If you’re looking for a beginners guide to reef dosing, you’ve come to the right spot. When new hobbyists first get into reef keeping, it can be overwhelming. Maintaining an aquarium is complicated and it can be difficult to determine your tank’s needs. One of the biggest challenges is replicating natural seawater in an artificial aquarium.
Why It’s Important to Dose
For corals to thrive, water parameters should fall within a specific range and remain stable from one day to the next. For example, calcium should fall between 400 – 450 ppm, and it should not fluctuate very much from one day to the next. Large and small polyp stony corals use calcium in their skeletal structure, so it’s vital to replenish them for health and growth.
When to Start Dosing
As we add more corals and our existing corals grow, the faster elements (like calcium, for example) are depleted. Eventually, regular water changes are no longer sufficient to keep up with the corals’ needs.
Imagine a sealed room… One small organism can live for a long time with the oxygen present in the room. However, as that organism grows and multiplies, it requires more and more oxygen. Eventually, opening the door every month, such as for a monthly water change, is not enough to sustain life. When that occurs, more oxygen needs to be pumped into the room to keep the organism alive.
The same principle above is true for calcium, alkalinity, magnesium and the other essential elements in a reef aquarium. When water changes are no longer able to keep up with the demands of corals in the tank, regular dosing is required to maintain the aquarium water’s parameters as close to natural seawater as possible.
Popular Reef Tank Dosing Options
In a reef aquarium, there are three major elements and a slew of minor elements. The primary three in order of importance are alkalinity, calcium, and magnesium. There are many products available to replenish these elements. Below is a breakdown of the most popular options available:
1. DIY Chemicals
Let’s start with the most cost-effective option, which is DIY or do-it-yourself chemicals. DIY chemicals are available from many aquarium stores that buy bulk chemicals, like calcium chloride, and repackage them in smaller quantities for resale. Dosing with DIY chemicals is often referred to by many hobbyists as the balling method.
Pros: Inexpensive; readily available
Cons: Usually does not include directions or dosage calculations; regular water changes required
The next option is a commercially available 2-part, which generally includes the big three of calcium, alkalinity, and magnesium. It is commonly available at most retail fish stores. Some of these products include trace elements but generally not enough to replace water changes.
Pros: Readily available; includes usage instructions and dosage calculations
Cons: More expensive compared to DIY chemicals; regular water changes are required to replace minor trace elements
Examples: Kent A & B, ESV B-Ionic, Seachem Reef Fusion, and Red Sea Reef Foundation
The all-in-one option contains the big three (calcium, alkalinity, magnesium) and proper levels of trace elements as well. Generally, regular water changes are not needed because these products already include the appropriate levels of trace elements.
Pros: Holistic/comprehensive; includes usage instructions and dosage calculations
Cons: More expensive
Examples: ATI Essentials Pro 2-Part and Triton Core7
There is a lot to learn about reef chemistry. It is one of the most complicated portions of this hobby, so it’s important to understand the basics before you begin your journey. Hopefully, this helped you make an informed decision on what supplements are right for you.
ATI North America offers many solutions for your reef keeping needs. Have you checked out our dosing pump or other water care products? We can help you get started! If you have any questions, please contact us.