!!!!PHOSPHATE THAT IS EVIL:FEAR THAT IS REAL!!!?

Battlecorals

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Below is a short write up that I have sent to countless friends and customers of mine who are experiencing some kind of issue and feel that it’s related in some way to phosphate levels. I have decided not to have my faithful grammar pro “fix” it, as it's more of a raw outpouring than any sort of academic prose. I have no factual data to back up my sentiments, but can share just one pic taken in 2014, which was the last time I really measured phosphate with any amount of seriousness. Still super low by comparison to Richard Ross's much more eloquently written example, coincidently published the same month and year detailed here. The results serve only to reaffirm my initial endorsement of the entire idea. A lot of you have seen this already, and I hope it offered some relief from the clutches of the phosphate crazies. But for anyone else desperately trying to fix something that's not broken, I offer these ramblings

Messy, scattered and super unpolished. It’s my "blanket phosphate issues and concerns" response/rant.





I hate to start anything by saying "there was a time when” but...

I am not what I’d consider an “old school” reefer at all, but indeed about 10-15 years ago now around the early part of the 2000’s, and before, somehow those of us that could, and were able to, had thriving sps tanks. Yet, few of us had any idea about phosphate, respectively or saw it as something of little concern or consequence. We skimmed our tanks well, maintained proper alk and calcium levels, and may have employed more natural methods of nutrient reduction like a refugium and/or the ever controversial Deep sand bed. And still, with little or no regard at all for the presence of phosphate in our reefs, our sps grew and thrived. Blissfully, we were none the wiser. Or maybe it was just me, but regardless of wheather I was alone in my efforts, it wasn’t till the middle of the decade that I ever picked up a phosphate test kit.

This sentiment is reverberating a little more, and there’s plenty of skeptics that have always felt this way, but somewhere along the lines, perhaps coincidentally about the same time that methods to control it hit the market, I think we were led to believe that eliminating phosphate has some integral part in keeping sps successfully. And suddenly everyone began trying to rid there tanks of it. The primary mechanism was Granular Ferric Oxide. I don’t want to blame the GFO companies directly, but the phosphate fear spread like an epidemic and that ubiquitous .03 number was engrained in the minds of legions of reefers that now had a solution to a problem that didn’t exist.

Not surprisingly fast forward a few years and you see thread upon thread about people with faded looking sps and other odd low nutrient anomalies. And among the easy to blame, lighting, salt, params and stray voltage, nowhere on the list of usual suspects, in fact not even on the radar, were the low phosphate levels. And more troubling, the common regurgitation to solve these issues was to add more "stuff" that may or may not do the trick from wonder vitamins to amino acids. I'll venture to say that none of them did.

I realize I am oversimplifying this tremendously but its true. There’s a mass of newer hobbyist that don’t know any better because all they have read from day one, is about how they need to control phosphate by any means necessary!

Still, I have always been skeptical of the whole phosphate craze and like many other skeptics before me, feel that new comers who are led to believe that ultra low phos or nitrate for that matter will promote healthy sps are being miss guided. In my experiences the opposite is closer to the truth. I don’t have charts and graphs and bounds of research to back any of this up, just a sense of how things were, and where they are, and a keen interpretation of the dichotomy.

Does this apply to any and all tanks? Of course not. Some people will have success with ultra low phosphate levels and others systems will thrive with elevated phosphate. But I do wish people would put there Hanna checkers in the drawer and relax a little when they discover phosphate in their system. Consider a Fox face or even hermits if you are terrified by a little algae on your rocks. I don't like the look of a tank without a touch or green to be honest, and I really just consider it Rabbit food.:) Free Rabbit food at that!

So maybe more of a confusion on my part than a mistake on others part, but I think that there are way more important factors for thriving sps than practically ambiguous phosphate levels.




Open to any and all further discussion and input.
 
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BoneXriffic

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Love it, I was sucked in when returning to this hobby. 10 years ago when i had a tank I didnt know what phosphate is....since the craze wore on me and i didnt like the price of gfo ive since stopped even checking for it. So i would say 2 to 3 months of ignoring it and hoping for the best.... i just do 10percent weekly water changes and clean the skimmer.

Thanks for this though Mr. Adam. It makes me feel better about it

Though im not saying we should ignore it but i can say i am having success and much less stress this way...cheaper too. And as for my sps, they look great, thanks for those too =)
 

luke33

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I like my tank's dirty too :D

But in all honesty i didn't start testing for phos until 2012ish, the prior sps tank's i had who knows where they were at. I remember testing a buddies tank that was a full blow sps tank that was absolutely thriving and his water was 0.30 on the hannah tester. But 100% agreed, people worry about chasing that 0.02-0.06 figure.
 

butters417

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i havent checked my phosphate levels in months (6+)..SPS are doing great, especially Adams frags, just keeping up with maintenance..
 

Sabellafella

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Imo All of this comes down to making sure your live/dry rock is properly mature(for newer hobbiest that tune in). Personally i dont care much about cyano or algae, if it grows it grows woopty doo(unless its bryopsis or dino). After a year or 2 everything will reach its medium. New hobbyest more or less stock theyre tanks with tons of equipment to only see a speck of hair algae. Then theyll start to freak out often causing more harm then good to their tanks to "get things back inline". Good practices,routines, and husbandry are far more important then anything else. Heres my tank infested with algae, but i refuse to run anything else other then some carbon,some mesh socks, and a skimmer.
 
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Battlecorals

Battlecorals

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Imo All of this comes down to making sure your live/dry rock is properly mature(for newer hobbiest that tune in). Personally i dont care much about cyano or algae, if it grows it grows woopty doo(unless its bryopsis or dino). After a year or 2 everything will reach its medium. New hobbyest more or less stock theyre tanks with tons of equipment to only see a speck of hair algae. Then theyll start to freak out often causing more harm then good to their tanks to "get things back inline". Good practices,routines, and husbandry are far more important then anything else. Heres my tank infested with algae, but i refuse to run anything else other then some carbon,some mesh socks, and a skimmer.

Thanks for chiming in! Ill agree man dry rock can be a little rough to start with
 

jjoos99

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I dont know what the magical number is for phos levels. I will attest that I have had a beautiful thriving sps tank in the past with regular water changes and green hair algae slowly took over to the point my rocks were completely covered and some corals being smothered out. I never tested for phos and was at whits ends. I read a post on lanthanum chloride and I decided it sure couldnt hurt. After about 2 months of slow dosing my tank, it was clear of algae and recovering. I check my phos levels now and have seen levels in the .18 range with little effect on my tank. I usually dose some lanthanum when I see that level but maybe as Adam suggests I shouldnt be so concerned. Maybe watch for a reoccurrence of a hair algae outbreak then start to be proactive.
jeff
 

LadAShark

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Imo All of this comes down to making sure your live/dry rock is properly mature(for newer hobbiest that tune in). Personally i dont care much about cyano or algae, if it grows it grows woopty doo(unless its bryopsis or dino). After a year or 2 everything will reach its medium. New hobbyest more or less stock theyre tanks with tons of equipment to only see a speck of hair algae. Then theyll start to freak out often causing more harm then good to their tanks to "get things back inline". Good practices,routines, and husbandry are far more important then anything else. Heres my tank infested with algae, but i refuse to run anything else other then some carbon,some mesh socks, and a skimmer.
I'm in fact considering just running some carbon and a large algae scrubber on my upcoming tank (and perhaps a bead filter if that doesn't pan out). I'm going to try to get rid of detritus entirely by using detritivores. I honestly think consumerism has invaded the hobby quite heavily, as I've noticed many people don't blink an eye at spending huge amounts of money to build, maintain, and "fix problems." Meanwhile I'm trying to go au naturel.
 

LadAShark

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From my understanding those eventually remove almost all the phos....if you want a dirty tank these arent the way to go. They work great, just too great
Yeah I've been wondering about that too :/
I'm going to have one, if only because the fish I'm planning to keep (sharks, mainly) are going to produce huge amounts of detritus. All I know is I want to somehow avoid a skimmer, as I feel like it's highly unatural, I'm just not sure how I would accomplish this without leaving my tank to be utterly dirty and smelly.
 

LadAShark

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Scrubbers can be sized any way you wish. Or a simple refugium where you keep the chaeto what ever size you want,natural export is always favorable imo
I'm thinking of a refugium where I keep a variety of algae, to maximize my species coverage instead of just having chaeto dominate it.
 

BoneXriffic

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Yeah I've been wondering about that too :/
I'm going to have one, if only because the fish I'm planning to keep (sharks, mainly) are going to produce huge amounts of detritus. All I know is I want to somehow avoid a skimmer, as I feel like it's highly unatural, I'm just not sure how I would accomplish this without leaving my tank to be utterly dirty and smelly.
Being its a shark tank you wont have to be so concerned if the scrubber removes most of the phos... now if you go with coral. Ive found my tank has done sonmuch better, lps and sps now that the gfo is gone and i only skim and change water.on the note of a skimmer, in a tank like that thats the one thing i wouldnt skimp on
 

dodgerblew

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Agree 100% and appreciate the write up Adam. I don't remember the last time I checked my phosphates or my nitrates. I diligently do water changes, have a good cleanup crew and a turkey baster.

Here's a similar thread started on my local RC club forum by one of my "mentors". I've been learning from Dave since the millennium turned over. This is an "old school" reefer and an amazing aquarist. Phosphates and coral colors do not go hand in hand 100% of the time

http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2560188
 

hart24601

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While I am sure there are many tanks that run high phosphate and have amazingly colored SPS mine nor any I have worked on have worked with higher phosphates. Of course it depends how you define coral health, brown SPS could be argued are healthier than when we see all the colors, but in my systems I can tell if phosphates rise as the SPS become brown. Even before phosphates register on the hanna checker. In addition to that Randy states in his article (http://reefkeeping.com/issues/2006-09/rhf/#5) that phosphate can inhibit calcification of coral. So I am not a fan of phosphate.

As I said there are some tanks that work great with high phosphate, but not many that I know of personally especially for SPS color. Generally it is thought that tanks with high phosphate have some other limiting element, such as iron. Many of those other factors are not easy to test for, nor is it known 100% what elements are limiting in these systems making phosphate an easy target for most. Now nitrate is a different issue and I dose nitrate to keep levels around 2ppm. I can tell if nitrate is too low with loss of coral color.
 

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