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  Hanna Alkalinity Checker!

Hanna instruments has advised it's distributors that the latest addition to it's Checker Colorimeter line will be shipping in the next few days. The HI 755 Alkalinity meter. The new Alkalinity Checker has a range 0 to 300 ppm (15 dKH). Resolution is stated to be 0.1ppm. The announced accuracy is +/- 10% for readings from 0 to 75ppm. For readings from 75 to 300 ppm (4.2 to 14 dKH - the range that we are most interested in) the accuracy increases to +/-5%.

Hanna Alkalinity Checker

Hanna claims a number of plus points for the new HI 775:

  • More ease of use than chemical test kits
  • More accurate than normal chemical test kits
  • Automatic shut-off
  • Easy to read digital display
  • Single button zero and measure operation
  • Only needs a single AAA battery

Hanna Alkalinity Checker Data

Reagent packets will be selling for $9 for 25 - or approx. 36 cents per test. Seems reasonable


  DinoXal - An end to Dinoflagellates?

As I've mentioned a number of times, I've been having a really difficult time with Dinoflagellates. Everything I've tried, in order to get rid of them, has failed. Well, maybe help is on the way.

The German company Qualify Fish Exports (QFI) has just announced a product that they claim will rid a tank of dinoflagellates, diatoms, and most other brown/tan forms of one celled algae. And, most importantly, according to the manufacturer, it will do so without harming corals and other invertebrates.

The product is called DinoXal and is marketed in 250ccm and 500ccm bottles.


Recommended dosage of the product is 5ml per 100 liters of tank volume, each day. DinoXal should only be dosed after the tank's lights have been turned off. QFI states that GFO, GAC, Ozone, and UV light should not be used while DinoXal is being dosed. Strong skimming, however is a must as long as the product is being added to the tank. The company claims that the product will not effect bacterial flora in tanks where it's being dosed. It is recommended that DinoXal continue to be dosed for 3 days after signs of the infesting algae have disappeared.

You can imagine that, while it is not yet certain that DinoXal will be available here in the States, I am very interested in this product. The selling price in Germany is 39Euro, or about $51.

As it has just appeared on the German market in the last couple of weeks, it's too soon to make any judgment about DinoXal's effectiveness - but I will definitely keep a close eye on user experience reports as they start to appear!

Here's a link to a German site, for those that read German, or are just curious: KN Aquaristik


  Cleaning Filter Socks

I've noticed that there are a lot of hobbyists that have questions about the proper procedure to follow when cleaning their filter socks. I'm not so sure about the proper procedure, but I can tell you how I do it.

Here are the steps I've been using, with success, for years:

  • turn the sock inside out and wash the bulk of the dirt off, under a strong flow of running water. I do this in a utility sink. If you've never done this, you'll be surprised at the amount of gunk you can wash off, in this manner. The prewash accomplishes two things: it gets rid of much of the dirt that we don't really want to have in the washing machine, and it washes out the salt. Salt causes metal to rust, and the less salt introduced into the washing machine, the better are the chances that we won't have to worry about corrosion.

  • place 6 to 7 precleaned socks in the washing machine - I don't like washing more than that at one time, due the amount of gunk that has survived our prewash in step one. Set the washer for hot water and, if you're machine provides it, set it for an extra rinse cycle. Add 1 cup of plain chlorine bleach. Plain is the operative word here. Some bleaches have perfume, etc. added. We don't want that. Once you've set the washer and added the bleach, run the load.

  • run the washer again, at the same settings - just no bleach. This gets rid of most of the bleach residue.

  • hang up the socks to dry outdoors, overnight. Any remaining bleach residue will evaporate. The socks are safe to use when you can no longer smell any bleach.


   Alkalinity testing

Alkalinity testing is very important when maintaining a reef aquarium, so keeping track of your tanks alkalinity levels is vital. One of the best test kits I've found is the LaMotte Alkalinity Test Kit (Code: LM-4491-DR ).

LaMotte ALK test kit

I have used a number of different test kits and, IMHO, the LaMotte leads in it's simplicity of use and its accurate results. This titration based kit stands out with its very evident color changes.

I should note that, like most titration based Alkalinity test kits, the LaMotte kit is actually intended for fresh water. To convert your result for a saltwater reading, just add 10% to your result - simple.


   A clean skimmer

I recently ordered a new piece of equipment. An automatic skimmer neck cleaner from Avast Marine.

Swabbie from Avast Marine Works

The device uses a windshield wiper like squeegee to remove the buildup from the inside of the skimmer neck.



  Hanna's new Mini-Meter

Hanna has recently introduced a new line of handy colorimeters. One of the first Models to be introduced is the HI-713 Low Range Phosphate Checker.

Swabbie from Avast Marine Works

The HI 713 portable handheld colorimeter features a resolution of 0.01 ppm with a reading of ±0.04 accuracy. This means the little Checker is just as accurate as its big brother the Hanna HI-93713 - a mainstay of the reefing community. Not only is it just as accurate (according to Hanna), but it can be purchased at some vendors for as little as $39.00 - less than a quarter of what the larger model sells for.

The Checker uses the same reagent as the large model. Boxes of 100 packets sell for approx. $25.00

Currently, in addition to the phosephate Checker, there are Checkers available for Iron and Total Chlorine.

The really good news is that Hanna states that they plan to include Checkers for magnesium, ammonia, salinity, calcium, alkalinity, and nitrate. A veritable reefer's Nirvana.


  Elos Potassium Test Kit

Elos recently announced the release of a new potassium test kit.

Elos potassium test kit

They are marketing the new version as a "Professional Line" kit. Like postassium test kits from other manufactureres, Elos' kit is based upon measuring the turbidity of the test sample. The company advises that the new kit is very easy to use, accurate, and simple to interpret.

My only experience with postassium testing has been with the kit from Fauna Marin, and I must say I was underwhelmed, both with the ease of use and the accuracy. I have been hoping that an accurate and easy to read kit would hit the market, as I feel sufficient levels of potassium in a reef tank can promote vivid coral colors, especially as concerns blues.

At a MSRP of $36.99 the kit is not cheap, but probably worth checking out. I'll probably do a review of the kit in the next few weeks.


  After two months of using Instant Ocean salt!

As I mentioned a couple months ago, back in August, I switched from Tropic Marin Pro to Instant Ocean. Well, I'm happy to say that I haven't noticed any downside to using Instant Ocean. The change from Tropic Marin Pro has not caused any problems that I have been able to detect. I attribute the fact that I use both a continual 24 hours a day water change system and an automated supplement system for Alk, Ca, and Mg, that possible discrepancies in chemical content, between the two salts, have not caused any fluctuations in my water parameters.

All in all, I'm very pleased with how the switch has gone. Actually, I'm a little sorry that I didn't go with IO a lot sooner.


  Tampa Bay Reef Club goes fishing!

Last Sunday, TBRC went on a collecting trip to Ft. DeSoto Park, near St. Petersburg, Florida. The club tries to host at least one collection trip a year for its members. The purpose of the trips is mainly collecting CUC specimens. Snails and hermit crabs, mostly. In addition, pipefish, file fish, ghost shrimp, glass shrimp, and a seahorse or two were bagged. Florida allows, with the proper license, the collection of 20 specimens, per individual, per day. Certain restrictions apply - no coral, max 5 specimens of the same species, etc.

Great fun is had by all at these outings, especially the kids. The club supplies meat for the barbecue and soft drinks. Members all bring side dishes, salads, deserts, etc.

I put together a short video of the outing:


  MACNA 2010 at Orlando Florida

Well, my wife and I had a great time at MACNA 2010!. This year's MACNA was held at the Marriott Orlando World Center, in Florida. The Marriott World Center is, by far, the largest hotel complex I've ever experienced. Very nice, very comfortable, and MACNA was very well organized.

EcoBak Pellets

There were over 100 vendor exhibits representing just about every part of the hobby. Without a doubt, the big thing this year was LED lighting! Just about all the major players had their hand in the game. The automation that was exhibited was very impressive. Sun-up, sun-down, lunar cycles, storms with lighting, it was all available - at a price! I would say that LED lighting has reached the point that the quality and amount of light is acceptable - the cost, though, hasn't yet reached reasonable levels.

EcoBak Pellets

This year's roster of speakers was excellent! From Martin Moe to Julian Sprung, all the well known authorities were on hand. I especially enjoyed the presentations given by Anthony Calfo and Sanjay Joshi.



  Tropic Marin Pro revisited

As I mentioned at the beginning of July, I've decided to quit using Tropic Marin Pro salt because of of problems with it hardening into one large brick inside it's bucket - also the price has gone up from $67 to $85! Too much for my blood.

I went to my favorite LFS (Fish and Other Ichthy Stuff in Oldsmar Florida) yesterday and purchased some 200 gallon boxes of Instant Ocean salt. I paid $35 plus tax a box! Cheap!

Each box contains four plastic bags of salt - each measured out for 50 gallons. That makes it very convenient for me as my saltwater storage container holds about 60 gallons net, but I refill it whenever it has about 10 gallons left in it. So all I have to do is open a bag and pour it in. Simple.

I know that both IO and Reef Crystals (same company) salts has a problem with a brown residue. Most say it is clay and that the manufacturer adds to the salt to bind excess traces of heavy metals in the mix. Other than the deposits, it causes in storage containers, I'm not really worried about it. One only needs to count the number of Reef Central "Tank Of The Month" owners that use IO to know that it is a quality salt.

So, I'll be mixing together the first container full, this evening. I'll advise my experience with IO over the next couple of months.


  Something new in the world of filtration - Bio-Pellets

There is always something new in our hobby. Recently, there has been a lot of talk about the "solid vodka" products emerging on the scene. The solid vodka turns out to be biologically degradable (bacteria can eat them) polymers, in the form of 4-7mm beads or pellets.

 The "bio-pellets" provide a food base for aerobic bacteria which leads to an increase in bacterial biomass in the system. The bacteria (Nitrosomas and Nitrobacter, I assume) will then (because that's what they do) also consume nitrate and, to a point, phosphate. This would be a good thing. In the normal cycle the bacteria would produce H20, CO2, and CaCO3 - not such a good thing, but controllable.

The manufacturers note that, some anaerobic layers will develop, resulting in additional denitrification. During this whole process bacteria will be carried off (via water movement, presumably) and subsequently eaten by filter feeding organisms, a large part of the invertebrate organisms found in our tanks.

Most of these products seem to be either Polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) or Polycaprolactone (PCL).

It is recommended that the media (the polymer pellets) be placed in a fluidized filter with a flow sufficient to keep the pellets tumbling - around 350gph. Place the filter so that the effluent exits to an area where it can immediately be taken up by a protein skimmer.

UPDATE (07/30/2010): I just finished building a jumbo sized fluidized bio-pellet reactor to handle the large amount of media I'll need for my system. Check it out!

I must say I'm intrigued by this new product. I've dosed vodka in the past and found the addition of carbon to the system did, indeed, lower nitrates and phosphates. So a fellow Tampa Bay Reef Club member and myself have ordered some of the Warner Marine (EcoBak) pellets.

EcoBak Pellets

I'll advise how it all worked out a little later. In the mean time, here are a couple of links to related info, etc.

The main thread on Reef Central

A thread on an Irish Forum

A thread on RC about Instant Ocean's product

And the same about Warner Marine's product

Here's a link to a thread on Reef Central that discusses possible DIY alternatives to commercial branded bio-pellets: RC's Thread

UPDATE (08/18/2010): Well, my bio-pellet reactor has been up and running for 12 days, now. As of this morning I have not noticed any change in my system. I've been dosing MB7 each day, at the suggested daily maintenance dose. I've been able to maintain good fluidization in the reactor.

I did noticed that, at the start, there was a problem due to tiny air bubbles that had attached themselves to individual pellets. This initially caused a good two inch layer of pellets to wedge themselves against the upper grid screen. This seemed to resolve itself as the bubbles were slowly absorbed. The wayward pellets are now all where they should be, dancing around with the others.

Here's a short video depicting the action:

Have any of you, that have a reactor running, experienced a complete lack of effect? Although, I suppose I'm being a little impatient.


  Tropic Marin Pro salt is becoming a disappointment!

I've been using Tropic Marin Pro salt for quite a while. I originally used it when I lived in Germany and always found it to be an excellent product. However, since I started using it in Florida, on a number of occasions, I  found that the salt had hardened into a solid block inside the bucket it is sold in. At first this only happened once or twice, but recently it has become a regular occurrence.

I have always assumed that the hardening problem was due to the humidity, here in Florida, combined with the fact that Tropic Marin "cheaps out" and doesn't really seal the sack that holds the salt, inside the bucket. The opening of the sack is just twisted and then cable tied.

Suffice it to say that Tropic Marin sells at a premium in this country. I'm sure, partly because of the freight costs entailed in getting it here, but it was expensive in Germany, too.

To add insult to injury, I understand the price of the 200gal bucket will be going up from $67 (a, comparatively, excellent price I currently pay at a LFS) to $85. Considering the fact that I mostly have to break the salt apart with a hammer, there is no chance that I will be paying $85 for it!

So - I've decided that, for me, it's back to good old Instant Ocean! At $35 for a 200gal bucket (so what if it only mixes up to 145gals at 1.026?) compared to $85 for Tropic Marin, who would hesitate.

I admit, I may have to "adjust" the parameters on the IO before I pour any of it in my system, the Alk tends to be a little high for my taste, but at a savings of $50 for 200 gallons of salt (IO = $0.175 a gallon and TMP = $0.425 a gallon), I can stand a little supplement addition. Although, thinking about it, the fact that I do a continual automated water change (see, Automated Water Changes), which results in a minimal addition of fresh water at any given moment, might make any adjustments superfluous.

I can't help thinking that Tropic Marin, or possibly the U.S. based importer, is pricing themselves out of the market.

Tropic Marin Pro is dead. Long live Instant Ocean!


  New source for LED lighting info!

Josh Schumacher, member of the Tampa Bay Reef Club and the author and presenter (together with Ken Siu) of the six part video series on LED Reef Lighting that this site is currently hosting, was kind enough to provide me with a PDF version of the presentation. This can be accessed from the "Projects" menu page - or here.


  I'm having problems with dinos!

I've been fighting what I assume is a type of dinoflagellate algae for about six months now. As far as I can determine it is a member of the Prorocentrum genus. This is what these little buggers look like:

Prorocentrum lima algae

Image © Maremagnum (e-coralia)

And this is how they look in the tank:

Prorocentrum lima algae Prorocentrum lima algae

I don't think it is one of the more poisonous species as my snails and invertebrates don't seem to be negatively effected.

I have tried everything I could think of to get rid of them, including:

  • raising the pH to 8.5 and keeping it there for 2 weeks
  • two 36 hour dark periods with the front of the tank covered to keep light out
  • daily removal of the algae and blowing off the rocks

So far, nothing has worked. The algae just keep coming back. As a last resort I'm going to try dosing AlgaeFix Marine from API. I don't really like dosing this type of product, but I have to do something before my corals are damaged. The general consensus about the product on Reef Central is that it "usually" works - well - we'll see. If anyone has any suggestions or tips - let me know. In any case, I'll keep you posted.

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