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FAQs on Marine Water Quality involving Phosphates, Control

Related Articles: Phosphates in Marine Aquarium Systems by Marco Lichtenberger, Carbon Dosing; An Effective Means of Phosphate and Nitrate Control, by James Gasta, Phosphates in Carbon; An analysis of the phosphate content of activated Carbon by Steven Pro, Ammonia, Nitrates, Nitrites, SilicatesMarine Chemical Filtrants,

Related FAQs: Phosphates 1, Phosphates 2, & FAQs on Phosphate: Importance, Science, Measure, Sources, Chemical Filtrants, Troubleshooting/Fixing, & Nitrates, NitritesAmmonia, Silicates, Avoiding Algae Problems in Marine System, Nutrient Control and Export, Algae Control, Marine Maintenance, AlkalinityChemical Filtrants

Mmm, prevention... biological uptake/harvest (macro-algae, maybe micro-, photosynthetic and chemoautotrophic life/metabolism... Dilution through water change... and Chemical means... precipitation, insolubilization, ad- absorption...

Too Much Uncured Live Rock: Phosphates Locked Up      11/25/16
<Please respond to this email instead. Also, I meant to say that my Phosphate levels are 3-5. not .5, which I fixed below. Mahalo Nui Loa!>
<Real good>
Aloha Friends, Looks like over the years I've put too much live rock, some of which was uncured from the ocean, in my 100gal tank with 20gal sump and seem to have phosphates locked up.
<Most all (natural marine carbonate-based rock) will... for a time>
Inhabitants: 2 clowns, 1 strawberry Basslet, 1 Anthias, 1 flame angel, 1 Christmas wrasse, 1 long nose Hawkfish, two seahorses, two coral banded shrimp and a few crabs. I just introduced some Zoas and a Shroom and am determined to lower the phosphates so they can grow- along with coralline. So far no coralline algae in 5 years+!
<Insufficient biomineral (alkaline earths mainly) and/or alkalinity, and/or more competition from other life forms/conditions favorable to them than corallines>
All water parameters are good, except very high phosphates of 3-5 and double the level of ALK- which remains a mystery.
<Check you test kit/gear and supplementation practices>
I’m sure the two must be related but I haven’t been able to find anything in all my searching. I just bought GFO in hopes of that helping.
<Mmm; lo dudo.... better to study, replace some substrate (rock, sand/gravel.... increase/install a deeper, finer DSB in the sump likely>
I also just took out about 5 pieces of new live rock coral rubble I recently placed in there. I am curing in a bucket with current and overnight phosphates are indeed leaching out as indicated by the test.
I just started using GFO in my sump bag, since the reactor didn’t make it in my last order. Will this work, or should I get some other phosphate absorption pads or something?
<See how what you're doing works for a few weeks is what I'd do... other fave filtrants are gone over and over on WWM. Boyd's Chemipure, Polyfilter....>
I know it’s probably better to get to the source. I started trying vinegar doing but stopped because I don’t want to throw things off balance. Am I at the point where I need to completely remove the rock and put new cured rock in?
<This is what I'd do; yes>
Any product you would recommend to use before I go THAT extreme?
<... You've gots to stop your mind darting off in directions....>
Today I’m vacuuming up the cinders I have in the first stage of my sump to try and reduce more phosphates. I’ve also re-added a filter bag with GFO and Carbon. I am running an Aqua-medic skimmer in the first chamber of the sump and in the second growing what looks like Caulerpa racemosa, long and skinny with tiny spherical bubbles. It gets messy and kind of floats but has been growing for years and still high phosphates.
<Are you in Hawaii? Look for better limu... Gracilaria species... Ogo>
It looks like in this pic I need another chamber to my sump, right?
<Up to you>
Or is this “natural” system fine like this if I’m careful so the pods go back to the display tank. The sump is plumbed outside to get direct sunlight for the Caulerpa growth.
I recently added an RO unit which may help with the ALK levels since I had 13PPM in that rain catchment water (3X filtered) to begin with. I really appreciate your help with this challenging situation. I don’t want to give up on this!!! Mahaloz!
<There are ways to decrease the natural alkalinity... gone over on WWM. For now, just mixing in more RO...
A hu'i hou! Bob Fenner>
In Radiant Health,
Sky Kubby

Re: Too Much Uncured Live Rock: Phosphates Locked Up      11/25/16
Your passion and dedication to this work is inspiring- burning the midnight oil answering my question.
<Am indeed enthusiastic re life, petfish, helping... and am out in Madagascar>
I feel blessed and you rock! Mahalo for confirming what my gut was telling me. So it seems curing a bunch more live rock and switching it out in a couple months is the path I’m on. A couple points: I already have a DSB of 3" in both my DT and my sump’s 2nd chamber. The first is cinders. There are different colors and bubbles in the DT and sump sand. Do you still recommend to change out all the sand and rock?
<Yes I would; and have no cinders... all sand as gone over on WWM. Do you need help searching, using the indices for?>
Just to be ultra clear, we’re talking about as porous of coral live rubble as I can find and harvesting dry sand of different textures. Larger grains first, then finer atop that? Or better to actually order some of the more porous, like Aragonite and seed it with some of my tank water and sand?
<Finer is better: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm
and the linked files above>
I have some cool rock now with awesome caves, but I guess all that may be trash now if too high phosphates locked up in them. So I can’t cure that, but I could acid bath it… I will indeed wait and see what happens for a little while I implement 1/4 to 1/3 RODI water changes 1-2X weekly. Sound good?
Also, as far as no coralline growth, you mentioned "Insufficient biomineral (alkaline earths mainly) and/or alkalinity, and/or more competition from other life forms/conditions favorable to them than corallines”. But ALK levels are off the charts, not insufficient.
<Need both; responses written for ALL, not just you, 30k folks a day use WWM... PLEASE: search and read on WWM ahead of writing>
I poured over everything over the years and asked many people- I can’t find out why the ALK levels would be so high.
<... gone over on the site: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/alktrbfix.htm
PH is 8.0 so I’ll try raising it to see if that helps. I’m only dosing a little Mg., but no CA as levels were good or high, even.
<.... precipitated out by....>
I don’t really have any corals growing so nothing seems to be needing those nutrients I was dosing before in hopes of coralline growth. I’m thinking no coralline was just from extremely Phosphates levels (5). I’m using a brand new Salifert test kit.
<Ahh; this should be accurate, precise>
Two arrived so I’ll try the other one. Tap water tests 0, though. But it does say on the kit that extremely high ALK levels with throw the results. That’s me! Nothing I have read says how to decrease ALK levels except massive water changes. It always talks about the balance between ALK/Calcium but not ALK/Phosphates. I’ll keep researching, though!
I’m headed Kona side this weekend with my wife and daughter so I’ll hunt for better Limu and maybe some rock. Ogo seemed messy last time I tried to grow it- but I’ll try it again. I have the benefit of having my sump outside in the natural sunlight so I hope that can pay off!
<See Gerald Heslinga or others re the Ogo at NELHA, next to Keauhou>
Let me know next time you’re on the Island- we can free dive and I can give back to you some of my brand of super food chocolate (Medicinal-Foods.com). A hu'i hou!
<Oh! Will do. Mahalo. BobF>
In Gratitude,
Sky Kubby
Here's some pics for ya from my last message.      11/25/16

<Wow; even a seahorse! BobF>
Sky Kubby

Re: Too Much Uncured Live Rock: Phosphates Locked Up     11/26/16
Aloha Bob! I read more (another day's worth) and realize I am in between with my DSB. Seems better to siphon clean the 2-3" of sand, in sections, to help pull out some phosphates. Then, depending upon if my PO4 levels go down then remove sand or add another few inches after. I could also leave a shallow sand level and keep the DSB in the dump.
<I'd vacuum; add more fine material....>
I'm going to go with your suggestion of lights on during curing, however my curing tank will be outside in natural sunlight. In this case would you still suggest it?
I know you say algae comes and goes during cycling. But since there will be no doubt more algae to deal with curing in direct sunlight, I'm concerned about my nice rock being covered in the stuff and caked on the walls of the 30 gal glass aquarium I was thinking of using.
Also, if I used copper in the tank before is guess I shouldn't use that tank to cure, right?
<Not a worry... all Cu is gone; insolubilized>
Better to use a rubber made 50 gal shallow tub and let the algae grow on the sides?
<Either way>
I tried searching for issues with curing in an old copper treated tank several times to no avail. The issue with my searching is that only five or so semi-relevant posts come up in my iPhone. The rest are blocked off. I guess I have to wait until I get to my computer.
<Yikes! Thank you for this valuable information. I did not know this... Don't use my phone for such searches (D'oh!)>
Lastly, I only have a two-chamber sump so I'm going with removing those cinders from the first chamber - maybe why I have too high Alk? Someone suggested cinders who claimed to be an expert online. But I agree let's get rid of em! I was thinking more surface area but understand there may be bad metals in there. Perhaps some phosphates will come out as well!
<Don't think (volcanic?) cinders contribute much/anything to alkalinity... they're not carbonate based, but silicate mostly>
Another possibility for the 5 reading by my phosphate test was the few pieces of LR I added to the without curing (which are now). Strange, though, that reading came with 0 Nitrates, Nitrites and Ammonia- lending me to believe it was phosphate lock-up.
So my plan is to add LR and rubble pieces to the first chamber of the sump after removing the cinders. I'll remove my bag and let the flow from the DT fall directly onto this to keep movement going. Keep in mind the tank is off-grid solar powered so I can save adding another power head this way.
I can easily remove the rock and pump the detritus through a filter bad into the second chamber for periodic cleanings or siphon out into the ground when I do water changes.
I'll keep the second chamber DSB- with a twist. Since it's the only other place to return to the DT, I'll put coral rubble atop the sand and cover the return pump with rubble, to avoid the Limu (seaweed) also growing in there from getting sucked into the pump. Hopefully pods and such still make it through!
I know you don't suggest all that action in one chamber but I'm out of space in my 20 gal sump. Perhaps it's time for an upgrade, or can My system thrive with this setup for my 100g. DT?
<MUCH better; yes>
Keep in mind I have the whole side of my house, plenty of sun and my wife cool with it!
I guess I could drill into my acrylic sump and have a 2" pipe flow into a 10g tank, then pump out of there so I don't get a bunch of sand and stuff in the return. Would you suggest that?
<I'd use the larger sump/tote >
That should cover all my questions. I know it's a lot but Mahalo Nui Loa! Looking forward to donating when I get back to my computer!
<Cheers, BobF>
Sky Kubby
Re: Too Much Uncured Live Rock: Phosphates Locked Up     11/26/16

Bob, I almost forgot! I'm going to Keauhou today to hint for limu. Will the Ogo grow loose or does it need to be attached to a rock?
<See our prev. corr. I'd just buy from IPSF. B>
Sky Kubby  

Limu!     11/26/16
 Thanks for the inspiration Bob! I think I've tried growing these before.
Looks like Ogo on the left but I think not quite. I'll look on the WWM ID section. Do I just stick under some rock in my sump to see if it latches on?
<The Gracilaria species (there are a few in HI, many worldwide) are Reds/Rhodophytes, largely unattached...>
I'm pretty sure the one on the right is a type of Nori. Bless!
<Is an Ulva, Ulvales at least. B>
Sky Kubby

Hawaii Coral Sand at Home Depot for DSB?     11/26/16
Aloha Crew. Will this sand work for a DSB with the variety of size? I can harvest similar, but it will have a die off- I think this is just crushed coral but I'm not sure. Best to cure or just use natural sand? There's some. If 3mm Big chunks in here. Mahalo!
Ps. The chunks are bigger than they look in the pic...
<I would definitely use this... and NOT collect, clean my own. Bob Fenner>
Sky Kubby

PO4 too low too long. No rdg.         2/9/15
Background: I moved my mixed reef tank (80% SPS) to a new house and experienced a major nutrient explosion -- GHA and Cyano outbreaks.
<... from what cause/s?>
Started dosing NOPOX and using ROWAPHOS --
<Ah yes; the good olde' western ethic: Buy something>

there's been major improvement in my tank, the algae is almost all gone and I don't see any Cyano! Now my problem is an underfed tank -- starting to see some STN in my SPS. My NO and PO have been at zero for two+ weeks now. My feeding regime has been: M,W,F feed the fish and T,TH,S feed the corals reef energy A&B (12-16ml each). I started daily feedings this week but I'm wondering if I should completely remove the ROWA. Any ideas or advice?
<Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/po4faq2.htm
Bob Fenner>
Re: PO4 too low too long; no rdg....         2/9/15

Hi Bob!
<Big T!>
I assume the huge spike was from moving the tank from one house to another.
I had to remove everything including the sand. The tank went through a mini-cycle with high ammonia so I didn't add fish until approximately 1.5 months later. During that time, the GHA and Cyano grew like crazy and were starting to overtake the tank and the corals so I opted to use NOPOX and Rowaphos.
<Mmm; yes to all... better to go into such things slowly... sailboat vs. motor cruiser mentality>
I was looking to hear your thoughts on the impact of removing the ROWAPhos all at once and letting the NOPOX work by itself or if you recommend a different approach.
<Did you read where you were referred? I'd pull all of one, most of the other. B>

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

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

Phosphates... really/and algae control; RO maint. 02/13/13
Hi crew,
               I am having an issue that I can't pinpoint and I was hoping maybe a third-party perspective could help find the source of my problem. I am having issues with brown hair algae in my 75gallon (year and half old)  reef. I know that in order for algae to thrive it requires the presence of nutrients in the water.
<Among other pre-disposing factors... such as a lack of competition, predation, low circulation, low RedOx, DO...>
 All my parameters are in check except for phosphates. I am using a Red Sea test kit and the water from my tank is showing .8ppm of phosphate.
I figured now that I know what my issue is I need to work on my nutrient export. For the last 3 months I have been doing 10 gallon water changes every week religiously.
<An expensive and slow means... dilution>
Every month I am removing 40 gallons of water which is about half the water volume (I also have a small sump). I have been removing filter socks regularly, blasting the rocks during water changes to syphon out detritus and physically removing the algae from the rocks.
<And, as the saying goes: "How's that working out for you?">
I started to see a bloom of coral line algae begin to grow on the rocks and the algae starting to die off. Great! I kept up my water changes.
After a water change three weeks ago. I got a huge bloom of algae again.
I was so disappointed. I looked at my RO/DI unit and figured maybe I would need to change the media out even though my TDS meter shows no traces. I ordered up the media and skipped my water change last week.
The algae began to die again. MY media came in and I was making water yesterday for a water change. I got curious and tested the water coming out of my RO/DI for phosphates and low and behold it was reading .8ppm.
How could this be?
<Mmm, faulty membrane/s, bad carbon in the contactor...>
What else can I possibly do to treat my water?
<Quite a few things actually, but I wouldn't go this route... I'd focus on other means...>
I use an Aqua FX Barracuda RO/DI. The membrane is not even a year old and the other media is brand new as of yesterday. I made around 20 gallons of water yesterday and I could see the DI cartridge was already that rusty color at the top of the cartridge from just making 20 gallons. I have a TDS meter installed on the unit and can see that the meter is picking up traces coming into the unit and then as it exports it I get the 0 reading.
I am basically introducing the phosphates into my tank in the form of water changes and cap-offs.
<And foods>
I have no fish in the tank at the moment.
<Oh, not much food then>
 I only have inverts in the forms of a few corals, shrimp and a reef lobster. What do you suggest?
<That you read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/avoidingalgaeproblesm.htm
and as much of the linked embedded and sorted files at the top that you consider prudent... and consider a long-term approach, solution... Adding a DSB in a sump, live macro-algae in there/a tied in refugium, on a RDP timed lighting scheme. Bob Fenner>

Re: FOWLR Fish stocking 6/19/12
Bob, Jordan, et al.
<Hi Dave, Jordan here>
I decided I was losing too much sleep over the rock, and recalled that there were so many other suspect details about its history.
<I remember it was in an absolute horrid state but not the specifics.>
 I thought it best to start at ground zero with them, acid-washed, with ~30% live rock (as Bob advised), then wait.
<Bold move.>
So, I gave it a muriatic acid wash this past weekend. Solution was about 1:6 acid: water solution, in ~40G water. What a process.
<Yes it is; as mentioned, not one I am in favor of.>
 Then, I power washed it all down, gave it another rinse, and now I have it soaking (with circulation) in low salinity RO/DI.
I just tested and retested phosphate levels with the Seachem precision test kit, expecting to happily confirm untraceable levels. Aye carumba, 2mg/L!
<Ouch! This is a sad turn of events.>
Any idea what could be going on here?
<It seems as if the rock was in much worse condition than suspected. The previous owners severe neglect seems to have "ruined" the rock. I have never seen so many corrective measures taken and not yield positive results.>
 I'm lost in space on this, wondering if I need a vacation from the hobby (yikes). I suppose I
could be dealing with one or two pieces in the bunch that are leaching at incredible levels?
<More likely that every piece of rock from the neglected tank is saturated with phosphate.>
 Am I working with a rock base that will input unmanageable (or overly expensive export options) phosphate conditions?
<At this point, I would say yes.>
 Any thoughts (or condolences) would be appreciated.
<I have never advocated this but it may be easier/less expensive to toss out all of the neglected rock and start with clean base rock from a reputable vendor such as Bulk Reef Supply or Marco Rocks. I recall being quite shocked by the rocks condition but I've never seen rock that was unable to be saved; unfortunately this may be the first.>

Phosban Reactor and Carbon Reactor (Runtime) – 02/23/12
Hello Crew,
<<Hey Ed>>
Just a quick question. How often should my Phosban 150 reactor and separate carbon reactor be running? Should they both be running 24/7? Both of my reactors are hanging in my 30 gallon sump.
<<Some might say to run these on a punctuated basis…but I see/have seen no harm in running 24/7, and do this with my own system.  But saying that, do keep an eye on your system/livestock and see what it/they have to tell you about it>>
<<Happy to share…  EricR>>

Question About Phosphate, Nitrate, And Control Via Caulerpa 9/23/10
Hi Crew,
<Hello John>
A bit of background leading up to my present question: I have a 100 gallon capacity mixed reef system (75g display, 40g macroalgae/LR refugium) that has been set up 18 months. Previously, most of the
inhabitants (some over ten years in my care, most over five years) were in a refugium-less 55g. A Turboflotor 1000 skimmer is run 24h/ day, chemical filtration is by PolyFilter, activated carbon and
aluminum-based phosphate media. Water change of 10g (RODI with Instant Ocean), 4-6 times per month. Historically (the first 12 months after setup, roughly) the system ran about 10ppm nitrate, which I checked rather infrequently. I never kept tabs on the phosphate levels, but rather changed phosphate media according to amount of nuisance algae growth in the display. (Other parameters, for what they are worth: 10-12 dKH, 450-500ppm Ca, 8.0-8.3 pH, 35ppt salinity, temp 78F)
<Magnesium levels? Important for the corals ability to absorb calcium.>
About four months ago I acquired a Hanna 'Checker' phosphate photometer (neat little device),
<Yes, and pricey.>
which I started using to keep phosphate down to around .05ppm; my first test upon getting the
device was, if I recall, about .2ppm. I got the photometer to try to end a long standing (years) relationship with Cyanobacteria, which I ultimately sent packing with ChemiClean.
Nuisance algae quickly diminished (as could be expected from keeping a close digital eye on phosphate levels); so did the growth of Caulerpa (C. racemosa) in the refugium, which had previously been growing explosively. Within the last 6 weeks, I've noticed recession and individual polyp death on one Lobophyllia and one Acanthastrea in the display. I finally figured out I ought to test the nitrate level, and it was >50ppm (Tetra kit, so could be 50-100ppm)! I've started changing 10g water per day to remedy this.
<Mmm, I'm quite sure the Tetra Kit measures NO3-N which is total nitrogen.
NO3 is the level that is important to us. A 50ppm reading with the Tetra Kit would result in a NO3 level of about 11ppm...not too bad. As to your coral health, the use of aluminum based phosphate removers can/could cause problems here. With pH levels of 8 or below, aluminum can be released by the phosphate beads and corals do not take well to this. Best to use an iron based remover such as RowaPhos.>
Here are my questions:
On Caulerpa -- since, I assume, the rise in nitrate is at least somewhat related to the slack in Caulerpa growth, should I allow the phosphate level to rise in order to spur this growth?
<Oh no, and why would you want to spur the growth? The Caulerpa growth will be governed by nutrient levels.....isn't that what we are after, control?>
If so, should I reduce the nitrate through water changes before allowing the phosphate to rise (I ask this since I suspect there may be some optimal N-P ratio for Caulerpa growth -- any idea if there is, and
what this ratio might be)?
<No such thing. I'd test with a kit that measures NO3 such as Salifert's kit or a similar kit, see what you read on that.>
On ChemiClean -- I understand the position of many of the WWM Crew members on such products; I won't be hurt by any reminders of the possible harm that can be done with them. One of those harms, I
understand, is the rise in nitrogenous pollutants due to the death of the Cyanobacteria themselves; another is the rise in nitrates due to the death of denitrifying bacteria. I can't imagine that I killed >40ppm nitrate worth of bacteria (surely there would have been heavy collateral damage from an ammonia spike, yes?),
<Possibly, as ChemiClean is not bacteria selective.>
but I can imagine that the ChemiClean did some harm to the denitrifying microbes in the system. Do you think that the elevated nitrate is due mostly to the death of nitrate-reducers?
<First determine what your NO3 level is.>
If this is the case, am I correct to assume that waiting out their return would be the best policy (that,
and not killing them again, I suppose...)?
<If their numbers were reduced, reproduction is quite fast. Is best to go after the root of the problem rather than a band aid fix.>
For what it is worth, I attempted to take a water sample from under the sand bed (deepest past, about 5 inches deep of ~1-2mm aragonite) with a syringe to test for nitrate -- this sample contained exactly as much nitrate as did a sample from the water column (this could indicate either that the denitrification process is not working, or that I don't know how to get a sample from under a sand bed).
<Is a meaningless test. There have been positive results with nitrate reduction (if you indeed have high NO3 levels) by implementing vodka dosing (do not use Absolute, send that to me, use the cheaper grade) but care must be taken doing this as an over abundance of nitrate reducing bacteria can drastically lower
oxygen levels in a system. Better to read/understand thoroughly before attempting.>
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Best regards,

Extreme Phosphate & DSB Question/Phosphate Control 8/8/10
<Hello Malcolm>
I have a big problem with Phosphate. Measures 1.8 on a Hannah meter and the Salifert PO4 test backs this up.
Ammonia, Nitrate and nitrate all are 0
<At least nitrate is under control.>
Some background, the system is about 3 months old. It comprises a lot of 'stuff' (sand, rock, water etc) from two other tanks I have and from other donor sources so its not a new virgin system with all the major startup issues. No ammonia spikes have ever been detected so I think everything from the other tanks is doing its job.
In an effort to isolate the phosphate source, I have been removing things and putting them back in the other tanks, hardware has been soaked over night and the water measured. Apart from a little leeching from one PVC hose and some of my home brew food, I've found nothing.
<I would suspect the "home brew food" as being one of the culprits.>
I'm now down to a display containing some shrimps, a Banana Wrasse, a heap of coral.(All the rock without coral has been relocated), 1" of sand, the sump and of course the PO4.
The sump which incorporates a fuge and DSB. Both areas are about 12" x 16" x 16" high. The DSB is about 8" deep with very fine sand.
The media for the DSB came from a friends setup who closed it down so as to travel overseas and he had no issues with it. I've since topped it up with fresh clean virgin sand by about 2" to get the 8"
The sand was transported in a few different layers so that I could try and retain as much 'life' as possible after relocating it all. The layers went back in in the order they came out. Naturally a massive sulphur stink but WWM advised that the DSB should sort itself out. Apart from the Phosphate problem, everything is going well.
To cut to the chase. Could my DSB be the source of the Phosphate?
<It could to some degree depending on it's contents. I'd suggest placing Caulerpa
in the fuge to aid in lowering the phosphate level.>
I do a 10-15% water change weekly.
<Great, does help.>
Dosing with Prodibio products and Vodka has had no sustainable effect.
I've just bought a RowaPhos reactor which will be installed next weekend.
<Another good move and would recommend the RowaPhos media as well.>
Should I remove the DSB media, wash it all out and start again?
Obviously I do not want to do this as it will take months to re-establish but the Phosphate is promoting way too much algae.
<No, I would not. There are other ways of controlling phosphates as mentioned above and forthcoming below.>
Is this possibly another part of cycling which I've not experienced before. In my experience 'seeding' with so much media from the other tanks should have removed most of that issue. Should I just leave it alone for a month or so more and see if it sorts itself out?
Your thoughts please
<I'd like to start out by saying that Phosphate is one of the top 14 out of 70 trace elements found in natural sea water that are known to be essential for fish and reef tank systems. It is also a primary nutrient source for algae, particularly green hair species. Phosphates can be introduced in several ways. Using unfiltered tap water for making up sea salt mixes or as top-off water, some salt mixes, activated carbon, KH buffers, and foods put into the tank.
Now a few suggestions to reduce phosphate levels in your system. As you mention above, a phosphate reactor, employ a Polyfilter pad, and the use of limewater and/or Kalkwasser for your calcium additive. Adding a limewater or a Kalkwasser solution has been known to reduce phosphate levels. The following quote from a Sea Scope flyer states, "One of the theories why calcium hydroxide might produce better results than calcium chloride has been that the high pH and high calcium in a saturated calcium hydroxide solution cause precipitation of phosphate from the freshwater, eliminating this algae fertilizer from the solution." Further reading and suggestions can be found here.
<Ditto, James (Salty Dog)>
Re Extreme Phosphate & DSB Question/Phosphate Control 8/8/10
Many thanks for your reply.
Some additional comments inserted below-
<Mmm, in future replies, do not insert into the original text, just reply to the original thread. Makes it easier for us to read/reply. I will cut/paste your "insertions" below.>
I do have Caulerpa in the fuge adjacent to the DSB. I'm not noting any explosion in its growth. The Hair Algae is having too much of a party.
I am using RO water for top ups etc. It measures 0 for PO4 as does the NSW I use.
<Great, that suspect is eliminated.>
Polyfilter pad is a new one for me. Google here I come.
<Have been around for ages and a good multi-purpose chemical media.>
I have a Kalkwasser reactor but haven't plumbed it in yet. I wasn't aware of its phosphate reduction abilities so just its moved a lot higher in my priorities.
Many thanks James.
Appreciate the support.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Rinsing Frozen Food (Managing Phosphate) -- 04/06/10
I have been having a bit of a struggle maintaining a low phosphate level. I even have a phosphate reactor and it's difficult to stay below 0.5.
Most of the time it's right at the 0.5 level -- unless I have recently changed the media. Then I can get 0 to 0.25 for a week.
<<Then this would seem to dictate the frequency at which you need to swap out the media (yes'¦expensive)'¦it may also indicate the reactor is 'undersized' for your system>>
I only use RO/DI water and test it to ensure the filters are doing the job.
<<Very good>>
Could it be that I am introducing phosphates as I feed frozen Mysis shrimp?
I don't do anything special -- just add tank water to thaw the cubes
<<This is what I do as well>>
and then feed with a turkey baster.
<<Some authors consider the thaw-water for frozen foods to be 'rocket fuel' for nuisance alga and the like due to the high nitrate/phosphate content. How much of this 'fuel' is present is likely variable among the differing manufacturers/brands available. The only way to truly know 'if' or 'how much' will be to test for such'¦but yes, the thaw-water is very probably a source of phosphate to your system. Try 'rinsing' for a week and see how this affects your phosphate level>>
Thanks for your comments.
<<Quite welcome'¦ EricR>>

Re: Rinsing Frozen Food (Managing Phosphate) -- 04/06/10
Thanks, Eric!
<<Quite welcome, Gene>>
I finally discovered how to research a topic before sending you guys an email.
Sorry for the lack of research on my part. I found an article on your site that addressed this very question. I imagine it would be difficult to ask a question ya'll have not already addressed.
<<Indeed'¦at least in some form/manner or another>>
Nonetheless, I appreciate your thoughtful response.
<<Always happy to share, mate'¦ EricR>>

PO4 "trapped" in LR & LS -- 02/12/10
Greetings Crew & thanks a million for this web site.
I have a 90g reef. Params are currently CA 400, Alk 3.2, NO3 <1, Ph 8.4, Amm Nitrite 0, SG 1.024, Temp 79. Have a 1200 gph pump, 2 Koralias, TurboFlotor blue skimmer, 75g wet/dry filter & UV sterilizer. Lights are 520w PC's
LR & LS have been in tank 3 yrs.
<I'd be switching out, adding some new.>
There is about 80# LR & LS is 2-3" deep. 2 weeks ago I added some new LS & stirred up some of the compacted bed. 3-4 wks ago I changed PO4 media from PhosPure from Drs F&S to RowaPhos in a fluidized reactor. H2O changes are done 10g/wk. Green film algae & some red Cyano are growing on the glass, sand & small places on the LR. This seems to have started about 2 wks ago.
PO4 levels in the H20 column are <1.
<I hope so... better below 0.10 ppm>
Within the LS & LR however the PO4 levels are much more like 5.
<Zounds! How's that look? Sound?>
Why isn't the RowaPhos removing PO4 from the substrate & LR, or is it just a slow thing?
Doug from MI
<Can't tell from here. I'd first be checking your test kit against a standard, other reliable assay. Bob Fenner> 

Re: PO4 "trapped" in LR & LS -- 2/12/10
My mistake. PO4 in the water column is less than 0.10, i.e. no blue tinge w test reagent.
However, with a few small pieces of chipped of LR in the test vial w 10ml of tank water, PO4 is 1-2 ppm!!
<Mmm, not too much of a worry... unless there's a whole bunch of "chipping" going on in the system>
So, should I toss a few pieces of LR that don't have corals attached & replace w new cured LR, or is there something that the RowaPhos is not doing??
<Likely all is fine here. I would take a/the long-term approach... look into expanding/adding a live sump, large DSB, RDP macroalgal culture... As gone over and over on WWM. Cheers, BobF> 

Dosing Vodka for Nitrate/Phosphate Control -- 11/07/09
Hi Crew:
<<Hello Bonnie>>
I just read an article on Reef Central about dosing vodka in a reef tank for nitrate and phosphate reduction.
<<Mmm, yes'¦have done this myself>>
They say you can accomplish the same with other carbon sources such as sugar or vinegar, but the method they explain uses vodka.
<<Indeed'¦ The ethyl alcohol in the vodka provides a concentrated and easily measured/dosed source of relatively clean carbon>>
Here's an excerpt from the article "The addition of vodka/ethanol is thought to increase bacterial biomass. For this, vodka addition would result in bacterial growth and reproduction. During this process nutrients in the water (including NO3 and PO4) are taken up for the formation of new macromolecules that are needed in cell synthesis and viability. Due to this rapid growth and reproduction, NO3 and PO4 can drop quickly from detectable levels by most test kits on the market. The increased biomass of the bacteria leads to a notable increase in skimmate production, removing more waste than without vodka addition. The increased skimmate is thought to remove the bacteria or bacterial byproducts that have assimilated the NO3 and PO4 within the water column leading to NO3 and PO4 depletion."
<<Agreed'¦ Though I also wish to point out that this 'process' consumes an enormous amount of oxygen (due to the increase of aerobic bacteria/activity)>>
They only recommend this method for people who have "good" protein skimmers attached to their tanks.
<<Reference my previous statement>>
Of course, they warn to proceed very carefully, monitoring nitrate and phosphate levels in the tank daily. Basically, you are to dose a small amount of vodka each day, increasing it each day, measuring the nitrate and phosphate levels, until you begin to see a drop in these levels. Then you are to continue using the same dose (as a maintenance dose) from then on. I was just wondering what your thoughts and/or experience, if any, are with implementing this method?
<<There are those that will swear by this method/process, and others that don't like it at all'¦and I admit to using it when battling Cyanobacteria. But, the procedure is not without risk'¦ I once lost several thousand dollars in fish and mature coral colonies when a GFCI tripped, shutting down my sump recirculation pump shortly after dosing Vodka right before lights out (and my going to bed). With the loss of water circulation, and the resultant segregation from the display of my skimmer, the bacterial bloom robbed the display of oxygen. I awoke the next morning to a tank of piscine corpses (save a few surprising exceptions)'¦the damage to the corals was not apparent right away, but rather was to manifest in the weeks and months that followed. I have since limited the use of such 'carbon dosing''¦and I now have two sump pumps, on 'separate' circuits>>
They also warn that this method is NOT for everyone. You do have to be committed to adding the vodka every day in order to be successful, it's not a hit or miss thing, whereby one day you dose and the next day you forget to dose, etc.
<<Mmm'¦ Missing a day now and then is not a big deal in my opinion>>
Any thoughts would be appreciated.
<<As stated'¦ The procedure 'can' be useful, but is not one to be taken lightly. Do weigh your perceived advantages re'¦and proceed very cautiously should you decide to go forward with it>>
As always, thanks for your assistance and advice.
<<A pleasure to share'¦ EricR>>

Remove phosphate with high aeration? 05/22/09
<Hello Hengky.>
In many literature, phosphate can be remove by some ways : such as, growing macro algae, using very good skimmer, using phosphate remover media. But I ever read in some literature a from marine aquarium book, that phosphate also remove by high aeration. Question is, why in WWM it was never discuss (remove phosphate by high aeration)?
<Because it won't work in a usual marine aquarium. If aeration is strong enough to raise the pH locally (improbable in a reef aquarium with a pH of 7.8-8.4 at atmospheric pressure and usual temperatures) you might precipitate very little Calcium phosphate and therefore reduce phosphates (and Calcium). Similarly, Calcium phosphate is precipitated by addition of Kalkwasser.>
If this method can replace the high cost of using phosphate remover, then how high aeration that I shall run in my sump. If this method is exactly unproven, then what is the cheapest and the best method for phosphate remover in long run because I don't want to invest in high cost phosphate media remover such as Rowaphos, except the skimmer.
<The cheapest solution is to have a well balanced system setup without phosphate containing materials, where input equals output, and therefore no phosphates accumulate. If growth of biomass like algae, corals plus removal by water changes equals input by feeding, you won't need removers.>
Thank you very much. PS : assuming I do a RO/DI for replace water evaporation.
Regards, Hengky
<Also have a look here for phosphate sources and removal: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_5/volume_5_3/phosphates.htm
Cheers, Marco.>

Aquafuge vs. Rowaphos  12/7/08 Hey Guys, <Gals too, hello there Steve.> I have been reading your site for information about Refugiums. I am going to add one on my 55 gallon reef. <Good move that you will not regret.> Currently I am using an Aqua C Remora Pro and 90 lbs of live rock with a lot of water movement for my filtration. I also have an Aquaclear 70 HOT filter running with some Rowaphos and filter floss to keep the phosphates down. After reading your site I am left with two questions. 1. If I add an Aquafuge refugium would you recommend removing the Aquaclear filter? <I would, it is of little use with your LR, skimmer and refugium. It just becomes a maintenance burden at this point.> I would no longer need to purchase that expensive Rowaphos. At the same time I need to get the phosphates a bit lower than they are now so I want to make sure that I am actually making headway. I don't want to buy an expensive toy if it isn't going to be any better than the Rowaphos. <These media can actually strip the water of too much phosphate. Do test your levels, but if water changes and the refugium do not keep them in check then it is time to look at the source/problem rather than treating the symptom.> 2. Would any of the 3 Aquafuge models be large enough to produce enough food for a Mandarin Goby? <Not with a 55 gallon display.> I know that refugiums can produce enough food for theses fish but even the largest Aquafuge model is pretty small. <This is one of those cases where many claim it works, with having the fish doing "fine" for 6 months...the same fish in another 6 months will be dead and gone.> Steve <Scott V.>

Phosphate control  -- 10/10/08 Hi Bob, <David> I am moving towards a refugium and or deep sand bed for the grow out system in the clown house. I have a few questions though. I have 2 items that I need to address in regards to filtration for the grow out system. I am wanting to get these issues resolved before I add a whole bunch more fish to this system which is going to happen in the near term as I have 5 different clowns that are now spawning (well 4 as the ocellaris are on vacation) . I am still having an algae problem that needs to be addressed also. <Mmm, okay> The first is nitrates. I believe that in our conversation while you were here that you had mentioned that a deep sand bed may be a good addition for the removal of nitrates versus a commercial denitrator. <Yes... much more stable, safe... and good for much more than simply natural denitration> I have a 29g, 55g, or possibly a 90g tank that I could use for a deep sand bed. If I remember correctly you had mentioned running all system flow through the deep sand bed and then back to the main sump where the skimmer, heater, uv sterilizer, etc. . was housed. I'll try to bullet the questions to make it easier to answer. If I use the 55g tank then we are talking about a few hundred pounds of sand to make a 9-10" DSB (I thought you had said 9"-10")? <Yes> Do I need you use varying sizes of sands at different depths? <Mmm, no... better IMO to just use one grade... of very/quite fine oolithic sand> Would pumping a certain amount of water from the sump through the DSB and back to the sump work as well if I didn't want to change the drain and supply plumbing right away? <Mmm, I would NOT do this pumping back and forth... I would ONLY rely on gravity in going/coming one way or t'other> The second issue I think may be a cause of the excess algae along with the nitrates is Phosphates. I do approx. 25-30% water changes in the grow out system twice a month and the phosphates are still vary high (2-3ppm). Is there a good way to deal with phosphates naturally without a bunch of chemicals? <Yes... the purposeful culture of organisms (likely macro algae) that will readily absorb these (and much more again)... Gracilaria, Chaetomorpha are two present fave genera here> Would adding macro algae's to the deep sand bed we worth the effort. Ex Chaeto, Caulerpa or others and making this more of a refugium/DSB? <I would NOT use the genus Caulerpa... the other algae, some nominal lighting... perhaps dividing the area into two sections, lighting one side then the other alternating... such that some light is on all the time... would be my choice> Obviously as this system grows it will consume more time and the more simplified I can make the maintenance the better. It does get old continuously scraping the glass... Am I heading in the right direction? <IMO/E yes... the use of aluminum, iron-based contactors, resin-type filtrants is expensive, hard to regulate, and really unnecessary. Go the biological route here David> Other than those two issues, I think that adding Ozone and the new larger skimmer is helping. Just want to keep moving forward. <I understand> I have the picture to send to you for you autograph. Should I send it to your house in San Diego? I have the address if that is the best place to send it. <Yes, here in SD: 8586 Menkar Rd., San Diego, CA 92126> Thanks, Dave Durr <Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Mud bed vs. DSB vs. bare bottom  8/31/08 Refugium Confusion... Dear crew, <Scott F. your Crew member tonight!> I am in the process of changing things around for my 210 g FOWLR (putting a larger skimmer in a sump, replacing my 2 Remora hang-ons). My specific question is regarding my refugium. It's been in use for 3 years with a mud bed. In that time I've had a constant battle with hair algae in my main tank, can't get coralline to take over and I swear my tank always has a slight green tint. However, my fish have never been healthier. In the past I've always had problems with lateral line disease on certain fish. I have a blue hippo tang that I've had for the last 3 years who is beautiful without a mark on him. <Interesting...Seems a lot like what I've heard in the ads for Eco System Miracle Mud!> I have a suspicion that the mud has been a contributing factor to the phosphates and hydrogen sulfide. <A possibility, although phosphates often come from food and source water, and can be reduced, or even eliminated via use of water pre-treatment (RO/DI) and good protein skimming. On the other hand, hydrogen sulfide could be coming from a disturbance in the deep mud bed> What are most aquarists doing now for their refugiums? Using mud, sand or nothing at all? <Wow...hard to say. So many different ways to go. It depends on what you're trying to accomplish. If your goal is to grow macroalgae, such as Chaetomorpha, you may be able to get away without any substrate at all. On the other hand, many hobbyists are taking advantage of their refugiums to run a supplemental deep sand bed. I've even seen hobbyists use their refugia for seagrasses-an interesting and attractive concept.> Today I'm emptying my refugium to put in my new sump and refugium set-up. I don't know whether to keep the mud or not. I have Chaetomorpha, Caulerpa, and 2 mangroves growing as well as some live rock and assorted other inhabitants. Thanks for your input. Jeff <I'd try some of the other controls for phosphate mentioned above first, before tearing out your mud bed. I would, however, properly dispose of the Caulerpa, as it has some real drawbacks. You'll find that the Chaetomorpha is a far better nutrient export vehicle than Caulerpa, and has none of the drawbacks (ie; potential to release gametes, possible toxicity to corals, and super aggressive growth). If harvested regularly, you can achieve tremendous nutrient export with Chaetomorpha. In the end, configure your refugium to do what you want it to do (ie; provide nutrient export, create a safe haven for larval fishes, supplemental food production, etc.) and you will be happier overall with your results. Hope this helps! Regards, Scott F.>

Kalk, Skimmer and Phosphate Precipitation Questions -- 08/27/08 Hi Gang, <<Hello X>> First many thanks for the incredible resource you guys provide for us! <<On behalf of the Crew'¦you're quite welcome>> I have an 850 gallon tank, 240 gallon sump and a 150 gallon refugium. <<Very nice'¦ And I with my 375g tank, 75g sump, and 55g refugium am quite envious. Though I must confess obtaining a larger system would entail having to give up a spouse. Okay, sorry'¦back with the program>> I have been reef keeping for over 10 years and the more I learn the less I realize I know. <<I do understand'¦ I've been in the hobby for more than three decades, with the last two being devoted entirely to reef keeping. And for me, I don't think I 'really' started to learn until I started trying to help others>> I battle with phosphates in the aquarium from the fish load and feedings (Salifert tests between 0.1 and 0.5). <<I see'¦ I'm a BIG believer in feeding your fishes, and even 'the tank' for that matter'¦but water quality must be maintained/not suffer. If ancillary filtration is sufficient then perhaps your fish load is just too much? As for the Phosphate readings, how does your tank respond re? Phosphate is 'required' by all living organisms; and though these readings are higher than generally recommended for a reef system'¦how is the tank taking them? Does it suffer nuisance algae outbreaks? '¦loss of coral growth? '¦loss of color? If not, then perhaps you needn't worry re the Phosphate level. I'm not saying that a reading of 0.5ppm shouldn't be deleterious; but to allow for possible inaccuracies in the test kit or even your testing methods, let the condition of the tank rule your actions>> I have been toying with the idea of raising my pH to get phosphates to precipitate to some degree to help "bridge" the phosphate gap between water changes. <<Okay'¦ There are some other avenues to explore as well like macroalgae in the refugium and chemical Phosphate remover such as one of the iron-based products or Poly-Filter pads'¦though the chemical removal option would be quite expensive in a system as large as yours>> The idea I have been thinking is this: I will drip in Kalk water with a vacuum pump (Tom brand) that is controlled by my Neptune controller at a set point of 8.5 to "hold" the pH high enough to precipitate the phosphates. <<Okay'¦and once reached, this should immediately precipitate Phosphate. Though do be aware that suddenly reducing the Phosphate level of the 'system' to zero may also harm your corals. In fact, I such reductions of phosphate may do 'instant and permanent harm.' This may be held up by the anecdotal accounts of coral bleaching and/or necrotic events by those using/overusing the very efficient iron-based Phosphate removers'¦which sometimes continue even after removal of the media from the system>> Is this safe to hold pH that high on a "permanent" basis? <<I have heard of it being done for several weeks at a time to combat certain stubborn nuisance algae strains (e.g. - Bryopsis), but as a 'permanent' solution it may not be desirable, nor do I think it is necessary. Merely adding the Kalkwasser to help maintain a lower pH and/or facilitate Calcium replenishment will precipitate Phosphate from exposure to the extremely high pH of the solution in the area of introduction>> Is 8.5 high enough? <<Should be>> Is it best to send the Kalk down the drain that feeds my skimmer directly for reasons of saponification? <<You could'¦though saponification will still occur if you don't, in the area of introduction. But I would not/choose not to do this for reasons of reducing the Calcium deposits on the moving/friction heated parts of the skimmer pump(s). It's up to you, but I let Kalkwasser enter my system at my refugium where is then gravity feeds (a bit more 'diluted') to the pump chamber of my sump>> This one (of (3) 1.5 drains) drain only goes from the overflow box to the skimmer (A-300 H&S) then into the sump, or is dripping it anywhere in the sump just as good? <<Anywhere in the system will suffice'¦ As stated, I prefer to introduce the mixture to my 'pump less' refugium>> Is this a decent/good method for helping keep the phosphates under control long term? <<I think that depends on who you ask. Some may tout this as a big advantage/argument for dosing Kalkwasser'¦but I have come to believe it is of limited utility re Phosphate control. The biggest problem is this method does not 'remove' Phosphate from the system and the 'stored' Phosphate can be reintroduced in a soluble form by changes in water chemistry and maybe even by some bacterial/biological activities. Better by far to remove excess Phosphate when possible. The 'safest' method is likely export via harvesting macroalgae from the refugium, though this is also probably the slowest means requiring a large amount of material to be removed to have an impact if levels are very high. If levels are such as to be dangerous/deleterious to the system then 'judicious' use of a chemical media, along with careful monitoring/testing may be best>> I have searched and have not found a whole lot of info that details this idea. If I use the Kalk to keep pH up will it become too much calcium for the tank (I will obviously test to see long term results)? <<That depends on the Calcium demands of your system'¦but will be evidenced by your testing>> I have ran a "trial" run doing what I stated above and it seems that I need to drip in about 3-5 gallons of Kalk a day to keep the pH this high. Is that too much daily? <<That remains to be seen as well. It really only becomes 'too much' when it elevates pH to dangerous levels, elevates Calcium to exceedingly high levels presenting a danger of spontaneous precipitation of bio-mineral and alkaline content, strips Magnesium from the system (you will need to monitor/supplement as necessary), or exceeds the evaporation rate of the system causing dilution and lowering of Salinity>> I have a MTC ProCal reactor that for the most part keeps up with calcium/Alk demands although the more stonies I add the more it requires from the reactor to the point that I now need to start dosing some extra calcium (thus the need for the Kalk). <<Ah'¦okay>> So I am hoping to kill 2 birds with one stone here. Please if you have any links that can provide any additional info would be great. Thanks! <<If you haven't already, do have a look here and among the associated links in blue at the top of the page: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/po4faqs.htm .  Regards, EricR>>

Vodka Dosing -- 08/19/08 Hi -- <<Hello>> I've searched your site and a few others and read some interesting articles about the concept of vodka or ethanol dosing to reduce/eliminate Nitrate and Phosphate in reef tanks. <<Indeed>> Most of it was fairly dated however and I was curious as to whether the idea still has currency. <<Possibly, with caveats'¦ Firstly, this methodology is not without danger...the right combination of circumstances can be catastrophic (I speak from experience). Secondly, this method only treats the symptom and is not a cure-all for what ails your system re buildup of nitrogenous/organic compounds. Are you aware of how this method works? The premise is the addition of a concentrated form of carbon (Vodka/ethanol) provides a food source that promotes the artificially high production of certain strains of bacteria for a limited period (until the carbon/food source is depleted). Some of these strains of bacteria have the ability to 'double their populations every 20-minutes.' As this mostly aerobic bacteria population grows, along with the carbon source, excess nutrients are also oxidized. As implied by the name, this process is driven by oxygen consumed by the bacteria to drive their metabolisms'¦and therein lays the greatest danger in my opinion. Coupled with the wrong conditions (already low oxygen levels from overstocking, inadequate water movement, etc.) or unfortunate circumstance (loss of power/sump pump circulation) the artificially high bacteria population can rapidly consume all the available oxygen creating a severe anoxic condition>> I'm home in the middle of a vacation for a day or two and just tested my nitrates which are disturbingly high as I had to shut down my skimmer while I've been gone. <<Hmm'¦don't know what 'disturbingly high' is>> I was thinking that it might be a way to bring them down quickly and give me time to deal with it when I return home in a week or so. <<As stated, this method only treats the symptom'¦and then only briefly. One or two 'doses' before leaving the tank for a week or so will have little overall impact. I think your system would be much better served here by a canister filter filled with cut-up Poly-Filter>> So my questions are: 1) does it work? <<It can, yes'¦ I have found it especially good for removal of Cyanobacteria'¦after determining and attending to the initial cause/source of the outbreak>> 2) Should I do it in this circumstance? <<I would not'¦for reasons already mentioned>> 3) Can you suggest a dosage; <<Would rather not as I wish to discourage your use of this methodology>> and 4) are there any risks since I won't be around to monitor anything but the short term effects? <<I strongly urge you to find/use a different method to bring down your Nitrates in this situation. And the obvious'¦keeping the skimmer running and having someone check on/feed your system and empty the skimmer while you are gone. A week is too long to leave your reef system unattended, in my opinion>> Thank you for taking the time to share your most valuable experience and expertise. Eric <<A pleasure to assist. Eric Russell>> Ps disturbingly high is around 60-70 ppm <<Ah'¦yes indeed. I would confirm the validity of this test (new/different test kit) and if accurate, determine the reason/fix what is causing such a high reading'¦skimmer on or not. Regards, EricR>>

Bringing Down The Phosphate'¦Understanding Elevated-pH Phosphate Removal Mechanisms -- 03/13/08 Hello, Crew. <<Greetings, Todd>> While trying to run down the source of my elevated phosphate in my 225 gal fish and invertebrate system, I would like to bring it down fairly quickly (a band-aid only, I know). <<Indeed>> I have read about the method of raising the pH overnight to precipitate the phosphate in the Wet Web Media pages, but I'm too big of a weenie to do this. <<I see'¦ But Todd, you don't want to raise the pH for the entire display to the level required to 'precipitate' Phosphate, as that would certainly be deadly to the system. Instead, you would 'slowly' elevate and maintain the pH at 8.4 to maximize the 'binding' of Phosphate to the Aragonite surfaces in your tank. This can be done with Kalkwasser additions, which will also 'precipitate' Phosphate from the water column in the area of locally high pH where the Kalkwasser/ Limewater enter the system. The 'binding' of Phosphate to the Aragonite surfaces is arguably problematic as there is some speculation that if the Calcite crystals stop growing there is potential for releasing Phosphate. The 'precipitation' of Phosphate in the water column may be less problematic since the Phosphate might become coated with organics and be removed by the skimmer. The short-term advantages here for Phosphate removal seem obvious'¦the long-term effects could be debated, in my opinion. 'Complete removal' of Phosphate from the system is likely the best answer'¦as in the use of macroalgae in a refugium (periodically 'pruned' and discarded), the use of reactor with an iron-based binding agent, etc.>> Can't such a rapid pH change hurt my fish or inverts? <<Rapid changes to 'anything' in your system can be deleterious, yes>> I also ran across a Korallin product (P04 minus) which apparently complexes the phosphate to something that is easily skimmed (I have a pretty aggressive skimmer running), thereby "exporting" the phosphate through the skimmer. Any experience with this method? <<Not personally, but I do have a friend here in town who owns an LFS/Service business who swears by this stuff. But then, he swears by 'everything' he sells [grin]>> I worry about what desirable ions it might bind and remove via my skimmer. <<Indeed'¦and maybe not so much removal by the skimmer as just outright precipitation from the water column. The literature seems to indicate the product may cloud the water'¦and to keep an eye on KH to prevent a dangerous drop'¦ Warning flags? Sure'¦ But then this product is likely no more dangerous to your system than Kalkwasser. Give it a try if you wish. But just like anything else, use good sense/judgment'¦and proceed with caution>> Thanks in advance for your help and thanks for the great web page! Todd in Montana <<Happy to share. EricR in SC>>

PO4 Trouble... soln.s    2/5/08 Hello Crew! <Patrick> I've recently switched over from a 125 gallon reef setup to a 200 gallon setup successfully with no losses under your guidance. The old setup had a huge PO4 problem due to the flake food I used to feed the fish. This had caused the rocks to acquire a green tint to them. During the switch, I transferred the rock to a huge bin which I kept all the premixed saltwater in for the new tank. There was no lights over this setup, only a few powerheads and a heater. <... for?> Once the new tank was up and running, I noticed the rocks had gained their white, tan coloration back. I figured the 5 day dark period had gotten rid of the algae growth. <Mmm> I had failed to acknowledge the PO4 that remained in the new water itself. <Yes> The new tank has been setup for about 4 weeks now, and I am having trouble with a brown and green algae film coating the glass, causing me to have to clean it every other day compared. From talking to other reefers, most people are reporting only having to do this every week or so. The green coloration is starting to come back on the rock work and really beginning to take a toll on the tank aesthetically. I've tried testing the water for phosphates, but the API test kit I have leaves results inconclusive due to the fact that it is VERY hard to read. The coral have shown minimal growth results, and I'm thinking it may be due to the high phosphates. <And do know that phosphate in a few chemical formats... may not register... as being readily "bound up", being used here...> All food entering the tank (frozen mysis, silversides, and DT's oyster eggs) is thoroughly defrosted and rinsed with RO/DI water before entering the tank. <Good> DT's phyto is also fed about once a week. I'm currently running GFO <For the unfamiliar with this acronym: granular ferric oxide (GFO) or alumina oxide (AO) are typically employed in fluidized media reactors...> and no carbon. I have a refugium full of Chaeto and all water changes and top off is done with RO/DI water. Water parameters are currently: Ammonia and Nitrite 0 Nitrate < 5 pH 8.2 - 8.4 Ca 420 Alk 11 dKH Mg 1150 Phosphate ? Will running the GFO and changing it out every 4 days or so make a dent in the algae development? Should I employ more herbivores to combat the development of the algae? What would be a good way of ridding this algae from the rocks besides light deprivation (there are already corals in the tank) <... Competition, anaerobic binding, export through macro-algal culture...> Thanks again for the help. Your website and advise has always proven helpful. BTW if you get a chance can you tell Mr. Fenner that I had just picked up his book and it has made a huge difference in my husbandry... Thanks again. Patrick in Cali <Mmm, please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/nutrientcontrol.htm and the linked files at top... am wanting to hypnotize/sensitize you here... to the magic and mystery of sump/refugiums... Bob Fenner> Phosphate -- 08/08/07 Good morning, As always, thank you for your wonderful website and for sharing your amazing knowledge with us! I just have a quick question. <Thanks, I will try to help> I have been battling hair algae, and came to the conclusion that phosphate in my tap water is fueling the beast. As a result, I have been using bottled RO water until I have been able to get a Kold-Steril unit up and running. As a result of switching to RO, the algae has been slowly dying off. (I'm assuming it is, as it is turning to a light brown color instead of deep green, and it feels like I can pick it off with much more ease.) In getting the Kold-Steril up and running, I have been able to reduce phosphates from 1.0 mg/L down to 0.5 mg/L. My question is this: Is 0.5 mg/L low enough to keep the algae from roaring back once I switch from bottled RO to the Kold-Steril filtered water? (I am avoiding using a home RO system because of the obscene waste water, and buying bottled RO water is quite expensive, and very labor intensive!) <the problem with RO water and the Kold-Steril kit is TDS. They both have TDS post filtration and need to go thru a Mixed bed DI resin. If you add a DI unit onto your output hose of your Kold-steril unit you should have 0 TDS and no phosphates until the DI resin exhausts. Fortunately these are rechargeable.> I am in the middle of working with the maker of Kold-Steril to see if I can get the phosphate lower, but I don't know if that will happen. Any advice you have is greatly appreciated. (Some have told me to add DI to the Kold-Steril, but others have said it won't help. Not sure who is correct.) <The DI will help. I use 2 chambers in a row in my Filtration unit to get better results. Try adding some phosphate removing resins to the tank filtration also. Use the iron oxide forms red in color)> Thank you for your help, Regards, <thank you, Rich aka Mr. Firemouth> Kim

Re: Phosphate 8/9/07 Thank you for your help Rick! It is much appreciated. <No Problem> I have one question in response to your email below. I know every situation is different and it all depends upon each person's tap water, but about how many gallons of water will it take to exhaust DI resin? <Every system will have different hardness that affects the life of the resin. I average about 500g per cartridge with my water. You will have to wait and see. Also, please buy a TDS meter. They are under $20 USD.> I'm starting to wonder if I will spend more money in DI resin than I will in wasted water of an RO unit. Do you have a preferred brand/company to buy from? I've seen some two stage DI systems that have refillable (as opposed to recharging) resin. Sounds like you take the exhausted out, and put in the new resin. Is this acceptable?  <do a Google search for DI resin refills, this will let you shop comparatively. Yes, just dump out the old and replace with the new and your good to go! I use the old resins and old carbon in my flower beds as fertilizer> Does this resin have a much shorter life, or is it all the same - just different approaches? <Purchase "Mixed Bed Resins" and yes they are all pretty much the same. The TDS meter will tell you when you have exhausted them. The color changing feature of the resin is not reliable for nutrient control. Once the TDS reading reaches 2ppm I change mine out.> Thanks again. Kind Regards, Kim <Hope I have helped, Rich aka Mr. Firemouth>

Re: Phosphate - for Rich aka Mr. Firemouth 8/10/07 Thank you so much Rich. This has been a very big help to me. I have researched DI, and have one last question. Could you please compare/contrast for me the following? 1. A basic two stage DI with re-fillable mixed bed resin, such as http://www.thefilterguys.biz/di_systems.htm 2. A three stage DI with refillable cation and anion resins such as Kent Marine Deion 200-R http://www.kentmarine.com/waterfilters/deionizers/deion-200r.htm (I would not attempt to re-charge here......just replace) Obviously there is a big price difference between the two, but if the Kent system will produce better quality water, or all else equal - have longer lasting resins, then it may be worth the upfront cost. I just don't know. Any thoughts you have are GREATLY appreciated. Thank you for your patience, Regards, Kim <I am unsure about listing companies by name in the FAQ's, so BobF please moderate if necessary. I purchased my 7 stage RO/DI unit from the filter guys and they are a great bunch of guys. I reviewed the prices of each unit. The 3 stage unit would back up a KOLD-Steril unit well, but may be overkill. I own the Tsunami unit from Filterguys. A dependable product and will serve the same purpose. For resin replacement do a search for DI RESIN BULK, it will save some money annually. HTH, Rich aka Mr. Firemouth>

Re: Phosphate - for Rich aka Mr. Firemouth   8/25/07 Hi Rich, I'm attaching our correspondence below since it has been a while. Since we have written, I decided to purchase a TDS meter before moving forward with buying a DI system. My tap water runs about 190 ppm TDS. Water coming out of the Kold Steril unit is not much different. (I don't know if that is normal or not.) Since my TDS is high, I'm second guessing my thought of adding DI to the Kold Steril, and just going right to RO/DI instead. (Kold Steril has been nothing but trouble since day one for me.) It seems to me that with the high TDS, I will blow through DI resin very quickly. Is that a correct assumption? If so, it seems to me that the cost of wasted water of a RO/DI system will be comparable, if not cheaper than the cost of replacing DI resin so frequently. Thoughts here? RO/DI is my best option - isn't it? (Even though it kills me that the $325 Kold Steril unit was one HUGE waste of money.) Regards, Kim <Kim, sorry you have not experienced the outcome you were looking for. The Kold-Steril unit IMO is great for Freshwater fish rooms, but because of the issues TDS have in Saltwater reef tanks, I agree you have purchased the wrong unit. Please revisit my recommendations for "The Filter Guys" and with any RO/DI system if you tap water PSI is below 60 then buy the recommended booster pump. The boosted pressure will make the unit more efficient and produce more water a day which means less waste water. I also prefer Warner Marines phoSar for phosphate removal.> <Thanks Rich aka Mr. Firemouth>

Enhancing Nutrient Export Processes  - 03/05/06 Hello, <Hi there! Scott F. here today!> I currently have a 90 gallon salt water tank. We have live sand and about 70lbs of live rock in our tank. We have an Eel, Trigger Fish, Grouper, Lionfish, and an Angel. <Quite a crowd for a modest sized tank. I hope larger quarters are in the near future for this bunch?> We are having a serious problem of phosphates. <Ahh...that can be solved.> We are getting a reading of 4-6 depending on the week.  We been doing a 20 gallon water change every week, we cut back on food and made sure it was all being eaten.  We feed them flake and frozen silversides. We have a skimmer along with bio balls.  I am trying to find out the cause of my phosphate problem. I been told many different things and I don't know where to start. I was told live rock can cause phosphates then someone told me that since it is cured it can not.  Somebody then told me it was my sand, but I have 4 inches of live sand.  I am getting frustrated because I can not figure out what my cause of phosphates is. Can you please help me? I would appreciate it.  Thanks Karrie <Well, Karrie- you are embracing some aspects of nutrient control/export, which will serve you well in reducing the phosphate, but you need to continue with some other steps. First, in my opinion, your aquarium is quite overcrowded. Even though you are maintaining a commendable water change schedule, the fact is that these fish are producing copious amounts of metabolic wastes that can severely compromise water quality. One of the first things you should do is to substantially reduce the bioload in this tank. Feeding of just about any kind of food will add some phosphates to the water. When you feed foods like Silversides, they are pretty "messy", and can release lots of processing and other "juices" into the water, which are very rich in phosphate. Pre-rinsing frozen foods before feeding, and avoiding simply dumping the foods in the tank can go a long way towards reducing phosphates. Live rock can have materials in it that become (or more correctly, accumulate) phosphate sources over time. However, live rock in and of itself is not your likely source. Do be careful to siphon visible detritus from the rock and other parts of the substrate. Finally, keep at it with the skimming and utilize chemical filtration media (activated carbon/PolyFilter) as a supplement to you other efforts. Reducing the population, continued water changes, aggressive protein skimming, and good feeding habits will all contribute to the defeat of this problem. Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Phosphate removal  - 03/11/2006 Hi Crew,      I have a 180g FOWLR, the tank has been in existence for 5 years but I recently added 150 lbs of LR in Sept 2005.  I have a large emperor angel, majestic angel, <I would stick with just one large pomacanthid in this size system... even it will outgrow a 180> Foxface, Heniochus angel, <Butterfly> a damsel, and three medium size clowns.  About 20-30 snails, 4 skunk cleaner shrimp, 20-30 hermits and one neon goby.  I have various anemone mushrooms all doing great and dividing.  Lighting 320 w actinic white and 60 w actinic 12 hrs daily.  Two skimmers one EuroReef RS 135 and AquaC EV180.  Nitrates 25 ppm. <Mmm, would be better to get/keep this lower>   I have 2 wet dry filters and between the main pumps and the powerheads in the tank I move ~ 2200 gal/ hour.  ( For those wondering why 2 skimmers, these were the largest skimmers that I could fit under this tank, and the addition of the Euroreef to the existing Aqua C DID make a huge difference... Nitrates now stay at 25 PPM even with once monthly 25% water change ) <Please read on WWM re nitrate avoidance...> I also run a 57w UV.    When I initially added the rock I noted that the tank went thru a period of time where it was growing some Cyanobacteria. <Very common> Now that the coralline algae has gone a long way to establish itself the amount of Cyano is minimal.  I initially used PhosBan and brought my phosphates down to barely detectable.  Over the past month my third batch of PhosBan has exhausted and my phosphates are again on the rise.  Should I continue using the PhosBan ? <One approach... where might you read re others?> It would be no problem for me to do so, but is it really necessary, or better ?  The system is really humming at this point. Thanks Jimmy <Keep reading Jimmy. Bob Fenner>

Phosguard and SPS coral  - 5/18/2006 Hey everyone, <Hello Marc> Just a question about some information I received from a local LFS. The guy told me that the continued use of Phosguard (by SeaChem) will slow the rate of growth of my SPS corals. Have you heard this before or had any experience with it and have you found any other 'chemical' absorption media or the like that can be an issue with corals??? <Marc, the SeaChem Phosguard is aluminum based and extended use can release potentially toxic aluminum into your tank.  There are phosphate removing products that are not aluminum based and safe to use.  One such product is ROWA phos.> Thanks <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> Marc Kalk skimmer injection / Phosphate removal? 1/18/07 Crew- <Craig.> Just doing some reading in the Marine Reef Aquarium Handbook by Dr. Robert J. Goldstein < http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/search-handle-url/002-2180612-6836823?%5Fencoding=UTF8&search-type=ss&index=books&field-author=Dr.%20Robert%20J.%20Goldstein> : http://www.amazon.com/Marine-Aquarium-Handbook-Complete-Owners/dp/0812095987. Excellent book. The author suggests running the Kalk drip line directly into the skimmer injector, as this process precipitates phosphate in the skimmer effluent. <This is talked about in circles every now and then, and usually results in someone reminding the others that there is no direct removal of phosphates. Phosphates themselves aren't surfactants. They are the eventual result of dissolved organic compounds that eventually form the in-organic phosphates that algae and other forms of life utilize.> The author claims this method is several hundred times more effective than other methods. <Have not read this one... Maybe Bob would like to add a double-bracket to this one... but I think the normal dosing of Kalk is still very beneficial to skimmate production.> <<Agreed on this last. RMF. I don't think the mixing here can/will result in the stated "hundred times" improvement in PO4 precipitation... but would experiment re>> This book has largely been mostly dead-on in its material and independently verified by a triangulation of numerous other sources. Can we verify this tactic? <We? ...or you? I think that would be a great experiment for you. I am currently involved in the development stages of a very exciting project with biotelemetry supplementation with Rick Oellers that takes most of my critical thinking time. I recommend it!> Additionally, can anyone describe the precipitated phosphate? Running the drip line into my skimmer does produce considerably more skimmate, but the effluent appears white and I am wondering if I am just skimming particulate calcium carbonate suspended in the solution. Need/want pictures of what I am talking about? <No need, I know exactly what you are referring to. Am not sure about actual composition of skimmate with this characteristic, but if you do some searching on "saponification" you will better understand how Kalk and skimmers work together. HTH -Graham T.> cj

Phosphate Levels Hi - I was wondering if you could briefly explain phosphate levels and how to control them. <You would be better of reading our coverage on www.WetWebMedia.com. This is a rather large question that cannot be answer briefly in an email. The simple answer is to control their input into the tank, i.e.. use purified water and not overfeed.> I have been constantly having problem with diatoms (brown growth mainly on the glass). I explained this to my LFS and they said I should test phosphate. <More likely high silicates (new tank?) or heavy handed use of iodine.> As it turns out it is .08 which indicates as Coral Growth Retarded (too high). What can I do the control this other than water changes (I change about 8 gallons every 7 days in a 72 gallon tank with 25 soft and 10 SPS corals which all very small-propagated tank raised corals). <General nutrient control measures; careful feeding, use of purified water, good/high quality/clean salt mix, aggressive nutrient export, etc.> My tank has a Kent Nautilus protein skimmer and Kent Biorocker. It also has a 260 watt power compact which I am in the process of replacing with a 380 watt VHO hood. I am not sure if stronger lighting may make my Phosphate situation worse. <It may given you even more algae troubles.> Please let me know. Also, one other quick question. Today for the first time I noticed a strong odor coming from my tank when I went to do a water change. It smelled like rotten eggs when I removed the glass lids. It wasn't over whelming but noticeable. <I have occasionally noticed a smell coming from growth on the glass covers. Do see if that is your origin of the smell. Otherwise, you may have some real problems appearing soon.> Again all my levels are good except phosphates. Thanks Ron <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Phosphate question and skimming Anthony & Crew-   Anthony helped me last time with drilling overflows in my new tank. I just ordered by 215 with six 1" overflows This tank is going to rock! Thanks again Mr. Calfo. <excellent, bubba><<One inchers? Nah! RMF>> I am now writing about my 20 gallon tank that has a bad outbreak of green hair algae. <almost always nutrient driven. I would be surprised if you said you skimmer has been giving you even 3 full cups of skimmate weekly, let alone daily skimmate> I know it had to do with a old DI cartage that I have replaced. <weak argument... true that source water can impart measurable nutrients that feed algae... but it never compares to the nutrients imported from daily/weekly feeding... poor skimming... weak water change schedule, etc> Also with nutrients in the water. I just replaced my PC lights and started using a phosphate sponge. <hmmm... OK. Treating the symptom though and not the problem, rather> No refugium or skimmer. <Ahem...> I know I should have both but I had to knock down a wall and use a garage for my new tank, I really have no room for a sump or refugium with this tank. <Tunze has a tiny top mount skimmer that firs discreetly on any aquarium ($120)... Aqua-C has the slimmest HOT skimmer on the market (that works well!).. The Remora ($160)... no refugium, sump or demolition crew needed. Just a skimmer> It has to go when the new tank is up and running so I don't want to sink the money into that right now. <my advice would be to not buy any livestock until you get a skimmer. Let the next $150 you spend be in plastic, not life forms> My question is about something I read on one of the message boards. I read that if you take all of the phosphates from the water with the new DI and sponge there is still phosphates in the hair algae itself. <most all algae... some more than others. True> That when I pull out the hair it will release phosphates into the water which will feed the hair left behind, Is that true? <sort of... why not starve it into submission by skimming... or... let a natural herbivore (urchins are killer for this) turn it into fecal pellets that a skimmer can export. Algae will be gone in two weeks with a good skimmer (adjusted properly)> I am going to add some macro algae in to the main tank and see if that will help. Am I on the right path? Thank you again for your time!  Josh       **Will you ever come to Hawaii (Maui) sometime this year??** <the crew is talking about it very seriously... I'm guessing in the second half of the year if so. Looking forward to it! Anthony>

Phosphate in Fish Only Hi folks, <Right back at you, Don here> Moved to a new town.... City tap is all good, yet high O-phosphate..1.08mg/l. For a fish only marine ...110g is RO going to be a necessity and if so , why? Other friends in the area are running without it. I anticipate getting one for my reef but that is a year down the road....NEED FISH NOW! But little cash for RO/DI unit... Any thoughts would be helpful. As I said all other parameters on tap come up clean! <Phosphate will act as nutrient for algae. Many kinds of 'sponges' available to remove it, or if algae does not become a problem, just live with it>

Marine Philodendrons? Hi, Have you ever heard of a method where a plant with outside roots (Philodendron) is used to extract nitrates and phosphates from water? The plant is placed above the aquarium and its roots are dipped in aquarium water... this is quite popular with Discus owners. I wonder if this would work with saltwater, too. I.e. will the Philodendron not get damaged if its roots are dipped in salt water? Thanks, Luke <Good idea... but one would have to use salt-loving plants (called Halophytes in science), not plants that can utilize only fresh. Bob Fenner>

Marine Philodendrons? > Hi, > Have you ever heard of a method where a plant with outside roots (Philodendron) is used to extract nitrates and phosphates from water? The plant is placed above the aquarium and its roots are dipped in aquarium water... this is quite popular with Discus owners. I wonder if this would work with saltwater, too. I.e. will the Philodendron not get damaged if its roots are dipped in salt water? > Thanks, > Luke > <Good idea... but one would have to use salt-loving plants (called Halophytes in science), not plants that can utilize only fresh. Bob Fenner> Are they widely available fro purchase? <Have not seen such plants offered for sale per se, but have seen experiments (e.g. with Spartina foliosa) for this function> Is there a particular species that has roots like Philodendron that could be submersed into saltwater tank? <Take a read at a large library near you (please see here re such searches: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/litsrchart.htm or try your internet search engines with terms like "halophyte", "salt-loving plants". Bob Fenner> Thank you, Luke

Phosphate solutions 7/31/03 Hi Anthony, I need your opinion. <my pleasure> My problem is my phosphates level: 2mg/l. <wow!> I know right approach is identifying where my phosphates are being imported from (source water, foods, etc) and screen it there first (better prefiltered FW, change of food, etc) and using specialized chemical filtrants to remove phosphates treat the symptom (phosphate) and not the problem <yes... correct my friend> but I've checked my RO water is phos free. <do check the foods you are using... soak them in water and test for phosphate before and after to see which one if any is especially contributory. Do the same for other aspects of the system until you identify the source (live sand sample, live rock sample, etc)> What can you tell me about ROWAphos? <it has a very good reputation but is again treating only the symptom and not the problem> Hi I'd like to know if 2 litres of Rowaphos are enough to reduce to 0.1 my PO4 level in my tank and how long they can last in your opinion. <I have little personal experience with this product alas... do seek a consensus form the big message boards like reefcentral.com here> I think to put them in my internal box filter which have 3500 (real it will be 2500) litres flow rate. <I suspect this will be very helpful indeed> I'll put some Caulerpa too for helping to reduce phosphates. <do consider a safer and more stable macroalgae like Chaetomorpha, Ochtodes or Gracilaria for this purpose> What do you think about and what do you suggest? Thanks Lorenzo <kind regards, Anthony>  

Media sans phosphates please Hello!!  Sorry to bother you guys with this newbie question.  I will make this real easy and short.  My first question is: 1)  Can you name a few carbon media that will not leach phosphate?  << I think most carbon media is the same, but I use Black Diamond made by Marineland >> 2)  Can you name a few phosphate remover media that will not leach phosphate?  << All phosphate removers can leach phosphate, after they absorb it.  However, they absorb far more than they will leach.  Basically when it turns from a white color to a tan color, it is probably "used up" and should be replaced. Hope that helps. >> Thanks!!! <<  Adam Blundell  >>

Super High Phosphates I have a 55gal fish only tank with 30lbs of live sand and 60lbs of live rock. Recently our power was out for over four days. Since it came back on my Phosphates are very high at over 10ppm. I was wondering what's the best way to get them back down to a safe level? Does Phosphate removing media work?  <Hello Kristen. Yes the phosphate removers do work but you need to check them again after two weeks to make sure the phosphate remover isn't exhausted.>  Should I get some Macro Algae? (I can pick up some Caulerpa pretty easily) and how much do I need?  <Yes, Caulerpa will use the phosphates, a couple clumps will do, it will soon spread and also help prevent nuisance algae growth.>  Should I do a couple of big water changes? Or just more frequent small ones? <You should always do a 10% change weekly for the overall health of your tank.>  Lastly, will the high Phosphates hurt my fish? (Domino Damsel, Maroon Clown, Princess Damsel, Black Damsel, Red Scat, 3 Black Mollies, and a Marigold Sailfin Molly) I've been told very high Phosphates will stress the fish and make them more susceptible to disease. Is this true? <No need to worry. James (Salty Dog).>  Thanks again for all your help,  Kristen 

High Phosphates First I would like to say hello to everyone at WetWebMedia <Welcome> My name is Mike, I have a 150gal fish only tank which has been up and running for about 2 years. My livestock seems to do very well, except for off and on bouts of parasites which seemed to be enhanced by my Powder Blues vulnerability to contract marine ick. After about a year of going mental trying to pacify this pretty fish with copper treatments, I reluctantly decided to sell him back to my local fish store where I purchased him. I'm telling you this just to let you know that there is some copper left in my water at this time. I haven't seen any signs of ick for months, hopefully that will not be a issue for a while for I'm not planning to add any more fish to the tank until I get rid of the copper in my system, and load my tank with live rock. However this brings us to jest of my problem (so) which I'm seeking your advice for. ( Which would be my phosphate/ slime problem.)  <Mmm, okay... am sure you're aware of chemical filtrants to absorb the copper...> The problem I'm having is driving me nuts since I am very strict with my maintenance program (cleaning skimmer, water changes, etc.), one thing that I read in your book that sticks in my head is  that aquariums are nothing more than a glorified septic tank, and I feel that my fish deserve the best that modern technology and my finances will allow. I don't think this is a feeding problem because the algae will start to go away to the point where my rocks are almost clear, then I do a water change and bingo within a week it starts to come back. Sounds like a water problem right? <Not necessarily... where else?...> Well let me give the list of specs, and you can hopefully give me a very very simple solution that might solve my $3500.00 eye-sore in the middle of my house, Which I refuse to give up on until it is loaded with pretty live rock and good coralline algae. SPECS Tank 150gal Sump 50gal Skimmer Aqua C adequate size Mag Drive 1800gal hr Power Heads 4- 802 in corners at bottom Lights 200 Watt Power Compact / 2- 60 watt on 12 hr a day Natural Light Tank sits in middle of room one side exposed to lots of sunlight Salt Mix - Instant ocean Water - R/O D/I Water Changes - 35 gal every 7-10 days Food 1/3 plastic spoon brine shrimp  1-1/2 rounded plastic spoon frozen Formula 1or 2 (1 time day) Vitamins - Boyd's on food LIVESTOCK 1 - Emperor Angle 7" 1 - Sailfin Tang 4-1/2" 1 - Fox Face 6" 1 - Convict Tang 3-1/2" 1 - Heniochus Butterfly 4" 1 - Flame Hawk 2" 1 - Skunk Clown 2" 1 - Anemone Clown 2" 1 - Half Orange Blenny 2-1/2" 4 - Green Chromis 2" pH 8.0 - 8.2 Phosphates tested with Red Sea test kit around 1.0ppm Tested R/O-D/I water reads .0ppm Nitrates 20.ppm Copper .10ppm Trying Seachem Phos Guard 2 days Well I hope I didn't forget anything which I'm sure I did, just want to say thanks.( Bob Fenner is a great inspiration to me)  Thanks Mike <Mike, does sound/read like you're doing most everything "right"... limiting phosphate may serve you well here... I would try at least three avenues... in this order... Try the Kalk(wasser) trick... adding enough to elevate your pH to about 8.6... this will precipitate all soluble phosphate... immediately... and of course, just let time go by and your pH will fall back... Secondly, do make room for some macroalgae in that sump, and set a small light source over it... to be on when your tank lights are off... Thirdly, do consider utilizing some of the fancy schmancy iron-based phosphate chemical filtrant... or just plain PolyFilter... in your water flow path. Bob Fenner> 

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