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FAQs on Aquarium Systems (Instant Ocean, Reef Crystals) Synthetic Seawater

Related Articles: Synthetic or Natural Seawater, Saltwater Impressions (Synthetics Review) By Steven Pro, Specific Gravity,  Water Changes/ChangingpH, Alkalinity, Marine Alkalinity

Related FAQs: Seawater 1, Seawater 2, Seawater 3, Seawater 4, Seawater 5, Seawater 6, & FAQs on Mixing, Supplementing, Storing, Moving, Physical/Chemical Troubleshooting/Fixing... By Make/Manufacturer: Natural Seawater. Synthetics: Aquacraft (Marine Environments, BioSea...), Central Garden (Oceanic), Kent Marine (SeaSalt), Red Sea (Red Sea Salt, Coral Pro Salt), SeaChem Marine (Marine Salt, Reef Salt), Energy Savers (Coralife), Tropic Marin, Other Brands... About Buying Pre-mixed Seawater, About  Synthetics Manufacturers Advertising Claims...  Spg 1, Treating Tapwater For Marine Aquarium Use, Reverse Osmosis Filtration 

What brand of salt you use can make a very decided difference. Hippocampus pontohi, the Pontohi's Seahorse.

 Warning about Reef Crystals   1/12/12
> Do you know anyone at this company? 
<Not hardly any more... was acquired, old friends/owners let go...>
Because they need to do something
> about these bad batches of salt.
<Again!? This has been going on intermittently for years> 
I recently got a bucket of salt that > was seriously screwed up.  Every time I did a water change, my
> alkalinity would plummet and my calcium would run off the charts
> (higher than my test kit could measure).  I feel stupid for not
> suspecting the salt mix sooner.  Now I'm hearing that other people
> have had similar problems.
<Ah yes... Will accrue/WWM>
> Cheers,
> Sara
<And you, B>

Salt Mix, IO products mix/use   3/20/2011
Hello I love your site it is very informative.
<Hello Corry and thank you.>
I have a 75 gallon reef set up. I currently use Reef cystals <Crystals>
but the price compared to Instant Ocean ive <I've> decided to switch to IO and dose my supplements. My question is on using the Reef cystals <Crystals>. I do biweekly water changes, and am wondering if it would be ok to use the IO for two of my biweekly water changes, then after my second biweekly change use the reef cytals instead of the IO, then switch back to the IO for two more consecutive biweekly changes and back to reef cystals and kinda keep that going till I finish up the reef cystals or am I heading into some no no land doing that. Oh I currently do not do this. I would like to do it like this as that way I can make my reef cystals last longer and use kinda of as little booster once in a while. Thank you for looking at my question.
<I see no harm doing this providing you monitor your water parameters and dose as necessary. If it were me, I'd mix the two salts together in one container. James (Salty Dog)>

Instant Oceans Reef Crystals/Salt Mixes 1/19/11
Hello,
<Hello Chris>
Just wanted to share with other readers:
I too, fell victim to IO Reef Crystals! Oh the temptation! On sale! My first bucket of salt, why not? (Up till now, I had been buying pre-mixed from the LFS. They were using IO too, but I think just regular). I never thought to check WWM for reading on salt choices.
So I happily went home and mixed some up in a bucket of fresh RO/DI, that I had had "breathing" with a heater and a Hydor Nano 240gph. A few hours later, I checked to see if it was mixed, and found some had settled in the bottom, so stirred it up. Checked a while later and there was nothing at the bottom. The bucket it was in was white, so I didn't notice until the next day when I went to do a water change, but there was a lovely haze of calcium precipitate. Dusty, you might say. It had coated the powerhead and heater with a nice layer of it. It settled out on the LR after a while, and my filters seemed to be catching some of it. Same thing happened the next water change. I was ready to call IO and complain and see if I could return an open bucket of salt, but I thought I would give it one more go. This time, I got my bucket ready (this time with a MaxiJet 600, which I can better direct at the bottom to prevent settling), let it breath for a day, then started adding the salt, 1/4 cup at a time, slowly shaking it in, then waiting 10 minutes or so before the next 1/4 cup. Et viola! No dusty haze. Everything is nicely mixed and clear. Yes, it's time consuming, and no, I will not be buying IO RC again next time (will probably join the "cool kids" and shell out for Tropic Marin), but it's hopefully going to work for the rest of this bucket, and it might work for other reads out there, stuck with a big old bucket of hazy salt.
<Although I have been using Tropic Marin for the last two years, I've used IO Reef Crystals for many years and
have only experienced what you stated above on two occasions. On the other hand, thanks for sharing your experience with us.>
Thanks as always, for such a great resource
<You're very welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Chris

Chemistry problem? Yes. Calcium precipitation in fresh batch of saltwater. Reef Crystals, again. 12/2/2010
Hello again crew,
<Hi Zach.>
I recently moved from a 55g into a 90g tank.
<OK>
I transferred all of my live stock, rock, and sand. I have done this several times over the last year helping friends and such and never had a problem, that is until now.
My water seems to be a milky color and its not from sand or debris floating in the water column.
<I know where this is going.....>
I think my problem was I had a bucket of Instant Ocean Reef Crystals sitting open for a day or so and some of it got crusty.
<Ding! We have a winner! Reef crystals, not the fact that it had gotten a little crusty.>
Well I didn't think anything of it in my excitement and I just mixed it in my big garbage can a couple nights before the move. I always use powerheads and heaters in my make up water and RO/DI water. I tested my water and my calcium is at 440, Alk is 3 when I tested, but I added buffer to bring it up.
<Alk of 3 - was that 3 dKH, or 3 meq\l I suspect it is dKH, which is very low.>
I loaned my magnesium test to a friend so I cant test for magnesium but I don't think it is the culprit.
<It isn't.>
It has been five days and the milky look to my water has not cleared up. I ran some carbon to no effect
and put two large canister filters on for a while but still no luck in getting this haze to clear.
<Assuming it isn't getting any worse, It will not clear unless the water is perfectly still and allowed to settle out. It is calcium carbonate.
All of the alkalinity precipitated out of your water. I'm betting the inside of your trashcan is pretty crusty as well?>
I have had no ammonia spike or nitrite or nitrate. Some of my LPS are less than happy, but I think it is because of the mood and the drastic change in chemistry from adding so much new water.
<Probably.>
My SPS, my Condy, chalice and fish all seem to be happy. Should I throw the rest of this salt away and buy more and start doing big water changes or wait to see if this clears up. I just don't know if this is a serious problem or not or what course of action would be best.
<First thing to do is stop adding any sort of buffers to the tank.
Next, get yourself some new salt, some brand other than Reef Crystals.
Then it is time to start doing water changes
and get your calcium and dKH back into balance.>
If it helps my stock list is, 2 percula clowns, 1 hippo tang, 1 snow flake moray eel, 1 firefish goby, candy cane coral, trumpet coral, Blastomussa, Favia, green star polyps, brown star polyps, various mushrooms and Ricordea, blue clove polyps, several different Zoanthids, feather dusters, 1 peppermint shrimp, 1 cleaner shrimp, 1 coral banded shrimp, pulsing xenia, Kenya tree coral, various sponges, chalice, tuxedo urchin, brittle star, and the various bonus little critters you always get in a reef. I grow Chaeto, mangroves, and feather Caulerpa in my fuge. I run a remora pro with a Mag 5. I have excellent flow in the tank with Koralia power heads, and I run a 18w U.V. sterilizer on the return pump. I can't think if you might need to know anything else. As I said all my fish are eating well and only a few of my coral look angry from the move. Should I ignore this and see what happens or is there some immediate action I need to take.
<Have a read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/caalktrbfix.htm >
Thank you in advance for your advice it has always served me well. Hoping your holidays are great
<and yours as well.>
Zach.
<MikeV>
Re: Chemistry problem? Yes. Calcium precipitation in fresh batch of saltwater. 12/2/2010

Thank you for the quick reply. I was pretty sure it was something to do with calcium and Alk. My Alk was 3meq/l not dKH.
<Ahh, still low, but much better.>
I only have a small amount of regular instant ocean that I will do a water change with. I cannot go out
and buy another bag of salt I am a poor college student with six kids.
If I do a water change with the different salt and just leave the tank alone for a while will it eventually go away on its own or will I be stuck with it like this until I switch to another brand of salt with a lower calcium content?
<It will settle out eventually.>
Thank you again Zach.
<MikeV>
Re: Chemistry problem?  12/3/10

Well I took your advice and mixed up some regular IO salt that I had laying around. However this too was kinda crusty on top and it too mixed up smokey.
Is this normal for instant ocean salts to mix funny if it hardens?
<IO always mixes up cloudy for the first few hours, then clears up in my experience.>
I broke down and spent the money to get a new bag of salt and it mixed up crystal clear.
<IO or another brand?>
Am preparing RO water for a large change. I have a big Rena and a small Eheim canister filter should I hook these up temporarily to help clear the water or will the precip not even get picked up?
<If it is fine enough, it will likely pass right through the filter.>
Thanks again for the advice and helping me figure out what went wrong.
<My pleasure.>
<MikeV>

Salt Mix and Low pH   9/17/10
Hello, and thanks for all the great information available through this web site.
<Hello Rob, and you are welcome.>
My question is specific to the Reef Crystal salt mix and my pH. I make my own RODI and the pH is 9.0 before I mix in the salt.
<The pH of highly purified or RO water cannot be measured accurately by test kits, or by pH meters. One of the reasons for this is that highly purified water has very little buffering capacity, so its pH can easily change.
A well functioning RO unit should produce water with a pH somewhere near 7.0.>
After the mix, it drops to 7.5.
<Sounds correct as there are little to no buffers present in RO water and the buffers in the salt mix are quickly being depleted.>
I have been using this for about 18 months with no problems, but would like to improve my water quality to optimum so I can progress with corals. I see that a pH of 8 - 8.2 would be best. Why would the pH be dropping, and should I be correcting before adding to the tank. If I should correct, what would be the best buffer?
<Yes, I would buffer/adjust the pH to 8.0 - 8.2. And before doing so, allow at least 24 hours after you mix the salt and take a pH reading. As far as buffers go, I personally use Seachem's Marine Buffer, works very well.>
Thanks for any help you can supply.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Rod

Salt Mix Question 8/14/10
I have been using Instant Ocean Salt mix in RO/DI water for water changes.
I note that regardless how slowly ( over days ) I mix the salt into the water I get some precipitate in the 55 g aquarium that I use as a mixing vessel. This has prompted me to have to clean the precipitate between water changes. The last time this happened I filled the aquarium up with RO water and added white vinegar a tablespoon at a time until the precipitate was brought into solution ( probably took a cup of vinegar total).
Is it safe to use this water ( pH of water is 6.0 ) for mix as long as I bring calcium and alkalinity and salinity levels where they need to be by adding salt and buffer?
<I would not use or do. You would be going through quite a bit of buffer to get that pH back up to 8+.>
Does aerating the RO water during the mixing process make the process more apt to precipitation ?
<No, but it is recommended that you aerate the fresh water for 24 hours before adding the salt. During this time period it allows the heater to bring the water up to temp allowing the salt mix to dissolve much easier.>
Thanks\
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Jimmy

Reef Crystals, re snail die-off...  6/24/10
<Hello Tom>
Hey all, just a quick question,
I have tried researching this and have read several threads on Reef Crystals but most are older. I have a 300g system, heavy sps, 6 months old, has RDSB, tons of live rock, fish etc. . I have many years experience keeping
sps and in reefing but I have never seen mass die offs of Trochus snails (red banded). These are the big fat guys, Petco sells them. They are great snails because they usually can flip them selves over. I bought 25 a few weeks in two different lots, acclimated them etc, I'm now down to 2 and can't figure out why. All my params are in check, o trate, 9 dKH Alk, 460 ca, 0 ammonia, 0 trite etc. . All my sps and corals are doing great so I'm not getting why the massive snail die off. I'm seriously thinking of switching to Tropic Marin.
<Do you have predators in your tank that would relish snails? Another thought is that they may be starving to death. Fifty Trochus Snails is a bit much for a 300 gallon tank, and, since their main diet is algae, there likely isn't enough food to satisfy all. Although Tropic Marin is an excellent product and use it myself, switching to it will do nothing to
cure your snail die off. I'd hold off adding any more snails and see how the survivors will fair.>
Have you guys had any reports of issues with small inverts and Reef Crystals lately? I have shrimp and they are happy as all get out, puzzled.
<Have heard nothing in that regard.>
Thanks,
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Tom

Re: Dinoflagellates? 6/25/09
Hello,
<Kiet>
One thing I did forget to mention in my original email (please see below) was that I switched to Reef Crystals right around the same time this outbreak occurred. I apologize as this would have been useful in my first email.
<Might be... take a read re some issues in recent times re A.S. salts: Oh, wait, I see you've done this below>
After reading a couple of other posts here on WWM, it seems as though a few others have had similar issues after switching to RC. I have only been using RC for a couple of months, so I am a little hesitant to switch to another brand. If I did, what brand would you recommend for a reef tank?
<Tropic Marin, SeaChem, Marine Environment, BioSea...>
Any thoughts/advice will be greatly appreciated.
Thank you,
Kiet
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Salt Mix and Cyano/BGA -- 02/11/09 Hello Crew, <<Hiya Mark>> Love the site and use it often. <<Me too!>> I've been battling BGA in my 90 gal reef for about 4-6 months now. <<Not atypical mate'¦once entrenched it is very difficult to eradicate>> Tank was setup in April of 2008. I've written to you previously about this and got some good advice. <<Ah'¦good>> After increasing the light over my refugium the Chaeto in my sump finally started growing and the BGA subsided. <<Excellent>> In December I thought I had this stuff beat. I had also removed my larger sized Aragonite and replaced it with the sugar fine sand. <<Another good move'¦but do you also have lots of vigorous water flow to help keep detritus in suspension?>> I make my own RODI water, and do 10 gal changes every week. <<Hmm'¦ I might consider increasing the time betwixt changes (say 10% every two weeks or even 20% every month) to see if unfinished chemical processes, or introduction of fuels/pollutants from the salt mix, isn't causing the problem>> Auto top-off is buffered RODI water. Tests 0 TDS. Well it subsided for a while and is now back. I haven't changed anything other than adding a few small coral frags which are doing well. I don't feel like I'm overfeeding, none of the fish food ever hits the bottom, and I feed my corals only once per week, less than an 1/8 tsp of Coral Frenzy. I have a small Hammer & Torch, small frag of Zoanthids, small frag of Blastomussa wellsi, an orange plate coral, and a couple of Hawaiian Feather Dusters. All fish and corals are doing just fine. Water Chemistry is just fine, I'm not registering any Nitrates because it's bound up in the Chaeto and BGA, <<Indeed'¦as is any Phosphate>> Ammonia Nitrite, zeros. No measurable Phosphate. I do not have a Magnesium test kit. <<Get one (Seachem)'¦ Ensuring optimum water parameters for your corals health/vitality/growth will help with battling the BGA>> Calcium 425, dKH 9, pH over 8 and steady. System set up in late April 2008: Tank: 90 gal acrylic, with 1 center overflow. I modified the standard drain and increased it to 1.5" and made a stand-pipe for noise reduction. <<Ah!... Very good>> Approx. 60-70 lbs of Live Rock, and less than an inch of aragonite substrate, sugar fine. <<Okay>> Filtration: I built a 3 compartment acrylic sump, with dimensions of 30"x18"x18". Total volume of the sump under operation is about 20 gal. A 6 gal Inlet area holds an AquaC EV-120 running on a Mag 5, produces well. <<Indeed'¦a very good skimmer'¦and a great company with excellent customer service>> The 6 gal center compartment is for return via a MAG 7, and the 8 gal right compartment serves as a refugium that over flows back to the center for return. The tank drain is split off with most of the raw water going to the Skimmer, and flow to the refugium is controlled with a gate-valve. I have over 4" of aragonite (1-2mm size) in the refugium along with a clump of Chaetomorpha. I'm running a bag of carbon in the sump return area, as well as Seachem PhosGuard. <<I'm a huge fan of Seachem's products'¦but for this one (Aluminum is known to be harmful to corals/inverts). I suggest you switch from this Aluminum/Alumina based Phosphate remover to an Iron-based product'¦and utilize a fluidized reactor re>> There is no "filter media" in this system. None of the pumps has the foam suction filter on it. The only Mechanical filtration is the skimmer. <<I see>> Lighting: Tank has (2) 150W 10K Coralife Metal Halide Fixtures (new bulbs in October 08) and 2x55 watt PC Actinics for looks. Metal halides are on for about 10 hrs, Actinics come on in the morning, go off, and come on again in the evening. <<Sounds fine>> The question I have regards my salt mix. <<Ahh'¦.>> I use Reef Crystals and I just looked at the description of it on a web site: "Formulated for reef aquarists. The first salt mix to contain an extra measure of calcium, selected trace elements, and vitamins to assure extended availability of substances that are depleted very quickly in thriving reef aquariums. Also helps detoxify harmful copper and other heavy metals often found in domestic water supplies." I noticed that the last time I did a water change after removing as much BGA as I could by hand, that the BGA returned more quickly than when it does if I don't do a water change and just remove the BGA. <<Mmm'¦>> The description says something about vitamins. Was wondering if this could be fueling the BGA? <<Could be I suppose'¦ I too experienced a like incident with this salt mix. In fact, I have a problem with Aquarium Systems salt products altogether. I used Instant Ocean for more than 30 years until the company went through an owner/management change which then coincided with me receiving multiple batches of bad salt mix for months (everything from not-before-seen inconsistencies in Alk and Calcium levels between orders, to buckets coming to me as SOLID BLOCKS). This went on for almost a year'¦it pained me to do so, but I have moved on to another salt mix as a result>> I also removed some of my LR and rinsed it in tank water during the last change. Grasping at straws here? <<Perhaps not>> Should I look at another salt mix like Tropic Marin? <<I LOVE Tropic Marin'¦but dang is it expensive! You won't go wrong if you choose do so'¦but also have a look at the excellent offerings from Seachem (is what I now use)>> I don't want to spend more money on salt if it's not going to help. <<Understood'¦ But I do consider the Seachem salts to be superior over what you are using now>> This junk covers my substrate about every 3 days with a very thin film, and is getting into my LR now. <<I do think changing salt mixes is worth a try>> Thanks, Mark <<Happy to share. EricR>>

Re: Salt Mix and Cyano/BGA - 02/12/09 Thanks EricR, <<Welcome Mark>> I forgot to mention that I also drilled the tank for a closed-loop. <<Excellent>> I have a MAG 18 running a loop around the top, with 4 outlets, 1/2" each. <<Ah! Super>> I'd say I have decent circulation in the tank, but it's not excessive. <<Okay>> As far as testing for magnesium levels, I've read that as long as you use a quality salt mix and do regular water changes that it should the magnesium levels should remain in a good ratio with the calcium. <<Indeed, all things being perfect'¦but these small bits of captive ocean we strive to keep are usually anything but. I by no means want to dissuade you or anyone else from doing frequent partial water changes as I think this IS the single best maintenance practice. And it's very possible you are correct in your assumption re the Magnesium levels'¦ But when things go awry'¦as has happened with your Cyano outbreak'¦it's best to check/know for certain what your water parameters truly are>> Knowing what it is would be better, so I'll get a test kit. <<Very good>> I'll try cutting back on water changes and see what happens. <<And just to be clear'¦ Not 'cut back' in the literal sense, but rather try slightly larger volume changes a bit further apart in frequency>> I'll also get a bucket of Seachem Reef Salt and see what happens. <<Is good stuff>> I haven't really noticed any inconsistency in the Reef Crystals, and I pre-mix my salt immediately after a water change in prep for the next one. <<Ah good'¦ It is important to give the newly mixed solution some time to 'mature'>> I have a 29 gal tank in the closet next to the display with pre-mixed salt water, and I use valves to pump the new water back through my closed-loop during water changes. <<Neat>> The dKH and Calcium seem to be consistent from batch to batch and bucket to bucket. <<Perhaps Reef Crystals has remained more consistent'¦though there is still the suspicion of something feeding/fueling the BGA. Allowing the water more time to mature may help if this is the case. And you might even consider adding a small amount of tank water to the mixing container a few days after mixing a new batch, to introduce microbes that might possibly reduce/consume any 'problematic' elements>> Thanks again, I'll keep trying. Mark Gustin <<Happy to assist. Eric Russell>>

R2: Salt Mix and Cyano/BGA - 03/06/09 Hey crew. <<Hiya Mark>> I'm following up on my BGA problem, which EricR was helping with. <<Ah yes, I do recall>> I included all previous correspondence below. <<Always helpful. Thank you>> I've made the following changes since my last e-mail on Feb 12. 1.) Removed Seachem PhosGuard from the sump and replaced with carbon. Now I have two bags of carbon in the sump. 2.) Rinsed & brushed some of the LR in tank water to remove detritus. 3.) Changed LR structure to allow more circulation through and behind the LR. 4.) Used a power head to blow off LR that I could not remove. 5.) Increased the amount of buffer added to my RODI top-off water. 6.) Reduced water changes to one 10-15 gal change per week. <<All good strategies>> I still have the BGA but it's not as prolific as it was. <<Can be slow? very slow? to conquer/eradicate a heavy infestation (and I speak from experience)>> It is definitely retreating again and has changed from an olive green/tan color to a more yellowish rust color. <<Comes in many colors/strains? perhaps this is an indication you are indeed making changes to the environment that are ?less favorable? to the Cyano>> It also isn't growing as much on the LR as it was. Most of it is on the sand now in the front of the tank. Ironically, this is the higher flow area, go figure? <<Hmm? Is this covering on the sand still in ?sheets??slimy to the touch? Considering the fore mentioned color change, could the Cyano be gone and what you now see is Diatoms?>> I have not switched salt brands from Reef Crystals to Seachem yet, as I don't seem to be having any chemistry issues, and I still have half a bucket of the Reef Crystals. <<Okay>> As you suggested, I bought a Salifert Magnesium test kit (almost $50) and my Mg measures 1470 with calcium at 425. Low Mg doesn't seem to be a contributing issue to the BGA, would you agree? <<Yes>> I know it's hard to answer this question. What dKH should my top off water be as a rule of thumb? <<Generally, about that of NSW (8 ? 12) or slightly above>> It seems as though I have to buffer it to a fairly high value (above 12) to keep the tank above 8. <<Mmm, then I suggest another form of supplementation>> The tank probably uses about 1/2 gal per day of top off water. It will increase to about 1 gal per day in a few months when summer hits. Yet at times it wants to slip below 8 in the display if I don't supplement it occasionally directly in the tank. <<If you are looking for something more automated it may be time to consider the addition of a Calcium Reactor? and/or the addition of a Kalkwasser Reactor to your top-off system>> Either way, my dKH is more stable than it was before I increased the buffer in the top-off. <<You could also experiment more with this I think>> Hopefully I've reached a tipping point with the BGA. <<My fingers are crossed>> I've let the Chaeto grow in my refugium to the point where it's filling about half the space. <<Ah yes? more mass>> I'm afraid if I harvest some of it, the BGA may regain strength. <<As long as there is space and the ball is healthy you can continue to let it grow. This Macroalgae does tend to grow in a very ?tight? configuration? Try spreading the mass apart a bit to increase light to the interior (be mindful of Bristleworms!)>> I also need to keep an eye on Phosphate levels since I removed the PhosGuard. Will the Chaeto control Phosphate levels? <<It will help? If Phosphate accumulation is a concern then look in to one of the iron-based removers. Likely a surprisingly small amount in a suitable reactor will suffice>> Any idea why the BGA is now retreating with only the little adjustments made above? <<You have affected a shift in balance away from whatever was favoring the Cyano (perhaps a result of just one item you listed? or the accumulated effect of all)?often it can be ?just the little things?>> Thanks for the suggestions. I'm going to beat this junk! I hate to lose! <<I wish you continued success!>> Mark <<EricR>>

IO what it used to be? 1/18/09 Did Instant Ocean Get Bought Out? 1/19/09 Hello, <Hi Greg> Did Aquarium Systems get bought out? <I don't believe a complete buyout or merge. Marineland now markets some of their products leaving Instant Ocean limited to sea salt, test kits, protein skimmers, and water treatments, and, I believe the Aquarium Systems name has been changed to Instant Ocean. See here. http://www.instantocean.com/InstantOcean.home> Is Instant Ocean what it used to be? <In my last contact with them, I was assured the product quality has and will be maintained. (Personal conversation with Bob Studt, Aquarium Systems.)> Are the IO salts still ranked just below TM by Bob Fenner? <I'm thinking so but Bob may input here.> <<Mmmm, not so any longer IMO... there are more consistent, better products. RMF>> I'm having trouble finding trust worthy info about this. I'd appreciate your opinion/knowledge on this matter. <I would feel comfortable with their sea salt, have used it for years with no problems. At present I am using Tropic Marin salt and feel it may be a tad better, but haven't used it long enough to form an opinion. I do know that Premium Aquatics uses Tropic Marin exclusively in their display systems.> Thank you, <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> Greg

Aquarium Systems Follow Up 01/20/09 Dear James/Bob, I was reading today's posts and saw the exchange regarding Aquarium Systems and Bob's thoughts on their salt. Are the IO salts still ranked just below TM by Bob Fenner? I'm thinking so but Bob may input here: "<Mmmm, not so any longer IMO... there are more consistent, better products. RMF>" I am interested in Bob's thoughts on what he considers more consistent, better products. <<Mmm, SeaChem for one... RMF>> I use Reef Crystals and have had great luck with it. I'm hesitant to change something that's working, <Yes, changing salts can cause troubles if you don't do so gradually.> but I'm always interested in learning from those who are in the biz/know to protect my investment. I know Tropic Marin is the top of the line, but I can't bring myself to spend $65 for salt when I can get a quality salt for $30. <I'll forward this back to Bob so he can answer you. But, in the mean time, you might find this interesting: http://www.aquariumwatertesting.com/AWT_Salt_Analysis_0208.pdf > Thanks! <Cheers, Sara M.>

Sea Reef Crystals 5/11/08 Dear A. Nixon, Scott V. or anyone else that might know: <Hello Andy, Scott V. with you today.> I have been following with much interest the various posts regarding the bad batches of Instant Ocean/Reef Crystals ("Sea Salt Mix and Calcium 05/02/2008") and was wondering if anyone could share in more detail the kinds of problems being reported and whether anyone at a "higher lever" has been able to determine what, if anything, is going on (or not)? <I have heard mainly complaints of low calcium/alk in this mix that is supposed to have increased levels. I must say I am personally a big fan of Instant Ocean, so I have periodically given Reef Crystals a try throughout the years. I never saw any abnormally low levels in my makeup water, but never saw any levels higher that the standard IO salt. My personal gripe with the stuff is getting it to completely dissolve.> I use Reef Crystals and am in need of a new bucket of salt. Generally, I have no complaints about RC and you simply cannot beat the price (unless you choose an unscrupulous e-tailor that charges you $30 for shipping alone)--I once got a bad bucket of Instant Ocean (high phosphates), but otherwise I haven't had any problem with this manufacturer. I was wondering how wide-spread these reports/problems are? <Not too common, many use this salt exclusively without issue.> I tested my RC make-up water and it checked out fine--at a specific gravity of 1.025, alk was 3.2 meq/L, calcium was 430, and magnesium was a little low at 1160. <These levels are fairly good, what it should be (other than the Mg, a problem with most salts).> Would you please tell me the date of Steven Pro's "Salt Mix Impressions" and whether anyone has published more recent studies? <The article was published in the CMA May/June issue of 2006. There are many, many other studies/opinions out there, both quantified and not. A simple Google search of aquarium salt studies will yield you more than most would ever care to read on the subject!> I see that the 200 g buckets of Tropic Marin are sold out most places, which tells me this is a very popular brand. <And difficult/slow to get in many areas.> I see that this is a reputable/good brand of salt, but is it really worth $30-$35 more per bucket(my LFS uses Tropic Marin)? <Not for me, I see no benefit to switching if you have no problems with your current salt. > While searching the internet, I found this piece about misleading/false advertising/packaging by manufacturers: http://www.northcoastmarines.com/salt_comparison.htm. Not sure if it's a legitimate study/piece or not, as it looks like it's hyped by a retailer that pushes Marine Environment® dual phase formula salt (never heard of it), but it's worth a read. <An interesting article with many truths. It is curious how it ends with making the exact claims about the salt being marketed in the piece that the body of the article says are false/impossible with the other salts.> Please keep adding info about these products to the Aquarium Systems post-page so we can keep up to date with what's going on. The concept of dedicating pages to posts about specific/popular manufactures and products was great thinking and a big help to us. It makes finding information about that issue much easier. <It is nice to be able to read other's experiences/opinions regarding specific products, but do keep in mind it is just that: one person's opinion! There is no one correct way/answer to almost anything. Fact of the matter is most major brand salts are fine for aquarium use. You will here this from one source and the complete opposite from another about one brand of salt. Find what works for you and stick with it. I had personally fallen in love with the Red Sea Pro salt, but went back to IO just because of supply problems in my area. Price, availability to you and what it does in your tank are all factors that will vary from person to person.> Take care. Andy <You too Andy!> Salt Mix and Calcium 05/02/2008 Dear Crew, <<Hello, Andrew today>> I recently chose to stop purchasing pre-mixed saltwater from my LFS. I bought a good RO/DI system and some Reef Crystals sea salt mix based on readings from your site. I was disappointed to find that the salt mixed to a 1.026 specific gravity only contained 300ppm calcium according to my testing kit. <<I have to say that there have been quite a few reports recently of Reef Crystals producing lower levels of trace elements, is a concern>> I've tested the mixed water twice now to the same effect. Do you suggest that I try a different salt mix brand next time, or do you suspect that all brands are like this? <<I was a personal user of RC salt and was suffering similar results, i changed over to SeaChem salt as a test, and now all my trace elements before introduction to the tank are all acceptable. So, yes, maybe switch to a different brand after the RC has been used up. Possibly buffer until you change>> If necessary, I will begin dosing calcium to around 400ppm in my water column, but I'd prefer to stick with my 15% water change per week. Any suggestions? <<As above, dose until RC is used up, and try another brand of salt like SeaChem for example>> Thanks so much for the help! <<Thanks for the questions, hope this helps. A Nixon>>

Switching Salt Mixes 3/12/08 Hello again! <Hi Ryan> It seems I may have run into a problem with a bad batch of salt. I'm now wondering if switching would be a good idea? I currently use Reef Crystals and have seen you sing the praises of Tropic Marin, would you switch? <That would be your decision. I've been using Reef Crystals since it's inception with no problems at all. Tropic Marin is a good salt mix but whether it is worth the extra money, I do not know, have never used it.> Let me explain the problems I've been having. First of all my salt water mixing bin has been getting coated with a brown slime a day or so after mixing, I assumed this was due to using a pump that was dirty, or a dirty heater, I've since then cleaned both with bleach (yes I rinsed and used dechlorinator after :). My tank has been getting a lot of brown algae on the acrylic, and a few spots on some live rocks. Well since this has happened the problem seems to progress after doing a water change. I really thought this was some sort of dinoflagellate, but after doing some posting on a forum it was ID'd (not positively for sure) as chyrsophytes, related to dinoflagellates but not quite as nasty. After thinking of all the things that could cause this I finally narrowed it down to my salt, or at least a good possibility. I then decided to do some searching and found that Reef Crystals recently had a bad batch go out, this was a few months ago, but I have a little stockpile of salt in my house, can't miss a deal you know! <Was this "bad batch" confirmed with Aquarium Systems or hear say?> I contacted the seller of the salt and they told me when it was purchased and asked if I could do a calcium test. I tested the calcium at 310 with a SG of 1.024, too low. I told the supplier of the salt about this and they asked that I check the other bucket I have, that one tested at 410 with a SG of 1.022 (didn't bother mixing to 1.026). Obviously something was off with the first bucket. I'm not concerned about the missing calcium, but I am concerned about what took it's place in the bucket. If certain trace elements were added in higher doses, I believe that could have initiated the algae "bloom"? I have done some reading and it seems one of the big causes of chyrsophytes is molybdenum, is that correct? If it is, then perhaps that was the entire problem? Well this leads me back to my initial question, would it be best to switch? If so, what should I switch to, the Tropic Marin? I can continue to use the Reef Crystals but I will always test every single new bucket I receive from now on, I should have done that in the first place. I have one last question for James. I read a FAQ on this site about RO/DI and how he suggested using tap water (as a last resort) and adding Chemipure into the "bin" along with the water. After a day or so the water appeared nice and clear. I'm wondering if this would be a good process for all of us to get into, even if we use RO/DI? What about using Chemipure or Chemipure elite after adding the salt, would that help remove an PO4 contained in the salt mix? <Yes.> I guess I'm just curious about this and would like to hear some more information about his technique with the Chemipure. <I just use Chemipure in an old canister filter and filter the make-up water 24 hours before adding the salt. Do remove the Chemipure before adding the salt. Since your likely to ask, I'll give you my water parameters before I send this email. Ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrate 0.5, phosphate 0, calcium 360, Alk 9.6 DKH, Mg 1300, Ph 8.2, SG 1.025, and temp. 79. Thank you for any help or opinions! <Ryan, I will forward this to my contact at Aquarium Systems. Is best to hear from the horses mouth than others. I will send you the info I receive from Aquarium Systems. James (Salty Dog)>

Re: Switch Salt Mixes 3/14/08 Hi James, <Hello Ryan> you asked for more information, or proof that Reef Crystals salt had an issue lately. This is the latest thread I could find. Thank you for your reply, I have a link for you. http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=1315373 I will be sending the company I bought my salt from 2 cups of salt to verify my test results. <After looking at the link, seems like the problem is sporadic but still an issue. Thank you for updating us. Haven't heard back from Aquarium Systems yet, but do not expect to in the near future with the amount of emails they must be getting by now. James (Salty Dog)>

Which Salt? 3/2/08 Hi guys. Jake here I know you guys must have a forum on this, but I looked forever and could not find anything on it. I was at the LFS and they told me that that marine environments and BIO-SEA salts were a million times better than IO. <There is a minimal difference, if any. Instant Ocean is a constantly good salt.> I use IO and have a pretty good bit of nuisance algae. They said the IO salt was a cause for that. <Hmmm, no, do look into other factors. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/avoidingalgaeproblesm.htm and related FAQ's, articles.> I was just wondering is the BIO-SEA salt really that much better than IO? Is it really worth the money? <Not my money. I have nothing against the Bio-Sea, I just have no problems with Instant Ocean either.> Thanks again you guys, Jake <Welcome, Scott V.>

Re: Fall 2007 Sea Scope Article, livestock longevity survey, Instant Ocean salt...   1/5/08 I will put something together for a brief, hopefully easy survey and send it to you. I'm not sure how the results would be collated, but I'll try to draft something with individual fields so that later sorting will be possible. <Simple accumulation of data will do for now...> Now a question: I've not seen reference to this before, but I can't believe I'm raising it for the first time. Having added Instant Ocean salt to my RO/DI water, my nitrate level went from zero to 40 ppm. I used a Seifert test kit and checked it a few times over two days. The result was consistent for both the RO water and the salted. Do all the salt mixtures add nitrate? <Mmm, no> Could this have been a bad (dirty) batch? What gives? Thanks. And your book is superb. Eric <There have been more than a few such observations re the "new" ownership of Aquarium Systems and their salts; please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/aqsysio,rc.htm Bob Fenner>

My Instant Ocean Salt Raises My pH To 8.8 -- 11/13/07 First off, thank you for all the help you guys give to us ignorant hobbyists. <<Mmm, not 'ignorant' I'm sure'¦>> I'm very new to the hobby and this is my first time writing a question, but I've already spent countless hours on your site, and reading "The Conscientious Aquarist." <<Excellent>> Great book by the way. <<Much in agreement>> Anyways, I inherited a VERY dirty 120g tank and took about 50% of the original water (all the fish in it died after 1 hour of transport). <<'¦!>> It has a huge wet-dry trickle filter (already replaced bio-balls with live-rock 2 months ago), about 45 lbs live rock (plan on getting more), I added 1- snowflake eel, 4- damsels, 1- arrow crab, 1- zebra hermit, 1- scarlet hermit, about 10- blue-legged hermits, and about 6- turbo snails (used to be a lot more but they've been dying off. I'm assuming it's due to my nitrate issue). <<Oh?>> Ammonia - 0, nitrite - 0, nitrate - 80 (gone down recently from over 160!), <<Yeeikes!>> pH 8.8, <<Too high as you know, do get this down to about 8.4>> Phosphates- 1.0, <<Way too high'¦ Everything needs Phosphate to survive, but you should strive to keep this reading below 0.02ppm>> Specific gravity- 1.022. <<Natural saltwater levels are best'¦1.025/1.026>> Despite the levels, all the fish seem to be doing fine (except for the snails R.I.P.). <<Maybe not for the long term'¦but then maybe these readings are not as they seem'¦do verify them/the efficacy of your test kits>> I just bought a 5-stage RO/DI that will cure my phosphate problem so my only problems now are nitrates and pH. I age the water in 3 separate closed 6g tubs each with their own airstone for 24 hours. The pH at this time is 7.4 (nitrates 0). I then add 3 cups of Instant Ocean and after another 24 hours the pH is at 8.8! <<Troubling'¦assuming the tester is accurate, something is terribly wrong here. I will also state that after about 3 decades of use, I recently changed from using Instant Ocean salts due to troubles with the last dozen or so buckets I've purchased>> I have done multiple tests and always the same. <<I see'¦with new kits, and of different brands?>> Is this normal for synthetic salts? <<Not in my experience and not with this brand>> Should I use an acid buffer for all my change water and if so what kind? <<I wouldn't'¦ If this is truly a characteristic of the salt mix, I would consider a change'¦and my recommendation for a switch is the Seachem brand of artificial sea salts>> For my nitrate problem I've added a ton of Denitrate chemical media, I do a little more than a 15% bi-monthly water change, and I have a large hang-on turbojet Berlin skimmer. Am I doing anything wrong? <<Until the nitrates are brought down I would increase the water changes to bi-weekly. I would also recommend a better/more efficient skimmer>> Suggestions to better my set-up? <<Along with what I've already stated, the addition of a refugium with a DSB and Chaetomorpha macroalgae would be beneficial'¦but you also need to determine the source of the Nitrates. You state you've just acquired an RO/DI unit which should help here as well if the Nitrates are coming from your source water (have you tested this?). I would also add as small canister filter with cut-up Poly-Filter in it>> I apologize for the length. <<Not a problem>> I just want the best for my fish. <<Please do read here and among the associated links at the top of the pages: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/filtration/marineFiltr.htm >> Thank you so much for the help! -Phil <<Happy to assist. EricR>>

Salts, purposely over-rich in alkaline reserve    7/25/07 I am new to your site, and I have found it very informative. <Good> I just started a saltwater tank and have found it to be a little tough on keeping my Alk. Levels at a mid range. <Mmmm, due to?> It seems the I.O. salt I am using has a high Alk. level and I thought the levels should be @7.5 but I am at 12-13. <Yes... formulated thus> I only have L.R. in the tank and I am on a RainSoft system. I have read up on the salts and it seems most out there are high, is there a reason? <Yes... are made for "average" hobbyist conditions... with reductive (as in RedOx) settings that "eat-up" alkalinity/alkaline reserve... to prevent rapid drops in pH... By design. Bob Fenner>

Liquid Calcium...Safe To 'Boost' New Saltwater? -- 07/23/07 Hey guys. <<Howdy Steve>> I have been reading your articles for several years now, you guys are great. <<Thank you...quite the collective effort, indeed>> Here is my situation: I have noticed that the IO Reef Crystals salt that I am using only mixes to 340ppm of calcium. <<Mmm, just a 'personal' comment...I have been very unhappy with Instant Ocean these past months...am suspecting a formula change or a possible loss of quality control...will be making the switch to Seachem very soon>> I am using C-Balance in my 55-gallon reef to maintain proper calcium and alkalinity. Can I use Kent Marine liquid calcium in my freshly mixed saltwater? <<You can, yes>> I have read about all of the drawbacks in using liquid calcium so I have tried to stay away. <<Mmm, yes...possible buildup of Chloride...though maybe not that much of an issue after all>> However, I figured that the 5-gallons per week that I am replacing really is not that much'¦so there won't really be any ill effects. I have found that 5ml of the liquid calcium will get to me to around 400pm of calcium in my 5 gallon bucket. Can you think of any drawback that this would have for my tank in the long term? I am thinking it will be ok'¦ Steve <<And it probably will... There 'may' be some concern over long-term buildup of Chloride ions...and if you wish to avoid such you could use a Calcium Acetate or Calcium Gluconate product, or even simple Kalkwasser. EricR>>

Synthetic salt going bad? 7/21/07 Hello crew and thanks for all the great advice. I searched the FAQs but couldn't find any incidence that were similar to my situation. I have been making up my salt water in a Brute trash can using RO/DI water for a few years. Recently I have made two consecutive batches that have had a mild fowl odor. On the second batch I noted no odor after the water had been aerated for 24 hrs with a powerhead, but about an hour after adding the Instant Ocean I noted a fowl <Heeee! Smells like a bird?> odor. I would not expect the solid salt mix to have microbial growth problems, but I wanted to see if there is any history of this. Thanks again. <Well... the folks at the new AS keep claiming there is nothing new re their salts, but we have had a few reports to the contrary. Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/aqsysio,rc.htm I would keep aerating this batch, perhaps add a carbon filter of some sort... Bob Fenner>

Change In Reef Crystals Formulation 7/14/07 My 50gal marine tank (fish and inverts with live rock) has been established for nearly two years, and several months ago I decided to convert it to a reef tank. In preparation for the conversion, I began looking into switching salt mixes, as the Instant Ocean I had been using appeared to be deficient in calcium and magnesium. (According to my tests, IO mixed to 35ppt (SG 1.026 at 80F) contains only approximately 300mg/L Ca and 1100mg/L Mg.) I decided to try Reef Crystals, and the first batch of water I prepared (again, at 35ppt or SG 1.026 at 80F) contained approximately 380 mg/L Ca and 1250mg/L Mg. So I decided to switch to Reef Crystals for the increased Ca and Mg levels (closer to NSW). A couple of months ago (and a couple of bags of Reef Crystals later) I noticed that the saltwater I'd prepared for a water change was slightly low in Ca but significantly low in Mg, testing at 350mg/L Ca and 1100mg/L Mg. Likewise, water prepared from the most recently purchased bag of Reef Crystals tested at 340mg/L Ca and 1130mg/L Mg. From my observations it appears that Aquarium Systems has reduced the levels of Ca and Mg in their Reef Crystals formulation. If this is the case, then it is now not much better than IO, especially with regards to the Mg. I'm using SeaChem Calcium and Magnesium Reef test kits, have done many of these analyses in duplicate, and have verified the integrity of both tests using the reference standards supplied with the kits. I use deionized water to prepare saltwater for water changes and use both a box hydrometer and handheld refractometer to check salinity. I've not yet contacted Aquarium Systems - they don't appear to offer customer support via email and I've not had/taken the time to call. Has anyone at WWM made or heard of anyone else whose made similar observations, or heard definitively that Aquarium Systems has changed it's formulation of Reef Crystals? <I have contacted Aquarium Systems for their input. Probably will not hear from them till Monday. At that time, I will send you my reply.> Thanks in advance for your help. <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> William

Re: Change In Reef Crystals Formulation? 7/18/07 My 50gal marine tank (fish and inverts with live rock) has been established for nearly two years, and several months ago I decided to convert it to a reef tank. In preparation for the conversion, I began looking into switching salt mixes, as the Instant Ocean I had been using appeared to be deficient in calcium and magnesium. (According to my tests, IO mixed to 35ppt (SG 1.026 at 80F) contains only approximately 300mg/L Ca and 1100mg/L Mg.) I decided to try Reef Crystals, and the first batch of water I prepared (again, at 35ppt or SG 1.026 at 80F) contained approximately 380mg/L Ca and 1250mg/L Mg. So I decided to switch to Reef Crystals for the increased Ca and Mg levels (closer to NSW). A couple of months ago (and a couple of bags of Reef Crystals later) I noticed that the saltwater I'd prepared for a water change was slightly low in Ca but significantly low in Mg, testing at 350mg/L Ca and 1100mg/L Mg. Likewise, water prepared from the most recently purchased bag of Reef Crystals tested at 340mg/L Ca and 1130mg/L Mg. From my observations it appears that Aquarium Systems has reduced the levels of Ca and Mg in their Reef Crystals formulation. If this is the case, then it is now not much better than IO, especially with regards to the Mg. <I have been informed by Aquarium Systems that there have been no formula changes to Reef Crystals. At a SG of 1.026, Reef Crystals typically has 440mg/l Ca++ and 1320mg/l Mg++. They allow for a +/- 5% variance so you could see 418mg/l and 1250mg/l respectively at the same SG. Lower SG levels will of course yield proportionately lower levels of all ions. My contact at Aquarium Systems has tested their salts daily for over 13 years and finds them to be very consistent in both calcium and magnesium levels.> I'm using SeaChem Calcium and Magnesium Reef test kits, have done many of these analyses in duplicate, and have verified the integrity of both tests using the reference standards supplied with the kits. I use deionized water to prepare saltwater for water changes and use both a box hydrometer and handheld refractometer to check salinity. I've not yet contacted Aquarium Systems - they don't appear to offer customer support via email and I've not had/taken the time to call. <They do offer customer support by email. Just go to www.aquariumsystems.com and click on the technical support link.> Has anyone at WWM made or heard of anyone else whose made similar observations, or heard definitively that Aquarium Systems has changed it's formulation of Reef Crystals? <No, there have been no formulation changes to Reef Crystals, and if there were, it would be to better the product. I personally have been using Aquarium Systems salts for over 20 years, and have no problem with the product. You may want to try a different test kit and compare readings. I use Salifert and LaMotte Test Kits, my personal favorites. Hope this has been of some help to you. Steven Pro has written an article on salt comparisons. You may want to read it here in our Conscientious Aquarist On Line Magazine. http://wetwebmedia.com/ca/CAHomepage.htm> Thanks in advance for your help. <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> William I erred in not mentioning that yes, occasionally we do hear of aquarists reporting on various salt brands, but here is a link to FAQ's regarding Instant Ocean and Reef Crystals. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/aqsysio,rc.htm James (Salty Dog)> <<Well-done James. RMF>>

Re: Change In Reef Crystals Formulation?  7/27/07 James, thanks for checking into this with Aquarium Systems. <You're welcome and sorry for the delay. Have been in the process of setting up a new reef tank...lots of work as you well know.> Sorry for the misunderstanding about the email support -- I checked their site some time ago and didn't notice this option. <Is there.> And thanks for pointing me to Steven Pro's article. However, it appears to actually support my results rather than those from Aquarium Systems. Mr. Pro analyzed two samples of Reef Crystals, both prepared to a SG of 1.025, and they contained 340 and 350 mg/L Ca. In fact, these results were no better than those he reported for Instant Ocean (340 and 360). Even after "adjusting" these results to a salinity of 1.026 this still only gives you an average of 360 mg/L Ca. This result is closer to the results I observe than to the 440 mg/L Ca you mention <What I mentioned comes from Aquarium Systems.> as "typical" for Reef Crystals. Thanks again for your help. <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> William

Re: Change In Reef Crystals Formulation? 7/27/07 James, I was waiting for a response to my follow-up email and then realized I hadn't posed any additional questions or actually requested any sort of follow-up from you. So I apologize in advance if you hadn't yet responded simply because you were still looking into this. <Sorry for the delay, have responded earlier today.> In any event, I wondered if you have been able to or would be able to follow up with your contact at Aquarium Systems since Stephen Pro's data also appears to support what I'm seeing. Something I've thought of since then: Is it possible that the saltwater they use for their QC testing is prepared to 35ppt *by weight* (i.e. dissolving 35g salt mix in water and diluting to a total volume of 1 liter) rather than by preparing a solution to a SG of 1.026 for a *salinity* of 35ppt? <I will check with Aquarium Systems on the test methods and get back to you, but I think we are nitpicking a little here. I've been using Reef Crystals since it's inception, and not once have I ever questioned the actual chemical make-up of the salt. Aquarium Systems is a reputable company and I trust that I will always get a good product from them. Results are the bottom line for me.> Thanks! <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> William Re: Change In Reef Crystals Formulation? 7/28/07 James, thanks for the replies. I have a few pieces of follow-up information. <You're welcome.> First, regarding the Aquarium Systems email support... After looking a little further I realized they actually do not offer tech support via email. On their technical support page they specifically state that they do not provide tech support via email, only via the 800 number. Minor point, but it does make it a little more difficult to correspond with them regarding issues such as this. <Mmmm, that is how I originally contacted them in the past. Quite possible they eliminated the email support and just offer it by phone.> Second, regarding my more recent speculation that the low results are due to differences in water preparation procedures... I've looked into this a bit further and don't see this as a likely cause. While it is a fact that commercial salt mixes are not exactly the same as NSW, leading to different SG when prepared to 35ppt, the formulation would have to be significantly different from NSW to cause a large enough difference in SG to lead to the results I'm seeing. So scratch that one. I agree with you that "results are what's important" -- that's actually why I wrote to inquire about this. I used IO and switched to Reef Crystals specifically for the reported higher levels of Ca and Mg. I was simply trying to determine the cause of the lower results I'd been seeing. If Reef Crystals really isn't any better than IO in this respect then it's not worth the higher cost, unless there are perhaps other reasons why Reef Crystals is preferable. <Bill, I am experimenting at this moment with Instant Ocean. I've just set up a 60" x 18" reef tank and used CaribSea's aragonite. This supposedly provides many of the trace elements we are adding to our tanks, specifically magnesium. I'm thinking, for the cost of Reef Crystals, it may be less expensive to bring up the calcium  level by supplementing. I still dose Lugol's and strontium.> If you do happen to learn anything else relevant to this issue please do let me know. <Will let you know Aquarium Systems response on your question when I receive it.> Thanks again for your assistance. <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> William Re: Change In Reef Crystals Formulation? 7/31/07 James, I was waiting for a response to my follow-up email and then realized I hadn't posed any additional questions or actually requested any sort of follow-up from you. So I apologize in advance if you hadn't yet responded simply because you were still looking into this. In any event, I wondered if you have been able to or would be able to follow up with your contact at Aquarium Systems since Stephen Pro's data also appears to support what I'm seeing. Something I've thought of since then: Is it possible that the saltwater they use for their QC testing is prepared to 35ppt *by weight* (i.e. dissolving 35g salt mix in water and diluting to a total volume of 1 liter) rather than by preparing a solution to a SG of 1.026 for a *salinity* of 35ppt? <William, I've pasted the reply I received from Aquarium Systems regarding your question. See below. folder=[Netscape_Mail] James, I've seen that link before. The first thing I noticed on the calcium results is that the levels are low for every brand shown. Even 470 for the Oceanic is lower than I have ever tested and lower than what most users report on the BBs. Also, that author has specific gravity values listed under the heading Salinity; maybe it shouldn't, but details like that really bother me and make me question any and all results. But, to answer Williams question, I fully understand the fact that there are hydrated compounds in all sea salt mixes and you cannot simply dissolve 35g to 1.0L and have 35ppt sal. In fact, as formulated and without absorbing any moisture, you would need to dissolve ~41.6g of Instant Ocean per liter to achieve 35ppt salinity. Bob Thanks! <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> William

Instant Ocean Reef Crystals, Snails, and a Klein's Butterfly... Mich   4/11/07 (I don't know if you received this before, sending a second time) <Thank you for re-sending. I don't recall seeing this> To Whom It May Concern: <Jonathan> First and foremost, thank you for all the vital information you provide to your readers.  I have successfully maintained a 30 gallon FOWLR saltwater aquarium for approximately fourteen months, and have utilized your site on numerous occasions. <Glad to be of service> Unfortunately, I feel like my questions would seem quite elementary. <?> Having researched your FAQ section, I have found some similar situations to that of mine.  I've been using Instant Ocean since beginning my aquarium. <A good product... that has seemed to have suffered some inconsistency incidents in recent times> Recently, running low on salt, I decided to try Instant Ocean's Reef Crystals. When I got home and opened the Reef Crystals I noticed a very strong smell. <!?> The best way to describe it is that of a freshly opened container of multi-vitamins. I have never noticed a smell with my traditional Instant Ocean salt, <Me neither... perhaps with the exception of a sharp, salty "clean ocean" smell at times> and wondered if this could be attributed to the added trace elements in the Reef Crystal mix? <Mmm, shouldn't be> Additionally, since I performed my first water change with the new salt, my Margarita snails have been acting quite sluggish and are losing their ability to adhere to live rock, glass, etc. I have had my (4) snails for over a year now with no problems. I am a bit concerned over the smell of the Reef Crystals and the possible correlation to the decline of my snails. Red Sea test readings are as follows: Ammonia = 0.0 N02 = 0.0 NO3 = .25ppm to .50ppm (this has always floated in this range) Copper = 0.0 PH = 8.2 Alkalinity = Normal Range (I am aware I should implement a more specific test kit) I use RO for 10% weekly water changes and have never tested for magnesium or calcium. I am worried that the magnesium could be an issue, being several statements in the FAQ section comment on such a problem. I am also aware that my NO3 readings are quite high, yet they have been consistently floating in that range for several months. I would think my snails would have been adversely affected by these NO3 readings before now. All of my other livestock appears fine - (6) hermit crabs, a Bi-color Blenny, and a Klein's Butterfly.  Please provide additional information you may have acquired since those previous submissions. Also, is this potent smell typical of Instant Ocean's Reef Crystals, and if not, could it be the cause for the decline in my precious Margarita snails? <Don't know... but this is possible> Finally, I am aware that a Klein's Butterfly fish is not well suited for a 30 gallon set-up. I am getting married later this year and cannot upgrade to a larger aquarium until late 2008. In my research, I have found the Klein's Butterfly will grow to approximately 5 inches. He is an adult that is currently 2' 2½ inches.  Is there any information as to the growth rate of this fish? <Does generally grow slowly... am out in part of its range currently visiting... You can see a graphic representation of a "growth curve" for this on fishbase.org: Well, actually you can't... they don't show a Growth curve for this species: http://fishbase.org/Summary/speciesSummary.php?ID=5446&genusname=Chaetodon&speciesname=kleinii But IME it is a slow grower...> Will I be able to maintain him in a 30 gallon aquarium for another year and a half? I love my fish a great deal, and some would say, treat him as if he was a cat. <Perhaps> Thank you for your time and effort in these matters. Sincerely, John. Bristol, Pa <Mmm, am hoping MichL, will see your physical address, direct you to fellow marine keepers, associations in your State. Bob Fenner> <I would contact the company that makes Instant Ocean, Aquarium Systems... re your concerns here... Send them back a sample for testing. BobF>

Re: Instant Ocean Reef Crystals, Snails, and a Klein's Butterfly  -- 04/11/07 Mr. Fenner: <John> Thank you very much for your prompt response to my inquiry. <Welkomen> Unfortunately, since my last correspondence with you I have lost (1) Margarita snail. A second appears to be dying as well, completely withdrawn into its shell. As I stated before, my other livestock appears to be thriving. I thoroughly checked my Instant Ocean Reef Crystals bucket for any apparent damage and could find none. The consistency of the grains also appears to be the same as my previous Instant Ocean salt. I, too, have noticed the sharp, salty, "clean ocean" smell that accompanies newly purchased salt, yet I wanted to reiterate that this is far from the scent described above.  The smell actually permeated through the room when I was mixing the salt for the water change. Following your advice, I will contact Aquarium Systems and inform them of my concerns. <Good> Finally, I'd like to thank you for your input in regards to maintaining a Klein's Butterfly in a 30 gallon aquarium. Hopefully, I will be able to acquire a larger system before late 2008. In the meantime, I will do my best to provide a sustaining environment for this beautiful and intelligent creature. <Ah... yes> Best wishes on your current visit to Hawaii. It has been a pleasure speaking with you. Again, thank you for your time and consideration in these matters. <A pleasure to serve. BobF> Sincerely, John. Bristol, Pa

Re: Instant Ocean Reef Crystals, Snails, and a Klein's Butterfly, PA thereabouts Reefathons!  -- 4/13/07 <Mmm, am hoping MichL, will see your physical address, direct you to fellow marine keepers, associations in your State. Bob Fenner> <<Would so gladly! Hi John, Mich here, there are several clubs near you.  Typically are tons of fun.  I would highly recommend you go out to an event or two, if you haven't already! Here are some local happenings for you! There are several in your vicinity.   There is the Philadelphia Area Reef Club (PARC) http://www.phillyreef.org/ http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?s=&forumid=51 Meeting category: 2007 - April 28 (Saturday) !!!! LOCATION & DATE CHANGE for April !!!! Location: Pets Plus - 215-943-5229 151 Lincoln Hwy Rt. 1, Fairless Hills, PA 19030 1:00pm - 3:00pm (Adjacent to Pond Display) Agenda: Store Review and Coral Discussion Food: Misc beverages, bagels & Danish type munchies Raffle: Misc Coral TBD This particular store has been slowly upgrading their salt water section and has become quite impressive. All tanks should be stocked up with corals and salt water fish just before the meeting. Everyone attending will get 20% OFF ANYTHING IN THE STORE this day only. Also if anyone was interested in something special just let us know a reasonable time before the meeting and we've been promised a reasonable deal if possible. This included special orders on tanks. It should be an exciting time. We look forward to seeing you there!!! The New Jersey Reefers Club (NJRC) http://www.njreefers.org/forums/index.php#2 http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?s=&forumid=70 APRIL Meeting: Sunday April 22nd in Washington, NJ We are having a split meeting at the homes of SpankYou and PnoyReefer.  The date is Sunday April 22nd starting around 10:30 at Williams (SpankYou) for Coffee/donuts and then on to Steve's house (PnoyReefer) for the meeting at 1:00. When: Sunday April 22nd Where: Part I spankyou's (William) @ 10:30am 211 Mountain Ave.  APT 115 Hackettstown, NJ 07840 Food: Donuts and coffee Drink: Part II pnoyreefer's (Steve) @ 1:00pm 31 Alvin Sloan Ave Washington, NJ 07882 Food: pizza and Chinese Drink: What To Bring: Any extra help would be appreciated and I'm sure we'll get a list going. Speaker: Steve from MASNA will be speaking at Steve's house around 3:00pm North Central Pennsylvania Reef Aquarium Society (NCPARS) http://www.ncpars.org/ http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?s=&forumid=246 Delaware Reef Club (DRC) http://www.delreefclub.org/ http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?s=&forumid=260 Next Meeting - Mon April 16 Our next meeting will be Monday, April 16, 7-8:45PM at the Newark Library. Right now we don't have anything special planned, so if anyone would like to show some tank pictures or discuss a DIY project or anything of that sort, we'd love to see it. Maybe we can get that promised tank tour from Gordonious as well? See you then. Hope you find something that fits into your schedule!  -Mich>> Instant Ocean issues...?   2/20/07 <Hello, JustinN with you this morning.> Can you provide some guidance on recent info I've seen on IO salt mix?   <Depends, what info have you seen?> I was just on F&S website where this product is on sale - big time.  I'm wondering now if I have made a mistake buying it.  Are there any lot numbers or any info that can be shared? <The only info that has come through our hands recently regarding Instant Ocean, was a concerned hobbyist who emailed us in regards to information he had heard about the central formula of Instant Ocean being modified. This query was forwarded to Marineland's department that handles Instant Ocean specifically, and we received a response that unanimously stated that no changes have been made to the formula, and any changes "would not be taken lightly" or be without notice. If you feel you got a good price on your bucket of salt, enjoy. You will have no issues of quality here. Hope this helps you! -JustinN>

Salt Mixes... trouble... new big owners... changing names, formulations...   2/19/07 Hi folks - <Darrel> I have a rather peculiar problem -- Short version question first -- long version follows, if needed: <Okay!> Q: If a name brand salt mix container is left opened and it absorbs ambient humidity, can that make the salt mix go bad (unable to stabilize PH)? <Will not... just makes it a bit harder to dissolve> Regards, Darrel Long Version format: 1) 55 Gal main marine tank  fish, live sand & live rock -- doing fine. 2) Doing 5 gallon water changes every week -- alternating between salt mix (Marineland Ocean Crystals) and store bought RO salt mix (they use Instant Ocean) 3) Again ... main tank doing FINE --salt mix -- we mix into 15 gallon storage container, age & aerate for 48 hours before use. 4) Decided to add a new tang, bought a 10 gallon tank setup @ Wal-Mart for quarantine 5) Sterile tank, just whisper filter, bare bottom, PVC pipe for tang to hide in 6) Added 10 gal salt mix, ph fine, salinity fine, temp fine <Mmm... a very good idea (see WWM...) to pre-mix, store all new water... for days, a week... even more... ahead of use> 7) Add tang -- fish fine 8) Two days later, Tang in trouble, rapid breathing -- PH = 7.2 !!!!!! 9) Used SeaChem Marine Buffer to bring ph to 8.3  -- tang recovered 10) 6 hours later (overnight), PH 7.0 Tang expired. <...?> A) ALL usual questions asked and answered -- no contamination, nothing added to tank, cleaners, solvents, etc.  NOTHING. B) Washed tank, refilled with salt mix (no fish this time) -- same results C) Washed tank, refilled with store RO-salt mix ... so far .. 72 hours ... PH stable. Naturally, we suspect Salt Mix now -- although we started our whole 55 gallon tank on the same container of mix and did several water changes with it and it was fine -- so here's what I think happened: After one mix set, my son left the top of the salt mix container slightly ajar and three days later when I noticed, the mix had absorbed humidity and caked -  I hacked at it with a wooden spoon until it was loose again and naturally paid extra close attention to salinity during subsequent mixes since the salt was bringing some of it's own moisture to the mix (pun intended). Are there any physics known about salt mixes that would support this conclusion? <Am beginning to become more than a little concerned re this (former Aquarium Systems... Instant Ocean)... product... Do you have any left to do a small experiment? That is, to mix up some, set it up in an open container... aerated or not... and monitor the pH over a few days time... I suspect that this formerly fine, consistent product is now bunk! Bob Fenner>

Re: Salt Mixes  2/20/07 ><Am beginning to become more than a little concerned re this (former Aquarium Systems... Instant Ocean)... product... Do you have any left to do a small experiment? That is, to mix up some, set it up in an open container... aerated or not... and monitor the pH over a few days time... I suspect that this formerly fine, consistent product is now bunk! Bob Fenner> Thank you Bob, I will run that very test and update you with the results -- <I thank you> Thing is... if the batch "turned" it did so long after we used the first half of it during tank setup & water changes. Also to correct myself ... its REEF Crystals .... not OCEAN Crystals -- but I suspect you knew that. <Ah yes. BobF> What brand of Marine Salt do you use in your personal tank(s)?   12/19/06 <My boyfriend, Chris, and I use only Instant Ocean in our saltwater and brackish water tanks.  It's always served us well, and we figure if it's good enough for Chicago's own Shedd Aquarium, well, then, it surely is good enough for our comparatively small tanks! Regards, Jorie> Nick

Switching Synthetic Salt Mixes - 08/15/06 Hello. <<Howdy>> I just wanted to know if it is ok to mix different types (brands) of salts. <<I've heard accounts of "some" folks experiencing problems when changing salt mixes but for most I don't think it is an issue...my own experiences included.  I've been pretty much using the same brand (Instant Ocean) for three decades, but I admit to "trying out" a couple other brands in that time>> I have been using Instant Ocean because it is easy to get, not too expensive, and seems to be working ok. <<Indeed...IO is the best "bang for the buck" when it comes to synthetic sea salts, in my opinion>> I recently changed to their Reef Crystals salt which is supposed to be better for corals. <<Mmm, a larger measure of calcium...may or may not be worth the extra expense.  I'm happy to stick with Instant Ocean and let my calcium reactor/Kalkwasser reactor earn their keep>> I recently read a forum on WWM that suggested using Tropic Marin. <<Considered by some to be the "premier" salt brand>> I have never heard of this brand and definitely never seen any for sale. <<How strange...this salt has been available/popular since before I had my first saltwater aquarium (1976).  In fact if memory serves, Tropic Marin and Instant Ocean were about the only "readily available" commercial synthetic salt mixes around back then>> What is your opinion on this brand? <<If money were no option?  ...is what I would be using.  It is a great salt mix...but I find IO gives me good, consistent results for a bit less cash>> I found some reasonably priced and was wondering if you thought I would benefit from switching to this brand. <<Mmm, maybe...  There's much more to this hobby than which salt mix you are using.  Making the change won't hurt anything...and if your maintenance habits/husbandry skills are up to snuff then yes, the salt mix may foster an improvement>> If so, are there any negative effects of mixing different brands of salt? <<Don't try to change all at once...make the switch slowly by introducing the new mix during your regular water change routine>> I have the Reef Crystals in the tank now, and would use the Tropic Marin for future water changes.  Would this be ok? <<Ah...you're ahead of me <grin>.  Yes, this is fine>> Thanks Jon <<Happy to help.  Regards, EricR>> Instant Ocean Changing Formula? 12/3/06 Hey Guys. I have been hearing rumors about Instant Ocean changing the formula and people were having some problems. I use it weekly and haven't experienced any bad effects but I am concerned about long term use .Is there any basis to this? I've been reading along for years. You guys are great. <Mark, I'm not aware of such.  Will send this along to Bob Studt of Aquarium Systems.  Will post his reply on the dailies, probably won't show up until Tuesday.  James (Salty Dog)> Thanks, <You're welcome> Mark

Instant Ocean: if it's good enough for Chicago's Shedd Aquarium, it's good enough for me!   12/4/06 Hey guys. <And girls - you've got Jorie here tonight!> I have been hearing rumors about Instant Ocean changing the formula and people were having some problems. <I haven't heard this.  We, too, use Instant Ocean exclusively in our SW and BW tanks.  Plus, if Chicago's own Shedd Aquarium considers Instant Ocean to be good enough for their 750,000+ gallons of seawater, that's approval enough for me!> I use it weekly and haven't experienced any bad effects but I am concerned about long term use .Is there any basis to this? <We've never had a problem in the 5 years or so we've been using it.  What was the source of the rumor you heard? Perhaps contact MarineLand directly to ask them if it's true?>   I've been reading along for years. <Me too!> You guys are great. <On behalf of WWM, thank you.> Thanks, Mark <Best regards, Jorie>

Re: Instant Ocean Formula Change? No formula change. Rest assured that any formula changes are not made lightly and that they would only be made to improve the product. Bob Studt (for Aquarium Systems) Instant Ocean Formula Change? Good morning Bob,  Bob,  received a query today which I've pasted below.  Told the gent I didn't believe so.  Has the formula been changed?  "Hey Guys. I have been hearing rumors about Instant Ocean changing the formula and people were having some problems. I use it weekly and haven't experienced any bad effects but I am concerned about long term use .Is there any basis to this? I've been reading along for years. You guys are great.   Thanks, Mark" James Gasta, Wet Web Media

Re:  Instant Ocean Formula Change?  12/6/06 Hey Girls And Guys. Thanks very much for your reply and I rest assured. I've always been happy with Instant Ocean. <A good product, reasonably priced.  I've been using it for 30+ years.> Thanks again, <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> Mark

Greenish Yellow Saltwater Mix (2/10/05) Hi guys and gals!!!!  <Howdy. Steve Allen with you tonight.>  I sure am glad you are here for all of us novice fish people.  <We're all novices at something.>  Ok my question may be really simple or really hard I do not think there is a middle of the road here. I have just changed synthetic salts for my salt tank. I went from Coralife to Instant Ocean. My problem is when I added the Instant Ocean to my saltwater holding tank for water changes. It immediately turned an amber green color.  <Weird!>  It has not reverted back. I did not mix the two different salts together the holding tank was rinsed out before I changed salts. I ran a check of pH, nitrates, nitrites, calcium, chlorine and chloramines. pH is normal, nitrates, nitrites 0, and chlorine chloramines did not register, calcium was low about 370 ppm. I am at a loss here and do not want to use this in my tank, unless the color change will go away and will not harm my tank.  <Smart man. Remembering High School chemistry, such a sudden color change must be from some sort of chemical reaction. I would not risk using it if I were you. It's too risky just for a few bucks' worth of salt. I suggest you contact the maker to see if they can explain this. In your shoes, I'd throw that water out, thoroughly clean the vessel with clean water, and try again.>  I looked in the FAQ's section and found nothing to help me there. Thanks Craig  <You're welcome. Hope this helps. Let us know if the manufacturer has any answers.>

Cheap salt? Ok, I've searched your site under sea salt, Instant Ocean, salt bargains and salt shipping without the results I was seeking. Would any of you lovely marine aquarists out there be able to tell me where I can get a good deal on s&h of Instant Ocean? <Am sure... though these deals do come and go... and the Net is "forever"... so info. does get dated quick!> For the 150 gal bucket we pay $69 here in Alaska and up to $99 for the 200 gal bucket (if still available at LFS).  For a while I was getting salt shipped through PetSmart paying only $18 in s&h for 2- 200 gal buckets. Now they seemed to have closed the loop hole and want over $40 for s&h of just one of the 150 gal bucket. <A bargain> Any help would be appreciated. Thanks so much for the great site. You all have saved me a lot of time, money and fish/livestock loss by the hours I've spent searching your site and reading your books. Thanks so much for the free resource. <You're welcome... for good deals I would ask, browse the various BB's in our interest: ReefCentral, Reefs.org... Bob Fenner>

Re:  Salt Mixes   1/31/06 Greetings again. <Hello Mark.> I had an interesting chat at my LFS. The fellow was trying to change my mix from Instant Ocean to Sea Crystals. I have never heard of this brand before. <Nor have I.> He also told me that IO uses some additive that makes it dissolve faster and that this would cause trace elements to become bound together and render them useless. He also said that the National Aquarium in Baltimore used Sea Crystal salt mix. I have been using IO reef crystals for as long as I can remember with no ill effects. <Myself included.> Just wanted to hear your opinion on this. <Mark, I've chatted with Bob Studt from Aquarium Systems and will post his reply below concerning this. <James (Salty Dog)> James, The "some additive" that the dealer was likely referring to is EDTA which is a chelator. Chelators bind metals in solution so they remain in solution instead of precipitating at the high pH of seawater. (they don't make sea salt dissolve any faster though?!?!)Some chelators bind the metals more strongly than others. It is possible that some chelators could bind the metals so strongly that they are indeed unavailable for the livestock to use in their biological processes. After all, if you or I went to the doctor after having ingested some type of toxic metal (mercury, cadmium, etc...) he may inject a strong chelator into our system to bind the metal and inhibit its ability to harm us. Instant Ocean has no chelator. Reef Crystals does use a small amount of weak chelator since there are higher levels of many trace metals in RC. I've never heard of Sea Crystals either. Both IO and RC have slightly elevated levels of iodide so if 10% weekly changes were carried out it should remain in sufficient supply. Bob

Re: Salt Mix follow up   2/7/06 Hello Crew. <Hello Mark.> Once again I must start by saying what an awesome amount of knowledge one gets by just reading the FAQs. <And do keep reading.> Just a great site.  My follow up is in regard to a question concerning salt mixes. As stated in the first e-mail I was approached by my LFS about changing salt mixes.  Seems my LFS was selling the virtues of Crystal Sea salt mix (I believe that I wrongly stated Sea Crystals). In your opinion is this a good mix? <I recently visited a friend of mine who does coral farming on a small scale and I asked him what salt mix he used in his propagation vats.  And low and behold it was Crystal Sea.  The product is manufactured by Marine Enterprises.  Must be a decent mix as I've never saw so many beautiful corals in one place just full of color.  He swears by it so take it from there.> I currently use IO reef crystals with good results. <A good mix which is what I use.> I believe that James answered the first one.  Also it was stated to me that the National Aquarium in Balt. MD. uses Crystal Sea mix. Any thoughts would be very welcome. Mark By the way I am in no hurry to change mixes at this time just rather curious. <If you are happy with what you have, stay with it.  James (Salty Dog)>

-Switching salt brands?- Hi all, I currently have a 30 gal saltwater tank and use Instant Ocean. I have about 40lbs of live rock and a clarkia clown, blue damsel, cleaner shrimp, a brittle starfish, and a long tentacle anemone.  When I bought the live rock, it had some coral growing on it and was wondering if switching to Reef Crystals would help with the minerals needed for the livestock on the live rock and the coral. <It wouldn't hurt, but without testing for anything, how do you know that you're lacking something this coral needs? You should also find out what type of coral this is (and if it is even in fact coral) so that you can provide appropriately for it.> How should I go about changing? <You could change whenever you want with no ill side effects.> Would my bi-weekly water changes be subtle enough so as not to create any problems or should I just stay with IO. <Depends, if you're concerned about the calcium and alkalinity levels, you'll need to test for them. The first step here is finding out what you have, then you can better determine what it needs to be kept healthy. Hope this helps! -Kevin> Thanks John

Instant Ocean vs. Reef Crystals sea salts 10/20/03 I am currently use Instant Ocean. I have been using it since my tanks inception on 1/10/03. Everything seems fine. I saw that reef crystals is supposedly geared more towards reef tanks. Your expert advice on this please, and would it be okay to switch now? Thanks again <I have used both extensively (8,000 gall mix pallets at a time for my coral farming greenhouse) and hold the brand in high regard. For most reef aquariums however, the extra calcium (etc.) in the Reef Crystals mix at best reduces your need to dose such elements only slightly (days). I personally am content to simply use and recommend IO and test/supplement the aquarium as needed in addition to regular partial water changes. Anthony>

WWM mail link and Salt mix Bob, This is the guy that has been having problems with the WWM link. He sent me an email, and hope you don't mind that I'm forwarding it to you. I feel bad for the guy, he has lost a few of his corals and an anemone... He's a great guy, and is one of the people that got me into the SW hobby. If you wouldn't mind, can you send him an email. Thanks John (aka Magnus) <No problem. Bob> The stinking link on WWM still won't work for me, I get it as "undeliverable". <What, which link is not working? Please describe the nonfunctionality> I am in dire need of opinions on this: <Went to do a regular water change last night. Mixed up 12g of saltwater for the tank (55g) and did the change. Immediately, all the Aiptasia reacted a little funny after the change. Actually glad for it, I was not concerned. This morning though, things were obviously not right. <Not a good sign if one organism is malaffected... likely all are> The tank is cloudy, and in the meantime the alk is through the roof (22-24dkh) while the PH is down (7.8-8.0). I did more thorough tests and it is my salt mix (IO).  <I doubt "it" is the Instant Ocean... did you mix some up in new water and test it?> I have no idea why it is creating such different levels now, only a month ago I had tested the tank and it was right where I wanted it to be. Can salt go "bad"? <Not likely. Most salts will "clump" (they are hygroscopic... absorb water to become a one-piece ionic solid) but don't change chemically> What should I do now, corals were hit hard but fish only appear mildly stressed (some rapid breathing).  Thanks, Ryan A.>  <Do check your source water... administer buffers to bring the water to about right pH and alkalinity wise. Please send responses to crew@wetwebmedia.com or if your messages "bounce" there back to me here. Bob Fenner> WWM mail link and Salt mix problem Greetings Bob, the link on the "Ask the crew a question" page does not work for me. To be specific, sending to crew@wetwebmedia.com gets returned to me "undeliverable" in a few seconds. It has been this way for a few weeks. I have successfully used the link in the past, but having not changed anything on my mail server and not being a "computer guy" I am not about to state that the problem is 100% on your end. Judging by your surprise I suppose you have not heard much of this from anyone else (of course if they can't reach you maybe you wouldn't hear about it regardless...hehe). I have enclosed a copy of the returned email if you can decode it, the only thing I notice is that every time I send it to crew@wetwebmedia.com it adds in a "MAIL." wetwebmedia.com tag in it. <Bizarre. I don't know what might be wrong here... the link works for me. Am sending this note to Jason.C (far more computer savvy) for his input> As far as the tank is concerned, believe it or not it is the salt mix. I was baffled at first too (I actually thought there must have been some form of contaminant in the water) when I mixed it in the usual bucket). However, mixing it with pure RO/DI water, it does not even register on my dKH kit. Well I stop at 50 drops (drops equate to dKH in turning the liquid from blue to yellow). <... trouble... The salt container was unopened when you got it I take it? I would contact the manufacturer and send a sample to them immediately... something must have gone wrong with the batch/mix...> This was done with both tap and the RO/DI water with the same results. I then went out and bought a brand new package of IO and repeated the test. With the RO/DI water I came out with 9dkh and with tapwater 10dkh. I then repeated with the old salt and again came up with the elevated alkalinity. The salt itself is only maybe 2 months old and is kept in the original bucket with the lid sealed in a coat closet. My thoughts were to contact Aquarium Systems as well to see what their thoughts might be. <Yikes... the folks at AS will definitely want to look into this> Unfortunately, I lost every coral in the tank from the initial Alk spike and resulting PH crash/precipitation event. There was really nothing to do but sit and watch, waiting for the chain reaction to stop. The tank has since stabilized and all of the fish have returned to normal (from labored breathing, etc.). The only "good" thing from one point of view is that all of the corals were aquacultured....it takes a very small part of the guilt away. I'd still like to hear your thoughts, including "You're Crazy" ;-) It still boggles my mind what could have occurred with the salt as chemistry wise I am not familiar with the "nuts and bolts" of it so to speak. Sincerely, Ryan A. <Does sound like you got a bucket of mis-mixed synthetic. Of all the years and many, MANY samples of IO this is the first time I have heard of a credible bad batch. Bob Fenner> - Reducing the Cost of Salt - I'm interested in buying Instant Ocean in bulk? My water changes are 50 gallons a week and it really doesn't take long to go through a 200 gallon IO. If I could find a bulk supplier it might also be cheaper? Any thought would be appreciated. <Hmm... I would work with your local fish stores to see if they will cut you break - typically, the 'really' reduced prices are reserved for wholesale and unless you have a business, you probably won't be able to purchase anything from a wholesaler. Better to explain your needs to a couple of local fish stores and see if they are willing to do anything for you.> Regards David <Cheers, J -- >

Re: Aquarium Systems and DIY skimmer mod.s I included most of our previous conversations here just so you remembered the incident. After speaking with Bob Studt several weeks ago, I sent the remaining salt as requested back to Aquarium Systems. About a week after I received a brand new bucket, however, no explanation. <Strange... at least seems strange to me> I have since tried to contact him directly, multiple times, and after many messages it is becoming quite apparent that he has no intentions of answering my calls or returning them. Perhaps he is afraid I am going to toss some frivolous lawsuit for the loss of my corals his way if he admits that the salt was improperly mixed. Or perhaps he simply doesn't care how his company's customer service appears to his customers. So from here I suppose I can only tell you that the free bucket of salt loosely acknowledges some error and the rest would be speculation. <I guess> In other issues, the direct link for the WWM mail doesn't work for me. I had a question and you can answer it yourself or please pass it on to the other good peoples at WWM. <Will check... is the link you're referring to on our homepage or elsewhere? We are (definitely) getting mail! Bob Fenner> Thanks Bob, RA "A few years ago I received a Berlin skimmer (appears to be a Classic) with a tank I bought at an auction. I have never had a sump so it has sat in a closet this whole time. <Okay> I was at the LFS the other day and noticed their Berlin hang on models. It appears to be the exact same design with just some PVC or plastic tubing running to the inlet and also from the returns back to the tank (they don't let you open boxes anymore). Can't I do the same thing? I was just thinking of getting the Turbo pump (or another if you have suggestions) and running some PVC with some elbows to the inlet, and then plumbing PVC for the two return lines. Why wouldn't this work?" <Maybe... I'd be careful in cutting for the plumbing... and am hesitant w/o being present to suggest where to make the connections... if it were me, mine, I'd trade it in, sell it and buy one already engineered as a hang-on. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Ryan A.

- Synthetic Seawater -  I would like to use Reef Crystals but I cannot get it locally and I hesitate to pay a premium price plus shipping that would make it almost double the price of Instant Ocean which I can buy locally. I know that the WWM Crew speaks well of Instant Ocean. <Yes... is probably the most widely used artificial salt mix - including public and academic aquaria.> Considering that I am running a calcium reactor with Knop media, is there really an advantage to Reef Crystals or is my Ca reactor making up the difference by contributing the same goodies found in Reef Crystals? <I'd just stick with the normal Instant Ocean - your calcium reactor will take care of the rest.> Regards, George.  <Cheers, J -- >

- Salt Question - Hello  I've been reading about different salts. I'm using IO, which is fine but is reef crystal better? <Hard to say... Reef Crystals is Instant Ocean with extra calcium.> If I were to switch brands of salt will I have a bleaching problem? <Not very likely. Cheers, J -- >

- Feeding & Salt Mixes - Hi, Hope all is going well for you there.  Just finished weathering the storm here.  I have several questions, please.  I have a 75 gallon saltwater tank with F/O NLR.  I have been using a brand of salt called marine environment, but am tired of paying so much for it.  I wanted to get your opinion on Instant Ocean salt mix.  I have read good and bad (like any product) and wanted to know if it is a decent mix. <Instant Ocean is probably the most widely used salt mix in the world, including commercial enterprises and public aquariums... it is a fine and consistent aquarium salt.> Also, I currently have a pair of false perculas, a flame hawkfish, and a royal Gramma.  I was thinking of adding a canary deepwater damsel.  I have read that they are not as aggressive as other damsels, but also read that as they get bigger they get more aggressive. <Is typical for most damsels.> What is your opinion about my adding one to my current inhabitants? <Given the number of fish you already have, this one will likely do just fine.> I had also thought of a yellow tang, but didn't like the idea of feeding him food like algae on a clip due to the mess I have seen it make in my neighbor's tank as the algae breaks off and floats around uneaten.  Is there any way around feeding like this, like maybe feeding regular food that has algae in it? <Would be best to do both... perhaps limit the amount of food you put in the clip.> Thanks for your time, James <Cheers, J -- >

Sea Salt recommendations - 7/14/03 Hi, I have a 75 gallon fish only aquarium.  Is there a particular sea salt mix that you would recommend?   <Tropic Marin would be my first choice, Omega my second, and Instant Ocean a very well deserved and tried and true (30+ years) third place> Also, do you think it necessary to supplement my water with additional trace elements to make up for those that get depleted? <yes... at least in small amounts unless you do generous weekly water changes. Keep it simple though... trace elements, not just any organic supplements or vitamins necessarily> Thank You, James <best regards, Anthony>

hw MarineMix salt Hi Bob, what do you think about Hw Marinemix, called Hawaiian Marine in USA. Which do you prefer for FOWLR between Hw and Tropic Marin salt? Thank you very much Lorenzo <This is a very good product, on par (IMO/E) with Instant Ocean, but I still rank (by a few percent) Tropic Marin's salt mix as the best available in the U.S. Bob Fenner>

Salts, Sea salts Hello, I have a FOWLR tank and am deciding on which salt to use. I have heard conflicting facts about different brands (as usual in this marine world), the brands I am looking into buying next is tropic marin or reef crystals. I am currently using Instant Ocean but, want to know how me and my fish will benefit from a better salt? Will the fish actually "be happier" with better salt? I can get a 200 gallon bucket of tropic marine for around $40, which I consider pretty good, so please advise, Thank you. <I strongly prefer Aquarium Systems brand sea salts (Instant Ocean and Reef Crystals). They have been time-tested and set the standard for quality control and consistency. I have reared jellyfish from planulae in it, spawned Tridacnid clams in it and raises thousands of coral commercially in it. Definitely Aquarium Systems for me. Anthony Calfo>

SALT MIXES Hi Guys, Not really a problem this time, but a question I'm sure you guy's can answer for me. Having had a reef tank for the last nine years, I've tried most of salt mixes before deciding that Instant Ocean or Reef Crystals works best for me. Usually I'll run the Instant Ocean for about nine months, then the Reef Crystals for a couple of months and this seems to really perk things up when I make the changes. Now the question that's been bugging me for years. If the Reef Crystals are supposed to have extra calcium, buffers, and trace elements, why does the same amount of Instant Ocean weigh 4 lbs. more per 200 gal. bucket? Like I said I've been using these for years, and wouldn't change for the world, but I've always found this curious. Thanks Again, [read the column every day], Joe G. <thanks Joe.. and I agree...I love Aquarium Systems salts. This is a good question... it was explained to me years ago but I can't recall clearly what the answer was!!! I'm thinking it was that the instructions have them mixing up at different salinities (I don't have a package of each handy to confirm). Let me know if this is not the case. We'll drop a line to Tom Frakes if Bob or Steve do not recall. Kindly, Anthony>

Salt Mixes <Anthony Calfo in your service> I have read in the site that Instant Ocean is as good as any salt mix. <or better... they have extraordinary quality control and consistency> I came across this web site (http://www.aquacraft.net/s9911.html) that claims the result of an independent study shows significant differences in the composition and batch-to-batch consistency of various brands. What is your opinion about the "S-15 Report" that makes these claims? <the report is ancient history and very biased/inaccurate according to many respected industry professionals whose word I am likely to heed> Instant Ocean is rated very low and Bio-Sea Marine, Coral Marine and Marine Environment are rated very highly (of course they sell all of these brands too). <now you are talking <wink>> Is there a real difference? Cost isn't particularly high for these, compared to buying Instant Ocean at a LFS so I would give them some thought if they were really better. What is your opinion on the brand names mentioned above? <In my Mariculture greenhouse and retail store in the past ten years... I have used literally tens of thousands of gallons of Instant Ocean. I have had giant clams spawn sexually in it, corals reproduce asexually and sexually, fish spawned and reared their own fry unassisted by me, and I watched jellyfish medusa grow to full adulthood (over 6") over a two year period all in Instant Ocean seawater mix. I have absolutely nothing but respect for Instant Ocean and highly recommend it to anybody who wants something tried and true. Best regards, Anthony Calfo... author of the Book of Coral Propagation, Volume 1>

Re: Salt Mixes Thanks for the quick response, Anthony.  <Always welcome> Do you think there is any benefit from using Reef Crystals (from the same company that makes Instant Ocean) given that it is more expensive? <benefit, yes... worth it for most aquarists: no> Most of what I read seems to say there in not much benefit for the additional cost.  <agreed...since most reef keepers must necessarily supplement their aquaria with Ca and Alk anyway (Kalkwasser & buffer, Kalk and Ca reactor, two-part liquid supplements, etc)... the point is moot. The extra Ca and carbonates in Reef Crystals are still not enough to carry you all the way to the next water change. A fine sea salt, but not practical for aquarists with larger aquariums IMO. I bought an 8,000 gallon pallet when I first set up my greenhouse (tested WC parameters and gauged necessary supplementation), then switched to Instant Ocean and never looked back.> I am about to set up a 75 gal MFWLR (mainly fish with live rock) with perhaps some hardy invertebrates a few soft corals in the future. <it sounds very nice and appropriate. Many soft corals feed largely by absorption and the presence of feeding fishes and their activities contributes nutritively to such animals. Best regards, Anthony>

Changing Salt Mixes Dear Bob/Steve/Anthony: I almost feel embarrassed to ask you this question, but I am rather concerned...Here goes: My reef system has been running for almost a year. For the initial set up and all water changes, I have used only one brand of salt mix (Tropic Marin). <Pricey, but about the best you can get> Well, my local dealer has stopped carrying this brand, and I would rather not mail order it due to the prohibitively high cost of shipping for the quantities I need. Obviously, I am interested in switching brands, most likely Instant Ocean. My question is, will there be any type of adverse reaction among my animals if I switch brands of salt mix? the make up water will be identical, SG, frequency of water changes, and other factors will not change, just the brand. <Not likely discernible change in any way... only a few percent difference in quality in my estimation. Good products from Aquarium Systems> I know I'm probably being overly paranoid, but do commercial formulations vary enough to cause such problems when switching brands. If it would be a problem, I'd just assume pay a lot more rather than stress my animals. <Some brands are actually quite different (some appallingly inconsistent and/or poor in make-up), but the major brands are all fine. There are real and phony analyses of these about for those willing to look...> Thanks in advance! Scott F. <I would try/switch over to Reef Crystals (tm) or "regular" Instant Ocean with no worries. Bob Fenner>

Instant Ocean vs. Coral Life I found this special on Instant Ocean salt at my LFS - $50 for 200 gallons. I normally use Coral Life salt ($50 per 150 gallons). In your opinion, is there a difference between the 2? <IMO/E Instant Ocean is a superior product, in composition and consistency> What can I expect if I were to change? <Higher, more stable pH, calcium... resultant incremental better health of livestock, ease of maintenance> What's the best salt you recommend? <Tropic Marin, and Tetra (!), if you live in Japan (only place sold). Bob Fenner> As always, Thanks, Craig

Salt mix ? I know you're a busy guy, but I have a question and value your opinions. I have just started a 72 gallon salt tank. I finished filling it yesterday with RO/DI water from a Kent Maxxima Hi-s 6o gpd unit. I have not added my substrate yet, as I wanted to mix the Instant Ocean in the tank and get the specific gravity right first. So, I filled it, brought it up to 78 degrees, and started 4 maxi-jet 1200's for circulation. I added Sea Chem Marine Buffer at the direction of a local pet store to reconstitute the RO water. I then added 15 pounds of Instant Ocean. The tank clouded up bad, which I expected, but it has been nearly 14 hours and it is still cloudy. I still need to add another 7 or so pounds yet to get the SG up, but want to know if the cloudiness will disappear first. Did I do something wrong or is this normal? Thanks so much for taking the time to help me, Collin Romanick <Normal, yes, for the order of operation you detail... The Buffer should have been waited on... and blended outside of the tank... or placed in a setting (like a canister, outside power filter between other media or in a Dacron bag...) where it could/would dissolve slowly with water passing by it... But no worries (as you don't have live rock, other life present), "this too will clear"... Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner> Salt mix ? (again) Mr. Fenner - I wrote you yesterday concerning my trouble with a cloudy condition on a new tank set up. I used the RO/DI water, Marine Buffer, and Instant Ocean salt, I hope you remember. You advised that it should clear up with time, but it is still extremely cloudy, and I am getting concerned. A couple of things that may help you figure this out with me: There is about 70 gallons of water in the tank, heated to 78 degrees and agitated with 4 maxi-jet 1200's. I added 2.5 teaspoons of the Marine Buffer product, and fifteen pounds of Instant Ocean. Per the directions on the Instant Ocean bag, I would still need to add approx. 7 more pounds to bring my salinity up for 70 gallons of water. Right now, after adding only fifteen pounds, my SG is 1.020 on the nose, and there is still some undissolved salt mix lying on the bottom of the tank. It is acting like it is in a saturated condition with the salt, no more will dissolve. Why would my SG be so high already?  <A few things... but principally you really don't have as many gallons in this system as you think... Maybe measure the inside dimensions in inches, multiply L W H, and divide by 231 (approximate cubic inches per gallon)... minus the volume of the solid contents of the tank (gravel, etc.)... No worries> I spoke with a guy named Marty who owns a company called Aquarium Arts in California last night, he said it is possible to have received a bad bag of salt mix, do you think this is possible? <Very, very, very unlikely... Have been to Aquarium Systems in Ohio, and a few other manufacturers of synthetics over the years... about the only "bad" bag of Instant Ocean there has ever been is one that has become "hard" due to hygroscopy... absorbed moisture... and this would still dissolve completely (albeit more slowly...). You might direct your water flow from powerheads, another pump... to move more of the solid on the bottom... otherwise... I assure you, waiting is the best route here...> He said to drain the tank and start over, a prospect I don't like the thought of, as it takes two days to make that much RO water to begin with, plus the loss of the Instant Ocean product. By the way I cannot seem to get an accurate pH reading on my test kit. I am using a Hagen Pro-series kit with the high range pH test, and when I do it I come up with a deep purple color, which isn't even on the chart, it should be a dark blue color in the 8.2 range. What the heck is going on? <This is... not a good product... return it. Look for Salifert, Hach (or their repackagers like... Aquarium Systems...), LaMotte...> Also when I test the RO water, it comes out perfectly neutral on the pH. Please give me you insight on this. Thank You - Collin Romanick <Chat with you soon my friend. Bob Fenner>

Salts... Selection for synthetics Hi Bob, I've been using Instant Ocean since I set my tank up. I am pleased with this product. I was wondering if changing to Reef Crystals might benefit my corals more than the Instant Ocean. <IMO/E only marginally> They claim to add extra amounts of calcium, trace elements, etc. ... Is this true? I currently change 5% of water weekly. It would cost me an extra $6.00 for a 200 gal bucket of salt. This is next to nothing, if I don't have to add additional supplements during the week (one less thing to do). I'm trying to streamline my maintenance (like most people) and thought this might save me a little time. Spring is coming, and I've got lawn to do battle with for the next 7 months. (I know I can't win). <Do try "a bucket", and find out what you will... and you can/will win the pre-occupation with monoculture of the Gramineae... I know you that well my friend. Bob Fenner> Thanks again, Tony

Questions (salt mix brands, spg, sponge diet) Hi Bob !! If you're given a choice of salt mix, which one would you go for: Instant ocean or Red Sea ? <Instant Ocean by a few percent... with Tropic Marin a few points ahead of them...> Secondly, for a fish only tank with live rocks, can I maintain the SG level of 1.017 permanently?  <Actually, not a good idea... more "stressful" than it's worth/gain IMO/E... would re-raise to NSW (near seawater), 1.025 over time> Lastly, my 6 inch queen angel which refuse to eat for 2 weeks, now begins to feed on sponge which I bought specially for her.  <Yes, a major component of Holacanthus of many species in the wild> Is it ok for her to feed only on sponge or will she suffer from malnutrition from consuming sponge only? Please advice. Thanks. <Best to add other foodstuffs to this animals diet. Bob Fenner>

Salt quality Hi There, <Howdy> I have been reading about the importance of the quality of the salt that is used in the aquarium. What brand of salt would be considered as an acceptable brand? The local aquarium shops carry Instant Ocean brand. There are not really any choices. I normally purchase my RO water pre-mixed and the aquarium shop uses the same Instant Ocean they sell to their customers. <Instant Ocean's salt mixes are fine, near the zenith in terms of composition, consistency, ease of use. The few that are slightly (a couple of percent in my estimation) are much more money. There are decidedly some "junk" brands in the industry as well...> Would you happen to know of any online stores who carry an acceptable brand of salt? I want to make sure I am creating the best environment possible. I have already learned a valuable lesson regarding ICH and I want to make sure I am only using the best stuff at this time! <Use the Reef Crystals product by Aquarium Systems to see if you like this any better... or Tropic Marin... both are offered by etailers listed on the www.WetWebMedia.com Links pages> I have lost 2 snails in the past 3 weeks. My water quality appears to be fine. The only thing I can think of that could be causing these mysterious deaths (from reading through the site) is poor salt quality. <Many other possibilities... parasites, senescence, nutritional disorders, predation...> I have heard calcium could be the cause of snail death. I have not tested for calcium. Could this be the cause? Would it be worth testing for it? (I currently only have live rock, snails, crabs, 1 cleaner shrimp, and 2 fish in my 7 month old 58 gallon tank) I did not find anything in the site search that said anything about calcium being a cause of snail death. <Yes, a lack or overabundance of calcium can be problematical. Do read up on the topic on the WWM site, and do test for this material... I doubt if in your case you will need to do much to modify its concentration other than "regular maintenance" (like water changes) though. Read the "Marine Snail FAQs", "Toxic Tank Situations FAQs" over. Bob Fenner> Many Thanks, Christine

Sea Salts Hi again Bob; Just a real quick question about sea salt. I know you have made several points about using inferior sea salts. I just want to know your opinion of Reef Crystals and Kent sea salts. I currently use the Reef Crystals but have an opportunity to buy Kent salt at a substantial savings. Are they on the good list or the bad list. <Both on a "good" list. Reef Crystals a bit better IMO. Bob Fenner> Thank you. Your reefing buddy, Rick Johnston

Salt mix choices Hi, One more question and I'll not bother you. I have been using Instant Ocean but recently received a 5lb bag of Red Sea salt with my Berlin skimmer. Is the Red Sea salt the best as advertised or should I continue with Instant Ocean.? <IME/O the Instant Ocean product is superior, and has proven far more consistent... Bob Fenner> Thank you



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