Aquaforest vs BRS 2-part - math on the costs. Aquaforest strength?

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kyley

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Hi All,
So I'd long considered BRS to be the cheapest 2 part, but I did some math and found some surprising conclusions. The reason I was doing this is I wanted to see about dosing trace elements with my 2 part. I'd been looking at Fauna Marin Trace 1, 2, and 3 (which can be added directly to the 2 part). But it appears that Aquaforest can too! So I'm considering switching to Aquaforest 2 part (well, 4 part really) and having a more appropriate mix including trace elements. Anyway, here's my math (using the 7 pound bags of BRS and 5000g buckets of Aquaforest - and standard, not sale, prices):

BRS Ca gallon cost: $4
BRS Alk gallon cost: $4
BRS Mg gallon cost: $17.50
I use about 1 gallon of each every 2 months in my system. I'm not sure on my Mg usage, but I'll guess 1 gallon lasts a year. So my total cost per month is about $5.46.

Aquaforest Alk gallon cost: $2.45
Aquaforest Ca gallon cost: $1.90
Aquaforest Mg gallon cost: $0.38 (when added to Ca jug)
Aquaforest "Reef Mineral Salt" gallon cost: just $0.76!
If (that's a big if) the strength / usage is the same, then my total cost per month is only $2.75. But even if it's half the strength, that's $5.49. So about the same, but with the addition of a method to "maintain ionic balance of aquarium water" and including some trace elements. Here's their writeup on the Reef Mineral Salt (I wasn't too sure about it)... Also, I guess this is technically balling method (?), but it's basically the same idea, right?

Adding Aquaforest's "COMPONENT STRONG A, B, C, K" trace mineral supplements to the mixes is nice and convenient as well (especially since it's all the same brand, vs adding Fauna Marin trace elements to BRS). However, that's where substantial price increases come in. This product, from BRS, is $29 for a kit of four 75 mL bottles. At that price, it's $3.87 per month (again, if their 2 part is the same strength as BRS 2 part) - or $6.61 / month with the 2 part included (which is about the same as using the Fauna Marin with BRS). But, if it's half the potency of BRS, the price together jumps to a lot more ($12.12 all ** vs $6.23 - $7.40 BRS + FM Trace - per month).
(Note, they make 200 mL bottles that would make this a lot cheaper. But for whatever reason, Component K isn't sold in the bigger bottles AND the dosing says different amounts. Confused... I asked Aquaforest about it - we'll see what they say)

Side note, this week I started using Aquaforest's Amino Mix and Energy supplements (like Red Sea Amino / Energy A & B, but a lot cheaper and only takes a few drops so it's easier to dose regularly). I don't know what kind of results I'll get, but I'm pretty impressed with their products and reasonable costs.

I'm curious what others think about the Aquaforest products (without trace elements as well as with). Thanks,
--Kyle
 
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GoVols

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Randy,
Please don't clunk me about which is better... :p

I've seen some reefers use TM part C with BRS two part to help dial in and maintain their cal and alk to even daily doses, which what the 3rd part of full balling is really meant for.

FWIW:
I used Aquaforest Comp 1+ 2+ and 3+ when it first hit the states (with no additional trace element dosing).

In coral colors it was better than 2 part + mag dosing too.

So the third part of full balling might provide additional race elements, but it's really for ion balance over the long haul.
 
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kyley

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FWIW:
I used Aquaforest Comp 1+ 2+ and 3+ when it first hit the states (with no additional trace element dosing).

In coral colors it was better than 2 part + mag dosing too.

So the third part of full balling might provide additional trace elements, but it's really for ion balance over the long haul.
Hey, thanks for chiming in. So it sounds like TM Part C and **'s Reed Mineral Salt serve the same purpose: not really supplementing much in terms of trace elements, but helping to maintain ionic balance - although I have to admit that I don't understand exactly what that means. And it sounds like ** does it at a very reasonable price point. I've read a couple of people noting that ** is about half the strength of BRS, but even in that instance it costs about the same as BRS 2 part (plus Mg), yet adds the Reef Mineral Salt / ionic balance benefit.

Fauna Marin's trace elements are reasonable as well, and I have a rough idea of how much to dose with them. So I may make a switch soon from BRS Ca, Alk, Mg to Aquaforest + FM Trace.

Aquaforest Components 123+ sounds like a great, simple product for those who want simplicity, but that would be way too expensive monthly for me. The dry is the way to go to save $! :)

Oh, one question... If Aquaforest Alk, Ca is half the strength of BRS, I wonder if it could be mixed twice as strong? Switching out dosing jugs is a pain, so having to do it less (the same amount as with BRS) would be nice. Cheers,
--Kyle
 

Randy Holmes-Farley

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Hey, thanks for chiming in. So it sounds like TM Part C and **'s Reed Mineral Salt serve the same purpose: not really supplementing much in terms of trace elements, but helping to maintain ionic balance - although I have to admit that I don't understand exactly what that means.

Here's what it means and how having something (say, copper, in the example below) in a two part may actually still cause that compound to decline (not just allow it to decline).

The Many Methods for Supplementing Calcium and Alkalinity - REEFEDITION

from it:

One issue that has confused some reef keepers, however, is the presence of trace elements. Assuming that these products are actually formulated with every ion such that a true natural seawater residue remained (let’s call this the “ideal” product), then it will necessarily contain such ions as copper. Since copper is elevated in some reef tanks, and is toxic to many invertebrates, reef keepers have wrongly criticized this method as adding more copper. That’s actually not what would happen. Since these products leave a natural seawater residue, and since copper may be elevated in concentration in many reef tanks relative to seawater, then using these “ideal” products will actually LOWER copper levels because when the increase in salinity is corrected, the copper will drop.

For example:

You have copper in your aquarium at 4 ppb and salinity of S=35.

You add a two part additive that over the course of a month raises salinity to S=36, and raises copper to 4.02 ppb.

Then you correct the salinity back to S=35 by diluting everything in the tank with fresh water, and you get a final copper concentration of 3.9 ppb.

Does this happen in real products and not “ideal” products? I have no idea. But the statement by manufacturers that it contains all ions in natural ratios, including copper, should not be viewed as a concern that it is exacerbating a heavy metal problem.

The rise in salinity of these products over time can be very roughly calculated, though there are several reasons why this calculation is only an estimate. For every 1000 meq of alkalinity added in this fashion (and the matching amount of calcium) these products will deliver on the order of 60 grams of other ions to the tank. In a tank with a low calcification demand (defined later to be 18.3 thousand meq of alkalinity per year in a 100 gallon tank (0.4 dKH/day)) this effect will raise the salinity by 3 ppt per year (compared to a normal salinity of S ~35). In a high demand tank (defined later to be 219 thousand meq of alkalinity per year in a 100 gallon tank (4.4 dKH/day)), the salinity will rise by 35 ppt in a year, or approximately doubling the salinity. Consequently, the salinity should be monitored closely in using these types of additives, especially in a tank with high calcification rates.
 
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kyley

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Here's what it means and how having something (say, copper, in the example below) in a two part may actually still cause that compound to decline (not just allow it to decline).
Thanks Randy, I read the example you included and now have a (limited) understanding of how copper (in this case) would drop over time when fresh water is added. However, doesn't that mean it drops less than if only fresh water was added and not this reef mineral salt? I mean if all evaporated water was replaced with RODI water (rather than the mix that contains some trace elements), the concentration of copper would drop even more, right?

the salinity will rise by 35 ppt in a year, or approximately doubling the salinity. Consequently, the salinity should be monitored closely in using these types of additives, especially in a tank with high calcification rates.
So all this is something I didn't realize previously with balling method. It actually is adding some saltwater and salinity will creep up over time? With 2 part, I don't have to worry about salinity because my ATO with RODI keeps it constant. If I switch to balling method, I have to add some freshwater occasionally to keep salinity from creeping up (possibly quickly to dangerously high levels)? I need to do some more reading on this... Balling method seems helpful in "maintaining ionic balance" / replenishing some trace elements (although supplementing will still be helpful), but has its risks with salinity increases.

Randy, what do you think about my pricing in the original post? And if the costs of Aquaforest's balling are the same (or better) as with BRS 3 part, wouldn't Aquaforest be a better method since it's also allowing me to maintain that ionic balance? Thanks,
--Kyle
 
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Randy Holmes-Farley

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Copper does not decline at all from replacing evaporated water. The evaporation concentrates it exactly the same in reverse that the replacement of fresh water reduces it.
 

Randy Holmes-Farley

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Salinity rises with Balling and two part. There’s no way to avoid it, but it is easy to adjust for.

I haven’t followed the pricing discussion And cannot really comment on it. Cost per unit of alkalinity is the best way to compare. I doubt a balanced two part is similar in part to the diy 3 part, even from BRS, but if it is, it may be a better choice.
 
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kyley

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Copper does not decline at all from replacing evaporated water. The evaporation concentrates it exactly the same in reverse that the replacement of fresh water reduces it.
Oh no, that's not what I meant, but I see how you might have thought that. Let's talk about a different trace element; iodine (because I know it gets used up by corals). The balling method would cause iodine to decrease over time, as you mentioned above. But it's also decreasing because corals are using it, right? So when you do two part and only top off with fresh water (not adding salt with Reef Mineral Salt part of Aquaforest's Balling Method - that also includes iodine), the iodine level would decrease even more with simple two part (only Ca,Alk - no trace additions) than with Balling (that replenishes small amounts of iodine). Right?

Salinity rises with Balling and two part. There’s no way to avoid it, but it is easy to adjust for.
How does salinity rise with two part? You aren't adding any salt with two part (just Ca and Alk in RODI water). But in Balling, you're adding some salt in the Reef Mineral Salt part of Aquaforest's system (or whatever it's called in other systems). I'm probably missing something, but I don't see how salinity would increase then. I don't know that I've seen any salinity rise over time with my systems on 2-part (one of which has been running for 10 years).

I haven’t followed the pricing discussion And cannot really comment on it. Cost per unit of alkalinity is the best way to compare. I doubt a balanced two part is similar in part to the diy 3 part, even from BRS, but if it is, it may be a better choice.
Yeah, doing the math, Aquaforest comes out to half the price of BRS 2-part + Mg for 1 gallon of all components (much less than a gallon of the BRS Mg because it barely needs to be used in my system). However, what I don't know is the concentration. From what I've heard from a couple of people, it's about half the strength of BRS 2-part. If that's the case, then the cost is about equal. So considering all that, I feel like I should switch to Aquaforest and have this ionic balance benefit with no additional cost. The only issue is I would have to change out my dosing containers twice as often (if it's half strength as it sounds). Thanks,
--Kyle
 

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If iodine is currently lower than the balling additive target, then it adds some. If iodine is higher than the balling target then balling use lowers it. Same applies to a complete balanced two part. A two part without iodine will lower it
 

Randy Holmes-Farley

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Yes, you are adding salt with a two part and with balling even before you add the sodium chloride free salt mix.

Sodium from the sodium bicarbonate/carbonate and chloride from the calcium chloride is adding lots of sodium chloride, raising salinity.
 
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kyley

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If iodine is currently lower than the balling additive target, then it adds some. If iodine is higher than the balling target then balling use lowers it. Same applies to a complete balanced two part. A two part without iodine will lower it
Yep, that all makes sense and was what I was thinking.

Yes, you are adding salt with a two part and with balling even before you add the sodium chloride free salt mix.

Sodium from the sodium bicarbonate/carbonate and chloride from the calcium chloride is adding lots of sodium chloride, raising salinity.
Ah, okay. I didn't realize the chemistry involved caused the Calcium and Alkalinity to become salt... Still, this must be a very minor change. I haven't seen salinity creep up with 2 part.

Will the salinity increase be about the same then with 2 part and balling method? Thanks Randy,
--Kyle
 

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Thanks! That's very helpful to know. In that case, I think BRS is cheaper, but only about 10-15%...
Personally I don't like to refill bottles a lot. So I would choose something a little more potent than Aquaforest. However, Aquaforest has a lot of Trace Elements. In this case, I'd go with Aquaforest for that reason and because it's an all in one. No additional Trace Element dosing.
 

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Yep, that all makes sense and was what I was thinking.



Ah, okay. I didn't realize the chemistry involved caused the Calcium and Alkalinity to become salt... Still, this must be a very minor change. I haven't seen salinity creep up with 2 part.

Will the salinity increase be about the same then with 2 part and balling method? Thanks Randy,
--Kyle
The salinity rise is not small. Over a year the salinity can double. The salinity increase is similar between balling and a two part. Maybe a bit less with balling. It depends on exactly how the products are actually designed.
 
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kyley

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Personally I don't like to refill bottles a lot. So I would choose something a little more potent than Aquaforest. However, Aquaforest has a lot of Trace Elements. In this case, I'd go with Aquaforest for that reason and because it's an all in one. No additional Trace Element dosing.
Agreed! I wonder... What if I used BRS Alkalinity? And the rest from Aquaforest? Would that throw anything off? The reason I ask is because according to Aquaforest (I asked them), the Ca / Mg (which are together) and the Reef Mineral Salt can be mixed twice as concentrated - only the Alkalinity cannot. And the Alkalinity is at max saturation - apparently because it's 70/30 bicarbonate to carbonate, while BRS is 100% carbonate. So... best of all worlds (same refilling of bottles as BRS, good price, and trace elements)?

The salinity rise is not small. Over a year the salinity can double. The salinity increase is similar between balling and a two part. Maybe a bit less with balling. It depends on exactly how the products are actually designed.
Okay, I understand. I've just never seen my salinity creep up like that. Maybe I don't dose enough for it to happen. Thanks,
--Kyle
 

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Agreed! I wonder... What if I used BRS Alkalinity? And the rest from Aquaforest? Would that throw anything off? The reason I ask is because according to Aquaforest (I asked them), the Ca / Mg (which are together) and the Reef Mineral Salt can be mixed twice as concentrated - only the Alkalinity cannot. And the Alkalinity is at max saturation - apparently because it's 70/30 bicarbonate to carbonate, while BRS is 100% carbonate. So... best of all worlds (same refilling of bottles as BRS, good price, and trace elements)?



Okay, I understand. I've just never seen my salinity creep up like that. Maybe I don't dose enough for it to happen. Thanks,
--Kyle
You lower your salinity all the time via the skimmer cup and removing water samples for testing, combined this with water changes, and if your dosing isn't very heavy you probably won't notice an increase in salinity. It is something to be aware of though.
 
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kyley

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Reefahholic, what do you (or others) think about this? If I match the BRS Alk dKH/liter strength with 2x Aquaforest's Alk, and then double Aquaforest's Ca+Mg and Reef Mineral Salt strengths (which Aquaforest confirmed is okay - just can't with Alk because it's already at saturation), that should be fine for dosing together in equal parts, right? It would just be two different Alk mixes (Aquaforest's being 70/30 bicarbonate to carbonate and BRS' being 100% carbonate). Thanks,
--Kyle

What if I used BRS Alkalinity? And the rest from Aquaforest? Would that throw anything off? The reason I ask is because according to Aquaforest (I asked them), the Ca / Mg (which are together) and the Reef Mineral Salt can be mixed twice as concentrated - only the Alkalinity cannot. And the Alkalinity is at max saturation - apparently because it's 70/30 bicarbonate to carbonate, while BRS is 100% carbonate. So... best of all worlds (same refilling of bottles as BRS, good price, and trace elements)?
 
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