Randy's thoughts on trace elements

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Randy Holmes-Farley

Randy Holmes-Farley

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I don't know whether you are aware which huge change, maybe progress, such a statement made by someone like you is. :D

In the 2000s and 2010s our sells of K+ Elements did stay well behind the sells of A- Elements in the USA. The only reason for this was the scepticism stirred up by Ron Shimek. This scepticism against "heavy metals" (transition metals is better) is still quite present among many reefers.

What All-For-Reef and maybe a few other calcium and alkalinity products did, was introducing these essential trace elements "through the backdoor". I think this approach was very successfull, at least in my eyes.

ICP-OES helped to enshure and show that no excessively high concentrations were achieved. This is the real advantage and meaning of ICP-OES analysis and control, not to show that some minimum or optimum concentration was achieved. In my eyes, to tell something else is not really serious.

I have no complaint as yet, that corals or other animals were seriously affected or harmed by high trace element concentrations dosed with All-For-Reef or any other of our products. But I don't have these information about any other product or method as yet. Do you, @Randy Holmes-Farley ?

So, does this mean all the warnings have been completely unfounded?

If someone wants to know about the background, I recommend to think a bit about dynamic equilibria and steady state concentrations.

Just as strontium cannot be totally depleted since incorporation rate depends on the strontium concentration, it is hard to achieve and keep high elevated concentrations of many other trace elements, well, just because incorporation rates depend on concentrations. This means after quite a short time, weeks or a few months, most dosed trace elements will reach dynamic equilibria/steady state concentrations and will not increase further in concentrations despite continued and consistent dosing.

I think, to understand this conception is really central in understanding trace elements. This is what balanced trace elements supply means to me, to keep these steady state concentrations at reasonable levels. This is why a product may work without further control and you wonder why and how.

I do not recall ever saying that the trace elements in AFR were not useful or beneficial, but that seems to be the crux of your argument. I am not saying anyone's tank crashed because of trace elements in AFR. No ones tank has demonstrably crashed from not dosing any trace elements at all.

I am simply saying they cannot be optimal for all reef aquaria when based on calcification or mL per day. You may not agree.

It is neither a new thought, nor an unreasonable one. I have been making and publishing concerns about trace element supplements that use either of the two common schemes (tied to mL per day or tied to calcification) for many years.

In 2015, I posted this here at Reef2Reef:

"FWIW, I'm not sure the need for many trace elements is related to calcification alone, so I'd be reluctant to tie the dosing of trace elements to the need for calcium and alkalinity.

For example, macroalgae and soft corals use little calcium and alkalinity, but may take up more trace elements than hard corals since they may add tissue mass faster. :)"



Heres' what I published in 2007 (before people had easy access to any type of icp) about an mL per day trace element supplement, which suffers a similar criticism from me (although for a different reason) than one based on calcification:

"But what is the evidence that more is good? Despite no intentional additions, my aquarium has levels of copper well above natural seawater. How does Kent know that my organisms would benefit from more? And how did Kent determine the relative amounts of different ions in this supplement? What are those amounts? If I did want one of these, how do I know I’m getting enough?

To me this seems like playing a chess game with every piece rigidly connected. They all move together, whether you want them to or not. Worse yet, you don’t know what the move actually is because Kent decided, but does not reveal it to you. It seems like a poor way to manage an aquarium.

In short, I do not recommend trace element mixtures. If you believe that you need (or want to experiment with) trace elements (such as iron or manganese), my suggestion is to use single additives of known concentrations."
 
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Randy Holmes-Farley

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By the way: Why would someone expect increased growth when dosing strontium, when calcium concentration is already at its optimum level or beyond? I mean, the claim unchallenged as yet is, that increasing calcium concentration beyond 410 ppm has no or little (or even a negative) effect while increasing alkalinity beyond 6.5 dKH has. Isn't that contradictory?

If you are referring to the study I quoted, I am not sure why they claimed increased calcification by increased calcium and strontium. They did not mention alkalinity in the paper, and perhaps it was low enough and calcium high enough to cause calcium to be partly limiting. I also readily accept the idea that all of the results may have been random error. They only looked at coral calcification for 10 days, and they concluded this fairly confused line of reasoning:

"Different growth rates were produced in each of the experiments, the results of which have been reported previously (Swart, 1980a). In most instances, the addition of calcium in moderate concentrations, up to100 p.p.m., increased growth rate (Fig.6A). Above this level, growth rates declined, although in some species growth rates in the 200 p.p.m. calcium experiment were still above the controls. The eventual decline ingrowth rate may have been a result of either excess calcium and/or chloride ions."
 

Hans-Werner

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I do not recall ever saying that the trace elements in AFR were not useful or beneficial, but that seems to be the crux of your argument. I am not saying anyone's tank crashed because of trace elements in AFR. No ones tank has demonstrably crashed from not dosing any trace elements at all.
It is not the way I meant the question to you. It was a simple question related to the warnings of Ron Shimek, which I mentioned before asking the question.

I just thought you have a better overview from you chemistry board than I have. You knew about complaints I didn't know. Maybe you also know about trace element problems. A simple straightforward question.
 
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It is not the way I meant the question to you. It was a simple question related to the warnings of Ron Shimek, which I mentioned before asking the question.

I just thought you have a better overview from you chemistry board than I have. You knew about complaints I didn't know. Maybe you also know about trace element problems. A simple straightforward question.

OK, I do agree that Ron went crazy against trace elements, and I had to continually fight him on some of his misunderstandings.
 

Notsolostfish

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OK, I do agree that Ron went crazy against trace elements, and I had to continually fight him on some of his misunderstandings.
Can you overdose trace elements? My tank is 7 months old. And i was dosing afr everyday, and the tank doing fantastic. But now i switched to red sea alk, mag, cal. And i was wondering if i can buy the elements bottle from afr? And put it on a doser, and dose the recommended amount? Or i can over dose it? I do water changes every 2-3 weeks
 
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Can you overdose trace elements? My tank is 7 months old. And i was dosing afr everyday, and the tank doing fantastic. But now i switched to red sea alk, mag, cal. And i was wondering if i can buy the elements bottle from afr? And put it on a doser, and dose the recommended amount? Or i can over dose it? I do water changes every 2-3 weeks

Certainly, one can overdose. But most trace elements are pretty forgiving in terms of exact levels.

What do you mean by elements bottle from AFR? You mean Tropic Marin A and K?
 

Notsolostfish

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Certainly, one can overdose. But most trace elements are pretty forgiving in terms of exact levels.

What do you mean by elements bottle from AFR? You mean Tropic Marin A and K?
Correct sorry didnt realize they are 2 seperate bottles. But yes
 
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Correct sorry didnt realize they are 2 seperate bottles. But yes

I do not think using them at the recommended dose along with Red sea alk, calcium, and magnesium will cause any problems from excessive trace elements.
 

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@Randy Holmes-Farley Don’t know if you’re aware of this research, quite interesting in that it gives trace element densities within both Acropora flesh and skeletons observed at 2 Australian Island locations… I was amazed at the difference between the two locations…

 

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I know this is an older thread but it had answers I was specifically looking for today. I have seen many products come and go in my relatively short time in the hobby claiming to replenish trace elements that are essential to success. I've often been sceptical and even when I'm tempted to try them, I can make the basic logic behind the products work in my head. Apart from trial and error, how can we know what is beneficial at what volume in any given community of tank life (which is also ever changing)?

I'm just about to begin stocking SPS in a matured tank and I'm going to experiment with a water change (salt claims to have trace elements), kalk and two part only approach. As far as the traces in the salt go, I'm sure there's some benefit to it but by the same token, with regular water changes I think of it as largely benign.

I did have theory on certain traces producing improved colours (specific colours or generally). Maybe more of an anecdote than a theory - I remember in the 80s parents were feeding their kids loads of carrots because carotene was the all signing all dancing magic health bullet. Lots of kids literally started turning orange. It wasn't that unhealthy, but it wasn't beneficial either unless you specifically wanted to turn orange. So maybe you can induce a more vibrant colour in coral with certain additives, whether that's a form of poisoning or a legitimate health benefit, who knows....
 

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Certain prepared foods make African cichlids more colorful. Shrimp make flamingos pink. There are pumpkin swordfish called such because when opened their flesh is pinkish and believed to be so because of deep water shrimp they might be feasting on. Stands to reason then that perhaps certain trace elements make certain corals color up. Guessing trial and error although likely something that could be proven scientifically.
 
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I know this is an older thread but it had answers I was specifically looking for today. I have seen many products come and go in my relatively short time in the hobby claiming to replenish trace elements that are essential to success. I've often been sceptical and even when I'm tempted to try them, I can make the basic logic behind the products work in my head. Apart from trial and error, how can we know what is beneficial at what volume in any given community of tank life (which is also ever changing)?

I'm just about to begin stocking SPS in a matured tank and I'm going to experiment with a water change (salt claims to have trace elements), kalk and two part only approach. As far as the traces in the salt go, I'm sure there's some benefit to it but by the same token, with regular water changes I think of it as largely benign.

I did have theory on certain traces producing improved colours (specific colours or generally). Maybe more of an anecdote than a theory - I remember in the 80s parents were feeding their kids loads of carrots because carotene was the all signing all dancing magic health bullet. Lots of kids literally started turning orange. It wasn't that unhealthy, but it wasn't beneficial either unless you specifically wanted to turn orange. So maybe you can induce a more vibrant colour in coral with certain additives, whether that's a form of poisoning or a legitimate health benefit, who knows....

I personally do not believe specific elements relate to specific colors and have never seen anyone making such claims give any evidence. Many trace elements are needed for health, and good health, along with lighting and some other non chemical factors will impact color.

I suspect that companies making such wild claims for their products are simply repeating what they heard from some random person, or at best, saw a report that a specific trace element was somehow involved in the biochemical pathway to make a specific colored chemical and distorted that into the phrase that such an element boosts that color.
 

Hans-Werner

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I know this is an older thread but it had answers I was specifically looking for today. I have seen many products come and go in my relatively short time in the hobby claiming to replenish trace elements that are essential to success. I've often been sceptical and even when I'm tempted to try them, I can make the basic logic behind the products work in my head. Apart from trial and error, how can we know what is beneficial at what volume in any given community of tank life (which is also ever changing)?

I'm just about to begin stocking SPS in a matured tank and I'm going to experiment with a water change (salt claims to have trace elements), kalk and two part only approach. As far as the traces in the salt go, I'm sure there's some benefit to it but by the same token, with regular water changes I think of it as largely benign.

I did have theory on certain traces producing improved colours (specific colours or generally). Maybe more of an anecdote than a theory - I remember in the 80s parents were feeding their kids loads of carrots because carotene was the all signing all dancing magic health bullet. Lots of kids literally started turning orange. It wasn't that unhealthy, but it wasn't beneficial either unless you specifically wanted to turn orange. So maybe you can induce a more vibrant colour in coral with certain additives, whether that's a form of poisoning or a legitimate health benefit, who knows....
Essential trace elements are of course essential and I recommend regular dosing. ICP analyses give some information and recommendations about the concentrations.

I am not sure whether certain trace elements really improve specific colors. The colors and their intensification may be reactions to specific condition which are also influenced by trace elements.

Fluorescent colors like greens and most reds in general have a shading effect. Intensification may be a reaction to iron concentration to prevent formation of excessive oxygen radicals inside the corals. I think looking for reactions like this to judge and adjust dosing of trace elements may make sense, espacially since there are some problems with iron and ICP testing. Iron concentrations may be very variable and fluctuating and ICP analysis alone may not give a good information about the iron availability to corals.
 

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I personally do not believe specific elements relate to specific colors and have never seen anyone making such claims give any evidence. Many trace elements are needed for health, and good health, along with lighting and some other non chemical factors will impact color.

I suspect that companies making such wild claims for their products are simply repeating what they heard from some random person, or at best, saw a report that a specific trace element was somehow involved in the biochemical pathway to make a specific colored chemical and distorted that into the phrase that such an element boosts that color.
I think the most ridiculous thing is applying a color "function" to potassium. It's a key electrolyte that, together with sodium, is involved in numberless biological processes. Most trace elements have well-defined functions, usually as co-enzymes for diverse processes from binding and fixing DNA damage through cutting proteins to fighting oxygen radicals. Colors have nothing directly to do with their consumption.
 

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One "funny" thing about some trace metals is that they may have a certain function and just the opposite effect depending on concentration. Iron, manganese and copper in low concentration have antixodative or protective effects in enzymes like catalase and superoxide dismutase. However, in higher concentration they may have a prooxidative effect. Here you really have to watch the corals to find the right balance.
 

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One "funny" thing about some trace metals is that they may have a certain function and just the opposite effect depending on concentration. Iron, manganese and copper in low concentration have antixodative or protective effects in enzymes like catalase and superoxide dismutase. However, in higher concentration they may have a prooxidative effect. Here you really have to watch the corals to find the right balance.
This is why Iron for example is considered a double edge sword. In our body Fe is always bound to a protein whether outside (transferrin) or inside the cells (ferritin) before being utilized as a coenzyme or added to hemoglobin. There is a genetic disease called hemochromatosis where people take up to much iron causing major organ damage. All they have to do though is to donate blood
 

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