Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Undetectable Nitrates and Phosphates - How to dose vodka?

I've been asked numerous times on if it is possible to dose vodka when nitrates and/or phosphates are undetectable. Most people will ask this if they have undetectable levels and are suffering from hair algae. The simple answer is yes it is possible. My recommendation would be to take it slow. If you use the Reef Keeping article, located at the bottom of this blog, you will find dosing instructions for vodka with various proofs and aquarium sizes. Start off using the chart recommendation and increase until the hair algae fails to return after manually removing it by hand. It may take a few weeks to get the desired effect. Continuation at the same dose will give the best results once the hair algae has been removed and no longer returns.

Monday, January 26, 2009

DOC and vodka

I often find myself asking some of the most obscure questions. Recently I read an article from Advanced Aquarist where they were looking at dissolved organic compounds (DOCs). I found it fascinating that on the reef there is less than 1 part per million (ppm) DOC in a healthy ecosystem. In higher amounts it has been shown to cause coral bleaching and mortality. Since I use vodka to control my nitrates/phosphates (by far the cheapest reef additive you can purchase for your aquarium) I was interested in how much DOC I was adding to my tank. Busting out the calculator... 20% vodka at 8mL per day, I came up with adding roughly 1.26 grams of ethanol daily. This equates to 1.66ppm ethanol daily to my 180g reef tank (it holds 200g for anyone that ends up checking my math). Obviously this is a concern to me if I want to go with literature and try to mimic a wild reef ecosystem. On a good note though, I drip my vodka throughout the day. Doing this breaks down my all at once spike to 0.069ppm per hour. This is well under the 1ppm DOC! Though I do not know how much DOC is currently in my tank, I feel the vodka is OK since this is such a small addition.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Christmas is quickly approaching. With some well deserved time off, I decided to check out Photoshop CS4. Amazing program to put it simply. It pretty much puts the finishing touches on the photo with ease and I just have to sit back and enjoy the photo!

As I am learning from my mistakes on photography, one issue that I've noticed was grainy appearance in many of my shots. My Nikon D70 camera has an ISO 600 setting. But after looking at some other people's shots, I've found than my ISO can be decreased to 200 without issue. The grain disappeared and now I get much crisper shots. With this and CS4 the difference between the photo from below and this one is very noticeable. This picture made my day, and I believe Christmas came a bit early this year!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Getting around to cleaning....

It's one of my most not loved subjects ever! Forever busy just to come home to a fish tank that needs cleaned. Well after spending a half hour or so cleaning the glass and pumps my tank looks great again! The greater amount in water movement stimulates polyp extension. So.... I decided it was time to take some underwater shots using my new underwater box. This guy recently colored up and started growing. When I bought it in April, it was grey with brown tips. I was told it would color up as above but was skeptical at that time. However, I was proven wrong. And I'm not complaining by any means. I believe this picture shows my feelings!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Vodka Dosing

Starting with my new setup my nitrates started creeping up. Even after adding a refugium and my macroalgae taking off my nitrates were climbing and I was worried about algae issues in the display. I had heard of a crazy method back in 2004 where addition of vodka to the tank would remove nitrates but this would only be a last resort and should only be done in a fish only setup. Looking at how these people were going about dosing, I decided it would be reef safe if I did it slowly instead of pooring insane amounts of vodka into the tank (insane maybe overstating a bit as insane would be 10mL per 100 gallons with 40% alcohol). After playing around with the concept of vodka dosing, I decided to give it a go. I had very little results on my old tank for about three months and then everything looked better and my macroalgae hit a point where it stopped growing.

That tank was torn down because I was moving. When I resetup my tank in June of 2007, I was determined to keep nitrates at a low level and wanted to get more into the obsession of sps corals. I began dripping 8mL of 20% vodka into my system in October 2008 on a daily basis. My nitrates were completely eliminated by November. Introduction of sps corals started that december and my growth and luck with them have been phenominal. I have kept everything I've introduced into the tank aside from an accident with an alk spike and a online coral order from fragfarmer. Though the tank is not completely sps, as you can see from the above image, I have slowly moved it more and more in that direciton.

Back to the vodka, not only is it great to drink but it has useful purposes! After reading many German threads and everything on Reefcentral on this subject I was asked to write a 'How To' article for The article sums up almost all questions asked about vodka dosing. One topic left out was water changes. Water changes are the staple of reefkeeping, they replenish and maintain trace elements while removing organic molecules that are not easily removed by skimming. The latter comes from dilution as a result of the water changes. The reason it is not addressed is because once nitrates are eliminated and people have calcium, magnesium, and alk under control it no longer becomes essential. In the past year I have done one 5% water change. The pictures in the article written also come from a tank where only 2 water changes occurred in the 16 months the tank was up and running. With that, it was hard to answer this question as in the hobby it has long been thought that water changes are needed and I wished not to go against unwritten doctrine. The 'How To' article can be found here:

Vodka Dosing...Distilled!

A Powerful Method for the Reduction of
Nitrates and Phosphates within the Reef Aquaria
by Nathaniel A. Walton (Genetics) and Matt Bjornson (Stony_Corals)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Photography and Photoshopping

Learning how to take pictures is incredibly important when it comes to reef photography. I've never had much ambition to learn but the growth, color, and potential pictures keep on compounding as the days go by. Thanks to the reefcentral photography forum I was able to go from this:

To the image at the very top. I believe the differences are noticeable.

First, the fish is now in focus, this problem was fixed by taking the image perpendicular to the glass with the camera instead of at an angle.

Second, the coral is shown in its entirety.

Third, the colors were adjusted to match the real environment. To do this I used RAW format capturing instead of the jpeg format as above. The RAW format allows lighting adjustment so I did not need to try to white balance on sand because the bulbs are 12,000 kelvin rated. This means the lighting is a bit bluer than normal house lighting.

Forth, the polyps are clear. This was due to turning off the pumps in the tank during photography and a timer to remove hand movements.

Last, the polyp detail was enhanced by adjusting a few settings on the camera ISO - 200, F/10, and shutter speed of 1/60s. Photoshop added detail by lightly overlaying the image with a high pass grey image of itself.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Beginning

Time to start a blog. Or so I believe its that time.

My obsession with this hobby started years ago with the purchase of a beta, a small freshwater fish. From there it was all downhill as I found that the better, prettier looking fish all are saltwater. A small jump from there into basic corals and the next thing I'm obsessing over SPS corals. These corals come in a wide variety of colors from green, blue, and purple to pink, red, and orange. The above picture is my yellow Clown Goby hanging out in a SPS waiting to be fed.

The tank is a monster at 180 gallons. After rock and water the aquarium ways close to, if not, a ton of weight. To keep the corals happy, there is a few pieces of equipment needed to keep everything in it happy. The breakdown:

Kalk Reactor
Calcium Reactor
Phosphate Reactor