Achieving true alkalinity stability

recci

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Alkalinity is without a doubt the single most important parameter in reef keeping.

The more stable your alkalinity becomes the greater the chance of seeing faster, consistent coral growth and improved colouration. This is especially true with SPS corals and in particular Acropora.

Many reefers seem to think that if you measure the alkalinity of your tank at a set time every day or even every few days and there is not a significant change in the reading then your alkalinity is stable. But this is anything but the case. Corals consume alkalinity 24 hours a day but the rate of consumption changes significantly throughout the day with the highest consumption rate happening during your tank’s photoperiod. After the lights are turned off, the corals continue consuming alkalinity, but at a lesser rate. This leads to an inevitable daily swing in alkalinity that standard dosing pumps and calcium reactors simply cannot measure or adjust for.

This might be acceptable to many reefers and will allow the keeping of most LPS and many SPS corals but when it comes to highly sensitive SPS like many Acropora it is not good enough and leads to inconsistent growth and poor colouration.

In my case, this alkalinity swing can be as much a 0.6 dkh a day which is simply not good enough for some of the corals I am trying to grow. Running my calcium reactor at a steady rate 24 hours a day leads to it steadily rising for 12 hours then steadily dropping for 12 hours.

The rate of alkalinity consumption is a ratio of about 1:2 so you want to dose around 66% of your daily requirement when the lights are on.

The tighter we can keep this daily alkalinity swing the greater the chance of seeing fast, consistent coral growth and good colouration. I believe most of the really successful Acropora keepers are fully aware of this and must take action to mitigate this problem. This leads me to believe that devices such as the KH Keeper, KH guardian and Alkatronic may actually be worth the money. But I know many reefers have been successful without these devices and before such devices were even on the market.

So if you are a long term successful Acropora keeper what are your thoughts on this?

Am I overthinking things or is this right on the money?
 
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homer1475

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I honestly have only ever seen, and heard anecdotal evidence that keeping your ALK that much of a straight line increases growth and/or color.

I have a daily swing of about .4DKH and all my LPS, SPS, and softies color up and grow just fine. Could they grow better? Perhaps, but I'm not trying to grow them the fastest I can.

I personally think your overthinking it. We didn't even know these small daily swings existed before the trident, reefbot, etc, etc.

How can you be sure it's small hourly swings and not just test noise? All these automated testing kits also have a margin of error, and the small adjustments your speaking about could just be testing noise.
 
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recci

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I honestly have only ever seen, and heard anecdotal evidence that keeping your ALK that much of a straight line increases growth and/or color.

I have a daily swing of about .4DKH and all my LPS, SPS, and softies color up and grow just fine. Could they grow better? Perhaps, but I'm not trying to grow them the fastest I can.

I personally think your overthinking it. We didn't even know these small daily swings existed before the trident, reefbot, etc, etc.

How can you be sure it's small hourly swings and not just test noise? All these automated testing kits also have a margin of error, and the small adjustments your speaking about could just be testing noise.
I can be sure because there are a lot of guys over on another forum that are seeing consistent daily swings. The higher your daily alk consumption the greater the swing. One guy's tank consumes 5 dkh a day and if he did not compensate for the swing his sps would die overnight.

I believe it might be overthinking it for the average reefer but not if you have a high alkalinity consumption tank. Lots of people seem to want to just stick their head in the sand and ignore this.
 

homer1475

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I can be sure because there are a lot of guys over on another forum that are seeing consistent daily swings. The higher your daily alk consumption the greater the swing. One guys tank consums 5 dkh a day and if he did not compensate for the swing his sps would die over night.

I call complete BS on this one!


Hmm I don't know I often times hear these horror stories of ALK swings of less then 1DKH killing corals. I think their all BS!

My tank with several SPS, LPS, and softies sometimes see's weekly swings of 1.5DKH. I add it all in on shot(BOLUS dosing), and have been doing it this way for years(read at least 5), and have yet to have any SPS die from that swing.

I feel there are other factors at play here other then DKH swings, and the alkalinity swings are an easy target to blame as it's the easiest thing to test for.

Again totally not my experience one bit, and I think most people are overthinking it. What difference does it make to your corals if they have alkalinity available to grow regardless of level(assuming your above 6.5DKH)?

I have also never seen more growth from keeping alkalinity higher then NSW values. I think most people buy into the hype so all these manufacturers of 2 part can sell you guys more 2 part. lol

Your creating a problem that never existed before these automated testers.
 
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dwest

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I agree that the alkalinity daily swings are real. But as we evolve this hobby we define stability as “stability of things we measure”.

Here’s an example:
20 years ago, I used to add alkalinity supplements at night. Why? Because we could keep pH more stable in doing this as pH probes just came into mainstream.

Now, some add alkalinity supplements mainly during the day. Why? Because we can keep alkalinity more stable as automatic alkalinity measurement becomes more mainstream.

Which one is best? IME they both work. The real question might be, is how do we keep the bicarbonate ion more stable?

 
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recci

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I call complete BS on this one!


Hmm I don't know I often times hear these horror stories of ALK swings of less then 1DKH killing corals. I think their all BS!

My tank with several SPS, LPS, and softies sometimes see's weekly swings of 1.5DKH. I add it all in on shot(BOLUS dosing), and have been doing it this way for years(read at least 5), and have yet to have any SPS die from that swing.

I feel there are other factors at play here other then DKH swings, and the alkalinity swings are an easy target to blame as it's the easiest thing to test for.

Again totally not my experience one bit, and I think most people are overthinking it. What difference does it make to your corals if they have alkalinity available to grow regardless of level(assuming your above 6.5DKH)?

I have also never seen more growth from keeping alkalinity higher then NSW values. I think most people buy into the hype so all these manufacturers of 2 part can sell you guys more 2 part. lol

Your creating a problem that never existed before these automated testers.
You obviously have never tried to keep really sensitive Acropora. I have had them growing and fine and doing well, never check my alk for a couple of days. Noticed things were starting to stn, check my alk and it had dropped 1 dkh. Call BS all you like but many people will disagree with you on that.
 

homer1475

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Again not my experience one bit and I do have some sensitive acros. Define sensitive, because corals are just corals in my eyes. one is not more difficult to keep then another assuming your parameters are in range.

I believe after 20+ years in this hobby, that alkalinity swings are an easy target to blame when other things are the actual problem. Only people you see blaming small alkalinity swings as the reason for RTN/STN are usually people new to the hobby. Major swings, sure I can agree with you. But small swings like 1DKH and less does not cause issues, anyone that tells you it does, already had suffering corals and the small swing pushed them over the edge.

Disagree with my statements all you want, but I can only tell you what my experiences are. I don't parrot information just to make myself seem smart like quite a few people on forums do.
 
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recci

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Again not my experience one bit and I do have some sensitive acros. Define sensitive, because corals are just corals in my eyes. one is not more difficult to keep then another assuming your parameters are in range.

I believe after 20+ years in this hobby, that alkalinity swings are an easy target to blame when other things are the actual problem. Only people you see blaming small alkalinity swings as the reason for RTN/STN are usually people new to the hobby. Major swings, sure I can agree with you. But small swings like 1DKH and less does not cause issues, anyone that tells you it does, already had suffering corals and the small swing pushed them over the edge.

Disagree with my statements all you want, but I can only tell you what my experiences are. I don't parrot information just to make myself seem smart like quite a few people on forums do.
My personal experience has been that most sps can handle a 1 or 2 dkh swing with no issues but not Acropora (apart from green slimmer). Some of them don't die but they stop growing for months or lose colour. Others can start to stn with as little as a 1 dkh swing in the space of a day. One example of mine was ultimate blue staghorn, every time i had an alk blip I could see it decline, then come back. Eventually, it died altogether because I had drop down to 6.5dkh while I was away.
 

homer1475

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My personal experience has been that most sps can handle a 1 or 2 dkh swing with no issues but not Acropora (apart from green slimmer). Some of them don't die but they stop growing for months or lose colour. Others can start to stn with as little as a 1 dkh swing in the space of a day. One example of mine was ultimate blue staghorn, every time i had an alk blip I could see it decline, then come back. Eventually, it died altogether because I had drop down to 6.5dkh while I was away.
I would agree with you 100% on this.
 

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Watching with interest, I recently added a calcium reactor and have noticed a significant growth and polyp extension with all my SPS coral. I have been hovering around 9.0 to 9.8 and haven't noticed any stressful indications of any sort. I have taken readings several times a day and have a slight increase or decrease but I attribute some of it to the fact I'm using a salifert test kit and it involves a lot of small variants on my part. Do I get exactly the same measurements on each test, probably not.
 
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recci

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Watching with interest, I recently added a calcium reactor and have noticed a significant growth and polyp extension with all my SPS coral. I have been hovering around 9.0 to 9.8 and haven't noticed any stressful indications of any sort. I have taken readings several times a day and have a slight increase or decrease but I attribute some of it to the fact I'm using a salifert test kit and it involves a lot of small variants on my part. Do I get exactly the same measurements on each test, probably not.
The reason I started this thread is that like you, I recently switched to a calcium reactor and tuned it to run 24 hours a day. But I have been seeing stress indicators in 3 or 4 Acropora and done some investigation and found that my alk is swinging up to 0.6dkh a day. I believe this is pushing the upper level of what will be successful long term with certain Acros, others might disagree. I have attempted to combat this by putting my calcium reactor on a timer during the night so it switched the effluent flow on and off several times. But there are so many variables involved in alkalinity consumption that I don't think it's possible to do it well enough to flatten the swing down to say 0.2dkh without an automated alkalinity monitoring system.

I use a Hanna checker for alk and a graded cylinder to get the exact amount of water to test every time.
 

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I call complete BS on this one!


Hmm I don't know I often times hear these horror stories of ALK swings of less then 1DKH killing corals. I think their all BS!

My tank with several SPS, LPS, and softies sometimes see's weekly swings of 1.5DKH. I add it all in on shot(BOLUS dosing), and have been doing it this way for years(read at least 5), and have yet to have any SPS die from that swing.

I feel there are other factors at play here other then DKH swings, and the alkalinity swings are an easy target to blame as it's the easiest thing to test for.

Again totally not my experience one bit, and I think most people are overthinking it. What difference does it make to your corals if they have alkalinity available to grow regardless of level(assuming your above 6.5DKH)?

I have also never seen more growth from keeping alkalinity higher then NSW values. I think most people buy into the hype so all these manufacturers of 2 part can sell you guys more 2 part. lol

Your creating a problem that never existed before these automated testers.
I agree, I had alkalinity go to 20dkh and it wasn't even hard on my corals... The phosphate is what I battle the most.
 

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blasterman

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I've plotted alk daily for years and over 90% of it's consumption happens between my lights popping on and off.

Those of us with long term successful SPS growth have it figured out. I think our efforts are better spent debunking the commercial 2part industry and saving the the guy with half a dozen tiny frags in a 125gal tank a lot of wasted effort
 
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I'm still waiting for the definitive experiment to say whether the rise in alk consumption during the day vs night is a pH effect, a direct light effect, or some combination of the two.

I'd love to see a pH cycle that was reverse to the light cycle to answer this. :)
 
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recci

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I've plotted alk daily for years and over 90% of it's consumption happens between my lights popping on and off.

Those of us with long term successful SPS growth have it figured out. I think our efforts are better spent debunking the commercial 2part industry and saving the the guy with half a dozen tiny frags in a 125gal tank a lot of wasted effort
So are you saying that I am correct in my assumptions? How do you even out the daily swings in your tank?
 
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recci

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I have managed to get the alk swing down to 0.1/0.2 dkh by putting the calcium reactor peri-pump on a simple timer switch that switches it on and off several times throughout the dark period. Also helps with PH.
 

PICK the Most Tested & Least Tested Parameters of your Tank (Pick 2)

  • Calcium (most)

    Votes: 36 6.1%
  • Alkalinity (most)

    Votes: 416 70.7%
  • Magnesium (most)

    Votes: 5 0.9%
  • Phosphate (most)

    Votes: 45 7.7%
  • PH (most)

    Votes: 61 10.4%
  • Nitrate (most)

    Votes: 53 9.0%
  • Nitrite (most)

    Votes: 3 0.5%
  • Ammonia (most)

    Votes: 13 2.2%
  • (least) Calcium

    Votes: 8 1.4%
  • (least) Alkalinity

    Votes: 4 0.7%
  • (least) Magnesium

    Votes: 48 8.2%
  • (least) Phosphate

    Votes: 8 1.4%
  • (least) PH

    Votes: 28 4.8%
  • (least) Nitrate

    Votes: 11 1.9%
  • (least) Nitrite

    Votes: 172 29.3%
  • (least) Ammonia

    Votes: 235 40.0%
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