Help with CA, Alk, Ph

BRS

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Hi community,

I have a 32G bio cube. About 4 years old. Lightly stocked (duncan, paly, gsp, xenia, 1 blue damsel). The tank has been through one near crash and a couple of other problems, but has been problem-free for the past year.

I never used to dose anything. Just do weekly 3-gallon water changes. I've had issues with ph off and on. But I moved recently, and I saw my ph swing dramatically between night and day. My poor duncan would close up completely, and the gsp would usually follow suit.

I was sure this must mean that my alkalinity was off, so I read up on 2-part dosing. I didn't want to mess with calcium levels, because I thought that xenias can't take the same CA levels that LPS needs.

I bought a Hanna alk checker. It read 13.8 and 14.1 dKH on two separate tests. OK, so it's not too low. It's too high. More research suggested that the most likely cause is low calcium. Tested with API, and came out to 380 ppm.

I decided to see whether I could bring it up at least to 400 ppm. I mixed 15ml of Seachem Reef Complete into about a liter of tank water and poured it in the back.
I immediately saw some kind of precipitate in the tank, and now I'm not sure what to do.

All help/discussion/tips/theories are greatly appreciated!
 

unchaotic

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All of my softies close up after the lights go out. Pretty sure it's standard unless you have moonlights.

As for the ph swing, do you have a refugium on opposite light cycle as the display tank? My refugium light is on 24/7 so my ph usually swings down when the tank lights are off. Now that I'm dosing kalkwasser (increased ph) I might switch to opposite cycles.
 

Uncle99

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Hi community,

I have a 32G bio cube. About 4 years old. Lightly stocked (duncan, paly, gsp, xenia, 1 blue damsel). The tank has been through one near crash and a couple of other problems, but has been problem-free for the past year.

I never used to dose anything. Just do weekly 3-gallon water changes. I've had issues with ph off and on. But I moved recently, and I saw my ph swing dramatically between night and day. My poor duncan would close up completely, and the gsp would usually follow suit.

I was sure this must mean that my alkalinity was off, so I read up on 2-part dosing. I didn't want to mess with calcium levels, because I thought that xenias can't take the same CA levels that LPS needs.

I bought a Hanna alk checker. It read 13.8 and 14.1 dKH on two separate tests. OK, so it's not too low. It's too high. More research suggested that the most likely cause is low calcium. Tested with API, and came out to 380 ppm.

I decided to see whether I could bring it up at least to 400 ppm. I mixed 15ml of Seachem Reef Complete into about a liter of tank water and poured it in the back.
I immediately saw some kind of precipitate in the tank, and now I'm not sure what to do.

All help/discussion/tips/theories are greatly appreciated!
Make sure always MG first, to 1350-1400ppm, or you will get various and inaccurate CA and Alk tests.
 

Saltyreef

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Regarding Ph.
Could be from a new/different co2 load from the recent move.
Tunze makes a skimmer that fits in the rear chamber, this would mainly be for gas exchange vs skimmate.
Is the top still on your biocube?
Or is it topless?
 
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All of my softies close up after the lights go out. Pretty sure it's standard unless you have moonlights.

As for the ph swing, do you have a refugium on opposite light cycle as the display tank? My refugium light is on 24/7 so my ph usually swings down when the tank lights are off. Now that I'm dosing kalkwasser (increased ph) I might switch to opposite cycles.
Thanks much. I'm much more concerned about the LPS closing up. I've got relatively cheap LEDs running white/blue during the day and blue-only morning and evening.

No refugium. In the back of the biocube, I've got a large sponge plus Chemi-Pure and Purigen.
 
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Make sure always MG first, to 1350-1400ppm, or you will get various and inaccurate CA and Alk tests.
Oh that's interesting. I've been at this for a little while, but I still consider myself new to the hobby.

I'll pick up a magnesium test kit tomorrow. Based on the results, what kinds of next steps would you recommend? re-test ca and alk?
 
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Regarding Ph.
Could be from a new/different co2 load from the recent move.
Tunze makes a skimmer that fits in the rear chamber, this would mainly be for gas exchange vs skimmate.
Is the top still on your biocube?
Or is it topless?
Ah. I hadn't considered that. It's topless. I have a tall sponge in the second chamber, so all of the overflow falls down slowly through that sponge. I'd have thought that would be fine for aeration, but I'll try your idea. I have a small HOB skimmer that I could use for that.

Let's assume the increased oxygen takes care of the ph issue. Do you have any thoughts on what could be causing such high alk? I really was under the impression that it's related to low calcium, so I added Seachem ReefComplete. But I got immediate precipitation, so now I'm kind of stuck.
 

mdb_talon

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High alk is not caused by low calcium. In my experience there are three main reasons for high alk if you dont dose anything..using tapwater, using a high alk salt mix and low/minimal usage, or faulty tests. If you use tapwater that could explain it. Otherwise my bet is on one of the other two.
 
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High alk is not caused by low calcium. In my experience there are three main reasons for high alk if you dont dose anything..using tapwater, using a high alk salt mix and low/minimal usage, or faulty tests. If you use tapwater that could explain it. Otherwise my bet is on one of the other two.
Thanks @mdb_talon. Certainly not tapwater. I have a very long list of mistakes I've made over the past 4 years, and that's on the list, but I learned that lesson pretty early on.

I get my water from the LFS, so I'll check the alk levels there. If we assume it's high, what do you recommend?

As for low usage, I'm not sure I understand what that means. Could you help?

And finally, do you have any ideas what might have caused the precipitate when I added Seachem ReefComplete?
 

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Also will add that as much as i love some of the hanna checkers i. Increasingly dissapointed in their accuracy. Been noticing consistent swings of 1 to 1.5 dkh when i change to new regeant. Within that bottle the readings are consistent, but not to a new bottle. The last order I got 2 bottles of regeant. They both read approximately 3.5 dkh lower than the previous bottle of regeant. Compared to salifert and API they are reading approximately 3 dkh low. Just about done with hanna. I like the precision and not needing to count drops(api) or measure drops(salifert), but the results just are not accurate enough between bottles of regeant I just cant trust it anymore. Pretty sad when i can trust the api results more.
 
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High alk is not caused by low calcium. In my experience there are three main reasons for high alk if you dont dose anything..using tapwater, using a high alk salt mix and low/minimal usage, or faulty tests. If you use tapwater that could explain it. Otherwise my bet is on one of the other two.
+1
Are you using a pro salt by any chance?
Or reef crystals?
In general i like my salt mix to have the same parameters as I run my tank....or vice versa if appropriate lol.

Example, i use red sea blue bucket with an alk of around 7.8.
I dose daily to keep it stable at around 8 so when i perform a water change, it stays consistant.
The only thing i have to add is a little bit of liquid mag since the value of mag in the blue bucket is generally lower than i keep my tank at.
 
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+1
Are you using a pro salt by any chance?
Or reef crystals?
In general i like my salt mix to have the same parameters as I run my tank....or vice versa if appropriate lol.

Example, i use red sea blue bucket with an alk of around 7.8.
I dose daily to keep it stable at around 8 so when i perform a water change, it stays consistant.
The only thing i have to add is a little bit of liquid mag since the value of mag in the blue bucket is generally lower than i keep my tank at.
Thanks for the +1 @Saltyreef . I was probably composing my reply to @mdb_talon while you were posting this. I don't mix my own water at all. I get it from the LFS. I'll check the alk there and see what the results are.

If the results come back that the alk is high in the LFS water, what would you recommend I do?

Also, do you have any thoughts on why the Seachem ReefComplete caused precipitation?
 

mdb_talon

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Thanks @mdb_talon. Certainly not tapwater. I have a very long list of mistakes I've made over the past 4 years, and that's on the list, but I learned that lesson pretty early on.

I get my water from the LFS, so I'll check the alk levels there. If we assume it's high, what do you recommend?

As for low usage, I'm not sure I understand what that means. Could you help?

And finally, do you have any ideas what might have caused the precipitate when I added Seachem ReefComplete?

By low usage i just mean if you dont have much lps/sps/coralline that would naturally drop your alk levels. In that scenario they will stay elevated if you are using a high alk salt mix.

Test your LFS saltwater, but also test TDS of the makeup water you are using if at all possible to make sure they not giving you crappy freshwater(handheld meters approx $15 on amazon). Should read zero ideally. Also just want to make sure you are also ensuring the salinity is correct? High salinity can also cause issues.

The seachem product i believe is just calc/mg/strontium. If your alk really is very high it may explain the precipitation.

As far as lowering high alk... causing precipitation can do it though probably not ideal. Best bet is using a low alkalinity salt mix...which if buying from lfs that is harder. You could just buy freshwater from LFS and mix salt yourself using a low alkalinity brand.
 
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Thanks @Uncle99 @mdb_talon @Saltyreef @unchaotic for helping me out.

I tested the LFS water (with Hanna) and it's 7.0 dKH. Even assuming a bit of fluctuation, that's much lower than inside my tank.

Low usage is definitely possible. My duncan is a big boy, but not huge. Only a colony of palys, some gsp, and xenias in the tank alongside him.

I have never tested for MG, so I can't check that. I'll bring a sample to LFS tomorrow and get that done.

I had never thought to test for TDS. Their RODI set up certainly looks impressive. I'd hate to think it isn't. There's another LFS that sells only freshwater. I could buy there and mix my own salt if I have to.

In the meantime, I was hoping to manage my swings in ph by managing what I assumed to be low alk. That's not at all the case, so what is the wisdom of the community?
  • Do we have any ideas how the alkalinity could have gotten so high in the first place?
  • I have an air stone I could run in the evenings. Low ph from low oxygen could be the culprit since alk is not low
  • If alk does not come down from natural consumption in the next several days, any advice for reducing it other than large water changes?
 

mdb_talon

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I am pretty much at a loss as to how your alk ever got that high if you are using 7dkh water from LFS. Nitrates going down can increase it, but not that much. Have you ever used anything advertised as a "ph buffer" or similar? Pretty much anything advertised as raising ph or as a "buffer" is going to increase alk.

Also what is your salinity at?

As far as the airstone and low oxygen it is not really the oxygen that impacts PH, but the CO2. Using airstones can however lower that co2 depending on co2 of the air being injected.

You mention needing to go to a different LFS for freshwater, but where do you get your freshwater now? Also to clarify i was suggesting test tds of your topoff/freshwater. Testing tds of saltwater does not help.
 
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Alk can be brought down safely using muriatic (hydrchloric) acid. Home improvement stores have it.

Dose 1/4 tsp once a day at most until you bring it down.

PH dives at night are normal. Adding an airstone will help, but its not worth obsessing over unless you have a lot of SPS.

Alk levels don't cause pH swings unless your alk is insanely low.

Seachem reef complete appears to be calcium. You dont calcium dosing with that coral load. Occasional water changes should be sufficient for calcium.
 

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Oh that's interesting. I've been at this for a little while, but I still consider myself new to the hobby.

I'll pick up a magnesium test kit tomorrow. Based on the results, what kinds of next steps would you recommend? re-test ca and alk?
I had lots of trouble getting CA and Alk stable until I put MG in the range first, then waited 24 and retest both. I watch those two numbers over a week to see what daily consumption is, then dose upwards if it’s low, or not dose if it’s high, until I get both of them in the range.

Once have daily consumption, it’s easy to dose daily to keep those two + MG pinned.

If in fact you have low MG, you’ll get results all over the map relative to its deficiency.
 

Saltyreef

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You can slowly start lowering your alk with water changes with the 7.0dkh water.

I would get a redsea or salifert test kit to ensure your hanna is reading true.
 

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Hi community,

I have a 32G bio cube. About 4 years old. Lightly stocked (duncan, paly, gsp, xenia, 1 blue damsel). The tank has been through one near crash and a couple of other problems, but has been problem-free for the past year.

I never used to dose anything. Just do weekly 3-gallon water changes. I've had issues with ph off and on. But I moved recently, and I saw my ph swing dramatically between night and day. My poor duncan would close up completely, and the gsp would usually follow suit.

I was sure this must mean that my alkalinity was off, so I read up on 2-part dosing. I didn't want to mess with calcium levels, because I thought that xenias can't take the same CA levels that LPS needs.

I bought a Hanna alk checker. It read 13.8 and 14.1 dKH on two separate tests. OK, so it's not too low. It's too high. More research suggested that the most likely cause is low calcium. Tested with API, and came out to 380 ppm.

I decided to see whether I could bring it up at least to 400 ppm. I mixed 15ml of Seachem Reef Complete into about a liter of tank water and poured it in the back.
I immediately saw some kind of precipitate in the tank, and now I'm not sure what to do.

All help/discussion/tips/theories are greatly appreciated!
Have you been dosing alk? That seems incredibly high to be “doing nothing”. I don’t think you should be dosing anything based on the corals in your tank. Do a few 10-20% water changes over 7-10 days and verify the numbers normalize as they should. Test the water for alk and CA freshly mixed before putting in your tank for sanity, too.
 
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