Although using vodka in a reef tank sounds a little odd, it is a widely popular and useful method. It is proven that the method of vodka dosing removes phosphates and nitrates from the tank water and thus, improves its quality.
Vodka dosing reduces the levels of phosphates and nitrates from the water of a reef tank. The chemistry behind this is actually organic carbon dosing. In the process of organic carbon dosing, vodka is used as the organic carbon.
If you are thinking about how vodka dosing works and why you might need it, keep scrolling down and read the full article. I am going to discuss everything you need to know about vodka dosing in a reef tank.
How Does Vodka Dosing Work In A Reef Tank?
Here is how vodka dosing works. When you dose the vodka in the water of your reef tank, the carbon calories in the vodka work like a treat for the bacteria living in the water. Feeding the bacteria proliferates their population. Then the whole population starts decreasing the levels of phosphates and nitrates from the water.
This is cool, right? You feed the bacteria and they pay you back by improving the quality of the tank water!
Why Should You Think About Dosing Vodka In Your Reef Tank?
You should think about dosing vodka in your reef tank because you need to keep the water quality of your reef tank stable. You might say that you change the tank water regularly so vodka dosing is not necessary. But it is.
Because even if you change the water regularly, you cannot stop the levels of phosphates and nitrates from increasing. And if you are an advanced aquarist or even a hobbyist, you should already know how risky phosphates and nitrates are for your tank inhabitants and how important it is to keep the tank water stable for the habitants.
There are other methods to do the job, yes. But vodka dosing is proven to be one of the most useful and effective ones. Besides, you do not have to spend much on it. It is really cheap and available at most of the stores.
However, although it needs no saying, I find it important to tell you that you cannot buy vodka with added colors or flavors. They won’t do the job. Just go to a store and find simple, cheap, and distilled 80 proof vodka.
What Do You Need In Order To Dose Vodka?
Reading so far, you may have gotten an idea that dosing vodka is an easy-peasy task, just throwing some vodka into the tank water would do it. Well, it is not. To be honest, it is quite a complex process.
A major risk that you must consider during the process is overdosing of vodka. If you overdose vodka in your tank, it will threaten the lives of the animals. To overcome this issue, you need to have the proper equipment. A skimmer is a must in this case.
A lot of aquarists who have used vodka dosing in their reef tanks found a skimmer immensely helpful in the process. Let me give you two very important reasons why you must have a great skimmer for vodka dosing.
- Exporting Bacteria: Addition of vodka in the water results in lower levels of phosphates and nitrates. Along with the reduction, you will also need to export the phosphates and the nitrates being cultivated by vodka dosing. To ensure that, you need efficient skimming.
- Exchange Of Gas: The proliferated population of bacteria caused by vodka dosing will reduce the levels of dissolved oxygen in the water. By any chance, if you overdose vodka, it can cause a great amount of oxygen shortage and may even kill your tank inhabitants. A quality skimmer can help to prevent that from happening.
How Do You Start The Process?
Now come to the main part. I already told you that it is a complex process requiring extreme carefulness so you do not under/overdose vodka. Also, the amount of vodka also varies from day to day, depending on the situation inside the tank.
So it is important that you maintain each of the instructions below.
Test The Current Levels Of Phosphates And Nitrates:
Before you start dosing vodka, MAKE SURE you know the starting levels. Because in case you don’t, chances are you will under/overdose the vodka in your tank water.
There are many test kits for checking phosphate and nitrate levels. Buy them to check their levels in your reef tank.
Estimate The Net Water Volume (NWV):
Now, you have to calculate the NVW of your tank water by adding aquarium volume, refugium, sump, and reactor volumes. Note that the NVW considers water displaced by live rock.
You may face difficulties calculating the water that the live rock is displacing. If you cannot determine the live rock volumes, it is suggested that you take some water (approximately 30%) off the tank’s Gross Water Volume.
However, do not worry much about this. Because if you cannot calculate the NVW properly and underestimate it, it will not cause any problem.
For example, let’s assume that your tank contains 100 net gallons of water. What would be the measurements for vodka dosing in that case? Well…
Starting Dose For The First 3 Days:
Here, the amount of vodka is 0.1 ml for every 25 gallons. Continue this for the first 3 days.
So, if you have 100 net gallons, the total amount of vodka dose would be 0.4 ml for this period. It is advised that one should split the daily dose in half and apply the dose twice a day to maintain more consistency.
Dose For The Next 4 Days:
For day 4 to day 7, apply 0.20 ml of vodka for every 25 gallons. In total, the dosage would be 0.8 ml each day for these 4 days.
Dose For The Next Week:
After the first week, add 0.5 ml of vodka in addition for each week. At this stage, your total amount of dose would be 1.3 ml each day.
But if you do not find the nutrient levels decreasing during the 2nd week, add 0.50 ml of vodka more to your daily dose (making it 1.8) in the next week.
However, if the levels do start falling, keep applying the current amount of dose. To make it clearer, if it is the 2nd week and the nutrients levels are reducing gradually, you will keep applying 1.3 ml of vodka each day till the wastes become untraceable.
When Phosphates And Nitrates Are Untraceable:
When you find them untraceable using the test kits, make the current vodka dose half. That amount would be your dose for starting maintenance.
Suppose, the levels have dropped during the second week and become untraceable. Then your starting maintenance dose will be 0.65 ml each day, dividing 1.3 ml by 2.
If They Are Traceable Again:
Keep the water in regular check for phosphate and nitrate levels. If they become traceable again, add 0.1 ml of vodka to the current dose per week till they become untraceable.
Maintaining this dose will cause their levels to become untraceable again. And then you will apply the new dose (.65 ml + .10 ml = .75 ml) as the new maintenance dose.
So, this is basically all about HOW you should dose vodka in your reef tank. If you find the instructions too complex to remember, you can make a chart. That will make it simple for you.
Few Precautions of Vodka Dosing
However, there are still a number of things you should keep in mind. But don’t panic. The hard part is already over. The next part of the article will cover the bits that will keep you well informed about the entire thing so you never find yourself in a dilemma.
Tank Animals Under Stress:
When you start the process of vodka dosing, keep your tank inhabitants in regular check for signs of stress. If you notice any sign of stress, stop dosing right away or at least make the dose amount half.
Forgetting To Apply The Dose:
What if you cannot remember one day whether you have applied the dose or not? Easy solution: skip it. It is better not to apply the dose at all than apply twice a day. You can make a journal and keep records to avoid this kind of situation.
However, if you miss one day, do NOT think of doubling the dose on the next day. NEVER!
If, during the period of vodka dosing, coral bleaching occurs in your reef tank, don’t dose vodka any longer. Moreover, if you see any other change in the animals’ body or health during this time, consult an expert.
Giving Extra Food:
Vodka dosing allows you to give your livestock some extra food without decreasing the water quality, since it is already removing the wastes from the water.
Using Removal Materials:
Some people prefer using removal materials for phosphates and nitrates with vodka dosing. But it’s not generally recommended as vodka does it well enough.
Having A Reef Tank With Deep Sand Beds (DSBs):
It will take a significantly long time (maybe several months!) to decrease the levels of phosphates and nitrates if you have DSBs in your reef tank. This happens due to the hidden organic waste bed that has to be removed first.
In this kind of situation, don’t feel discouraged or start increasing the dose amount irrationally. Increase the amount slowly until you can notice the waste reduction. Once the wastes become undetectable, make the dose amount half, and then make it half again.
Old Reef Tank:
If your reef system is more than one year old, it may develop a chunky sludge because of the long buildup of phosphates and nitrates over time, and the large population of bacteria engendered by the vodka dosing.
In that case, you have to keep your reef tank under deep observation. If you notice any sludge, cut the dose amount in half and keep applying it until the sludge is gone. Then start increasing the dose amount according the aforementioned instructions.
These are all the necessary things you should keep in mind about dosing vodka in your reef tank. And yes, while vodka dosing is necessary and good for improving the quality of your tank water, it comes with some side effects.
Overdosing vodka is very risky for your livestock and under-dosing will not remove the wastes properly. That is why it is a must that you follow each and every instruction very carefully. Hope the article helps you make your reef tank a great home for your corals & fish.