Water Chemistry

Don't chase the pH

A question that has been popping up a lot recently has been in regards to pH levels.  Articles, books and even additives list recommended pH levels so it is only natural to be concerned if our tank isn't sitting at that particular number.  pH rises in oxygen rich environments, and where O2 is lacking or excessive CO2 builds up, pH will drop.  In addition, pH rises daily during the lighting period, and drops during the night.  Here's a graph from the past week's data stored in my Apex controller. Note how it rises and falls consistently day after day.

How to mix & change saltwater correctly

Water changes are a task we rarely relish. Some swear by them, and others do them sporadically throughout the year. While water changing philosophies vary from hobbyist to hobbyist, the bottom line is that water changes can benefit your livestock. They are the easiest way to improve water quality and also are one of the most inexpensive solutions when trying to solve a chemistry problem in the system. Before I continue, I do have to admit that, years ago, I was one of those guys who swore that water changes were unnecessary because water parameters were testing perfectly on a weekly basis. What changed my opinion were two things: 1) there are things you can't test for, and 2) the livestock's positive response to an influx of fresh saltwater.

Biopellets in use

AquaMaxx reactors on display at RAP 2011

For nitrate and phoshpate control, I'm using a NextReef reactor.  Model SMR1 XL, this reactor holds 2 liters of Vertex NP biopellets.  Plumbed to the manifold, a ball valve is used to control the flow rate through the pellets.  I've been running biopellets since February 6, 2011, and it appears to be working well: water-testing

Never Plumb a RO Unit to Your Sump

Hooking up an RO or RO/DI system directly to your sump is a recipe for disaster. Avoid this costly mistake.

When it comes to reefkeeping, there are numerous basic tasks we'd like to automate. One of the most desired features is a way to top-off the tank automatically in order to replace water that has evaporated from the system, and many beginning hobbyists may not consider how important this is. As water evaporates, salinity rises in the display tank because salt does not evaporate. The water simply becomes more and more saline the longer the hobbyist waits to add freshwater.

Maintaining Good Water Quality

I have read countless threads on discussion forums asking for assistance with water quality issues. Considering how many forums are available to hobbyists everywhere, it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine that hundreds of queries are posted on a daily basis just in the United States. With the availability of search engines, the information is readily available having been answered time and time again. Why is it so hard to master this particular area of our hobby? Are our personal circumstances so uniquely different from everyone else’s? Perhaps it is simply easier to ask the question and wait for a direct answer, but there is a chance that the answer won’t be accurate due to the responder’s inexperience or due to a lack of initial detail. Finally, how do you gauge if the answer or answers are correct? Since you asked the question, you don’t have the information to judge those answers, which means you have to decide if you can believe the respondents.

Previous Water Parameters

When keeping an aquarium, the best husbandry requires owning and using test kits to measure water parameters.  Most kits have enough tests to last a full year, and using these kits frequently assures happy livestock.  If a kit has 50 tests, that's an indicator it should be used weekly.  I'd recommend that kits be replaced annually.  Mark the date on the box when you purchase it and open it for the first time to avoid relying on a dated kit.  Older reagents may lead to false readings.

Why should you use RO/DI water?

150 GPD Boosted RO/DI system

When getting into the hobby of marine tanks, the basic consideration is water. Without it, nothing in your tank would live for long. Compared to freshwater tanks, marine tanks need excellent water quality to maintain success. So what water is available to the average person?

  • Tap Water - anything can be in your tap water, and most are undesirable for your tank.
  • Well Water - similar to above, with the risk of metals and high alkalinity
  • Distilled Water - available in many food stores, supposedly pure.
  • Reverse Osmosis &/or De-Ionized water - available as above, as well as at your LFS


Dosing Vodka: Why?

Vokda dosing

For the past few years, I've been aware that some people were dosing their tanks with Vodka. Yes, the stuff that people drink from the liquor store. When I was at MACNA one year, the famous David Saxby was in attendance. He was in the beautiful Deltec booth, telling me that my nitrate and phosphate issues would be resolved if I were to use lots of RowaPHOS in a big Deltec reactor, and my tank would do even better if I dosed vodka. David's gorgeous tank can be found on the web, packed full of fish that every reef keeper dreams to emulate. So... vodka, huh? I filed it away, because I just didn't know enough about it.

During the summer of 2008, an article finally came out explaining how to dose a tank with vodka. Please read it very carefully: Notes from the Trenches - Vodka Dosing... Distilled!

Getting Nitrates Under Control

API Test Kit

The good news is... They Can Be Beaten Down Into Submission.

Nitrates are a part of nature in the ocean, and correspondingly in our tanks. As waste breaks down in your aquarium, it cycles from ammonia to nitrite to nitrates. The first two are highly toxic to marine life, and we make it a point to make sure our tanks test zero for these. However, nitrates aren’t as bad, and sometimes are even a little beneficial.

Specifically, few organisms need nitrates. Both micro and macro algae love the stuff, while fish tolerate it. Invertebrates suffer if the levels are too high, but a little is required to keep clams happy. In our goal to match NSW as closely as possible, we strive to keep nitrates down to a minimum at 10 ppm or less.

Various Chemicals Solutions

Caring for our aquariums, we often run into any number of problems that may be resolved with time and water changes, but at times it may require a chemical solution instead. This webpage is designed to show you some of the products that I have used in the past 8 years, and what types of results I obtained, if any at all. Remember, what you choose to dose in your tank may produce negative results and thus it may be best to remain patient and not dose a particular product.

There usually are no quick solutions: Nothing good ever happens fast in a reef tank.

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