Nitrate Problems? Vodka dosing worked for me this time

cody6766

Super Best Friends!
Premium Member
This is not a new concept, nor is Vodka the only source of carbon one can dose. I had a BAD tank crash a few years ago when an ice storm killed power to a big portion of the city. I went to fire my generator and found out it was busted. Bad news for the reef. Temps dropped and I lost a good 2 years of very successful growth. I spent some time fighting algae and rebuilding, but it was never the same. I changed out the shallow sand bed, no luck. I swapped out most of the rock, no luck. I was dosing Vibrant to kill off the algae and it was working, but the coral suffered. Even my zoas/palys were struggling.

I finally called it quits for new coral a few months ago so I could get my tank under control. I checked my nitrate and phosphate levels and the nitrates were nuts. I used and API kit and showed 20+ PPM. Phosphate wasn't bad, it was a little high, but nothing crazy. I forgot what the value was. Alk, Ca, and Mg were all within normal ranges, so the big 3 weren't the issue.

I stopped dosing Vibrant and started a Vodka dosing regiment using the methodology laid out in Melve's Reef's website. There are a lot of very similar guides, so read up on it if you struggle with nitrate issues. Basically, I started dosing my 60g tank at .1mL/gal per day. I did this for a week. To make it easy, I used .5mL/day. After a week I bumped to .75mL/day for the next week or so. I bumped it to 1mL/day and relied on my doser from that point on. I probably let it go for a week or 2 that way, then jumped to 2mL/day. Since it was automated I forgot about it and probably let it run for 2-3 weeks like that. I bumped it to 4mL/day a couple of days ago and tested my nitrate and phosphate levels with my Hana Checkers. Phosphate was undetectable. I'm going to re-check it to see if it was operator error, but I expect the numbers to be really low. My nitrate levels tested at .015 on the ultra low nitrate checker. The algae issue is long gone, the zoas are beginning to open, coraline algae is growing all over, and I almost never have to scrape my glass. I stopped doing water changes so I could attribute the change (or lack of) to the Vodka alone. I have a moderate fish load and feed probably a little more than I should. I skim, but not heavily. My source water is RO/DI and tests at 0-2 PPM.

I have a second tank that I set up after the crash. It's a nano with easy coral, mini-maxi nems, and a sexy shrimp. It gets fed VERY little but uses the same water source. I have never had a coral growth or algae issue in that tank, so it's clear the issue was inside of my 60g. I use the same ATO water and the same mixed salt water when I do water changes. It looks like Vodka dosing is working for me. I did it to some degree several years back when I had a troublesome tank. I didn't do it with an auto doser so my dosing wasn't as consistant as it should have been. That tank eventually stabilized and was successful without the dosing. I've moved around a good bit in the last 10'ish years and this is the first time I've ever struggled with coral growth or water quality. It happened immediately after that large crash. I'm cautiously optimistic that the tank is back to where it should be. I'll be buying some 'canary' corals in the next few days to see how they do...probably a couple of LPS so I can watch them and have plenty of warning to move them to the nano if they decline. Before adding coral I'll make sure the big 3 are where they're supposed to be, but I'm confident they are since there's very little consuming them right now.

That's a bit of a long post, but it's looking like a success story using low tech solutions for a very persistent problem. Time will tell. Is it right for you? Maybe. Do you research on Carbon dosing and see if it fits. It's not a bandaid for bad husbandry, but it could be a fix for a larger systemic issue that water changes and skimming can't overcome. I'll probably update later, but as all things should be in this hobby, progress will be slow.
 

cody6766

Super Best Friends!
Premium Member
I didn't drive them down that low intentionally. I just let the vodka dosing do its thing and tested a few weeks in. My nitrates were way too high and needed to be brought back into check. ULNS was never my goal, so I may look into reducing the dose if things don't look right. I honestly almost never tested for nitrate after the initial cycle in any of my tanks because everything worked out. Balanced bioload, feeding, skimming (on most tanks), and water changes took care of things. I had the kits around, but NO3, NO2, and NO4 were never an issue for me until this crash. I'll find out what right is and dial things in as I begin to reintroduce coral.
 

Genetics

Hands deep in water
Team RC
Premium Member
This is not a new concept, nor is Vodka the only source of carbon one can dose. I had a BAD tank crash a few years ago when an ice storm killed power to a big portion of the city. I went to fire my generator and found out it was busted. Bad news for the reef. Temps dropped and I lost a good 2 years of very successful growth. I spent some time fighting algae and rebuilding, but it was never the same. I changed out the shallow sand bed, no luck. I swapped out most of the rock, no luck. I was dosing Vibrant to kill off the algae and it was working, but the coral suffered. Even my zoas/palys were struggling.

I finally called it quits for new coral a few months ago so I could get my tank under control. I checked my nitrate and phosphate levels and the nitrates were nuts. I used and API kit and showed 20+ PPM. Phosphate wasn't bad, it was a little high, but nothing crazy. I forgot what the value was. Alk, Ca, and Mg were all within normal ranges, so the big 3 weren't the issue.

I stopped dosing Vibrant and started a Vodka dosing regiment using the methodology laid out in Melve's Reef's website. There are a lot of very similar guides, so read up on it if you struggle with nitrate issues. Basically, I started dosing my 60g tank at .1mL/gal per day. I did this for a week. To make it easy, I used .5mL/day. After a week I bumped to .75mL/day for the next week or so. I bumped it to 1mL/day and relied on my doser from that point on. I probably let it go for a week or 2 that way, then jumped to 2mL/day. Since it was automated I forgot about it and probably let it run for 2-3 weeks like that. I bumped it to 4mL/day a couple of days ago and tested my nitrate and phosphate levels with my Hana Checkers. Phosphate was undetectable. I'm going to re-check it to see if it was operator error, but I expect the numbers to be really low. My nitrate levels tested at .015 on the ultra low nitrate checker. The algae issue is long gone, the zoas are beginning to open, coraline algae is growing all over, and I almost never have to scrape my glass. I stopped doing water changes so I could attribute the change (or lack of) to the Vodka alone. I have a moderate fish load and feed probably a little more than I should. I skim, but not heavily. My source water is RO/DI and tests at 0-2 PPM.

I have a second tank that I set up after the crash. It's a nano with easy coral, mini-maxi nems, and a sexy shrimp. It gets fed VERY little but uses the same water source. I have never had a coral growth or algae issue in that tank, so it's clear the issue was inside of my 60g. I use the same ATO water and the same mixed salt water when I do water changes. It looks like Vodka dosing is working for me. I did it to some degree several years back when I had a troublesome tank. I didn't do it with an auto doser so my dosing wasn't as consistant as it should have been. That tank eventually stabilized and was successful without the dosing. I've moved around a good bit in the last 10'ish years and this is the first time I've ever struggled with coral growth or water quality. It happened immediately after that large crash. I'm cautiously optimistic that the tank is back to where it should be. I'll be buying some 'canary' corals in the next few days to see how they do...probably a couple of LPS so I can watch them and have plenty of warning to move them to the nano if they decline. Before adding coral I'll make sure the big 3 are where they're supposed to be, but I'm confident they are since there's very little consuming them right now.

That's a bit of a long post, but it's looking like a success story using low tech solutions for a very persistent problem. Time will tell. Is it right for you? Maybe. Do you research on Carbon dosing and see if it fits. It's not a bandaid for bad husbandry, but it could be a fix for a larger systemic issue that water changes and skimming can't overcome. I'll probably update later, but as all things should be in this hobby, progress will be slow.
Back when I had a rather large aquarium setup I utilized this method with fantastic results. Glad to hear it worked for you!
 
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