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FAQs on Marine Water Quality involving Phosphates 1

Related Articles: Phosphates in Marine Aquarium Systems by Marco Lichtenberger, Phosphates in Carbon; An analysis of the phosphate content of activated Carbon by Steven Pro, & FAQs on Phosphate: Importance, Science, Measure, Sources, Control, Chemical Filtrants, Troubleshooting/Fixing, & Ammonia, Nitrates, Nitrites, SilicatesMarine Chemical Filtrants,

Related FAQs: Phosphates 2, Nitrates, NitritesAmmonia, Silicates, Avoiding Algae Problems in Marine System, Nutrient Control and Export, Algae Control, Marine Maintenance, AlkalinityChemical Filtrants

Some phosphate is necessary to all life.

Leaching of Phosphates Good evening crew.  <Good afternoon>  I wanted to run a theory by you guys. I have a green hair algae issue in my 29gal marine tank. I've discovered the problem to be excess phosphate. Phosphate levels are around .6ppm. I tested for nitrates, but they come up around 0ppm. I use DI water only in my tank and phosphate testing of the water of course comes up negative.  I do however have a single piece of reddish colored lava rock in my tank and browsing through the FAQ sections leads me to believe this could be the culprit (the algae grows most prolific on this rock.... more so than my live rock) I will remove the rock. Do you think the lava rock has been leaching phosphates because I can't think of any other way they are getting into my system? Thanks a million, you guys are fantastic.  <Eric, phosphates can also be introduced by certain foods, and most activated carbons will leach phosphates, especially the cheaper brands. If you are using carbon, I would switch to a product like Chemi-Pure. James (Salty Dog)><<Uh, the question James... Yes, this rock, and most all rock can be a source of soluble Phosphate... RMF>>

Green hairy algae I have an established reef/fish tank. I have recently had an out break of green hairy algae that is now choking out some of my small polyp colonies. I have been told that phosphates can cause this and have added a large sock filled with PhosBan to my sump. This does not seem to be helping.. Is there anything other than snails ( which I have purchased another dozen) that can help. Thanks, D.H <All sorts... please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/po4faqs.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner> 

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> 

Fighting Phosphates and Keeping Water Quality High! Hi Scott, <Hello again!> Thanks for the response.  On the phosphate test kit reading, I said "maybe slightly" because the color difference between the "no reading" and the "first reading" is extremely hard to tell apart. <I understand...Many of the kits we use can be a bit hard to read the results on!> Sorry, I'm not at home, so I don't have the brand of kit in front of me or what the "first reading" measurement is.  If only a slight amount of phosphate can make a difference, I probably need to get another kit.  Any good recommendations? <For real accuracy, you could get a Merck phosphate test kit, but they are rather pricey. The Salifert, LaMotte, and Hach lines are good, too.> I also didn't mention that I cut the feedings back to every 2 days out of 3. <Well, don't starve your fish, but certainly do feed carefully when you do. Your continued careful husbandry will get you through this. I like to be habitual in maintenance, doing the same routine regularly, adjusting if required, but otherwise being relentless. Consistency is a good thing. Develop and maintain those good habits!> On the carbon (charcoal is a little old school), I've used Black Diamond and Kent in the last 2 months.  I've used ChemiPure in the past. Any recommendations for carbon?  I certainly don't want any that will leach phosphates. <Both the brands that you mention are fine, IMO. I alternate between Seachem Matrix Carbon and Rowa Carbon, myself, and get very good results.> I'm also using Kent salt.  I think I remember some folks questioning it's quality.  Any personal thoughts there too? Thanks, John <I like many Kent products, but I have not used their salt. I've used Tropic Marin for many years, and have just stuck with it. You might want to check with your fellow hobbyists to see what kind of results they are getting with this mix. Whatever brand you settle on, I'd stay with it if you get good results. Consistency is so important, IMO!> "Phosphate Out"- Anyone Used It? Crew: <Scott F. at the keyboard today> I did a search on the web site but found no hits. Do you have any experience with "Phosphate-Out!" from CellPharm Bio? I assume this soluble product reacts with the PO4 in the aquarium and forms an insoluble phosphate salt. I'm leery of trying this without some reference. Thanks! Ken Baker <Sorry, Ken- this is a product I have not heard of, and have no experience with it. I'd try the WWM Chat Forum, or other message boards like Reef Central, etc. to see if your fellow hobbyists have experience with this product. Sorry I couldn't be of further help on this one! Regards, Scott F.> 

High phosphates not detected with old test kit Hi crew, I have been battling hair algae (Derbesia) in a 90 gal reef / 30 gal sump. I have been removing algae manually, reduced feedings, reduced light (650w total de HQI) to 8 hours per day. Top off water is from 100gpd 5 stage ro/di. I have read lots of books and this site extensively. I have been following suggestions from these sources without much progress. I had a small amount of razor Caulerpa in the sump and recently added a good size Chaetomorpha and red grape algae to the sump with ~65watts of compact fluorescent. Added SCWD on closed loop to increase circulation. Now for the question: I have been using Salifert test kits to test nitrate, nitrite, phosphates and alkalinity. The phosphate test did not change color so I assumed the phosphate levels were undetectable and not a problem. Today, I brought a .5 liter sample of my tank water and my top off water to the LFS and they were kind enough to test my water to help determine a cause for the algae. The LFS test showed phosphates off the scale! I definitely have high phosphate levels which helps explain the algae problem. When I got home, I tested the same tank water bottle with my Salifert PO4 test and it came back negative. Do the test kits expire? Should I throw out my test kit and replace it? <Hello Pat.  Usually the shelf life of the reagents in test kits are not to be trusted much over a year with an exemption to ph kits. If you have had it more than a year replace it and test again.  Salifert test kits are very accurate and reliable.> On the algae side of things, will my macro algae out-compete the hair algae and solve my problem naturally?<It can provided other measures are taken along with this.  Phosphate removers are like band aids.  If you do not get rid of the source of phosphates you will be continually using one of these products.  You didn't mention if you do a 10% weekly water change.  This is a must for starters.  You also didn't mention whether you are using a protein skimmer, this is a must to combat nuisance algae.> I added a poly filter as well.<The PolyFilter is a good idea, but is not designed solely around removing phosphates.> Do I need to add a phosphate sponge to accelerate the process? The LFS was recommending ROWAphos phosphate remover and a pressure canister. <I use a Magnum H.O.T. and run PhosGuard in it as a preventive measure.  As long as phosphate levels are low in the system, this will last quite some time.  Adding the macro is a good idea, it will compete for food with the nuisance algae.  I also have a Caulerpa growth in my tank. Many aquarists are going to refugiums with a live sand bottom with some live rock and Caulerpa and leaving the refugium lights on 24/7.  A lot of good has been reported as to the effect this has on minimizing nuisance algae.  Good luck.  James (Salty Dog)> Thanks for the info and the great books: conscientious marine aquarist, reef invertebrates, book of coral propagation, etc. -Pat

High phosphates not detected with old test kit James, Thanks for the reply.<You're welcome> I try to do weekly water changes. I have twin babies so I have been deficient in this area. I was doing 5 gal (5%) weekly. Have recently been doing 10% every 2 weeks. I'm trying to step it up a bit to 10% per week.  I have a Euroreef skimmer - ES 5-2. I am curious is this skimmer is too small. <I've looked on the net and the models I see start with a "6" number and they are rated for 100 gallons. I'm thinking you have an older model that is not listed anymore. If you still have the manual it should tell you what it is rated for.>  I have been looking at the Euroreef CS8-2 and the AquaC EV-180.  I'm not sure if it's worth $500 to upgrade a skimmer that works OK (not outstanding).<Keep in mind, skimmers need to be cleaned on a weekly basis> My tank is 48x18x24 with built in overflow. I have a 30 gal sump that has about 8 inch of water (~18 gal). I think my total water is about 100 gal. Should I upgrade my skimmer? <I would hold off and concentrate more on weekly water changes. You might want to try using Chemi-pure, a carbon based ion exchange media which does take out waste that a skimmer will not. I've been using this for quite some time with excellent results.> I suspect that the source of phosphate in my case is from over feeding. <Probably so, since I don't believe your tank is overstocked.> I was feeding once a day with flake: O.S.I. Marine flake and HBH Veggie flake 8. I was trying to feed very small amounts. But I suspect the main pump is blowing it behind rocks, etc.  <Your critters should clean that up. I would like to see a tank your size with about thirty hermits.> I am now adding Formula 1 and Formula 2 into the rotation along with Seaweed Select for my yellow tang and hippo tang. What the fish don't eat, the 2 cleaner shrimp seem to find.  I have cut back feeding to one cube of Formula 1 or Formula 2 every other day.  I'm still not sure how much/ how often to feed.  <A good rule of thumb is to put very small amounts in. When that is gone, add a little more up to a point where the fish lose interest in it. Don't worry about your hermits or shrimp, there will be plenty of food to dine on.> My livestock is: 1 yellow tang 3" 1 hippo tang 2" 1 clown 1 citron goby 1 yellow goby / 1 pistol shrimp pair 1 royal Gramma 4 blue green Chromis 2 cleaner shrimp asst. hermit crabs, snails One more piece of information: I bought this tank used in October 04.  The live rock had hair algae at the time I bought it. So I partly inherited the problem. Although the ongoing phosphates are probably from my husbandry practices.  <Sailfin Blennies (Lawnmower Blenny) are great at making algae disappear.> I'll check out the H.O.T. filter with Phosguard tomorrow - TGIF Saturday.  I'll discard the old Salifert test kit - it's definitely older than 1 year. The Salifert alkalinity test kit I have is also old. I have been dosing 70ml of B-Ionic and I cannot get dKH above 8 according to my test kit. But that's a different topic probably.   <Keep in mind 8 to 12 dKH is a good range. Too high of a dKH can cause the calcium to precipitate.> Thanks for the info. I will make some changes and start monitoring with some fresh test kits. I understand that the goal is to find the root cause and modify; not treat with Phosguard and macro algae.  Take care, Pat <Macros are a good natural way to help. Good luck, Pat. James (Salty Dog)>

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 

Phosphate Hi guys, first time writing, great site.<Thank you> I have a reef/fish aquarium that is about 6 months old.  Things have been going pretty well, but I have lost a couple of corals and the occasional fish.  The system is 55 gallons, 100 lbs live rock, eight small fish (2 gobies, 2 Chromis, 2 clowns, lawn mower blenny, six line wrasse) 4 different kinds of shrimp, two anemones.  Corals include a bubble, frog spawn (two kinds), a sun coral "bunch", couple of small Acroporas, a medium trumpet, a small gorgonian, and the usual assortment of hermit crabs and snails (~25 each).  As I mentioned, I have lost a couple of corals, an elegance (wish I had read your website first) parts of the frog spawn and a banded shrimp. The trumpet isn't looking good either.  Fish seem to be doing fine. I feed the tank blended clams, mussels, shrimp and fish (all fresh, then frozen, about a ? teaspoon couple of times a day).<Way too much food.>  I also add Cyclop-eeze <Are you referring to "Cyclop-eeze? If you are, this is a very good food source by itself for corals.> about every other day. <What does your lighting consist of, Nick?  This may be part of the problem in losing corals.>  My test results have generally been within the parameters I have been reading about - no ammonia or nitrate spikes, no algae problems.  I did a test last week after a hiatus of about 3 weeks and found my phosphorous at 6 ppm!  I use well water that tests (Reef Lab dropper kit) at about 0.2 ppm  phosphate.  Could the phosphates in the well water be building up?  Any other ideas, do I need to go to RO water? <I'm assuming you also have an algae bloom.  With phosphate levels that high out of the tap, it can certainly lead to this.  Do you do a 10% water change weekly?  Yes, I do think you should go to RO water or a de-ionized water.  James (Salty Dog)> <<Groan... the question James...>>

Phosphate reactor Hi guys! I am interested in this new PhosBan reactor. Do guys use such a device on your tanks? Or do you use phosphate media?<Stephan, PhosBan is basically a phosphate remover same as PhosGuard.  There is alumina present in PhosGuard where PhosBan has some iron oxide present. You can get the same effect just by putting PhosGuard or PhosBan in a nylon mesh bag and hang it in your sump, although it would work quicker in a canister type filter where there would be no water bypass.>Is worth it in terms of prevention of algae bloom?<The best prevention for algae blooms is not to overcrowd or feed, do 10% weekly water changes, and clean skimmer and filter weekly. I would not use it until the problem arises. You may never need to.> Still under construction my 180 gal. reef will have a downstream refugium with DSB for NNR and an upstream refugium without sand and Chaetomorpha. I will be using an R/O DI unit. The tank will also  have a DSB. How will I know when to replace the media?<By "media" you must mean the PhosBan.  Generally these are good for up to one month depending on the phosphate level in the tank.  When you can measure phosphate in a tank your in trouble since low levels of phosphate are quickly used up by the algae(s) present.> Thank you again. <Your welcome, and good luck with your 180.  James (Salty Dog)> Sincerely Stephan Gaudreau

Kent carbon, Phosphates and algae Dear Sir's, I have had an algae problem since setting up my reef tank 8 months ago, mainly hair algae (the usual I know).  I think they call it hair algae because when you get plagued with it you pull your hair out!<HA!!> The tank is 250uk gallons and has around 120-130kg of live rock 3x 250watt 14k metal halide lamps around 6 months old. I use Rowaphos continually. The phosphate measures 0 with the new high accuracy Deltec test kit. Nitrate also measures 0. I have used Kent reef carbon since setting up my aquarium.  I use instant ocean salt and have an AquaMedic 1000 calcium reactor set to 6.7ph and about 2 drips per second effluent. Lots of water flow with 2 Tunze 6100's, all top off through Kalkwasser stirrer with RO. Water changes, about 7% per week. Now, my question, sorry to rattle on....<No Problem.> Just recently I decided to test the carbon for phosphates against the AquaMedic brand. I put a few pellets of each make, 1 week old carbon into some RO water. The Kent carbon went off the scale on the Deltec test kit to around 0.6ppm while the AquaMedic tested around 0.2. I am concerned that this is fuelling my algae bloom and I am not reading phosphate in the tank as the algae is utilizing it. What do you think?<It absolutely could be the situation.> Does this sound like it could be the problem?<Yep!!! Your testing methods was a good step to take.> Any information will be of a great help....I looked under the different carbon topics but couldn't find anything of this nature. Please let me know if you would like anymore information. Kind regards, Lee <Lee, There are carbons that contain phosphate in their molecular structure.  Is there any reason why you are running carbon in your reef tank.  If you have a sufficient protein skimmer then you won't need to use carbon.  I would also recommend testing for silicates.  They can cause algae blooms also.  Remove the carbon and physically remove the algae and see what happens.  Good Luck MikeB.> Phosphate problems and curing live rock Hi- << Hi. >> I hope you can help with some answers on my issues and concerns.  Here they are: I have a 55 gallon tank up and running about 10 months.  I have about 40 lbs of live rock, about 40 lbs of live sand, a BakPak 2 protein skimmer with baling removed and the following: 1 firefish goby 2 damsels about 3 inches 2 damsels about 1 inch 1 yellow tang 1 large seahorse (yes I know that she should be in a separate tank, but she is doing fine.  I hand feed her so she gets plenty to eat) 3 feather dusters 2 peppermint shrimp 2 fighting conch assorted snails and small hermits 1 greenstar polyp about 5 inches round 1 Florida Ricordea about 6 polyps 1 Sarcophyton, small Sounds like a lot but really isn't. I get about 3/4 cup of skimmate from the skimmer once per week.  My water quality is pretty much zero across the board (nitrates run under 10 most of the time) with calcium at 450 and here is one of my problems, phosphate at 0.07.   I do 15% water changes weekly and also polish the water with a diatomaceous earth filter weekly. I have been experiencing both diatom and green film algae.  The snails do a decent job of controlling the green, but the diatom still covers much of the sand each day.  I realize this is the phosphate and what I have done is added a deionizer to clean the make up water (about 60% of the tank water is now from the deionizer which was done over the past three weeks).   I do try to limit the amount of food I put in the tank and I do clean up the uneaten food as best I can.  What else can I do to get the phosphate down? << Here you go, try this new product called something like Rowaphos?  I've heard some really good things about it from some great authors.  Supposedly the way to go. >> I am in the process of curing another 30 lbs of live rock, which I bought from Dr's Foster and Smith (Lalo rock-great quality by the way) which should be ready to go into the tank in about 2-3 weeks.  I noticed that the "smell" has gotten slightly better (still there) and after 6 days of curing, there still is no measurable nitrite in the water.  The rock sits in a plastic curing bin with two power heads, an airstone and a heater (don't have an extra protein skimmer) Am I doing something wrong? << Nope, sounds good.  I would have had all the rock in the tank months before adding fish, so you are taking a chance there. >> Shouldn't the nitrite be increasing? << Yes, but then quickly falling.  Your nitrate should be rising. >> Last question.  I am seriously thinking of going to a larger tank, at least 90 gallon.  Since it has to go into the same spot where my 55 is sitting, I'm not sure of the best way to empty one so I can move it but not quite fill the other. << Many friends, and many buckets. >> Do you have anything I can read up on regarding that? Many Thanks for your help. Larry Joachim <<  Blundell  >>

Phosphate, Calcium & Alkalinity Hello Guys: Could you please try and help me with a problem that developed suddenly in my aquarium?  I have read the FAQs and want to make sure I am pursuing the proper course of action.  Aquarium is one year old.  Tank is 240 gallons with 200 lbs LR.  Sump is 15 gallons with Euro-Reef  CS8-3 skimmer which flows into 100 gallon non-lighted refugium with DSB of 8 inches aragonite.  I follow good husbandry schedule with 10% weekly water changes, activated carbon run in sump continuously and changed monthly.<Sounds like a nice system.> I use Salifert test kits (test once per week) yielding the following range of results: NH4 0.25 ppm, NO2 Undetectable, NO3 2.5 - 5.0 ppm, Ca 380 - 420, Alk 3.0 - 4.0 meq/L and PO4 Undetectable.  Electronic pH meter ranges 8.17 -8.28 and electronic salinity ranges 1.0240 -1.0250.  A 4 stage RO unit with Instant Ocean salt mix is used for make up water.  B-Ionic 2 part balanced additive dispensed over 8 hour period daily and evaporation top-off via reef filler pump at 1.5 gallons daily with RO water.  I am feeding fish once daily and decanted the frozen food.  A "live" commercial brand phytoplankton was administered 4 times a week.  Everything was running fine. <I am very suspect of an ammonia reading above zero.  I would compare this with another kit.  Otherwise, it sounds like all is well.> I tried a different "live" commercial brand of phytoplankton for one week  and my phosphate increased to 3.0 ppm.  My alkalinity increased to 5.71 meq/L and calcium 450 ppm.  The pH increased to 8.48.  What I am thinking is that the high phosphate level has inhibited the calcification process thus causing the excess amount of calcium and alkalinity in the water column which in turn is driving up the pH.  What do you think? <Sounds logical, but I wouldn't expect the change to be so dramatic or fast.> Could the commercial phytoplankton have caused such a dramatic increase in phosphate in such a short time period? <Yes.  One brand in particular takes care to was the phyto free of fertilizers.  Other brands may not.> Does the calcification process shut down so quickly in response to the elevated phosphate? <This is the part I am suspect of.  Phosphate will slow calcification, and my do so quickly, but I am suspect of the rapid rise in Ca and Alk.> I have done 10% water changes every third day for one week but the phosphate level still remains at 3.0 ppm.  I stopped the B-Ionic dosing and the calcium and alkalinity are slowly decreasing.  The RO water and Instant Ocean mixed with RO water both have undetectable phosphate levels.  Why do think the phosphate level in the tank remains so high?  Thank you very much for your help.  I am worried about my live stock.  Joe <I would continue this regime until the phosphate decreases, or consider a commercial phosphate remover.  Seek out Iron based products (red color) like RowaPhos, Phosban or Salifert and avoid alumina (white color) based products.  Since the introduction of the phosphate seems to be a "one shot" event and not a chronic problem, you should be able to get it under control easily.  Good luck.  AdamC.>

Phosphate and phytoplankton Hello Adam C: << Adam C is out right now, so I'm jumping in. >> Thank you for the help.  I have added both Rowa-Phos and a Poly Filter to the sump.  In addition, I will continue to do the 10% water changes every third day until the phosphates become undetectable again and then I will remove the Rowa-Phos and Poly Filter.  In your response, you stated one "live" phytoplankton brand has good quality control to remove phosphates and nitrates, is this DTs phytoplankton? << I don't know whom he was referring to, but I think Mountain Corals and Phycopure are both great as well as DTs. >> DTs was the brand I was using with no elevation in phosphates.  The brand which caused my phosphates to become elevated was Instant Algae manufactured by Reed Mariculture in California. Please let me know what you think. << I also like Reed Mariculture and Florida Aqua Farms and I love Brine Shrimp Direct's Tahitian Blend Algae. >>  Thanks again for your insight. Joe <<  Blundell  >>

Phosphate problems Hello, << Blundell here. >>     I have been having an issue with phosphate levels in my tank.  It is an 80 gallon all glass with a 2" plenum of crushed coral and aragonite covered by about an inch of live sand.  I purchased it used so I do not know if the plenum was correctly constructed (I have sent an email to the old owner asking about the set up).  I was wondering if a plenum could go sour and be leeching phosphates into the tank?  << Nope... well I guess it is possible, but I'm sure that isn't what happened.  Plenums rarely go bad, and when they do phosphate isn't the problem. >> I have changed the micron bag in the sump and gone as far as replacing the old tainted live rock (it was plagued with algaes of all sorts).  I have added a refugium with Chaeto and do weekly 5 gallon water changes.  Please help! << Hmm, well water changes (like a 25% change) are always good.  Otherwise, growing macroalgae in the sump is the best way I can think of to remove phosphate.  There are commercial product phosphate removers, and many people really like them. >> <<  Blundell  >> Corals and phosphate problems? Hi WetWebMedia, << Blundell here. >> As is custom, here is your praise before the question.  You have  helped me a handful of times when I truly needed it, and you answering any  questions is the most appreciated thing. << You don't need to praise us, we're just here to help. >> I wrote last week with a general problem, it was screaming  "phosphate".  All my corals were retracted, and I had a serious red slime  problem.    I have since added 2 phosphate sponges. I did a 25% change  last week with barely noticeable effects.  I did a 100% water change( not  really 100%, it takes a half hour to siphon the water, and I add it back  gradually).  After this, my frogspawn opened completely, and my flower pot  is showing its polyps (about 10% protracted).  Generally I got a good result  from the massive water change.     My concern is my Xenia. It was thriving beyond belief-  it was almost 12" long, and its stalks were thickening. Almost 2 weeks ago, it  shrank to almost nothing, << Xenia is the first thing affected by change in most tanks.  Which is rather odd, since it is the hardiest thing in most tanks. >> I almost cant believe its stalks shrank to the point  where it takes up almost no area on the rock it came on. Its tips turned a  slight white prior to the water changes, but its color is back,     I won't bore you with chemistry, it is all well within  the recommended range. Briefly - ph, salt, amm, trite, trate, alk, calc-   8.2, 1.0235, 0,0 , 0 , 9.5, 475, all respectively.     I had briefly used city water (RO fitting broke) for 2  10% water changes. I let the water sit for a week before mixing salt.  All  my fish are happy as pigs in poop. << Wow that is happy. >> I really need some suggestions. The rest of  my corals responded well to the massive WC. The tank is 90 gallons, and until 3  weeks ago, never had even the slightest problem. I started the tank in March 2004, and I do not want this problem to become  a plague. Some more added info- 320 watts P/Cs, 650 gph sump return, powerheads circulate 1800 gph, SeaClone skimmer, 5 pounds crushed LR in the sump.    I am concerned for the tank, and would take to task any and  all suggestions you may have. << I'm not sure you need advise.  You did the big water change, and things are looking better right?  I'd keep skimming, and just give it time. >> I thank you kindly for your advice, both now and in the past. James Pruefer, Providence, RI <<  Blundell  >>

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  >>

Corals & Phosphate 5/5/04 To Web Crew, Many thanks in advance for your time and enthusiasm. <It quite literally is our pleasure!  We are all here because we love the hobby.> I have another issue that has been puzzling me.  I recently started going to a LFS closer to my home for my RO water and being the lazy fool that I am did not test the water until a full-blown algae bloom hit my tank.  At that point I discovered the new water I had been buying had sky-high phosphate levels. <Yikes!  Poor maintenance and cheap carbon block filters often lead to this problem.> After a couple of months I got the tank back under control.  I am back buying water from the original LFS. <Good choice!  Better yet, invest in your own R/O shop around and you will be surprised that prices can be quite reasonable, and no more hauling water!> I have kept a wide variety of corals now for close to 10 years.  During the algae bloom I noticed several corals that had always done okay but nothing spectacular grew like wild - most notably a Goniopora that I have had for many years.  I have never seen it so happy.  Now that the algae bloom is under control these corals have gone back to their average ways. <Quite the opposite of where I thought this was going!  Often algae blooms are associated with poor coral health.  Blooms of algae or other organisms can cause drastic changes in water quality as well as producing some pretty nasty chemicals.> My question then is - do some corals need phosphate? <Every living thing needs small amounts of phosphate.  It is probably impossible to reduce phosphate so low in the typical aquarium that it limits the growth of corals.  In fact, at anything above natural sea water concentration, phosphate becomes a poison to the calcification process.> I am of course reluctant to put phosphate in the aquarium and I despise hair algae but was nonetheless very pleased to see these corals thriving.  Or is there something about heavy hair algae growth (i.e. possibly more amphipods or more plant matter in the water column or better "scrubbed" water or whatever) that would encourage some corals to grow more?  As far as I can tell no other water parameters changed during this period of time.  Any thoughts on the matter?  Thanks! Scott <I think you hit the nail on the head!  I suspect that the algae bloom also created a lot of habitat and food for all kinds of critters, which will have spawned and created a ton of tiny planktonic food.  You essentially made your display into a giant refugium!  Hope this is helpful!  Adam>

Phosphates  Hello crew!  Thanks again for all your help. Got another one for you. I have been deeply entrenched in the war against red algae and Cyano for about 2 months now and I think the tide is turning in my favor!! YAY!!<good to hear> There is MUCH less algae growing and now green algae has started growing on the glass and rocks instead of the red slime. I even have a few spots of coralline algae growing on my Tufa rocks!<nice!>  What I have done (much learned reading FAQ's) is I switched to RO/DI, cut back on feedings, put in several types of snails and micro-hermits (I know your opinion on those but I like them and have had no problems), cut back on the number of hours the lights are on a bit, change carbon filters weekly, 10% water changes weekly, switched from a SeaClone to Aqua C Remora and have started testing for phosphates and silicates. I have a hang-on refugium that is on it's way as well (backordered).<you are definitely doing things correctly>  Now, Silicates have been 0 for the last month. Ammonia and nitrites zero since Dec and nitrates creep up to around 15 before I do my weekly changes but usually hover around 5. Other readings are pH 8.3, SG 1.025, dKH 9, Ca 400, Iodine 0.7 and temp 78-79.<sounds good>  Phosphates on the other hand have been driving me nuts!! My initial readings 6 weeks ago were around 1.0 (when I got the testing kit). I added SeaChem Seagel to my whisper filters and the phosphates have dropped to 0.1 and been there for almost 3 weeks now and don't move. I have no idea how to get them to zero. Any other ideas?  <It sounds like you are doing everything correctly...I would not worry too much about a reading of 0.1...it is not really going to harm anything, Good luck, IanB>  Thanks again for all your help.

Filtration Conundrum (3/29/04)  Hi,<Hi. Steve Allen here.>  46 gallon bow/Aqua C Remora/Live Rock/Live sand/Power heads. Want to know about mechanical filtration. You talk about adding a canister filter best option, but then people say that is attracts phosphates? <Actually, nitrates if detritus is allowed to build up in it.> They say to remove the bio stuff, but if I add a Phosphate remover stuff (Roha phos??) In the filter, can I just leave everything alone. <Phosphate removers have to be taken out frequently. Again, it's nitrates that are the main issue with a canister. You can test for phosphates and use a remover if needed.>  They have lots of options to add to the filter (Eheim 2217):  http://www.marinedepot.com/IMD/fl_classic_media.jpg > 2217  http://www.marinedepot.com/aquarium_filter_media_eheim.asp?ast=  Should I use all of this with a phosphate remover. should I remove any of these? Should I use a canister filter at all? <Not sure who told you a canister is best. My personal preference is a HOT power filter such as an AquaClear. It's so quick to change the media. If you don't have space for one, then a canister is a viable option, but you will need to clean it out frequently. Test for phosphate and remove as needed. Carbon also needs to be changed a lot an you need a brand that does not leech phosphate.>  Also, instead of adding this, I was looking at the little Berlin sump (BS1) under my tank, is that a better choice, will that do the filtering? <Sumps are always nice, but not if you have to use a siphon overflow. Only drilled overflows are safe from floods. You use a floss bag on the pile leading to the sump for mechanical filtration and can put bags of carbon of phosphate remover into that bag.> Can I add the phosphate remover there? <Yes> Wow, choices are tough! <Indeed, no one way is clearly best for all. I'd really choose a HOT power filter over a cartridge or a sump that relies on J-tube siphons.> Mark <Hope this helps.>

Knocking Out A Mysterious Phosphate Problem Hi Scott, <Hello again!> Thanks for such a quick response. <Glad to help!> I've been soaking stuff and testing water most of the day and it looks like you were right on the money. I tested the powdered bacteria and it had a reading of between 0.1 and 0.25. I had enough bacteria in a 2litre jug as I would put in a 60g tank so I'm not sure if that was the problem. On the other hand the crushed coral (which I rinsed well before hand) had a reading of 1.0. I'm going to get rid of the crushed coral but I was wondering what would you suggest to use to treat the problem, or will it work  itself out of the system once I have removed the source of the problem. <Well, phosphate can be exported or reduced by the use of chemical filtration media designed to do the job, but it will be such a tedious exercise if the cause(s) are not eliminated. I certainly would not use the bacteria product again. The substrate issue is obviously a tougher one to handle. I'd consider continuous use of phosphate reducing media for a while to see if the levels are reduced. If they do not go down, or if they continuously rise after you stop using the media, it may be worth considering the removal of your substrate and going with something that won't leach phosphates, such as many of the oolithic aragonite products available.> Thanks so much for your help, for a beginner to marine aquariums I was getting very disheartened by this problem. Thanks again - Ryan <Never give up, Ryan. Problems like phosphate are usually among the easier ones to solve. Find the source, and act to eliminate it! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Phosphate in Nori and Kombu? No worries 2/16/04 Hi, I have just acquired a Scopas Tang, for which I have bought some Nori, and  kombu. My worry is that in feeding these, I will probably be introducing  phosphate into the tank, am I right that these will contain phosphate? <no worries at all... nominal indeed. The real problem with phosphate laced foods is from terrestrial farmed/grown produce like lettuce/spinach, etc which is grown with heavy doses of phosphate and nitrate based fertilizers> Is there something I can do to reduce the phosphate content of these foods before feeding? <focus instead on utilizing or exporting it in the aquarium. Other sources of phosphate will enter and need addressed anyways. Use of calcium hydroxide is great for this (precips phosphate)> Also, can the kombu be boiled to soften it without destroying nutrients it contains? <like our/any foods... it will destroy some/many nutrients. If you must, briefly blanch it instead> Also, I bought this stuff at the Asian market, how can I know it has no added preservatives or other chemicals? <honest list of ingredients is the best I/we can hope for> Finally, do you have any other suggestions for a balanced diet for a Scopus Tang? At present, along with the Nori and kombu, it gets the mussel and clam fed to the other fish. <having a variety of 6-10 foods of random origin and processing will likely be fine (FD, Frozen, pellet, fresh). Focus as you have done on a heavy green component... and do consider growing some Gracilaria (AKA "Tang Heaven" from IPSF.com) in a refugium. Anthony>

- Mystery Phosphates - Hey Guys, Just finished setting up a 45 gal sw tank for FO. For giggles I checked the phosphates. No fish at this time. Phosphates are in excess of 1.0. Used RO water which tested fine. Rinsed all corals from a previous set up in hot water. Also added some dead live rock for decoration which has been bleached in the sun and probably dead for about 8 yrs. Also rinsed this in hot water. This was boiled years ago for another tank. Have crushed coral for the substrate which was also rinsed very well in hot water. Filter is a Fluval 403 with crushed coral, Fluval pads and Fluval noodles, along with a Fluval 203 which I run for the UV and has Fluval pads, 1 unit of Chemipure (which was added after I noticed the high phosphates) and the Fluval noodles. I also have a SeaClone protein skimmer which is not running at this time since I just set the tank up. Any explanation and remedy for the high phosphates? <Not really - could be some remaining organic matter on the dead rock and corals - a rinse in hot water doesn't get rid of much besides surface dirt - a better process is to soak in a weak bleach solution, then rinse and leave in the sun for a couple of days. Other than that, I can't think of where the phosphates are coming from... unless perhaps you've run some activated carbon. Certain brands of this have more phosphates than others. Sorry I couldn't do more than guess.> Help! Bruce <Cheers, J -- >

Mystery Phosphates, Follow-up - Dear J <Hi.> Thanks for the quick reply. <My pleasure.> No I haven't run any activated carbon. Will it be a good idea to use a Poly Filter along with Phos Guard to try and get the phosphates down before adding any fish? <Don't think the fish will mind the phosphates, but it's not a bad idea to run these filter pads to try and remove the phosphates.> How about running the protein skimmer? <The skimmer won't remove phosphates directly, but could remove some of the compounds that produce them.><<Or organisms that utilize, "fix" them. RMF>> Or do I need to remove and bleach all the corals and dead live rock? <I wouldn't bother with this step unless all hope is truly lost - which it is not at this stage.> (what a job at this time). Also how about Kalkwasser? <No.> Any help is greatly appreciated since I have had terrible algae in previous tanks. <Be watchful against over-feeding.> Thanks again, Bruce <Cheers, J -- >

Mysterious Phosphate Reading Hi again, <Hi there! Scott F. with you today!>      Thanks a lot for answering my earlier question about fish stocking. This question has every professional in my area stumped and I've tried everything and don't have a clue. My phosphate levels are through the roof (3.0) with no apparent reason. I have only had the tank(60G) running for 17 days, I have one Chromis and some crushed coral but nothing else. I have tested the water supply and my salt mixture and the phosphate is below 0.1. I had been adding brine shrimp into the Chromis' diet but have stopped that for a few days now. My supplier suggested cleaning the filter(fluval404) in case something was blocked in there- it didn't help, I also cleaned my skimmer. If it is important I had a white film on the inside of my tank which I cleaned off the best I could (in one of your questions it said that it might have been caused by a ph buffer). If it matters I used powdered bacteria, Nitrivec and Amtrite down (ammonia/nitrite reduction stuff) to prepare the tank. All other tests are fine (ph is 8.1 and nitrite is undetectable) my supplier did all the other tests and said none was a problem. Also I tried a 10% water change last week and 35% this week with no results. This problem is no drama at the moment (I wasn't planning to put coral or anything in for quite a while) but my supplier recommends not to put live rock in until I solve this problem, which I was planning to do. Sorry if this question is a bit long but I thought it would be better to have the full story. Thanks heaps for your time - Ryan <Well, Ryan- phosphate is one of those things that comes from a variety of sources, among them foods, additives, and even source water. Relatively new systems have "immature" nutrient processing and export systems, so nitrates and phosphates commonly accumulate. This is a fairly high reading, though, so I'm sort of wondering if your source water contains measurable phosphate levels...Do check that out, and consider using RO/DI or other purified water sources. I also am curious if the powdered bacteria culture contained some culture medium or other food source which may be contributing to the reading. Still another thought is the substrate material that you are using...Some grades of crushed coral may have impurities in them- a long shot, but something to think about. I'd try to eliminate some of these as sources, and then look at means to control phosphates, such as continuous use of chemical filtration media, like activated carbon and/or PolyFilter, or even some of the dedicated phosphate removing media, like PhosBan. PhosGuard, and Rowaphos. Look beyond the obvious, and do consider one of the aforementioned media as an adjunct to your control efforts! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

The Kalk Trick Bob, <Rich>   Just wanted to drop a note to say thank you again for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit the MARS group in Sacramento.  Your presentations are always animated and informative to all levels of the marine hobby. <Always a pleasure and a privilege. Thank you>   In your algae talk, you mentioned dosing calcium hydroxide to raise the pH, thus causing phosphate to precipitate out of solution rendering it unusable to nuisance algae growth.  I was wondering if you could provide me additional details as to this application (what pH, how long, etc.).  I'm most likely experiencing some amount of undetectable phosphate in my reef, as even with the addition of new rock and substrate, I'm noticing the start of hairy green patches.  If a little neglected maintenance in years past resulted in the binding of phosphate to calcified surfaces, I'm certainly paying for it now. <Sure... involves addition of Kalkwasser solution toward nighttime (lights out) with testing (for pH) to a point of about 8.5... this will drop over night likely... and your "testable" phosphate will also go to zip. Bob Fenner> Thank you again, Rich VanDusen President Marine Aquarist Roundtable of Sacramento

PO4 in Frozen food -An Informal Experiment >Hi Marina/Bob, >>Hello Jorell.  Marina today. >I hope you guys are well... >>Indeed, and yourself as well. >I do not know if you should publish this as it may be half$$@& job, but, I just read something on the FAQ's just now talking about draining frozen foods to lower the risk of contaminating the water.  About a couple of years ago, I had a algae bloom in my tank and was trying to source where the PO4 was coming from (I found out eventually it was the bio load, duuhhh, missed the obvious).  Any way I started testing various things including the frozen food I had been feeding my fish by diluting it in a fixed measure of water.  While I know every batch may be different I did this over a few months and averaged the results so I have some kind of guideline to go by. >>Interesting, and I like the idea. >I used to feed my fish a mix of: 1) Hikari - Mysid Shrimp 2) Hikari - Brine Shrimp 3) Sally's Spirulina enriched Brine Shrimp 4) A mixed frozen pack of Shrimp Mussel and squid. I will have to find my book where I have the (brand name of the Mixed food pack) and figures, but I found that, the Sally's Brine Shrimp had the highest Po4 content followed by the Hikari Mysid shrimp and surprisingly the Hikari - Brine Shrimp had very little PO4, all tests were done with a Salifert test kit. >>Yes, if you do find your results it would be interesting to see.  Thanks for the input!  Marina >Regards, Jorell

-Frozen food juice, does it do a body good?- While reading the daily FAQs this morning, I came across a response by Kevin to a phosphate question that suggests draining the juice from the Hikari Mysis shrimp the person is feeding the fish. <Well, if the incredibly handsome and intelligent Kevin said it, then you better believe it. ;) > I feed my fish different foods but one type is Aqua-Yums Mysis shrimp.  Is the draining of the juice an across the board technique or just for Hikari brand foods. <It's always recommended that you ditch the packing juice.> I had never considered draining the juice before and was also wondering if this techniques is supposed to be performed on all foods? <It would be a good idea, but I've been a non-juice drainer for years and have had no problem. That said, I don't use Hikari Mysis shrimp. I believe in that question, the aquarist couldn't figure out where the po4 was coming from, and he had apparently done everything right except that he fed an entire cube per day.> My water parameters have always been acceptable NH3 and NO2  0, NO3 10, ALK 10,  Ca 400, pH 8.2, temp 79-80, and salinity 1.023 - 1.024 but I don't test for phosphates or any of the other more specialized parameters as I just keep fish and a few crabs. <There's nothing toxic about phosphate to your critters, it's just an algae fuel and a problem for people with calcium depositing inverts. Have your LFS test your tank for phosphate, you could be on your way to an algae bloom and not even know it! -Kevin> Thanks, Ray

-Fun with phosphates!- Hey guys, great site! I'm having a terrible time w/phosphates in one of my tanks.  Please help! Set up: 45 gal. corner tank w/ Penguin 600 power head for extra water flow; standard CaribSea aragonite sand, 3 in. base Filtration: Fluval 404 w/ standard foam filters, trays are packed w/ceramic biomedia 60 lbs. live rock Small Aqua Clear powerfilter for extra flow, mechanical filtration, oxygenation Inhabitants: 2 Brazilian Seahorses hippocampus reidi 2 emerald crabs, 3 peppermint shrimp, various hermits, sand sifting star, 2 green lettuce nudibranchs Parameters: pH-8.2; NH, NO3-nil; NO4-3ppm; CA-400ppm; Alkalinity-normal; SG-1.022; temp.-77 F PO4-3!!! <3 ppm or .3ppm?!> Water source: 5-stage RO, with add-on DI cartridge (this was the 1st thing I tested, there is no PO4 present in the water source) Background: I have had phosphate problems w/this tank before.  Problem was (I thought) the water source, hence the elaborate home system I purchased.  Got the PO4 levels down to .15 through very frequent water changes (10% 3 times a week) but now they're back up.  Need to find the source.  I'm feeding 1 Hikari Mysis cube per day, which seems appropriate.  Only source I can think of is dissolved organics. <Make sure you drain the juice in that shrimp. You may want to seek out Piscine Energetics Mysis as it is a much better quality shrimp.> Tank is not drilled, so my main question is should I invest in an over-the-tank protein skimmer? <I would recommend one.> p.s. I also have a 55 mini-reef that is not experiencing these problems. <I would wager that the packing water in the food is the source, unless your phosphate kit is wrong. In the meantime, run plenty of phosphate removing resin. Good luck! -Kevin> Thankfully

Saltwater question Hello, got a question for you: I have high phosphates in my tank. My LFS said that "I have to get them out now, that that is a fish killer"<they said phosphate was a fish killer? Honestly it will mainly just cause algae to reproduce in your aquarium> That they will add to much stress.<may add some stress but I doubt that it would kill your fish> Is that true? Do I need to remove them?<I would unless you want an aquarium full of hair algae, Cyanobacteria, etc> Where do they come from? Foods and what not?<If you are using tap water from you aquarium you need to start using RO/DI water instead. Good luck, IanB>

High Phosphate I have a huge excess of phosphate in my tank, will it hurt my corals? <High levels of phosphate are fuel for nuisance algaes that will harm the corals. Don>

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>  

Controlling Phosphates 7/23/03 Hi Antony, I need your opinion again. <always welcome my friend> I'm dosing Kalkwasser 2.5 gallons a day in my 250 gallons FOWLR tank and dosing Seachem Reef Calcium twice a week for coralline algae growth; in those days I stop dosing Kalk. Doing so my Ca level has gone from 450 mg up to 470 mg. How can I continue with Kalkwasser without raising Ca level too much? <you might ease off of the Sea Chem calcium for starters if the corallines have been sufficiently stimulated> Moreover I've another great problem: my phosphates level is 1.50mg/l. <yikes!> What can you tell me about ROWAPHOS or Seachem PHOSGUARD? Which is better? <Sea Chem has a very fine name brand... but the ROWAPHOS has shown tremendous results> Can they solve my phos problem? <both only treat the symptom (phosphate) and not the problem. I would not advise using much of either, but instead... identify where your phosphates are being imported from (source water, foods, etc) and screen it there first (better prefiltered FW, change of food, etc). One of the most common mistakes aquarists make which allows phosphate to accumulate is the thawing of frozen food in water and then dumping that water into the tank with the meaty food. Its a horrible habit and one that leads to phosphate accumulation and nuisance algae growth in general. Always decant the water away... or better yet, thaw frozen food in the refrigerator without water. The lack of water and the slow thaw will improve the nutritional value.> Thanks a lot Best regards, Lorenzo in Italy <with kind regards, Anthony>

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

Salifert Phosphate Eliminator Has Anyone Tried Salifert Phosphate Eliminator, I Heard It Works Great For A reef tank. Thanks Woody <Well, Woody- I do not personally have experience with this product- but Salifert does have a reputation for quality products. I'd post a message on the WWM discussion board to see what other hobbyists have to say about the product. Regards, Scott F>

Leaking Phosphate...  3/25/03 Hi Phil<Hey Tony!> I wanted to let you know what I found out.<Let's have it!> I mixed up some salt water and tested it for phosphates it tested 0ppm then I broke some of the fingers off the corals and added them to the mix. 24 hours later I tested the water it read .6 if I bleach the corals and rinse very well of course do you think that will help or is there some kind of solution I can soak them in.<Well if it truly is the corals leaking then bleach may not solve the problem.  Bleach kills living things and can clean away the dead stuff, but it may just do more harm then good.  Head out to the LFS and grab yourself a small AquaClear filter.  Add a PolyFilter and you are in business.  Remember to change the filter often and it should help with the phosphate.> THANKS TONY<Hope this helps and good luck!! Phil>

Re: phosphate in my water I have had a recent algae bloom in my reef tank and have been searching for a solution.  I have been doing regular water changes, shortened my light cycle, not overfeeding, changed salt brands, etc. I know that one of the problems that may be adding to this is the amount of phosphate in the water.  I tested the RO water I use and it contains 1 ppm. Is this my problem? What is an acceptable level to have in my tank? <This phosphate is contributing to your algae blooms.  When you mix your new salt water consider adding a poly filter to it and let it sit a few days before you put it in the tank as this will remove the phosphates. Cody> Thanks for the help, I love the site! -Danny

Phosphate Can you recommend a good phosphate remover?  Can you overdose on this or is it like Amquel, Novaqua. . . not harmful if overdosed.  Thanks for your advice. <Kalkwasser use is best with RO/DI water, moderate feeding of phosphate containing foods. These other products tend to be media type products that replace or are used with carbon in a filter. There is no danger of overdosing with these, although they need to be changed out as recommended to keep from leaching phosphates back into system.  I wouldn't recommend "additives" that sequester phosphates. Better to filter out or precipitate with Kalk use.  Craig>

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>

Phosphate/Silicate Good evening all, <Howdy Kevin, Don here tonight> Quickie, Marc Weiss Phosphate and silicate magnet. Garbage or useful? Harmful? 30 gal reef tank with softies. Worried sponge material will affect iodine and other trace elements. <I wouldn't use it. Better to make sure these (silicate/phosphate> are a problem with a proper test kit and then find the source, not treat the symptom> Kevin Re: Phosphate/Silicate True and thanks for quick response, am setting up refugium in about three weeks, do you think this product is safe (ish) until then? think my seafood puree is the culprit despite rinsing first and only feeding what they will eat once a day. <I used to follow the same "rule of thumb". Since then I have cut the amount down by 75% and my fishies are still fat and sassy. Remember, what goes in must come out (mostly)<G> PO2 is only at .5 <still too high, so I see your concern> but is consistent and have tested the test. <Always wise to get a second opinion on the tests. Again, I would not use the Weiss product. While I have not needed it myself, lots of good remarks for SeaChem PhosGuard on the WWM forum at http://www.wetwebfotos.com/talk. Kudos on the refuge, excellent addition, keep in touch, Don>

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 Removal I am using Sea Chem Phos-Guard, changing it monthly. Am I wasting my money? I have a FOWLR using RO water. I get the impression that chemical phosphate removers are not really effective. Thanks, Michael <This product, like many phosphate removing media, does have a limited degree of effectiveness. It certainly can remove some phosphate, if used according to the manufacturer's directions. On a personal note, I have never found most phosphate removal media to be as effective as we'd like them to be! IMO, it's far better to eliminate the source of the phosphate that you are encountering, rather than removing it once it's in the system. A good RO/DI unit should yield product water with virtually undetectable levels of phosphate. If you are experiencing high levels of phosphates in your system, re-examine your husbandry techniques. Allowing the juices from frozen foods to get into your tank is a common, and major, source of additional phosphate in a closed system. Be sure to execute regular, small water changes (like weekly or more often, if possible), and employ aggressive protein skimming, with attention paid to cleaning the  skimmer often. If you are already employing these techniques and are still experiencing high phosphate levels, do look into the source water and your RO unit's membranes (perhaps they need replacing?). Good luck with your efforts!>

Phosphate Blues... I recently moved to small rural community in Indiana, into a temporary rental house with corn and soybean fields surrounding it. Not surprisingly, after (Early-Oct) I set-up a small (30g) reef tank with our well water, I began to have algae problems of a magnitude never experienced living in the  San Diego and Denver areas. Initially, I had tested well-water for NH4/NO2/NO3 with no significant result. Today I finally received PO test kit, full-scale 10ppm with well/+5ppm with "city water" available in town. No wonder my 20% weekly water changes were ineffective. Yikes! Yep, all you were doing with those water changes was re-supplying the algae with food!> I am using a TetraTec 300 and Eheim 2213 with lots of Carbon, also a Prism hang-on (OK, I didn't read up much before tank set-up), and undergravels with sweeper heads ( Ditto, should I ditch the undergravel & powerheads?) <I am not a fan of undergravel filters in most situations> 20lbs of good Fiji LR, just 4 small Damsels, 4 medium hermits. Can I use a remote holding tank (Rubbermaid 22G) and economically remove phosphate from water using Poly Filter (12.00ea) in a small hang-on? <Polyfilters can remove quite a bit of phosphate from source water. I love them! However, I think that you'll need to take more aggressive means to eliminate it for the long run...> My alternative is =1.00$ per gallon DI or distilled from the local drinking service at $1.00 gal. Randy R. <Well, in the long run, I'd recommend an R/O unit for purifying your makeup water  source. I realize that it's expensive, but when you consider that Polyfilters need to be replaced after they are exhausted (which varies, depending on how much they are able to absorb in a given period of time), the R/O is the better way to go in the long run, IMO. Yep- the initial cost is greater, but over time I think it will pay for itself.> P.S. I don't want to waste your resources on more important questions, I can contact the manufacturer, but I thought you might be able to give me an expedient answer. <Please don't hesitate to contact us if you need assistance, okay? Regards, Scott F.>

Phosphates/Algae Scott Good day, Frank here again from Malaysia. <Hello, Frank!> The fourth days in the process of cycle my tank lots of brown diatom on live rock and glass tank. 3 days later all the brown diatom gone, is that mean that my tank already cycle as I'm using live rock. <Actually- no- algae can come and go even in cycled tanks. Nitrite and ammonia readings must return to ")" for the tank to be considered "cycled"> This is where many spots of grass like grow on the glass tank and long green alga on the rock, is this call hair alga. My tank is 140gallon. The tank water is yellowish, I think I should use activated carbon, am I right?. <I am a firm believer in the use of activated carbon to remove organics/color/etc. and PolyFilter pads for further organics removal- they really work!> I tested my phosphate with sera tester the color is "light deep blue". I use (multipurpose water purified filtration - 3 feet tall ) which consist of the 3 media (activated carbon, fine silica sand, coarse silica sand) before the water enter the tank. <Always a good move to use filtered water before mixing with salt> As far as I know (Silicate, phosphate) - two chemicals that cause hair alga / unwanted alga type. In my country two well-known product I can get (Hagen phosphate remover, Hagen activated carbon), (Coralife - phosphate remover and silicate remover), which product is better in removing all these chemicals? <To be honest, I have no experience with either of these products, but I usually find that water changes with good quality source water, coupled with good protein skimming and the use of a phosphate-free activated carbon product, will really help control these.> Will hair alga affect my coral (hard coral, soft coral). I have added close brain coral and open brain, elephant ear, mushroom. I have no idea what to feed my brain coral and elephant ear. <Hair algae can potentially choke off these corals if the buildup is too great. More important is finding and combating the source of these algae-usually nutrients, which you can readily control with the means discussed above!> Do these coral eat dried Mysis? <Generally smaller zooplankton. Many "mushroom corals" get their nutrition directly from the water, and don't need supplemental feeding. Do check the wetwebmedia.com resources for info., or get a copy of Anthony Calfo's "Book of Coral Propagation" for much more extensive information on feeding of corals than I can offer here.> Thank you for your upcoming advice. Frank <Glad to help! Good luck!>

Alk/phosphate questions Mr. Fenner, <Hi Mike, Craig here today> I have a few more questions, I just tested the alk today (have been testing daily waiting for it to fall from high levels) and the reading was 4meq/L dKH was 11.2.  <This is good. Ideal range is 3.5 to 5 meq/L.> Up until now I suspended topping off the tank with Kalk, because of the previously high level. Is now a good time to top off with Kalk water?  <Kalk is a calcium supplement and does not directly affect alkalinity, but does optimize the system alk. It does have an extremely high pH (12) so should be administered at night to moderate pH fluctuations and dosed according to daily average usage of calcium. See Kalk faq's at: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/kalkh2ofaqs.htm >  Secondly, I suspended adding a buffer to my new water for the water changes, can I add the buffer too? The Ph was at 8.1 tonight. Will the buffer raise the alk drastically or more like maintain it as it does the Ph? <If using RO/DI water, aerate 12-24 hrs, test pH and buffer to 8.3 I use Seachem Marine Buffer and follow the dosage on the label. Add salt mix, run powerhead/aeration/heater for 12-24 hours. Should be 8.3-8.4 pH. PLEASE do figure average alkalinity usage as you do for calcium and dose the buffer/carbonate additives to maintain 3.5 to 5 meq/L alk.>  ---------------------------------------------------- The reason I ask the buffer question is this, I also have an algae problem, its brownish and covering over half the glass in the tank, and some spots of red algae. From an email I got here I heard a higher Ph level will help combat the high phosphate level (0.25ppm). <Kalk use will take care of this. Test calcium and dose Kalk daily to match usage. This is likely not phosphates, but diatom algae and Cyanobacteria. Increase circulation for Cyano and reduce nitrates and silicates for diatom algae. Lowering phosphates will naturally help. If this is a newer tank, this is a stage your tank will go through. Check your source water, make sure your skimmer and filtration is optimized, and remove as much as possible.> Here are the steps I'm thinking of taking: reduce the period of lighting from 12 hrs to 8hrs. <VERY bad idea if you have photosynthetic inhabitants you want to live. They need 12 hours. Will not reduce phosphates, silicates or nitrates.>  Adding the buffer to raise Ph. <Also bad idea. Add buffer to alkalinity test results. All else remaining normal this should provide a 8.3-8.4 pH. Adding buffer indiscriminately will raise alkalinity to abnormal levels.> Buying a chemical phosphate reducer. <Some of these are quite good. I like Polyfilters.>  Will any if not all of these help reduce the phosphate in the tank? <Kalk use, water changes with phosphate free source water, low phosphate foods, appropriate feeding, skimming, filtration, PolyFilter/chemical will all contribute.> Tank Parameters: amm 0 nitrite 0 nitrate 7-10 alk 4.0 meq/L (down from 5.5 yesterday, is this normal to drop this much overnight) <With calcium additives, yes. Test both alk and calcium on alternate days adding supplements for calcium and alk on alternate days until ideal range for each is attained. Test, write down results, stop additives for three days, test again, subtract and divide result by three. That is your daily usage of calcium (Kalk) and alkalinity (buffer). That's what you have to add of *each*, every day. Kalk at night.> dKH 11.2 Phosphate 0.25ppm Calcium 365ppm (up from yesterday's 330ppm, using reef evolution concentrate) <Yes, will drive alk down more so test alk and calcium while supplementing calcium.> Ph 8.1 <Likely AM test? Test in PM> SG 1.025 Temp 78F Lighting 12h/day Thanks once again, I really need to buy your book, Mike <Hope this helps Mike! Craig>

Re: alk/phosphate questions Mr. Fenner and Company, It's Mike again, a few more questions.  <Hi Mike> Today I tested the Calcium and it was a 335ppm, down from 365ppm yesterday...does this seem likely or just an erroneous test yesterday?  <Yep. That's likely your calcium use for one day. Clams, SPS, LPS, etc use more calcium and adding alk will use some as well.> And one more algae question. You guys suggested I have diatom algae present in my tank, I scrapped the glass off and it looks clear, hasn't grown back by the barrel full yet.  <Yep, likely diatom algae> Now today I noticed some small green hair-like algae growing on my live rock, so I asked another friend of mine into reef tanks, he said get rid of it quick...it will take over a tank fast! Is this true and cause for concern?  <Yes, it can and will spread if you don't pick and pull it now. some Tangs eat it, but usually only when short. Best to do away with it before it gets going.> I have some margarita snails (3), some Cerith (3), and some scarlet reef hermits (10), and Nassarius snails (15). Will any of these aid in the control of this? And what type of algae could this be? <Not usually. This is green hair algae of course! Look up algae and specific ally green-hair algae on WetWebMedia.com for other possible controls.> After reading your reply below, I'm going to start topping off with Kalk water, and that Ph reading (8.1) was taken at around 7:30pm here that's why I wanted to dose Kalk to maybe raise it without the buffer. and if I understand you, Kalk doesn't effect alk reading? then I shouldn't have suspended it as I did. Thanks once again, Mike <Right. It reduced your calcium and didn't do anything to your alk. You can add buffer/carbonate up to 5 meq/l alkalinity, (which will likely produce an 8.3 pH), but using Kalkwasser will help with keeping the pH up as well. Make sure you test your alk regularly and also magnesium with Kalk use as it will be depleted over time with Kalk. Hope this helps, Craig> 

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>

Water Changes Hello to the WWM crew, hope you all had a great labor day weekend! <Not too bad, kind of busy, but nice.> I have a question about water changes. I know you suggest frequent (even weekly) water changes. <Correct> I have always used my tap water, treated of-course; and I believe I have pretty good water, except for the extremely high phosphates in my water. <Oh...> Oh my goodness, I have a lot of phosphates, so I feel I am always on the verge of huge algae outbreaks if I do weekly water changes. However, the nitrate level in my water is not detectable, so I like to do frequent water changes to keep nitrates down, as I am really looking into going hardcore reef! <Not with high phosphates. Phosphates inhibit calcification.> What is your suggestion as far as what would be better, really high phosphates and low nitrates, or accumulating nitrates but lowering phosphates via a overworked protein skimmer. <Neither is tolerable or necessary. A good RO unit is all that is needed.> I do use a protein skimmer now, but by the time the protein skimmer has lowered the phosphates to barely anything, it seems the nitrates are running about 40-50. Is this a case where you would recommend investing in a RO unit? <Definitely> Will high phosphates produce huge algae outbreaks as I think they will, and are they bad for invertebrates? <Both> Your suggestions are greatly appreciated, as I am really looking forward to going a lot further in keeping a reef tank, and I realize number one is water quality. Thank you for your help, Jen Marshall <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Phosphate Test Hello, how are you? <Just fine!> Could you tell me what company makes a good phosphate test kit? <The problem with all phosphate kits, as I understand it, is they all measure inorganic phosphate vs. organic phosphate. The major source of phosphate in our aquariums is inorganic, so most test kits miss a good deal of it. In general, I prefer Salifert's test kits. They are accurate and relatively inexpensive. LaMotte and Hach are supposed to be excellent, too.> (or even just a half way descent one). I don't think the one I have now is very good. Thanks, Kevin <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

High Phosphates and Nitrates Hello, I am posting this for a friend from my salt club, can you help? <I'll try> "I have been having some water chemistry problems lately that I can not figure out, so I am going to put it out there for you all to help with. About 2 months ago, I started getting high nitrate readings along with moderately high phos. Everything I have tried to get these down has failed or only worked for a short time, which equals failed in my book. I have nothing missing in the way of livestock, most of my corals are now doing fine, with the exception of the birds nest frag I got at the swap. I have tested the makeup water and it does not read any nitrate or phos. either. Tank readings this am are. pH. 8.0 (buffer added), Nitrite 0mg/L, Nitrate >110 on one kit >120 on another, Phos. 1.0mg/L, Ammonia, 0 on both kits, KH 110, CA 300 (today is Kalk day). <Elevating the pH with the Kalkwasser to about 8.5 (temporarily, it will drop soon on its own) will precipitate out most of the soluble phosphate here... But its source?...> Tank is a 55 gal with 4-5in DSB, HOB BakPak skimmer, 4 Powerheads for circulation, Temp. remains at 78. Inhabitants: 2 tangs, 2 midas blennies, 1 blue damsel, 1 lawnmower, emerald and sally lightfoot crabs, 2 conch with multiple babies, 5 starfish of different varieties with multiple baby ones. About 70lbs LR, Multiple corals of all varieties (SPS, LPS, Softies). Coralline growth is great. No nuisance algae. I have been struggling with red Cyano, but it appears to be controlled now. <Here's a clue> Photo period is 14hrs, first and last 2hrs are actinic only from 220w pc lighting. Any ideas? Suggestions?" <It may well be that the measurable nitrate, phosphate are coming from the dissolving Cyanobacteria... or perhaps a mineral source in the system (substrate, rock...), overfeeding... Please have your friend read through this section of our root web: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm and the linked FAQs files there. Bob Fenner>

High Phosphates and Nitrates Hello, I am posting this for a friend from my salt club, can you help? <I will try.> "I have been having some water chemistry problems lately that I cannot figure out, so I am going to put it out there for you all to help with. About 2 months ago, I started getting high nitrate readings along with moderately high phosphate. Everything I have tried to get these down has failed or only worked for a short time, which equals failed in my book. <Agreed. This type of problem needs to be attacked at the root cause, not by attacking the symptoms.> I have nothing missing in the way of livestock, most of my corals are now doing fine, with the exception of the birds nest frag I got at the swap. <Phosphate is a known inhibitor of calcification.> I have tested the makeup water and it does not read any nitrate or phosphate either. <Is this some sort of purified water, RO or DI? Either one is preferable to tap water.> Tank readings this am are pH 8.0 (buffer added), Nitrite 0 mg/L, Nitrate >110 on one kit >120 on another, <Indeed, quite high.> Phosphate 1.0 mg/L, <This will fuel nuisance algae, if not now, soon, particularly Cyanobacteria.> Ammonia 0 on both kits, KH 110, CA 300 (today is Kalk day). Tank is a 55 gallon with 4-5 inch DSB, HOB Bak-Pak skimmer, 4 Powerheads for circulation, Temperature remains at 78. Inhabitants: 2 tangs, 2 midas blennies, 1 blue damsel, 1 lawnmower, emerald and sally lightfoot crabs, 2 conch with multiple babies, 5 starfish of different varieties with multiple baby ones. About 70 lbs LR, multiple corals of all varieties (SPS, LPS, Softies). Coralline growth is great. No nuisance algae. <Surprising!> I have been struggling with red Cyanobacteria, but it appears to be controlled now. Photo period is 14 hours, first and last 2 hours are actinic only from 220w PC lighting. Any ideas? Suggestions? <Many possibilities. Over feeding, feeding inappropriate foods, inadequate nutrient export processes, not large enough or frequent enough water changes, etc. Not enough information given at this point for a definitive answer. -Steven Pro>

Quick Question about Phosphates and DSBs Bob, Besides nitrates, do DSBs or Plenums also remove phosphates? I've articles with conflicting information. Thanks for the help. Evan J. <Indirectly yes they can. But if phosphates are a concern, you are more likely to precipitate them with Kalkwasser (use gently until the pH reaches 8.6, then they will drop out)>

Found where my phosphates are coming from!!! hi bob <<Actually, it's JasonC today, how may I help?>> I have finally found where my phosphates are coming from. I have a 130 gallon reef tank lots of live rock ,good skimmer, a refugium with nice Caulerpa growing I have very few fish ,and sometimes don't feed for weeks. Why you ask? Because I had so much hair algae growing I let the fish graze on it. My phosphates were always around .25mg-l.I have a ro-di unit with new filters in. I had no idea where the phos. was coming from. Then a friend told me that his calcium reactor was giving off a large amount of phosphates from the dissolving aragonite. Does aragonite contain phosphates I asked myself. Then another friend told me that he used a product called Aragamilk and that he also saw phos. levels rise. My conclusion is that aragonite or at lease certain brands release phosphates. <<That is it... certain brands, but even so... most corals have some phosphate fixed within their skeletons so that later when they become gravel, that is released as trace amounts. Not typical that aragonite should release massive quantities of phosphates.>> So I had a problem because of an old trick my LFS told me .He said that when you fill a bucket or a tub with your ro water to pour a bag of aragonite in the bottom. The ro water comes out at a ph of 6.5 so it will dissolve the aragonite and voila!!! instant buffered water for water changes or toping off. <<Not sure I agree with this technique. The process described is similar to how a calcium reactor works except there's one thing missing - the CO2; no catalyst to dissolve the aragonite. And these typically recirculate for days. So... any alkalinity or buffers obtained from this method would be in small amounts.>> I have been using this method for a year but not anymore because I tested the water and it contains .2mg-l of $%?$ PHOSPHATES. I have a very intense lighting system with good ventilation in the hood, so I top off about 5 gallons a day so you can imagine the amount of phos I was adding in a week. I also cheeked if the ro water contained any phosphates and the test was nil. <<Ah...>> Have you heard of anybody doing this? <<Doing which? Having problems with leached phosphates - yes.>> did they have problems with phosphates? <<Not really.>> What do you think about it. <<Well, two things... I would start by just using straight RO/DI for top-off. If you want buffers in that water, add baking soda or Seachem Reef Builder. Then... add some macroalgae to the tank to compete with the hair algae.>> Would love your feedback. Richard <<Cheers, J -- >>

RO I have high phosphate in my tap water--0.1ppm--so I bought a GE brand reverse osmosis unit. This RO water still contains about the same amount of phosphate, so I installed a Kent post DI canister. The water output after the DI still contains 0.1ppm of phosphate according to my test kit. Any thoughts? <although such water purifiers do not guarantee to remove all inorganic/organic phosphate... do consider that your colorimetric test kit is unable to read below .1ppm accurately. Such hobby grade kits really are poor quality. Still useful though. Have you tried to test the effluent of your RO (the reject water) to confirm that a higher level of phosphate exists there? It should... else more reason to suspect the test kit is inaccurate or unable to read. Do try other test kits for comparison. Kindly, Anthony>

Mollies Robert, <Steven Pro in this evening.> My girlfriend has a marine aquarium with silver and calico lyretail mollies in the tank and surviving quite well. She was mainly testing her water with cheap fish before purchasing more expensive livestock. It has been setup for a good 6 months with live rock and live sand. Not very many fish until recently. I'm sending you this because I was under the impression only black mollies were able to thrive in a marine aquarium? <No, any of the mollies will survive in full strength seawater.> Also, I've got a little bit of a algae problem with my main marine aquarium. I've tested my phosphates which are a staggering almost 5.0 ppm. <Yes, staggering is right.> I've been told that my non-use of RO water is contributing heavily to this. <Possibly, also over feeding and/or poor nutrient export processes.> However, when I test my tap water I have no trace of phosphates, that are very detectable anyway with my test equipment. (HAGEN). Is my problem with excess food and dying algae contributing to my excessive algae growth? <More likely the feeding.> I just have a problem with the excess food theory as I feed my food (live food) very sparingly. <Any food that is not eaten becomes nutrients for undesirable algae.> I've also been told my phosphates being so high will make non-invertebrate life almost impossible such as anemones. ...and every time I get a anemone it spits out its' guts within 24 hours or so. <Phosphate is problematic for stony corals and calcification, but more likely another cause for your lack of success with anemones. They are terrible choices for most home aquariums with a dismal track record.> Thanks for the help. -Bryan <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Mollies Follow-up I've just began trying SeaChem phosphate absorber. Have any luck with these products? <Not really cost effective even if they work. The RO or DI unit can remove much more along with careful feeding and aggressive nutrient export.> Haven't used it long enough to evaluate the results. Also, one of the things I've thought about in the past was contributing to my algae growth was excessive heat. I can't maintain my temp much lower than 85. I have one bulb on for about 7-8 hours a day on a timer. ...room temp is about 75 or lower at all times, any ideas? besides an expensive chiller? <If your room temperature is 75, you should not have such a high tank temperature. Try readjusting or get a new heater, vent your canopy, use fans to remove hot air, use fewer powerheads by installing a larger external sump return pump, etc. -Steven Pro>

Nitrates/Phosphates Good Morning - Bob, Steve or Anthony <Steven this afternoon.> I have a 29 gallon reef tank. The inhabitants are: 1- Yellow tailed blue damsel, 1- pink skunk clown, 1-long nose hawk and 1-flame hawk, 1 six-line wrasse as well as 2-large cleaner shrimp and 1 large banded coral shrimp, 1 large Turbo Snail, 4 other snails that just appeared and various mushrooms, polyps, leather corals and a colt coral. All fish and corals seem very healthy and have good appetites and corals are spreading. I feed once a day sparingly. My water conditions are: PH=8.4, Ammonia =0, Nitrite=0, Nitrates=10-20, Calcium=450-460, Phosphate=.25-.50, Alkalinity=125 which is what the test kit says it should be but I can't remember what that's measured in. <Alkalinity of 125 is not possible. It should be 2.5-3.5 meq/l or 7-10 dKH.> I change out 6 gallons of water per week. <Very good.> I have a SeaClone Protein Skimmer that skims 1/4 to 1/2 inches of skimming per day which I think is a little low. <I would like to see more skimmate, but may not be possible with this skimmer.> A Penguin 330 bio wheel with charcoal filters and 2 Hagen power heads ( I think they are 300's) with quick cartridges. The quick cartridges have a foam insert. I would like to keep my Nitrates down to zero but with fish, I wonder if that is possible. <With this current bio-load and filtration, it will be difficult. a DSB may help.> Would I be better off as far as Nitrate and Phosphate to remove the quick cartridges from the power heads and turn one of them upside down low and blowing into the rock ? Would this perhaps increase the efficiency of the Protein skimmer? <Not likely to increase skimmer performance much. Do be sure to clean and/or replace the cartridges fairly regularly, at least weekly.> I would like to achieve the best conditions I can for my tank size which I know is small. I am going to set up another 29 gallon tank on the bottom of my stand (wall space is an issue) and take one of the hawks and two of the other fish (wrasse/damsel and some of the corals and put into the lower tank once it has cycled to lessen the bio load on the tank. Is this a feasible plan? <Sounds good.> Any suggestions would be appreciated. <I would look at the Prizm skimmers from Red Sea. Considerably more effective and about the same price.> I can send a picture if you think it would help. <Not needed at this point. -Steven Pro>

Tunicates/Sea Squirts and the Salifert Phosphate Test Kit Bob, Once again I need your knowledge regarding a couple of questions for my 100 gallon saltwater tank: (1) I noticed at my LFS that they had some of the large yellow and blue tunicates available (like the ones pictured in your excellent book, Conscientious.. p. 336). I am interested in adding these to my tank, but was not sure what their requirements are, i.e. light, current, compatibility, etc. My lighting is 4 x 96W 48 inch Power Compacts; two 10,000k super daylights and two 9600 actinics. These are on for 12 hr/10,000K and 14hr./Actinics. Fish are yellow tang, four cardinals, lawnmower goby, one damsel and one Pseudochromis. I also have several hard and soft corals, as well as two Tridacna derasa and one T. squamosa.  <Please see/read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ascidians.htm> (2) Do you know of anyway to verify that the reagents in the Saliferts Phosphate test kit are still good?  <Yes... by making a solution of known or some given concentration having phosphates (you can even use a bit of "Coca Cola" tm for the phosphoric acid contained therein to give you a yes/no answer> I tested my tanks water and the reading was 0.0, but I also tested my tap water and my outside ponds water and these results were also around 0 ppm.  <They may actually be zero> This has me concerned that the test kit reagents are no longer viable. As I ordered it from my LFS, they did not know the age of the kit as they had none on their shelf and ordered this one for me. If you know of any solution that would act a good control or standard, please let me know. I would not be concerned about the phosphate level, but I have had some algae in the last 4 months grow on a couple of my live rocks and areas of the sand bed and I have to clean the green algae off the front glass twice a week (which the Tang loves to eat as I clean it off!). My protein skimmer, Aqua C 150, requires cleaning every 4 days. Nitrates when tested measure 0.0 ppm, pH is 8.3, and alk 3.43. I have a Korallin calcium reactor that now uses CaribSea ARM for the media and the effluent is alk 45 dKH/540 ppm CA; I was using SuperCalc Gold before switching to ARM two weeks ago, as I was concerned about phosphate from the Super Calc Gold might be the causing the algae growth. <Maybe> Thank you again for your advice in the past. Other then these two questions my tank has done very well, with water very clear and all life growing and active, due to the information you have supplied on your website. <Ahh, a pleasure to be of service. Bob Fenner> Regards, Kevin

Just a few Questions before the New Year Bob, Thank you for your help in the past. You've helped my system become more healthy. Have a happy new year tonight as well. <You as well my friend> I have a FOWLR 40 gallon at the moment(35# of LR), and going to make it reef with a few fish when comfortable to do so. I have two blue damsels, two Talbot damsels, <A very nice fish for aquariums> one domino damsel (they are all 1") <Watch out for this bad boy> , and an adult convict blenny (about 12"). 192W of PC lighting, skimmer, hang on filter for carbon and mechanical filtration. Here are my questions. Right now, I am feeding the fish small amounts of frozen Formula 1, and Prime Reef. I only feed them once at night, and it's kind of a pain to melt the food every night. I would like to supplement this with a flake or small pellet food in the morning.  <Yes, certainly> I looked through your FAQ's, but couldn't find any certain brands that you recommend. Does brand matter? Any recommendations would be appreciated. <Brand, maker does indeed matter. HBH, Spectrum, Hikari, Omega One, most of Tetra's fine products are all excellent ones that I have first-hand experience with> Also, my phosphates were high about 5 ppm), <Yikes!> but have dropped to about 2 ppm over the last two weeks.  <Still too high...> Needless to say, I have some green algae on my live rock, not too bad though. If I eliminate the source of phosphates, will the algae go away after it runs out of phosphates? <Likely so. Phosphate is a rate-limiting/essential nutrient> (assuming my nitrates are low) I have used distilled water for water changes, and there are only two ways for these phosphates to enter my tank. Food or carbon.  <Mmm, and as livestock... and as part of decor, substrate... and recycled from all these sources> I had some activated carbon in my filter that was distributed by Aquaclear, but it's made by Hagen. Could this have been the source of the phosphates?  <Yes> I have since removed and replaced with activated carbon that is labeled phosphate free. By the way, I ordered your book The Conscientious...), and it will arrive in a couple of days. I look forward to it since it is my first marine aquarium reference. <You will greatly enjoy this experience.> Thanks for your help. Happy new year! Dan <Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner>

Nitrate/Phosphate Removers Was recently looking at two products PO4-Minus and AZ-NO3 sold by Marine Monsters and several mail order places. They claim to reduce Nitrates and Phosphates by bringing them into a form that can be taken out by the protein skimmer. The chemical process by which this happens is somewhat vague, but the product seems to be endorsed by several seemingly reputable places. Sounds almost to good to be true!  <Agreed... don't know the chemistry, physics behind/which are these products, but do know the two young men who are MMM... they are honest, hard-working> I am not a big fan of additives beyond recognized supplements but was curious if your or any of your associates have had any experience with this product. <Only know what I have read, heard second or more hand... Am much more a fan of "nutrient transport" mechanisms for consolidating, making unavailable such nutrients in closed systems. Various general attempts at making this known can be found on WetWebMedia.com under the terms named. Bob Fenner> Thanks Randy Carothers-Las Vegas

Phosphates Hi Bob, Glad you're around to help!!! I'm having a problem with my LFS. I bought a clown trigger from him and two days later he died.  <Mmm, what sort of symptoms? Did the fish eat... ever? What else do you have in your system that is doing well? Need more clues...> I went back for a refund and he tested my water. My ph is 8.0, ammonia 0.0, nitrites 0.o, nitrates 15. He also tested for phosphates and said I was at 10.  <Yeeikes, this is HIGH!> I thought phosphate problems were mostly related to algae, I don't have an algae problem.  <Unusual that you don't have a bunch of algae growing here... I would test your water elsewhere/wise> This tank also has a lion fish, snowflake eel, valentini puffer and a damsel. No problems with them. I also found out that my LFS keeps his ph at 8.8. <What? Really... strange... not easy to do, safely... and many downsides in event of other troubles...> I harden my fish for 2 hours, slowly mixing my tank water with the LFS water before I release. So needless to say, he refused the refund. Is the high phosphates the cause of death or possibly the big change in ph? Thanks again for your help........Paul <Maybe a bit of both... this whole situation doesn't add up though... Ten ppm of soluble phosphate is very unusual period... w/o enormous algal problems almost unbelievable... a store maintaining a pH (likely with Kalkwasser and careful use of calcium chloride) to maybe precipitate phosphate (?) is unprecedented/unknown to me otherwise... and to lose what appears to be such a tough species of fish so easily in the face of the other livestock you list... anomalous to say the least. I would ask for at least partial credit or be shopping elsewhere. You are welcome to forward, show my opinions to your dealer. Bob Fenner>

Phosphate Export Bob, I was wondering if you know anything about a product called PO4 Minus. Composition ? Efficacy ? Detrimental Effects ? Thanks ! Chuck Spyropulos <Do know the product... how to say this... you can check the MSDS sheets on the composition (don't think a good idea to post on the Net)... does/can work on some systems... a few possible removal of desirable materials issues... Much better, safer, less money to run/use marine macrophytes (algae) for export of soluble phosphates and more... Bob Fenner>

Phosphate Export Sorry to bother you again, but what are MSDS sheets ? <Hmm, another cursed acronym: Material Safety Data Sheets... a requirement of manufacturers to test and give reference to the proper handling, use, disposal and steps to take in the event of spillage, contact, ingestion of said materials... Available from poison centers as well as the distributor, maker> thanks, cts <Bob Fenner, in Cabo San Lucas... with the slowest connections on the planet>

Phosphates Bob, I currently have a 125 gallon aquarium with around 70 pounds of live rock and about 1 inch of live sand. The only filtration that I have is two Emperor filters and as Seaclone protein skimmer.  <Still need to upgrade that skimmer...> The livestock that I have is two green dragon wrasses, a six line wrasse, a Foxface, two orange diamond gobies, and a Banggai cardinal. I have two toadstool leather corals and a couple of mushroom anemones and some green button polyps. My problem is this. The leather corals and polyps don't seem to be opening up much. I don't have them placed near the mushroom anemones so I don't think that they are being bothered by them. When I initially set up the tank I was using well water and later thought that this was my problem.  <Maybe... did you have it tested... for TDS, KH, GH... metals?> I noticed that my phosphates were high. I was told by my LFS that the reason for the high phosphates was my well water. Since then I purchased a RO filter and have been making my own water. <Good move> I have done two major water changes and a bunch of small ones over the past two months. I was expected to see my corals and polyps open up but it hasn't happened.  <This takes time.> This weekend I did another big water change and then retested for phosphates and they were still high, 5.0ppm. When I saw this I thought that maybe my RO filter wasn't producing good water but when I tested a bunch of newly made water it was at zero. I only feed my fish once a day and the fish finish it all up within 10 seconds so I don't think that I am over feeding them. The only other thing that I can think of that maybe my live rock has died off or something and is producing the high phosphates. Does this sound possible? <Maybe> For the most part the live rock looks good. I did have one rock that was almost completely covered in tube worms that seem to all have died. Do you think this may be causing it? <Again, perhaps...> I'm not sure if I need more filtration, a better protein skimmer, or if I should take the live rocks out and clean them off. <Don't take out the live rock... Do consider adding a lighted sump/refugium (along with the better skimmer) and Caulerpa algae... Please read over the algae filtration, sump parts posted on the www.WetWebMedia.com site> I am hoping that if I can get the phosphates down that my corals and polyps will open up fully like when I bought them. I appreciate any insight you may give to this dilemma. Thank you, Gianluca <Improving overall water quality and stability will restore your livestocks vigor. Bob Fenner>

HP04 Test Kits, Conditions, Reactions Hi Bob I would really like your opinion on this .I unfortunately had been using 2 faulty phosphate test kits,( didn't know the reagents were bad). I purchased a good test kit today from champion lighting and unfortunately found that my phosphate was to high. <How high is high? More than 1.0 ppm soluble phosphate?> I really want to do a 50% water change, but i am worried that my animals my get shocked or something, what do you recommend that i do? <A twenty percent change today... another next week... No need to rush.> My reef salt i always use is INSTANT OCEAN as you prescribed in a previous e mail. I know the animals will greatly appreciate the new water ,but i am worried about their reaction to the new water. As always thanks, and take care. <You are right to be concerned here. Please read over the "SeaWater" sections on the www.WetWebMedia.com site and develop a protocol for pre-mixing/storing new water. Also the sections on "Algae Filtration", "Marine Macro-Algae". Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

High pH and Phosphates My water parameters read as follows: Alk-3.2, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate-undetectable, calcium-350, gravity-1.021, temp-82/83. I have a 75 gal tank w/LR and crushed aragonite. Equipment is Berlin HO skimmer, Fluval 304, Aquaclear 500, Eheim wet/dry. Three water pumps for circulation and 220 watts of PC lighting. I do weekly water changes of five gallons with DI water. My problem is two fold, I have had high phosphates (5.0)since March and have tested everything except for each piece of LR. I would like to start using Kalkwasser to supplement my calcium which would also help me reduce phosphates. The problem is that my pH is at 8.6 and has been pegged there since April regardless of time of day. Based on my understanding Kalkwasser will increase pH, something I can ill afford. Over a week's time I once performed enough water changes to get the pH to 8.3 but by the next week it was back to 8.6. Therefore before using Kalkwasser I would like to bring down my pH. Can you please offer any suggestions, such as additives/supplements that will get my pH down and possibilities as to why my pH is so high. All fish and inverts are doing well. Nick <Thanks for supplying so much/necessary data... and do have a workable solution for you (yay!)... involving both the use of Kalkwasser (which I agree with you is a sensible way to precipitate out whatever that source of phosphates is) and an inexpensive source of pH countering alkalinity... baking soda...simple sodium bicarbonate (both these are principal ingredients in two part pH/biomineral additives sold for marine systems)... Do experiment with adding the Kalk in the evening (lights out) dripped into an area of rapid water movement... and then a few teaspoons dissolved sodium bicarbonate in the AM... and you should find both the HPO4 and pH dropping. Bob Fenner>

Re: High pH and Phosphates Thanks for your quick and very workable solution to my ongoing saga. The only curious concern I have is that based on your book I have used baking soda in the past (though sparingly) because it would maintain/buffer my pH. I stopped when I realized my pH was at 8.6, hoping it would drop. Did I misunderstand those instructions? Nick <I don't think so... but I may not have been clear (enough)... by itself the baking soda/sodium bicarbonate will not elevate pH much... generally tops out at about 7.8... even at supersaturation... Practically speaking the bicarb. cannot raise your water pH too much.  Bob Fenner>

Re: phosphates bob, call Judge Wopner, It wasn't high phosphates, it was bad reagents. Phosphates are at .05 I think it time to change my lights out the tubes are over 7 months old. Thanks for your input, "type to you soon" Eric >> Not that Doug Lou Ellen (Llewellyn?) again! I'm sweatin' just thinking about that gavel coming down. LOL. Be seeing you. Bob Fenner, who's off to the Cooks in a few days with Pete, some other friends, and wishes you and Tamarama were coming too.

Phosphates Bob can you give me any advice on getting rid of very high phosphates? remember 800 gallon reef tank. pump is running about 3000 gph. thanks, your friend always, Eric J Rood >> What? High phosphates? From where? You mean your big bad Caulerpa mahcheeen ain't pulling out most all nitrates and HPO4? Bob F. who asks, how much it too much?

Help please Slight problem. I have green algae on my front glass. I clean it off and it comes back within 3 days. My ammonia, nitrite and nitrates are undetectable. Here is the catch, my phosphates stay around 1.0 to1.5 ppm and its my guess the cause of the algae. My fish and corals all look healthy, that is when I clean the glass and can see them. I started using DI water 1 month ago and still no change I have also tried the poly-bio-marine pad and still there is no difference. By the way I love your ffexpress Q&A I read them as  often as you post them and have leaned a lot. thank you. >> Hmm, the mysterious phosphate source... could be from some part of your live rock... foods/feeding... But more importantly, how to discount the growth, presence of the undesirable algae? There are a few approaches: introducing competitors for light, nutrients (like macro-algae, more live rock, photosynthetic stinging-celled animals), predators (Tangs of the genera Zebrasoma, Ctenochaetus, Salarias Blennies, Mithrax Crabs, Blue Legged Hermit Crabs, Astrea Snails......), removing nutrient (chemical filtrants... like the PolyFilter you tried.... Raising pH like with Kalkwasser... to 8.4-8.5 to precipitate out the phosphates for good...), biochemical warfare with algae/mud filtration...  Much more to state... have written down at www.wetwebmedia.com for your perusal. Be chatting, Bob Fenner

Can't get the Phosphates down Hello, I am trying to run a 180gal Fish mainly tank (a bit of live rock) and the hair algae is pretty intense. I have a AMiracle Wet/Dry, with two protein skimmers, and a Fluval 303 running. The Fluval is what I have tried the phosphate removal  chemicals in. My phosphates are 2.0. I have tried Kent Phosphate sponges, Phos-zorb, water changes - with out any noticeable changes. I have tested my tap water used for evaporation and it has no noticeable phosphates. For food I have been feeding alot less and sticking to TetraMarin pellets and Spirulina. I spent most of today scraping glass and scrubbing rocks while changing 50gal of water. I had a porcupine puffer until yesterday - took him back to the LFS so I can better control feeding and excess. Suggestions? >> All sorts... first off I would stop fighting the algae as an approach... and turn to competing with it: Allow me to elaborate. Use up the light and nutrient in the system... otherwise you will forever be scrubbing and scrimping to reduce metabolites... What I would do: 1) Pull the wetdry media... it's hurting rather than helping. 2) Add some live rock and Caulerpa algae to your sump and a small fluorescent, full spectrum light over it... leave the light on continuously... 3) Save up all the monies you've been spending on chemical filtrants and excess water changes and get some more live rock for your main tank... Believe me, this is all you need do...
Bob Fenner

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