R.E.E.F Methodology Series: chemistry primer

dallasg

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[FONT=&quot]R.E.E.F Methodology Series: Dirt-simple chemistry MUST-knows for tank health[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]I write this post to help beginners understand a few things when it comes to chemistry of our tanks. This will also enlighten reefers on why the advice given to keep say anemones only after 6-9 months is valid, and stress how important stability is.

1. Your salt mix is not just salt, it's calcium, magnesium, iodine, selenium, boron---read the label on your salt mix. This is becomes important later.

2. Evaporation never evaporates the minerals or salt content. It only evaporates the water. RO and auto top-up system in my view are the simplest and most effect tools to have tank stability.

3. Animals ( Fish, Corals and Inverts) and plants(Algae, Zooxanthellae) absorb part of the minerals. TWO actions unbalance your tank: evaporation increases the mineral concentration and animals and plants take the minerals they need and leave what they don't. This means certain minerals run lower and lower and certain ones don't, they just pile up. As you add RO/DI (water that's ONLY hydrogen and oxygen, with NO minerals) your tank gets no more minerals. And your shortage of what the animals and plants are using most gets bigger and bigger. Water changes will TRY replenishing the missing minerals, but they're always play catch-up.

4. Salt mixes are NOT all the same. Reef salt contains a high amount of what corals need AND what fish need. Marine salt for fish-only is lower in calcium and other minerals. That's why the price difference.

5. Now the nitty gritty of chemical balance in your tank, or at least my version. First, the initial balance is set by your salt brand. Sticking to a salt brand makes it easier to maintain a balance and increase stability. The more you mess with that, the worse your water could be and the more work needed. Translation: don't go dumping supplements into your tank unless you've got the corresponding test or actually need them. [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]They don't sell these things together because they don't run out at the same rate, but your LFS should stress, with every supplement you need a test kit for it. And you need a logbook. [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]If you have a shortage, you dose until you put the RIGHT amount into your tank over a PERIOD OF TIME, with a little leeway; and you test again next day/week to figure out how fast the consumption is. You then dose to stay in the 'good zone', NOT as make-up after your water's gone wonky, yes that’s a scientific term. Dose to the TREND of the results, the way when you're balancing something in your hands, you don't let it swing way to one side before you correct it back to centre. There is NO one answer to these things. Every tank is different. And staying in the centre of a 'good numbers' zone is best: that gives you a little leeway in either direction.

6. THREE readings go in 'lock' to keep your water good. These three are: the alkalinity of your water, the amount of calcium in your water, and the amount of magnesium in your water. Those of you with freshwater experience are used to tracking PH. Alkalinity is the thing most reefers track, choose a value and stick with it, base this value on the salt you use. No use choosing and Alk of 7 when your salt mix provides 12KdH.The second reading is your Calcium level. It should be between 420 and 500. Below that your snails' shells start dissolving. And your fish's bone and muscle suffer. The third reading is Magnesium. All you people who want coralline to grow just keep this one at 1300. But it does a lot more than supply coralline. It LOCKS the other two readings in a 3-way balance. Keeping everything in that relationship will make everything happy.

7. Remember that business about plants and animals using up minerals? Calcium and magnesium are the ones animals use big-time. Plants (Algae, Zooxanthellae) use phosphate and nitrate. Yes, even those chemicals are useful. Plants (Algae, Zooxanthellae) grow like mad with phosphate. Grow them in your sump, divide the mass in half periodically and get rid of it, and you've just tossed a lot of phosphate and nitrate. That's what a refugium is for. The reason not to use conditioned tap water? City water grows plants. Algae, a lot of it. The water conditioners don't remove phosphates.

8. Aging tank: reading all this should tell you that the older a tank gets, the more little imbalances and shortages it accumulates. Age has benefits, but it also has problems. I recommend, at least every couple of years, an aggressive program of semi-weekly 20% water changes, so you can sort of re-set the balance. It's my own notion, but I think it does a bit to replenish the things far down the list of reef-salt ingredients. [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Well I hope this simple tips/ideas help and I will provide them and more articles as I progress my R.E.E.F Methodology Series.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]the log book is available for download here
[/FONT]
 
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dallasg

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thanks, i will add suggestions and comments and update this, and make articles for MASA and reference
 
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That is really good advise with not technical talk well done
 
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Very nicely written Dallas! Thanks for putting in the effort with the REEF articles... Shoul be sticky'd...
 

dallasg

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thanks, thats the aim of R.E.E.F
 

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Nice simple to read article Dallas.

Please can you clarify this area a bit - it seems a little contradictory

"[FONT=&quot]This will also enlighten reefers on why the advice given to keep say anemones only after 6-9 months is valid,"
and
"[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]8. Aging tank: reading all this should tell you that the older a tank gets, the more little imbalances and shortages it accumulates. Age has benefits, but it also has problems."


[/FONT]
 

dallasg

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thanks Albert

well most advise to keep anemones etc after a few months, not because the anemones will know, but rather that by that time we have achieved a sense of stability and feel for our tank chemistry, thus making a stress free environment.

i will edit and make the article clearer.

with regards to old tanks, there is a possibility that over the years, we do get lazy etc and can get some ionic imbalances etc not always but it is a possibility...

positive contructive feedback is welcome and i will incorporate all the suggestions, even after 20yrs keeping marines i am still a beginner
 
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I think maintenance is not just a water change - there are other good things that we collect in a tank

I can't believe how much dust I get in my tank and when fish do their business that stuff get's all over the tank under rocks and and.

I think one should do a major clean out every 2 years as in move rocks clean out the tank.

and if you have a very large tank and can't do that one needs to make provision for cleaning in those area's - IE pumps to blow out the dirt so it can be cleaned
 

RiaanP

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Why so small a font?

well most advise to keep anemones etc after a few months
Other thing is that the beneficial zooxanthellae (dinoflagellates) that is inside the anemone are taken up from its surrounding. So once it bleached a bit, or expelled a few zooxanthellae the anemone will and can take it up, if it is present in the water column. New tanks simply do not have that. And an anemone will take a lot longer to recover when in trouble. Zooxanthellae can also be expelled by other anemone like animals, like mushrooms and ricordia's. Even some SPS corals. Only after they reached maximum capacity. Also generally the anemone will have one type of zooxanthellae in it, and normally easier to take up from the water from other animals that have the similar zooxanthellae. Meaning the corals should all come from the same region globally. Makes it easier.
 
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dallasg

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I think maintenance is not just a water change - there are other good things that we collect in a tank

I can't believe how much dust I get in my tank and when fish do their business that stuff get's all over the tank under rocks and and.

I think one should do a major clean out every 2 years as in move rocks clean out the tank.

and if you have a very large tank and can't do that one needs to make provision for cleaning in those area's - IE pumps to blow out the dirt so it can be cleaned
noted and will be in revision 1

the "dust" we talk of is also from the break down of the rocks etc, notice how the bare-bottom guys always cleaning their tanks
 

dallasg

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Why so small a font?

fixed, thanks, was a cut and paste

Other thing is that the beneficial zooxanthellae (dinoflagellates) that is inside the anemone are taken up from its surrounding. So once it bleached a bit, or expelled a few zooxanthellae the anemone will and can take it up, if it is present in the water column. New tanks simply do not have that. And an anemone will take a lot longer to recover when in trouble. Zooxanthellae can also be expelled by other anemone like animals, like mushrooms and ricordia's. Even some SPS corals. Only after they reached maximum capacity. Also generally the anemone will have one type of zooxanthellae in it, and normally easier to take up from the water from other animals that have the similar zooxanthellae. Meaning the corals should all come from the same region globally. Makes it easier.
thanks RiaanP
 
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I think you only missed a few things but they are important to me and I feel they are the secret to a long lived, disease free, low maintenance tank, but they are a secret so don't tell anyone.
First, if you want to keep a tank a lomng time, not just five or ten years you need to do a little maintenance. Live rock is porous and you really need to open those pores occasionally. I do it a couple of times a year. I use a diatom filter but any canister filter will do. I put a restriction on the outflow hose so the water comes out like a power washer and I clean all the rock surfaces I can get to. You would be amazed at the gunk that comes out of rock. I don't do this to eliminate detritus because I feel detritus is over rated. But I want those pores open so the bacteria have a home and can do their job.
I also stir up my gravel, right down to the bottom of the tank. If you run a DSB you are on your own because they won't last past ten years and there is not much you can do about it. Of course I don't like those at all.
The next most important thing is feeding live foods. Forget pellets and flakes. I feed live blackworms every day along with clams that I buy fresh, then freeze. Yes I know not everywhere sells blackworms. I can't help that. But you need to feed whole foods, not shrimp tails or fish fillets. The nutrition is in the guts, so if you feed clams or worms, they are getting the guts. Fish in the sea eat whole fish, guts, bones and all, that will keep them in spawning condition and disease free. How do I know? Ask my fish, some of which are 19 and still spawning.
Anyway, thats my secret. Don't let it out.
 

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