Ultimate Secrets To Saltwater Fish

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This marine algae grew at an increased rate when PO4 levels were increased, which supports the idea that phosphate is partially responsible for algae blooms.

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Hhpsphate levels over time. Any ani mals, plants or igae^hat die should to minimize phosphates. Freshwater be removed before they have a chance hobbyists should check that pH products do not contain phoEhltes, as some do contain significant amounts of phosphate. SaltwateShobbyists should certainly be aware of what is in the products they use, but turers of saltwater aquarium products are careful to either produce phosphate-free products or to keep phosphate levels in their products as low as possible, so this is not a major concern. A complication facing both is that most test kits only measure inor-ic phosphate, which means that a reading of zero phosphate on a test kit does not necessarily mean there are no phosphates in the aquarium.

Water changes will dilute, and thus reducS the levels of phosphates (provided the replacement water does not contain hchosphates). chUgls in feeding will also help. Frozen and flake foods that disintegrate and release a lot of tiny debris can contribute to elevated phosphate levels over time. Target feeding of organisms that need fine, particulate food prevents excess food from drifting around the aquarium and decaying. Changing and rinsing detritus from filter pads can make a measurable difference in to decompose and remise phosphates into the aquarium.

Removal Chemistry

There are a variety of products on the market ' designed to remove phosphates. They utilize several different mechanisms and vary somewhat in effectiveness and ease of use. Note that like the test kits, most of these methods of removal will only be effective against inorganic phosphates — meaning organic phosphates may still be present in the aquarium.

In removing organic phosphates, saltwater hobbyists have the advantage of using protein skimmers, which will remove significant quantities of organic phosphates from the aquarium. However, protein skimmers do not effectively remove inorganic phos-phates.The chemistry of the saltwater aquarium also aids marine hobbyists.

It is possible for phosphate to precipitate out in the form of calcium phosphate (use of kalkwasser may aid in this process) or calcium carbonate. If these newly formed crystals become coated with organics, skimming might remove them from the water column. Under certain situations — probably 1-888-842-8738

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involving low pH and alkalinity — calcium carbonate may release phosphate back into the aquarium.

Aluminum oxide has long been a standby for removing phosphates in the aquarium hobby. Usually found in the form of chips or beads, it may also be referred to as a ceramic media. Aluminum oxide works by forming a covalent bond (pairs of electrons are shared between the atoms) with the phosphate molecule. This bond is, for the purposes of aquariumkeeping, permanent, and aluminum oxide will not leach phosphates back into the aquarium once they have formed that covalent bond. The beads or chips will continue to bond with phosphates until their surface area is exhausted. If the aquarium is denuded of phosphates before the surface area is exhausted, silicates will also bond with the aluminum oxide, allowing for their removal as well.

More Chemistry

Ferric oxide hydroxide operates in a chemically similar manner to aluminum oxide. Ferric oxide also forms a covalent bond with the phosphate molecule. The bond is slightly weaker, and the phosphate molecule is still available to the water column by exchange. For this reason, manufacturers often recommend ferric oxide products be removed after a day or so.

Products based on ferric oxide have a characteristic rust brown coloration. They are available in sponge pads enriched in ferric oxide or in a granulated form that must be put in a fine mesh bag before being put into the filter, or used within a reactor designed for that purpose.

The newest kind of phosphate removers on the market are based on lanthanum chloride. Lanthanum compounds have been used in the public aquarium industry for years to remove phosphates from exhibit water. Similar to an ion exchange resin, lanthanum chloride works by absorbing phosphate ions from saltwater while releasing chloride ions.

After this exchange takes place, a lanthanum phosphate particle is formed. Lanthanum chloride has a strong affinity for phosphate ions and does not target other chemicals in the water for removal. Phosphate captured by lanthanum chloride is flocculated out of the water column and can be removed by mechanical filtration.

It is important to follow the supplied dosing instructions for lanthanum-based products carefully. If

Questions have arisen about the possible toxic effects of alu-Hjiym* and iron-based phosphate removers in the reef aquarium. There are different paths by which the two different compounds would present a problem. In the case of the iron-based phosphate removers, some of them become sludgy after use and seem to lose volume, which may indicate that iron is entering into solution with the aquarium water. With the aluminum-based phosphate removers the concern is that dust containing aluminum gets into the aquarium and irritates the corals (particularly soft corals) and raises the levels of dissolved aluminum in the water.

Seachem's Dr. Greg Morin notes that while iron could be toxic to some species, iron has a veryJow solubility in saltwater because of the presence of many other ions for the iron to interact with, making the risk of negative*Hects very minimal. The story with aluminum is a little different.

"It appears that the dust on the aluminum oxide can irritate some soft corals." Dr. Morin explained, noting that, "as the dust is washed away the corals recover rapidly."

For this reason, companies selling aluminum oxide-based products advise rinsing their product thoroughly to get rid of dust, which mitigates the dust problem. A few similar complaints have been voiced about ferric oxide-based phosphate removers and they may be rinsed as well.

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