Sick of algae and brown corals? Give vodka a shot!


Originally published 04/15/2010
So, I am sure by now many of you have heard of people dosing vodka and bacteria into their systems. You first thought may have been “what” or “why”, but I am here to help explain the reasons behind why those of us who do dose vodka do so.

Let me start by saying I am not an expert on the subject. I am not a scientist and cannot get into the intricate details of how and why the dosing of vodka works. I can however tell you what has worked for me and give you a general idea of how vodka dosing aids ones system. Please keep in mind that this dosing system is not without risks. You can wipe out your system if the proper procedures are not followed.

Before reading what I have to say below be sure to check out these links:

 

(Dosing instructions and chart detailing amounts to be dosed)
Vodka Dosing by ‘Genetics’ and ‘Stony_Corals’ – Reefkeeping.com

vodka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dosing Instructions

“These instructions will focus solely on using 80 proof vodka (40% ethanol by volume). They do not pertain to other organic carbon sources that are also currently used, including common table sugar (sucrose) and vinegar (sodium acetate). The dosing instructions below were as dictated by Jörg Kokott and have been used successfully by us.

    1. Test your system’s NO3 and PO4 levels. Do not dose if you do not know this! We recommend good test kits that have some low level of sensitivity. This will be important later on to determining a maintenance dose regimen. During the initial dosing test often and adjust dosing parameters as needed as each tank’s requirement will be different. Dosing accuracy is of the utmost importance. A graduated measurement tool such as a syringe will come in handy. A journal of additions and test kit measurements is recommended.
    2. Estimate your Net Water Volume (NWV) of your system. (Aquarium volume + sump + refugium + reactor volumes) – (live rock displacement). It can be difficult to accurately measure the amount of water being displaced by the live rock. If unsure of the volume of live rock we suggest taking 30% off your display tank’s Gross Water Volume. For vodka dosing there is absolutely no harm in underestimating the Net Water Volume and is recommended.

As an example, let us assume that your setup contains 100 Net Gallons.

  1. The starting dosage is 0.1ml of vodka per 25 gallons (~100 liters) NWV daily continued for three days. For 100 Net Gallons, your dosage would be 0.4ml daily during this period. It has been suggested to cut the daily dosage in half and dose twice daily for more consistency.
  2. Days 4-7, double the daily dosage to 0.2ml of vodka per 25 gallons NWV. Your example dosage would be 0.8ml daily during this period.
  3. Each subsequent week add an additional 0.5ml of vodka regardless of aquaria volume. At this point your example dosage during week two would be 1.3ml daily. If you do not see nutrient levels decrease during this week, the following week add an additional 0.5ml for a daily dosage of 1.8ml daily.
  4. When your NO3 and PO4 levels start to drop maintain the current dose. For example, if you were on week two when NO3 start to fall on 100 Net Water Volume you would add 1.3mL daily at this time for the continuing weeks until the NO3 becomes undetectable.
  5. When your NO3 and PO4 levels drop near undetectable with your test kits cut your current dose in half. This will be your starting maintenance dose (if the levels drop during week 2 then the dose after reaching undetectable levels would be 0.65ml daily [1.3ml divide by 2]).
  6. Continue to test for NO3 and PO4. If levels become detectable in the future increase your daily dose by 0.1ml increments per week until the levels start to decrease. If you maintain that dose the levels will eventually drop back to undetectable. This would become your new maintenance dose.

Throughout your dosing, observe your livestock daily to look for any signs of stress. If stress of any sort is noticed stop dosing, or at a minimum cut back by reducing your dose in half. If for some reason you cannot remember if you’ve added for that day skip it. It is better to accidentally miss a dose than add twice as much (a journal will keep this from occurring). Never double the dose for missing a prior day! ” (SOURCE)

 

(This is a simple overview of the vodka dosing trend in this hobby)
Gimme a Vodka, on the Live Rocks, with a Splash of Heavy Skimming. (03/30/10) / Feature Articles – Quality Marine

 

Basically, the ethanol in vodka feeds bacteria in your aquarium which in turn multiply. When the bacteria multiplies it consumes N03 and P04. The bacteria, along with the nutrients it has consumed is then exported by a large protein skimmer. The bacteria, in this case MB7, is added in order to keep the bacteria diversified and help stave off red slime. You can dose vodka alone but I wouldn’t recommend it.

When I first setup my current tank I had been adding Microbacter7 from Brightwell aquatics. While this helped the system, I wasn’t all that impressed. It wasn’t until I started dosing vodka that things really took off. Within a month of dosing vodka I no longer had to use GFO. Within 3 months I actually had to add Amino Acids and feed the tank more as it had become “too clean”. The corals had lightened up and actually stopped growing. After cutting back a bit on the vodka dosage and adding more food the corals once again took off.

Please note that you MUST have a sufficient sized skimmer and proper aeration to employ this dosing method. Reefers have crashed their setups by not running a skimmer or having proper flow/aeration.

Here are some things I have observed when dosing MB7/vodka:

 

PROS
-My skimmer is pulling out more gunk then ever
-My water is even clearer now
-Polyp extension in corals has greatly increased
-Coral growth has exploded. Within two weeks of dosing I have counted 36 new, small coral heads coming out of my large mille.
-The sand bed is whiter.
-Glass and overflow box stay cleaner longer.
-Coraline algae has begun to show up on pumps and over flow.

CONS

-Some corals have lightened up even more.
-Red slime is appearing in spot it hasn’t before.
-Bacteria is making my sand bed clumpy, so I have to gravel vac it twice a month.

Is vodka dosing for everyone? No. But for those of you willing to take the time to understand and implement this system it can change the way you go about reef keeping. The system is simple and cost effective, allowing you to achieve ocean like water quality without the use of expensive GFO or refugiums.

 

 

If you decide to dose MB7/Vodka here are some helpful tips:

MB7 (Bottle Instructions.)
+
Vodka (or carbon) Dosing – Vodka Dosing by ‘Genetics’ and ‘Stony_Corals’ – Reefkeeping.com
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Probiotic Reef Keeping.

Time to dose = When the lights are on. MB7 into the display. Vodka into the sump.

Rules
1) You will need an appropriately sized protein skimmer. 

 

Noticed in Water testing
1) high nitrates = increase vodka as per instructions.
2) Nitrate/Po4 isn’t coming down after 30 days = try another carbon source like vinegar, sugar, biofuel…
3) low nitrates = maintain at 0 then reduce to maintenance levels of vodka
4) Increase in Alk = stop dosing Cal / alk, test water change h20 for alk level. Decrease with large water changes if it gets bad. Corals may stop taking Cal/ALK while getting used to Probiotic system & increased light.
4) new tank/build = follow instructions, stay close to the low side of dosing.

Noticed in Algae/Bacteria Reaction
1) Bacterial Blooms (slimy white strings) = too much bacteria, decrease vodka dosing.
2) algae on glass after increase of MB7 = reduce MB7 
3) brown dusting or brown hair like stuff = decrease MB7 (also check http://reefsite.com/2015/01/dinoflagellates-and-the-treament-of/ )
4) cyano = increase MB7 and/or lower/stop vodka dose. After the cyano has gone away restart the vodka from the initial or maintenence dose. If it’s really bad consider a “lights out” period. 
5) peach fuzz = stop or decrease (especially vodka) dosing for a week, then start back up with the maintenance dose.

Noticed in Live Stock Reaction
1) Corals losing color = more feeding, possibly Amino Acids.
2) Corals Burnt Tips = check alkalinity..get it to 7-8 dKH 
3) Monti caps bleaching = Cut the vodka dosage in half and stay there until the cap starts to color up.
4) Everything dies = Blame the wife, kids, or something other than your own possible mistakes

Other
1) substrate hardening = keep it broken up and siphoned with water changes. Maintain a PH of 8.1 – 8.3


This is just a basic observation on carbon dosing. Please feel free to add any information/experiences you have had with this dosing method. Please also keep in mind that this method is not a miracle cure or anything of the sort. You will still need proper husbandry, lighting, and flow in order to be successful.

-Sonny

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