple outlet cord to shut off when emptier...) and make your own water... IS much easier, cheaper in the not-so-long run... and far more satisfying to have control, quantities of water on hand for use of known make-up> PS I found this rather humorous---there is a stalk of xenia in my larger tank that was overgrown by hair algae, but now it is attached to the free end of the strands of hair algae, floating unperturbed in the current, with the "roots" left on the rock where it formerly was growing new xenia "buds." This stuff never does die! <Is tough indeed. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Re: Severely frustrated... questionable LFS pre-made synthetic saltwater  7/7/07 Yet another delightful surprise...the RO water I was buying from the LFS to top off the tank had more NO3 in it than the salt water did! I think I will be taking your advice to make my own water... <Yes... as I suspected... Cheers, BobF>

Natural Salt, not usable to make synthetic SW    4/19/07 Hi crew, <Hello!> my question is about using natural salt to mix saltwater. I'm in Venezuela and now is hard to find good salt like Reef Crystals...so can I use "natural" sea salt?? , I can get it very cheap on nature's food stores in great quantities (buck) because it's commonly used to cook and it's very good quality. <Short answer is no. Marine salt mix isn't precisely the same thing as sea salt. Multiple reasons, including treatment of the cooking salt during collection and processing, but also lack of buffering capacity. I think of it this way: a marine aquarium is an artificial environment, and needs artificial solutions to work. Just as when someone dives and needs a mix of gases in his SCUBA gear to breathe safely, not bottled air. Using air when you're under water would be dangerous, and using seawater (or rock salt) in a marine aquarium is just as dangerous. If access to marine salt mix is difficult, then perhaps switching to a freshwater tank would make better sense? Venezuela is teeming with lovely freshwater fish!> Thank you Bob/Anthony/Crew, Carlos <Cheers, Neale.>

R3: Gold Algae Plague Driving Me Mad - and speculations re SW mix usability 03/27/07 Hi Eric, <<Greetings Arno>> My light intensity statement is no contradiction to previous statements...: previously the tanks were lit by the same artificial means, but also in addition by natural daylight, thus receiving a higher light intensity than any tank imaginable solely lit by artificial means. <<Ah yes, you did mention exposure to natural daylight.  But (and just musing now), if the tanks were not lit directly; as from above rather than from the sides (the tanks were stacked, yes?), and also considering your latitude, just how "intense" was that sunlight I wonder?  And not to offend...but I seem to recall from living there that full days of sunlight were more the exception than the rule>> Under those circumstances the algae came into being and grew even faster than it does now.  I am more thinking along the line that I suspect that the light spectrum of the T5's is different than that of the MH's, which is perhaps causing the problem, not the intensity. <<A possibility, agreed>> ***(this is an excerpt from the previous exchange)  An interesting perspective...  But I must say I fundamentally disagree (and a bit taken by surprise)...and am more than a little interested in how you have come to this determination*** It's not so much me who has come to this determination, but I heard this from people that are well into chemistry; certain trace and macro elements will fall out/precipitate if you aerate artificial seawater for a longer stretch of time.  You can also observe this, as the container in which you aerate the water ill soon show precipitation.  In addition it can, to some extend, also be measured. E.g. calcium, KH, magnesium and strontium levels tend to be lower after several days than the first day. <<I understand your point Arno, and will agree to some extent on the precipitation of some earth/bio-mineral elements, but these small losses are also easily refreshed/replaced "if" necessary.  As for other "trace" elements (many of which we as hobbyists don't or can't test for), many are added to artificial salt mixes in quantities exceeding natural saltwater levels as well as some added to our systems through everyday means (feedings mostly)...I've even read speculation that some of these trace elements may even build to "toxic levels" in our tanks.  I feel it is more important to let all the chemical processes complete and the water age before use rather than worry over some small amount of precipitation.  I age my water in a covered container for three weeks on average, using a powerhead for circulation rather than an airstone, and have never found the amount of precipitation to be detrimental...I find it difficult to believe that aging/aerating artificial seawater for several weeks will render it "fundamentally unfit for sps" as you state.  Bob has a pretty good chemistry background, perhaps he will render an opinion re>> <Mmm, interesting speculations... and well-worth investigating. Ron Shimek had some assertions re the lack of utility of synthetic salt mixes period... Others have touched on precipitation issues... Within practical "reason"... weeks of storage, use... I don't find any such issues being valid... IO/Instant Ocean for instance is still used planet-wide for all sorts of SOP bio-assays, culture... RMF> gr's Arno <<Regards, Eric Russell>> Marine Salt Question, "Red Sea Coral Pro Salt"  3/23/07 Hi WW Crew: <Bonnie> I was wondering if anyone had experience or an opinion on the new product "Red Sea Coral Pro Salt"? <Mmm, nope> The company states it is specifically formulated for use with reverse osmosis water. <Mmm...> They also give some stats such as: With a salinity of 1.025 the Calcium level is 480ppm at 75 degrees.  I use R/O water and was wondering if it might be good for me to use. <Worth trying... though am a stead user of the two long-standing best brands in the trade...>   I have been using Instant Ocean Reef Crystals.  Was rather surprised that the calcium level would be that high (480ppm).  What do you think? <Is artificially boosted (relative to NSW...) but not a big deal (all good synthetics are). Do take a read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/seawater.htm and the linked files above> Thanks for your opinion.  Bonnie <Thanks for asking. Bob Fenner>

Re:  Copper Treatment.. Now Sea Salt Substitution 2/23/07 Dear Mr. Fenner/James <Akila> Thanks for your advice. <You're welcome.> I have been using natural seawater in my 80G because I can't find the synthetic sea salt in Ceylon but there are extra smooth iodized salt as local supermarkets. I have used these salts to hatch brine shrimps and succeeded. At 1.026 gravity the salt mixed water is very clear and looks clean. Therefore do you think it's possible to use these salts as an alternative to synthetic salt? Will it be harmful for my tank? FYI, I only have fish and live rocks. <Would be very detrimental if not fatal using iodized salt.  Synthetic sea salts contain many trace elements which are needed and absorbed by fish and invertebrates.  Is one of the reasons we like to make frequent water changes to replenish lost elements.> One more thing, using ultraviolet tubes, is it possible to detect whether fish is infected with Ich. Because ultraviolet tubes reflect the color white intensively I was wondering whether there is a possibility to detect Ich beforehand clearly and effectively. <May be, but using these tubes without a protective filter can be damaging to your animals.  A good early warning sign is fish scratching against the substrate or rock.> Hope to hear from you soon. <Will do, James (Salty Dog)> Best regards, Akila

Table Salt To "Cure" A New Tank? - 02/04/06 Hi WWM Crew, <<Howdy>> Many thanks for the advice so far on my new reef setup -- managed to get some water in last night to leak test & it's all looking good so far ;o) <<Great!>> 24' cube main tank, 23' x 10' sump.  Just a couple of questions if I may - <<Ok>> I have read somewhere (on a different site I think) advice to run a tank destined for salt water with cheap domestic table salt mixed to an approximate SG in order to cure pipe work and ensure that anything which may be attacked/dissolved etc by saltwater in the system is attacked/dissolved by this temporary (and cheap) salt mix, subsequently drained & disposed of prior to filling with real salt mix (IO is my current brand).  I can see the thinking behind this and it strikes me that it might just be a good idea, what do you think? <<Mmm, more than thirty years in the hobby...never heard or known anyone to try/do this...is unnecessary in my opinion.>> The tank currently has fresh tap water in for leak testing which will need to be drained & disposed of so chucking some cheap table salt in would be no problem. <<Actually, I would simply add the (marine) salt (with carbon and/or Poly-Filter in the filter path) and be done with it.>> The system is of the 'ecosystem' 'miracle mud' design & I intend to have a substrate in the main tank (about ½' deep to avoid the dangerous zone of 1' to 3').  I understand that this will be aesthetic rather than functional <<Yes>> (other than providing a more natural environment for livestock than a bare bottom) & I know I do not want crushed coral -- been there done that!!  Should I be looking for sugar sized aragonite? <<Will depend on your water flow...a larger grain-size may be preferable.>> What size is sugar sized? <<Um...the size of...sugar...>> What other grade/sizes would be suitable?-- as you can tell I'm a little confused here so any advice would be great <<Anything in the 1mm-3mm range would be fine too.>> -- brand names available in the UK would be most useful if at all possible. <<Hmm...I had a reef tank when I was over there in the late 80s/early 90s...I know different grades of substrate were available but don't remember any "brand names."  CaribSea is a popular brand here in the states that may be available in the UK as well.>> Also would this depth of sand bed be too shallow for narcissus or similar cleaners? <<Nassarius (snails)?  No, will be fine.>> What cleanup crew would you advise for such a shallow sand bed? <<The afore mentioned Nassarius snails...I also am a fan of Cerith snails.>> On the same topic, the sump will have a miracle mud area (11 ½' x 10' x 1'deep) lit with Chaetomorpha algae which will hopefully flourish-- what cleanup crew would you recommend here if any (including a guide to numbers/quantities if you could please) <<None needed really, but a half-dozen Nassarius snails won't hurt anything either.>> Cheers, Chris <<Regards, EricR>>

Salt Choices - 03/03/06 Good morning crew!   <<Nighttime now...Howdy!>> I have searched through your FAQs and message boards and such and just can't find the answer I am looking for.  I suppose that there is no one answer for this question. <<Likely the case, as with most everything <grin>.>> I have been using Crystal Sea salt mix for about 2 years now without any problems that I am aware of.  Have had 2 humbug damsels and a serpent star for that length of time.  Unfortunately, to get the Crystal Sea, I have to travel 1 hr. one way to a pet shop or order it online and pay heavy shipping. <<I see>> I have considered changing brands to something more local.  My local choices are Instant Ocean, Red Sea, or Oceanic.  IYO are any of these better than Crystal Sea? <<Instant Ocean gets my vote, hands down.  I've used this salt for nearly 30 years.  I've "experimented" with many of the others from time to time (though never used Crystal Sea), and always find myself coming back to the IO.>> If you think Crystal Sea is better, I will keep using that. <<I think the switch to Instant Ocean is very much worth a try.>> I guess with rising gas prices, I am looking for a short cut.   Looking in your archives, I found that there are some people who like each of these.   <<Indeed>> At this time in a 30 gal tank, I have 1 dwarf pearl-scaled angel, 2 fire gobies, 1 blue devil damsel (who was so scared when the humbugs were in there, <<I'll bet!>> *they were moved to another tank for being bullies* that she doesn't bother anything), 1 spaghetti leather coral, a small rock with a bunch of hairy mushrooms on it, and of course the serpent star.  All seem to be doing well.  Battled green hair algae, but recently bought RO/DI unit so that is coming under control quickly. <<Ah, very good.>> Please advise on the salt.  Like I said, if you think Crystal Sea is good, I will stick with it. <<I'm confident you will be happy with Instant Ocean.>> Thanks, Donna <<Welcome, EricR>> Shanghai salt - 26/4/06 Hello WWM crew, I am the owner of a synthetic sea salt manufacturer based in Shanghai, China.  We have been in business coming on 7 years now with our primary markets in Japan, Taiwan, China and the USA.  We believe strongly in our current products; however, in an effort to make sure we are always delivering what we believe to be the best product possible and to expand our product line into some specialty groups (augmenting chemicals), I would like to hire for consultancy a person of reputable background in this field.  I have a university full of chemists behind me already; but in China there is little background (especially in academia) with marine fish keeping, hence the desire to find someone who is not only knowledgeable about chemistry/physics but has broad range of experience in reef and marine fish keeping as well.  After an exhaustive search and read on the WWM site I see that Tom Frakes may be your recommendation (if available), can you place me in touch or make a similar referral? And if I may, a quick plug for my company: we are big enough to serve, yet small enough to make it personal.  We custom manufacture for commercial applications in batches as small as 1,200 lbs and stock our bulk standard mix in Los Angles.  We are working hard to expand the market in China but feel our aggressive pricing would benefit any person, business or institution looking to keep costs down. Thank you for producing such a fantastic site, T. Norman PS - Have referenced your website on ours ( http://www.finssalt.com/faqs.htm). <Hi Timothy. I'm putting this back in the general box for Bob to see and squarely answer your question. However, I'm in Shanghai and would be interested in corresponding further. I'm currently exporting (very low volume, start-up) aquatic goods to the UK and think would be interested in learning more about your salt. Best regards,  John>

Seeking chemical consultant... salt mix   4/26/06 Hello WWM crew, I am the owner of a synthetic sea salt manufacturer based in Shanghai, China.  We have been in business coming on 7 years now with our primary markets in Japan, Taiwan, China and the USA.  We believe strongly in our current products; however, in an effort to make sure we are always delivering what we believe to be the best product possible and to expand our product line into some specialty groups (augmenting chemicals), I would like to hire for consultancy a person of reputable background in this field.  I have a university full of chemists behind me already; but in China there is little background (especially in academia) with marine fish keeping, hence the desire to find someone who is not only knowledgeable about chemistry/physics but has broad range of experience in reef and marine fish keeping as well.  After an exhaustive search and read on the WWM site I see that Tom Frakes may be your recommendation (if available), can you place me in touch or make a similar referral? <I will bcc him here. He will respond if interested> And if I may, a quick plug for my company: we are big enough to serve, yet small enough to make it personal.  We custom manufacture for commercial applications in batches as small as 1,200 lbs and stock our bulk standard mix in Los Angles.  We are working hard to expand the market in China but feel our aggressive pricing would benefit any person, business or institution looking to keep costs down. Thank you for producing such a fantastic site, T. Norman PS - Have referenced your website on ours ( http://www.finssalt.com/faqs.htm). <Thank you for writing. Good luck in your business. Bob Fenner> Switching Synthetic Salt Mixes - 08/15/06 Hello. <<Howdy>> I just wanted to know if it is ok to mix different types (brands) of salts. <<I've heard accounts of "some" folks experiencing problems when changing salt mixes but for most I don't think it is an issue...my own experiences included.  I've been pretty much using the same brand (Instant Ocean) for three decades, but I admit to "trying out" a couple other brands in that time>> I have been using Instant Ocean because it is easy to get, not too expensive, and seems to be working ok. <<Indeed...IO is the best "bang for the buck" when it comes to synthetic sea salts, in my opinion>> I recently changed to their Reef Crystals salt which is supposed to be better for corals. <<Mmm, a larger measure of calcium...may or may not be worth the extra expense.  I'm happy to stick with Instant Ocean and let my calcium reactor/Kalkwasser reactor earn their keep>> I recently read a forum on WWM that suggested using Tropic Marin. <<Considered by some to be the "premier" salt brand>> I have never heard of this brand and definitely never seen any for sale. <<How strange...this salt has been available/popular since before I had my first saltwater aquarium (1976).  In fact if memory serves, Tropic Marin and Instant Ocean were about the only "readily available" commercial synthetic salt mixes around back then>> What is your opinion on this brand? <<If money were no option?  ...is what I would be using.  It is a great salt mix...but I find IO gives me good, consistent results for a bit less cash>> I found some reasonably priced and was wondering if you thought I would benefit from switching to this brand. <<Mmm, maybe...  There's much more to this hobby than which salt mix you are using.  Making the change won't hurt anything...and if your maintenance habits/husbandry skills are up to snuff then yes, the salt mix may foster an improvement>> If so, are there any negative effects of mixing different brands of salt? <<Don't try to change all at once...make the switch slowly by introducing the new mix during your regular water change routine>> I have the Reef Crystals in the tank now, and would use the Tropic Marin for future water changes.  Would this be ok? <<Ah...you're ahead of me <grin>.  Yes, this is fine>> Thanks Jon <<Happy to help.  Regards, EricR>> Comparison Of Salt Mixes   8/30/06 Hi Crew <Hi Peter> Hope you are all well.  I have spent hours reading your expert advice recently - keep up the good work.  Sorry if my questions are naive, but I  am useless at all science and understand little after rereading umpteen  times. I am having problems with the calcium level  and alkalinity of my  tank, so I have been trying to track down an article or chart I once saw  that compared salt mixes for calcium, alkalinity etc after mixing. Do you recall this article/chart or know of anything similar? <Do not know which one you are referring to, but here is one of the better comparisons.   http://www.advancedaquarist.com/2005/11/aafeature1> The salt mix I am using seems to come out at 240 for calcium after mixing -   can that be right?   <Yes> Woud <Wood or Would?> the Tropic Marin remineral for marine I am using   help both calcium and alkalinity? <Can, but when choosing a salt mix, do choose a mix formulated for reef systems.> Thanks for your help. <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> Peter Hosier

Pre-Filtration & Marine Salts 1/12/05 Anthony, <cheers> I very much appreciate your reasoned response to my questions regarding mixed-bed versus rechargeable deionization.  You have sold me on the concept of minimizing waste.   <always welcome my friend... I do aim to be sensible/practical> I'd like to pose two follow-up questions: (1) Which prefiltration assembly do you recommend for rechargeable 2-column deionization systems such as the KATI/ANI?  The only one I can find is the SpectraPure FA-PRE-0.5M-20 but I hope that you can direct me to more affordable prefiltration systems. <many possibilities here ... depending on the quality of your source water running through it. But, if your tap water is nothing out of the ordinary (like iron-rich well water requiring an extra metal sponge, or silicate-rich water needing chemical media, etc.) then I say just go to your local Home Depot or DIY store and get a cheap drinking water pre-filter unit. Two canisters cost (well under) $50. First stage will be 1 to 5 micron floss... second stage is simply good quality carbon. If you are really handy, you can DIY home make canisters out of PVC for even less money. If you want to get fancy, have two floss pre-filters (12 micron and a 5 micron to follow)... and better still... have Poly-filters (Poly Bio Marine) after the carbon stage> (2) What brands of marine salts will complement the Kold Ster-il filtration system?  Since the Kold Ster-il system does not filter certain minerals (calcium, magnesium, strontium, barium) and buffering compounds (carbonates, bicarbonates, hydroxides) from my pH 8.1 tap water, which marine salts contain lower amounts of these minerals and compounds? Regards, Paul. <without spending a fortune... I'll say that Tropic Marin is presently the best you can buy. I will add though that I generally like Instant Ocean's QC and affordability in my region and use it more often. Anthony>

Salt mix reviews by Shimek I recently read an article by Dr. Shimek comparing different commercial salt mixes using urchin reproductive egg survival rates. Could you give me the link to it as now I can't find it anywhere. Thank you so much! Appreciate all your help! Jo Lynn <Mmm, I would ask over on ReefCentral where Ron hangs out. Bob Fenner>

Salt substitute 6/13/05 Hey guys, long time listener, first time caller.  I buy/sell about 200-400lbs of live rock a week. Because of this, I am always receiving about the same in uncured rock each week. Besides heavy protein skimming, ozone use, a large Caulerpa sump, and large wet/dry filter, we do many water changes during the curing process.  <This is quite commendable!  Most folks don't provide so much good care to their rock.  You are just the kind of business we would love to have as an advertiser!> Even at "wholesale" prices, the cost of salt for several water changes a week is killing me. <Ahh.. the premium price for providing a premium product!> Is there a chance that I could use plain water softener salt. I could buffer it with Sodium Bicarbonate, and use CaCl to bring up Alk and Calcium to NSW levels, or not.  I would just be using this to do daily water changes on live rock.  Thanks, Robert Hill, Rob's Reef <This is a very bad idea.  Water softener salt often has corrosion inhibitors and other additives, and is not even the cheapest source of NaCl.  Also, there are other things besides Calcium and Alkalinity that would have to be added, and at great expense.  Do check out www.aquaticecosystems.com or other aquaculture sources.  There are at least two companies that sell a salt "concentrate" which has everything but the NaCl in it.  These companies will also advise you on how to obtain a good grade of NaCl locally.  In addition to a much lower product cost, shipping costs are greatly reduced.  I wouldn't recommend this stuff for reef tanks (for many reasons, but mostly because you have to make several hundred gallons at a time!), but it is a great solution for a rock system.  Best Regards.  AdamC.>

Re Salt Substitute from Robert Hill (Robs Reef): Thanks for the reply.  The salt I am considering is Cargill Diamond Crystal Solar Salt.  It is an evaporated salt, contains no corrosion inhibitors, and it dissolves clearly in water.  It's $5.99 for 80lbs, about 1/8th of what IO salt costs me.  I'll be testing it in a 1:4 ratio, with 1 part IO, and 4 parts rock salt.  <I would strongly recommend against this!  The solar salt will not include carbonate, calcium, magnesium, potassium, sulfate, etc.> BTW, I looked up the Prosalt Salt Concentrate.  At $42.76 for a 400 gallon mix, and ~$10 for NaCl, it's about $53 per 400 gallons.  IO bulk salt cost about $33 for 200 gallons, or $66 for 400, so the cost savings is not too much.  <I agree that this is not a huge savings, but it is something.> I'm going to do some testing on the rock salt. I'll let you know how it goes.  Thanks again, Robert <Below is a tip sent in by a friend of WWM.  I would suggest following up on it, mostly for the variety of formulas presented.  The author's proposed formula is a bit stripped down for my taste, but might work well for a rock system.  I did not initially suggest mixing your own because it is not generally a DIY project, but it is certainly possible.  You may have to shop hard to get good prices on some of the reagents, but you could realize significant cost savings.  Good luck!  AdamC.> <<"I don't know if it will be cheaper, but if you (or Robert Hill) do a search on "Kevin Carpenter" and "Zilla III" (his 5000 gallon tank), he mixes his own saltwater, and his formula is on his website. Might be worth looking into. Cheers! --Alf">>

Salt Study Completed - Published Online  11/18/05 Hi Bob, I'm emailing you a link to the Inland Reef/Inland Aquatics salt study that has been being planned for.. years. It's finally finished, and I think is quite pertinent, and will of course be invaluable for many (especially those with particularly sensitive invertebrates, such as many seastars). We must thank Reefs.org and their online 'zine, Advanced Aquarist, as well as many individuals who donated time, money, and/or materials to see this study performed. Marina http://www.advancedaquarist.com/2005/11/aafeature1  <Good work... I look forward to the follow-up articles. RMF>

Salt mix and dwarf lion diet  - 01/24/06 Hello WWM Crew, <Hi Brent> First let me start by saying that I strongly support what you are doing and that you are appreciated. <Thank you.> I have a question regarding synthetic salt mixes. I have read though many of the FAQ's to try and determine who ranks where in actually quality of synthetic mixes. Obviously all of them claim to be the best and that they are the closest to real seawater.  From what I have read on the site Tropic Marin Pro Reef Salt seems to be a hit. I am a fan of Seachem products and I am very curious about the salt mixes. Every time I try to Google an answer all I get is articles about other Seachem products.  Where would an amateur like my self be able to find a ranking of the top synthetic mixes? <Sometime ago a test was carried out among different brands of sea salt.  Here is a link to the results.   http://www.advancedaquarist.com/2005/11/aafeature1/view?searchterm=A list including the previous mentioned brands. <There are several good brands out there.  I use Instant Ocean Reef Crystals.  I feel it is a good salt mix for the price.  I also had a question about my dwarf lionfish. I have had him about 3 months now. I had no problems getting him to eat frozen krill. He even begs for it and eats it out of my hand. He is not really interested in chopped scallop, clam, etc..  I feel bad if I do not provide him with a varied diet. Will adding Zoe or Selcon to his krill suffice or do I need to provide other foods regardless of him not wanting it?  <I'd soak the krill in Selcon and offer other foods from time to time and see if he changes his mind.  I'm sure he will be fine with the krill/Selcon combo.  Do search our site, keyword "lionfish" for more info.> Sorry to hit you with two questions at once. I do appreciate your taking the time to help me. <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> Thank you, Brent Re:  Salt Mixes   1/31/06 Greetings again. <Hello Mark.> I had an interesting chat at my LFS. The fellow was trying to change my mix from Instant Ocean to Sea Crystals. I have never heard of this brand before. <Nor have I.> He also told me that IO uses some additive that makes it dissolve faster and that this would cause trace elements to become bound together and render them useless. He also said that the National Aquarium in Baltimore used Sea Crystal salt mix. I have been using IO reef crystals for as long as I can remember with no ill effects. <Myself included.> Just wanted to hear your opinion on this. <Mark, I've chatted with Bob Studt from Aquarium Systems and will post his reply below concerning this. <James (Salty Dog)> James, The "some additive" that the dealer was likely referring to is EDTA which is a chelator. Chelators bind metals in solution so they remain in solution instead of precipitating at the high pH of seawater. (they don't make sea salt dissolve any faster though?!?!)Some chelators bind the metals more strongly than others. It is possible that some chelators could bind the metals so strongly that they are indeed unavailable for the livestock to use in their biological processes. After all, if you or I went to the doctor after having ingested some type of toxic metal (mercury, cadmium, etc...) he may inject a strong chelator into our system to bind the metal and inhibit its ability to harm us. Instant Ocean has no chelator. Reef Crystals does use a small amount of weak chelator since there are higher levels of many trace metals in RC. I've never heard of Sea Crystals either. Both IO and RC have slightly elevated levels of iodide so if 10% weekly changes were carried out it should remain in sufficient supply. Bob

Re: Salt Mix follow up   2/7/06 Hello Crew. <Hello Mark.> Once again I must start by saying what an awesome amount of knowledge one gets by just reading the FAQs. <And do keep reading.> Just a great site.  My follow up is in regard to a question concerning salt mixes. As stated in the first e-mail I was approached by my LFS about changing salt mixes.  Seems my LFS was selling the virtues of Crystal Sea salt mix (I believe that I wrongly stated Sea Crystals). In your opinion is this a good mix? <I recently visited a friend of mine who does coral farming on a small scale and I asked him what salt mix he used in his propagation vats.  And low and behold it was Crystal Sea.  The product is manufactured by Marine Enterprises.  Must be a decent mix as I've never saw so many beautiful corals in one place just full of color.  He swears by it so take it from there.> I currently use IO reef crystals with good results. <A good mix which is what I use.> I believe that James answered the first one.  Also it was stated to me that the National Aquarium in Balt. MD. uses Crystal Sea mix. Any thoughts would be very welcome. Mark By the way I am in no hurry to change mixes at this time just rather curious. <If you are happy with what you have, stay with it.  James (Salty Dog)>

Salt Brand Change 8/5/03 Sorry to trouble you once again, but I have a quick question as I am about to run out of salt. I have been using Red Sea since starting my tank 9 months ago because I got several buckets for $30 each at Petco. I have been somewhat dissatisfied with it's performance, especially since one ff the buckets kept mixing up with an ammonia level of 0.5 using ammonia-free RO water. <I will tell you that for some time I have heard complaints monthly or better with this salt... not so much quality issues... but consistency> Anyway, I am considering a switch. I gather that most of the crew prefer Tropic Main or IO over Red Sea. Is this correct? <for me at least... Bob is agreed too I'm fairly certain><<Yes. RMF>> Might I ask why? <long-standing QC... Tropic Marin is arguably a better salt... IO is perhaps a better value. Both are extremely reliable and consistent> I've tried to read up on some of the issues, including the famous article by Ron Shimek in Reefkeeping Online. <ughhh... for neither love or money, I - nor many other industry professionals I know - can explain why he made this statement or how the heck he came to those conclusions. The backlash on it is already coming back. Sorry to see it for all> He seems to strongly favor Crystal Sea Marinemix.   <do read the message boards and our archives re: issues with this salt in particular from less than pleased folks that made the switch. Seems to be some concern for gastropods and echinoderms in particular as I recall (stunned snails and starfish). I personally would not take it for free.> If I do change, should I just start using the new brand for water changes (say 5% per week)?  Thanks, Steve Allen. <do opt for 10-20% weekly water changes minimum please... and you will not go wrong with TM, IO or Omega salts IMO. Best regards, Anthony>

Salt brands, What's the Rub 9/9/03 I saw this article on artificial sea salt.  Is this marketing BS or is this for real?   <it has taken considerable flak in the aquarium trade/biz as being perceived to be biased> I've used Tropic Marin salt for years and was alarmed to see it ranked so low, under Crystal sea.  Which I can get locally for cheap. <my very strong advice and shared opinion is that Tropic Marin is still one of the very best sea salts that money can buy> They say the "Information used in this evaluation is from the S-15 report. The S-15 report was prepared by Anresco Laboratories, an independent third party laboratory. The majority of testing was performed by the University of Missouri, a US Government prime contract testing laboratory, Environmental Trace Substances Research Center, Dept. of Environmental Science & Technology." <heehee... yes. Its a familiar/old study. If you ever make it to a MACNA conference or the like, you can get an earful from the real professionals in the field about their opinion of such issues> What do you guys think?  Brian <no worries... TM and Instant Ocean are time tested, tried and true. Working with medium and large sized aquaria and holding systems for many years, I have used literally tens of thousands of gallons worth of these mixes and am quite satisfied with TM and IO. Best regards, Anthony>

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

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

Dr Ron's so-called salt toxicity theory 3/7/03 I read the article at this link   http://reefkeeping.com/issues/2003-03/rs/feature/index.htm and did a little research and thought I'd share my findings. First of all, the data from table 4 is not all scientifically gathered.  "The data for Instant Ocean and Coralife salts are from Atkinson and Bingman, 1999. The data for Marinemix-Bioassay Formula were provided by the manufacturer."  In other words, the info for Marinemix is marketing... you and I have had discussions about this topic haven't we Anthony.  ;) <heehee... indeed we have> Second, I did an internet search on the Marinemix product and found more than one source to support the position that this stuff is crap, and the marketing is a bunch of lies. http://www.aquacraft.net/w0008.html says... www.northcoastmarines.com/salt_comparison.htm www.calgaryaquariumsociety.com/Articles/ Web_Site_Review_Marine_Aquarist.html <yes... it really is unfortunate> All these sites comment on the S-15 report tested various salt mixes, and the last one is a very objective view on the report itself. <the S-15 report has been an industry laughing stock for quite some time> The report basically says that all the salts are bad and that their marketing claims are not valid.  We all knew that already though, didn't we!!  And so the point is that the values for Marinemix were marketing, the values for Instant Ocean and Coralife were scientific.  And the differences in survival rate of the urchin larvae could be any one of a number of causes (including batch differences).   <very much agreed> I'm surprised that someone would make an article that is supposed to be scientifically based, and publish manufacturer's marketing in his article, and base a lot of conclusions on it no less... shame, shame! Jeremy Calgary, Canada <your sentiment is shared whole heartedly by many! Thanks for the convenient links too, my friend. Will post on the dailies :) Kind regards, Anthony> I Give Up !!!! (Toxic Synthetic Water... not, Bob's response) Bob, I just read an article by Ron Shimek that is very discouraging. He is claiming that through feeding and commercial salt mixes, a build up of toxic trace substances builds up in our closed reef system. He claims that after 4 years, this build up is so toxic that it is lethal to most animals and that the reef tank should be broken down, sand and live rock removed and discarded. <I heard this ridiculous scheme/proposal at the MACNA get together in Dallas a few weeks ago... I am amazed that Ron wastes the exposure he could have in helping others on such zany notions... Of course, the formulations utilized by most commercial manufacturers have kept many (hundreds) of species alive in captivity longer than their known spans in the wild...> He also claims that there is no way to remedy this situation except for using natural sea water from the beginning. He goes on to say that a salt mix used by the scientific community for may not contain these substances and that\all that is needed in any salt mix is salt, calcium and some buffers and that anything else will cause toxic buildup <IME he's absolutely wrong... the rationale for storing, filtering NSW has been worked out and tested for decades.> I have a 300 gallon reef tank with mucho corals, fish, sand, live rock that didn't come cheap. Am I doomed to have to tear down my tank in 4 years and take out my wallet again ? <No> Let me know your take on this. Thanks, as always, Chuck Spyropulos <Thanks for raising the issue... Ron.S is also the mental giant who advises maintaining captive marine systems in the mid 80's F... he should be challenged, then shunned for such "publicity stunts" IMO. Amazing. Bob Fenner>

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

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

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

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

Synthetic salt question I was wondering about a good aquarium salt.  Sorry to have to ask you guys this question you've probably answered hundreds of times.  But I could not find any info on the Bio-Sea marine mix salt.  I know you guys highly regard the Instant Ocean salt mix.  For an aquarium with live rock and a piece of rock with colony polyps and one with Ricordea mushroom, and an anemone, what would be you're recommendation between Instant Ocean and the Bio-Sea marine mix? <I do like the Bio-Sea salt mix brand (one of a few good products from Marine Environments), but slightly prefer the IO over it... a bit more consistent in make-up, some small amount more soluble, greater biomineral content...> I definitely want a salt that has good carbonate like the Instant Ocean to hold ph more stable.  Is the Bio-Sea more pure?  I also use the reef solution by ecosystems if that has any bearing on which salt would be best.  I appreciate your help, and just wanted to say your site seems to be the most informative and thorough on all needed topics.  Again thank you very much!! <Most salt mixes are "ninety five, ninety eight percent" alike IMO/E... best in these cases though to get a bunch of folks input. I would try the BB's... ours: http://wetwebfotos.com/talk/ Bob Fenner>

The Real Thing-Or The Synthetic Thing? (Salt Water) Hello Gang- <Hi there! Scott F. with you today!> Merry Christmas ! I hope Santa was good to everyone ! <Sure was! Hope your Holiday was great!> My question is on the use of "Catalina Water" vs. synthetics like Instant Ocean. I read an article by Dr Shimek (sp?). He makes the case for use of Ocean Water obviously. Have you heard anything on this product ? Is it in wide use among hobbyists ? Pros/ Cons ? What do you recommend ??? Thanks and Happy New Year !  Dan <Well, Dan - I have used the product a number of years ago, and did not have any bad results from it. However, in recent years, I have heard various concerns posed by hobbyists regarding it's purity and source (some people have implied that the water is collected not too far off shore, with potential exposure to pollutants, etc. Perhaps these concerns are unfounded, but I prefer the control afforded by many of the good synthetic mixes and good source water. Seems kind of funny, but I recommend synthetic for many, many hobby applications over natural sea water. In general, we have many concerns about the use of natural sea water in home systems, which can be found throughout the site (use our Google search feature using the key words "natural sea water"). Hope this sheds a bit of light on the topic. Regards, Scott F.>

Good Morning From Bernd - His LFS Has Closed! Good morning, crew. I'm the guy from Honduras. My LFS has closed. <I hate when the place you deal with closes...  Feel bad for the store owner.. but worse for my fish.> Now I have only one more store in the whole country that carries marine stuff. <ouch> I was using Instant Ocean salt mix the last 2 years. The other store has only Kent Salt mix and Crystal Sea Marine Mix , which would You prefer? <Personally I have never used anything but instant ocean, but I have know people that are quite happy with their Kent Salt.  But, reading articles online I found more than a few stating that Crystal Sea Marine Mix is one of the best.  Check out this link here: http://reefkeeping.com/issues/2003-03/rs/feature/index.htm  Seems to say that they are quite happy with the Crystal SMM.> From reading Your FAQ site, I know that You like the Instant Ocean, but I can't get that any more. <You should look online and see if you can order Instant Ocean from online vendors and have it shipped directly to your house.> Also, I need new test kits. He has Seachem kits  and FasTest from Aquarium Systems.  Which should I choose? <I recently tried the Seachem kits at a friends home and found it not only very nice, but seems to be quite accurate.  I would vote on that one.> Thanks as always, Bernd <Sorry to hear of your LFS closing.  Hope things work out for your and your fish. -Magnus.>

LFS - Salt Mix Questions - II >Hi and good morning again. >>Hello Bernd!  You've got Marina again. >Sorry to bother You again... >>NO bother at all, my friend. >...but the salt mix my LFS has is Reef Crystals, not Crystal Sea. What is the word on that one? >>Spendy, but a good quality product nonetheless.  If you are very concerned, I suggest going to the manufacturer's sites (both IO and Reef Crystals) and see if you can compare ingredient list.  Also, reefs.org has a sponsor who is planning a salt mix study/comparison.  Keep your eye open for the Inland Aquatics Salt Study. >It costs a bit more, but if it is worthwhile, I would go for it. Thanks, Bernd >>Not to mention that if it's all you can GET, then you have to work with it, yes?  I'm sure it will do just fine.  It's so hard to make certain changes (especially once we get older).  Marina

Switching to another brand of salt 1/28/04 I love your website, very informative stuff. My question is, I'm using Tropic Marin salt. The problem is that it's hard to get out here in Brooklyn. Only a few stores sell it. I would like to switch to Instant Ocean. What should I expect if I switched brands. Is there a method to use. My second question is which brand is better, Tropic Marin or Instant Ocean. Should I stay with what I'm using. Thanks Alonso <Hi Alonso, Adam here.  Glad you enjoy WWM!  There is no special procedure to follow when switching salts.  There are two ways to look at your switch....  One is "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." If Tropic Marin works well for you, keep on using it.  The other way to look at it is "everything in moderation".  Even the best salt mixes will lack certain things while others will have too much of certain things.  Rotating brands of salt helps even out these differences.  Most folks are loyal to a particular brand of salt for reason #1.  I personally subscribe to reason #2.  In either case, the most important thing is to us a quality brand of salt, and both IO and TM fit the bill.  Best Regards.  Adam>

Salt Switcheroo <Hello! Ryan with you this morning> love your website, very informative stuff. <Thanks!> My question is, I'm using Tropic Marin salt. The problem is that it's hard to get out here in Brooklyn. Only a few stores sell it. <I see>  I would like to switch to Instant Ocean. What should I expect if I switched brands. <Hmm...not much info to work with.  Are you just keeping saltwater fish?  If so, you likely will notice no changes if you start changing the water with a new salt.  Corals may react negatively to changes in water chemistry.> Is there a method to use. <Nah, not really> My second question is which brand is better, Tropic Marin or Instant Ocean. <Depends on what animal you care for!  If you're caring for a reef, I would encourage you change as little as possible.  If you're caring for fish only, the quality difference between the two brands is negligible.  Good luck! Ryan> Should I stay with what I'm using. Thanks Alonso

- Reducing the Cost of Salt - I'm interested in buying Instant Ocean in bulk? My water changes are 50 gallons a week and it really doesn't take long to go through a 200 gallon IO. If I could find a bulk supplier it might also be cheaper? Any thought would be appreciated. <Hmm... I would work with your local fish stores to see if they will cut you break - typically, the 'really' reduced prices are reserved for wholesale and unless you have a business, you probably won't be able to purchase anything from a wholesaler. Better to explain your needs to a couple of local fish stores and see if they are willing to do anything for you.> Regards David <Cheers, J -- >

QT and sea salt brands/ammonia 2/17/04 Dear Anthony: you have made me reconsider getting this fish.   <not the point/purpose my friend... I just have hopes for you/all aquarists to be better with husbandry and handling. Quarantine tanks are mandatory. It is standard practice for all zoological, fisheries and wildlife agencies. It amazes and saddens me that so many aquarists look over or ignore this and keep killing fishes that do not need to die but rater rest and stabilize in QT for just a few weeks first. All new fishes, corals, invertebrates, etc should be given this grace. Mind you, I'm not picking on you at all my dear friend :) Its just hard to convey imperative advice through e-mail... no chance to give a warm smile with the persuasion! But the bottom line is that an overwhelming number of fishes that could live if given a better chance die instead because of impatient, uninformed or maverick aquarists ;)> I have a female, but two males have died during  acclimation.  Are they really too fragile for the home collector, and if so, why are they being sold to us?   <as a rule, most all fairly wrasses are very sensitive to shipping and handling... your experience with 2 males does not speak to viability of the gender... just part of the stats for the family as a whole> Are all reef-safe fairy wrasses fragile fish?  My 30 gallon tank is empty and still running, so it is well-seasoned.  I am growing amphipods and etc.  in it.   <outstanding! yes.. please do give it this nice quiet place to acclimate for a few weeks (4 weeks to be proper). The only problem is if you need to medicate. A correct QT tank is bare bottomed to spare and substrate from reducing the effectiveness of the meds and to prevent the "festering" of parasites in the sand. Yet some wrasses are somewhat of an exception. They are rather stressed without some sand it seems. A slight catch-22> That is where I was planning to put the fish, but the dealer told me the fish would never make it through quarantine if it didn't go into main tank. <Oh, my goodness... that is one of the most inaccurate pieces of advice I have ever heard. There is no basis on which he could justify this. I wonder if it isn't his way of trying to cover his butt for selling a fragile fish?> My 30 gal. is a duplicate of main tank and has been running for over two years.  Is a tank that seasoned still thought of as a quarantine tank? <yes... good that it is seasoned... bad that it has a substrate, but I could live with it here. Please do read some of the excellent articles we have on setting up QT tanks here on wetwebmedia. Spelled out nicely... it really is simple> Re: ammonia, you were too right on the source.  We bought two brand -new plastic barrels from a wine supplier and tested the salt with brand-new r/o water.  We have been using Instant Ocean, which I thought was a good brand, and the barrel containing Instant Ocean had an even higher reading than .025 of ammonia.   <yes... it is amazing> (New kit as well)  We just received our own r/o unit, which is not yet installed, so Joe is buying sea water from a LFS in San Francisco until we get hooked up and can determine what salt to use. Joe said he has seen Kent, Red Sea and Coral Life in various stores.  What is the very best?   <let me strongly encourage you to use Tropic Marin. It is truly time-tested and one of the very best> We don't mind ordering online to get high quality salt from a company who cares.  We need consistency here. <yes... very much agreed. TM is the kind of salt you can buy and never look back. I've always joked "If I'm spending someone elses money... I'd buy Tropic Marin... if I'm using my own money, I'd buy Instant Ocean <G>"> I am very interested to know what you use.  I know you would use only the best. Connie <best regards! Anthony> Salt Mix Quality Questions Dear Sir, <No "sir"- just Scott F. here today!> I have used Tropic Marin, HW Marinemix, Instant Ocean and Sera Meersaltz for my marine fish hobby over 5 years. <All good salts; I'm a Tropic Marin fan, myself> Recently, I tried Red Sea salt because it was cheaper which unfortunately resulted in the death of many of my fishes in my aquarium!  <Sorry to hear that...Are you sure that it was the salt mix?> I went back to the shop and found out that the shop owner himself uses Sera Meersaltz for his magnificent showcase tanks. What about the Red Sea then? He said he is aware of blending quality problems last year but thought the problem had been rectified. <Perhaps if this was the problem, maybe you purchased a leftover bag from one of the troubled batches?> He is no longer stocking Red Sea salt mix after my complaint and says Instant Ocean would be the replacement for the budget conscious (Sera Meersaltz for the serious high-end fishkeeper) as he had some similar complaints from others as well.  My question is why has there been a lack of emphasis on the quality of many brands of seawater mix available especially where blending of the formula matters so much? <Well, I suppose that there has been a lot more placed into marketing and packaging in recent years than into research and development by many companies. Some formulas have been established so long that little, if any expense has been put into refining them.  The SF15 report, while appearing biased towards Aquacraft products and somewhat understandable (their products did better in the tests after all is said and done) is about the only thing I have seen so far. <Agreed...there are not too many independent tests out there. However, a number of advanced hobbyists and authors have done some limited research into salt mix over the past couple of years, and have published this information on the 'net. Just requires a bit of research on your part. Some of the findings might be interesting, others seem to be a bit unusual, but it's always worth looking at. I think the real problem is that it is rather expensive to perform a completely unbiased, accurate, and thorough analysis of al of the salt mixes on the market today. I suppose the best bet for the hobbyist is to see what your fellow successful hobbyists have found to be effective, and try the salt in your own system. If the salt works for you- stick with the brand. Consistency in all things, including salt mix- is very vital for marine systems, IMO. Hang in there! Regards, Scott F>

Seawater Mix Product Issues 4/9/04  Dear Sir,  <Wow! No need for such formality. We are a very laid back bunch!<g>.>  I have used Tropic Marin, HW Marinemix, Instant Ocean and Sera Meersaltz for my marine fish hobby over 5 years. Recently, I tried Red Sea salt because it was cheaper which unfortunately resulted in the death of many of my fishes in my aquarium!  <Very bad news indeed!>  I went back to the shop and found out that the shop owner himself uses Sera Meersaltz for his magnificent showcase tanks. What about the Red Sea then? He said he is aware of blending quality problems last year but thought the problem had been rectified. He is no longer stocking Red Sea salt mix after my complaint and says Instant Ocean would be the replacement for as he had some similar complaints from others as well.  <I have not heard of this problem. Perhaps it is limited to certain areas. Tropic Marin and Sera are very highly regarded salts (which unfortunately are not widely available in the US) and Instant Ocean is so widely used that serious problems with it would be well known.>  My question is why has there been a lack of emphasis on the quality of many brands of seawater mix available especially where blending of the formula matters so much? The SF15 report while appearing biased towards Aquacraft products and somewhat  understandable (their products did better in the tests after all is said and done) is about the only thing I have seen so far.  <The results of the S-15 report is widely considered to be very questionable. Your observation that one brand of salts vastly outperformed others is very keen. You might have also noted that the criteria used to judge the salts seemed a bit odd and obviously favored the same brands of salt produced by the folks who performed the testing.  Dr. Ron Shimek performed some testing of salt mixes using sea urchin larvae. Although his results were quite dramatic, it is my strong opinion that not many useful conclusions can be drawn from his results and that much more testing is required.  I think the biggest reason for lack of testing of salts is primarily cost. No one has any way of recovering their testing cost, let alone profiting from performing unbiased testing. Another important reason is that it is only in the last couple of years that husbandry has advanced so far that the life expectancy of our animals may be limited by the quality of salt mix rather than poor husbandry.  Lastly, very pure chemicals are very expensive. To give a very crude example, a 95% pure chemical may cost $1.00 per kilo, the same chemical 99% pure may be $3.00 per kilo, the same chemical 99.99% pure may cost $15.00 per kilo. So, the cost goes up very rapidly to achieve the very highest level of purity. I hope this information is useful to you. Adam>

-Changing Salt Brands- Hello ya'll!! <Confused new-Englander scratches chin ;) > I have written to you before and was soooo pleased with your advise (you kept me from putting a hippo tang in a 65 gallon tank-poor dory) that I would like to pick your brain again. <Pick away!> I am changing salt brands and would like to know the proper way to introduce the new salt in the tank. I have a 65 gallon tank and I do approx. 16 gallon change per month. Can I do a water change with the new water and be OK?? <No problem, just verify that your new salt doesn't have a drastically different pH than that of your tank, and that, of course, the salinity is the same. It's generally safe to change whenever you want w/out any notice.> I don't want to kill all my fish if the change will be too drastic. Thanks for your help! <You should be fine, enjoy! -Kevin> 

Cooking salt for synthetic, reconstituted sea water? Hi, long time since the last time!! Here in Central America the cooking salt doesn't come from mines but from the ocean.  The process is quite simple; the water from the sea is conducted to shallow pools where the sun evaporates the water leaving the salt, then (by order of the government) they adds iodine, but you can find salt without iodine.  This salt is really cheap. My question is, it is possible to use this salt instead the salt marketed to be used in aquariums? Why not or yes? Thank you! Carlos Díaz <Good question. It turns out that "table salt" made this way is actually "cleaned" (resolubilized) and otherwise screened mechanically to remove debris et al... and in the process "loses" some percentage of more soluble salts (than the desired sodium chloride, the principal constituent in both seawater, synthetic... and table salt!). So, though there have been folks, mainly "culture" tanks like at the supermarkets and restaurants, who have used this sun-produced sea salt for synthetic, it is not as "complete" a formulation as the intended commercial salt mix synthetics. Short answer, I would NOT use it with my livestock. Bob Fenner>

Making synthetic sea salt? Dear Sir ,   << Blundell here this morning, and please don't call me sir... Adam is fine, or Blundell, or Hey You Fish Nerd, but not sir. >> I am after some information ,is it possible to make my own sea water to go in a large 120 litre tank that I have set up for sea horse . << Yep definitely possible.  I've seen recipes (formulas) on websites, and made my own (I'll get to that later). >> As I live 90 km.s from the nearest town where I can buy the sea water they supply I thought I could make my own and keep it in large tank that way I could change the water when necessary and not have to be traveling so often, is there a simple recipe to making this water if so could you put it on your web page so that others like my self can use it. << I doubt we have one posted here, and I doubt we will get one.  I'll say more in a second. >> I thought about going and getting the sea water from a beach but was told that as I have the tank set up and it is working so well that by bringing in water from the sea I don't know what contaminates I would put in my tank , as well as the seahorse I have anemones and 2 clown fish and they are doing beautifully and I don't want to do any thing to spoil the tank  . I would be ever so grateful for your help. << Okay so you can get water from a natural source, which has its pros and cons.  But you are looking for more like a recipe to make synthetic sea salt at home.  I use to run an aquaculture project and we looked at making our own salt.  The basis was simple water softener rock salt.  Wow that stuff is cheap.  But then to add the calcium we spent a little money, and to add the magnesium we spent a ton of money.  In the end even our research facility didn't make it worth while.  Bottom line, we spent less money just buying big buckets of Instant Ocean/Coralife/Or whoever and their products were better than what we could make anyway.  So, I guess my final comment is that you should look into just buying synthetic salt... it really is a better way to go. >> Patricia McKiernan Western Australia .. << Blundell, somewhere wishing I were in Western Australia >>

Is one salt mix really better than another? Hello again. I have been using IO exclusively since start up (1 year) and all has been well. Seems like all my LFS (2) have switched to stocking Oceanic's new product and IO is not always available. What do you think of Oceanic's synthetic sea salt? << Well truth be told, after seeing a salt manufacturers testing and analysis of salt mixes.... I say they are all the same. >><Mmm, nope... Blunder/ell... RMF> I hate to fiddle with success, but availability and price seem to be in Oceanic's favor. My take on this so far is that Oceanic has made their product more attractive to retailers who are singing its praises for reasons other than actual performance in the tank. Am I just being cynical? << I don't think it would bother me.  Honestly, I'd buy whatever is on sale.  Others may have differing opinions on that, but there are a ton of very successful tanks out there being run with whatever salt was on sale that week. >> Thanks, as always, George.   <<  Blundell  >> Which salt? What are your thoughts on Aqua Craft's Marine Environment Dual Phase salt? What about this S-15 report that is being used to compare salts? Is there much validity to this or is this someone's marketing hype? Pete <This is a fine product... on par with many of the other American made synthetics. The stated "report" is not "good science" (open samples provided by ME other peoples products..., study paid for by them...) and has been derided since its production... there are numerous independent studies by marine hobbyists/chemists of various salt brands... though they are not easy to reference (some on on-line 'zines, others as part of the now-defunct Aquarium Frontiers and AF online zines...). A good product in my estimation however, though this "report" is more hype than reality. Bob Fenner>

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