Trace Elements and Bitterns

Discussion in 'Water Parameters and Additives' started by Albert Terego, 31 Oct 2012.

  1. Albert Terego

    Albert Terego

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    Hi all,

    Yesterday I learnt something new - what bitterns is. For those that don't know it is the spent brine left behind during the salt making process (i.e. after all the sodium chloride has crystallised out of solution). From internet searches I have found that the liquor is quite high in magnesium and of course all other elements found naturally in seawater.

    The question I have is, is this a good, useful source of trace elements found in seawater, and could one use it to replenish any trace elements that may be lacking in our systems?

    To answer this question I had to first understand the process of salt manufacture.

    This link explains it in quite simple terms which I am comfortable with.

    http://www.saltinstitute.org/Production-industry/Production-technologies/Solar-salt-sea-salt

    Essentially seawater is concentrated by evaporation of water. Sea water contains about 3.5% sodium chloride - during salt manufacture the water is evaporated effectively raising the sodium chloride content to around 26% which is the point at which it starts crystallising out, leaving behind the bitterns (concentrated seawater minus the majority of the sodium chloride).

    Just how concentrated though?

    Well from the above the salt content is increased from 3.5% to 26%. This is approximately 8x (rounded off) concentrated, meaning that each element present is present at 8 times its concentration in the NSW used.

    What does this mean in practical terms?

    Well assuming levels of micro elements were 0.0000 ppm in our tanks to start with, we would have to dose 100/8 litres = 12.5l of bitterns per 100litres of tank water to restore the levels of these micro elements to NSW levels.

    Based on this, (and feel free to correct it if you spot any incorrect assumptions or calculations) this would make bitterns quite an ineffective source of micro elements if the intention was to increase levels significantly.

    A typical trace element type product would probably recommend dosing 5 to 10ml of the product per 100l of water volume.

    Applying the same dosing regime for bitterns (using 10ml/100l) would mean that one would only be adding 12.5l/0.01l = 1/1250th of the amount needed to restore levels of micro elements to NSW levels.

    Conclusions - effectiveness of bitterns as a supplement to increase levels of micro elements significantly is quite low.

    However I do actually think a supplement based on bitterns but completely dried out i.e. into a dried salt form, may be a good trace element source for those that would like to explore this option, and I suppose this could then be compared against the [FONT=&quot]Tropic Marin Pro-Special Mineral[/FONT]
     
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  3. Nemos Janitor

    Nemos Janitor

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    Many brands of salt mixes use the bittens to add back to the eliments they claim in the bucket. In other words mix the bittens back into the salt mix along with other additives like ca,mg etc.
     
    Last edited: 31 Oct 2012
  4. carlosdeandrade

    carlosdeandrade

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    I think the assumption is rather misleading, as we know our tanks do not have zero levels of micro nutrients, I think that it would be safe to say that the bitterns is there to make sure we do not have any shortages of the micro nutrients. Yes, we might be adding more in one area than in another, but this is why we only dose the prescribed amount, as it would be impossible to test for all the micro nutrients, so as to make sure we do not overdose, as @dallasg said in another post, "the stuff is strong" sic.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: 26 Nov 2015
  5. Albert Terego

    Albert Terego Thread Starter

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    Interesting - do you know if it is added as a powder or liquid? And at what types of levels.

    I assume they would not add it back in the proportions required to get to NSW's level of micro-elements if they are also adding other salts (ca, mg etc.).

    But yes, I can see an application for this as well - cheap and relatively easy (but also a bit of an unknown).
     
  6. jacquesb

    jacquesb Retired Moderator

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    A quick question Albert - if Bitterns is added to our tanks, and there is already a concentration of 8 times the amount of sodium chloride (the "salt") - would it not cause an imbalance of too much sodium chloride in our tanks?
     
  7. Albert Terego

    Albert Terego Thread Starter

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    One has to make assumptions.

    But my question to you would be:

    If your tank has 50% of NSW levels of micro nutrients would it be actually be necessary to dose bitterns - and if dosing say 10ml/100l this would only increase these levels by 0.08% to 50.08% of NSW.

    Is this really significant?

    So maybe my assumption is not too bad after all - maybe 0.08% is better than 0.00% of NSW levels. But is 50.08 better than 50.00% - I doubt it.
     
    Last edited: 31 Oct 2012
  8. carlosdeandrade

    carlosdeandrade

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  9. Albert Terego

    Albert Terego Thread Starter

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    No it would not as most (I read 99.7%) of the sodium chloride is removed during the salt making process so the bitterns would contain very little. Used as a conventional additive(i.e. small doses of 10ml/100l) it would not add any significant quantity of sodium chloride to ones system (and of any other element).

    If used in salt manufacture (as per Nemos Janitor) the quantity of sodium chloride added would probably be adjusted/reduced slightly to compensate for any present in the bitterns.

    At one stage quite a few years back the Balling method of supplementation was quite heavily punted on various forums and the full method required a sodium chloride free salt. Bitterns could have played an interesting role in this method if it was commercially available at the time.
     
    Last edited: 31 Oct 2012
  10. Nemos Janitor

    Nemos Janitor

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    I think I have the info somewhere. Will look for it tonight.
     
  11. jacquesb

    jacquesb Retired Moderator

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    Ah ok - that makes sense. Thanks Albert.
     
  12. Albert Terego

    Albert Terego Thread Starter

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    Thanks NJ, that would be quite an interesting read.
     
  13. butcherman

    butcherman Moderator MASA Contributor

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    Lets look it the otherway. you have just started you tank. micro levels are at 100% your system uses 0.08% per week. Surly you can dose bitterns to maintain your levels?

    Also if i take brightwell 8.3 for alk if i had to follow the instructions
    and add it to my sps reef. I would never maintain the alk in my tank. does that mean the product is ineffective? no you need to use is according to your system.
     
    Last edited: 31 Oct 2012
  14. Albert Terego

    Albert Terego Thread Starter

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    Fair enough you could use it to maintain levels. But would it be necessary? At what point is trace element supplementation actually required?

    I don't know the answer to this.

    Bitterns would be a safe product to dose as risk of overdosing would be very small, so in terms of product safety I'd give it a 10/10.

    In terms of supplying a range of minerals that corals or other livestock may use I'd also score it 10/10, after all it is derived from NSW.

    In terms of it being an effective source of trace elements (i.e economical doses to raise levels significantly) I'd have to score it extremely low (unless it was available in a powdered form)

    One other comment - how would one determine a suitable dosing schedule eg X amount of bitterns per unit time to maintain NSW levels if one started at 100%
     
  15. Albert Terego

    Albert Terego Thread Starter

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    I've never been a fan of liquid supplementation products - much more bang for buck using powdered additives. But you have to admit though there is a difference between having to add grams of a product vs having to add 10litres.

    An example is Epsom Salts - one needs about 100g/100l to raise Mg by 100ppm.

    To raise levels from zero to NSW levels would take about 1.3kg of Epsom salts (powder) and about 2.5litres of a concentrated liquid additive. But how often does one need to do this - never. But magnesium demand is easily tracked. Not so with trace elements and considering the amounts of bitterns needed to make any significant improvement I feel the liquid is not concentrated enough.
     
  16. Lord_Blackadder

    Lord_Blackadder

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    Another thing to consider...we're already adding a lot of these elements into our systems via food. Filter feeding organisms (bivalves,sponges,tunicates, etc.) in particular tend to gather/concentrate heavy metals etc. in their tissues. When we feed things like clams and mussels to our livestock, we're adding significant amounts of these elements into our systems. Similarly, many fish species (particularly large predatory ones) have large amounts of metals in their bodies. There has been a fair bit of research on the high levels of mercury found in tuna, for example.

    There are a lot of variables, however. Water changes and macroalgae harvesting will remove significant amounts of harmful (and possibly useful?) elements.
     
  17. dallasg

    dallasg Moderator MASA Contributor

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    great posts, but base consumption on what? we know we use Ca, Mg and Alk, Iodine and a few others, we specifically test for those, due to years of this hobby experiementing on how to successfully keep corals, could one reason be that many elements have no use as we have not looked further due to cost/practicality etc...
    take Yttrium , more abundant than silver, has toxicity, used in medications, and has no known biological uses, but yet the human body has it in 0.04ppm in liver i think, and breast milk contains up to 4ppm, so while not used currently according to current research, could it not be that we have no desire to check further?
     
  18. pXius

    pXius

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    This is my main problem and why I fall back to the rule of "if you can't test, don't dose".

    Assume usage is 0.08% a week, you could run a tank for years before its depleted. And with most people doing water changes at least once a month, I don't see the point.

    Now if you told me we used up 25% of our trace elements a week it would be another story, but we have no way of testing! *pulls hair out of head* And even if we could, would Bitterns be a a good source to replenish these? At 0.08% my answer would be no.
     
  19. Lord_Blackadder

    Lord_Blackadder

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    Strontium addition used to be quite popular about 10-15 years ago. It seems to have gone out of fashion now though.

    Iodine is a debatable one. I have noticed significant differences in my tank with iodine addition though. Not in corals, but in red macroalgae. After about 3 months of no iodine additions, my red macros take strain. Nearly immediately after dosing or a large water change, they recover. It's a similar situation with iron and green macroalgae.
     
  20. dallasg

    dallasg Moderator MASA Contributor

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    my knowledge on strontium use is that Strontium and Ca share the same atomic structure with Strontium being 13% larger, so the assimilation with Ca makes sense to me, as strontium is found in the skeletons. while reading a few articles from RHF on strontium, they cant say yes or no but below is some good reasoning

    In vegetable growing, take spinach, if it yellows there is a possible iron deficiency in the soil, surely we should test and add products based on how it affects ones tank?
    so whether to add a product is based on how we run our tanks.

    if you do weekly water changes then most additives will be moot, but then thats also based on how much we change, 5% wont do much, 25% will do more.. so using the assumptions by RHF above to strontium, sure this would apply to any element and its reason for being "vital" :p
     
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