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FAQs About Water Changes for Marine Systems: Rationale

Related Articles: Marine Water Change, The 'Perfect' Water Change Regimen? by Scott Fellman, Water Changes, Exchanges by Anthony Calfo, Captive Seawater Quality, General  Marine Maintenance

Related FAQs: Water Changes for Marine Systems 1, Water Changes for Marine Systems 2, Water Changes 3, Water Changes 4, & FAQs on Water Changes: Gear/Tools, Frequency/Amount, TechniquesAutomation, Trouble/shooting, & Water Top-Off Systems, Evaporation/Water Make-Up, Treating Tapwater Marine Water QualityMarine Plumbing

Water changing is the cheapest, safest, most important aspect of aquarium maintenance. Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water.htm and the linked files, FAQs beyond. Bob Fenner

Hi Bob,
This is a question about an idea that I am not necessarily going to put into practice; but I would be interested to see your opinion on the matter and whether it is advisable.
Is it possible to run a system without doing any water changes at all? If you can have a system running where all parameters are zero i.e. ammonia, phosphate, nitrite, nitrate, and you dose that system with various trace elements, is it that important to perform water changes at all? I'm not advocating laziness; I just wondered if it was possible to keep a stable environment in this way?
Tom Keeton 

The idea of a 'perfect closed system'; one requiring naught but energy inputs for light and heat, has been tried over and over Tom'¦ In fact, a friend in Hawai'i' manufactures completely sealed glass spheres with a small red shrimp, a bit of gorgonian skeleton and algae, that 'last' more than a year with no more than these'¦ But, is running our captive slices of the seas better for the lack of water changes? That is, what are we giving up to save a bit of time and money by avoiding water changes?
            Certainly, there are no such maintenance issues in the wild'¦. At least I've never encountered a giant gravel siphon, sponges et al. gear when diving about! What is it that's different from the wild that requires our doing change outs in our systems? Well'¦ they're obviously much more crowded and over-fed'¦ requiring either periodic dilution of accumulating wastes, or filtration modes (media, skimming and the like) to fight the gradient of ever-accumulating pollution.
            This being understood, one could try to mimic a natural setting by purposely having much less biota, and severely limiting inputs of feeding'¦ suffering with yellowing water, slow growth, poor coloration'¦ not to mention the spectre of drifting make of salts-make up of your seawater... I think you get my drift'¦ one could leave off with water changing. I'll stick with my overall opinion though: Frequent, partial water changes are the simplest, safest way to assure consistent, useful make-up of water quality.

Chemical media vs. Water Changes 12-23-09
Hi there.
<Morning, Mike here>
Quick question which I think I already know the answer to but would like clarification.
<Second opinions can't (usually) hurt!>
I have a 600lt FOWLR set up. I only have two fish due to losing others to parasites. Problem now fixed.
<I think most of us have been down that road before...>
I therefore have a low bio-load. I am currently experience high levels of nitrates (25) and phosphates (1). All other levels are fine. I have a sump with a protein skimmer, DSB and macroalgae. Here goes the question:
is the only way to keep nitrates and phosphates down via water changes or do chemicals which proclaim 0 phosphates and 0 nitrates work?
<Water changes are always a great way to control excess nutrients, and I recommend that above all other solutions. However, the use of chemical media for the ab/adsorbing of waste products is common and effective
(activated carbon, phosphate binding iron compounds, ion exchange resins, and synthetic medias are all effective). I use and recommend Seachem's Purigen (which is synthetic and reusable) and occasionally use activated carbon.>
I presume such manufacturers target new aquarists.
<If you are speaking of the liquid chemical additives that make the aforementioned claims, I have no experience using these products. It sounds like you're on the right track with a DSB and refugium, and recommend against the chemical additives and instead perform weekly or bi-weekly ~50% water changes until you achieve the desired levels>
Thanks again and great site!
<Thank you, and it is - I'm glad to contribute here>
<Mike Maddox>

Point-Counterpoint... Thanks for your time on this. <Our pleasure- we love this stuff! Scott F. here today> I have been doing a lot of research on marine aquariums (books and internet searches) and what I am finding is that there are a number of diametrically opposed views about the aquarium. <Different views? On marine aquarium keeping? Really? LOL> I have read enough articles on WetWebMedia to know what you believe and I would like your opinions on some of these differing thoughts. <Sure- I'd be happy to!> 1) It is a universally accepted principle that aggressive protein skimming is a must (1 cup a day) for nutrient and allelopathy export.  In addition, to successfully grow corals, micro-organisms such as zooplankton, phytoplankton, etc., (whether grown in a refugium, a reactor and/or green water additives) is also a must.  However, protein skimming removes these micro-organisms from the system and there some thought that protein skimming is as harmful as helpful.  The no-protein skimmer belief rests upon refugium/Caulerpa/seagrass and/or clams as a more natural mechanism.  Plus, there are less impellors killing the organisms (including powerheads). <Well, I am of the opinion that a well-tuned protein skimmer is absolutely essential for long term success in closed marine systems. I have heard from a number of people who yanked their skimmers-some have been successful for a while- many have gone back to skimmers. I like to think of the long-term with reef tank maintenance. Skimmers remove many noxious compounds and dissolved organics before they have a chance to degrade water quality. I have yet to see a very successful reef system that has been maintained for years without skimming. I do not consider  one or two years a success...The bottom line on skimmer use, in my opinion, is that if you are going to omit skimming, then you need to compensate somewhere- either with a much lower bioload, very aggressive water change schedule, alternative "filtration" techniques (like Steve Tyree's Sponge/Sea Squirt Cryptic Zone concept, etc.). It is a trade off, and one that I do not feel is worth it. As far as the impellers in pumps destroying valuable plankton is concerned- I have heard a lot of thoughts on this, and, quite frankly, I feel that the threat-although legitimate, is highly overstated. Most reef systems simply don't grow and support large enough populations of plankton for this to be a legitimate concern, IMO. Even with productive refugia and other supplemental systems, I just don't think that the impact is there> 2) To remove allelopathic compounds from the system, weekly carbon changes are suggested.  However carbon also leaches vital trace elements out of the system.  Once again, harmful and helpful. <I am a firm believer in the continuous use of small amounts (like 2-4 ounces per 100 gallons of tank capacity) of high quality activated carbon. Good grades of carbon, such as those offered by Seachem (my personal favorite), Two Little Fishies, or ESV do not leach phosphates into the system. Yes, carbon can remove small quantities of trace elements from the system. However, if you are following one of my other favorite practices in marine husbandry, frequent small water changes- you will be replacing trace elements on a regular basis. In fact, you will probably not experience a deficiency in trace elements if you practice these water changes> 3) Another universally accepted principle is weekly water changes.  When you have a 55 gallon tank, a 10% water swap is no big deal.  When you have a 125 with a 30 gallon refugium and 10 gallon sump, it is a much greater effort, requiring a large garbage can sitting in the living room overnight to allow the salt to fully aerate and mix before doing the swap.  Plus the swap tends to be somewhat stressful on the fish.  I am planning on buying a 300 gallon at the end of the year and turning the 125 into a large DSB/Live Rock sump. A 10% water swap on 425 gallons will be a huge effort! <As a fanatic about regular small water changes, I can tell you that the process is simply not that difficult. One of my systems has about 200 gallons total capacity. I change 5% of the water twice a week. This amounts to 2 10 gallon water changes, which I perform on Wednesday morning before work, and on Sunday mornings (unless the surf is good- in which case it's usually Sunday afternoon!). I will generally mix up the saltwater in a Rubbermaid container about 24-48 hours before, and then perform the change. I also perform minor maintenance tasks, such as a little extra algae scraping (if needed), coral pruning, etc. on Wednesday. This will take about 20-30 minutes to perform. On Sunday, I take a little more leisurely pace, and will clean the skimmer, replace carbon or Polyfilters if needed, change micron socks, or any other little things that have to be done. Maybe it takes about 45 minutes to an hour of pleasant labor. I have always done the additions of new water "manually", by pouring it into the tank from a pitcher. If I really wanted to do it quicker, I'd hook up a Maxijet 1200 powerhead to some 5/8 ID tubing, and "pump in" the replacement saltwater...it's a lot quicker. Frequent small water changes need not be a chore. Rather, look at them as an opportunity to regularly assess the situation in your tank. Anyone who maintains their own garden can relate to the labor involved. It is part of the "price of admission", IMO, and is simply not that difficult. And, when you see the difference in your animals, you'll realize that it's all worth it!> Lastly, I have and read about many a aquarist who has been very successful for years with minimal swaps, minimal effort by maintaining proper trace elements/calcium/alkalinity. <I have to quote Anthony on this: "Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes!". It's just not something that you'd want to do. We are talking about living creatures here- which require us to provide the highest level of care. Closed systems are just that- closed, and unlike the ocean, do not afford the animals a constant influx of clean water. To those hobbyists who think that water changes are not required, I respond, "You wouldn't let your dog live in the same room for 5 years without cleaning out the waste, would you? Don't do it with your fish!"> 4) Bio-wheels and Bio-balls are sold in virtually all LFS and internet dealers.  They add a tremendous amount of stability to the system but also contribute nitrates because there is no anaerobic area for denitrification. Once again, stability vs. water quality, harmful and helpful. <These media are, in essence- "victims of their own success": They are so good at removing nitrites and ammonia, that they cannot provide a bacterial population to keep up with accumulating nitrate. Yep- it is a tradeoff. Frankly- I like to keep things simple, and use a more natural approach: Let the live rock and sand do your filtering, along with use of macroalgae in refugia, and protein skimming, water changes, and regular use of carbon and/or PolyFilter media.> 5) Allelopathy is another subject, not discussed at LFS trying to make a sale.  Some people claim that pictures of beautiful coral displays that are all over the internet will be very different a year from now because of allelopathy and others claim success for years in spite of pictures showing many corals side by side, touching each other.  Another subject in dispute. I have purchased very aggressive corals (not knowing better at the time).  I have multiple leathers, Ricordea mushrooms, 5" genitor, frogspawn, colt and bubble corals.  Is this a toxic soup, a ticking time bomb, or as others claim, no big deal. <Well, I would not call it a ticking time bomb, but it is not an ideal situation. This is an aggregation of animals that are rarely, if ever found in close proximity to each other on natural reefs, so there will be a certain amount of allelopathy. However, these animals can be maintained together in a certain "stand off" with use of aggressive nutrient export mechanisms (the aforementioned skimming, water changes, and use of chemical filtration media). It's much more ideal to develop a stocking plan that utilizes animals that live together in nature. However, as we often state, this is a closed system that we're talking about. It can be done-and done with some possible success, but it is not ideal. I have seen many successful "garden" reef systems over the years, so I can't say that it's not possible to do this. just not recommended!> As I plan for a big expansion of my system, these are the thoughts that come to mind.  Natural (refugium/Caulerpa/seagrass and/or clams) vs. mechanical (protein skimming).  I currently have both.  Is chemical filtration needed? <I believe that a "natural" approach, with a few technical props (skimming and chemical media) is the best approach for most systems> Are water swaps absolutely mandatory, which would dampen my enthusiasm for a larger tank.  Would removing some of the aggressive corals reduce the allelopathy problems or would the bigger tank mitigate them? <Yes, removing some of the aggressive corals could help, as would reducing the proximity between corals. However, it is still important to change water. I would have to say that it's mandatory! Please understand that it just is not that daunting a task...Small amounts often is not that difficult!> Long email.  Apologies.  Thanks for the time. <My pleasure! These were some excellent, thought-provoking questions that have stimulated many a late-night fish nerd conversation at a MACNA conference! I hope that you will be in this year's MACNA in Louisville so that we can discuss these things in more detail! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

- Going Without Water Changes - Greetings to the WWM crew.  On one of the fish forums I frequent there is a lot of talk about how the folks don't do water changes on their marine systems. They state the use of deep sand beds and protein skimmers eliminate the issue of nitrate build up and make water changes unnecessary. <Check back in with them in a year or two...> For me, that just doesn't seem like good maintenance practices. <Me either... consider not flushing your toilet, ever...> If you aren't dosing the tank with additives (and don't want to start), shouldn't the use of fresh synthetic sea water be used to maintain water quality? <For a myriad of reasons, yes.> I mean, there must be more to water quality than just ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. <Absolutely.> With corals and fish using these trace elements from your saltwater, wouldn't the addition of fresh saltwater be necessary? <Yes.> Wouldn't the lack of these minerals cause some sort of deficiency in your tank inhabitants' health? <Certainly.> Top off water wouldn't be able to provide an adequate level of these minerals would it? <No... we are in complete agreement.> I guess I'm just a little confused as to the extent of what you can count on DSB to do for your marine system when you aren't dosing trace elements or doing water changes. <I wouldn't count on it much. Not sure what the fascination with zero-maintenance tanks is... I'm always fond of the following metaphor: consider that the oceans of the world cover 2/3 of the planet. Consider now the size of your fishtank in comparison... smaller than a grain of sand. How does/should one maintain the stability and water quality of the oceans? <Water changes are one of your best friends.> I would appreciate your opinion on the matter. <The folks who choose not to change their water and instead rely on their laziness and their closed microcosm will regret their decision in time.> Many thanks,  Oleta <Cheers, J -- >

System Eliminates Need For Water Changes? Too Good To Be True! Hi all, first time at asking you guys anything, though I've gained tremendous knowledge from your site up to this point. <Glad you've enjoyed the site! We're thrilled to bring it to you each day!> As for my 2 questions. I've seen reference on several forums as to a member named Kdodds that has a setup that "naturally" filters the water, making water changes unnecessary. Has this system ever been outlined? If so, could someone please direct me to a thread, or link to this. If not, would it be possible to outline it, so that it might be a consideration for others? <Not familiar with this individual or theory. To be quite honest, short of an "open" system, which flows water in and out directly from the ocean, I don't think that there is a system that makes water changes unnecessary. Quite frankly, I'm not sure why everyone is seeking a system that eliminates the need for water changes. DO our animals truly benefit? I think not! Let's face it-when we keep fishes in closed systems, water changes are necessary. Period. And they are really not difficult. Not even taking into account the need to properly export organics from the tank water, I question how such a system can replenish and maintain a proper balance of trace elements and minerals in the system. Just adding trace elements is really problematic...How do you know how much of a given element has been used up? And at what rate? If people would spend more time trying to propagate marine animals and less time trying to cook up schemes and additives to avoid water changes, we'd see an even greater diversity of fantastic captive-bred animals in the hobby, and the need to harvest from the ocean would be greatly reduced! That's my two cents on the issue!> Secondly... I live in the southeast, and as most everyone knows by now, Southdown/Yardright/Old Castle sand appears to only be sold in the northeast. At least, it isn't sold anywhere around here. So, I am setting up a 72G All-Glass bowfront, predrilled, with an oceanic sump system below, a Kent Nautilus TE skimmer powered by mag drive pump, and a second Mag Drive to force the return back into the tank. We had the Oceanic sump's optional sectioned glass top custom cut to accommodate the hulking size of the Kent skimmer, hoping to still cut down on salt leaching out of the sump area and cutting down on evaporation. We are planning fish only, and realistically, due to budget constraints, will most likely add no more than 20lbs, 40lbs at the outside most, of live rock, and even this will have to be done across time. We have the tank set up and the sump plumbed, finally... we will be using Instant Ocean salt, and currently have 40 lbs of Aragalive sand and 25lbs of Ultra Reef dolomite. From various reading, I've seen that I should be shooting for a 4-5" sandbed. <If you are seeking denitrification, this is a good depth to start with> 4-4 1/2" will probably be more realistic, in order to not take up so much volume in the tank with substrate alone. Obviously, for that much of a sandbed, I will need additional substrate. As mentioned before, money is always a concern, so, with Southdown and its many aliases being unavailable to me, what, if any, are my options on padding the sandbed size without breaking the bank? I've read in a couple of places that most any cleaned, sanitized play sand could be used, particularly if used as a bottom layer to the other media, but I wanted to run it by the experts first, before making a big mistake that could cost me far more in both money and time to correct. <Well, you want to avoid silica-based sands, as they can fuel tremendous nuisance algae blooms over time. I'd go for an aquarium-specific aragonite sand. Yes, it may be a bit more expensive, but the long-term benefits of this material are worth it.> Thanks, in advance, for any help that you can give. Eric <My pleasure, Eric. Keep in mind that there is no one "right" way to do things. I'm offering opinions and advice based on my experiences, and what I have found to work for me over time. Take any an all advice with a grain of salt, but do turn a very skeptical ear to anyone who tells you that their system or product "eliminates water changes". Better to develop conscientious husbandry habits for your aquarium, instead. Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Lack of Water changes I have a 380 gallon reef tank, 51' x 51' x 34'.  Above it I have two 400 Watt Metal Halide bulbs, 10000° K about 18' above the tank.  I have a 3/8 inch thick acrylic lid which I keep closed and use a chiller to keep the temperature at 76°.   <all good> I use all Kent Marine additives.   <sorry to hear it> I seldom do water changes as I have a very good denitrator.   <wow.. flawed logic bud. Nitrates are one tiny component of water quality. Your DOC levels are accumulating while your fish and coral are forced to live in their own dissolved and concentrating feces. With the investment that you already have in the system, water changes are inexpensive and necessary> My nitrates are 5 ppm or less and everything else is excellent.  I have two cup corals which grew rapidly for a 2-3 of years but for the last year have stagnated and are showing tissue loss.   <Many possibly reasons... including poisoning from other cnidarians or even themselves due to amplified allelopathy from the lack of water changes> The polyps open for the first half of the day and then close up for the second half.  I don't have a UV filter between my lamps and the water <no biggie... the least of your troubles> and I'm wondering if I'm burning them.   <nope... Turbinaria are very adaptable> Or perhaps they require a different spectrum.  Any ideas? <water quality no doubt. Check for clarity too. Without water changes, ozone or weekly carbon, yellowing agents accumulate and reduce light penetration> Thanks. Gene <best regards, Anthony>

Water changes... heavy water Dear sir, If I test my water in my reef tank and it tests out at zero across the board And everything looks and growing fine, Why do you have to do water changes? Does this go against the theory" if it isn't broken don't fix it". I do add trace elements and calcium. Thank you  Chuck <More like "do pre-emptive changes to avoid consequences you can't or aren't measuring". Imagine the solids you're adding in the way of foods... and their accumulation effects on density, organic concentration build-up... the differential solubility of salts in the water, some leaving easier than others... regular water changes keep such accumulations, drifts in composition in check. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water.htm Bob Fenner>

What do you think about all of the water changes we are doing? Are they necessary?  <A very good part of a regular maintenance program... ONCE the system is up and running> The almost seem to be doing more harm than good...it comes back twofold whenever we do one. We have been doing 15 gal. a week basically for the last 2 months and are getting nowhere....can we cut back on that and try the Kalkwasser route? <Sure, it's your tank... And do consider pre-mixing and storing your water... I have a detailed approach to this stored at the www.wetwebmedia.com site> I am having trouble finding a way to get it into the tank unfortunately. :( No one around here has a device to do a continuous drip like it says to on the bottle.  <Not that necessary... pour the allotted material in when you're around the tank...> I am trying to order one...suggestions for in the meantime? Can I pour in a cup a day?  <Yes> Does it have to be dripped? Will the Cyanobacteria ever just "go away"?  <Yes, it will be supplanted by other life forms> It seems that every time we scape it off and suck it out (with siphon) it is back and worse within three days. I feel like nothing we do is helping. I am going to purchase more powerheads this weekend to see if we can pick up the flow in there as per your suggestion. <Good... little by little...> We are also going to try this weekend, to hook up a small "sump" next to the main tank in which we'll place the struggling Halimeda and possible other plants in the future (Caulerpa) <Yes> . We are going to see if we can run it siphon style from above in the tank, down to the plants and then down again to the sump under the tank...I hope that it will work!  <I hope you mean through a constant level box arrangement... maybe see some of the designs at www.cprusa.com> The Cyanobacteria won't just start taking over that sump will it?  <No, once conditions are more favorable, they will be gone> Should we put any substrate in there to plant the Halimeda in? <Yes, some live rock> Or just let it sit towards the bottom? Also, about the lights...if I leave them on all day over the little sump (to the side of my tank) won't they bother the fish at night when it is usually very dark?  <Not really... the wild is quite bright where much of this life hails from> Thank you again for listening and trying to help! If we ever get through this we'll probably have to name our firstborn after you in appreciation! hee hee! :) RT <An honor, even if in jest, Bob Fenner>

Tank maintenance Hi Bob, I have had my reef tank for 10 months, and the past 2 months or so, my nitrate, nitrite, ammonia are all zero. I understand one of the major reasons for water change is to remove nitrate, but if my nitrate is already zero, then does that mean I don't need to do water changes anymore? I am currently doing 5% weekly, and I use Salifert test kits. <Actually yes, though it seems unnecessary by your measures... the materials that are changed in/out by the water changes are needed in the processes of expediting nitrogenous and other cycling... If you could set-up replicate systems, and change water in some and not in others, you would derive this fact through experience> Secondly, I am just having no luck with Salifert's Strontium test kit. It keeps telling me that my St is well over board for quite some time. Are there any other Strontium kits out there you'd recommend? <Look to LaMotte and Hach companies> Thanks again, and again, and again ;) Brian <Life to you, Bob Fenner>

Water Change? I'm having trouble with my water quality and am trying to get all of the levels back to normal. At first I had 0.25 ppm for ammonia and did a 30% water change (I have a 100 gallon). The next day I still had very slight ammonia present but waited until the following day to do another 30% change. Today I checked the water and the parameters are as follows: PH = 8.6 Ammonia = 0.0ppm Nitrite = 0.25ppm Nitrate = 60ppm I was thinking of doing a 25% water change tonight? Do you agree with this and do you think this should take care of it? It's been 3 days since my last 30% change. <assuming that the tank is past the "break in period" for cycling (over 8 weeks old?), then yes... water changes until you figure out the cause of the buildup...although .25 ppm or less is not much to get too excited about> I'm thinking that I'm overfeeding and that is what is causing my problem. What do you think?  <far and away the most common reason. Too much or too fast. Best to feed several very tiny feedings daily that all get consumed in the top third of the tank. Food falling to the bottom is overfeeding in most every case. A good skimmer would also be a great benefit too> My tank is 100 gallon and I currently have no live rock or corals, just fish: 1 Naso Tang (5 inches or so), 1 maroon clown (3 inch), 1 clown triggerfish (2 inch), two very small yellow tangs (1-2inch), and a Mexican rock wrasse (5 inch).  <no new fish please... you have plenty to grow to adulthood in this sized tank> I feed them a variety of things but as an example of a day's normal feeding: I normally feed them one of the frozen cubes (brine shrimp, or Formula 1, etc.) and put about a 2 x 4 section of dried seaweed on a clip as well. I pour the dissolved cube in slowly (not all at once) giving them time to eat before I put in more. Does this sound like too much food? Can you give me some guidelines? <doesn't sound like a lot of food to me, but two things. Stop or reduce the brine shrimp ( a low nutrient and nearly useless food even if well liked by fishes... they starve slowly over time eating it). And never pour the thawed food juice into a FO tank... drain the juice off of the meat (strain through a net, for example). This juice accumulates and feeds horrible algae blooms in time even with a good skimmer producing skimmate daily> Thanks for your help! Sorry to bother you with this beginner stuff. . . .Thanks for your help! <no bother at all... keep learning and sharing. Anthony Calfo>

Water changes (necessary, expedient, just for making ones arms longer?) Hi, I heard some people go without water changes for months if ever. My tank has live rock and fish and it has been one month since my last water change and there is no ammonia and no nitrates and my ph is 8.2. Do I still need to do a water change or can I base my water changes on my water parameters named? <Water changing is the cheapest, safest, most important aspect of aquarium maintenance. Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water.htm and the linked files, FAQs beyond. Bob Fenner>

Fresh and salt water (of gravel vacuuming, planted tank stasis) Hi guys I have a couple questions regarding both my fresh and salt water aquariums. I have been involved with fresh water for about twenty years. I have a forty gallon planted tank so full of plants you could almost not see the substrate, my LFS told my that with this many plants I should not have to vacuumed the gravel. I am mainly concerned that it will cause an out break of algae. What do you guys think?  <Mmm, eventually you'll either have to make small disruptions to the substrate to "clean" it, add nutrient, or totally tear it down and re-set it up... this latter time interval can be six months to a few years... depending on many factors... plant species make-up, augmentation of liquid supplements, CO2, fish food feeding, initial use of soil...> I have power compact lighting, Fluorite substrate, CO2 injection, Hot Magnum, 125 penguin BioWheel and about thirty or so fish mostly all small. On to my ten gallon reef I was also told by my LFS that I would not want to vacuumed my gravel in my mini reef. You guys helped my remedy some bad advice in part of this LFS. My xenia is pulsing again and every thing is fine except I have a red slime diatom loose in this tank. Previously when I took the LFS advice to treat ick in the reef tank it seems to inadvertently cause the diatom out break and told me to treat it with Maracyn.  <Not recommended... not a real cure... as you will find> Since then I did several massive water changes with RO water and the diatom has come back. Could it be from not vacuuming the gravel?  <Not likely... the materials/nutrients are still in the system from the original colony... recycled> Or is it because my tank is only about four months old? <A somewhat disposing influence> Maracyn which I now know is not a cure but a temporary removal and should not be used in reef tanks. I have since stopped taking advice from this LFS and read articles on your web site which is a real learning experience. The jump from fresh to salt water is significantly different and I was subject to bad advice, that really upsets me. But you guys have got me in the right direction. Thanks Dave McCorkell <Let's keep talking, sharing till you feel comfortable and can aid others. Bob Fenner>

Use of Vinegar Bob, <Steven Pro this morning.> I have several customers that are hearing about adding vinegar to their SW and Reef aquariums to lower nitrates and boost calcium. <I have heard of its use for boosting calcium when used in combination with Kalkwasser.> Some of them say that is has worked for them. Is this advisable and what are the long term effects of it? <I would refer you to the writing of Craig Bingman. He has a webpage that is listed on the WWM links.> Their is another LFS in the area that is suggesting this and says that you don't have to do water changes if you do this. <A highly suspect recommendation.> He told a customer that he hasn't done water changes in his store in a year. His fish, though, look horrible. He uses a lot of ozone, copper, and apparently vinegar. The fish in his maintenance accounts, such as yellow tangs, are pale, fins ragged, and just about everything looks like is has lateral line disease. Even damsels. Could the vinegar be causing this or the lack of water changes? <More likely the latter.> Thanks, Larry McGee-Aquatic Designs <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

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