Has Anyone tried Tropic Marin Bio-Calcium or Carbo-Calcium

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Randy Holmes-Farley

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Some people use them, certainly, but they are very different products with different issues.

Biocalcium is just a dry mix of sodium bicarbonate/carbonate and calcium chloride. For that reason, it cannot be dissolved into a dosing solution and must be added dry.

Carbocalcium (calcium formate) and similar products using calcium acetate (e.g., Salifert All In One) have the complexity that you are tying organic carbon dosing (the formate for carbocalcium) to the need for alkalinity and calcium, and those may not necessarily be the same desired doses in many tanks.

I discuss such products here:

The Many Methods for Supplementing Calcium and Alkalinity - REEFEDITION
http://www.reefedition.com/the-many-methods-for-supplementing-calcium-and-alkalinity/

One-part balanced additive systems: Salt Mixtures

Another type of balanced one part additive is comprised of a simple dry mixture of sodium bicarbonate (or carbonate) and calcium chloride. Just as with the two-part additives described below, this type of system can be further formulated to have a natural seawater residue after removal of calcium carbonate. Tropic Marin’s Biocalcium seems to fall into this category, though its written descriptions are notoriously difficult to interpret. It costs about $18 for 510 grams (estimated to contain about 1800 meq of alkalinity), so that puts the cost at about $9.70 per thousand meq of alkalinity. It claims to add 70 trace elements to the tank, along with the calcium and alkalinity, but doesn’t specify amounts for any of them.

You cannot mix this type of additive in water prior to adding it to a tank. If you do, the calcium will react with the carbonate present to form insoluble calcium carbonate. Consequently, the directions advise adding it directly to the tank. If you do, be sure to add it in a high flow area away from corals (like a sump), as the solids are reported to irritate corals if they land on them.

If you use a product like this, be sure to keep it as dry as possible, even to the extent of keeping it in a sealed container to keep out atmospheric moisture. If moisture enters the mixture, it may allow the formation of undesirable calcium carbonate.

Continual use of products like this will increase the salinity in the tank. The rise in salinity over time can be roughly calculated, though not knowing exactly what is in it makes the calculation only a ballpark figure. For every 1000 meq of alkalinity added in this fashion 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 below 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 below 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 this type of additive, especially in a tank with high calcification rates.

One-part balanced additive systems: Calcium Acetate

Calcium acetate is a product that has gotten relatively little publicity despite its apparent ease of use and the commercial availability to aquarists. In some ways it is similar to the combination of limewater and vinegar. When dissolved in water (fresh or salt), you have calcium ions and acetate ions. The acetate is rapidly metabolized by tank organisms to form bicarbonate, carbon dioxide, and water:

CH3CO2– (acetate) + 2 O2 → HCO3– + CO2 + H2O

This equation suggests that pH of such tanks may stay near the low end of normal, because of the excess carbon dioxide, but the practical experience of people using calcium acetate suggests that this is not a big concern.

Calcium acetate will also facilitate the growth of bacteria and the reduction of nutrients in systems, similar to that with folks dosing vinegar or vodka for that purpose. It will also facilitate conversion of nitrate to nitrogen gas (N2) in anoxic regions of live sand and rock by providing the carbon source necessary for the process. The equation below shows the process that could take place:

5 CH3CO2– (acetate) + 8 NO3– → 10 CO2 + 4 N2 + 13 OH– + H2O

One of the sources of calcium acetate available to aquarists is Salifert’s All in One (a product that also contains some strontium, amino acids, and some trace elements). It is a liquid product that can be poured directly into a tank with no immediate concerns about pH. The current version of their commercial product is 250,000-mg/L calcium acetate, so it contains the equivalent of 3,160 meq/L of alkalinity. This product sells in the US for about $45/L. Consequently, it costs about $14 per thousand meq/L of alkalinity. That price makes it very expensive for an aquarium with a large demand for calcium and alkalinity, but the zero equipment cost (unless you automate it with a dosing pump) makes it attractive for small aquaria, especially nano-reef tanks.

I have no information on the purity of the material, or the exact nature of the “trace elements” in it. Everything in the bottle will be delivered to the tank. It poses no unusual safety concerns. The upper limit to how much calcium and alkalinity can be supplied to a tank in this fashion depends on two factors. If the metabolism of acetate is rapid and the dose is very high, oxygen might be depleted. If the conversion is slow then acetate can build up in the tank (not itself a significant concern except perhaps at very high levels where it might confound an alkalinity test). Habib Sekha of Salifert has indicated that using the doses recommended on the bottle will not lead to either of these issues being problematic.

Overdosing is not expected to be an unusual problem, but if one makes significant additions in this fashion, the alkalinity will take time to show up completely in the tank because the acetate takes time to be metabolized. Consequently, I’d wait a day after adding it to measure alkalinity. Calcium measurement won’t be similarly impacted. Tank salinity will not increase over time using calcium acetate.
 
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Lou Ekus

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Some people use them, certainly, but they are very different products with different issues.

Biocalcium is just a dry mix of sodium bicarbonate/carbonate and calcium chloride. For that reason, it cannot be dissolved into a dosing solution and must be added dry.

Carbocalcium (calcium formate) and similar products using calcium acetate (e.g., Salifert All In One) have the complexity that you are tying organic carbon dosing (the formate for carbocalcium) to the need for alkalinity and calcium, and those may not necessarily be the same desired doses in many tanks.

Just to clarify a little, Bio-Calcium is a balanced powder additive that contains all components of natural sea water in addition to calcium chloride and sodium bicarbonate/carbonate. This maintains the ionic balance of the tank, compensating for the additional sodium chloride formed from the addition of calcium chloride and sodium bicarbonate/carbonate alone. In that aspect, Bio-Calcium is much like the classic Balling Method. As you said, Randy, it will still result in an slightly elevated salinity that must be corrected in time. But the elevation happens quite slowly and is ionically "balanced" due to the added components.

You cannot mix this type of additive in water prior to adding it to a tank. If you do, the calcium will react with the carbonate present to form insoluble calcium carbonate. Consequently, the directions advise adding it directly to the tank. If you do, be sure to add it in a high flow area away from corals (like a sump), as the solids are reported to irritate corals if they land on them.

If you use a product like this, be sure to keep it as dry as possible, even to the extent of keeping it in a sealed container to keep out atmospheric moisture. If moisture enters the mixture, it may allow the formation of undesirable calcium carbonate.

This is great additional advice, thank you for adding this.

Carbocalcium (calcium formate) and similar products using calcium acetate (e.g., Salifert All In One) have the complexity that you are tying organic carbon dosing (the formate for carbocalcium) to the need for alkalinity and calcium, and those may not necessarily be the same desired doses in many tanks.

While I appreciate this comment, and agree to some extent, I have a couple of additional comments relative to it. First, it is extremely important to make a distinction between calcium acetate products and Tropic Marin Carbocalcium. It is very difficult, nearly impossible, to be able to add enough calcium acetate to a system, that is well stocked and growing aggressively, due to the associated oxygen depletion caused by the acetate. So for the average reef system, calcium acetate will generally NOT meet the Ca demand. This is not the case with Carbocalcium. In contrast to calcium acetate it is possible to fulfill the calcium needs of most reef aquariums with calcium formate, without the O2 depletion issue.
 

Randy Holmes-Farley

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While I appreciate this comment, and agree to some extent, I have a couple of additional comments relative to it. First, it is extremely important to make a distinction between calcium acetate products and Tropic Marin Carbocalcium. It is very difficult, nearly impossible, to be able to add enough calcium acetate to a system, that is well stocked and growing aggressively, due to the associated oxygen depletion caused by the acetate. So for the average reef system, calcium acetate will generally NOT meet the Ca demand. This is not the case with Carbocalcium. In contrast to calcium acetate it is possible to fulfill the calcium needs of most reef aquariums with calcium formate, without the O2 depletion issue.

Thanks, Lou. :)
 
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I have a bucket Of Red sea abc+ foundation powder, I figured I would try it, that is based on calcium uptake, which is already high. so now I'm dosing BRS alk to keep those levels up. noob question 1 Is coraline depleting Alk at a faster rate?
@Lou Ekus Carbocal If this product was used what would be chased or monitored for dosing CAL or ALK ?
 

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I have a bucket Of Red sea abc+ foundation powder, I figured I would try it, that is based on calcium uptake, which is already high. so now I'm dosing BRS alk to keep those levels up. noob question 1 Is coraline depleting Alk at a faster rate?
@Lou Ekus Carbocal If this product was used what would be chased or monitored for dosing CAL or ALK ?

With Carbo-Calcium, you'd use alkalinity for dosing, IMO, but could use calcium. Calcium is just slower to respond to over or under dosing.

Like corals, coralline uses calcium and alkalinity is essentially the same ratio in the calcium calcium carbonate, which is about 18-20 ppm calcium for each 1 meq/L (2.8 dKH) of alkalinity. That's also the ratio Carbo-Calcium will supply. That said, I'm not sure what you mean by

"Is coraline depleting Alk at a faster rate?"

Faster than what?
 
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I always have calcium in the 500 +/- 10 regardless of dosing. I cant explain that. Its Alk that swings radically and Cora line will increase or decrease based solely on that. Btw I have several test kits RS/ salafert and Just picked up hanna for cal. Now I am thinking just dosing Alk just to see if I can get Cal to drop///RS-pro salt 6 months
 
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Lou Ekus

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@siggy When first switching over to ANY new Ca and alkalinity maintenance system, I would always like to see you monitor both Ca and alkalinity closely for a short period of time. Almost any change in additives will almost certainly result in a need for a different dosing regime than before. That being said, once you see how your system responds to the new additives, it is usually relatively easy to get it all "dialed in" to a routine. Since all tanks are different, I hesitate to make a blanket statement about using Ca or alkalinity as the key factor to monitor. I would agree with Randy, that it is likely the alkalinity that will be your best bet as an indicator. It is also important to note that your corals and calcareous animals will be more sensitive to small fluctuations in alkalinity than they will be to small fluctuations in Ca. Just remember that both are important, and if you choose to monitor the alkalinity to evaluate your dosing regime, you still need to check in on your Ca from time to time to make sure the system is working in a balanced way for you.
 

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Just got some carbocalcium to give it a try. I'll be attempting to bump up alk from 7 .5dkh to 8. 5 dkh with it. 200 gallon system maintained currently with a kalk reactor and 40ml daily dose of vinegar injected into reactor. The current maintenance kept the system at 8.5 to 9 dkh until recently given a large increase in coraline algae and a stoney coral growth spurt. I'll update in a few days as to how it is working. I'm going to dose 20ml today and test in 1 hour,12 hours then again in 24 hours before second dose. Starting at a dkh of 7 5
 
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I have a 90g roughly 6 months old. Been dosing ca,mag,alk,other elements separately so far . Went to my lfs to figure if i need to get into any two part dosing and he handed the BioCalcium and said one spoon a week is all you need to add . Its now with me and i have read the instructions. I have 2 questions
1. I spoon 28 ppm ca 4 dkh for 10 g , is the calculation straight forward to derive the effect on 100 gal i.e an increase of .28 and .4 ca,dkh respectively
2, The 70 other elements and effects ate unexplained , is there better documentation elsewhere ?
 

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TM makes some quality products for sure. Unlike some of the US companies imo. I was excited to learn about the carbocalcium at RAP NY , and being the skeptic I am, it still is going to get a fair test. I tend to not use anything that I personally have not proven to be beneficial, so this is a leap for me out of my comfort zone ;)
 

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I have a 90g roughly 6 months old. Been dosing ca,mag,alk,other elements separately so far . Went to my lfs to figure if i need to get into any two part dosing and he handed the BioCalcium and said one spoon a week is all you need to add . Its now with me and i have read the instructions. I have 2 questions
1. I spoon 28 ppm ca 4 dkh for 10 g , is the calculation straight forward to derive the effect on 100 gal i.e an increase of .28 and .4 ca,dkh respectively
2, The 70 other elements and effects ate unexplained , is there better documentation elsewhere ?

I do not know if the original value is correct, but yes, it scales like that. 2.8 ppm in the calcium. I assume that was a typo.

Not sure what you are asking on other elements. Many are absolutely essential for life, but that doesn’t mean they are low in your tank.
 
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