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Maintaining Good Water Quality

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I have read countless threads on discussion forums asking for assistance with water quality issues. Considering how many forums are available to hobbyists everywhere, it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine that hundreds of queries are posted on a daily basis just in the United States. With the availability of search engines, the information is readily available having been answered time and time again. Why is it so hard to master this particular area of our hobby? Are our personal circumstances so uniquely different from everyone else’s?


Getting Nitrates Under Control

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The good news is... They Can Be Beaten Down Into Submission. 

Nitrates are a part of nature in the ocean, and correspondingly in our tanks. As waste breaks down in your aquarium, it cycles from ammonia to nitrite to nitrates. The first two are highly toxic to marine life, and we make it a point to make sure our tanks test zero for these. However, nitrates aren’t as bad, and sometimes are even a little beneficial.


Don't chase the pH

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A question that has been popping up a lot recently has been in regards to pH levels.  Articles, books and even additives list recommended pH levels so it is only natural to be concerned if our tank isn't sitting at that particular number.  pH rises in oxygen rich environments, and where O2 is lacking or excessive CO2 builds up, pH will drop.  In addition, pH rises daily during the lighting period, and drops during the night.  Here's a graph from the past week's data stored in my Apex controller. Note how it rises and falls consistently day after day.


How to cycle an aquarium

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Decades ago, hobbyists would cycle their new tank with a sacrificial fish, like a blue damsel. While this method may still be used by some, it's not a good plan for two reasons: 1) as the ammonia rises in the water, the fish's gills are burned by the rising ammonia levels which is unkind, and 2) most people don't want the damsel in their aquarium later because it's deemed too aggressive to other livestock.  


Previous Water Parameters

When keeping an aquarium, the best husbandry requires owning and using test kits to measure water parameters.  Most kits have enough tests to last a full year, and using these kits frequently assures happy livestock.  If a kit has 50 tests, that's an indicator it should be used weekly.  I'd recommend that kits be replaced annually.  Mark the date on the box when you purchase it and open it for the first time to avoid relying on a dated kit.  Older reagents may lead to false readings. Please read my full article here:


Dosing Vodka: Why?

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For the past few years, I've been aware that some people were dosing their tanks with Vodka. Yes, the stuff that people drink from the liquor store. When I was at MACNA one year, the famous David Saxby was in attendance. He was in the beautiful Deltec booth, telling me that my nitrate and phosphate issues would be resolved if I were to use lots of RowaPHOS in a big Deltec reactor, and my tank would do even better if I dosed vodka. David's gorgeous tank can be found on the web, packed full of fish that every reef keeper dreams to emulate. So... vodka, huh?


Various Chemicals Solutions

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Caring for our aquariums, we often run into any number of problems that may be resolved with time and water changes, but at times it may require a chemical solution instead. This webpage is designed to show you some of the products that I have used in the past 8 years, and what types of results I obtained, if any at all. Remember, what you choose to dose in your tank may produce negative results and thus it may be best to remain patient and not dose a particular product.

There usually are no quick solutions: Nothing good ever happens fast in a reef tank.

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