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FAQs on Marine pH, Alkalinity, Control, Buffers & Buffering

Related Articles: pH, Alkalinity, Marine Alkalinity, Synthetic or Natural Seawater, Water Changes/Changing, Understanding Calcium & Alkalinity, The Use of Kalkwasser by Russell Schultz,

Related FAQs: Marine pH, Alkalinity 1, Marine pH, Alkalinity 2, Marine pH, Alkalinity 3Marine pH/Alkalinity 4, Marine pH 5, Marine pH 6, Marine pH 7, Marine pH 8, & FAQs on pH: Importance, Science, pH Measure/Test Gear, pH Anomalies (Troubleshooting/Fixing), & pH Products by Name, Manufacturer, & Marine Supplements 2

Alkalinity and resultant pH are mainly a matter of present concentrations of carbonates and bicarbonates, attached/associated mostly with alkaline earth elements, e.g. Ca and Mg... Where do these come from and go?  Mmm, as part of "new water" in changes, with dissolution of substrates... with limiting reductive influences (feeding, carbon dioxide...)

pH and Alkalinity     5/3/13
Hi Crew,  I have read that if marine tanks maintain a high Alkalinity then the pH will not drop.
<Mmm, well, the two do trend together>
Therefore if I regularly test for Alkalinity am I (my fish) safe from a pH drop?
<Likely from a precipitous one; yes>
Is it really as simple as this?
<Not as simple... the more you look, the more there is to see... but simple carbonate, bicarbonate and proton donor (acids) interactions are>
I have had an excellent run at the moment with a Blue face almost changing from Juvenile to Adult is about 2 months. Is this very fast?
<Mmm, no; not necessarily... depends on how near to changing, the circumstances its kept in...>
 I have been doing water changes but pH was my only issue. It is a FOWLR tank and I add Seachem Marine Buffer when the pH drops. Can you recommend any good Alkalinity Test kits, API seem popular here in Asia. Regards,
<Look for LaMotte, Hach... and folks they make reagents and standards for.
Can be ordered over the Net, catalogs. Bob Fenner>

Re: BLACKTIP SHARK HYPOTHERMIA, plus pH/Alk adjustment for large volumes    12/3/11
Hola Bob,
<Hey Wil!>
I want to tell you that the Blacktip is swimming normally again, like you said it took a couple of days.
I didn´t know they could get that bad at 70 degrees, I mean it is not really cold but they are tropicals hu.
The only problem to be solve is de Ph/Kh issue, I can´t raise it to the right levels, is there an effective product that you recommend?
<For 1,200 gallons... It may well behoove you to make your own. Formulations are available on the Net if you search. Otherwise, there are "bulk" suppliers, like BRS: http://www.bulkreefsupply.com/store/products/calcium-alkalinity-magnesium
In the long/er term, if this were my account, I'd be looking into a calcium reactor...>
Thanks for your help as always.
<Welcome. BobF>

Water Parameter Help... the butler/buffer did it   1/24/11
Hey WWB crew,
<It's WWM and Hello Mike>
I have been struggling with strange water quality issues. My pH falls every 2 or so days to 7.8 from 8.2, My Alk swings from between 12-15 at random, and my calcium is at 600!?!? I am confused because I cant get out of the wicked cycle of adding buffer which throws my Alk up to bring my pH back then the pH falls anyways. My Mag is around 1200 which I think is normal.
<Very close.>
All I can think of that is causing this is my salt mix (Reef Crystals) and my source water (sink with Pur filter).
<The Reef Crystals wouldn't cause that.>
The sink water tests a low ph (7.8ish) and I don't add buffer to it, also its used in my auto top off water. Reef crystals adds extra calcium and Mag which I would guess can cause over levels of Calcium.
<Not to a 600ppm level.>
I do have sps and lps in my system and I have a 34 gallon tank which I do 2x 4% water change a week.
<It's not unusual to have small pH swings in small systems such as yours, not too worry here.>
All other parameters are fine (nitrite, nitrate, phos, ammonia). My corals and fish seem fine but I fear their health will fail if I don't stop or change whatever is going on. thanks for the help.
<Do not add any more calcium additives or buffers to the system. Your water changes will eventually lower your calcium level by way of dilution. A level of around 400ppm should be your target goal and once you achieve this, then maintain dKH at 7-10. May want to read here.
James (Salty Dog)>

pH In A Reef Tank 1/19/11
<Hi Shelley>
I need some help with my new(ish) reef tank. I have been looking through lots of water chemistry information but haven't found a match to my problem (yet) and my head is swimming.
I have had my 30-gallon reef tank for about 3 months now. It is about ¼ full of live rock (still building as I get $$) and so far I have about 6 small coral specimens plus a large Open Brain Coral, a small Emerald Crab, 2 FD worms, 3 snails, and 2 gobies. I use a RENA Filstar XP1 (no biomedia) and have good flow throughout the tank. No protein skimmer yet since fish load is still so low. I mix my own water using tap water (has a pH of about 8.1) and Seachem's Reef Salt (also use PhosGuard in the filter). I dose with Seachem Fuel twice a week (recommended amount) and Ions once a week (about ½ the recommended amount, which is what the person at my LFS suggested in lieu of getting a magnesium test).
<Why are you wasting your money using the above additives. With your 33% water change every two weeks you shouldn't have to add anything other than calcium and/or buffers when needed. Money would be better spent buying a magnesium test kit as this element is needed by stony corals to better absorb available calcium.>
Used to dose with Calcification once a week (1/2 recommended amount) but stopped a little
while ago once I bought a calcium test because pH was low and I wanted to
investigate my buffering capacity better. I do about a 33% water change
every 2 weeks, and rinse out the filters each time I change the water. Feed
with phytomax every day and Mysis every 2-3 days, plus a few pellets of
Spectrum on days with no Mysis.
Since almost the very beginning, my tank has been at a pH of about 8.0. At the moment, my Carbonate Hardness is about 150ppm (used a KH test)
<Mmm, that's only 3.9 dKH, pretty low. Which test kit are you using?>
and my calcium level is about 580ppm (haven't dosed Calcification in a few weeks).
I have asked many people what to do to bring up the pH and everyone has given a different suggestion/none have panned out. I can add products to raise the pH but always within about 24 hours it drops back to 8.0.
<Is because of the low dKH. I suggest dosing Seachem Marine Buffer and dose nothing else. You need to get this up to 7-9 dKH. I might add the a pH of 8.0 is fine.
Eventually, your water changes will lower the calcium level by way of dilution.>
Everything in the tank seems generally OK, but the corals are not growing as well as I would like.
<What does your lighting consist of?>
I did have one cleaner shrimp who died (not sure if related to water chem.), but nothing else so far. Want to add more fish/corals but I'd like to get my chemistry in balance first.
<As above, and read here. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/calcalkmar.htm>
Thanks so much for your great site.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Re pH In A Reef Tank 1/19/11- 1/20/11

Hi James, thanks so much for your quick and HELPFUL response!
<You're welcome Shelley.>
I am relieved (if annoyed) to hear that I don't need all those additives.
<For years, I have only been dosing calcium, buffers, and magnesium, all necessary additives to maintain proper parameters.>
I started this reef tank because someone at the LFS convinced me that the difficulty of salt water tanks was a myth....but ever since I got it, they've sold me tons of care items and it's been very high maintenance.
<That's where the money is and many products with ridiculous claims.>
I will stop dosing (except buffer)
<Along with calcium and magnesium when necessary.>
and be much happier.
<And with a fatter wallet.>
(Incidentally, someone else there told me my pH was low because I needed to do more water changes - like twice a week. I ignored that advice since it made no sense at all to me.)
<You won the first prize. Low pH results from an excess of acids in the water and to better understand, read here.
As for the KH, wow. I thought my dKH was high - I think I have been misunderstanding the test kit. I have been using the Nutrafin KH/GH test (just the KH part in this case) and thought that since it took 15 drops to change the color of the sample from blue to yellow, that meant the KH was 15. I did the Carbonate Hardness calculation to be thorough for you - looks like that was the key to finding my mistake. (However, the test kit says that >125ppm Carbonate Hardness is "unusually high," which helped me think I was correct. Am I missing something?)
<They might be referring to freshwater conditions and/or your conversion was done incorrectly. The carbonate hardness we keep our marine systems at would be considered high for most freshwater animals. The conversion info below may help you get a true dKH read providing your test kit has a conversion for number of drops or ppm into meg/L.
meq/L x 2.8 = German Degrees Carbonate Hardness/dKH>
My lighting is a CoraLife 50/50 96 watt bulb (the tank is a 30-gallon cube). My trumpet coral, duncanops, and open brain are doing fabulous, my Xenia is OK, and my torch coral, star polyp, and mushroom look fine but just haven't really grown at all in 2-3 months despite good feeding. I especially can't wait for the star polyp to take off (it's just a small frag right now).
<One 96 watt PC lamp is borderline at best for your stony corals. What are the dimensions of your cube tank, I can make a lighting suggestion to you.>
Thanks again for all your help and insight, can't believe my fortune to have stumbled on this site.
<You're welcome Shelley. James (Salty Dog)>

regulating PH in marine aquarium... w/ pH tab at 9.2...  - 03/30/10
Dear sir,
regarding adding buffer to the marine tank I at present am using PH++ powder which is diluted in water and is added in the tank over a period of time slowly
<... Okay>
sir I came across a tablet that is PH Buffer tablet of ph -9.2 which I presently use to calibrate my PH meter the tab to make the buffer solution the tab is added in 100 ml water and dissolved in it It dissolves at a very slow rate
Sir I was wondering if this tablet could be added directly the sump or top filter which would dissolve slowly and we could get the desired PH without harming the fishes
Is it possible --- please advice
regards Richard
<Can NOT be used... a poor idea. Too caustic. Bob Fenner>

Marine Buffer (Seachem), use to elevate pH   5/10/09
Reading the directions on the bottle it states "Add 5 g (1 level teaspoon) for each 80 L (20 gallons*)".
I have a 300 gallon system with the ph at 7.9-8.0. I want to raise the ph to 8.2. This may be a dumb question but I never used a buffer to raise ph.
Do I just add 1 teaspoon a day until ph is at 8.2 or do I add more at one time to raise ph?
Thanks in advance.
<Better to add a bit more... let's say 4-5 tsps. mixed in with new seawater that you add during water changes. Bob Fenner>

SW Setup: pH issues, overdosing with buffers. Reading 4/11/2009
Hello WWM crew.
<Hi Frank.>
I turn to you once again for help. Let me tell you a quick rundown of my setup.
29 gallon tank with an Eheim canister filter
2 Koralia powerheads for circulation
10-12 pounds of live rock
1 to 1 1/2 inch deep sand bed
ammonia = 0
nitrites = 0
nitrates < 5
pH = 8.0 at its highest
livestock includes a very young snowflake moray, a coral beauty angel, a brown brittle star, and a few hermits and snails.
<As I recall from your previous correspondence.>
My problem is, and has been an ongoing problem at that, I cant seem to keep my pH up.
<Common in smaller systems that are overstocked.>
I initially set up my tank with tap water that I treated about two and half months ago. My alkalinity was sky high for a long time and is still in the 20s and I'm sure that has something to do with my pH problem and also the brittle star losing portions of his limbs.
<20 is extremely high. You really need to step up your water changes: 15 - 20% per week with no added buffers>
But my concern is I have to keep using the buffer ( alternating Seachem powder and Seachem liquid marine buffers that claim to raise to 8.3) to keep the ph at a reasonably safe level for my livestock and I'm starting to think that my Alk is staying so high due to the constant buffering I am having to do.
<It is, stop buffering>
I did a 25 percent water change about two weeks ago with RO DI water that I purchased at the LFS. Their water is already mixed with salt and pre-buffered for ph and they say it is ready to use straight away. Also I
cant seem to keep my calcium up above 300-320 even while dosing with purple up and SeaChem's calcium additive but I have noticed my substrate seems to be clumping in some spots into marble sized or slightly larger chunks.
<Calcium and Alkalinity, in grossly oversimplified terms, fight each other, your alkalinity is way too high to get the calcium levels much higher than what they are now. Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/calcalkmar.htm
and here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/alkalinity.htm>
Should I remove these or break them up and leave them in the tank? I
<You can break them up, but until you get your alkalinity down, they will keep reforming.>
I am getting ready to transfer to a 46 gallon bow front that I bought on Craig's List and am planning on adding about 50 pounds of cured live rock and 30 pounds of live sand as well as a sump/refugium with an aqua c urchin skimmer. What do you recommend I do about my constant battle with ph and Alk
<Read linked files above.>
Should I set the new tank up from scratch and let it cycle or would it be OK to transfer everything (water, sand, rock, and livestock) to the new tank and just add all the new rock and sand and use the RO DI water to fill to capacity as if doing a large water change?
<Posted on WWM The topic is moving tanks, but all of the facts are relevant to switching tanks as well:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/movingaq.htm >
Also do you recommend using pvc pipe to make caves underneath the sand bed for the eel?
<It can't hurt, but they will prefer natural caves more.>
Once again I greatly appreciate your insight and guidance with this sometimes difficult but rewarding hobby that I have become addicted to.
Have a great weekend and I look forward to your advice with my problems!
<My pleasure>
Frank Stubblefield

Water quality, SW...   12/30/08 Hello All, <Hello Jim, Minh at your service.> I am having water problems. My saltwater aquarium has always had a low PH of 7.9. <First, have you made absolute certain that you do have a low pH issue by verifying with different test kits/pH meters? If you've checked and double checked, then there are several key points to look into: -The Daily pH Swing: Keep in mind that there is a diurnal change in pH in a marine aquaria that occurs as a result of photosynthesis and respiration. In short, pH will rise during the day (lights on) and drop at night (lights off). Ensure that you are testing your pH levels throughout the day to find its true minimum and maximum values. The acceptable range for a marine aquaria should be between 7.8 and 8.5. -Proper Aeration: Chronic low pH could be a result of excess carbon dioxide and inadequate aeration. One can perform a "Aeration Test" to determine if this is the cause. More on this later.> So I have been trying to bring it up. I use RO/DI water and Instant ocean salt mix. Recently I began using a Kalkwasser drip and Kent super buffer. My dKH has come up from 7 to 10 but my PH stays at 7.9 and my Calcium stays around 320. I have read that Magnesium could be linked so I purchased a kit and it tested at about 1250. I stopped using the buffer for fear of overshooting the dKH but have continued the Kalk. <This is a good strategy as buffer alone is a not a good method for raising pH as you have seen, it raises pH very little but often result in excessive alkalinity.> The more books and articles I read the more confusing this topic becomes. I would be grateful for some guidance. <Unfortunately, troubleshooting a low pH issue is one of the more difficult tasks in marine aquarium chemistry. Without getting too lengthy in this particular post, I would like to point you to an excellent article that will undoubtedly clear this issue up for you, "The 'How To' Guide to Reef Aquarium Chemistry: pH" (http://www.reefkeeping.com/issues/2007-05/rhf/index.php#13). This guide should explain the "Aeration Test" in details along with some solutions for rectifying this problem. Feel free to write back if you continue to have this problem. Good luck.> Thanks Again Jim <You're welcome. Cheers, Minh Huynh> Thank info: 55 Gal. aquarium set up for 2.5 years, hang on refugium with macro algae, 75 lbs live rock, 3 inch live sand bed, auto top off with RO/DI water, 4x65 watt compact florescent fixture, 500 gph return pump from sump, one power head, temperature 78, SPG 1.025, Ammonia 0, nitrites 0, nitrates 0, 3 small fish, 2 shrimp, sand sifting star, various snails and hermits, urchin.

Using Kalkwasser to Raise pH -- 06/05/08 Hi there, <<Hello>> Thanks for your time reading this. <<Certainly>> I have an AquaC RX-1 calcium reactor using Knop Korallith media. My 75 gallon tank is a mix of sps, and some soft corals. My house is sealed well and when using ac in summer or heater in winter I can't open windows cost effectively. I know through testing I have high carbon dioxide levels when the windows are closed and my family is all home breathing. My only concern is my pH. Using calibrated Pinpoint probe it reads 7.9 during day and sometimes 7.8 to as low as 7.68 in mornings after 24 hours of the house being sealed. <<Mmm, I see'¦>> I'm a perfectionist with my reef and want 8.1 to 8.3 like I had before adding my calcium reactor. <<Agreed'¦better to maintain these higher values overall>> My calcium is always at 400ppm and Alk is always at 10dKH. Is topping off the evaporated water with Kalkwasser just to raise pH a bad idea? <<Not if done carefully/slowly'¦and monitored closely. I have used Kalkwasser in conjunction with a Calcium reactor for years. And while I don't consider this ideal as doing so usually results in a see-saw effect on pH, as well as requiring careful monitoring and maintenance to ensure against depletion of Magnesium ions'¦there is certainly benefit for those systems requiring either more Calcium than their reactors can provide (not the issue here it seems) or with helping to boost pH by consuming those elements which suppress the available buffers (e.g. -- excess free Carbon Dioxide (which does seem to be your issue)>> I don't really need to raise calcium or alkalinity and the only way I can think to raise pH would be with this method. <<Maybe so'¦but your Calcium and Alkalinity levels are already nearing the high end, you will need to proceed with caution>> I've tried running skimmer air intake line outside and using nighttime lighting on the refugium but nothing seems to work to raise pH to acceptable levels without the windows being open. <<It would appear your issue is certainly related to excess CO2>> I also installed a second reaction chamber filled with Korallith to try to raise effluent pH. <<A good move>> My concern is the Kalk...will it just precipitate calcium and alkalinity out of my water, clouding it and cause more trouble than good? <<I think a 'very slow' drip (in to the refugium), monitored frequently, is of little risk and worth a try>> Or with such a high amount of dissolved CO2 in the water will it simply all bind with the dissolved CO2 and form calcium bicarbonate harmlessly while raising the pH? <<Obviously this is the desired result'¦and is what I think should happen as long as the Kalkwasser is not added too quickly>> What do you think I should do to solve my pH issues? <<Give a Kalkwasser drip a try. Proceed slowly'¦ monitor your pH/Calcium/Alkalinity levels often, stopping the drip if any problems manifest'¦and don't expect results overnight, give the method some time to work. EricR>>

Lowering ph in reef tank. Hi there. Is household white vinegar a safe way to lower the ph level in a reef environment?  <Mmm, no... even this simple organic acid can be trouble... Let's read on and see why you consider your pH high, why it's so...> And what would be any other alternatives. <Many... depending on the cause/s> I use my own RO / salt mix for my water changes. The Ph levels seem to run about 9.0 in the newly mixed batch of saltwater resulting in the gradual increase in my tanks Ph over time. about 8.7 towards the end of the lighting period, dropping to only about 8.55 at night) The salt mix I use (Marine Environment 2 part mix from Aqua Craft) is probably the cause since the straight RO water has Ph of around 8.0,and the final salt mix has a pH of around 9.1. <You are correct here. Many salt mixes are initially this way... and they used to be much worse.> I don't want to stop using the salt mix since I've had very favorable results in the 6 months since trying it, and a very disfavorable experience last weekend by switching back to Instant Ocean (for the 8.3 Ph of the final mix ). Once again, is there any safe way (including vinegar) to lower ph levels in the salt mix and display tank. Thanks, Shawn <Better to not worry re the 8.7-8.55 pH level and stick with a regular schedule of water changing with pre-mixed, stored water... as you know, pH drops of its own accord over time in captive systems. Unless you have some other anomaly (like ammonia, nitrite accumulation) going on in your system, you shouldn't have troubles with this elevated pH. I would not utilize chemical means to alter it. Bob Fenner>

Re: Lowering ph in reef tank. Bob, Thank you for the speedy reply. Maybe you could give your opinion to my original email sent a few days ago. I got Jason that time, let me know what you think after reading the original. Thanks. <<Okay>> Hi Bob, <<You got JasonC today...>> Keep up the great job on the website. <<Will do.>> It's a very useful tool for the hobby. I have a 125 gal reef tank that has been established for close to 3 years now(1yr. as a fish and 2yr. as a reef only tank) I have lots of SPS and some LPS as well as a few softies. The lighting setup includes (3) 175w 10k MH, (2) 55w actinic CF, (2) 55w 10k Super Sun CF, (1) 110w VHO 50/50, and (1) 110w VHO 03 actinic fluorescent. The total lighting is about 11 hours. The actinics start the cycle for about 1 1/2 hours, the CF and VHO fluorescents are on about 8 hours during which the MH turn on for about 5 hours, and the actinics finishing for another 1 1/2 hours. The chiller keeps the temp between 79 and 81 degrees. I have a Knop calcium reactor that has been installed for about four months filled with Korallith media The drip return having Ph of approx 6.8. The G3 protein skimmer w/2 Rio 2100's produces lots of solid gunk and I'm happy with its performance. Plenty of live rock maybe 200 lbs) with a straight live sand bed. I'm not a big additive guy but I do admit to using sea-chem reef plus and reef complete bi weekly plus a weekly dose of Kent Lugol's solution. My water parameters are as follows : Ph goes between 8.6 and 8.8, <<That's a little on the high side...>> Ca.390-420, Mg.1000-1150, KH averages 9.6 - 10.8 . The SpecGr. is an average 1.023. Nine fish mostly small gobies, blennies & Basslets with a 4 inch Maroon clown who basks in his 12 inch Anemone. The corals are many Acropora and Montipora frags, 4 parent Acropora colonies, plus many others hard and soft corals. Most of which have been fragged in some way or another. (and both the parent and frags seem to be very happy in the tank.)............... Now for my problem. My Purple coralline has been fading to a white chalky color for some time now maybe six months) with the edges being the whitest. The deep purple usually starts to regain its color soon after 35 gal water changes that I perform every 3 weeks or so, but starts the same fading soon after. (am using the Aqua Craft 2-part Marine Environment Salt mixed with my own RO water) I've also noticed that instead of the deep purple encrusting coralline that used to grow on the glass, It has been replaced by a definite round, very light purple almost lavender/white) algae of some sort about the diameter of a round toothpick. Although the same deep purple algae still grows on new and existing live rock. Six or so months ago I would of had to scrape that same coralline off the glass weekly, it grew so quickly. I was using Kent part A & B as my calcium source back then). Do you think the addition of the Calcium Reactor or the higher Ph has anything to do with it? <<I would start with the higher pH.>> And if so. how do I safely lower it without using baking soda which seems to only have a temporary effect as well as elevating the KH) My makeup water is plain RO water that has Ph of 8.1. but my Tank Ph never drops below 8.6 and has seen higher readings in the 8.9 range. <<That's too high - you need to look for what is causing your pH to be so high - you can pretty safely eliminate the calcium reactor.>> I use a regularly calibrated Hanna ProntoPh in the sump and also have a Hanna PHep handheld to double check my readings. <<You may need to resort to adding a weak acid - acetic [vinegar] or Muriatic - solution to the tank to bring down that pH.>> So....any help You may have will be greatly appreciated. I'd love to see my purple coralline turn purple again..=)..Write me back if you need anymore specs on my setup and I could also send you a picture of what am talking about if that's OK. let me know. Thanks , Shawn <<Cheers, J -- >> <<Sounds like a very nice system... good gear choices... I am still hesitant to advise use of acids... perhaps we should start slowly here with each other... I was a H.S. Chemistry, Physics and Biology teacher to pay my debt to society (other than taxes) in earlier years... as well as a long-standing pet-fish type of guy... and have had some very disastrous episodes second and later hand re advising/cautioning people re use of acids... particularly the simplest organic (CH3COOH, acetic... vinegar) and inorganic hydrochloride (HCl, of which the concentration 3 molar is Muriatic)... what has happened is a lack of understanding re relationships of alkaline reserve and pH and its adjustment with catastrophic loss of life (folks putting in too much too soon at some point). It bears stating that you appear more than capable of making good measures and adjustments (by your writing)... however, I would like to ask that at this juncture we discuss two possibilities and then I'll make a recommendation... First, I would check your R.O. unit and pH measures (the latter with even just a simple indicator dye type colorimetric kit). A pH of R.O. water of 8.1 is too likely anomalous. Please aerate a sample of the new R.O. and let sit for an hour or so and test. Next, what is the pH of the effluent of the discharge from the calcium reactor? I strongly advise "turning up" the carbon dioxide (even to a pH of 6.5 or so) to raise calcium a bit and drop the pH of the system (this will likely boost coralline growth appreciably). Recommendations: I would suggest you try another salt mix brand for a test... and if you find you still want to lower the pH of the system water proceed by testing alkalinity, adjusting (I would use Muriatic likely... but do be careful... it is toxic and dangerous to inhale the fumes or get on you) IN THE SALTWATER MIXING AND STORING CONTAINER you use for doing changes. NOT, repeat NOT in the system itself... and then utilize this stabilized pH new water (it will vacillate over the time you initially make it up till it is used, so you will likely find you need to measure, treat it more than once), in your periodic water change maintenance. Bob Fenner>

Re: Lowering ph in reef tank. I guess hind sight it 20/20... after a little reflection, I'm bummed I didn't think of cranking up the calcium reactor - that would have been a much better suggestion. <... I really liked your response... am given to similar feelings daily... that if I'd re-read and re-re-read queries, chew on them (cogitate furiously)... maybe even send to you, Steve, Anthony... that the response/s would be "better"... more complete... humorous... to the point... In this case the calcium reactor suggestion is a very good one though... due to the likelihood that it's being cranked up will result in a few other marked improvements other than lowering "apparent" pH... and you're only the person I know of who knows most about such gear! Bob F>

Re: Lowering ph in reef tank. Hello again Bob. I received my UPS package today with a new Hanna ProntoPh probe and new calibration fluids. To my astonishment, the new probe and new calibration yielded that one or both of my old calib. fluids were tainted. My Previous readings are all off an average of .6 !  <Ahh, as I suspected> Now I've started to wonder if maybe the new ones are bad. Is there any common household liquid/substance that yields a certain known Ph that I can check my readings with. <Mmm, yes... but the standards sold for such purposes are better for aquarium use> Also if you could recommend a dye type Ph test kit that is halfway decent. The one's I've had past experience with aren't worth 2 cents. <Hach, Salifert, LaMotte...> I tested my R/O water as you suggested last night and got these results. Whenever I tested the fresh R/O water my Hanna Phep5 ph meter spiked up to around 10.0 and slowly like 3 min.s) crept down to the lower 7.2-7.4 range. <Yes, "more like it"> All the other substances I usually test (i.e.: Calcium Reac. discharge fluid, saltwater, tap water), the meter basically gets close to the target Ph rather quick and zero's in within 30 seconds. I don't know if this means anything but its strange to me. =). <Artifactual... of the test gear> After a few hours of aeration, the R/O water had a Ph of about 7.0. Are these normal parameters? <Bingo, right-on, power to the people. Oh, yes> Lastly, I've went from having an elevated Ph Problem to now being in the lower end of the spectrum.=/. My Tank Ph now reads only about 8.1. <No worries... about "right"> Once again, I'm learning (the hard way) <Not so hard my friend> ,"your only as good as your test equip" Thanks, Shawn. <Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Raising My pH -- 11/16/06 Hi Eric, <<Hey Ken!>> Are you still in Hawaii?  Hope all is well with you. <<Yes mate...though my wife and I have to be on a plane back to reality in less than 8 hours time...bummer.  But on a high note, I had a great dive yesterday morning and a great meal with good friends at a very nice restaurant on the water's edge last evening>> Have some new questions and some points I wanted to clarify in my mind. <<Shoot>> My tank cycled a few days ago.  I did about a 40% water change.  My nitrates actually were not that high.  They were about 7ppm nitrate nitrogen before the water change (The one where you have to multiply the results by 4.4 to convert).  I also added two fish, a Sailfin tang and a yellow tang.  I know they are both Zebrasoma, but I figured 90 gallons with a lot of rock and spaces and put them in on the same day, it would probably work. <<Agreed'¦though it is my opinion that 90 gallons is much too small for the Sailfin>> So far they hang out together.  They both ate the same day I put them in the tank.  I just put on the lights yesterday.  I decided to wait until after the cycling. <<Ok>> So right now, generally speaking, my pH and my alkalinity/calcium will just be what it is based on premixed salt water since nothing is taking up the calcium or alkalinity etc. <<Not at a high rate anyway>> In other words, the tank is pretty much "dead" until I get some reaction on the live rock from my lights, and until I get waste from the fish. <<Not true mate'¦actions/reactions going on as we speak>> I want to get the lighting, get the tank stable, and at least past the diatom stage (if I get that) before I add any hardy corals. <<Do expect diatoms, Cyanobacteria, hair algae'¦all part of the natural alga succession.  As for not adding any 'hardy' corals yet'¦do consider that the corals use much/many of the same nutrients the alga will be using'¦>> My pH varies from about 8.02 to about 8.08 with no lights. <<Ok>> Actually I don't know why, but my pH is higher when I wake up in the morning than at the end of the day.  Isn't that backwards? <<Hmm, maybe'¦is the tank near an open window during the night?  Maybe just a result of reduced respiration of the tank inhabitants (just a guess)>> My alkalinity is 11 dKH. <<Towards the high end of the desirability scale but likely fine>> I am not sure of my calcium, but I'm sure the levels are "normal" at this point. <<Mmm'¦without 'testing' how can you be 'sure'>> So if my pH is in the range mentioned above, and my alkalinity level is at 11 dKH, can I raise my pH without increasing my alkalinity level? <<Sure'¦use sodium bicarbonate'¦increase water flow within the tank>> I tested my premixed saltwater, using Reef Crystals, and the alkalinity is 10 dKH and my pH is about 8.10 so obviously this is my starting point. <<Indeed'¦maybe even consider trying/testing other brands of salt>> I have the calcium reactor as you know but I do not have this turned on presently as there is nothing to really take up the calcium etc, and my alkalinity is at the high range of acceptable.  Obviously I am thinking the way to raise the pH is either a Kalkwasser drip or by adding it as top off water. <<Do be careful with this approach'¦>> Can I do this without raising my alkalinity? <<No>> I am getting ready for the algae shoe to drop and would like to be able to raise my pH now.  What regimen do you suggest I follow at this point? <<Run your lights on a 10-14 hour photoperiod and buffer (with sodium bicarbonate) your top-off and saltwater makeup water.  If you find the bicarbonate does not give you the pH boost you desire then obtain a proprietary product for this purpose (I am fond of Seachem products).  I suggest you hold off on the Kalkwasser for now/until the tank matures a bit more>>>> Also with regards to water changes, should I do any weekly changes now, or is there not enough going on in my tank at the moment to warrant that? <<The presence of those fishes warrants frequent partial water changes>> Thanks very much. Regards, Ken <<Always happy to assist.  Eric Russell>>

R2: Raising pH - 11/18/06 Hi Eric, <<Hi Ken>> Have a safe trip home. <<Did...thank you>> The Sailfin is about 2 ½' so he has a long way to go. <<Mmm, not in my opinion...behavioral/developmental retardation comes from "growing out" these fishes in "too small" systems as much as placing re when mature>> I will take your lighting suggestion already. <<Best at this stage I feel>> At least I found out that my chiller works. <<Ha!>> I can save on heating bills now for my den. <<Indeed>> I will put the 108 watts of T5's on for 12 hours.  How long per day for the two 250 watts of HQI? <<On 30-minutes after the T5s...off 30-minutes before the T5s>> I have the lights hanging from the ceiling.  How high off the water do you suggest? <<8-12 inches...experiment to find what best suits your livestock>> With regards to my pH being reversed?  The tank is not near a window.  I will call up Aquadyne and ask them what they think as it is their controller. <<Likely just something we haven't figured on/explored.  See what happens with the lights on>> So you are saying that I should get some hardy corals to start to compete with the algae for nutrients. <<Yes>> I guess it is the same philosophy as when I set up my plant tank and added lots of fast growing stem plants at the beginning. <<Indeed>> What corals do you recommend to start with and how many? <<What is your stock list/stocking plan?  Will this be a biotope or species tank?  A "mixed garden" reef?>> Will the corals also be able to bring down the alkalinity? <<Just feeding/the mere presence of your fish will depress/consume alkalinity.  Aside from calcifying organisms, anything that respires/produces organics wastes will affect alkalinity.  Please read Anthony Calfo's article here (http://www.wetwebmedia.com/alkalinity.htm) and follow the associated links at the top of the page for even more information on this all too often confusing subject>>>> I will check to see if I can find a chart online of the various salt mixes to see if alkalinity of each mix is published. <<Be sure to do your own tests to confirm>> By the way, do you know of a good calcium test kit? <<I find Seachem test kits to be an excellent balance of quality and price>> So at this point right now, should I not be concerned with my pH being at about 8.10 and just see how things progresses with the tank, or should I try to get the pH higher? <<The former, 8.1 is quite acceptable in my book...as long as it is maintained/kept reasonably stable.  Trying to maintain an artificially high pH can be/is a real pain>> I don't want to start adding cocktails to the tank unless it is necessary. <<Agreed>> You mentioned baking soda, is this a safe way of raising pH without altering calcium and alkalinity? <<It is>> My alkalinity is at the high end of normal already as you know and don't want to have it increase. <<No worries...the baking soda will serve you well here>> What does washing soda do? <<Washing soda is much more alkaline, with a pH of about 11 as compared to baking soda with a pH of about 8.1.  Washing soda will give a higher pH rise than baking soda but is also dangerous to use (to both you and your livestock).  As I mentioned in a previous response, if you want a higher pH rise than the sodium bicarbonate provides, you should obtain an "aquarium" product designed for this purpose and follow the manufacturer's directions closely>> You mentioned adding baking soda to my top off water and to my water change water. <<I did, yes>> How much baking soda to how much water? <<Start with a teaspoon per gallon and adjust as/if necessary>> Is the 'dosage' the same for both top off and water change water? <<To start, yes>> Is this a common practice? <<Fairly common, yes>> Up to what pH level do I want to continue this practice until? <<Anything 8.0 or above will likely be fine...you will need to "fine tune" this process to suit your system...and you will likely need to make additional adjustments as the system matures/ages>>>> If I don't have an automatic top off system for adding top off water, and have to do it manually, how much can I add at one time without the pH going to high? <<Perform your top-off on a daily basis at most (twice daily is better but absolutely necessary) and you shouldn't have any issues>> Is there a down side to doing this? <<Buffering your top-off water?  Not in my opinion>> By the way, the water flow in my tank cannot be an issue as I have 600 gph coming from the sump and two Tunze Turbelle Stream 6000's inside the tank. <<Excellent>> Once the tank matures, do you think that the calcium reactor along with Kalkwasser for top off is a good way to go? <<Will depend on the "consumption rate" of the tank/tank inhabitants.  Hook up/tune the calcium reactor first and add the Kalkwasser only if it can not "keep up">> Do you have any feelings on Kalk-stirrer devices like Deltec's? <<I add Kalkwasser to my system via automated top-off (Tunze Osmolator) through a DIY Kalkwasser reactor.  If you decide on/determine you need/want Kalkwasser additions I feel these reactors are a great way to supplement this>> How often and what % do you recommend for water changes? <<Opinions will vary ( http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water.htm), but 15%-20% biweekly seems reasonable to me for your system.>> Thanks again. Regards, Ken <<Quite welcome.  Eric Russell>>

R3: Raising pH -- 11/19/06 Hi Eric, <<Hi Ken>> Glad you made it home safely.  I'll be leaving for business to Hong Kong and Thailand in about 2 weeks. <<Mmm, long hours in a plane seat'¦>> I put off my trip to make sure all was set up with the tank.  I guess I know my priorities. LOL. <<Ha!  Indeed>> There is a few block area in Hong Kong with fish and corals.  Store after store after store. <<Ah yes, I watched a documentary re a few months ago>> The prices are incredibly cheap.  It goes to show how much the price that we pay here is a result of airfreight. <<A large component>> I have been running my lights. <<Good>> Starting to get the brown diatoms on the rocks. <<normal>> Do you think I have too much light in my tank if I am only keeping LPS and softies? <<Many can adapt/will do well under the high output.  Besides, the glitter-lines/overall look of halides in much more desirable in my opinion.  You can always move the lights 'up' to decrease intensity if necessary>> I did pick up a small colt and finger coral.  I put them at the bottom of the tank on the sand to acclimate.  How many days should I leave them there before moving them to a more permanent location? <<I would put them in their 'permanent' locations now and raise the lighting fixture (lowering it a few inches every couple of days) or use multiple layers of fiberglass window screen to 'shade' the corals (remove a layer every couple of days).  Do read here (http://www.wetwebmedia.com/acclimcoralslight.htm) and among the associated links>> You had mentioned about putting in coral to compete with the algae for nutrients in the tank. <<Yes I did>> Should I limit how many I get now? <<Do allow a week or two between additions>> I was wondering if I get that wonderful snot algae etc, will I have to be concerned with the well being of the corals, or will they survive the potential outbreak. <<They will likely be fine>> I think this will be a "mixed garden" tank as you referred to. <<I see>> With regards to my pH, something interesting.  I had read about high alkalinity and CO2 in the room, and letting fresh air in the room. <<Ah'¦>> I opened my window and in a period of about 3-4 hours my pH went from 8.06 to 8.17. <<Very telling>> Gee, I hope I don't have to do that all winter. <<Indeed'¦perhaps you can figure a way to introduce/vent fresh air to/from your system>> I guess I can hold off on the baking soda for the time being as my pH seems like it is ok. If down the road I get the algae mentioned above, and my alkalinity is fine, then I can adjust my pH with Kalk as top off. <<The presence of high concentrations of CO2 may well be a limiting factor even then.  But no needs to panic/overreact now'¦wait to see how things develop>> By the way, the Tunze Osmolator, is that just a fancy float switch? <<And then some.  The device uses infrared light to 'sense' the water level and will detect a change as small as 1mm.  Though a bit pricey (about $175), these are very accurate and very reliable devices for tank top-off>> Any benefit of this over the standard float switch? <<Better function/more reliable'¦in my opinion>> Also you mentioned that you have a Kalk reactor, is there a benefit to this over a magnetic stirrer? <<One and the same'¦just different mechanics (mine uses a powerhead to 'stir' the Kalkwasser)>> Are you running a calcium reactor as well? <<I am'¦but I have a large (500g total system volume) system heavily stocked with stony corals/calcifying organisms>> I did find out some info on the salts.  I.O. and Reef Crystals have a 12 dKH.  This explains why when I started at 15 and did a water change, I couldn't drop down say below 10. <<I see>> Tropic Marin is 7.5 dKH. <<My fave salt mix'¦if money were no option>> Maybe my next water change I will use this, or maybe the life in the tank will eat away at the alk.  Oh yea, again, thanks for the good call on the needle wheel skimmer. <<Welcome'¦hard to go wrong with a quality unit>> Thanks and regards, Ken <<Cheers mate, EricR>>

Struggling To Raise pH - 01/09/07 Hi, <<Hello!>> I've got a six-gallon marine tank. Alk, 10 dKH, Ca, 400, pH 8.0-8.1.  This is what it stays at with weekly water changes.  I want  to raise pH to 8.3-8.4 or 8.5, mainly because of the shrunken xenia but also for Cyano control. <<I see>> The problem is, is that there doesn't seem to be any room to add B-Ionic or really any need. <<Agreed>> Also, there really isn't enough of a Ca demand to justify adding limewater. <<Agreed again>> The tank also isn't accumulating too much CO2, <<You know this how?>> so I've ruled out increasing aeration as a solution. <<But have you tried it?  If your home is new/well sealed, CO2 accumulation may well be depressing the pH (though really, consistent readings of 8.0-8.1 are not "bad")>> I do use deionized water and Tropic Marin salt for water changes. <<A good salt...perhaps buffering the water before mixing in the salt will help.  You can try this with simple baking soda (about a teaspoon per ten gallons of water), but don't expect to get the pH above 8.3 with this method.  Seachem also offers great buffering products>> Do you think that switching to Seachem salt mix will get the pH up to optimal readings? <<Don't know...I suggest you purchase a small quantity of the Seachem salt and test it for your desired result>> I'm really struggling with this, so any tips or solutions would be greatly appreciated. <<In this small tank the Seachem products are a worthwhile try...and do have a read here and among the links in blue at the top of the page:  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marphalk.htm  >> Thanks, Greg <<Happy to assist, EricR>>

pH decline Bob <Anthony Calfo in your service> I have read your articles (and book) addressing the issue of the interplay between alkalinity and pH. I have a question though, about how to proceed with my reef tank. (120 gallon, wet/dry, canister filter with ac, phosphate sponge, 300 watts of compacts, moderately loaded with fish-herbivores, cleanup crew of usual suspects, hard and soft coral specimens). The tank has been set up for about 9 months, and began exhibiting a slight decline in both pH and alkalinity about two months ago,  <normal to some extent> from 8.4 to 8.2 colorimetric test; and from high to normal colorimetric test for alkalinity. I then purchased a Pinpoint pH monitor and SeaTest hardness test, which confirmed the above. As I was adding a good bit of Kent Turbo Calcium,  <please resist this habit... calcium chloride is meant to be used only as a TEMPORARY fix... else chloride ions accumulate and skew the ALK, can cause problems down the road with maintaining pH and ALK. Please use Kalkwasser or a calcium reactor for primary Calc dosing> I decided to go to a calcium reactor, Korallin 1502.  <excellent> Following the directions from the manufacturer, I am using a CO2 bubble rate of 10, and a drip rate of 60 (they recommend 40, but this resulted in an effluent of 6.5 pH, so I went to 60 to achieve an effluent pH of 6.85). I have been running this fairly consistently for about a week. pH now varies from 8.0 measured after 8 hours of lighting, to 7.8 measured after 8 hours of darkness.  <indeed too low by far> Alkalinity is still on the low side, at about 8dKh. All water quality parameters look good, no detectable nitrogen compounds, no PO4, no color, calcium about 400-450. All inhabitants seem pretty comfortable, I have a Tang and a Hammer Coral that I use for bellwethers and they seem happy. Question: Add baking soda or let the system stabilize? <first take a sample bucket of aquarium water, test the pH, aerate it vigorously for 6-12 hours and then test again. If the pH increases you have a CO2, off-gassing problem that is depressing the pH. That is not likely however if you have good current and a good skimmer. Instead, read today's FAQs (Sunday) and recent days regarding depressed pH in well insulated homes (open a window essentially and test to see if pH rises after a couple of hours... and interesting dynamic> Thanks and looking forward to the CRA being published soon. <me too :). In the meantime, look for our next book on Reef Invertebrates due to be released early 2003> Bob Williams <kindly, Anthony Calfo>

pH alk? Thanks again for all the help. I'm sorry to say I have another question... I use instant ocean mix with aerated RO/di water salted to 1.025. This new salted water tests kH of 13-14dkh with 2 different tests. Isn't this pretty high? Is it normal?  <quite normal. Good sea salts have slightly more ALK reserve on first mix than NSW. If you are not doing water changes more than weekly, then this slightly higher ALK is a blessing by design> the RO/di water premix after air is around ph 6.9, kH 0-1 or so low it wont measure. thank you, Neil <best regards, Anthony>

Low pH Bob, <Anthony Calfo here again :)> I tried your test and saw a significant rise in the pH of the sample water when aerated.  <very fine... an easy solution. Sometimes a second or better skimmer alone can correct this problem for you. Any vigorous aeration in the tank will work, of course, but venturis on powerheads, for example, lead to snapping bubbles and a lot of salt creep sometimes. See what suits you best> I did this in a small tub (4" X 8") with a Minijet 404 and made a turbulent flow. I did this for 12 hours and then moved the whole kit outside for 12 hours. It appears that aeration alone was able to do the job.  <interesting... good sleuthing too> I understand your idea of the "closed-up house"; though I don't think that is the problem as I have 6 kids running in and out all the time.  <Yowsa! and I thought reefkeeping was expensive :)> I can only dream of them actually keeping the doors closed (and A/C in). Now the problem is that to produce the results in the little tub I had to spray water into the air and make quite a bit of a mess. That would not be acceptable in the display tank. I had always assumed that the water going through the trickle plate and falling over the area that used to have bioballs was (in conjunction with the protein skimmer) how the majority of the gas exchange took place. Please advise how to proceed from here. <the crash in the trickle is helpful, but the aerobic (oxygen loving) bacteria consume oxygen. One common trick with trickle filters to raise O2 and Redox is to infect a lot of air at the bottom of the filter but just above the water (low sump level). This dramatically improves the above plus trickle filter performance. As far as the skimmer: true... much O2 from there. Most folks however don't have a skimmer that works as well as it could/should. A good skimmer produces dark skimmate every day (a good cup full). Too many Prizms, Berlins and SeaClones out there as primary skimmers IMO.> As far as animal health goes, I did a 100 gallon water change. I was able to save 3 fish, several stars, a few snails and hermits, and the anemones, and corals. The shrimp, a few oysters, and most of the snails didn't make it though. <kudos for your efforts, and sorry for the losses> Just as a point of reference, I am using a Hanna pHep 4 pH meter that I calibrate with their cal solutions 4 and 7. <Nice piece of hardware> Thanks again, Tom <best regards, Anthony>

Open Window pH Dynamic I tried the open window waited the 2 hours ...and nothing seem to be happening with my PH. We finally had a break in the weather and the temperature dropped enough so we could open all the windows last night. When I got home from work my PH was at 8.2!!  <yep... like clockwork> It has never gone above 8.0 when the lights have been on in the last few weeks....it took almost 24hours but the PH has definitely climbed.  <indeed> I am a bit dumbfounded as to why I would have excess CO2 in my house/tank that kept the PH depressed.  <an artifact or air flow and modern housing dynamics. Not quit like living in an old clapboard farmhouse :)> I'm not 100% convinced....but facts are hard to toss aside.  <agreed... it is a common realization every summer with aquarists> I will look at the site for more FAQ's on this interesting phenomenon. Larry <actually... we know an aquarist who is a very wise industrial engineer for heating and cooling dynamics among other things... I'll pass this along for him to enlighten us if he has the time. Best regards, Anthony>

Re: pH decline Anthony <cheers> After your last reply, I decided to start over. Findings: The pH monitor that I use, a Pinpoint, is accurate, as confirmed by Fastest colorimetric and by the LFS. What was inaccurate was my aeration test.  <Ahhhh... good sleuthing> I took a sample from the main display, not sump, and aerated for 12 hours. This time the pH did rise substantially.  <interesting... and a sign that the circulation in the display at least (if not the system overall) needs improvement. For a really interesting test... draw a sample of water from the bottom and top of the display... test their pH before and after aeration and compared to each other. Very telling if they are different> After review, I believe that my protein skimmer is probably barely sufficient  <a common problem> (SeaLife model came with the sump, venturi style with Rio 3100 pump) and that I need additional turnover in the main display (currently I am turning the tank 10X). <yes...agreed. 4-10X has been bandied about for years and was only barely adequate for fish tanks 20 years ago... for modern marine tanks that is modest or entirely inadequate. For perspective... I'm running approximately 1600 GPH through a 50 gallon reef tank and still would not call it "very" strong water flow> My plan is to replace the skimmer with the AquaC EV180 and to increase the display turnover to at least 15X,  <awesome> which I believe might be about the limit the overflows will stand.  <unfortunately> What is your feeling about this plan; any other suggestions? <sure... Gemini or Tunze Turbelles top mounted powerheads would be very efficient and move a lot of water...perhaps one large pump (powerhead) in addition would be nice. Pricey but long lived> Regards Bob <kindly, Anthony>

Baking soda... hi bob, quick question...is a teaspoon of baking soda per 10 gallons a safe quantity to add to the aquarium each day to raise the alkalinity? I plan to add the sodium bicarbonate to my top-off water and gradually add it? or can I just pour it into the aquarium all at once? your website and book has been most informative...thanks, mike <This should be okay... depending on the starting alkalinity... and need, use of the livestock for such... I would get/use an alkalinity test kit with this protocol... and do gradually place it... in dissolved system water or make-up... not all at once... and thank you. Bob Fenner>

Hello (pH, effects of system size) Welcome back from your trip! I've been quiet--but things have been good! The new system is awesome. It's the 180 gallon Oceanic I emailed you repeatedly about while I was planning for it! <Ah, yes> It seems the newer system has solved most of the problems that were nettling me.  <Not atypical... larger is definitely better... more stable, flexible, forgiving...> The pH has stabilized and is now ranging from 8.3 - 8.55. (Is this too high?  <No> It still seems to be climbing some. . .) <Seems is the operative word here> I've added a bubble-tip anemone for the maroon clown--and he's fallen in love with his new home. I also added a Kole tang--what a great fish! (He got beat up pretty bad the first night by the Z. tangs, but settled in after a day or two.) I decided to forget about the green Chromis and leave my fish load at 11 total fish. (The Kole was the only addition to the bigger system--and I don't have any plans to add any more in the future.) When they're all full-grown, my stocking level will be 1" per 6 gallons. It's just too stressful on me AND the fish to make new additions! <I understand> With the stabilized pH and biominerals (alk 3.8 meq/L and Ca at 460) the coralline has started to really take off. I do seem to have more in the refugium at this point than in the main tank, but I'll just give it time.  <This is wise, wisdom will hopefully come with age as well> (It's growing in the display tank, too, but more slowly. I now have difficulty seeing through all the coralline spots on the side of the refugium.) The macroalgae is going wild--I have to harvest from the display tank and the refugium weekly. Nitrates started around 3 ppm in the new system and now are down to about .5 ppm. It seems I've finally managed to put together the system I should have started with in the first place! I'm now able to sit back and enjoy it without feeling like I always need to be adding something, tinkering with something, fixing something or beating my head against a wall trying to make something work. This is what reefkeeping is all about! <Yes my friend> Thanks for all your past help and ongoing commitment to help us make our reefkeeping experiences the best they can be! We'll be chatting. And I still owe you a pic! : ) <Be seeing you. Bob Fenner>

Total Hardness Values? Hi! My husband and I have recently started up a 55 gallon salt water aquarium with some hard corals and hardy fish such as a yellow Sailfin tang and a blue surgeonfish. I am still quite a beginner in knowledge about all the necessary water tests required and their corresponding safe ranges. I have learned that the calcium level (Ca2+) should be between 400- 450 ppm and the alkalinity (general hardness) should be 105 -125 ppm. <Mmm, these values really don't need to be this high or narrow in range... 300-400 ppm is enough calcium for most all systems, and halve the general hardness...> However, I can not find what the general range for Total hardness should be or the ratio between Mg2+ and Ca2+.  <About three to one> Many sales personnel only tell how many capfuls of ProBuffer solutions to add to the tank weekly and other elements including Magnesium. I really want to know more about the values expected so the corals will continue to survive in months to come. <Good planning> Could you please tell me what the Total Hardness values should be in mg/l and the needed ratio of Magnesium and Calcium to provide a healthy environment for my hard corals such as green brain corals, daisy corals, and yellow polyps. <For all types of organisms the approximate values are mentioned above> Thank you for any information you can provide for me. Amalia De La Cruz <Much we can discuss if you'd like. Bob Fenner>

High PH and Alkalinity ok CA Hi Bob, Heard the rumor that you may write a book about reef aquariums. Would love to read that!! I read the website almost daily since I found it. <Thank you my friend... a good part of "The Conscientious Reef Aquarist" is written... just having to wait on my fabulous publisher (James Lawrence, now Microcosm/TFH)... for their excellent help, editing, lay-out, production, sales and distribution-wise.> I have read a lot about water quality and just can't seem to find the answer to my problem. First the set up: 75 gal tank, RO water, LR, LS, CPR BakPak, 3 powerheads, 1 carbon power filter currently running w/o carbon), 2 light hoods 1 compact 300 watt and 35-45watt 50/50, 35-45watt actinic that are on from 11:00am to 10:00 pm. Temperature 80. Second, the pets: Blue hippo tang, purple tang, 2 damsels, false percula, banded goby, Foxface, abalone, 2 Mithrax crabs, turbo snails, brittle star, impatient cuke, Cerith snails, fire shrimp, 2 cleaner shrimp,1 green striped and 1 purple mushroom rocks and a sun coral hate to forget anyone) The tank has been established for well over 2 years and has been moved twice with no deaths. They currently all seem pretty happy and acting as normal. We have had a lot of coralline growth lately, which is good since it has receded over the years. I add, according to the directions, Kent products like calcium, strontium, iodine, coral Accel, essential elements, coral Vite. I have others like calcium with buffers, dKH buffer, cycle (Hagen product) but haven't used them for a few weeks. I started adding all of these potions a couple of months ago because of the lack of coralline growth and the LFS suggested all kinds of additives to help everything under the sun or at least everything in my aquarium. <Yes... the supplement "habit"... can be dangerous... almost always expensive...> I have a Hagen testing kit and all water parameters are fine except high PH and alkalinity. PH 8.5-8.7 usually, but last night the test gave me a purple color (not on the chart) and Alkalinity was 220! <Yes, the source of your biominerals, mainly calcium, is precipitating out your bicarbonate... making the solid calcium carbonate... the powdery white stuff in/on your substrate... You've got too much of "A" in A plus B equals C, with the alkalinity being "B", the CaCO3 being "C"> The Calcium tested last night at 420ppm. I did a 10 gal water change last week because of high PH and alk. but I still have high results. I haven't read anything about this type of problem before and am wondering what to do. <Cut back on "A", and/or increase "B"... or better still, do some calculating of what these supplements are costing you and build or buy a calcium reactor for pH, biomineral, alkaline and CO2 input, homeostasis> Also, I read that cukes are a mistake.  <The one you have (Impatiens) is fine> I bought mine as a part of a clean up package from FFExpress and am wondering if the cuke should be in my tank. It should be safe from power heads, maybe could contact heater. It spit out its guts after we first put him in the tank but seems to be fine now. I rarely see him since it is in the live rock all the time. What do you think? Why is he a part of a clean up crew if he is potentially very dangerous? <Not that much worry... It's the larger species like the "Australian Sea Apple" that are much more of a concern> Thanks for all your help and expert advise. Chris <Glad to render/share it. Bob Fenner>

Re: PH, ALK, CA Hello Again, I am glad to hear that the reef book is that close to being on the market. It will be a must buy for me. <Great to hear/read> I wrote you yesterday about my PH, Alkalinity, and Calcium problems. I guess I need some clarification. You said we have too much A in the A plus B equals C. B is alkalinity and C is CaCO3. Cut back on A and or increase B. How do I best do this? <Mmm, by adding less of your alkaline or biomineral additives... Please read re these topics on WetWebMedia.com> You also suggest a calcium reactor. I am looking at buying one now. Maybe a Knop brand. I was wondering if you recommend a certain brand or type. <I do like the Knop line for its engineering, construction, use of quality components. There are other brands and new ones due to "hit the market" soon. I encourage you to ask actual end-users (other hobbyists) re their opinions. The bulletin boards, forms on the Net are great here. Ours: http://talk.wetwebfotos.com/ Bob Fenner, just back from giving pitches in the Midwest. Bob Fenner> Thanks Again, Chris

Nitrates and Ph Hi Bob, <Steven Pro here answering for Bob while he is MIA.> Haven't written in a while. I hope you and your tanks are doing well. I enjoy reading Q and A on WetWebMedia site. Hate to bother you, but I couldn't find similar problem at the site. I have a 180 gallon reef with a plenum system. Four to five inches of aragonite and live sand, 200lb of live rock, a 30 gallon container beside the tank with a line to the sump with a float for evaporation. The system has been running for a little over a year now. I added a calcium reactor in August. Everything is doing fine. The corals are growing a spreading better than ever. I have three tangs, six green Chromis, one clown, one royal Gramma, one Banggai cardinal, and one six line wrasse. Numerous crabs, snails, etc. My water parameters are Ph 8.2. Output of reactor 6.4. KH is 8. Specific gravity 1.023. Calcium 425. Nitrates 100 (through the roof using a New Tetra Kit. I do a 10 gallon change every two weeks. But I since I found the nitrates so high, I just did a 20 gallon change yesterday. Tested again and readings were still high. I thought Ph was fine until I recalibrated my sharp ph meter. I found that the ph is lower than I thought. I add buffer to the RO water I use for evaporation in the 30 gallon container. Do I need to add buffer in salt water that I mix for water changes (RO water also) ? I use instant ocean salt mix that I mix in 5 gallon jugs with an air stone. Second problem: I am adding Kent Pro Buffer DKH every day. My calcium is at 425 and KH is 8. Should the calcium reactor take care of the KH? Do I need to use the Kent additive? <Your calcium reactor should maintain your calcium and alkalinity levels. I would recommend you add buffer to your RO water prior to mixing with the I.O. to reconstitute it.> I had an ick outbreak back in the spring. I tried to use the no ick marine, but had no luck. Gave up and quit treating and didn't lose a fish. Could the no ice marine have affected the anaerobic bacteria in the plenum causing the high nitrates I am now experiencing? I don't think I am over feeding (maybe a little) and as you can see in the photo, no problem with algae. <I would double check your nitrate test kit readings with another kit. It is possible your reagents are old or contaminated. Your corals look great and I would not expect that if you nitrates were really that high.> Any information or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. <Double check your RO water, too. Make sure that the prefilters are getting changed offer enough and that your membrane is working properly.> Thank you very much, Robert McNinch <You are welcome, Steven Pro>

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