Importance of trace elements

Nathancquinton

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Hi all,

I had a discussion with the owner of my LFS today about coralline algae. To be honest I try to take what this guys says with a grain of salt because he's made some strange claims in the past that I've found from my own experience, and from that of others, to just not be true at all. At the end of the day, however, he seems to have some healthy looking reef tanks on display. Anyway, I got some Pink Coralline algae spores from the ARC reef foundation a couple months ago. Their handout tells me that although Calcium, Magnesium, and Alkalinity levels are important, consistent Salinity and a pH of 8.1-8.4 will be the most important parameters. They even claim that the spores will not grow until these conditions are corrected.

So I asked my LFS owner if there was something I could do to correct my pH of 7.7 other than what I've already done (air out my room, increase dKH etc). Well, all he can tell me is what I didn't even ask in the first place haha. He told me that the most important element to grow coralline algae is strontium. I use IO reef crystals and test for Mg, Ca, and dKH regulary and dose these as needed, but I don't dose strontium. I also don't dose Molybdenum... or iodine... Which he didn't mention but it got me thinking.

So what do you guys think? Should I start dosing strontium? Other stuff? I don't have the means to test for strontium (do I need to test for it or can I blindly dose?)
One reason I'm skeptical is because it seemed like he was really just trying to sell me stuff... I don't think his business is doing very well. He also told me this exact thing "Strontium comes from Calcium" which makes absolutely no sense since they're two very different elements (granted they come from the same group on the periodic table).

Let me know what you guys recommend/think :)
 
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Nathancquinton

Nathancquinton

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Dont dose anything blindly. Lol. Vibrant or hydrogen peroxide.
Just run your reef tank. Your.lfs guy cant scrape sone coraline powder for you to seed your tank with? You had to buy spores? What? Lol.
D
He's kind of a strange guy haha. The first few times I met him I thought I just got him on a bad day, but no that's just the way he is lol
 

mdb_talon

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I dont know that he is correct, but i dont think he was just trying to sell. Strontium was marketed quite a bit for corraline many years ago, but not so much anymore. I know several "old timers" who would likely agree with your LFS.

Again I am not saying it is accurate I reaply dont know how important strontium is. I do think it is reasonable that he believed what he was telling you.
 
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nereefpat

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There are Strontium test kits. You could use one, or use an ICP test, to see if Sr is depleted. It would be reasonable to dose if Sr is low.

However, I would bet that tanks getting water changes would have enough Sr.
 

Randy Holmes-Farley

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IMO, strontium is not needed by most organisms we keep. Many people have confused the presence of something in a coral skeleton with its need or utility by a coral.

Strontium gets into any type of precipitating calcium carbonate in place of some of the calcium since it looks chemically like it. Plutonium and uranium also get into coral skeletons in that way, but I curiously note that few reefers think that is of value.

That said, maintaining it is not hard if you want to do so. I do agree that testing first is the only way to know if you need any, and if so, how much.
 

KrisReef

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"Strontium comes from Calcium," who else knew this?

Maybe he was thinking "Strontium replaces Calcium?"

From my understanding, you need to have the proper levels of Plutonium and Uranium which poses a significant problem for most of us since we can't readily travel to those planets to collect these trace elements.

Growing coralline algae just happens once the tank decides it's time to color up. Some tanks start with it in the second week while others take years before the algae decides to grow. Who knows what the cues are, but it seems that there are more than one parameter in the tank that have to be correct for it to start growing.

A watched strontium pot never boils?
water boils GIF
 

Alazo1

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The old book "The Reef Aquarium" mentions that strontium is chemically very close to calcium. It mentions that someone keeps strontium at higher levels then nsw ( up to 10 times higher) and had seen a rise in coralline algae and acropora growth rate.

When I dose strontium I see a rise in coralline algae. I have not dosed it in a while, need to make another batch. Also, the salt I use (reef crystals) seem to have a high amount of it so I may not need it. However, I don't think it hurts.
 

Dennis Cartier

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@Nathancquinton that is a fairly low PH if accurate. Unless you are running a calcium reactor on the tank, I would want to confirm the probe/test for accuracy.

As for the need for Strontium, there are threads on here that suggest the importance of strontium to coralline and that elevated levels can boost the growth of SPS. I have both dosed and tested for it in the past, but no longer do. Mainly because I don't enjoy doing tests, so I save my testing for the commonly known important elements.

I am guessing your tank is fairly new as you are dosing coralline spores. In my experience coralline is a handy indicator of the stability of the tank. At some point, usually around the 6 month mark, it just takes off on it's own, if the parameters are suitable for it. I find that elevated nitrate can impact it in a negative way. Not because it can't handle high nitrate, but because other organisms, like nuisance algae get a huge boost for elevated nitrate and out compete it.

So I would not worry about dosing Strontium at this point (assuming my guesses are accurate), and just focus on keeping your (main) parameters stable and in normal ranges. If the PH readings is accurate, you may want to investigate the cause. I would suggest trying to keep that above 7.9 in most cases.

Dennis
 

Payedjay

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what I learned from reefing is time is everything when it come to coralline algae for example my tank salinity was going from 1025 to 1028 before I had any good corals and didn’t care about the tank at all but I have a consistent alk of 10 cal of 450 and mag of 1350 within 4 months it grew without a problem now that my tank is over a year I keep very stable bc of my corals one thing that does help is when you get a frag or snail with it
 

TuxUrchin07

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I don't know If that strontium statement is correct but I never bought any coralline algae or anything but it started appearing on its own when my water chemistry became stable
 
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RuuToo

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Plutonium and uranium also get into coral skeletons in that way, but I curiously note that few reefers think that is of value.

Five bucks says that someone claims that dosing one of these grows “monster corals” by the end of the year.

Another five bucks on at least 50 threads on the competing benefits of one vs the other…
 

TnFishwater98

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My LFS has a nano (less than 5 gallons) loaded with corals I asked what he doses the nano to keep all those corals happy in such a small tank. All they dose that small tank in Phyto and Purple up. They don’t dose the recommended amount just a little because they aren’t doing it to get a ton of Coral algae but just to get enough calcium in the tank. So I’ve been dosing small amounts of Purple Up, Phyto, Oyster Fest, Reef Roids, Reef Chili, and Goniopower on rotation. All corals seem to love it and getting the coral algae growth.
 

Randy Holmes-Farley

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The old book "The Reef Aquarium" mentions that strontium is chemically very close to calcium. It mentions that someone keeps strontium at higher levels then nsw ( up to 10 times higher) and had seen a rise in coralline algae and acropora growth rate.

When I dose strontium I see a rise in coralline algae. I have not dosed it in a while, need to make another batch. Also, the salt I use (reef crystals) seem to have a high amount of it so I may not need it. However, I don't think it hurts.

The first is true, it does look like calcium. But I personally do not think strontium is useful in a reef tank.
 

East1

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The first is true, it does look like calcium. But I personally do not think strontium is useful in a reef tank.
I both agree and disagree with this comment,

I think in an average aquarium strontium is maintained via water changes, or as OP's shop references, dosed with Calcium often indirectly or unknowingly. When a calcium reactor uses coral skeletons it releases that bound Sr, similarly for Reef Foundation A ( the calcium one, anyway) has strontium mixed in. In this instance I don't think you'll see strontium deficiencies, and even when your tank registers low Sr, the coral skeletons have an internal reservoir to buffer this element.

where I do think it's important is when you have excess calcification as a result of high bioload to water volume, as Strontium in the water column will be depleted at a faster rate relative to calcification (as calficiation pulls Calcium and carbonates from the water at the growing sites - so the tip and the base, where as coral tissue across the organism needs Sr as well as other important elements and so there is a divorce in the relationship between adding your foundational elements to these supremely important microelements. This divorce I theorise is a result of surface area to volume ratio for growing area to volume of tissue,

I've experienced this first hand in my pico aquarium, where I have 12 medium to large colonies of Acropora in a 4.5 gallon aquarium (volume including sump). In this tank, even dosing an all in one - TM All For Reef - the need for supplemental element dosing is necessary on top of using that to maintain alk. If the tank is left alone, within a week polyp extension will reduce and the tissue will look 'dry' unless I dose Iodine (as Potassium Iodide and associated halogens) and Phosphate (which I mix with wormwood extract as a vector, I use Easylife Fosfo). Once these deficits show, dosing the above will show an improvement in coral vitality and polyp extension in hours, and often almost immediately. This has been something I've experienced a few times over the past 6 months when adjusting my dosing schedule.

The rare times a Sr deficiency will show itself, it'll appear similar to Potassium deficiency - low polyp extension, a slightly colourless 'limp' tissue look and no growth. Corals will lose colour and become kinda grey and washed out, and display little irridescence. It's important to rule out the above elements first, in this instance. Dosing Sr at this point won't be immediately noticable however growth will resume in a day or so, along with slow return of colour and an increase of polyp extension.

Tank biology will also be affected at the lowest levels, the bacterial system seems to slow processing and there is a noticable increase in Cyanobacteria despite nutrient levels being stable.

Sr deficiency will not show itself quickly, as the dryness or lack of polyp extension symptoms that are a result of low Phosphate or I (and associated halogens) first, as these two elements will show deficiencies in a week, I'll say again that it's important to look at these elements as soon as coral tissue looks 'Dry'. Sr will take upto a month, similarly with Potassium and Bromine, however unlike the above two, this doesn't appear to be immediately lethal and you'll have corals that are alive, just not vigorous.

So based on the above, I think you're right in your assertion, however in fringe cases when water concentrations of strontium are chronically low, Sr can be depleted from the coral skeleton at which point it does become a very important element for coral, and tank health.

I believe it's this skeletal buffer that makes it difficult to diagnose when we test a water deficency, as it doesn't immediately correlate to coral health or visible vitality, as I call it
 

Randy Holmes-Farley

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I both agree and disagree with this comment,

I think in an average aquarium strontium is maintained via water changes, or as OP's shop references, dosed with Calcium often indirectly or unknowingly. When a calcium reactor uses coral skeletons it releases that bound Sr, similarly for Reef Foundation A ( the calcium one, anyway) has strontium mixed in. In this instance I don't think you'll see strontium deficiencies, and even when your tank registers low Sr, the coral skeletons have an internal reservoir to buffer this element.

where I do think it's important is when you have excess calcification as a result of high bioload to water volume, as Strontium in the water column will be depleted at a faster rate relative to calcification (as calficiation pulls Calcium and carbonates from the water at the growing sites - so the tip and the base, where as coral tissue across the organism needs Sr as well as other important elements and so there is a divorce in the relationship between adding your foundational elements to these supremely important microelements. This divorce I theorise is a result of surface area to volume ratio for growing area to volume of tissue,

I've experienced this first hand in my pico aquarium, where I have 12 medium to large colonies of Acropora in a 4.5 gallon aquarium (volume including sump). In this tank, even dosing an all in one - TM All For Reef - the need for supplemental element dosing is necessary on top of using that to maintain alk. If the tank is left alone, within a week polyp extension will reduce and the tissue will look 'dry' unless I dose Iodine (as Potassium Iodide and associated halogens) and Phosphate (which I mix with wormwood extract as a vector, I use Easylife Fosfo). Once these deficits show, dosing the above will show an improvement in coral vitality and polyp extension in hours, and often almost immediately. This has been something I've experienced a few times over the past 6 months when adjusting my dosing schedule.

The rare times a Sr deficiency will show itself, it'll appear similar to Potassium deficiency - low polyp extension, a slightly colourless 'limp' tissue look and no growth. Corals will lose colour and become kinda grey and washed out, and display little irridescence. It's important to rule out the above elements first, in this instance. Dosing Sr at this point won't be immediately noticable however growth will resume in a day or so, along with slow return of colour and an increase of polyp extension.

Tank biology will also be affected at the lowest levels, the bacterial system seems to slow processing and there is a noticable increase in Cyanobacteria despite nutrient levels being stable.

Sr deficiency will not show itself quickly, as the dryness or lack of polyp extension symptoms that are a result of low Phosphate or I (and associated halogens) first, as these two elements will show deficiencies in a week, I'll say again that it's important to look at these elements as soon as coral tissue looks 'Dry'. Sr will take upto a month, similarly with Potassium and Bromine, however unlike the above two, this doesn't appear to be immediately lethal and you'll have corals that are alive, just not vigorous.

So based on the above, I think you're right in your assertion, however in fringe cases when water concentrations of strontium are chronically low, Sr can be depleted from the coral skeleton at which point it does become a very important element for coral, and tank health.

I believe it's this skeletal buffer that makes it difficult to diagnose when we test a water deficency, as it doesn't immediately correlate to coral health or visible vitality, as I call it

OK, we have different opinions on the utility of strontium. My opinion is not based on lack of depletion in some systems, but simple nonutility.

IMO, and in the scientific literature, it looks and acts like calcium, and gets incorporated into calcium carbonate skeletons for that reason alone (and gets into abiotic precipitated calcium carbonate to the same extent), without causing any benefit or "need" by most organisms.

IMO, the only need by organisms are a very few unusual creatures (not corals) that are known to have a specific need for it. These include gastropods, radiolaria, and acantharia.

FWIW, the scientific literature has never identified strontium as something corals need.

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