Have you ever wondered if you should be adding supplements to your saltwater aquarium? There's no single answer that fits every situation. The answer actually depends solely on what types of marine life you have in your home aquarium. If you have a fish only tank and do regular small water changes, you probably don't need to add anything to the tank. But, if you have invertebrates or corals in your tank you might need to add supplements to keep them healthy and thriving.
Saltwater consists of numerous elements at various concentrations referred to as PPM, or Parts Per Million. Although high quality saltwater mixes are designed to mimic these ratios as closely as possible, different brands, types and mixes have different concentrations of some of these elements. All of the elements that are found in the oceans water are crucial in keeping your fish, coral and other marine life healthy. And, as your aquarium runs, some of these elements can become depleted.
The only way to get an accurate answer is to test your water. While there are some hardy species of marine life, most species of fish and other ocean animals are very sensitive to any changes in water conditions. Even the slightest imbalance can result in stressed fish and corals. Too much of some elements can even destroy the algae that is so vital to a successful saltwater aquarium. You should never add anything to your tank without accurate testing and careful consideration.
If you have a fish only tank, or a fish and live rock tank, frequent water changes should be enough to supplement any depleted elements. As you add new water and salt mixes, depleted elements are regularly being replaced. However, if you have invertebrates and corals that require high levels of certain elements, you need to test and see if your tank can benefit from supplements. Before adding supplements test the water, add a small amount of supplements and then test it again. It's easier to add more than it is to do a large water change to remove to much.Calcium Supplements
Corals, clams and certain types of algae have to have calcium in order to grow. They consume calcium and can quickly deplete the supply. Ocean water has a calcium level that ranges from 380 - 450 mg/L. It can be difficult or impossible to keep the levels this high in a home aquarium. But, there are several ways that you can increase the calcium levels. One of the most popular ways is by using reactors.
Calcium reactors can be used to add dosages of calcium to your aquarium. And, Kalkreactors can add dosages of Kalkwasser. If you prefer you can also use a diluted calcium chloride to dose, but it is more expensive. Liquid calcium also poses a problem. You will need to use carbonate or bicarbonate as a buffer because you are taking the risk of lowering the levels of alkalinity. If this method is something you are interested in, you may want to consider using a two part calcium/alkalinity solution.Alkalinity Supplements
Alkalinity helps the water in your aquarium protect itself against drops in the pH levels. An alkalinity test measures the levels of several elements such as bicarbonates, carbonates and other crucial elements. Although the term Alkalinity and Carbonate hardness are used interchangeably, they do not mean the same thing. Carbonate hardness only measures the waters bicarbonates and carbonates. Alkalinity is a measurement of those elements and several others. Saltwater in the ocean has a carbonate hardness of 6 - 7 dKH and an alkalinity of about 2.5 meq/L.Kalkwasser Supplements
The word kalkwasser means lime water, but it is actually calcium hydroxide. Kalkwasser is generally added to the water using a dosing system. The system is often automated and controlled by the levels of pH. It can also be done by using the slow drip method or manually when the aquarium water is topped off or during partial water changes. Kalkwasser serves three vital benefits, it adds calcium to the aquarium, stabilizes pH levels and helps keep the waters alkalinity level stable.
Care needs to be taken when using kalkwasser because it is caustic. You should wear a mask and gloves. When using kalkwasser, it's best to use reverse osmosis water. Follow the directions to mix the solution and allow it to stand for several hours before adding it to the aquarium. The recommended dosage is one drop approximately every 4 to 5 seconds. It is crucial that you dose slowly when using kalkwasser. It has a high pH level and can cause shock and stress.
The amount of kalkwasser you need depends on the demand of calcium by the tanks inhabitants. To be safe, you should test the calcium level of the tank over a period of several days to get a more accurate idea of how much is needed. While dosing you need to keep a check on the calcium, alkalinity and pH levels. With a little experience, you'll have a better idea of how much to use and how often you will need to use it. Some hobbyists add kalkwasser at every top off or water change and some only use it a few times each week.Iodide and Iodine Supplements
In seawater, Iodine measure at about 0.06 ppm. Although supplementing with iodine is controversial, it is very important because both the marine life and the protein skimmer use it up fairly quickly. It is generally cheaper to use the concentrated version which is dosed at 1 drop for each 25 gallons of aquarium water. Some experienced hobbyists use it on a regular basis while others won't use it at all.Molybdenum and Strontium Supplements
Molybdenum and Strontium come combined together in the same bottle. In the ocean, Molybdenum levels are usually about 0.01 ppm and Strontium is in the range of 8 ppm. These two supplements can be beneficial to any aquarium that contains corals. Molybdenum promotes the growth of symbiotic algae found in corals and Strontium helps increase the growth of calcerous algae. Like any supplement, the should only be administered after accurate testing.Magnesium Supplements
Magnesium is crucial to any saltwater tank that contains hard or soft corals. It plays a vital role in maintaining calcium concentrations. If the magnesium levels drop too low, it will be almost impossible to raise either the calcium levels or the alkalinity levels. Magnesium should be added in small amounts on a daily basis until the levels reach between 1200 and 1300 ppm to match the concentration found in seawater. Some magnesium supplements also contain iron and other elements.