Too Much Emphasis Being Put on PO4 Readings?

Discussion in 'Water Parameters and Additives' started by Kunhardt, 9 Jan 2012.

  1. Kunhardt

    Kunhardt

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    Lately I have read a lot of threads on SA forums, heard a lot of discussions in LFS and been involved in a lot of discussions with fellow reefers about Phosphates. There seems to be a lot of people thinking that getting ideal phosphate readings is going to cure all the problems with your tank. Below are just my feelings on the subject.

    I am not a big one for taking readings of nitrates and phosphates as I feel I know my tank well enough to be able to see if there is a problem serious enough in those areas that I need to look into it, however with all the talk of late I decided to get my PO4 tested. The reading on the Hana Meter came back as 0.35ppm. On telling some fellow reefers this, the response was "Thats VERY high" "you should be concerned" "your corals are going to die" etc...

    Yes I will be the first to admit that it is generally not an ideal reading, but here is why I think that those kind of comments are a load of rubbish...if we go according to what we read on phosphates corals growth should be stunted, lack of colour should be occuring and corals in general should be pretty unhappy but looking at my tank I would say there is nothing to worry about...SPS are growing at a decent rate, they are colouring up a lot since I got them a month or so back and there is good polyp extention. LPS are growing and looking good as well and there is no nuisance algae to speak of.

    What I am trying to get at is, phosphates are not the only thing that is going to effect you corals in specifically your sps in terms of them doing well. Too much emphasis has been put on this Golden phosphate number of 0.03ppm and if your phosphates are not at this then you wont succeed at sps and I think a lot of people are beginning to think that if they can achieve this reading then all their problems are going to go away.

    Phosphates are only one part of the puzzle, I feel that if you have ideal lighting, ideal flow, are keeping all your other parameters at the correct levels and corals are getting the suppliments that they are needing such as amino acids and vitimins your corals are still going to do well...granted if you do get your phosphates down to that almost undetectible level you will obviously get better colouring.

    Another idea I have is that Corals will adapt to their environment and if po4 is constantly higher than ideally it should be I would think they will eventually adapt to this...just my thoughts on that anyway.

    Anyone else got any thoughts on the subject? :blush:
     
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  3. rakabos

    rakabos

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    From my experience, the only thing higher PO4 does is brown out sps, and then not even all sps. I have bright sps and PO4 nowhere near 0.35.

    PO4 is gonna fuel nuisance algae though. Getting it down will help with it getting out of control, but if you have other issues like Mark said like flow, bad lights, u wont get away with just having low PO4
     
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  4. dallasg

    dallasg Moderator MASA Contributor

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    yes i agree with both of you, PO4 seems like a scape goat for most issues, but there are other important factors to understand. PO4 enters our systems from various sources and not just through not using RO water.

    all animals require a certain amount of phosphates to live etc and rakabos hit the nail on the head by mentioning that nuisance algae is fueled by it but not the sole source

    but like all params to much is also bad, phos readings higher than 0.1 can affect coral growth etc as the PO4 is converted to bacterial biomass etc
     
  5. butcherman

    butcherman Moderator MASA Contributor

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    I dont think its people thinking its a magic cure. Instead i think people do not understand exactly what PO4 is and what its doing in our tanks other tank fueling algea growth.
     
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  6. leslie hempel

    leslie hempel Moderator MASA Contributor

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    its like the calcium/alk issue (not to go off topic too much) people forget that mag and ph are part of that equasion in determining stable parameters within that square of paramaters..

    As for phosphate, i do believe it needs to be adressed but there are different ways to do this.. and if our system is relying on heavy additions of phosphate removers to make a dent you are definatley doing something WRONG!!!

    like nitrate, a skimmer should pull out the free phosphate before it gets time to "metamorphasize" into gha.. people seem to think if they have phos they will get gha, its not always the case but agreed that in at least 90% of cases it does fuel the fire..

    im over chasing parameters. and i do believe a reef system must be treated in a semi hostile manner wrt water parameters from time to time.. hence my large waterchanges.. or otherwise the inhabatants will become soft..

    A flip side of the coin is what are you wanting to achieve? good growth? or good colour,

    as even with lighting people sacrifice the blue spectrum to gain growth and the growth aspect of a 6500 - 10k bulb for colour?

    phosphate is only one aspect of a complex water make up and we should be looking at temperature more than chasing an ultimate phosphate value...
     
  7. Tremayn

    Tremayn

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    PO4 is not important, its not going to kill your corals (well if its in the normal ranges).. There are more important parameters to worry about like a stable kh. Corals need some PO4. I had really good colours and growth with a PO4 at 0.6 ...

    you should only worry about having po4 at 0.03 and lower if you are using zeo or another method to keep your sps on the brink of death, either than that I dont see why people aim for ULNS when keeping LPS or softies
     
  8. leslie hempel

    leslie hempel Moderator MASA Contributor

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    @Tremayn

    the whole idea of ULNS is to be able to add only what is needed to obtain total controll of your water parameters, so a phos reading is actually encouraged in low amounts and no use of a phos media is promoted,

    in my time of working at the LFS the no 1 seller over any additive or chemical was a phos remover.. and instead of people learning to accept a small reading and learn how to manage it they consistently threw money at the problem trying to fight it..

    LFS sits with a big grin on his face because the customer would not listen...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: 26 Nov 2015
  9. Adee

    Adee

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    Also remember having a low reading (less than) 0.03ppm....also acts as a buffer, should something die in your tank. Once you have had established a very low baseline, it then provides an indication your fitration is no longer up to scratch. Posiibly media needs to be changed or husbandry methods need a relook.

    The main reason I do "chase low numbers" it also gives me pleasure in knowing that making added changes to my regime, be it adding more live rock, a bigger DSB, etc...changes to lower numbers means its actually working and not money/energy wasted on my system.
     
  10. Kunhardt

    Kunhardt Thread Starter

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    But Adrian dont you think its a different scenario with you...your system is settled it doesnt have any issues and corals are going well and looking good. So it makes sense now then that you would tinker and see if you can go that little bit extra to improve on "perfection" so to speak...I mean the guys that arent getting what they want out of their sps and are under the impression that getting that ideal phosphate reading its going to cure everything. Like Rakabos also reiterrated having ideal po4 reading, but having bad lighting, lack of flow and poor other parameters isnt going to solve the problem...its just one small aspect and I feel that the other pieces of the puzzle are a more important factor than just getting that golden po4 reading.
     
  11. Tremayn

    Tremayn

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    yip :) .. but its kinda overkill when keeping softies/ lps
     
    Last edited by a moderator: 26 Nov 2015
  12. Adee

    Adee

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    Actually even with my 0.00ppm hanna phos test check...I do have some algae infestation happening on the fragtank side, wheras the DT (all plumbed on the same system)...has nothing. Which has led me to now adding Rowaphos to my system.

    I agree with the intention that chasing phos alone will not solve peoples issues, you would need to take other factors into account..Alk, PH, Ca, temp, etc...all hand in hand play a part.
     
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  13. leslie hempel

    leslie hempel Moderator MASA Contributor

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    for sure i hear you there, not necessary for the coral but more to help with lowering algae growth for a cleaner system.
     
  14. Nemos Janitor

    Nemos Janitor

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    I am confused into the posters reverences of Phosphate levels. Lets just clarify if we are talking about phosphate as orthophosphate (Po4)or Phosphate as Phosphorous (P-PO4)? I ask this because i stand to be corrected but the Hanna meter measures Po4 and not P-Po4 a PO4 of 0.36 is equivalent to a P-PO4 of 0.117. Hence my confusion.

    Lets talk briefly about the Phosphorous Cycle. Natural sea water has an average P-PO4 level of 0.06 mg/l, but before you get all excited P-PO4 measured at reefs is often less than 0.015 mg/l. Probably due to the phosphorus uptake of the corals.

    Phosphate enters our aquariums mainly by the foods we feed the fish. The fish digest the food and produce inorganic Phosphate. This Phosphate is then turned to organic Phosphate by mineralisation. There are many other processes that take place and influences such as DO and Ph but we will not discuss here.

    So what does high P-PO4 do.
    Phosphate "binds" to calcium and builds up in LR and substrate. This build up is a slow process and very difficult to remove once the level is high. One must note that we cannot measure (with our test kits) the amount of phosphate in the rocks and substrate. We only now that it leaches back into the water column with Ph fluctuations and water changes.

    P-PO4 also interferes with the calcification processes of coral and coralline algae. This affects colour and growth.

    P-PO4 also is fuel for filamentous green algae.

    I have seen many a tank slowly deteriorate due to high P-PO4. IMO it is best to keep P-PO4 below 0.1 ath the very maximum. Best at P-PO4 0.013
     
    Last edited: 9 Jan 2012
  15. Merman

    Merman

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    I am by no means an expert on this subject but my feeling is keep nitrate and phosphate as low as possible all the time. that way when something does go wrong its not the straw that broke the camels back so to speak... what i mean is if your levels are maintained at quite a high ppm then if something goes wrong( ie a fish dies whilst you are away for the weekend) you have more chance of the params getting to a deadly level. whereas if they are low to start with then this situation might only take your params to a higher level that is still within an acceptable level
     
  16. Kunhardt

    Kunhardt Thread Starter

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    Some nice info there NJ. :thumbup:
     
  17. Kunhardt

    Kunhardt Thread Starter

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    I think some people have missed the point of my thread...either speed reading or I didnt explain myself correctly.

    I am by no means saying we dont have to worry about phosphates in our tanks be it PO4 or P-PO4, what I was saying was that guys that are having issues with their sps, be it browning or lack of growth are looking at this new magical number thats come about of 0.03ppm and saying well if I can achieve this reading with my phosphates then all will come right...where as this is not the case, you cant just look at phosphates and nitrates as the cause for these sort of things...if Reefer A has browned out sps and no growth and PO4 readings of 0.07ppm but only runs 4x 24w T5's over a say 1000L system for 4 hours a day and the tank gets no natural sunlight...which is the is the bigger problem there. Its not the phosphates its more the lighting...guys need to stop stressing only about phosphates and look at the whole picture.

    I was merely using my system as an example in that my phosphates are no where near ideal according to the magical 0.03ppm reading required, but I still have decent colouration and growth so you can see that its not only phosphates that are a factor...if other elements in the equation are ideal then those slightly elevated phosphate readings are not going to be a major issue. I seriously have heard of someone freaking out because their PO4 reading was 0.04ppm and not 0.03ppm...thats undue stress to yourself and just makes the hobby not worth while in my opinion.
     
    Last edited: 9 Jan 2012
  18. Nemos Janitor

    Nemos Janitor

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    Yup i agree. @Kunhardt

    But one thing reefers reading this thread must understand. Is that once you let your PO4 get out of control, it is extremely difficult to reduce the PO4. because years/months of neglect allows the PO4 to bind with your LR.

    Also do not reduce the PO4 by adding extra phos media. This will bring down the PO4 to quickly and cause extreme stress to the corals. It needs to be done slowly.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: 26 Nov 2015
  19. mandarinman

    mandarinman

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    I put a bag of well rinsed phosguard in sump section with a bag of purigen and i dont test phosphates or nitrates . it is too hard to pin down the real phosphate readings in anycase. and yes i am too lazy.
     
  20. Tremayn

    Tremayn

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    theres more to sps.. theres also element X!! Yes its out there! My water parameters are all 100% for what we test for but I lost an acro and monti. Its one of those things (element x :p ) that we dont normally test for.. Heck if I know what it is:lol: ..

    There are sooo many variables, as much as we collectively know, we will never know it all and we can just do out best :)
     
  21. butcherman

    butcherman Moderator MASA Contributor

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    Not only LR but also your substrate.

    When I started my tank I got 3 pieces of LR form a fellow reefer covered in bryopsis algae.
    Not knowing better I though hey my tank is new it will quickly go away, BIG mistake.

    Although the algae never spread it toke a full year to get those rocks algae free.
    I suspect the PO4 and NO3 had binded with the LR and penetrated deep inside (Like nemo has described).

    So even with my tank Parameters spotless these Rocks where a spawning ground for the evil algae we all fear. All because the LR had been neglected in the first place.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: 9 Jan 2012
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