Hydrogen Peroxide Bench-testing

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Hydrogen peroxide usage report
Jay Hemdal
April 3, 2021

Premise:
I use 7% hydrogen peroxide for my home water treatment system. Therefore, since I always have this material in the house, I wanted to explore other possible uses for it, including:
  • Disease control​
  • Water sterilization​
  • Bleaching of algae on surfaces​
  • Indirect production of dissolved oxygen (for overstocked tanks, etc.)​
Final conclusion:
After all of the tests were performed, the only additional use for this product that has merit was found to be “water sterilization”. It is easier to control hydrogen peroxide in this use than is sodium hypochlorite (bleach). All other possible uses either didn’t work well or had unwanted detrimental effects. Using peroxide as a dip to treat Amyloodinium marinum (velvet) has been reported in the literature. I had no cases of this disease to test, but will try it in the future if I run into that disease.

Overview:
With the chemical formula H2O2 this compound has some unexplored uses in aquariums. Hydrogen peroxide is available over the counter in pharmacies and supermarkets as a 3% solution. At this level, it is not reactive enough for most potential uses. Available through some home tap water treatment services, a 7% concentration solution of hydrogen peroxide is stronger and more useful. Do not use this product until you have read and fully understand the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for it. Although even stronger concentration of H2O2 are available, they are very reactive and their use simply entails too much risk. In addition, these products have had stabilizers added to them which may not be suitable for use in and around aquariums. Perhaps the most immediate use for hydrogen peroxide is as a disinfectant / oxidizer. Filter elements and other aquarium items that have been fouled with organic materials can be soaked for 24 hours in a 7% solution of hydrogen peroxide. It is much easier to rinse off than bleach is, and does not leave a toxic residue like some other disinfectants might. Knowing the propensity for this compound to give off an oxygen atom in oxidizing reactions, some people have experimented with using it to raise the ORP level of aquariums, or to temporarily enhance the dissolved oxygen level in water. Remember, like ozone, too much hydrogen peroxide can pose a threat to the animals themselves. Some researchers have shown that protozoans can be killed by doses of hydrogen peroxide ranging from 12.5 to 25 ppm. Because this is in the range that some fish have shown sensitivity, more study is required. Testing for this compound can be done using a standard DPD chlorine test, at least in terms of presence or absence. There are now test strips available (see below) that can quantify peroxide concentrations from 0.05 ppm to 100 ppm. Additionally, an overdose of hydrogen peroxide can be neutralized with a standard aquarium dechlorinator. Fisheries biologists sometimes use hydrogen peroxide to treat bacterial gill diseases in freshwater fishes such as Columnaris, Flavobacterium columnare as a bath at a dose of 50 to 100 ppm for an hour each day for three days. It may also serve as a dip to treat marine fish for Amyloodinium. The typical dose for that is 20 ml of 3% hydrogen peroxide in one gallon of aquarium water for 30 to 45 minutes. A static test of 5 ppm daily additions for five days eradicated cyanobacteria in a freshwater aquarium, but also damaged the nitrifying bacteria, causing a rise in ammonia levels.

Hydrogen peroxide dosing:
Because hydrogen peroxide is in a solution, and not a 100% active material, calculating doses is not very straightforward.

A 7% solution is 70,000 ppm and a 3% solution is 30,000 ppm

Using a 7% solution, the following doses can be calculated:
1 ml in 14 l = 5 ppm​
.1 ml in .37 gallons = 5 ppm​
Static testing with freshwater fish:
A 12.5-gallon aquarium with a Betta and blue green slime algae was dosed with a hydrogen peroxide dose of 5 ppm daily. After three days, the algae growth was reduced. After eight days, the algae was eliminated, however the Ammonia tested at 0.31 ppm and the nitrite was at 0.027 ppm and still rising. This is borderline acceptable for Betta, so the peroxide additions were stopped. Seven days later, the algae began to return.

Static testing with marine aquarium:
Long term testing of my 16-gallon Bio cube at home showed that daily 25 ml additions of 3% hydrogen peroxide resulted in reduction of green hair algae and Valonia sp. However, bristle worms and shrimp were adversely affected. Despite copious water changes, when the peroxide additions were stopped, the GHA returned to its previous levels. Valonia was still present, but in fewer numbers. Additionally, heavy peroxide use (40 ml/day) eliminated the GHA, but it was replaced with a brighter green, turf species. Hand plucking and more water changes worked better.

Hydrogen peroxide drop-down test:
It is reported in the aquarium hobby literature that hydrogen peroxide, added to seawater breaks down within minutes if the solution is aerated. This was found to be incorrect. A 25-ppm solution of hydrogen peroxide in strongly aerated seawater still measured > 20 ppm after 72 hours. A similar test using deionized water showed even more stability – a 25 ppm solution was measured after five days at 10-20 ppm.

Platinum catalyst test:
Reports are that platinum acts as a catalyst for hydrogen peroxide, releasing oxygen in a nondestructive manner. A platinum coated titanium anode was acquired. The anode was added to a solution of deionized water to which 25 ppm of peroxide was added. Bubbles soon began to adhere to the anode, showing proof of concept. However, the peroxide was exhausted after 24 hours, and 25 ppm is too high of a concentration to use with fish.

Platinum anode catalyst.png

Platinum anode catalyst

Bleach / Hydrogen peroxide bleaching comparison:

Sections of plastic, overgrown with hydroids and brown algae were tested to see if hydrogen peroxide was an effective bleaching agent as compared to sodium hypochlorite (bleach).

After a six-hour exposure, brown coloration means less bleached..png

After a six-hour exposure, brown coloration means less bleached.

Bleaching of aquarium components is useful when completely renovating an aquarium. This of course cannot be done with animals present, but it is helpful when cleaning jellyfish exhibits. Bleach, however, is difficult to rinse off afterwards. Hydrogen peroxide is much easier to remove. However, this bench test showed that peroxide, even at a 1:2 dilution, did not have sufficient bleaching effect. The lowest concentration that achieved 100% bleaching was a 1:5 solution of bleach after six hours.

Hydrogen peroxide test on deionized water:
Chemical effects of hydrogen peroxide on deionized water were examined to see if there were any profound changes. A one-liter sample of deionized water had 50 ppm of hydrogen peroxide added, and then measurements were taken over time:

Prior to addition:
Dissolved oxygen = 8.29 mg/l @ 95% saturation​
pH = 3.67 Total dissolved solids = 3​
Oxidation reduction potential= 433.7​
After 30 minutes:
DO = 8.09 mg/l @ 93% saturation​
pH = 3.65​
TDS = 41​
ORP= 473​
After 45 minutes:
DO = 7.88 mg/l @ 90.3% saturation​
pH = 3.64​
TDS = 41​
ORP= 472​
After two hours:
DO = 7.28 mg/l @ 83.7% saturation​
pH = 4.21​
TDS = 42​
ORP= 477.2​
After three hours:
DO = 7.25 mg/l @ 83.3% saturation​
pH = 3.73​
TDS = 43​
ORP= 476​
Overall, there was a slight rise in ORP and a temporary rise in dissolved oxygen, but not many other changes following the 50-ppm addition.

A second challenge was made at 100 ppm hydrogen peroxide, but 5 grams of algae was added to serve as a biocatalyst:

Prior to algae addition:
DO = 7.22 mg/l @ 82.8% saturation​
pH = 3.65​
TDS = 43​
ORP= 474.4​
One hour after algae addition:
DO = 9.01 mg/l @ 103% saturation​
pH = 4.16​
TDS = 37​
ORP= 477​
Three hours after algae addition:
DO = 11.62 mg/l @ 136% saturation​
pH = 4.45​
TDS = 32​
ORP= 476​
Four hours after algae addition:
DO = 12.7 mg/l @ 147% saturation​
pH = 4.61​
TDS = 31​
ORP= 475.3​
Sixteen hours after algae addition:
DO = 13.5 mg/l @ 153% saturation​
pH = 4.65​
TDS = 29​
ORP= 482.7​
The conclusion is that hydrogen peroxide breaks down faster in the presence of organic material, and this releases oxygen. This is likely due to the presence of peroxidase in the algae cells.

High range peroxide test strips – 0.5 to 100 ppm.png

High range peroxide test strips – 0.5 to 100 ppm

Peroxide low range.jpg

Low range peroxide test strips – 0.05 to 4 ppm
 
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brandon429

why did you put a reef in that
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When dosed into jons reef tank on seneye, liquid common 3% temporarily boosted nitrification. Per his thread. And continuing long term tests on the oxydator shows nh3 constants at .005 ppm which indicates no harm to bacteria

his prior steady state was lower, but raising up two or three thousandths isn’t an indication of harm as any large bioload increase would reflect the very same. Jon’s seneye meter has been benchmarked in impressive ways as well per his thread, the reading is the most accurate depiction of nh3 impacts we are going to see this year.

very impressive situational benchmarking for the meter at hand:
 

brandon429

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Jon’s findings should now sit alongside any studies that show harm or no harm to biofiltration in a reef tank. He tested the matter in direct context of a reef aquarium I knew it was gold data the minute he updated results. It also lines up with eleven straight years of having reefers dose peroxide into their systems + post feedback updates. We’ve been claiming no biolfilter harm since ‘11
 
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Jay Hemdal

Jay Hemdal

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Jon’s findings should now sit alongside any studies that show harm or no harm to biofiltration in a reef tank. He tested the matter in direct context of a reef aquarium I knew it was gold data the minute he updated results. It also lines up with eleven straight years of having reefers dose peroxide into their systems + post feedback updates. We’ve been claiming no biolfilter harm since ‘11
Thanks for the input. The ammonia / nitrite rise I saw was in a FW tank. I didn’t see any rise in my marine testing. I suspect that there is more exposure to various peroxidase containing material in marine systems, and in reefs, more of the bacteria is located deeper in the rock and the peroxide is reacted before it lingers there.
Jay
 

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just re read article to see the discussion about oxygen boosting when dosed
 
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brandon429

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just re read

we now have some closure on the oxidation ability when adding directly to water, been wondering that for years
 
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Lasse

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In the article you say that
Additionally, an overdose of hydrogen peroxide can be neutralized with a standard aquarium dechlorinator.

Can you explain how this can be done - Sodium Thiosulfate is the most used dechlorinator - how can it neutralize H2O2? This is the reaction formula with chlorine Na2S2O3 + Cl2 + H2O → S + 2HCl + Na2SO - can you please show the reaction formula for H2O2?

Further in your test with H2O2 and ionized water you only show that H2O2 is stable in deionized water not that it not will produce O2. And lucky for us - otherwise we should need to handle 100% H2O2.

The other test with the algae shows that when H2O2 will be catalyst of something - it decompose and produce oxygen. It is the decomposing of H2O2 that produce Oxygen. I have been using H2O2 in order to manage the oxygen demand during power breakdown both in freshwater aquariums, freshwater indoors fish farms and reef aquariums. In all this cases I have use a Oxygen meter to control that oxygen is produced. Its works and you need a rather low amount of peroxide. Just mix it in a bucket and pour into the water now and then. Even if H2O2 is rather stable it will be catalyst both by organic matter and metals in the water and produce enough of oxygen even in very low concentrations

Platinum catalyst test: Reports are that platinum acts as a catalyst for hydrogen peroxide, releasing oxygen in a nondestructive manner. A platinum coated titanium anode was acquired. The anode was added to a solution of deionized water to which 25 ppm of peroxide was added. Bubbles soon began to adhere to the anode, showing proof of concept. However, the peroxide was exhausted after 24 hours, and 25 ppm is too high of a concentration to use with fish.
Of cause - the peroxide will be exhausted - it is the source for the oxygen production - the bubbles at the the anode is just the extra O from the H2O2. They not come from thin air. You do not need 25 ppm in order to produce O2 from the H2O2 - even 0.1 ppm will produce oxygen but of cause not so much because of lesser extra O.

A 12.5-gallon aquarium with a Betta and blue green slime algae was dosed with a hydrogen peroxide dose of 5 ppm daily. After three days, the algae growth was reduced. After eight days, the algae was eliminated, however the Ammonia tested at 0.31 ppm and the nitrite was at 0.027 ppm and still rising. This is borderline acceptable for Betta, so the peroxide additions were stopped. Seven days later, the algae began to return.
This only says that you had insufficient nitrification in the tank - nothing to take care of the produced NH3/NH4 from the dying algae. What was the alkalinity/pH of the water? Alkalinity below around 2 dKH (resulting in a pH of around 7) will stop the nitrification in fresh water, This problem will not occur in seawater (provided that there is sufficient substrate for a good nitrification) because that the alkalinity is around 7 dKH - there is enough of bicarbonate/carbonate as a inorganic carbon resource for the nitrification (step 2)

The conclusion is that hydrogen peroxide breaks down faster in the presence of organic material, and this releases oxygen. This is likely due to the presence of peroxidase in the algae cells.

To get to the peroxidase - the algae cells must be broken down. H2O2 will not broke down the cells - but ROS (Radical Oxygen Species) will do - but RAS is only produced by decomposing H2O2 - it means that the organic itself will work as a catalyst. That´s my experiences too after have see the fast production of oxygen thats happen when you ad diluted H2O2 into organic rich fish farm water, Maybe when peroxidase will be available that the process will speed up but it must have been some form of ROS production initiated by the organic itself first.

I hadn’t looked into oxygen concentrators, just bottled gas.
If you look at oxygen concentrators - be aware that the concentrate air with nearly 80 % nitrogen gas. They can´t concentrate to 100 % O2 - a normal figure is around 95 % and I suspect that the rest of 5% Nitrogen gas is enough to create bubble disease - especially if injected into pressurized systems. When I had worked with high demand oxygen fish farms - we have always used bottled gas and Speece cones working around 1- 2 bar. The water is after that injected as deep as possible in the tanks. Even saturations around 125 % (bottled oxygen) have not created any bubble disease even among sensitive species (brown trout). You can use these cones with oxygen concentrators too but I suspect that you need to get up over 98 - 99 5 oxygen in order to not get the bubble disease. IME even a very low oversaturation of nitrogen gas can create this. Leaks on the suction side of a dry mounted pump is a classic creator of bubble disease.

Sincerely Lasse
 
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Jay Hemdal

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In the article you say that


1)Can you explain how this can be done - Sodium Thiosulfate is the most used dechlorinator - how can it neutralize H2O2? This is the reaction formula with chlorine Na2S2O3 + Cl2 + H2O → S + 2HCl + Na2SO - can you please show the reaction formula for H2O2?

2)Further in your test with H2O2 and ionized water you only show that H2O2 is stable in deionized water not that it not will produce O2. And lucky for us - otherwise we should need to handle 100% H2O2.

3)The other test with the algae shows that when H2O2 will be catalyst of something - it decompose and produce oxygen. It is the decomposing of H2O2 that produce Oxygen. I have been using H2O2 in order to manage the oxygen demand during power breakdown both in freshwater aquariums, freshwater indoors fish farms and reef aquariums. In all this cases I have use a Oxygen meter to control that oxygen is produced. Its works and you need a rather low amount of peroxide. Just mix it in a bucket and pour into the water now and then. Even if H2O2 is rather stable it will be catalyst both by organic matter and metals in the water and produce enough of oxygen even in very low concentrations


4)Of cause - the peroxide will be exhausted - it is the source for the oxygen production - the bubbles at the the anode is just the extra O from the H2O2. They not come from thin air. You do not need 25 ppm in order to produce O2 from the H2O2 - even 0.1 ppm will produce oxygen but of cause not so much because of lesser extra O.


5)This only says that you had insufficient nitrification in the tank - nothing to take care of the produced NH3/NH4 from the dying algae. What was the alkalinity/pH of the water? Alkalinity below around 2 dKH (resulting in a pH of around 7) will stop the nitrification in fresh water, This problem will not occur in seawater (provided that there is sufficient substrate for a good nitrification) because that the alkalinity is around 7 dKH - there is enough of bicarbonate/carbonate as a inorganic carbon resource for the nitrification (step 2)



To get to the peroxidase - the algae cells must be broken down. H2O2 will not broke down the cells - but ROS (Radical Oxygen Species) will do - but RAS is only produced by decomposing H2O2 - it means that the organic itself will work as a catalyst. That´s my experiences too after have see the fast production of oxygen thats happen when you ad diluted H2O2 into organic rich fish farm water, Maybe when peroxidase will be available that the process will speed up but it must have been some form of ROS production initiated by the organic itself first.


If you look at oxygen concentrators - be aware that the concentrate air with nearly 80 % nitrogen gas. They can´t concentrate to 100 % O2 - a normal figure is around 95 % and I suspect that the rest of 5% Nitrogen gas is enough to create bubble disease - especially if injected into pressurized systems. When I had worked with high demand oxygen fish farms - we have always used bottled gas and Speece cones working around 1- 2 bar. The water is after that injected as deep as possible in the tanks. Even saturations around 125 % (bottled oxygen) have not created any bubble disease even among sensitive species (brown trout). You can use these cones with oxygen concentrators too but I suspect that you need to get up over 98 - 99 5 oxygen in order to not get the bubble disease. IME even a very low oversaturation of nitrogen gas can create this. Leaks on the suction side of a dry mounted pump is a classic creator of bubble disease.

Sincerely Lasse
Lasse,

So many questions/comments in one post, I'm not sure I can sort them all out (grin).

1) There seems to be two possible reactions that account for the STS reducing H2O2 - direct oxidation to sulfuric acid or as a catalyst. I don't know which is in play here, as I said in the title, this was just bench testing - I measured cause and effect.

2) I don't understand what you are saying here. H2O2 showed to be very stable in RODI and seawater, using actual measurements with the test strips.

3) You need to be careful measuring DO with a meter to try and measure oxygen production from reacted H2O2 - I found that even light aeration de-gassed the oxygen rather quickly. So - I would read, say, 140% saturation in a still vessel. Once stirred, the DO dropped rapidly to a bit over 100%

4) Sorry - I'm not sure what this is in reference to.

5) If you are talking about the betta test, no, the H2O2 did kill/harm the nitrifying bacteria. It wasn't pH related, and the bacteria population rebounded within a week. This tank had only a small amount of cyanobacteria in it, that did not feed the ammonia rise.

Jay
 

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Jay, I have some beautiful dead coral skeletons that I still have from years ago before I knew buying them was wrong. Anyway I use them in my fish only tanks. Bleaching them every few weeks is a necessity but I have always been nervous for my fish if I make mistakes or some residual chlorine happens to get in the tank. If so use 1 part water and 5 parts hydrogen peroxide instead to clean the corals like you mentioned it would be much safer right?
 

MnFish1

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Hi Randy,

Sorry, I did not test the ORP on operating marine tanks after H2O2 additions. We have an old Hanna probe, and really, the ORP values it gives are always suspect to me. I would agree with your hypothesis, as the ORP rise that I saw was really not very great, and it makes sense that bursting cells could change the direction of that value pretty easily.

Regarding different species of peroxide - I didn't think about that, but that sure makes sense, I saw that with some ozone work I did back in the late 1980's

The peroxide we use is the same that I use on my home well - Culligan 7%. I was told that it doesn't contain stannous stabilizers, but I have no way to confirm that.

Peroxide chemistry is not my forte! (well, no chemistry is really) I just ran this series of bench tests to try out some hypothesis regarding other possible uses for it at my facility (other than washing filter socks). My big issues is that I have a 11,000 gallon Malawi cichlid tank packed with fish and chronic low DO (75% saturation). One option would be to supplement with bottled O2. I was hoping that I could use H2O2 to boost the O2. Based on how I killed off the nitrifiers in the goldfish tank test, I'm loathe to try that on a system with 4000 cichlids in it (grin).

For me - R2R members should only have three "takeaways" from this "rushed" material -

1) There are hydrogen peroxide test strips available on Amazon that work pretty well.
2) H2O2 does NOT decompose "in minutes" as posted here in numerous places
3) It has some detrimental biological effects on beneficial bacteria.


Thanks,

Jay
Great article - I'm curious - in the samples containing algae - where the Dissolved O2 increased and presumably the H2O2 did decay faster - do you think in a 1 liter sample for example with Live rock containing bacteria, etc etc that perhaps the H2O2 would decompose within minutes - or at least much more quickly than even the algae (which would be more representative of what happens in our tanks)? Second - do you have any opinion/knowledge of the use of the oxydator? Thanks again for the article!
 
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Jay Hemdal

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Jay, I have some beautiful dead coral skeletons that I still have from years ago before I knew buying them was wrong. Anyway I use them in my fish only tanks. Bleaching them every few weeks is a necessity but I have always been nervous for my fish if I make mistakes or some residual chlorine happens to get in the tank. If so use 1 part water and 5 parts hydrogen peroxide instead to clean the corals like you mentioned it would be much safer right?
Sorry - I missed your post. I did not find that H2O2 was very effective at bleaching algae. It bubbles up great in contact with algae, but in the end, it didn't decolorize it well, not like bleach does.

Jay
 
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Jay Hemdal

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Great article - I'm curious - in the samples containing algae - where the Dissolved O2 increased and presumably the H2O2 did decay faster - do you think in a 1 liter sample for example with Live rock containing bacteria, etc etc that perhaps the H2O2 would decompose within minutes - or at least much more quickly than even the algae (which would be more representative of what happens in our tanks)? Second - do you have any opinion/knowledge of the use of the oxydator? Thanks again for the article!
Hi,

Sorry, no, I've never worked with an oxydator. In terms of rapid decomposition of peroxide, even the platinum catalyst didn't decompose it very fast. I know that in higher concentrations, it can react very rapidly (as when they use it as rocket fuel) but from what I saw, the biological decomposition was slower, and in part based on water motion over the material.

Jay
 

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You mentioned that hydrogen peroxide would be effective for water sterilization, but did not expand into that topic in your report. Is there other data available that talks about the levels required to keep a storage tank of pre-mixed saltwater from any biological growth?

Your report does talk about levels of H2O2 over time staying at what might be therapeutic doses in saltwater, which could be effective for long-term storage. What would be considered a safe level for distribution into an active tank? You could use a platinum anode to eliminate the H2O2 before dispensing, and then re-apply with whatever is remaining.
 
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You mentioned that hydrogen peroxide would be effective for water sterilization, but did not expand into that topic in your report. Is there other data available that talks about the levels required to keep a storage tank of pre-mixed saltwater from any biological growth?

Your report does talk about levels of H2O2 over time staying at what might be therapeutic doses in saltwater, which could be effective for long-term storage. What would be considered a safe level for distribution into an active tank? You could use a platinum anode to eliminate the H2O2 before dispensing, and then re-apply with whatever is remaining.
I didn't test sterilization levels, that would take a MUCH larger project (I did this one during my lunch hours). The reason is that there are a variety of organisms, all with different levels of sterilization. The worst IMO would be Neobenedenia fluke eggs, I bet you'd need to use 500+ ppm to kill them. I think general bacteria would controlled by 25 ppm.
I've toyed with the idea of using peroxide to freshen the water tank on my boat and camper, but again, without experimentation, I can't know the dose. I like it better than bleach though...

In the absence of bio-catalysts (algae) peroxide seems stable over a good period of time. If the water vessel were closed, there would be little re-inoculation during storage. I don't think a platinum catalyst would work fast enough to destroy the excess peroxide prior to use though. Sodium thiosulfate would work, (and you can use a DPD chlorine test to ensure you've added enough) but the chemistry of that compound is a bit complicated, and I always worry about using it in water for a reef tank.

Jay
 
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