Carbon Dosing Experiments - My results and conclusions

spicymikey

Active Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Dec 2, 2020
Messages
130
Reaction score
104
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Orlando FL
This is a follow up post to I made in June. You can read the original post here:

Original thread

Based on what I learned from that testing, and input from others on the last post, I did a second round of testing for 2 months with some more additives. I paused a little over a week between tests and let my NO3 get around 30ppm before starting a new test. Here are my combined results from the first test and the second test, along with my final conclusions for managing nutrient on a 1 year old 400 gal mixed reef aquarium. This was my first attempt at carbon dosing because all my prior systems were small enough that traditional water changes were enough for nutrient and trace element control. I started off by reading results from others on the web, but decided to do my own testing to find the best solution for me. I learned a lot and hope my experience is useful to others.


Tropic Marin Reef Actif
---------------------------------
This was a dried powder that you hydrate in a flask and then dump into the tank daily. Its easy enough to use, but it doesn't seem to fully dissolve so not sure if this is a candidate for premixing and adding to a doser. I didn't try. Regardless, it didn't seem to have much of an effect on the Nitrates, even though their marketing literature clearly suggests it should. I tried using a bit more than recommended and I went through the entire container in about 4 weeks.

CONCLUSION: It didn't notice any benefit in controlling nutrients and is likely not an effective means of managing nutrients by itself. Maybe it can be useful with other products, and for other purposes not in my testing

COST: $0.035 per ml of diluted solution based on recommendations. Dosing cost to me was unknown because it never worked even with doubling up on the recommended dosage.



Brightwell Bio Fuel
---------------------------
For a 400gal system it recommends dosing no more than 40ml per day. I bought a gal of BioFuel and used it for a month. Ramped up to the 40ml dose in a week and stayed there for 3 weeks. It helped move the needle a bit but NO3 was surprisingly still hovering between 25-30ppm. I raised it to 80ml/day . Used up the rest of the gallon quickly even though the instructions said adding more wouldn't help. Well, it did help a bit but still not enough to drive my NO3 down below 10ppm. I suppose I could have added even more, but at $75/gal it seemed foolish.

CONCLUSION: It likely would have worked but not cost effective. Because of the cost I ended the test when the gallon ran out.

COST: $0.018 per ml. Dosing cost to me was $1.50 per day when I aborted the testing due to cost.



Tropic Marin Elimi-NP
--------------------------------
This is a liquid solution that comes in a pump bottle. One pump is about 1ml. Based on the instructions it said for me to use a maximum of 8ml per day with 400gal. Although it said not to use more than 0.5ml per 100L per day (not sure why), I found the need to use about 10ml per day to control my NO3 and PO4. It was a bit slippery to the touch, had a neutral PH, and had a slight sweet taste when placed on the lips. The bottle does not say what is in this, but it is likely one of the dozen or so "sugar alcohols" like Brightwell Bio Fuel, albeit at a higher concentration as a carbon source.

CONCLUSION: It worked, had no odor, had a neutral PH, and was easy and effective way to manage nutrients with the pump bottle container. The drawback: It is relatively costly given other alternatives below. Also, its not the easiest product to source here in the USA. It is often out of stock.

COST: $0.075 per ml. Dosing cost to me was $0.60 to $0.75 per day



White Vinegar (5% Acetic Acid)
--------------------------------------------
For 400gal system I decided to start with 20ml daily based on numerous articles on the web. I ramped up much faster than recommended but watched for issues. Had a small bacteria blooms first two days soon after morning dosing but that stopped. I ramped up to 200ml in about a week and continued for another two weeks at 200ml per day.

CONCLUSION: Very cost effective, fast acting, easy to dial in the proper amount, and it is easy to source on Amazon or any grocery store. My nutrients were below 10ppm within 3 weeks of dosing 200ml! I actually had to start reducing the dosage. Drawbacks: 95% water so using it in a dosing system would be awkward because you need so much. Also, has the classic vinegar smell. The other big issue was the PH hit. With a PH of around 2.5 my system took a hit for a couple hours after dosing 200ML. PH dropped from 8.0 in the am to around 7.7 but recovered by afternoon to around 8.0. I never was able to get my PH back to normal 8.2 while testing with Vinegar.

COST: $0.001 per ml. Dosing cost to me was $0.21 per day



Glacial Acetic Acid (99% Acetic Acid)
---------------------------------------------------
Since White Vinegar clearly worked well, and to make dosing easier, I purchased a gal of Glacial Acetic Acid and dosed 10ml per day (equivalent of 200ml White Vinegar) mixed with my Magnesium Chloride dosing container. It worked exactly the same as Vinegar with the proper adjustment to dosage. I was also able to add and slow dose it during the day.

COST: $0.015 per ml. Dosing cost to me was $0.15 per day

CONCLUSION: It worked great and was the most cost effective. The drawbacks: VERY strong odor. The house constantly smelled like I was making a salad, and with the PH being 0.7 it was awkward to handle and not a great choice if you have kids around. Dosing slowly avoided the big PH hit in the AM but it still had a negative drag on the systems PH and I never really was able to get much above 8.0



Pure Ethyl Alcohol
--------------------------
Instead of trying cheap vodka (which is 60% water) I immediately chose to do what I did with the Acetic acid and went right to pure Ethyl alcohol for the same reason I moved from White Vinegar to Glacial Acetic Acid. I purchased pure Ethyl Alcohol Non-Denatured from LabAlley.com. Based on the well discussed conversion formula of 8-to-1 for 5% White Vinegar vs 80proof Vodka, along with a little math, it seems the carbon density of 100% Ethyl Alcohol and 100% Acetic acid was the same, i.e. 1-to-1). So, I started by dosing the same 10ml of Ethyl alcohol. I found my nutrients were beginning to rise again. For whatever reason, didn't seem to be a true 1-to-1 for me and I ultimately found that I needed about 15ml of Ethyl Alcohol to accomplish the same as 10ml of Glacial Acetic Acid.

COST: $0.025 per ml. Dosing cost to me was $0.37 per day

CONCLUSION: Regardless, of over double the cost as acetic acid, at $0.37 per day it was still extremely cost effective for me. With the PH being around 7.0 it was easy to handle, had no short term or long term PH effect, and also, no stink!



FINAL CONCLUSIONS
------------------------------
The results of my testing showed most items worked but the costs varied significantly. For me there were two clear solutions to manage nutrients in my well stocked 400gal mixed reef. Glacial Acetic Acid at a cost of about $0.15 per day, and Ethyl Alcohol at $0.37 per day. If cost is the only deciding factor than Glacial Acetic acid is the answer but there are some negatives to deal with including odor, PH effects, and safety. But based on my priorities, the winner was the Ethyl Alcohol. It was slightly more expensive then Acetic acid, but it had no drawbacks. I am now dosing successfully with Ethyl alcohol and maintaining my NO3 between 5-10ppm and PO4 between 0.4-0.9. I test once per week with two Hanna Checkers to ensure I do not bottom out the nutrients.

Hope my experience is useful to others and can aid as a starting point for your own experiments!
 
Printed Reef - Custom Reef Accessories

Dan_P

2500 Club Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Sep 21, 2018
Messages
4,447
Reaction score
4,728
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
This is a follow up post to I made in June. You can read the original post here:

Original thread

Based on what I learned from that testing, and input from others on the last post, I did a second round of testing for 2 months with some more additives. I paused a little over a week between tests and let my NO3 get around 30ppm before starting a new test. Here are my combined results from the first test and the second test, along with my final conclusions for managing nutrient on a 1 year old 400 gal mixed reef aquarium. This was my first attempt at carbon dosing because all my prior systems were small enough that traditional water changes were enough for nutrient and trace element control. I started off by reading results from others on the web, but decided to do my own testing to find the best solution for me. I learned a lot and hope my experience is useful to others.


Tropic Marin Reef Actif
---------------------------------
This was a dried powder that you hydrate in a flask and then dump into the tank daily. Its easy enough to use, but it doesn't seem to fully dissolve so not sure if this is a candidate for premixing and adding to a doser. I didn't try. Regardless, it didn't seem to have much of an effect on the Nitrates, even though their marketing literature clearly suggests it should. I tried using a bit more than recommended and I went through the entire container in about 4 weeks.

CONCLUSION: It didn't notice any benefit in controlling nutrients and is likely not an effective means of managing nutrients by itself. Maybe it can be useful with other products, and for other purposes not in my testing

COST: $0.035 per ml of diluted solution based on recommendations. Dosing cost to me was unknown because it never worked even with doubling up on the recommended dosage.



Brightwell Bio Fuel
---------------------------
For a 400gal system it recommends dosing no more than 40ml per day. I bought a gal of BioFuel and used it for a month. Ramped up to the 40ml dose in a week and stayed there for 3 weeks. It helped move the needle a bit but NO3 was surprisingly still hovering between 25-30ppm. I raised it to 80ml/day . Used up the rest of the gallon quickly even though the instructions said adding more wouldn't help. Well, it did help a bit but still not enough to drive my NO3 down below 10ppm. I suppose I could have added even more, but at $75/gal it seemed foolish.

CONCLUSION: It likely would have worked but not cost effective. Because of the cost I ended the test when the gallon ran out.

COST: $0.018 per ml. Dosing cost to me was $1.50 per day when I aborted the testing due to cost.



Tropic Marin Elimi-NP
--------------------------------
This is a liquid solution that comes in a pump bottle. One pump is about 1ml. Based on the instructions it said for me to use a maximum of 8ml per day with 400gal. Although it said not to use more than 0.5ml per 100L per day (not sure why), I found the need to use about 10ml per day to control my NO3 and PO4. It was a bit slippery to the touch, had a neutral PH, and had a slight sweet taste when placed on the lips. The bottle does not say what is in this, but it is likely one of the dozen or so "sugar alcohols" like Brightwell Bio Fuel, albeit at a higher concentration as a carbon source.

CONCLUSION: It worked, had no odor, had a neutral PH, and was easy and effective way to manage nutrients with the pump bottle container. The drawback: It is relatively costly given other alternatives below. Also, its not the easiest product to source here in the USA. It is often out of stock.

COST: $0.075 per ml. Dosing cost to me was $0.60 to $0.75 per day



White Vinegar (5% Acetic Acid)
--------------------------------------------
For 400gal system I decided to start with 20ml daily based on numerous articles on the web. I ramped up much faster than recommended but watched for issues. Had a small bacteria blooms first two days soon after morning dosing but that stopped. I ramped up to 200ml in about a week and continued for another two weeks at 200ml per day.

CONCLUSION: Very cost effective, fast acting, easy to dial in the proper amount, and it is easy to source on Amazon or any grocery store. My nutrients were below 10ppm within 3 weeks of dosing 200ml! I actually had to start reducing the dosage. Drawbacks: 95% water so using it in a dosing system would be awkward because you need so much. Also, has the classic vinegar smell. The other big issue was the PH hit. With a PH of around 2.5 my system took a hit for a couple hours after dosing 200ML. PH dropped from 8.0 in the am to around 7.7 but recovered by afternoon to around 8.0. I never was able to get my PH back to normal 8.2 while testing with Vinegar.

COST: $0.001 per ml. Dosing cost to me was $0.21 per day



Glacial Acetic Acid (99% Acetic Acid)
---------------------------------------------------
Since White Vinegar clearly worked well, and to make dosing easier, I purchased a gal of Glacial Acetic Acid and dosed 10ml per day (equivalent of 200ml White Vinegar) mixed with my Magnesium Chloride dosing container. It worked exactly the same as Vinegar with the proper adjustment to dosage. I was also able to add and slow dose it during the day.

COST: $0.015 per ml. Dosing cost to me was $0.15 per day

CONCLUSION: It worked great and was the most cost effective. The drawbacks: VERY strong odor. The house constantly smelled like I was making a salad, and with the PH being 0.7 it was awkward to handle and not a great choice if you have kids around. Dosing slowly avoided the big PH hit in the AM but it still had a negative drag on the systems PH and I never really was able to get much above 8.0



Pure Ethyl Alcohol
--------------------------
Instead of trying cheap vodka (which is 60% water) I immediately chose to do what I did with the Acetic acid and went right to pure Ethyl alcohol for the same reason I moved from White Vinegar to Glacial Acetic Acid. I purchased pure Ethyl Alcohol Non-Denatured from LabAlley.com. Based on the well discussed conversion formula of 8-to-1 for 5% White Vinegar vs 80proof Vodka, along with a little math, it seems the carbon density of 100% Ethyl Alcohol and 100% Acetic acid was the same, i.e. 1-to-1). So, I started by dosing the same 10ml of Ethyl alcohol. I found my nutrients were beginning to rise again. For whatever reason, didn't seem to be a true 1-to-1 for me and I ultimately found that I needed about 15ml of Ethyl Alcohol to accomplish the same as 10ml of Glacial Acetic Acid.

COST: $0.025 per ml. Dosing cost to me was $0.37 per day

CONCLUSION: Regardless, of over double the cost as acetic acid, at $0.37 per day it was still extremely cost effective for me. With the PH being around 7.0 it was easy to handle, had no short term or long term PH effect, and also, no stink!



FINAL CONCLUSIONS
------------------------------
The results of my testing showed most items worked but the costs varied significantly. For me there were two clear solutions to manage nutrients in my well stocked 400gal mixed reef. Glacial Acetic Acid at a cost of about $0.15 per day, and Ethyl Alcohol at $0.37 per day. If cost is the only deciding factor than Glacial Acetic acid is the answer but there are some negatives to deal with including odor, PH effects, and safety. But based on my priorities, the winner was the Ethyl Alcohol. It was slightly more expensive then Acetic acid, but it had no drawbacks. I am now dosing successfully with Ethyl alcohol and maintaining my NO3 between 5-10ppm and PO4 between 0.4-0.9. I test once per week with two Hanna Checkers to ensure I do not bottom out the nutrients.

Hope my experience is useful to others and can aid as a starting point for your own experiments!
Thanks!

Some folks have made the observation that ethanol dosing leads to cyanobacteria growth. Any observations or thoughts?
 
OP
spicymikey

spicymikey

Active Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Dec 2, 2020
Messages
130
Reaction score
104
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Orlando FL
Thanks!

Some folks have made the observation that ethanol dosing leads to cyanobacteria growth. Any observations or thoughts?
No. I experienced nothing like that. But then again I did not start carbon dosing until I was past the ugly stage and the tank was stable. Of course carbon dosing with the presence of nutrients, will accelerate heterotrophic bacterial growth. That's what we're actually trying to do after all. But I did not experience any negative effects when using ethyl alcohol versus using acetic acid. Especially not cyanobacteria which of course is autotrophic and driven more by CO2 and photosynthesis, from what I understand. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong about that
 
Last edited:
Nutramar Foods
OP
spicymikey

spicymikey

Active Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Dec 2, 2020
Messages
130
Reaction score
104
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Orlando FL
FINAL CONCLUSIONS
------------------------------
The results of my testing showed most items worked but the costs varied significantly. For me there were two clear solutions to manage nutrients in my well stocked 400gal mixed reef. Glacial Acetic Acid at a cost of about $0.15 per day, and Ethyl Alcohol at $0.37 per day. If cost is the only deciding factor than Glacial Acetic acid is the answer but there are some negatives to deal with including odor, PH effects, and safety. But based on my priorities, the winner was the Ethyl Alcohol. It was slightly more expensive then Acetic acid, but it had no drawbacks. I am now dosing successfully with Ethyl alcohol and maintaining my NO3 between 5-10ppm and PO4 between 0.4-0.9. I test once per week with two Hanna Checkers to ensure I do not bottom out the nutrients.

Hope my experience is useful to others and can aid as a starting point for your own experiments!
Sorry, big typo in my conclusion section. It might be obvious, but I meant to say I am easily maintaining PO4 between 0.04-0.09ppm.

During the experiments I was testing every other day. Annoying. But with my routine in place, and things stable, I test once/twice a week and it takes only about 10 minutes with the Hanna checkers. I likely will do this going forward because the levels are being kept so low. That's one drawback of maintaining a LN system I suppose, but the benefits seem worth it to me. In the 5 weeks of keeping nutrients consistently low, I can already see the gold returning as the dominant color in my Gold Dragon Soul torch, and the Acros and SPS in general seem to have better polyp extension and brighter coloring.
 

Attachments

  • 20220811_170208.jpg
    20220811_170208.jpg
    183.1 KB · Views: 44

[email protected]

Living the Reef Life
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Nov 18, 2012
Messages
35,482
Reaction score
55,374
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Fontana, California
Cool! Thanks for sharing!
 

blackhole88

New Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Jul 15, 2022
Messages
11
Reaction score
14
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Virginia beach
I’ve been dosing vodka for years. First on my 440 reef and now on my 1200 mixed reef. Use dirt cheap 80 proof vodka any brand whatever is cheapest. In my 1200 gallon I dose 95 ML every morning around same time. Nitrates are at 5 if I dose 100 ML treated drop to zero. Phosphate always zero and this allows me to feed like crazy up to 3 times a day as much as they can eat n then some. Do wTerchanges whenever haha prob once every few months but have friends who haven’t done one in a year and money used on vodka is saved on salt. I’d never go back to any other way.
 

Attachments

  • EC8CD30D-0001-4434-8ED0-EC18628132A8.jpeg
    EC8CD30D-0001-4434-8ED0-EC18628132A8.jpeg
    189.5 KB · Views: 40
AquaCave Logo Banner

Adam1985

Active Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Jun 24, 2021
Messages
152
Reaction score
87
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Shanghai
Great
This is a follow up post to I made in June. You can read the original post here:

Original thread

Based on what I learned from that testing, and input from others on the last post, I did a second round of testing for 2 months with some more additives. I paused a little over a week between tests and let my NO3 get around 30ppm before starting a new test. Here are my combined results from the first test and the second test, along with my final conclusions for managing nutrient on a 1 year old 400 gal mixed reef aquarium. This was my first attempt at carbon dosing because all my prior systems were small enough that traditional water changes were enough for nutrient and trace element control. I started off by reading results from others on the web, but decided to do my own testing to find the best solution for me. I learned a lot and hope my experience is useful to others.


Tropic Marin Reef Actif
---------------------------------
This was a dried powder that you hydrate in a flask and then dump into the tank daily. Its easy enough to use, but it doesn't seem to fully dissolve so not sure if this is a candidate for premixing and adding to a doser. I didn't try. Regardless, it didn't seem to have much of an effect on the Nitrates, even though their marketing literature clearly suggests it should. I tried using a bit more than recommended and I went through the entire container in about 4 weeks.

CONCLUSION: It didn't notice any benefit in controlling nutrients and is likely not an effective means of managing nutrients by itself. Maybe it can be useful with other products, and for other purposes not in my testing

COST: $0.035 per ml of diluted solution based on recommendations. Dosing cost to me was unknown because it never worked even with doubling up on the recommended dosage.



Brightwell Bio Fuel
---------------------------
For a 400gal system it recommends dosing no more than 40ml per day. I bought a gal of BioFuel and used it for a month. Ramped up to the 40ml dose in a week and stayed there for 3 weeks. It helped move the needle a bit but NO3 was surprisingly still hovering between 25-30ppm. I raised it to 80ml/day . Used up the rest of the gallon quickly even though the instructions said adding more wouldn't help. Well, it did help a bit but still not enough to drive my NO3 down below 10ppm. I suppose I could have added even more, but at $75/gal it seemed foolish.

CONCLUSION: It likely would have worked but not cost effective. Because of the cost I ended the test when the gallon ran out.

COST: $0.018 per ml. Dosing cost to me was $1.50 per day when I aborted the testing due to cost.



Tropic Marin Elimi-NP
--------------------------------
This is a liquid solution that comes in a pump bottle. One pump is about 1ml. Based on the instructions it said for me to use a maximum of 8ml per day with 400gal. Although it said not to use more than 0.5ml per 100L per day (not sure why), I found the need to use about 10ml per day to control my NO3 and PO4. It was a bit slippery to the touch, had a neutral PH, and had a slight sweet taste when placed on the lips. The bottle does not say what is in this, but it is likely one of the dozen or so "sugar alcohols" like Brightwell Bio Fuel, albeit at a higher concentration as a carbon source.

CONCLUSION: It worked, had no odor, had a neutral PH, and was easy and effective way to manage nutrients with the pump bottle container. The drawback: It is relatively costly given other alternatives below. Also, its not the easiest product to source here in the USA. It is often out of stock.

COST: $0.075 per ml. Dosing cost to me was $0.60 to $0.75 per day



White Vinegar (5% Acetic Acid)
--------------------------------------------
For 400gal system I decided to start with 20ml daily based on numerous articles on the web. I ramped up much faster than recommended but watched for issues. Had a small bacteria blooms first two days soon after morning dosing but that stopped. I ramped up to 200ml in about a week and continued for another two weeks at 200ml per day.

CONCLUSION: Very cost effective, fast acting, easy to dial in the proper amount, and it is easy to source on Amazon or any grocery store. My nutrients were below 10ppm within 3 weeks of dosing 200ml! I actually had to start reducing the dosage. Drawbacks: 95% water so using it in a dosing system would be awkward because you need so much. Also, has the classic vinegar smell. The other big issue was the PH hit. With a PH of around 2.5 my system took a hit for a couple hours after dosing 200ML. PH dropped from 8.0 in the am to around 7.7 but recovered by afternoon to around 8.0. I never was able to get my PH back to normal 8.2 while testing with Vinegar.

COST: $0.001 per ml. Dosing cost to me was $0.21 per day



Glacial Acetic Acid (99% Acetic Acid)
---------------------------------------------------
Since White Vinegar clearly worked well, and to make dosing easier, I purchased a gal of Glacial Acetic Acid and dosed 10ml per day (equivalent of 200ml White Vinegar) mixed with my Magnesium Chloride dosing container. It worked exactly the same as Vinegar with the proper adjustment to dosage. I was also able to add and slow dose it during the day.

COST: $0.015 per ml. Dosing cost to me was $0.15 per day

CONCLUSION: It worked great and was the most cost effective. The drawbacks: VERY strong odor. The house constantly smelled like I was making a salad, and with the PH being 0.7 it was awkward to handle and not a great choice if you have kids around. Dosing slowly avoided the big PH hit in the AM but it still had a negative drag on the systems PH and I never really was able to get much above 8.0



Pure Ethyl Alcohol
--------------------------
Instead of trying cheap vodka (which is 60% water) I immediately chose to do what I did with the Acetic acid and went right to pure Ethyl alcohol for the same reason I moved from White Vinegar to Glacial Acetic Acid. I purchased pure Ethyl Alcohol Non-Denatured from LabAlley.com. Based on the well discussed conversion formula of 8-to-1 for 5% White Vinegar vs 80proof Vodka, along with a little math, it seems the carbon density of 100% Ethyl Alcohol and 100% Acetic acid was the same, i.e. 1-to-1). So, I started by dosing the same 10ml of Ethyl alcohol. I found my nutrients were beginning to rise again. For whatever reason, didn't seem to be a true 1-to-1 for me and I ultimately found that I needed about 15ml of Ethyl Alcohol to accomplish the same as 10ml of Glacial Acetic Acid.

COST: $0.025 per ml. Dosing cost to me was $0.37 per day

CONCLUSION: Regardless, of over double the cost as acetic acid, at $0.37 per day it was still extremely cost effective for me. With the PH being around 7.0 it was easy to handle, had no short term or long term PH effect, and also, no stink!



FINAL CONCLUSIONS
------------------------------
The results of my testing showed most items worked but the costs varied significantly. For me there were two clear solutions to manage nutrients in my well stocked 400gal mixed reef. Glacial Acetic Acid at a cost of about $0.15 per day, and Ethyl Alcohol at $0.37 per day. If cost is the only deciding factor than Glacial Acetic acid is the answer but there are some negatives to deal with including odor, PH effects, and safety. But based on my priorities, the winner was the Ethyl Alcohol. It was slightly more expensive then Acetic acid, but it had no drawbacks. I am now dosing successfully with Ethyl alcohol and maintaining my NO3 between 5-10ppm and PO4 between 0.4-0.9. I test once per week with two Hanna Checkers to ensure I do not bottom out the nutrients.

Hope my experience is useful to others and can aid as a starting point for your own experiments!
Great post! Thanks for sharing. I also have found ethanol or acetic acid are more reliable and cost effective than the bottled preparations from TM or others. I just dose vinegar in my 220 g total volume system but at a low dose of a total of only 10 ml per day in divided doses dosed hourly, so the smell isn’t a big issue. But probably would go to ethanol as well if I needed to dose much larger amounts.

Thanks again for sharing. Cool article.
 

MartinM

Well-Known Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Jan 26, 2021
Messages
726
Reaction score
644
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Japan
This is a follow up post to I made in June. You can read the original post here:

Original thread

Based on what I learned from that testing, and input from others on the last post, I did a second round of testing for 2 months with some more additives. I paused a little over a week between tests and let my NO3 get around 30ppm before starting a new test. Here are my combined results from the first test and the second test, along with my final conclusions for managing nutrient on a 1 year old 400 gal mixed reef aquarium. This was my first attempt at carbon dosing because all my prior systems were small enough that traditional water changes were enough for nutrient and trace element control. I started off by reading results from others on the web, but decided to do my own testing to find the best solution for me. I learned a lot and hope my experience is useful to others.


Tropic Marin Reef Actif
---------------------------------
This was a dried powder that you hydrate in a flask and then dump into the tank daily. Its easy enough to use, but it doesn't seem to fully dissolve so not sure if this is a candidate for premixing and adding to a doser. I didn't try. Regardless, it didn't seem to have much of an effect on the Nitrates, even though their marketing literature clearly suggests it should. I tried using a bit more than recommended and I went through the entire container in about 4 weeks.

CONCLUSION: It didn't notice any benefit in controlling nutrients and is likely not an effective means of managing nutrients by itself. Maybe it can be useful with other products, and for other purposes not in my testing

COST: $0.035 per ml of diluted solution based on recommendations. Dosing cost to me was unknown because it never worked even with doubling up on the recommended dosage.



Brightwell Bio Fuel
---------------------------
For a 400gal system it recommends dosing no more than 40ml per day. I bought a gal of BioFuel and used it for a month. Ramped up to the 40ml dose in a week and stayed there for 3 weeks. It helped move the needle a bit but NO3 was surprisingly still hovering between 25-30ppm. I raised it to 80ml/day . Used up the rest of the gallon quickly even though the instructions said adding more wouldn't help. Well, it did help a bit but still not enough to drive my NO3 down below 10ppm. I suppose I could have added even more, but at $75/gal it seemed foolish.

CONCLUSION: It likely would have worked but not cost effective. Because of the cost I ended the test when the gallon ran out.

COST: $0.018 per ml. Dosing cost to me was $1.50 per day when I aborted the testing due to cost.



Tropic Marin Elimi-NP
--------------------------------
This is a liquid solution that comes in a pump bottle. One pump is about 1ml. Based on the instructions it said for me to use a maximum of 8ml per day with 400gal. Although it said not to use more than 0.5ml per 100L per day (not sure why), I found the need to use about 10ml per day to control my NO3 and PO4. It was a bit slippery to the touch, had a neutral PH, and had a slight sweet taste when placed on the lips. The bottle does not say what is in this, but it is likely one of the dozen or so "sugar alcohols" like Brightwell Bio Fuel, albeit at a higher concentration as a carbon source.

CONCLUSION: It worked, had no odor, had a neutral PH, and was easy and effective way to manage nutrients with the pump bottle container. The drawback: It is relatively costly given other alternatives below. Also, its not the easiest product to source here in the USA. It is often out of stock.

COST: $0.075 per ml. Dosing cost to me was $0.60 to $0.75 per day



White Vinegar (5% Acetic Acid)
--------------------------------------------
For 400gal system I decided to start with 20ml daily based on numerous articles on the web. I ramped up much faster than recommended but watched for issues. Had a small bacteria blooms first two days soon after morning dosing but that stopped. I ramped up to 200ml in about a week and continued for another two weeks at 200ml per day.

CONCLUSION: Very cost effective, fast acting, easy to dial in the proper amount, and it is easy to source on Amazon or any grocery store. My nutrients were below 10ppm within 3 weeks of dosing 200ml! I actually had to start reducing the dosage. Drawbacks: 95% water so using it in a dosing system would be awkward because you need so much. Also, has the classic vinegar smell. The other big issue was the PH hit. With a PH of around 2.5 my system took a hit for a couple hours after dosing 200ML. PH dropped from 8.0 in the am to around 7.7 but recovered by afternoon to around 8.0. I never was able to get my PH back to normal 8.2 while testing with Vinegar.

COST: $0.001 per ml. Dosing cost to me was $0.21 per day



Glacial Acetic Acid (99% Acetic Acid)
---------------------------------------------------
Since White Vinegar clearly worked well, and to make dosing easier, I purchased a gal of Glacial Acetic Acid and dosed 10ml per day (equivalent of 200ml White Vinegar) mixed with my Magnesium Chloride dosing container. It worked exactly the same as Vinegar with the proper adjustment to dosage. I was also able to add and slow dose it during the day.

COST: $0.015 per ml. Dosing cost to me was $0.15 per day

CONCLUSION: It worked great and was the most cost effective. The drawbacks: VERY strong odor. The house constantly smelled like I was making a salad, and with the PH being 0.7 it was awkward to handle and not a great choice if you have kids around. Dosing slowly avoided the big PH hit in the AM but it still had a negative drag on the systems PH and I never really was able to get much above 8.0



Pure Ethyl Alcohol
--------------------------
Instead of trying cheap vodka (which is 60% water) I immediately chose to do what I did with the Acetic acid and went right to pure Ethyl alcohol for the same reason I moved from White Vinegar to Glacial Acetic Acid. I purchased pure Ethyl Alcohol Non-Denatured from LabAlley.com. Based on the well discussed conversion formula of 8-to-1 for 5% White Vinegar vs 80proof Vodka, along with a little math, it seems the carbon density of 100% Ethyl Alcohol and 100% Acetic acid was the same, i.e. 1-to-1). So, I started by dosing the same 10ml of Ethyl alcohol. I found my nutrients were beginning to rise again. For whatever reason, didn't seem to be a true 1-to-1 for me and I ultimately found that I needed about 15ml of Ethyl Alcohol to accomplish the same as 10ml of Glacial Acetic Acid.

COST: $0.025 per ml. Dosing cost to me was $0.37 per day

CONCLUSION: Regardless, of over double the cost as acetic acid, at $0.37 per day it was still extremely cost effective for me. With the PH being around 7.0 it was easy to handle, had no short term or long term PH effect, and also, no stink!



FINAL CONCLUSIONS
------------------------------
The results of my testing showed most items worked but the costs varied significantly. For me there were two clear solutions to manage nutrients in my well stocked 400gal mixed reef. Glacial Acetic Acid at a cost of about $0.15 per day, and Ethyl Alcohol at $0.37 per day. If cost is the only deciding factor than Glacial Acetic acid is the answer but there are some negatives to deal with including odor, PH effects, and safety. But based on my priorities, the winner was the Ethyl Alcohol. It was slightly more expensive then Acetic acid, but it had no drawbacks. I am now dosing successfully with Ethyl alcohol and maintaining my NO3 between 5-10ppm and PO4 between 0.4-0.9. I test once per week with two Hanna Checkers to ensure I do not bottom out the nutrients.

Hope my experience is useful to others and can aid as a starting point for your own experiments!
Interesting read, i also have a large mixed sysembut the opposite problem - my nutrients get too low! (Lots of clams…)

thanks for the analysis! Do you dose any bacteria supplements or only ethyl alcohol?
 
Avast

taricha

2500 Club Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
May 22, 2016
Messages
4,625
Reaction score
6,960
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Based on the well discussed conversion formula of 8-to-1 for 5% White Vinegar vs 80proof Vodka, along with a little math, it seems the carbon density of 100% Ethyl Alcohol and 100% Acetic acid was the same, i.e. 1-to-1). So, I started by dosing the same 10ml of Ethyl alcohol. I found my nutrients were beginning to rise again. For whatever reason, didn't seem to be a true 1-to-1 for me and I ultimately found that I needed about 15ml of Ethyl Alcohol to accomplish the same as 10ml of Glacial Acetic Acid.
interesting that on an equal-carbon basis, the acetic acid results in more NO3 decrease than ethanol.

wonder if that result will be the same for most SW systems.
 
OP
spicymikey

spicymikey

Active Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Dec 2, 2020
Messages
130
Reaction score
104
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Orlando FL
Thoughts on bio-pellets?
I'm experimenting with biopellets right now. I'm doing both dosing AND biopellets in a reactor. The problem is the amount of bio pellets needed to make a difference. Based on some writings it would appear you need a very very large reactor for it to be effective. Simply dosing liquid ethanol daily, either manually or in a drip, seems a heck of a lot easier and maybe even cheaper
 
OP
spicymikey

spicymikey

Active Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Dec 2, 2020
Messages
130
Reaction score
104
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Orlando FL
Interesting read, i also have a large mixed sysembut the opposite problem - my nutrients get too low! (Lots of clams…)

thanks for the analysis! Do you dose any bacteria supplements or only ethyl alcohol?
Good question. Yes, I continually drip dose a 50-50 mix of Dr Tim's ecobalance at Dr Tim's waste away. It's a slow drip intended mostly to help maintain the diversity in the tank when it comes to the different strains of heterotrophic bacteria. Having waste away on hand is also useful because if I do get a nutrient Spike due to something dying, etc, I can drop in 200 mL of waste away and quickly accelerate the nutrient breakdown. There might be a small bacterial Bloom that occurs Within a couple few hours after dosing large amounts like that, but it quickly dissipates and I notice my nitrates dropping quickly within 24 hours
 
Reef Chasers Aquaculture
OP
spicymikey

spicymikey

Active Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Dec 2, 2020
Messages
130
Reaction score
104
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Orlando FL
interesting that on an equal-carbon basis, the acetic acid results in more NO3 decrease than ethanol.

wonder if that result will be the same for most SW systems.
Yes I thought that was interesting too. Based on all I have read and doing the math, it would appear that the pure ethanol and pure acetic acid contain about equal amounts of carbon. But in practice I did not see it work out that way. I needed about 30% more ethanol to accomplish the same thing. Take it with a grain of salt because there could have been other variables that affected nutrients during those two weeks that I switched off between the chemicals.

The other big difference I noticed between using the two is with the acetic acid I got a lot more Brown sludge in the sump and the filter pads clocked up a lot faster. So maybe the acetic acid is more effective at growing certain types of bacteria. Regardless, both worked with not much difference in quantity and results. I prefer the ethanol because of the neutral pH and the lack of odor. It was a bit more expensive but for me the trade-off was well worth it
 

taricha

2500 Club Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
May 22, 2016
Messages
4,625
Reaction score
6,960
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Based on all I have read and doing the math, it would appear that the pure ethanol and pure acetic acid contain about equal amounts of carbon. But in practice I did not see it work out that way. I needed about 30% more ethanol to accomplish the same thing. Take it with a grain of salt because there could have been other variables that affected nutrients during those two weeks that I switched off between the chemicals.

The other big difference I noticed between using the two is with the acetic acid I got a lot more Brown sludge in the sump and the filter pads clocked up a lot faster. So maybe the acetic acid is more effective at growing certain types of bacteria.
I think your result is more likely correct than error. These are different compounds and they'll be used in different ways and by different organisms to various extents.

I don't know enough about the details of the likely breakdown pathways and mechanics to distinguish between acetic acid and ethanol on questions like ease of digestion, energy released, who can eat them etc.
But I'm confident that a mole of carbon will experience a different ride depending on which compound it comes in on.
 

schooncw

Well-Known Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Jun 23, 2014
Messages
619
Reaction score
446
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I'm experimenting with biopellets right now. I'm doing both dosing AND biopellets in a reactor. The problem is the amount of bio pellets needed to make a difference. Based on some writings it would appear you need a very very large reactor for it to be effective. Simply dosing liquid ethanol daily, either manually or in a drip, seems a heck of a lot easier and maybe even cheaper
So, my 120 gallon......nitrates had been off the chart for a long time and what I think you need to do, is to get nitrates down to a "reasonable" level first, to allow the bio pellets to do their thing. No question in my mind, that bio pellets are easier and less expensive.
 
Avast

Let’s talk about stuffing: How full is your tank?

  • My tank is overcrowded.

    Votes: 67 14.5%
  • My tank is nearly full/full but not overcrowded.

    Votes: 148 32.0%
  • My tank is just getting started and growing.

    Votes: 222 47.9%
  • I take a minimalist approach with my tank.

    Votes: 26 5.6%
Dinkins Aquatic Gardens
Top