What Is a Dosing Pump and Why Do I Need One for My Reef Tank?
Dosing pumps will automatically deliver measured amounts of fluids into your aquarium on a regular basis which alleviates the need to manually add those fluids. While this is most often in the form of calcium and alkalinity supplements designed to maintain water chemistry, dosing pumps can be used for the addition of trace elements, coral food, carbon dosing, or any fluid that requires regular incremental dosing into your aquarium. They can also be used to feed calcium reactors and perform automatic water changes, both of which are more advanced applications.
How a Dosing Pump Works
A pump is a pump, right? While it might seem like a pump simply moves fluid from one location to the next, the way they go about doing that plays a huge role in their application. Utility pumps, like those we use to move water through our filtration or to perform water changes, are centrifugal-style water pumps that are intended to move higher volumes of water. The term "Centrifugal" refers to the technology used to propel the water and basically means the pump uses an impeller.
Dosing pumps are called peristaltic pumps and use rollers (instead of an impeller) to propel water or other fluids. The process of compressing and relaxing the internal tube with the rollers is called peristalsis and is what creates the movement of the fluid. The peristalsis allows the dosing pump to move much smaller quantities of water and is much more accurate in how much water it can move. Dosing pumps are so accurate that you can rely on them to move measured amounts of water. Connect a dosing pump to a timer and you can move specific amounts of fluids on a schedule. The most advanced dosing pumps are directly programmable meaning you can control how much fluid is being dosed and at what frequency it is being dosed.
You will typically use 1/4" diameter or similar small diameter tubing for connection with a dosing pump; there is a suction side connection which is where you pull the fluid into the pump and a discharge side connection which is where the fluid comes out. The pumps are mounted up above the source fluid and will pull the fluid up into the pump, then push that fluid wherever you want it to go via the tubing.
Applications For Dosing Pumps in an Aquarium
- Two-part dosing << is the most common application and most likely will be your first experience using a dosing pump.
- Automatic water changes << awesome!
- Micro-dosing of aquarium additives
- Feeding calcium reactors
How to Choose the Right Dosing Pump
There is a range of dosing pumps available in the aquarium market and there are some important considerations to make the best choice for your tank. Some pumps are controllable and some come with a fixed speed. Some can be programmed directly and the most advanced pumps can be wirelessly programmed using an App on your phone! Some pumps have multiple pump heads on a single platform to accommodate multiple additives while others are single pump heads designed for a single additive.
- Number of Pump Heads - You will need one pump head for every individual type of fluid or "additive" you plan to dose. In other words, a single dosing pump head can only move one type of additive; you cannot use the same dosing pump head to deliver multiple types of additives from separate containers. For successful two-part dosing, you need two pump heads, one each for calcium and alkalinity. You would then need a third pump head if you plan to use a separate magnesium solution. Choose a dosing pump that can accommodate all of the additives your using, or buy multiple pumps, one for each additive.
- Size of the Pump - The physical size of the pump matters but most of them a fairly small. Just be sure the intended pump will fit where you need to mount it.
- Flow Rate - This may be tough if you have no past experience or know exactly how much you need to dose. Some pumps have speed control which gives you a wider range here but knowing exactly how much you need to dose each day will help you determine the appropriate flow rate for you. Flow rate is measured in milliliters per minute. Dosing pumps can deliver anywhere between 1ml per minute all the way up to 100+ ml per minute.
- Pump Lifespan - Many dosing pumps have a lifespan rating which refers to exactly how long the pump motor and assembly will last. Since dosing pumps are often only run for short period of time each day, this really only comes into play when your dosing larger amounts of fluid very frequently.
- Mounting Options - Consider the available mounting options for the pump to ensure you can accommodate it.
- Controllability - This is a big one and is often reflected in the price. The most affordable pumps come with a fixed speed and will need to be connected to an external timer in order to dose on a schedule. Advanced pumps that are directly programmable are often more expensive and give you the ability to adjust the flow rate and save dosing schedules.
Best Dosing Pump for Beginners
We created the BRS Dosers specifically for simplifying two-part and other dosing applications around a reef tank so it goes without saying, the BRS Dosers are our preferred choice. They are affordable, easy to use, and reliable. They are available in two different sizes which can be selected based on your particular application. Note: You will need to connect the pumps to a separate timer or controller for most applications.
How To Set Up a BRS Dosing Pumps
- Calculate how much you need to dose each day.
- Setup BRS Doser and connect tubing.
- Calibrate your BRS Doser using a graduated cylinder to find out exactly how much fluid it moves.
- Fill up your dosing container with the appropriate additives.
- Install the BRS Doser under your tank and attach tubing to your sump or aquarium. Be sure the end of the outlet tube is above the waterline.
- Determine how long the doser needs to operate based on your calibration results and required daily dosage.
- Set the timer to run for the calculated time each day and plug in the dosing pump.
- Submerse the inlet tubing into your additive container.
- Check to ensure the doser operates accordingly and test your aquarium's water daily for the first few days to ensure stable chemistry.
Best Advanced Dosing Pumps
While the BRS Dosers are great, there are some other dosing pumps that offer great value and controllability which really simplifies setup and operation. These pumps are directly programmable and do not require the use of a separate timer. The setup is very similar but instead of using a timer, simply program the pump directly after calibration.