Analysis of Seachem Laboratories Aqua Vitro
Back near the beginning of May, Reef Builders asked me to test a new line of products geared toward reef tanks called Aqua Vitro by Seachem Laboratories. The Aqua Vitro line of products consists of 7 different additives. They are â€“ Alpha, Balance, Calcification, Eight.four, Fuel, Ions, & Vibrance. Click the read link for the full review and analysis.
Having had a reef tank for several years, I have used many different products with varying results, seen many products come and go, and have learned how to manage my tankâ€™s chemistry through the use of cheap alternatives and good tank husbandry in order to make my corals thrive. Because of this, I decided to take up the challenge of testing the new product line. Knowing that I have a good feel for when a product is negatively or positively affecting the health of the corals and fish, I wasnâ€™t overly concerned about wiping out my system if something were to go array. After all, adjustments could be made prior to having any long-term negative effects. In the end, two different test systems were used to test the products, my understocked 300 gallon total water volume mixed reef setup with excellent water quality and a 20 gallon quarantine tank with an undersized skimmer.
The first product tested was Alpha. Alpha is a product that claims to remove chlorine, chloramines, & ammonia, along with detoxifying nitrite & nitrate. Since RO/DI water is used for all water additions in my tanks, all new water is free of these chemicals. Additionally, the test reef tank has never measured any detectable nitrites or nitrates. Because of this and my want for some new fish additions, I set up my quarantine tank with fresh saltwater using tap water directly from my well. Well water in my area does not have any chlorine, chloramines, ammonia, or nitrite, but it does have 25ppm nitrates. The nitrates alone should have had minimal affects on any new fish, but being a freshly setup tank, elevated ammonia and nitrite levels were expected as the tank went through the cycle process. So far, Alpha has been used in the quarantine tank for three weeks and only a slight rise in any free ammonia and nitrite levels have been observed and all of the fish are still alive. Overall, the product may have helped to protect the fish from any high levels of ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate that would have risen during the cycle process, but the time span that the product has been tested is still short. With how bad it smells when you open the bottle, the product better work. I wouldnâ€™t recommend the product as a substitute for waiting out the cycle process, but for people that need to lower elevated levels while they are finding a permanent solution to solving their problems, Alpha, along with water changes may help. I still do not know if I would feel comfortable testing the product in my reef tank, but since I donâ€™t have elevated levels to test it on, Iâ€™ll leave that for someone else.
The next product tested was Balance. Balance is an optimized blend of sodium and potassium hydroxides that claims to balance the carbonate buffer system ratio and raises pH without affecting calcium and alkalinity. Being that my tanks have a pH of 8.20 in the morning and 8.42 in the evening, the tankâ€™s inhabitants would probably not benefit for the pH being raised any higher, so Balance was tested by being dosed at half the recommended rate for two consecutive days. After those two days, the tank pH was 8.26 in the morning and 8.44 in the evening. Per the products claim, results may vary widely, but as a starting reference point, one full dosage should have raised the pH by 0.1 pH units. My results were lower that the reference in the bottle, but the product did raise the pH and I didnâ€™t notice any change in my alkalinity or calcium levels. One week after the second dose, may tankâ€™s pH was back to 8.20 in the morning and 8.40 in the evening. I repeated the test a second time and achieved similar results. If you are looking for a product that will raise your tankâ€™s pH level, the Balance product may help if your tank has an improper carbonate/bicarbonate ratio. However, most of the time, there are other reasons that cause a tankâ€™s pH to remain too low. Products such as Balance help to cover up the true cause of the low pH, but I donâ€™t consider them a permanent solution. As my results show, they did raise the pH for the short term, but unless dosed consistently, you may end up with a tank that has a fluctuating pH and be worse off than prior to dosing any pH adjusting chemicals.
Calcification was the third product tested. The product raises & maintains calcium and claims to accelerate coral growth. The product did raise the calcium levels as claimed, however, to raise the calcium levels by 10 mg/l in a 300 gallon system, it takes 84 mL plus however much more is necessary to keep up with the calcium usage by the corals. At that rate, large systems could go through a bottle in a matter of days. No increase in coral growth rate that could be correlated to the use of the Calcification product over any other product that is designed to raise the calcium level in a reef tank was observed so far. However, as of this time, the test process has been short so both positive or negative growth rates are still inconclusive. The tests will continue over the next couple months, while only dosing one additive at a time, and the results will be posted once more data is achieved.
The next product that was tested is Eight.Four. Eight.Four safely raises & buffers pH to 8.4 and raises carbonate alkalinity. Since my tank already has a relatively high pH level and remains near the upper end of the recommended alkalinity range during my routine dosing, I had to determine the most effective way to test the product within a reasonable time frame. The best way would have been to make adjustment to my dosing routine, monitor how the tank reacted with the adjusted dosing and then start dosing Eight.Four and see how my tank reacts. Since this would be a multistage process taking several weeks to properly test, I decided to continue my dosing routine and add the Eight.Four product in addition to my normal routine for a short time span to see how the tank reacted without throwing my tank out of balance. What I noticed was that the alkalinity and pH did rise very slightly, however, like Calcification, in a large system, a full bottle may only last a matter of days when dosed at the recommended rate.
Up until this point, the products have been tested in alphabetical order by name. If I continued that order, the next product would have been Fuel, but I am going to skip ahead to Ions and save Fuel for last. This is because Fuel is a product thatâ€™s sole purpose is to ignite coral growth and does not have a means for testing the results besides for visual appearance.
Ions is a product that raises magnesium while maintaining strontium and boron. While testing the product, the magnesium levels did rise at the rate provided on the bottle, but I do not have an accurate strontium or boron test kit at this time so data on how those levels were impacted were not tested. Besides for pH, alkalinity, and calcium, I consider magnesium as being the next most critical chemical in a reef tank. Low magnesium levels can make it tough to achieve proper alkalinity and calcium levels and make the tank less stable. However, it is tough to monitor how magnesium levels directly affect coral health or growth rates unless the magnesium levels are well below the ideal range. As of this time, I have not seen any indications that the Ions additive is either better or worse than most other magnesium supplements on the market.
The second to final product tested was Vibrance. Vibrance is an iodide supplement. Iodide is a chemical that most of the corals in my aquarium do well with less than ideal levels, but I do have many different types of inverts, such as hermit crabs and cleaner shrimp, that benefit for supplementation. While dosing Vibrance, none of the inverts or corals showed any signs of positive or negative reactions, even when dosed at a rate slightly higher than the recommended amount. None of the shrimp in my tank molted during the testing process either. Most often when dosing Iodide supplements, negative signs are much easier to observe over the short term than positive signs. Since there was no signs of stress observed by either the corals or inverts, I will take this as being a positive sign and continue to monitor future testing.
Fuel is the name of the final Aqua Vitro additive tested. This additive was saved for last since it is the only additive that can not be tested for changes to specific chemicals with a test kit. One can only judge how well the product works by visual appearance and how other monitoring devices react. Fuel is a mixture of carbohydrates, vitamins, fatty acids, and amino acids designed to ignite coral growth. The only monitor on my tank affected from dosing Fuel was my tankâ€™s Oxygen Reduction Potential (ORP) meter. Directly after dosing, the ORP level in my tank plummeted from its normal operating range of around 400 down to 250. Even when I tried dosing Â¼ of the recommended rate, my ORP still dropped over 100 points. Within a few hours, the ORP would rebound back to near its typical operating range. It didnâ€™t totally surprise me that the ORP dropped some while dosing since, it keep things simple, dirtier water generally means a lower ORP. What did surprise me was how much a small dose of Fuel would drop my ORP readings. If a fish goes missing in my tank, generally, the ORP will drop 20-40 points, depending on the size of the fish. Most other coral â€œcolor enhancingâ€ additives tried in the past did not give me the large drop either. Seeing that Fuel will drop the ORP by 150 points indicates that there is something in the mixture that is pretty potent with regards to the oxygen levels or water quality. One other side affect observed was that a green film algae would appear on the front glass after dosing. Prior to beginning dosing Fuel, the front glass on my setup could go 2-3 weeks without being cleaned if it wasnâ€™t for the fact that coraline algae would start growing all over the glass pane. These two side effects indicates to me that you donâ€™t want to dose more than the recommended amount, and may be better off using less than what Seachem Laboratories recommends, depending on how clean your water is. Besides for those two side effects, the product appears to work well. Within a week after starting the dosing I could notice my SPS corals reaching out their polyps farther, and shortly after that, I noticed about 1/3 of my SPS corals have gained some coloration. With everything that I have noticed with the Fuel additive, it does seem to have potential in tanks with very low organic levels. Fuel may not work as well in tanks with higher organic levels, unless dosed very lightly, since it may spark algae or water quality problems.
One item of note during my testing is that I did loose one fish. That fish happened to be the largest and favorite fish in my reef tank â€“ a 7â€+ Foxface Lo. The fish passed away on a weekend when I was out of town, so the tank went two days without food and the water temp raised to 82 degrees, which is two degrees higher than its normal operating temperature. Neither of those items should have caused and problems with the fish, but none of the other fish showed any negative signs from the additive dosing or tank changes. I do not feel that dosing the additives caused the death of the fish, but in order to give complete test results, the fish loss had to be mentioned.
At the beginning of the testing process, I was, like I usually am with any new product, skeptical of the new Aqua Vitro product line by Seachem Laboratories. However, all of the products tested did show some positive signs of working as claimed either through chemical testing or visual results, although there was side effects with the Fuel additive. Whether the product line works better than other products on the market will take some time to determine. As we all know, everything is this hobby takes time. I think that I have a pretty good feel for how my reef tank reacted to all of the products and the product that has me the most excited has to be Fuel. I will continue to test the Aqua Vitro line of products and will be providing updates periodically so stay tuned for future updates on Seachem Laboratories Aqua Vitro line of products.