Advanced Dosing: Beyond Calcium and Alkalinity
The evolution of a reef hobbyist is quite predictable.
Most of us start out keeping a small to medium sized tank with a few fish. After months of research and frustration, we soon learn the ins and outs of proper marine aquarium husbandry and more often than not an infatuation with collecting corals quickly follows.
This is when the real fun begins because you will start to understand the importance of proper water flow and lighting, get your hands on some really cool cutting edge aquarium equipment and learn more about water chemistry both in your aquarium and in wild ocean reefs.
After keeping a mixed reef tank for some time, most of us become familiar with maintaining the major elements: calcium, alkalinity and magnesium. However, there are plethora of other supplements available for your reef tank. Knowing which additional supplements you should use and why can get confusing and getting good advice can be tricky.
This brings us to the topic of today's article/video, "Advanced Dosing." We are going to cover some of the more advanced reef aquarium supplements, beyond calcium and alkalinity, and help you understand why you might consider using them in your reef.
Using Strontium helps stony corals and other reef building invertebrates grow and produce aragonite. As corals build their aragonite skeletal structure, they will consume strontium. Corals have in fact been witnessed to increase growth rates when strontium is maintained at levels found in natural seawater which is 8 ppm.
Potassium is most commonly used specifically for SPS corals and is known to help increase blue and purple coloration in some SPS. Potassium plays an important role in the creation of aragonite and will be depleted by corals and other organisms found in a reef tank. It is also widely used alongside various filtration methods employed to maintain ultra-low nutrient reef tanks in which potassium is depleted at increased rates.
Boron similar to potassium is important to the creation of aragonite shells and skeletons and will help improve red coloration within your corals.
Iodine is beneficial in a number of ways and is utilized by many soft corals, gorgonians, macro-algae and clams. It helps prevent coral bleaching because it will protect the tissue of photosynthetic corals under intense lighting and in periods of rapid growth. Iodine is easily removed via filtration and quickly consumed by corals, so it is recommended to add iodine 2-3 times per week. But be very careful, some iodine supplements like Lugol's Solution are very concentrated and overdosing can crash your tank.
Iron is most helpful in systems containing a refugium with macro-algae and other marine plants, such as mangroves. It promotes lush growth and deep green coloration. With increased macro-algae growth, you can boost the benefits of your refugium via increased nutrient export and protection against nuisance algae outbreaks.
When dosing Vitamin C, many hobbyists have reported favorable changes when keeping zoanthids and paly colonies. It is most commonly used to boost immune systems and supplement fish food, but has also been shown to help the growth of soft tissue, so it is great for helping freshly fragged corals to recover and grow.
Amino Acids are rapidly becoming more and more popular and used by many hobbyists and even culturing facilities to help increase coral growth. Amino acids provide the protein needed for corals to build and repair tissue and will also encourage vibrant color within your coral.
The aforementioned aquarium supplements can really take your reef tank to the next level. Just be sure you are testing your water parameters frequently and always be conservative when starting to add new supplements to your tank because rapid changes in water chemistry can be disastrous for your reef. Supplementing your reef with coral food is another great way to give your corals that extra edge.
Phytoplankton is at the bottom of the food chain and is great for a number of reasons. It will increase biodiversity in your tank as it feeds a number of micro-organisms in your tank helping to create natural food sources for corals and other reef tank inhabitants. It can also be directly consumed by many corals and clams.
Zooplankton is a bit larger in size and is on the next level in the food chain compared to phytoplankton. The larger particles are great for soft corals, LPS corals and many other filter feeders.
Marine Snow type products replicate the important organic food particles that fall from the light rich shallow reefs and supply a critical food source for filter feeding organisms found deeper in the water column. Particle sizes range from very small (under 20 microns) up to 150 microns. It is therefore a great way to offer food for your entire reef via a single additive.
The benefits of properly dosing a reef tank can really be the difference between an average mixed reef and a flourishing explosion of aquatic wonder!
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Until next time, take care and happy reefkeeping.
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