Articles from Randy Holmes-Farley

  1. Refractometers And Salinity Measurement

    Salinity is one of the most important parameters measured in reef aquaria. It controls not only the salt balance between an organism and its surrounding environment, but also the levels of a host of ions in seawater that aquarists neither measure nor control independently. Consequently, aquarists must monitor salinity to ensure that organisms are not stressed by moving between aquaria of potentially different salinity, and that the salinity of the aquarium itself is controlled within ranges...
  2. pH And The Reef Aquarium

    For many aquarists, pH is not something that they have much experience with aside from their aquarium. For many, pH is almost a black box measurement: something to be considered, but whose physical meaning makes little sense to them. This article will describe pH in an intuitive way (as opposed to a more rigorous, mathematical way that I have used in previous articles). While plenty of chemical mathematics can be used to determine some of the interrelationships between various water...
  3. What is Alkalinity?

    Most reefkeepers know they need to measure alkalinity, and most know it has something to do with carbonate. But what is alkalinity exactly? Why is it important? How is it measured? This article will answer those questions and give you all of the information that you need to fully understand one of the most important chemical parameters in our reef aquaria.

    Along with calcium, many corals also use “alkalinity” to form their skeletons, which are composed primarily of calcium carbonate. It is...
  4. Phosphate in the Reef Aquarium

    The phosphorus atom is one of living matter’s basic building blocks. It is present in every living creature and in the water of every reef aquarium. Unfortunately, it is often present in excess in reef aquaria and that excess has the potential to cause at least two substantial problems for reefkeepers. The first is that phosphate is often a limiting nutrient for algae growth, so when elevated it can permit excessive growth of undesirable algae (potentially including the zooxanthellae inside...
  5. Nitrate in the Reef Aquarium

    Introduction

    Nitrate is an ion that has long dogged aquarists. It is typically formed in aquaria through the digestion of foods, and in many aquaria it builds up and can be difficult to keep at natural levels. In the past, many aquarists performed water changes with nitrate reduction as one of the primary goals. Fortunately, we now have a wide array of ways to keep nitrate in check, and modern aquaria suffer far less from elevated nitrate than they have in the past. In some case, aquarists...
  6. The Many Methods for Supplementing Calcium and Alkalinity

    There is no aspect of reef aquarium chemistry more important than calcium and alkalinity. Many of my previous articles have described various aspects of these systems in detail. In reading those articles, aquarists will note one pervasive theme: that maintaining appropriate levels of each are very important.

    Moreover, the easiest way to ensure that things do not go seriously wrong in adding these to the aquarium is to use additives that have balanced amounts of calcium and alkalinity. For...
  7. A DIY Alkalinity Test

    Alkalinity is one of the most important measurements that a reef aquarist can make. It can become rapidly depleted in many aquaria, requiring frequent measurement in order to maintain stable levels.

    While hobby test kits for alkalinity can be simple to use, some aquarists find them either tedious to perform, expensive, or of questionable accuracy. This article details how one can perform DIY alkalinity tests that do not involve visualizing color changes, should be appropriately accurate,...
  8. My Triton Testing Results

    There are many different ions in seawater, and as reef aquarists we generally only test for a small number of these. Calcium, magnesium, “alkalinity”, nitrate, phosphate, and ammonia, for example, are relatively easy for hobbyists to test at home using kits. Other ions, however, are more difficult to evaluate because they are present at such low concentrations or are otherwise difficult to detect. Even if there was a suitable kit for every ion in seawater, buying several dozen kits would...
  9. Optimal Parameters for a Coral Reef Aquarium: By Randy Holmes-Farley

    Optimal Parameters for a Coral Reef Aquarium

    One of the main roles of an aquarist with a coral reef aquarium is to ensure that the conditions are right for their tank inhabitants. There are many different attributes of the aquarium that need to be controlled, including lighting, water flow, temperature, and the concentrations of the many chemicals in the water. This article focuses on water chemistry issues, showing my recommendations for the most important of the various chemical...
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