ORA Red Planet

Dosing Nitrates to Improve SPS Coloration

Many years ago when I started in this hobby my main mission was to keep nutrients as low as possible. But it was tougher back then since the equipment was not as efficient or advanced as what is available today.

Yes, I used a a skimmer, did regular water changes, avoided overfeeding my fish and employed mechanical filtration. I wasn’t a refugium guy but others used this method successfully for nutrient export by growing macro algae and promoting the growth of nitrate-consuming bacteria. Eventually, GFO was developed to manage phosphates and I jumped on that bandwagon to keep my levels near zero.

Over time, technological advances led to many more innovations, giving reef keepers a slew of options such as bio pellet reactors and liquid additives to reduce nitrates and phosphates to achieve ultra low nutrient levels. Is that really a good thing for a SPS dominant reef tank? Well, you don’t want to starve corals by totally depriving them of the nutrients they need to grow and thrive.

Given the efficiency seen today with nutrient export, some reef keepers use supplements such as amino acids to feed corals while others are finding it necessary to “dirty” up their tanks a bit to improve coral health. Eventually I became a proponent of having a lot of fish and feeding them heavily to keep nitrates elevated (fish poop is a great coral food!).  However, other measures may be necessary to raise nitrates even further.

One common method is to actually dose nitrates, specifically potassium nitrate. Believe it or not, a product used to remove tree stumps , which contains potassium nitrate, is one option for dosing. Another way to go is to use other products made of pure potassium nitrate such as the one sold by Green Leaf Aquariums.

potassium nitrate reef tank

I have used the Green Leaf Aquariums product and it is cheap and easy to use. Nitrates in my 187 gallon reef tank had been hovering around 1 ppm so I used the product to boost levels to 5 ppm, resulting in better colors for my SPS. Let me stress that it is important to take things slow and raise nitrates gradually over a few weeks. If you go too quick then you could fuel an outbreak of problematic algae.

So times have certainly changed. It\’s ironic that advances in the reef keeping hobby have some folks seeking ways to raise nutrients versus lowering them to improve coral health and coloration. The hobby has evolved and reef keepers seeking to keep healthy SPS dominant reef tanks should be open to evolving as well.

Additional Resources

If you would like some help with a new tank build, including help designing a custom aquarium, or help re-configuring your current setup then you can visit this page for more information. And if you are looking to add some equipment, I do sell GHL, Pax Bellum, Reef Octopus Calcium and Kalk Reactors and Royal Exclusiv products, including Dreamboxes, which is the equipment I use and recommend. I also sell Reef Brite metal halide and LED fixtures as well as Maxspect & IceCap Gyres.

As for additional insights and information, please explore my many other reef tank and SPS related articles as well as my YouTube channel. For an even deeper dive into reef tank care you can check out my Reef Keeping Master Class. This online course is an immersive and one of a kind educational tool designed to help reef aquarium hobbyists build and maintain a beautiful SPS reef tank. The course is a series of video presentations with some supplemental video from my YouTube channel. There are also quizzes to help students retain and understand the information presented in the course.

Need some frags…..I can help with that as well 🙂 Please visit my SPS Frag store to see what is available.

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