Discussion in 'Tenji Aquarium Design + Build' started by Tenji, Jun 13, 2018.

Source Water: Choosing Your Salt Mix

Tenji is pleased to present a series of exclusive articles for Reef2Reef members. We will be delving into the various aspects of reef keeping,...
  1. Tenji

    Tenji Aquarium Design + Build R2R Supporter Gold Sponsor

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    Tenji is pleased to present a series of exclusive articles for Reef2Reef members. We will be delving into the various aspects of reef keeping, focusing on tried and true methods that can be implemented by aquarists of all levels.
    _____________

    Our first installments will be concentrating on the most basic aspect that is frequently overlooked; your source water.



    Once you are producing 0 TDS water from your RO/DI system it’s time to create the ideal reef water by mixing in a synthetic salt. I’m a firm believer you can be successful using any quality salt mix. Very few large salt producers have recurring contaminant issues, so once you find one you like that mixes to the appropriate parameters we recommend you stick with it.



    All salt mixes contain the same base component, sodium chloride, or NaCl. There are only two major suppliers of NaCl in the United States, meaning all of the major salt companies pull from just two sources. We start to see what sets them apart when it comes to the remaining components of a synthetic salt mix, beginning with the magnesium sulfate, or MgSO4. There are various grades of magnesium sulfate available to salt manufacturers ranging from US Pharmaceutical grade to agricultural grade, which is indicative of purity. Many lower purity magnesium sulfate crystals contain anti-caking agents which we wind up seeing stuck all over the inside of our mixing barrels. The jury is still out whether this is detrimental to aquaria long-term, but overall most agree while this is unsightly, it has no direct negative effect. Then major and minor trace elements are added, and as you can probably guess, like magnesium sulfate they are offered in various grades. Cost for the different classifications directly correlates to the price of our salt. Generally speaking, the higher priced salts use purer components. Some companies go even further by solubilizing components to further filter contaminants, which is why we see some salts coming in multiple parts that include liquids.



    Ultimately most quality salt choices are pretty similar, so the next thing to consider is your target parameter range. If you intend to keep alkalinity at 7 dKH you should search for a synthetic salt that mixes close to 7 dKH. Using a salt that mixes to 10 dKH would inevitably stress your animals in your display running at 7 dKH every time you do a water change. The same can be said regarding other elements; if your target calcium level is 350 ppm avoid a salt that mixes to 450 ppm.



    Next thing to consider is availability and cost. If you live in New York, you don’t want to source a salt that’s commonly used in Los Angeles but rarely seen on the east coast. Most local fish stores competitively price salt making them a great place to search for your favorite mix and avoid the cost of shipping a box of minerals across the country. Try to resist the urge of being an early adopter of the next greatest salt mix on the market. New mixes might have supply or consistency issues early on forcing you to change salts.

    Ideally, you have a mixing container large enough to dump your entire package of salt mix in. Many of us won’t have that pleasure, so break out the measuring cups! If you are not using an entire package you should thoroughly mix up the contents prior to use. Those dry components we looked at earlier have diverse particle sizes causing some of them to settle out during shipment. It’s very possible to find varying parameters out of the same package if not blended prior to use.



    Once your RO/DI water has filled your mixing reservoir it’s time to heat it up. Salt mixes faster and thoroughly at temperatures above 70°F (21°C). Along with a heater, a decent size powerhead or submersible pump will dissolve the salt mix post haste. Don’t skimp on the pump or you might wind up spending additional time helping the salt dissolve. Find a pump that will keep the surface of the water churning. Some salt manufacturers recommend mixing for 24 hours, however, there are now several options that can be used in as little as fifteen minutes. Keeping your reservoir full of ready to use saltwater can save your system in an emergency. Having a 100% water change handy is ideal, although aiming for 50% total system volume would be a more realistic goal.

    That wraps our take on source water, in our next article we’ll start discussing the fun stuff… equipment!
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018
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  2. revhtree

    revhtree Owner Administrator Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Photo of the Month Award Article Contributor Build Thread Contributor Partner Member 2018

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    Thank you for the great info!
     
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  3. Rispa

    Rispa Well-Known Member

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    This is a great article. Thank you for writing it.
     
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  4. cracker

    cracker Valuable Member R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Build Thread Contributor

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    I'm using 2 different salt with 2 different systems. I use one for the big 180 to save a little$$ & it has a higher alk . The other costs more but the Alk is lower & matches what I want.
    Great article stated in simple terms.
     
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  5. Tenji

    Tenji Aquarium Design + Build R2R Supporter Gold Sponsor

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    Here are a few tanks that we have installed and maintained with various quality salt mixes.

    This system uses Red Sea salt:
    17879880_10155238248669264_347853344151505222_o (1) (1).jpg

    ESV powered this display:
    IMG_20160906_132228.jpg

    Seachem Salinity salt grew these massive colonies:
    29749296_1010200299136066_4178687597887282873_o.jpg
     
  6. hart24601

    hart24601 Valuable Member R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award

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    Very nice, I do have a couple points I am curious about.

    "Generally speaking, the higher priced salts use purer components."

    I am not sure about the higher cost always meaning the reagents are higher grade. I know a couple high end salts use high grade materials, but do we have evidence the more inexpensive salts do not use the same purity like Instant Ocean, Aquaforest and Fritz using lower quality materials (I think those are less expensive) than ESV, TM, KZ or HW?

    I also think it would be good to show an example of the impact on alk of doing a WC with a salt mix that is higher alk than the display as generally it doesn't make a very large impact. Say 7.5dkh display and 9dkh salt mix if doing a 10 or 20% waterchange. If doing AWC then the higher alk and calcium might be a benefit as you add them dosing anyway. I don't think a higher alk matters much for W/C unless doing very large ones.

    Still nice article! Just my initial thoughts.
     
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  7. Sunny Goold

    Sunny Goold Active Member

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    Awesome article - some great tips!
     
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  8. Tenji

    Tenji Aquarium Design + Build R2R Supporter Gold Sponsor

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    Hence "generally speaking" ;)
    A simple means of identifying component purity (namely magnesium) is the build-up of elements within the mixing vessel. If we note anti-caking agents precipitating out of solution, it is safe to assume they skimped on other components as well.

    Correct, if only thinking in terms of 10-20% water changes you won't likely see much of a shift. Although since our goal is to keep parameters as stable as possible, why allow for any shift?

    If you fall behind on maintenance, have a nutrient spike, or an emergency situation, you'll be considering significantly larger water changes. No hobbyists should be afraid of doing 40%+ water changes, even if just once a year to flush out contaminants. There's more detail on this in this MACNA presentation if interested.
     
  9. leahfiish

    leahfiish Valuable Member R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Build Thread Contributor

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    Does anyone have a link to the spreadsheet with different salt mix parameters?
     
  10. IronDruid

    IronDruid Member

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    Did you find that link?
     
  11. cracker

    cracker Valuable Member R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Build Thread Contributor

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    How many of us actually mix up a new bag or bucket of salt? I haven't in a long time.
    For those who do please share your method with us.
     

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