Saltwater Aquarium Water Chemistry & Parameters
Maintaining Proper Water Chemistry
Saltwater tank parameters are probably the one thing that doesn’t change constantly in this industry. It’s mainly because the composition of sea water doesn’t change. Some of these numbers might have slight degrees of variation, very slight, depending on where someone lives (although we don’t recommend straying from them at all just because they’re the industry norms). For instance since AquariumSumps.com is based in Colorado, we keep our tanks at a lower Specific Gravity due to the altitude; and no, we don’t recommend others do this.
Everything in your tank needs 3 very specific chemicals to survive and grow. That doesn’t mean the more you add to your tank the better they’ll do. These chemicals are Calcium, Magnesium, and Strontium – just as the basics. Without Magnesium, Calcium cannot properly be absorbed, without Strontium, Magnesium can’t be a readily available to Calcium, and so on and so forth. The primary goal is to keep the parameter of your tank at the most ideal ranges. This can be accomplished with the purchase of additives or through water changes. Although water changes themselves usually aren’t enough. Corals especially, require the upkeep of a number of elements to continually build their calcareous skeletons. Really everything in your tank does.
One of the more important aspects of maintaining saltwater aquarium tank parameters is temperature and alkalinity. These two things alone can throw everything out of whack. Not scrimping on a heater is a large part. If your temperature is inconsistent it can lead to pH fluctuations which can lead to Calcium and Magnesium levels being everywhere, which can lead to even more problems. Same thing with Alkalinity. Usually a proper Alkalinity level can be kept just by maintaining proper Magnesium and Calcium levels. There is list of which elements and factors can greatly affect other ones is fairly extensive. We highly recommend all tank owners have a good set of test kits around. Our favorite brand is Salifert. The most 4 important would be Alkalinity, Calcium, Magnesium, and Nitrate. These 4 test kits can indicate if there are any major problems within the tank. Should you have any further questions we are available almost around the clock to discuss any tank chemistry issues you may be having.
Below is a list of the main parameters and where you should try to keep them for a flourishing reef tank.
Temperature - 74-78 degrees
pH – 8.2-8.4
Specific Gravity – 1.023-1.025
Alkalinity – 8-12 dKH
Ammonia – ZERO (your tank should have no detectable levels of Nitrite or Ammonia)
Nitrite – ZERO (your tank should have no detectable levels of Nitrite or Ammonia)
Nitrate – Should be zero, but up to 20 PPM is acceptable but no where near ideal
Calcium – 400-450 PPM
Magnesium – 1250-1350 PPM
Strontium – 10-14 PPM