When it comes down to it, water quality is the single most important factor in the success or failure of your marine aquarium. Almost everything you do in regards to your tank influences the quality or lack thereof of your water. Stocking, filtration, water source, top off water, aeration, total surface area, water movement and even heating all affect your water quality.
Let’s start off with some very important basics. Whenever possible it’s always best to start off with RO/DI water. Yes, natural seawater would be the preferred source of water for your tank, but few of us live near a facility that provides filtered, safe seawater to the public.
For the most part, seawater taken directly out of the sea is full of microorganisms that will most likely have a devastating effect on your tank. Most of these organisms in the natural seawater will die shortly after the water is placed in your tank meaning that you will need to do more not less water changes.
In addition, fish in your tank may come from parts of the world never exposed to those organisms specific to the area from which you are getting the water. This could easily kill your fish and invertebrates. So for the most part RO/DI water is the way to go.
There are some excellent RO systems on the market that will provide a reasonable amount of water a day without costing you a huge sum of money.
Much of this water will go towards mixing for saltwater while the rest will be used for freshwater top off. Come in and talk to us about We have a number of different RO systems available at the store.
Your choice of a synthetic salt mix is also very important. A high quality salt mix from a reputable company will give you consistent batches of water if mixed and aged properly.
A high quality salt mix will provide saltwater with acceptable levels of trace and minor elements and will help you better manage the quality of your water. Talk with us, we can and will make recommendations based on your specific needs.
Some of the things we need to consider include:
Does the manufacturer provide a guaranteed analysis or mix results? Besides high quality results, consistency is just as important.
Consider some specific guidelines. What specific gravity do you want to wind up with?
What calcium and pH levels are you shooting for?
Does the manufacturer provide a website or contact information? The manufacturer should either list a telephone number or website where you can get more information on the product?
Bottom line, start off with good quality water, free of chlorine or chloramine, minimal to no dissolved solids and organic life. Add to this water the right choice of synthetic salt and you are well on your way towards building a fantastic reef aquarium.
Quick note: it is highly recommended that you age your saltwater mix. Many sources claim that the aging process should be given a minimum three days while others tell us to wait at least a week before using the mixed saltwater.
Many of you may not have the time or storage capacity to age water much over a few days. Just keep this information in mind and do the best you can.
When looking at the salinity level of water you are simply looking at the amount of dissolved salts within the water. This is measured in parts per thousand.
Specific Gravity is the measurement that compares the density of a liquid to the density of water. Any liquid with a specific gravity greater than 1 is more dense than water. Saltwater has a SG of approx. 1.025. Specific gravity is much easier to measure than salinity therefore it is the measurement of choice for aquarists.
There are a number of tools available for the hobbyist to use to measure SG. Plastic hydrometers that may simply be dipped into the water and read and or glass tubes designed to float in your water. Or you can use a refractometer a device where you place a drop or two of saltwater on the lens, close the lens top and look thru the refractometers eye piece to read the SG.
All work well and will normally provide reasonably accurate readings. Although refractometers are more accurate and are becoming more and more affordable.
Recommendations for specific gravity run from a low of 1.020 to a high of 1.025. Many successful aquarists simply aim for 1.023 and do everything they can to maintain this SG with as little variation as possible. Using a high quality salt mix goes a long way towards meeting this goal.
Natural seawater in shallow reef zones has an average pH of 8.4. The normal recommended pH for a reef tank is 7.9 – 8.4. Carbonate Hardness or Alkalinity play a significant role in helping to maintain a specific pH level. Further information on pH, Carbonate Hardness & Alkalinity can be found here.