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Reefkeeping made easy- what was not explained.

899510 Views 1783 Replies 195 Participants Last post by  hackshobby
here are a few threads that were started in another forum about what is going on in our system. hopefully some of you all will read the information here and start to get a handle on what makes our systems work or not work. I know this may require some reading and those on the internet are allergic to reading threads that are not theirs, but give this thread a go. I am hoping that it will answer most of the questions you may have about reefkeeping. these first three posts may be a bit disjointed. as they came from the other thread. I will try and edit them so that they flow a bit better and lead into each other better.

the biggest things we will be discussing in this thread are the biological process that are going on in our systems. these biological process are what most of the false information that is out there is about. this includes reef forums and LFS. The two main elemental processes we will be discussing are the Nitrogen and Phosphate cycles that are occurring in our systems. these two elements lead to the greatest confusion about what is going on in our little slices of ocean.

There will be a lot of information in this thread. I will be linking to other threads with even more reading and papers on the subject at hand for even further reading. This hobby is easy if you understand what is going on, if you do not care to understand what is going on and listen to a lot of false information out there, then this hobby can be very frustrating and lots of wasted money.
I would anybody to ask questions if they need clarifications. I will try and keep things as short as possible to keep the reading down to a minimum, but some of this stuff is fairly long winded in general.



A sort of Table of Contents for the thread. please feel free to PM any subjects or pages i should add to the contents.

Introduction: Page 1
Nitrogen cycle: Pages 1-2, 22
Phosphates: Page 3, 31
Sources of Phosphates: Page 3
Phosphate Cycle Graphics: Page 35
Early Tank Processes: Page 30
Problems with Sand: Page 4, 19
Sandbed Cleaning:page 7
DSB's: Page 9
BB Alternatives: Page 25
About LR: Page 8
LR Purging: Page 19, 26
Cured LR: Page 23
Tank Flow: Page 7
Light: Pages 13-15
Kalkwasser: Page 12, 17
Feeding: Pages 17-19
Zoax: Pages 15-17
Carbon Dosing: Pages 24-25
Tank Self Feeding: Page 27
Conservation of Matter: Page 28
Beer!: Pages 6-7
Bad Experts: Page 19
Definitions according to Spanky: Page 21
My Reference Links: Page 37
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Great idea for a thread, I am following along. Awesome!
I am all for simple! 2/3 pounds of LR per gallon (most artificial).The skimmer, as hobbyist apply it, is not natural but waves do push organic foam into marsh areas to be buried or utilized (close enough?). I am willing to be that terrestrial sources are providing more organics than what waves can remove via skimming. Still aquariums are not replicating nature, we are tying to replicate conditions found in nature... and often it takes very unnatural means. Still the Ga Aquarium is dumbing down their talk about filtration for a more "common" audience and it is tough finding a good credible source for this still... I wonder if they use "purple up" :lol:
Well, I am a bit confused, Ntvper. You are right about the N2 aspect of the nitrogen cycle is the "weak link" within the tank's cycle. Aquarist add more through feeding than the physical size of the aquarium can process. The tank can not operate as a closed system. I am confused about N not bond with O... that is NOx sometimes as nitrate (NO3). Now it just does not bond with O for no reason, but there is something not right about the right about some part of the statement (or said awkwardly). Also, I do not think the main concern with the N2 is being release via the water surface, I think it is the issue with not enough NO3 conversion to N2
But here is the "Question"... are we trying to use the anoxic layer in tanks as the main/supplementary means of nitrate removal. There are other drawbacks/risks to using this compared to other methods. Also substrate particle size will affect ability for O2 to penetrate.

Ntvper: Not using the term "anoxic" is what messed with me, I thought the process was stated to be was in the water column...:lol:
if you are running a low poo holding system, then at two lbs per gallon is way more LR then you need. i think i was less than 1 lb per gallon on my 125g system and it was just fine. we actually need a lot less LR than we were led to believe. i believe it came about during the wet/dry days in the early 90's. when people were worried about nitrates and not realizing the nitrates were actually coming from the wet/dry filters. so they were thinking just add more LR, which can help, but it is just easier to get rid of the wet/dry. of course this is when we are talking reef systems. you may need a wet/dry if you are running a heavily stocked FO system.

I agree

I find that even a little bit of rock (a few pounds) is capable of maintaining enough bacteria space to maintain a large tank. I hate the 1-2lb per gallon rule. I have had a 65g for years with only 44lb... and now I have a 120g with about 65lb... that makes about 0.54lb per gallon for the display. I rather have high flow than high rock density. I have some rubble in my sump (around the return pump so it can easily suck up some pods from time to time) but that is only about 5lb in a 40g sump. I had about 10lb in a 75g frag system (one wrasse was the bioload). Still, hardly no rock and it was fine. The trick is that many folks forget that bacteria will grow on anything. There is a lot of surface space on tank walls, overflows, inside piping, on pumps, and so on for bacteria to use. Rock is purely aesthetic in my opinion. While LR may have other "benefits" such as pods, some (not significant) denitrifing ability, some (again, not significant) buffering ability but all these benefits are widely overclaimed. I have had man-made rock for years and it is as "alive" as any on its natural counterparts also in my tank. Real, ocean-removed rock should be used for seeding artificial rock, not building tanks to the brim... that last part is just my opinion.

Now, that being said, I like bioballs as a great product for FO systems. Why? Because with many FO systems, there are large introductions of food and that food it going to be processed quickly. I do would not want the bacteria to be slow at ramping up to meet the "sway" in the load from frequent or infrequent large feedings. I would still have the bioballs after the skimmer, but that is just me. Bioballs work well for LFS systems where there is the periodically large influx of fish followed by a slower deduction of the bioload. Bioballs are actually fairly easy to rinse so detritus can be removed (but use a filter pad before and this should not be an issue).
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I am liking the idea/execution of placing non-photosynthesis corals in the detritus collecting area of the sump. I have seen this and copied it and it is nice to have the gorgonians and tubaestra in the sump collecting stuff. Not 100% effective but the organism like it.
As far as vodka dosing, there is a really good explanation in a previous issue of Coral Magazine... they called it "probiotics". Also, the advancedaquarist has a good write up on the execution of it. I have vodka dosed for years and the other benefit besides reduced NO3 and PO4 is that there is more "stuff" in the water. The microorganism (bacteria) seems to make the tank healthier because (and this is my personal theory) SPS are feeding on this floating stuff. My theory... its not scientific (although I would prefer to take that argument but) that is my guessing since I see SPS polyps "happier" during vodka fueled time periods.
For as long as folks don't mind me going on a vodka tangent... "hiccup"

if you plan to be going out of town for days, I would look into the bio-pellets or bio-pearls... it is a carbon based pellet that you run in a reactor and it produces similar results as vodka but you do not have to does it every day. However, I do have to travel and my method was to have premeasured vials pre-made for my wife so you can just pull the stopper and pour it in when she fed (once daily). This worked well... although the last time I think I over calculated and when I came home I was closer to a bloom event than I would like. Still, missing a few days is not terrible, but I would not recommend it. When vodka is missed for 2-4 days, the algae on the glass will pop up in force. If the tank is nutrient heavy, then you will see hair algae/bryopsis/ or other unwanted algae re-appear if it was there before vodka commenced. The only thing that I have not seen pop back up after pausing vodka was cyano... this might be due to the fact I have a lot of flow in my tank.

I am seriously considering trying bio-pellets myself, but I kinda like the daily vodka treatment.
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Ok, I found the sources I normally point to:

CORAL Magazine
Volume 7 Number 5
September/October 2010

* Probiotics Demystified
* Keeping Pygmy Gobies
* Restoring Dying Reefs


Vodka Dosing by Walton and Bjornson

I think the Coral Issue is one of the best write-ups I have seen. For "Vodka Dosing" this is the approach I settled on after 'wandering' in the carbon dosing forest for years.
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No, the biggest pro is NO3 and PO4 reducton... and the ability to really push to an ultra-low nutrient system. My "feeding" the corals is more of a hypothesis that I have not tested. Carbon dosing does not cause a high nutrient system, it addresses the theory that the aquarium is carbon-limited. By increasing carbon, bacteria can compete, really out compete, algae for bio-available nitrogen and phosphorus. Then this bacteria can be skimmed out. My "feeding" theory that the corals ingest some of this bacterial biomass (or biomass that feeds on the bacteria) thus resulting is increased health and even color. Vodka can be used to make a controlled system change (for the good I hope) and it is not (IMO) for "fixing" nutrient issue from overfeeding or overstocking. Yes, there are other methodological means of getting to a low nutrient system, but I find carbon to be cheap, easy (once someone has the knowledge base), and very effective. For SPS systems, I can get vastly different colors when dosing... and IMO it is much better colors. I go from a very low nutrient system to a ultra low nutrient system that might not be attainable by other means. I have always wanted to try carbon in a FO system, but never have gotten the owner to agree.

As I have said, I do not view carbon dosing as a fix for high nutrients.... it is more of a method to achieve an ultra low nutrient system when other methods have already been employed to minimize nutrients. Vodka should be used when the test kits are reading no/trace NO3 and/or PO4... not when the PO4 is 5 or the NO3 is 50. If the nutrients are too high to begin with, I feel like the chance to cause a bacteria bloom (tank crash) is much greater because I want the P and N to be the limiting factor, not the C
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I disagree that it is a band-aid. It's a supplement to our skimmers, allowing faster and quicker removal of waste and allowing us to feed the *tank* more food. Skimmers are great, but if their efficiency can be heightened, why not?
Definitely, I agree that it is a skimmer steroids. If it is properly used, vodka is a great method for tank health for some tanks. A lot of methods can be band-aids to hide/address other issues (waterchanges even), but combined with other husbandry techniques it is useful.

O2 depletion is the risk with any thing that encourages bacteria growth. That is why a high capacity skimmer is a must. Skimmers not only remove the bacteria but it also oxygenates/aerates too. Very small amount of vodka are needed... often dosed in 0.1mL increments and ramped up slowly. Tanks with moderate to deeper sand bed often find anoxic conditions just below the surface to bare-bottom tanks are often better suited. In addition, those with healthy algal refugiums also might not want to try vodka. Carbon dosing wipes out unwanted and desirable algae so chaeto balls often dissolve (releasing their stored nutrients). I have tried keeping a fuge with limited vodka, but it does not work well. So, to dose vodka, there is a lot of "leg-work" and is not as simple as pouring the liquor cabinet into the tank
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Wow, I remember all of that... that was when I was just getting into the hobby "full time" and when I wanted to read "everything".
still. no need to threaten people for informing
Nerd are always quick to come to blows... you would be amazed how uncivilized academia can be. Hobbies are worse
it was not this one was it? No, but it is listed in the cited material
that was the only one I am aware of thaat sounds like it... but maybe it is not.. but it might have it in there
yep, that is the one I found... good minds think alike :lol:
what about low nutrient + high light...?
a waste of power? :dance:
I though dual 400w MH over a 65g wasn't enough! :lol:

I believe in POWER!!!!!
ruururururururrrruhhhh ... dont worry... I am down to 175w over the 40g now... still thinks it needs more
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