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FAQs about Carbon Adding Products

Related Articles: Carbon Dosing; An Effective Means of Phosphate and Nitrate Control, by James Gasta, ControllersX10 Controllers, An Economical and Functional Approach to Aquarium Timers, By James Gasta, Marine System HeatingColdwater Systems

Related FAQs:  Carbon Supplements, Water Changes for Marine Systems 1, Evaporation/Water Make-Up, Treating TapwaterMarine Water QualityMarine Plumbing Heating 1, Chillers, Water Temperature

Unless your system is demonstrably carbon deficient (rate limited), you'd do well to not add more... IF you need more, easiest and best to add by way of feedings... There ARE downsides to having too much carbon in solution.

Description: Reef-Actif.jpg 

Carbon understanding       1/30/15
hey bob. I have spent the better part of 6 months reading about various methods of carbon dosing.
For the past 6 months, my pellet reactor was either not working, or working but keeping my nitrates around 100. Perhaps
with my size tank and bioload, asking a pellet reactor to keep up was not feasible.
<Mmm; am guessing "something else" is rate limiting/limited here. I ask that you "open your mind" to not-too endless possibilities; ala Chem. 101A!
Qual./Quant... there are several important molecules that hobbyists have little notion of; some even have (ta da!) test kits; for other fields of endeavour>
So I come to you, in recognizing your vast biology and chemistry background. I have read dozens of posts on wwm, reef central, the reef tank etc, and have yet to find any conclusive info regarding the mechanics of carbon dosing.
For instance, there are guides on respect to dosing vinegar or vodka, but most of these are made in respect to reef tanks with mild nutrient accumulation. Nothing states usage with a fowlr.
<That seems strange (to me of course)>
Being instant ocean salt just went up 10 dollars at the retail level this year. Bigger water changes are becoming a non possibility for nitrate export. I have failed with the pellets. And now wish to solve it via carbon.
<Eh, and meh; there are many other avenues. Quite a few better than C dosing>
In a fowlr with several large fish and high nitrates (100), I am right now a week in and using 60 ml of white vinegar daily. I am now experiencing a bloom, and would love to know the metrics of a bloom,
<The metrics? As in measure?>
therefore I will have an idea of which way to go for dosing.
<... okay... as you addressed this to me... I'll state what I'd do: STOP dosing any exogenous source of carbon. And back to reading... re NO3 control... Do you have room for a humongous DSB? Macro algae culture? RDP lighting?>
Can I stay there, and eventually the benthic nitrifying bacteria will catch up to out compete the bloom?
<Not likely; no>
Or is the other way, where while a persistent bloom will out compete the "good" bacteria, and there prohibit their growth? Is there a balance?
<There is, are balance/s... just not in your and your purposeful livestock's favour currently>
Any supplemental reading or Info on the mechanics of bacterial blooms would be greatly helpful and appreciated.
<Do you have Walter Adey's works?>
I also have my uv off, thinking that was necessary to allow bacteria to grow, however had I have left it on, I am sure I would never know if a bloom was set to spawn or not.
<I'd have this on... to reduce TBC, boost RedOx, O2 and O3>
I am turning my tank over about 40 times per hour, and have power head positioned at the top to crest better gas exchange. If lack of 02 is the only concern with a bloom, I think I have that basis covered.
Thank you
<.... Drizzard drazzard drizzard drone, time for this one to come home. Bob Fenner>

Biopellet reactor = sponge food?     1/10/15
Hello! First off, thank you for the great information available on your website. It has been a great help to me so many times!
<Ahh; so very glad to read>
Now for my question: I run a biopellet reactor on my reef aquarium. I have often read that you should position the reactor so that the reactor outflow immediately gets pulled into the protein skimmer so as to remove the majority of the bacteria being flushed from the reactor. That's the way I have things set up.
However I have been wondering, since the majority of non-photosynthetic sponges feed on dissolved organic matter (DOM) and bacteria, could a biopellet reactor be a good source of food for sponges?
<I do think such use would be of benefit>
Perhaps by placing the reactor at the opposite end of the tank from the skimmer. Or might these be the "wrong" type of bacteria for sponges?
<Likely not a "bad" source; selected by size mostly>
What do you think? I would love to keep more colorful sponges but have avoided adding them (except for the ones coming in on live rock) because of care and feeding concerns.
<I share your concern; and direction here>
Thanks so much,
<Worth trying moving the reactor; perhaps looking into how you might measure carbon, bacteria here.
Bob Fenner>

Biopellet/nitrite question    7/9/14
Hey bob ,
I have a small two part question I felt was short enough to condense into one email. On second thought, I will make it two emails to make it easier.
Firstly, around two months ago I enacted a biopellet reactor using Warner marine pellets. They seem to be doing there job, bringing my nitrates from around 100 to about 40.
<Can, do work... given "proper" circumstances... where carbon is rate limited mostly>
However in the past week, half of them are clumping together at the top of the reactor. Even when I shut pump off to let them fall, they remain stuck at top. Almost like there's a slime or growth gluing them together.
<Mmm; yes. Does happen>
I have tried reaching out to Jon at Warner marine, but the phone has been offline. I know in the beginning he said less flow is better, however I am not sure what is causing them to clump. Would your first inclination tell you to crank up flow, clean pellets out, leave it be?
<Could try both, all... there are "bio films" that form on many such products, making them sticky... more flow generally precludes this>
I've looked around on the boards for a week or so, and most advice is given with other types of pellets.
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Re: Biopellet/nitrite question    7/9/14

Understood. I will leave them be for now, as they seem to be doing there part , and my skimmer is working overtime.
<All right>
One thing I do not like, and com not figure out is water clarity. If I turn my uv light off (25 watt, 400 gph flow on 150 tank) even for a few hours, my water fogs up and visibility goes to nothing.
<Bacterial, microbial life population explosion>
Upon turning it on, it will clear in around 12 hours or so. I know a uv light can help clear water and keep it clear, but seems I need it all the time, almost like its a Band-Aid I am relying on. I want to not be able to have it, but use it as a luxury. Seems my tank needs it
<I'd be studying re Ozone use; ORP measure. B>

Mysterious gill tumors   7/9/14
Hi Folks,
It's been a while since I've written you, and sadly today it's not with great news. I've now lost two fish to something that is baffling me, and I'm really hoping someone on your end can offer me advice.
Tank profile:
275 gallon display, 375 gallon total volume 2 year old SPS reef. Until a couple of weeks ago, the tank was home to a doliatus rabbit, 2 Banggai cardinals, 5 dispar Anthias, 3 purple queen Anthias, a powder blue tang, a Suisse (Swiss?) Basslet, a long horn cowfish, a Richmond's Wrasse, and a copper band butterfly.
The last fish addition to the tank was the Richmond's wrasse, I think in May or June of last year. Every fish in the tank went through a rigorous tank transfer protocol before being quarantined with PraziPro prior to going in the display. There has been no sign of any kind of disease or parasite up until now.
<I see>
Around Christmas, I had issues with my biopellet reactor,
<These can be real trouble... only useful in moderation and IF there is a carbon limitation>

and in February many thousands of dollars worth of SPS coral started to die. I'm still to this day not sure exactly what happened, or how or if the biopellets (which had been on the system since it was established) contributed, but after taking the pellets offline completely and many hundreds of gallons of water changes, including a near 100% water change, the cycle of damage to my corals finally stopped in late May and has now begun to reverse. In all that time, the only water parameters that got out of what would be considered 'normal' range were my alkalinity, and very, very briefly during the worst of the coral losses, a single (i.e. one day) ammonia reading of about 2ppm. Since removing the pellets, my nitrates have climbed to about 5ppm and stabilized on their own.
While the was going on, my copper band butterfly developed what looked to me like a tumour under one of it's gill flaps. I'm attaching the best pic I was able to capture. It prevented the one gill from closing completely, but nothing about the fish's behaviour changed. It was still active, fat, hungry, etc. etc. This mass seemed to change size at random over the course of several months, but I got no response from anyone on the Canadian reef forum or Reef Central when I posted pictures, and I couldn't find anything like it online.
<Does appear to be some sort of hyperplasia on the Labrid pix you've sent along>

Anyway, it had that mass for 4 months, then suddenly 2 weeks ago it died.
It was behaving normally, ate it's a normal amount of Mysis, brine, and chopped clam during it's evening meal, and was floating by 7am the next morning.
I had hoped it was an isolated incident, and that maybe he had just developed gill cancer or something, but last week I noticed my Richmond's wrasse had started refusing food and had lost a bit of weight. Upon closer inspection I discovered a similar looking mass in one of it's gills, and for the past week he's not eaten, and has kind of listlessly swam about the aquarium with what I would describe as the "thousand yard stare". More Googling lead me to suspect gill flukes, and as per a large body of online advice I decided to give it a fresh water dip, both to attempt to confirm flukes by observing them fall off, and to give it some relief if that's what it is.
<Did you see anything?>
I was absolutely precise in matching the temperature and pH of the dip water to my tank, and I only left the wrasse in the dip for 90 seconds as the fish went in to extreme distress, but it was too much for it. Nothing detached, or obviously came off the fish during the dip. I had hoped it would recover, but after an hour of being blown around in my tank's current upside down having what appeared to be seizures, I anaesthetized it in a bucket with clove oil (the only fish anesthetic easily available to a hobbyist in Canada). This allowed me to get much closer photos than I got with the Butterfly, which had already lost most of it's gills to bristleworms by the time I found it's body. I'm pretty gutted as I feel like I'm now directly responsible, but I don't know what else I could have done. If I had left it in the tank it probably would have died just like the butterfly.
Anyway do you guys have any idea as to what this is?
<Not without necropsying... likely histological examination... even then>
I've now lost two of my favourite fish. I don't know if this is contagious, a water quality issue related to whatever happened to my coral several months ago,
<A good speculation>
or if I should expect similar losses in my other fish.
My long horn cowfish has grown from less than 1 inch to nearly a foot long in the past year, and I've arranged for a fellow reefer with a much larger tank to take him, but with two unexplained deaths with nearly identical growths... I feel like I can't share fish until I know what's happening.
Thanks, and sorry for the very long e-mail. I'm pretty bummed over this.
Adam LeClair
PS, I will keep the Richmond's wrasse's body in the fridge overnight in case you guys need more images. I'm hesitant to dissect it, but if you have something specific I should be looking for I can do that. I also have a reasonably good quality microscope if you think there's something I should look at.
<There may be someone about with the gear, background/knowledge to do a histopathological work up on the gill tissue... embed, slice, stain...
Perhaps a college nearby with a bio. dept.; maybe friends/acquaintances in human medicine.
Bob Fenner>

White film on glass / dusty water         3/12/14
Hi Wet web media
For the past month or so, I’ve been cleaning my aquarium glass daily due to a pale whitish film that keeps appearing.
<These/this can be annoying for sure>
I tested for nitrates and phosphates and both came up as undetectable, which is fluent with previous tests. Also; I don’t have any nuisance algae on the glass or the rocks / substrate & have a very small bio load.
<Other life likely. MANY microscopic organisms in natural and captive settings that make such films>
The tank is a 300 gallon reef ( large pieces of live rock ) and an 80 gallon sump which houses the skimmer / filtration / UV and two bio pellet reactors. I went for two small reactors because I wasn’t able to get the larger reactors in Thailand.
<Mmm, I'd try pulling the reactors... Are you sure your system is carbon deficient?>
Do you think the film is being caused by the bio pellets?
<Could well be positively correlated>
 I also have been suffering from dusty water for what seems an eternity - could they both be linked?
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

bio pellets vs. vodka      3/8/14
Hi, I have been running bio pellets(in a reactor) as a nitrate reduction systems, I have a second reactor with gfo. I still struggle with small amounts of hair algae. I have recently read some literature that suggests doing vodka dosing instead of bio pellets. Do you guys have a preference or recommendation for nitrate control?
<Six of one... either/both use is based upon a real need/shortage of carbon... Well-fed, managed systems rarely are C deficient. Providing more is counterproductive; even deleterious. Bob Fenner>

The most difficult question. Coral hlth. issues; some poss. influences, corrections     12/13/13
Hello again Mr. F.
how are you? I hope all is fine with you .
I have a very important question: what is wrong with my system?
Let me explain: my 250 gallon display was set-up 1 year ago. 220 cm long, 70 cm wide and 70 cm high. Sump, AquaMedic aCone 3.0 skimmer rated to 3000 litres, biopellets reactor, antiphos reactor, active carbon reactor running 24h. Ozone , full line apex Neptune system computer with the following readings: ORP 350-390, pH 7.9-8.1 , temp 25.5-26.5 and salinity 34.5-35.0.
Calcium reactor, kH 7.2-8.0 , Ca 420-450, Mg 1280-1300.
History: maybe you remember all my inquiries about crypt and fish disease after my initial ordeal
<A good deal; yes>
With all my fishes dying in the first month because of crypt and Oodinium, I have spent hundreds of hours reading and learning. I now have Coral magazine subscription ( maybe one of the very few in Romania ) and dozens of books all read. About fishes , I now have all the fishes I restarted the system with, P. Hepatus, Chelmon rostratus, A. Japonicus, pair or mandarins, Z. Xanthurus, Naso  lituratus, P. Imperator ( juv. ) all 10 months now in the system and a beautiful Z. Cornutus six months now in the tank, all doing very good. So lesson learned there. ( I have 3. Quarantine tanks , I always perform fw dips with Methylene blue etc )
4-5 months ago I started introducing SPS corals. I always knew I wanted a SPS dominated tank with these beautiful fishes I already have ( only one P. Diacanthus is missing but I will get there also..) then the problems started. I discovered that I had high nitrates: about 20 on Salifert test so I started the maintenance program: got rid of the 2-3 cm sand in the DT because of the wrong depth, siphoning of the sump, changing the media in the reactors etc. I bought some more corals, some Acropora, some more Montiporas, Stylophora.. Because of a faulty salimeter ( the paper with the scale moved inside the glass )  the salinity went to 43  and lots of corals died or dying .
I slowly went back. After that, in September I drilled my pavement and installed a 300 l refugium with 18 cm sand bed and Chaetomorpha in the basement with reverse light schedule. After 3 weeks I installed another  200 l tank there with live rock. At the beginning I had some problems with keeping levels of water ( maybe you remember our discussions ) so the salinity varied 1-1.5 points daily for some weeks.
Before installing the calcium reactor I had some variations in the levels of kH and Ca. ,   1 month ago.
After that I thought everything was stable, so I introduced some more corals. But I kept losing some of them. Apparently  lots of Montiporas digitata died and also some Acroporas. In November, after the last addition on sand in the RDSB  and some more live rock the Cyano started. I had to leave for one week and when I come back more SPS were lost due to Cyano this time ( even thou my friend was at my house every day feeding and cleaning the Cyano).
<I'd throttle back your carbon additions. In fact, I'd remove the bio-pellets entirely. This/these are likely driving your Cyano problem here>
 So when I come back I reduced the lighting for the T5 ( I have an AquaMedic 3x250 w CoralVue ReefLux 14000 K plus 4 T5 x 80 w ATI 2 white 2 blue ) turning them off . ( they were on 12 hours ON ) . I only kept the MH. The Cyano receded , every day I clean it and blast with a 1200 l/h pump every rock and coral. But it continues to grow on some corals killing them.
I fragged some of the Acropora and the frags until now seem to be doing fine . But every day I discover that another SPS coral is declining.
Other values : nitrates : 2-3 Seachem test
Phosphates : <0.01 Salifert
<Not an issue; in fact, I'd feed more to increase>
Silicates : 0
  About the lights: after turning down the 4 T5 I have seen lost in coloration also in otherwise hardy corals : Montipora plates , so I have turned them on again and I have measured the PAR readings : bottom 150 -100 between bulbs, middle 230 and top 400. Under the bulbs 1100 micromoles/m2/second. . But before turning on again the T 5 (2 days ago ) the readings with only the MH were seriously lower ( 40-60 bottom between bulbs ).
In the meantime I have lost some Acropora that was with me for 10 months and survived all that. But there are some Montiporas and some a Acroporas frags that appear to be doing great so far. I have colonies of Stylophora and Porites that are ok.
So, why am I loosing  SPS corals? Is the stability of the system? All the changes I have done? Is there something wrong in the water even if I get all these " normal " readings?
<Toxicity from the Cyano likely is number one; perhaps a lack of chemical food (too little soluble phosphate) is an issue as well>
It gets pretty frustrating because is not only the money ( by the way water movement is done by 4 Vortech MP 40 ) but all the energy and study time ( we have 2 kids 2 and 5 years old so time is important)
<It always is my friend. An important "lesson" in life is to learn how to portion ones attention. "First things first"... your own health, happiness; the family and friends about you... petfish are way down the line of importance>
 and the willingness that I feel I am starting to question.  I feed the fish 4 times a day ( defrost and rinsed Mysis and krill and bloodworms, spectrum pellets, Nori and Spirulina and 2 big fresh clams ( I think this is the term, the black shells) that I keep in my hands until everything is eaten. All the fish eat a lot and they are fat. But I arrived in one point when I look away from the DT when I pass by, just to avoid seeing sick corals . It was not easy at all, all my friends consider me strange at least do all this for a reef tank, even if they like it when they come by. Keep in mind that I live in eastern Europe where LFS are far away and don't stock livestock, and for example a A. Japonicus costs 250 $. For me, having a SPS tank would mean that all that I have done is worth it, but something is wrong, and I am not sure what it is. My wife is supportive, but I would really want to see some results .
So in conclusion I feel that I have done a lot of efforts and at the moment I cannot see the results, so it seems it is very difficult, but I see a lot of successful tanks done with maybe less efforts and I am wondering what am I missing.
Thank you for your patience,
Andrei in snow covered Romania
<BobF in (today) sunny S. California. Do remove the carbon additions and increase the feedings>
Re: The most difficult question. More Biology, Less "Technology""      12/14/13

Hello Mr. F
<Mr. Andrei>
thank you for your answer.  I will stop the biopellets reactor, I was just not sure if my RDSB is mature enough to handle the denitrification by himself,
<You'll likely see no change in NO3>
 my plan was that when the nitrates would arrive to zero I would stop the biopellets .
About the nitrates, increasing the feeding sounds great, but aren't they the ones that fuel the Cyano?
<Not necessarily, no... see WWM re the several inputs here>
 Shouldn't the desired levels be zero absolutely?
The chemo-autotrophic life (e.g. corals, many microbes, algae... ) NEED some/measurable nutrients, including nitrogen compounds and phosphate>
Because I also have a anti phosphates reactor running as well... If the chemical food might be missing for the corals,
maybe I should feed more amino acids and vitamins ( I do it like once every 10 days half the dosage ).
<Am not a fan of such reactors in most settings... "More Biology, Less "Technology"" Is my motto here. B>
Thank you again,
Re: The most difficult question; further input re a/the mysteries of too much, too little and out of balance nutrient issues      12/14/15

Thank you. The biopellets are off.. will see what happens. I took the biological route for sure, with the refugium and live rock tank.
What about all the beautiful tanks in several ' tank of the month ' editions that report zero NO3 and PO4 ? Normally you don't see any outstanding SPS tank presented that has any detectable nutrients.
<Mmm, allow me to "try" explaining: All systems have something/s that are "rate limiting"... An example, let's think of you and I and our desire for more "stuff"... We're likely limited by funds/money... Most aquarium systems have a nutrient limitation... but it is not often well-understood what this is (a topic of huge possibilities): Your system is likely being "too driven" by an excess of available carbon... which is fueling the BGA/Cyano, that in turn is poisoning your stony corals... I am hoping by limiting the carbon and allowing sufficient simple nutrient presence, to have your Scleractinians (et al.) outcompete the Cyano. Now; as to those other systems that are in "apparent balance"; they have NO3 and HPO4 limitation... BY the desired organisms taking these up readily; NOT by their reactor/media removal>
I think this is very important. Lots of people out there would benefit from understanding these basic philosophies.
<Ah yes; I do so agree. Do you understand me above here?>
Please consider that I want nothing less than the most beautiful SPS tank with colors and corals health. I am willing to invest time, energy, and money. What would you recommend as optimal values for NO3 and PO4?
<Low, but still measurable.... a few ppm for [NO3], and 0.05-0.01 ppm or so for [HPO4]>
  And after my system description do you think I would need anything else as hardware or technique?
<Mmm... likely THE best investment in your study, gear is an understanding of RedOx potential, perhaps an investigation into ozone... >

Thank you,
<Thank you Andrei. BobF>
Re: The most difficult question     12/14/15

Oh, and this reading: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_5/volume_5_3/phosphates.htm
Re: The most difficult question     12/14/15

Tank you, I understand.
One more question: I run ozone on my skimmer and have a 350 -380 ORP reading. What do you think about these values?
<I see... this is very good. B>

Plastic media (carbon file for WWM) for marine/reef systems... a bit of warning re plasticizers      11/25/13
Enquiry for publishing a press release concerning environmental and health risks caused by plasticizers in MBBR carriers

Dear Sir or Madam,
On the 25th October 2013, an article dealing with �environmental risks caused by the unintended flushing-out of MBBR (Moving Bed Bio Reactor) carrier media out of wastewater treatment plants� has been published in the 43rd issue of the German industrial magazine �VDI nachrichten�.
<Have read over this>
These carrier mostly consist of synthetic material and are used for the biological waste and wastewater treatment as well as for the water purification in the aquaculture.
<Yes; plasticizers are generally considered necessary to advantageous for such applications>
From our point of view, the environmental and health-related compatibility of synthetic biofilm carrier is an exceedingly relevant topic since these carrier are in a purpose-related connection with the natural water cycle as well as with the human food chain.
We were concerned with the topic �Environmental and health risks caused by plasticizers in MBBR media� and drafted a corresponding article (please see attachment).
If you should be interested in publishing the attached article on your website, we shall be glad to provide you with our press release in an editable format.
<If you'll just send along a link to it (not the .pdf) we can/will just add this to your correspondence here>
We would appreciate it getting a positive reply and we are looking forward to hearing from you.
Best regards,
Christian Börner
<Am cc'ing a friend; Jake Adams, of a news-type site; "ReefBuilders", as they may well want to comment. Bob Fenner>
Sales Mutag BioChip™
NEW VIDEO CLIP AVAILABLE: Explanatory Interview about Mutag BioChip (Link:

Phosban reactor... utility, mis-use     6/21/13
I have a 57 rimless saltwater aquarium. I have a 20 gal sump refugium with macro, a reef octopus 110 skimmer. Would a PhosBan reactor with biopellets do good for my system??
<Am not a fan of these chemical filtrants for most hobbyist systems... See WWM re... IF you're going to keep photo-, chemo-synthates they need measurable HPO4 (and NO3). Biopellets likewise are over-rated. Few systems
have trouble with carbon deficiency. Better to use other methods of control, provision... All gone over and over...
Bob Fenner> 

Re: Tang ID / Coral ID & Advice, now hexoses      6/3/13
Can you recommend a readily available source of simple/hexose sugar for dosing?
<Sure... glucose/dextrose is almost always available at grocery stores or online>

My reading shows fruits and honey; I am assuming this is not something I want to add to my aquarium water.
<Mmm, can be added>
 I see comments on your site where sugar is discussed in line with Vodka (for carbon dosing); but, from what I understand the sugar must come from an additional source. What do you recommend?
<That you keep reading if concerned. Bob Fenner>

using sugar to reduce phosphate and nitrate    4/27/13
Hi Crew.
Have you guys ever experimented with using table sugar or vodka to lower levels of phosphate and nitrates?
<Ah, yes... for quite a few years. Both have their limitations; dangers of overdosing>
 I was on a couple of blog sites and they were discussing this.  Apparently the Germans are doing this.  I don't know what nationality has to do with anything, but since the Germans are doing this, this seems like a good thing or a well kept secret.
Thank You
<Mmm, search on WWM w/ the combination of ingredient and nutrient words.
Bob Fenner>
Re: using sugar to reduce phosphate and nitrate     4/27/13

Thanks Bob.  I will do so.  Unfortunately  I wrote you guys after I had added some table sugar.  The pH dropped from 8.4 to 7.6 or there  about.
 I corrected it and left for a couple of days and came back to find an Acropora that succumbed to RTN.  The pH is still fine, the dKH was around 12.0.  Ammonia and nitrite at 0. Nitrate was around 5.0 ppm.  Well anyways I'm finished with trying to keep SPS in a small system.
<Hard to do>
 Any other coral does fine.
<Cheers, BobF>

Carbon Dosing for a 200G FOWLR system?     2/18/13
I'd like to start carbon dosing, to see if I can reduce the water change volume/frequency in managing my nitrates. Through many threads I've had with you and my review of WWM articles, I've "baked" into my regimen/system natural nitrate reduction techniques but still battle high nitrates, which fuels a recurrent Cyanobacteria bloom.
<Still, worth trying>
I have a moderately stocked (messy) predator tank, however I also have a 400G rated skimmer (ASM G4 at the moment), an 180G rated upflow algae scrubber, and a 6" DSB in my sump. I use Lanthanum dosing to fight phosphate (i.e., dropping it from steady .2 levels at the moment to .03, although difficult to "stay in front of"). I do water changes from weekly to biweekly, 25% to 50% volume. My nitrates hover between 20 and 50.
Within the last week, I decided to try vinegar dosing as an experiment. I dosed about 15mL/day for several days, but stopped when I saw what I believed could be a cloudy bacterial bloom (or could it be haze from the heavy Cyano in the tank?).
<Could be either, both>
As I understand most of the carbon dosing fundamentals per WWM, and see virtually all guidance on carbon dosing presented in relation to reef tanks (versus fish only), I'm curious to know if you suggest or prefer a particular approach to FOWLR carbon dosing - product? vinegar? vodka? sugar? biopellet?
<Pellets are safest, most stable... Bob Fenner>
Re: Carbon Dosing for a 200G FOWLR system?     2/18/13

Bob, very helpful, thank you. One last question, again for a FOWLR in the hundreds of gallons. Aside from price difference, were it you, would you select pellets over a sulfur denitrator?
<Mmm, two different things proposed here; but I'd try the pellets first...
Cheaper. B>
Re: Carbon Dosing for a 200G FOWLR system?    2/19/13

OK Bob, will do, thank you.
I should have all I need for my DIY reactor build, and expect to have the biopellets online in the next few days.
Is there any reason why I shouldn't continue vinegar dosing for a period of time (perhaps at a slower rate, given the bloom)? As I understand that it takes a few months for the pellet reactor to mature/stabilize, and would like to effect a more immediate impact (if possible)....
<There are some inherent risks in dosing, over-dosing CH3COOH... B> 
Re: Carbon Dosing for a 200G FOWLR system?      2/20/13

Bob, thanks. Perhaps I should instead dose vodka or sugar temporarily?
<You could>
I know your answer applies to all of the above, but do you think the benefit of any of these carbon delivery methods would apply to my system?
<... depends on a few factors, but mostly whether there is actually a carbon shortage in the system, and any kinds, numbers of organisms you wish to bolster that will use it. B>
Thanks, Dave

DOC affecting coral color?       12/12/12
Hi crew!  I've been doing some research on your site on various subjects and I have questions.   I am having problems with my corals losing color, specifically a Montipora but they all more or less have faded.  I have recently upgraded my system from a 55 gallon to an 80 gal frag with a 30 gal refugium and so I need to upgrade my protein skimmer.  Currently I am using a Aqua C Remora but quite frankly I have never been impressed with the amount of skimmate that it produces. So I looked on WWM and read Mr. Calfo's recommendations on protein skimmers. I researched out Euro Reef which is now Reef Dynamics.  I went to their website to research out the protein skimmer I needed and I found under the "More Info" on the INS100 the following information: 
    IDEAL: The INS100 is ideal for  "SPS" aquarium systems with a total capacity of +/- 80 gallons with a heavy bio-load. "SPS" systems (aquaria with a focus on Small Polyped     Stony corals) benefit from a high rate of organic extraction as it promotes and enhances coloration in corals by limiting the nutrients available to the symbiotic algae     Zooxanthellae) living within there tissue. In addition, a high rate of organic and particulate extraction increases the clarity of the water which in turn enhances     the penetration of UV rays that stimulate the development of the corals colorful UV protective materials. Increased water clarity also optimizes the efficiency of the      Zooxanthellae a thus decreases the number of the protozoa required to provide the coral with the food (glucose) it takes up in exchange for the CO2 produced by the coral through normal biological processes.
Please tell me if I am reading this correctly.
<"Better" skimming does this>
 So basically if I have a high DOC this will prevent the Zooxanthellae from doing their job and in the end providing the UV material which produces the colors. I believe I have a high amount of DOC since whenever I clean the pads under the incoming water from the tank (in the refugium) they are usually dark brown within a couple of days.
<May need to be cleaned, swapped out daily. You may benefit from using activated carbon on a sporadic basis>
I do get a brown film (diatoms) on the sand and glass in the main tank but not in the refugium.  Could this be the reason my corals are fading?
<There could be many other influences. This might be a contributing cause>
 I have tested for Nitrates and they are at 0. Is there another way to measure DOC? 
<Mmm, not hobbyist kits as far as I'm aware, but there are means. How to put this Dissolved Organic Carbon is not often an issue in captive marine systems; in fact, the opposite: Many folks nowayears add C purposely, lest it be rate-limiting (see the Net re the various "pellets" sold to supply C). It's the kinds of molecules that include carbon that can be more often some source of troubles; e.g. "allelopathy">
Also in my research for measuring DOC on WWM I see where Xenia thrive on DOC...my tank is stuffed with Xenia.  I can't kill it.  I have to give it to the LFS so it doesn't over run my tank.
In the spirit of full disclosure I have written to WWM on the corals fading to which Mr. Fenner replied to maintain a proper amount of phosphate and nitrates which I have been trying to increase. Also for lighting I use T5s (5 AquaSun and 1 Actinic).  I am terribly sorry this email is so long.
Please let me know if there is any information you may need that I left out.  Thank you again crew! Jennifer
<I doubt that DOC is really an issue, but with the skimmer change, time going by, you may well see change here. Bob Fenner>
Re: DOC affecting coral color?     12/14/12

Thank you Mr. Fenner. I think I will upgrade the skimmer and will change out the filter media daily. Thanks again Mr. Fenner!
<Ahh, welcome. BobF>

Carbon Dosing Article   4/13/12
Hi Bob,
The carbon dosing article is also schedule to appear in the next issue of CMA.  If you wish, you can place this on WWM as well.  I believe we are weak in this subject at present.
Re: Carbon Dosing Article

Well done James. Again, I take it these are others, the manufacturers' image work, and that we're okay to run them. B
Re: Carbon Dosing Article
Thank you Bob.  Yes, I have approval from all to use their photos.
Would you like me to forward their emails to you?
Re Carbon Dosing Article   4/13/12

Thank you James... no need to, but you should hold on to for your records. B

Hair Algae/Bio-Pellets - 030112
Hello Everyone,
<<Hiya Rob>>
Second time asking a question, again after spending hours trying to find the answer.
I have a 100g reef tank, approx 80-100lbs live rock, medium coral load, with 11 medium sized fish.  I changed my filtration method from refuge with bio-pellets to sump with bag filters and bio-pellets.  The reason for the change was to try and get a better handle on my never-ending battle with Aiptasia and hair algae.
<<I see>>
(I brought in some pics to my LFS and the look of horror said enough).
<<Uh oh>>
Most of my corals are happy but some are being choked out or irritated by the hair algae.
<<Indeed…competes for the available space/resources like any other reef organism>>
I regularly get the water checked and nothing is out of the norm,
<<Mmm, or maybe just nothing you can test/measure>>
nitrates were high before the bio-pellets but have stayed in check since.
<<This is likely still an issue…with the “excess” being consumed by the nuisance organisms before it can be measured>>
I have heard that the bio-pellets will feed the corals, as a byproduct,
<<This seems to be the conventional wisdom…supported mainly by conjecture and anecdotal proof I think, but no real empirical evidence as I am aware.  I’m not saying it doesn’t happen and/or using this medium is not of some benefit, but do we even know for certain what bacteria strains are consuming/populating this media?  Just some “food” for thought>>
so I am wondering if this same food is feeding my Aiptasia and hair algae as well?
<<I would think not, though who knows what may be introduced as byproducts of the manufacturing process of the pellets.  And if the claims are accurate…this bacterial food element should be “competing for the same foods” (DOCs) as the nuisance organisms you list (FYI – Aiptasia are very good absorption feeders too).
To give you an idea of the growth, I buy 3-4 bottles of Aiptasia killer per month,
<<Perhaps you need a different product/method of attack.  Don’t discount the effectiveness of a Kalkwasser slurry simply squirted over the top of the offending anemone (shut down water pumps, cover the animal completely, and give it a few minutes to work before restoring water flow)>>
and pull cupfuls of algae out weekly.
<<I can sympathize (continually fight these battles myself)…and can tell you, perseverance is key here.  You need to determine and address the issue of excess organics, if possible, but I also find employing “biological” controls to be a big help in most cases.  I feed my captive reef very heavily by comparison to most, so having a variety of herbivores available (Tangs and Rabbitfish, in my case) is a must to keep nuisance alga in check.  I also have found that once Aiptasia have proliferated in your system, short of “nuking” the system and starting over, you will never be totally rid of them.  Biological controls for the Aiptasia (Copperband Butterfly, Raccoon Butterfly, Bristletail Filefish, Peppermint Shrimp, etc.) are not always effective and sometimes even destructive to desirable organisms, though in my experience CBs have always proven valuable re>>
As always, thank you for the help and the info on the site!
<<Happy to share…  EricR>>
Re: Hair Algae/Bio-Pellets - 030212

I unfortunately tried the usual band of cleaners and herbivores with little success; hermits, Mithrax, hares, Copperbands, etc., etc., etc.  They all seem to either avoid the buffet or disappear never to be seen again.
<<Does sometimes go that way>>
I forgot to mention I have Coralife 125g skimmer which when it's not being finicky produces about half a gallon of skimmate per day.  I am going to try the raised magnesium idea next, seems like a lot of folks with good results.
<<Mmm, possibly…have also heard anecdotal accounts of raised pH (8.6) reducing/eliminating nuisance alga.  But what risks are there or what happens when you stop this?  Finding and fixing the issue is still preferred, or employing ‘long-term’ controls (i.e. – biological) to deal with it…though I’m sure you understand I am only stating the obvious.  There is no ‘silver bullet’…finding that “balance” is what’s key>>
The only idea next is cooking the live rock, but the LFS tends to believe the rock I have may not be able to be rid of phosphates to low enough levels (the rock is Caribbean that was used previously in a fresh water setup with a few years spent as landscaping in between).
<<I see…and perhaps exposed to Phosphate/Nitrate plant fertilizers?  But even if not, you likely realize that completely replacing this rock with quality live rock will probably go far in helping with your current issues.  Cheers…  EricR>>

REEF ACTIF Product Review   1/11/12
Hi Bob,
Ran the review by Lou to be sure any statement I made was correct.  Below is his reply and the article is attached for you to review.  Last time I talked to Neale he mentioned that he didn't want any new articles sent to him until he is ready to do the next issue.  I'll contact him and get a date I can send this to him.  May want to post on our site beforehand??
REEF ACTIF Product Review
Thanks James,
 That all seems correct and very positive. I really appreciate it as this is a product that has taken off in a very big way in Europe and is largely unknown here in the states. Whenever carbon dosing is mentioned in anything, it is usually left out as people don't get what it is. Thank you so much for taking the time to understand the product and try it.
  Thanks again and as always let me know if there is ever anything other info you need or questions to be answered.
All the best,
Lou Ekus
Director of US Operations
Tropic Marin USA
Umm, James... 420 words to this "review"? What re comparisons to other means, products of such supplementation? This is more like a "pro-endorsement" than anything. Shall I just post it and Lou's input as email on the dailies? B
Re: REEF ACTIF Product Review   1/11/12
Actually there isn't much to compare it to other than the few bio-polymer products available.  Both Reef Actif and pellets produce the same results by increasing carbon in the system....not much more to say.
<Ahh, no... there are many ways of increasing Carbon... and other tied-in issues/topics to discuss... Such as its importance, cyclicity in biospheres...>
As to pro-endorsement...Mmm, not really, just expressed my knowledge/workings of the product. <...>  The product was not given to me by Tropic Marin, I just wanted an easier means to carbon dose without buying/installing equipment or wasting good Vodka and this became recently available.  And yes, you can place in the dailies with Lou's response if you like and I will not send to Neale.
<Have sent to Neale... and will post as mail on WWM, along w/ this email. DO consider addending and making this into something of substance. BobF>
Thank you,
Re: Where's The Beef?   1/11/12

Hi Bob,
I beefed it up a little.  Does this look a little better?
Mmm, not really. B
Re: Where's The Beef?   1/11/12
Really?  Does the version I sent you begin with "One of the newer trends"?  If so, I find it hard to believe you did not see any improvement.  The comparison between other carbon dosing media is there as well as a brief description on carbon dosing.
<... the piece is 728 words long... too short... it still does not present other alternatives... It reads like an advert. for the one product. B>



By James Gasta


Description: Reef-Actif.jpg

One of the newer trends in lowering dissolved waste in marine aquaria is carbon dosing.  Increasing the bacteria by feeding a carbon source increases the population to effectively remove nitrates and phosphates from the water.  This is not a magic cure that happens overnight, but can take three to five weeks (depending on the nutrient load) to develop a large enough bacterial colony to effectively consume nitrates.  Carbon dosing initially started out with the use of Vodka as a carbon source.  Why Vodka you ask?  Since Vodka contains no additives and contains only water and the organic compound ethanol, it was determined that this would be much safer to use than other spirits which do contain additives that could have a negative effect in the system.  It also proved to be non-economical source as many aquarists have reported large amounts of Vodka disappearing during the night.  A safer method soon arrived on the market which is named bio-polymer pellets.  I believe the name comes from the ability of carbon to form a wide range of polymeric structures which allows this molecule to form essential molecules found within all organisms.  This method of dosing requires a given amount of pellets based on tank size.  It also requires the use of an appropriate reactor with pump and flow control valve.  The valve is used to adjust water flow through the reactor so the pellets gently tumble and slowly release carbon into the system.  Regardless of the carbon dosing media you use, careful monitoring and accurate dosing is required as overdosing can drastically decrease the oxygen level in the water.

Overdosing will also cause cloudiness in the water due to an excess of bacteria. This will be the first sign of danger as at this point the oxygen level will begin to drop.

 Tropic Marin has introduced a new product called REEF ACTIF which basically accomplishes the same function as the above without the need of additional equipment.  REEF ACTIF is dosed by mixing the recommended amount with seawater.  One half teaspoon is the dose recommended to treat a 60 gallon tank every week.  The product is economical to use and a 100ml container should last at least three months for the above size tank.  On larger (150+ gallons) systems it may be more economical to use the pellets with a reactor. 

Tropic Marin's REEF ACTIF is advertised to perform a unique dual function role as both an absorber and bacterial nutrient in marine aquariums.  It serves as the link between inorganic nutrients and the biological population and works much the same as other carbon dosing sources.  REEF ACTIF is a fine powder very similar to the consistency of flour.  (Although I have no documented proof, I believe REEF ACTIF is basically finely ground bio-polymer pellets.) When mixed with sea water, REEF ACTIF becomes suspended in the aquarium water where it bonds with both nutrients and other contaminants making them available as nutrients to bacteria and other animals that require dissolved organic material to survive.  These bonded nutrients are a source of beneficial bacterial nutrition which strongly promotes the reduction of water contaminants.  It is also readily digested by many organisms including clams, corals, and other filter feeding organisms and this will also occur using any carbon dosing media.

Description: Cropped.JPG

This amount will treat a 60 gallon tank for one week. 

I decided to give this product a try since I really did not want to set up a reactor and associated equipment to use bio-polymer pellets.  The less to fiddle with the better I like it.  Before dosing REEF ACTIF, I performed a nitrate test which resulted in a nitrate level of 20ppm NO3.  After approximately thirty days of dosing REEF ACTIF, a nitrate test was performed once again and this test resulted in a nitrate reading of approximately 8-10ppm NO3.  Other benefits I noticed were improved water clarity and a more vibrant coloration to the corals and clam stocked in my system.   

To close, REEF ACTIF performs as advertised and it will surely interest those wishing to lower nitrates by carbon dosing without having to buy the additional equipment needed, or for those lacking space to install a reactor and pump.


Easy to use


No reactor/pump needed


May not be economical in large (150+ gallon) systems

Re: Where's The Beef?   1/12/12
Well, it is a product review and not an article about carbon dosing.  I cannot possibly think of another item to put in there.   I did mention alternatives as far as carbon dosing is concerned....Vodka, and the bio-pellets/reactor.  That is all stated in the first paragraph.  I mentioned nothing about urging people to buy it other than the product works as advertised and produces the same results as the other alternatives.  I also mentioned that it may not be economical in larger systems so it's not really pro Reef Actif but my individual thoughts of the product.  If you don't want to use it in the CA, that's fine by me and you are welcome to post it in the dailies if you like.  I really do not want to do anymore to it.  I kind of felt it was pretty nice piece and informative.
Have you seen/read the piece in the Jan/Feb. Coral Mag? An excellent example of coverage of the topic; but not, as yours, a specific product endorsement/review. B
Re: Where's The Beef?   1/12/12
Have not saw this yet.  Thinking about just getting a digital subscription, much cheaper than the pulp and I can always print out an article if I want to archive it.
<The one article is very pertinent to our discussion re your review pc. WWM, anyone really, needs to have a survey article or such to write reviews "against"... rather than simply endorsements. B>
Re: Where's The Beef?   1/12/12
Are you suggesting that the article should be about carbon dosing products in general and make mention (brand name) of what is available along with their pros and cons?
<Ah yes! Or, IF you want to write such reviews, that you or someone first pen a general survey piece... Do you understand, even agree w/ my premise that it's important for a reference work like WWM to have such? B>
Re: Where's The Beef?   1/12/12
Yes, I understand where you are coming from and I do respect your writing skills/experience and suggestions. By writing a survey piece....what are you getting at......something like a poll to see who likes what. I do see where we do not have much on carbon dosing in the way of articles, just FAQs. Maybe I should consider revamping that piece into an article for the site.
<Ahh, please do. B>

Hi there Crew,
I hope you are all doing fine, I have a question about Vertex Pro bio pellets, how does this filter media work?
<As in mechanism? Supplies a ready source of carbon and space for bacterial reduction of nitrate. Functionally? Does work>
Is it worth the high price?
<Not for me. I'd rather use a large DSB, grow macroalgae...>
I am thinking about adding it to a reactor for my 600 gal FOWLR tank but it seems I would need to buy many bags according their recommendations.
Thanks for your attention
<Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>
Re: VERTEX FILTER MEDIA, now Chaeto culture  11/19/11

Thank you Bob,
I already have a DSB with Chaeto with a single 25 watt fluorescent daylight bulb. I leave it on 14 hrs a day but the Chaeto ball is not growing and it´s been there two months ago, do you think the light is not enough?
<Mmm, maybe... do you have sufficient alkaline earth presence? Ca, proportionate Mg?>
What kind of light and wattage would be correct in your opinion?
<Please learn to/use the search tool, indices on WWM... Your answers are archived there. Cheers, BobF>

Aquael Reefmax question, Nitrates 8/23/11
Hi crew,
You have been most helpful with my previous queries and I was hoping to get your advise on an issue I am facing with my Aquael ReefMax system.
A bit of background on the issue - I set up the tank completely stock with a 1 inch sand bed and live rock. The tank is flourishing with all livestock looking and behaving healthy. I knew from early on that the skimmer was the weak link so I have been doing weekly water changes (15%-20%). I was initially using drinking mineral water but have since moved to RO (4-6 TDS). The tank is setup as a reef and stocked as such.
Based on my previous queries to you about my stocking, I understand that I am okay on stocking though, if anything, topped out. This is okay since I don't plan to add anything.
Parameters - SG. 1.025, Temp - varies between 25 and 26 degrees C depending on the lights. Ammonia - 0, Nitrites, - 0, Nitrates - "the issue", PH - 8.1, KH - 9, CA - 450
The issue I have been facing is that I cannot seem to get my nitrates under control. I moved to RO in an attempt to do so but to no avail. As a result, I have green hair algae popping up in the sand. My nitrates rarely read under 70 unless measured the day after a water change.
<Have you tested your source water just to make sure it isn't adding to the problem, even with an RO/DI it can sometimes add to your problems.>
I have come to the conclusion that aside from the skimmer (which I cannot upgrade because of space constraints in this all-in-one setup),
<The downfall to these all-in-one systems.>
the problem lies with the sponge filter cartridge that the manufacturer recommends be changed every six months. This I assume is a nitrate trap?
<I would guess it is definitely not helping, rinse it out every week with your water change.>
Since the tank is based on a flow system whereby the filter cartridge compartment is on the back-right and this is where the water renters the main tank, I was considering few alternate options if this is indeed the 'source' of my nitrate issue:
1) Keep the filters but replace them much more often.
<Could do but may get expensive, a good rinsing may do the trick.>
2) Convert it into a refuge of sorts my adding some macro algae. My concerns here are that if it grows like crazy, it may impede water flow.
Also, the area is not well lit so this might not work (would perhaps even have the inverse effect if the algae died?). I could address the lack of lighting quite easily.
<Probably too small an area to do much good.>
3) run it completely empty and use it as my syphon area so I can get the dirt out regularly. I have fine sand so cant really siphon the sand much. Soak the cartridges in old tank water for a while and then return them to their spot.
<The easiest way to go, as long as you have adequate live rock the filter isn't really helping much so just getting rid of it may be helpful.>
4) seek chemical intervention in this compartment. Have done a lot of reading but to be honest I am confused and skeptical about the options (Bio-Pellets or Seachem Denitrate etc.).
<These are just band-aids, won't really help solve the problem.>
What has me even more confused is that my phosphate readings are nowhere near as bad. Typical reading is 0.2. Have seen it at 0.5 but not since I moved to RO and revised my feeding of frozen foods.
<The algae may have it tied up.>
Few insights on my feeding routine (which I assume is of relevance here)
- I feed a mix of mysis, brine and Cyclops once every day. Each cube lasts me almost 3 weeks. I dice the cube into daily helpings while still frozen and put it in individual containers that remain frozen until they are to be used. In addition, I feed the Perculas around 3 dry pellets every morning.
<How quick is the food being consumed? What animals are you feeding?>
Would really appreciate your thoughts on what I should do about the sponge filters and what else I might not have thought of to help control the nitrates.
As always, thanks for entertaining queries. It is incredibly encouraging to know one has a place to go when stumped.
<I would just lose the filter pads and see if that helps.>
Re: Aquael Reefmax question, Nitrates 8/23/11

Hi Chris,
Thanks for the quick response. I currently have 2 Perculas, a purple firefish and a clown goby. Also have a cleaner shrimp and fire shrimp and 3 turbo snails. The Perculas are tiny and one will move to my new 65 gallon in 3 weeks. The food is consumed almost instantly (2 minutes tops). All the coral I have is photosynthetic.
<I would probably leave out the frozen food for the time being if all the fish are eating pellets, just make sure you are using quality foods.>
From your advice below, it seems like getting rid of the filters completely may be worth a try. I will remove 2 per week so in 2 weeks they are all gone. I have over 25 pounds of rock in the system and am happy to add more if you think it is needed.
<I think you should be ok as is.>
I wonder what the manufacturer's rationale for these pads was. Should have used the space for a better skimmer perhaps.
<Filters are necessary for fish only systems, plus skimmers are expensive, the filters not so much, add you get to buy replacement pads all which put money into the manufactures pockets, which is the name of the game.>
Oh one other maybe relevant fact; I lose almost 750ml of water a day to evaporation so need to top up every day. The source water tests 0 for nitrates (desalinated water here)
<Sounds normal.>
Thanks again!
Re Aquael Reefmax question, Nitrates 8/23/11
Hi Bob,
In regards to Simon's statement below.
"Have done a lot of reading but to be honest I am confused and skeptical about the options (Bio-Pellets or Seachem Denitrate etc.).
<These are just band-aids, won't really help solve the problem.>"
In my opinion, Simon is incorrect stating Bio-Pellets are just a band-aid. They may not solve the nutrient producing problem but they will definitely lower the nitrates/phosphates. There will always be some carbons present in newly mixed seawater but they are quickly absorbed by the bacteria that converts waste into nitrogen gas. Increasing the bacteria by feeding a carbon source increases the bacteria population to effectively remove nitrates/phosphates from the water. This is not an overnight process as it
can take three to five weeks (depending on the nutrient load) to develop a large enough bacterial colony to effectively do the job.....but it does work. Just my two cents Amigo.
Let's ask him to elaborate. One's Band-Aid may be a lifesaver to another.
Re Aquael Reefmax question, Nitrates 8/23/11
Hi James and Bob,
Is this a statement that you think came from me? Is there another Simon in the crew? I did not make this statement, I am fully aware of how carbon dosing, be it vodka or pellets works... it is related to the 'Redfield ratio' that was originally described for plankton... ie a take up ratio of C:N:P 106:16:1. So by dosing 106 parts carbon you will encourage bacterial growth that reduces nitrogen (nitrate) by 16 parts and phosphorous (PO4) by 1 part.
This is my view on the subject not the one stated below.
Re: Aquael Reefmax question, Nitrates 8/23/11
Hi James and Bob,
Is this a statement that you think came from me? Is there another Simon in the crew? I did not make this statement, I am fully aware of how carbon dosing, be it vodka or pellets works... it is related to the 'Redfield ratio' that was originally described for plankton... ie a take up ratio of C:N:P 106:16:1. So by dosing 106 parts carbon you will encourage bacterial growth that reduces nitrogen (nitrate) by 16 parts and phosphorous (PO4) by 1 part.
This is my view on the subject not the one stated below.
Re: Aquael Reefmax question, Nitrates 8/23/11

Bob, Simon,
Accept my apology. Why I thought Simon wrote this is beyond me. Was actually Chris that answered this query. Sheesh!
Your very gracious apology accepted James, no hard feelings!
Well, let's ask Chris then. B
Re: Aquael Reefmax question, Nitrates 8/24/11
Hi all,
Yes it was me causing problems again. I am not opposed to carbon dosing through the addition of alcohol or some other method, although around my house there is rarely spare vodka for the fish. It's just that in a small FOWLR tank there is little need to feed heavily like a coral heavy or heavily stocked tank thus creating higher nitrates. Plus I hesitate to recommend carbon dosing to someone who's experience level I don't feel is very high, next thing you know they are doing shots with the clownfish, and if you have ever experienced a Premnas biaculeatus after a tequila bender you never want to do that again. While Bio-Pellets and Denitrate are better and safer alternatives in my opinion, in this particular case unnecessary where a little better husbandry would probably do the trick. Anyways, just my 2 cents, and if you think I'm wrong then just continue to blame Simon for the response.
In an unrelated note, James did you finish the LED review, I was at a local shop yesterday looking at a couple of systems, but the kid working there couldn't give me any relevant information other that "they don't get hot or use much electricity". He said testing it with a PAR meter was too expensive so I have nothing to go on there.
And in a note unrelated to the previous unrelated note, Bob I think I found a new WWM crew recruit, I'll put you in touch with him shortly, he has several nice tanks and seems to know what he is talking about. He was also interested in writing articles for the mag, so that could be helpful.
So long and thanks for all the fish,
Thanks Chris. B
Re: Aquael Reefmax question, Nitrates 8/24/11
Just my 'two penneth worth' also... I would agree with Chris and hesitate myself to recommend carbon dosing to reduce nutrients (although it is a valid method of doing so) until all other more traditional avenues had been explored, and especially to inexperienced aquarists... there is always the danger that with the advent of low nutrient systems due to these methods, the casual or inexperienced or UN-conscientious aquarists (of which there are many) are encouraged to overstock their systems with inappropriate fishes.
You can continue to blame me if you like, I am married and quite used to it, and also guilty so never mind!
Cheers, Simon
Re: Aquael Reefmax question, Nitrates & C use    8/24/11

I can agree with you somewhat Simon, but if an aquarist has a serious nitrate problem, this is likely the best and safest way to lower it, although it can take a few weeks.
Poor husbandry is another matter to deal with.

Cloudy Tank 8/18/11
Hey Guys,
Third time writing in! Contacted you last time about an algae problem which has since been cured. Thanks for the help!
<You're welcome.>
My current issue is with a slightly hazy (cloudy) tank. I'm had problems with low alkalinity and high calcium in the past, but pH was fine. I was correcting the problem by adding baking soda. Everything was just fine for awhile. About 1.5 months ago I got some new baking soda from a friend and added it to the tank as per usual. The next day, the tank was quite cloudy/hazy. I assumed I had overdosed and let the tank take care of itself for a few days. Nothing changed...perhaps slightly less cloudy, but still hazy.
<I'm not a fan of baking soda, can be dangerous if not used/dosed properly.>
I read that it should clear-up by itself and there might be a snowstorm and precipitate on the rocks etc. So far, I've had no precipitate at all. I also have some brown hair algae growing in the tank recently, since fixing my last algae problem (red slime). Don't think its related.
Over the past 2 weeks I've been doing 20% water changes every other day, tank is still cloudy. I tested before starting the water changes and both alkalinity and calcium were low (6 dKH and 300ppm),
<A dKH of 6 is not that low.>
but pH fine (8.3). I also tried dosing 2-part alkalinity and calcium, which worked a little ...
<Dosing both parts at the same time can cause cloudiness. Best to dose part B the following day.>
but Alk quickly went low again; this was before water changes. After doing these water changes calcium has climbed, but Alk is low still. Ph is fine ... but my magnesium is very high. Before starting water changes it was at 1,500ppm, its now at 1,650ppm.
<The high magnesium will have an effect on dKH.>
I am not adding anything to my tank right now except 2ml vodka a day (tank volume 110g).
<You might be experiencing a bacterial bloom from the vodka dosing, stop dosing for a few days.>
I'm using the same salt mix I've always used (marinium), so not sure what's going on here. I can't find much info on high magnesium levels, but I'm guessing this, alkalinity and calcium are all doing something strange here.
<I just wrote a short article on magnesium which Bob recently placed on our site. Do read here.
I've also lost about 3 snails, 3 crabs, a cleaner shrimp and a blenny since the cloudiness. Before this, lost almost nothing in the past 6 months except the occasional hermit crab from fighting. Only one coral and its not too happy at the moment.
<Likely due to the 0 nitrate level, corals do benefit from some nitrate present, 4-5ppm would be ideal. Is best to correct one parameter at a time and then move to the next. Your dKH is fine where it is for now. Do not add any more magnesium to the system until levels drop below 1250ppm. You are creating several parameter changes by trying to deal with all at the same time which is likely contributing to your problem.>
All the fish seem to have Ich suddenly as well, with no new pet introductions.
<Likely stress induced re above.>
I also found a pump leaking about 100v of electricity into the tank, this was rectified yesterday. Tank still hazy, any ideas would be very much appreciated! Thanks!
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
My parameters:
Temp: 26 C
Salinity: 1.025
Ph: 8.2
Alkalinity: 6 dKH
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 0
Phosphate: 0
Calcium: 380ppm
Magnesium: 1,650ppm

RedSea P04X + NP Biopellets = THE CRASH   7/4.5/11
Hope all is going well, or at least better than it is for me at the moment.
I try to keep this as short as possible. I have a 200g reef system full of softies ­ Kenya tree, and a huge Medusa coral ( sorry I don¹t know scientific names) all were doing great. Really great ­ medusa coral was well over 2' high and wide and was my showpiece moving back and forth with the Wavemaker.
My nitrates were at around 20, so I thought id try RedSea P04 reducer to reduce my water changes . I was using it in my auto top up for about a month ­ took a holiday to Canada saw the great success and high stocking levels there with SPS corals and quarterly water changes and thought id try some of that. They were using NP biopellets in a reactor, so as soon as I got home I tried the same. But something went wrong.
I thought as the biopellets are "solid vodka"
<Well, sort of: http://glassbox-design.com/2009/np-bio-pellets-carbon-dosing/
feeding the bacteria that reduce nitrates, switching from liquid dosing would not be a problem as its the same bacteriaÂ. So I plugged in the reactor with about quarter of the recommended dosage. All was fine for about a day until the auto top off added more of the RedSea product. I didn¹t think this would be a problem as I had already heavily diluted the top up water. What a mistake.
By the next morning the tank was cloudy ant my medusa was splitting at the trunk (see photo). Over the next few days it totally fell apart. Inside was like black soot mixed with sawdust (calcium I guess) and felt the same ­ you could literally pick out clumps of the stuff ­ it wasn't slimy. Skimmer pulled out about 4 pints of gunk within 48hrs
I've siphoned out the black stuff and dipped the medusa pieces in Seachem Reef Dip (mainly iodine) and put it back in tank. Next day it was coming back so I tried another product from local fish store (haven't seen it come back yet but its less than 24hrs. Also done huge water change, added carbon and Polyfilter. Local fish store thinks it is bacterial
<... decomposition>
and I should just
through it away incase it affects my Kenya trees. But after growing it soo big I would like to salvage it as lots of small pieces if possible ­ if they survive I know they will grow huge again.
My question is, should I restart adding the P04?
<Slowly, yes>
My thinking is that the RedSea bacteria may outcompete the strain that¹s in there now? I am cautious because as the mix of the two products seemed to have reacted badly but I've also heard your not supposed to just stop the RedSea P04 reducer.
Was this because the biopellets needed to be cycled in some way first?
<Not likely, no>
Although it does not say this in its instructions. I would still like to use the biopellets in the future as its a more natural/constant supply of bacteria that cannot be overdosed. The reactor is presently running on an unoccupied tank.
Advise please!
<Smaller doses... what happened here can be described in an operant universe as "something else became rate-limiting", causing this crash. What you did in reaction was excellent. Hopefully all will settle down in the near term... I would dose, add some source of soluble phosphate and nitrate, making sure there is measureable... for your chemoautotrophs. Bob Fenner>
Lex of London
P.s. Sorry about large photos

Re: RedSea P04X + NP Biopellets = THE CRASH   7/6/11
Thanks for the response.
Just too let you know the second dip I done was with a product called" coral rx pro " and it seems to have worked - amazing. I will definitely use this stuff in the future to pre-dip my corals.
<I see this product's ingredients listed as "proprietary": http://www.coralrx.com/documents/MSDS/coralrx_msds.pdf
I tried adding a quarter dose of RedSea p04x and got a small bacteria bloom, so ill hold off on that for a while
Lex of London
<Bob of San Diego>

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