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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm about flat outta ideas about how to increase &/or at least maintain my alkalinity. It had been running at a dKH of 8 - 9 or so as measured with a Salifert test kit. Last weekend, I took it upon myself to try to increase it into the 10 - 12 dHK range, so after my usual water change, I went out & bought a jar of Kent "Superbuffer-dKH and began dosing it into the sump as per the instructions on the label. In the course of 3 daily doses, my dKH has dropped from 9.3 to 8.2 to 6.8, and the pH has slowly dropped from its usuall mid-day reading of 8.4 to 8.25. This is exactly the opposite of the result I would have expected and is very frustrating to say the least.

Nothing else has changed in this tank. I'm dosing Kalkwasser from a reservoir at a rate that just equals the evaporative loss (about 3.2 liters/day in a 65g tank). There's been no new specimens added nor any change in feeding regimen. Ammonia, nitrite are both dead zero, and nitrate is < 5 ppm. Ca is 440 (also per Salifert test kit).

So far, the tanks inhabitants are looking fine, but with the alkalinity that low, I'm worried that the pH could really crash. Needless to say, I'm not about to throw anymore of the "buffer" stuff into the tank until I have a better idea of what's going on here.

Any & all suggestions/ideas would be thoroughly appreciated.

Thanx,
Bert
 

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Stop adding the buffer andyour ALK should go back to where it was. Kalk by nature is already balanced between calcium and alkalinity. By adding more ALK you are probably causing a reaction between it and the calcium and casuing the calcium to precipitate out as well as dropping the Alk. If you really want to increase the ALK, stop the Kalk drip until you get the ALk where you want it.

Just out curiosity, is your tank/corals not doing well or are you tryting to increase thier growth? Why are you trying to raise your Alk? What are your tank inhabitants, mostly interested in clams/corals not fish?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Cyberchef,

Thanks for the response!!

The intended goal of increasing the Alk. was primarily to help the coralline algae along with a secondary hope of helping the coral growth rate as well.

The tanks inhabitants have been doing quite well to date. I've got an euphyllia anchor that's thriving, a plerogyra that's come back nicely after a difficult start (poor thing got knocked on its "face" twice by a turbo snail), a turbinaria that's going nuts, a wellsophyllia and a favia sp. that are also looking healthy. Plus there's 2 colonies of button polyps and one mushroom rock that would probably be better off with a bit less light.

I suspected that there might be some sort of paradoxical reaction going on with the "superbuffer" additive, but the chemistry of such a thing escapes me. So are you saying if I stop the Kalk altogether, it'll actually raise the Alk.? I thought maybe a low Mg might have a role in this, but the appropriate test kit won't get here 'til tomorrow. So that "theory" is on hold 'til then.

Anyway, thanks again....

Regards,
Bert
 

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first off, you don't have a lot of calcium loving creatures so dripping the kalk should be more than suficient. For the Coraline, try dosing some Magnesium, it will probably help more than raising the Alk. The hard corals need the Alk in order to process the calcium to make thier skeletal structures, so you should be fine with the Alk where it was.


What I said was if you really want to raise the ALK... Stop the Kalk and use the buffer till the Alk reaches thelevels you want, then start dripping the kalk again... But with the information you've given, I would just keep dripping the kalk and forget anbout trying to raise the Alk. There is nothing wrong with Alk at levels of 8-9 DKH.

Does any of your LR have coraline yet or on the glass? IOf so try scraping some off into the water column, this will help seed the rest of the tank. If npot then do you know anyone else with a reef tank that has a lot of coraline? Get them to scrape some off the glass and give it to you to seed your tank with.
 
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yeah very few alk need corals in your tank...i second the stop ok kalk dripping and manually get it where your comfortanle bu using buffers then start dripping again..
 

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usually the problem with high calcium but low alkalinity is a result of either seawater that has had its proportionality of conservative elements skewed by long term additions of 2 part additives without regular water changes, or due to the addition of too much calcium in relatioin to the amount of alk added. There are other problems, but the usual cure is to do a few massive water changes to reestablish the proportionality and correct your salinity, and to add buffers like plain ole Baking soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) if your pH is above the 8.1 to 8.2 level. a rule of thumb is To raise 50 gallons of tank water by 1 meq/L will require about 16 grams of sodium bicarbonate. A level teaspoonful of baking soda weighs almost 6 grams, so 2 and one-half ( 2&1/2) teaspoonsful will raise the alkalinity in 50 gallons by 1.0 meq/L . Your apparent paradoxical response to the addition of kent superbuffer (sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate) leads me to be suspect of either your technique or the quality of the salifert kits, check the expiry on the kits, then do a test on some freshly made IO mix after heavy mixing/agitation and adjustment to 35 ppt at 80F. If the results do not match the 2.2 to 2.3 mEq TA for freshly made IO prior to equilibrium with the atmosphere, then I would suspect your testing and not do anything until you get your testing routine down (a common problem in testing with hobbyist's kits). If you testing is on the money, then suspect the imbalance of the conservative elements and or your actual salinity.

What is your salinity, and how are you doing your maintenance for Ca prior to this situation? How do you measure your salinity?
what type of salt do you use?

what type of water do you use to make your top offs with?

All these things will contribute to the type of observations you have reported.

lemmeno, hth
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Yeah, I was kinda hoping Tom would jump in here myself :D

First left me answer his questions. Sp.G. has been maintained at 1.025 measured with a floating-dipstick type hydrometer (admittedly, the weak link here). All water for top-off and water changes is RO/DI checked against a TDS meter. Prior to this situation, Ca maintenance has been done with Kalkwasser (1 level tbsp/Gal of RO/DI water) delivered via a dosing pump set to match evaporative loss, 3.2 liter/day. No other supplements were ever used including any 2-part Ca/Alk supplements. I'm using Kent salt mix.

Based on the above and what Tom said, I think the first thing to do is make sure my dKH testing is not leading me astray. I'll check the expiration date on the Salifert kit and try testing some freshly mixed up IO. If that doesn't check out, well, I do have a fresh Alk. test kit on the way, and I'll see if it'll give me the expected results. Once I get the issue of testing accuracy nailed down, I'll go on to a large water change and see what I get. As mentioned earlier, The Kent mix usually gives a dKH of 8 - 9. Assuming I can get things back into a comfort zone by these methods, I think I'll forget the "superbuffer" stuff and leave well enough alone. A decent refractometer might be a good idea, too.

So, does this sound like a reasonable plan??

Regards,
Bert
 

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I have to jump in here. My tank is a 58 with 70 gallons of total water volume.

I am having problems maintaining proper levels in my tank.

Alk - 6
Cal - 320
PH - 8.66 at end of ligth cycle (8.47 morning)

I have been using B-Ionic - No change in either except the PH increasing.

I tried Kalk and same results.

I have done 15 gallon water changes for the past 3 weeks and no change.

I tried Kent Superbuffer this weekend and got the ALK to 9 and it is dropping back a little each day. But the Calcium is still at 320.

Another note is that I think this started when I switched salts 4 months ago from Coralife to IO. Not sure if it is relevant or not.

Any ideas? I dont want the PH to go any higher.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Update!!

Well, it isn't the Salifert test kit. I went over the packaging from stem to stern and could not find an expir. date, so I went ahead and ran a test against a fresh batch of IO as Tom suggested. It came out right on the money (2.28 mEq/L). Just for laughs, I did the same with the new Alk kit that came today with the Mg kit, and got the exact same result. I mean the number of drops needed to bring the titration to endpoint only differed by 2 drops between the 2 tests.

Also the Salifert Mg test put the kibosh on my low Mg "theory" Mg came out at 1375.

So..... it's back to the drawing board. Water changes 'til the Alk is back up to 8 - 9 (hopefully a bit higher, and after that, I'm not going to try to fix what probably isn't broken. FWIW, I AM going to get a refractometer. Any suggestions as to brand or vendor??

Regards,
Bert
 

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LongShot said:
Yeah, I was kinda hoping Tom would jump in here myself
Heh heh heh!!! Don called me up in the middle of the night and MADE me do it, the kalknazi

"NO MORE KALK FOR YOU!!!"

more relpy info from Bert
Sp.G. has been maintained at 1.025 measured with a floating-dipstick type hydrometer (admittedly, the weak link here). All water for top-off and water changes is RO/DI ... Ca maintenance has been done with Kalkwasser (1 level tbsp/Gal of RO/DI water) delivered via a dosing pump ... 3.2 liter/day. No other supplements ... using Kent salt mix.
... I think the first thing to do is make sure my dKH testing is not leading me astray...

PART DEAUX

Well, it isn't the Salifert test kit. I went over the packaging from stem to stern and could not find an expir. date, so I went ahead and ran a test against a fresh batch of IO as Tom suggested. It came out right on the money (2.28 mEq/L)...Also the Salifert Mg test put the kibosh on my low Mg "theory" Mg came out at 1375.
...Water changes 'til the Alk is back up to 8 - 9
Well, the Mg thingy was my next suggestion, but that is obviously not a problem. I have though alot about this particular post, as I am not certain I can give you a good response on why this has happened. Calcium leaves the water column either by precipitatiion biologically during skeletalizatioin/calcificatiion as a byproduct of photosynthesis in the corals (qnd clams snails, etc. making shells,tests, etc) or chemically as is the case of Calcium buildup on sump fixtures, heaters, pumps, etc. under certain circumstances, calcium carbonate's concentration in the water column exceed both the normal limits and the supersaturation limits afforded by the presence of Magnesium, and you have a "snow" of insoluble CaCO3. When this happens, each 20ppm of the calcium ion precipitated will remove 1 mEq in alkalinity with it, so it is obvious that a drop of 4 mEq in a tank with a dKh of 12 dropping to 8 will only take 80 ppm of the calcium with it, such that 450 will drop to 375 or so PPM. Although there is a small use by heavy acid base reactions within the tank (sandbeds, decomposition of DOC's), in a healthy system with no obvious problems, this is totally insignificant. I am not sure that this precipitation either as snow or normal calcium usage by the corals is the cause, just grasping at straws, as I normall would see 2 tbsp of Kalk per US gal of topoff, but that is sort of cheap insurance to make sure that the solution is saturated.

Although alkalinity in the ocean has a large portion of borate(around 6 to 8%), phosphate, silicate, etc; alkalinity for our purposes here is comprised of bicarbonate and carbonate almost exclusively. The vast majority of alkalinity depletion in most tanks occurs as a result of skeletalization and calcification by the inhabitants of our systems, and follows the 20 PPM Ca utilization per mEq alkalinity formula. Obviously the use of alk and calcium are directly tied to each other, and if they are replaced in these proportions, their supplementation in a closed system is quite simple; it is when we use large quantities of one part or the other to try and correct imbalances that the numbers get tricky. The use of Kalkwasser (or for that matter a CO2-driven Calcium reactor) supplies these missing substances in a balanced manner, such that the discrepancy between the calcium and the alk is not corrected, just moved to a higher level. If done to a great enough extent, the ca and alk will precipitate out as insoluble CaCO3 (in equimolar proportions) and the levels of these substances will return to the previous status quo: the only way to correct the low alk is to gradually add alkalinity ONLY and test about and hour and again at 24 hours after the addition to see where the levels are for BOTH CALCIUM AND ALKALINITY. If we slowly bring these two components back into parity, they may be maintained at that level by the addition of limewater (my personal preference) or a CO2 driven Calcium reactor. The important thing is to get the two substances back into balance.

I can't say that I have a good explaination for how your tank got where it is, could have been any number of events that allowed for an excess of Calcium ions to be present in the water (the reason I asked about your top off water, as really hard water will do this to reef parameters when used as top off). A few REALLY off the wall possibilities, but I just think that they would be most unlikely...("Look, there's Hailey's comet!!!" :p )

Water changes will definitely be a good place to start, maybe even to the point that you need to do a few large (>40%) changes, but I am still of the opinion that if the creatures in the tank look good, especially if they still do after a single large water change, then test for both Ca and Alk and adjust your parameters until you are at least in the 380 to 450 PPM range for Ca and 2.5 to 4 mEq alk (7 to 11 dKh range), then swith over to one of the balanced methods of supplementation.

One more thing, I notice that you dose your kalk from a reservoir, is it a kalk reactor or an open reservoir? if open, how long has the kalk solution been mixed, and how well is your house ventilated? (thinking CO2 accumulation in a "tight" house with AC, especially if the reservoir is open). This would account for the high Ca and low alk...

hth, I wish I had a better, more obvious answer for you, make me happy and test your IO batch for Ca with your test kit as well and post your results.

ok...so I am looking for the less than likely...
 

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Rob_Reef_Keeper said:
...problems maintaining proper levels in my tank.

Alk - 6
Cal - 320
PH - 8.66 at end of ligth cycle (8.47 morning)
  • I have been using B-Ionic - No change in either except the PH increasing ...
  • I tried Kalk and same results ...
  • I have done 15 gallon water changes for the past 3 weeks and no change.
  • I tried Kent Superbuffer this weekend and got the ALK to 9 and it is dropping back a little each day. But the Calcium is still at 320 (ppm)
Heh! This one is a lot easier to fix!

See the above post for info on the balanced use of calcium and alkalinity, as it applies to this post as well. Adding superbuffer only increases the carbonate/bicarbonate portion of the calcification formula, you must add Calcium as Ca chloride as well to balance your additions. To solve your problem you need to increase the amounts of both calcium and alkalinity that you add to the system, either with more kalkwasser by increasing the evaporative rate for your system (put a pair of fans over the sump, THAT will jump start your Ca and Alk levels by increasing the amount of kalk you can add), or add a CO2-driven Ca reactor if you have a large population of hermatypic corals.

You will find that the older formulation of B-Ionic has a larger portion of Na2CO3 (washing soda) than the newer formulations do. The pKa of Socium Carbonate is such that it ionizes quite readily and becomes a vacuous proton acceptor, end result is that aqueous solutions of this substance result in pH's of 12.3 to 12.5. It requires the presence of sodium bicarbonate to keep the pH rise to a min, but even then, it may still rise to a transient high of 8.9 or more, usually dropping to 8.7 or 8.6 within 15 minutes of addition of the "A" part. The pH will drop such that within an hour or two the pH will be WNL, no longer a problem.

As always, if you are using a pH meter, have you cleaned and recalibrated your probe recently?

hth, lemmeno how your critters look.
 

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tdwyatt said:
Heh heh heh!!! Don called me up in the middle of the night and MADE me do it, the kalknazi

"NO MORE KALK FOR YOU!!!"

Hey now wait a minute, don't take my fix, I won't be able to feed the fish because of the withdrawals... :funny:

Like you had anything better to do, at 1 am, than help out a fellow TRTer??? :p

Besides, what are MOM's for... :D
 

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The corals look ok.

No real growth or coraline bloom in the past 4 months either . (Calcium problem I presume).

I got a wesophelia, sinularia (getting rid of soon) frogspawns and a few SPS frags in there. Pplans are for SPS and Clams int the future once everything is in check for a while.

On a CA reactor, how hard is it to get one tuned in and setup. I have never seen one up close and have no idea. I am tempted to get one but not sure which one and how to use one.

I have been dripping Kalk about a 3/4 gallon a day. I added super buffer and brought the Alk to 9 dkh now.
 

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Rob

I recently set up a CA reactor on my new 180 (I known, I don't really need it yet but I'm a gadgit freak and plan to have lots of SPS's).

It looks a little intimidating at first but set up is really not that bad. Once it is hooked up to the CO2 you set your bubble counter rate and drip rate and start testing. You check your effluent for PH, to low and the arganite does not disolve enough - to high and it may disolve to fast which among other things may clogg up the reactor. Generaly, after at leat 24 hrs, you can test for Calcium and Alk. Most people recommend that after any adjustment to bubble count or drip rate you wait 24 hrs before testing. After about one week my calcium and Alk were through the roof over 500 and 16 dkh, so I turned down both bubble count and effluent drip rate.

Once you get your levels where you want, it's pretty much forget about it untill you need to add more media which could be six months depending on your reactor size. Tom has written some great stuff on this subject.

Ron
 

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Rob_Reef_Keeper said:
The corals look ok... ...No real growth or coraline bloom in the past 4 months either... ...I have been dripping Kalk about a 3/4 gallon a day. I added super buffer and brought the Alk to 9 dkh now.
To me it sounds like things are doing well, you just need to add Calcium while adding the superbuffer to get your calcium up into the range you desire. You can determine exactly how much calcium chloride to add to get you up to your desired target using Andy's (Hipkiss) calcium calculator.

The issue with the pH is still a measurement issue in my opinion, as the corals look good and this error is unfortunately quite common. Measure both your alk and Ca DAILY while using the separate additives (superbuffer for pH and CaCl2 for Calcium) and clean your probe (directions at this TRT link). Once you reach your target values, go back to using kalkwasser for all your top off. If you are not getting enough Ca and alk over time, then put some fans on the sump to increase your evaporation rate. If you still have a problem or you can't use fans, there is a protocol for using vinegar to drop the initial acidity of the kalk additives solution (which will increase the solubility of Ca(OH)2, but may sacrifice some alkalinity in the mean time), not my preferred method, but it will work in situations where you really need a lot of Ca for a large population of hermatypic organisms. As always, this all assumes that you are doing regular water changes and that your conservatives are in proportion (Mg in particular) and your salinity is at 35 PPT.

As far as Don goes, heh, that IS his job, as well as polishing the Yugo this month... :D I heard something about a few after-market specialtists in Columbus replacing the squirrels with the motor out of the 4X4...
:bigeek: :bigeek: :bigeek:
 

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Whats a good calcium supplement?

I mean something to get the calcium up to 400-450 then I can hopefully maintain it with Kalk.
 

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Rob_Reef_Keeper said:
Whats a good calcium supplement?
I usually don't recommend any particular brand on this, as a good generic USP or food grade Calcium chloride will do fine. I am sure that something like the Kent TurboCalcium would be fine, seachem makes a calcium only supplement as well. Several Internet sites sell USP or analytical grade (MUCH more expensive) calcium chloride, might be able to pick it up at an independant pharmacy as well. I am a little hesitant to recommend the stuff you can get at feed and seed stores, as I don't know to what extent there are contaminants or potential adverse additives are in these products.

hth
 

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Thanks, thats understandable.

I'll check it out.
 

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Hi Tom
I dose with ESV B-Ionic My tank is a 125 gallon
and i use Seachem test kits
Ph 8.3 just did it the lights have been on since 600 morning
Ca 400 ppm
alk 2.5 meq/l
SG 1.026
and i use Coralife salt
and use a 60 Hi S kent RO
and Charles just checked it on his TDS meter and it was 2
and my tap water was 50..........
I dose with the 1 and 2 in the morning in my sump and that is the only thing im using and i have just done a water change of about 18 gallons, day before yesterday...........i have great Corlaine algae...........but boyyyyyyy do i have a lot of bubble algae.......started having just a little bit of cryno but blew it off.....
but have had a couple of fish die the last week........Had a Lawnmower blemmy and a Sohol die on me .........The question is is this normal for a Alk i have tried to use buffers but it doesn do anything.......I have a mixed tank clams sps Lps zoos Brain corals
2 shrimp........what am i doing wrong............
 
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