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View Full Version : cant get rid of phosphate problems?? PLEASE HELP


dirk_brijs
09/04/2010, 08:18 AM
Are my rocks waisted or is there anything else I can do?

Had a serious Phosphate problem in my tank with my levels going not messurable showing 20+ on the Api test kits. Tried another test kit and same result.
Anyway I decided to take drastic messures and broke down the entire tank due to many other issues. Anyway I gave the rocks a Muriatic bath (2 sessions of 30 minutes in a 10/1 mixture) which made the rocks come out real white and clean. Had them rinsed for a week in regular water changing the water every day even the first 2 days twice a day.
Put the rocks in aclosed container with saltwater (Boiling) now for almost 1,5 weeks. First 3 days changing the water daily 100%
since then (7 days) had the same the water sit with several powerheads inside the bin.
Now after those 7 days wanted to do again a 100% water change but before checked the water and tests showing again 5.0 phosphates????
now what to do???
Are my rocks lost or should I keep doing daily water changes but for how long?? Or is there anything else I can add to have another Phosphate treatment done?

Gary Majchrzak
09/04/2010, 08:29 AM
live rock is renewable.

"cooking" liverock to reduce phosphates doesn't involve heat or muriatic acid.
The method for PO4 reduction here:
heat has nothing to do with the process ;)

Originally posted by SeanT:

The purpose of "cooking" your rocks is to have tha bacteria consume all (or as much) organic material and PO4 stored on, and in, the rock as possible.

The first step to this is commitment.
You have to be willing to remove your rock from the tank.
It doesn't have to be all at once, but I feel if you are going to do this do it all. In stages if that is easier but make sure that all of it gets done.

The new environment you are creating for your rock is to take it from an algal driven to a bacterial driven system.
In order to this, the rock needs to be in total darkness to retard and eventually kill the algae's on the rock and to give the bacteria time to do the job.

So basically you need tubs to hold the rock.

Equipment needed.
1. Dedication.
2. Tubs to cook rock in. And an equal amount of tubs to hold the rock during waterchanges.
3. A few powerheads.
4. Plenty of buckets.
5. A smug feeling of superiority that you are taking it to "the next level."

Here are the steps, if you have any questions I will try my best to answer them. What I don't know I am sure Bomber can/will instruct.

1. Get into your head and accept the fact you will be making lots of salt water if you aren't lucky enough to have access to filtered NSW.
2. Explain to significant other what is going on so they don't flip out. This process can take up to 2 months. Prepare them in advance so he/she can mark it on the calendar and that they won't nag about it until that date arrives.
3. Setup a tub(s) where the rock is to be cooked. Garages are great for this.
4. Make up enough water to fill tub(s) about halfway and around 5-7 buckets about 60% full.
5. Remove all the rock you want to cook at this stage. (The rock can be removed piece by piece until you are done.) I suggest shutting off the circulation beforehand to minimize dust storms.
6. Take the first piece of rock and dunk it, swish it, very, very well in the first bucket. Then do it again in the 2nd bucket, then the third.
7. Place rock in the tub.
8. Repeat steps 6 & 7 to every piece of rock you want to cook at this time. The reason I suggested 5-7 buckets of water will be evident quickly...as the water quickly turnsq brown.
9. Place powerhead(s) in the tub and plug in. Position at least one powerhead so that it agitates the surface of the water pretty well. This is to keep the water oxygenated. You can use an air pump for additional oxygenation if you wish.
9. Cover the tub. Remember, we want total darkness.
10. Empty out buckets, restart circulation on main tank.
11. Wait.
12. During the first couple of weeks it is recommended to do a swishing and dunking of the rocks twice a week.
What this entails is to make up enough water to fill up those buckets and the tub the rock is in.
First, lay out your empty tub(s) and fill buckets the same as before.
Then, uncover tub with the rock in it. Take a rock and swish it in the tub it's in to knock any easy to get off junk.
Then, swish it thru the 3 buckets again, and place in the empty tub..
Repeat for all your rocks.
Then empty the tub that all the rocks were cooking in, take it outside and rinse it out with a hose.
Place tub back where it was, fill with new saltwater, add rocks and powerheads, and cover.
Wait again unti the next water change.
You will be utterly amazed at how much sand, silt, detrius is at the bottom of the tub and every bucket. It is amazing.

How it works:


Some FAQ's.
When re-introducing the rock to my tank, a month or two from now, should I do that in parts to help minimize any cycling effect(s)...if there are any?
I never have. Really after a very short while, the ammonium cycle has been extablished. That's not what you're worry about though, it's the stored phosphates and that you have to wait it out.
When they are producing very little detritus - you'll know - then I would use them all at once.

Would running Carbon filtration and/or a PO4 reducing media help/hurry/hinder the process?
I wouldn't fool with it. You don't want the detritus to sit there long enough to rot, release water soluble P again. You want to take it out while it's still locked up in that bacterial detritus.




I hope this helps you out.
It really is a "miracle" and a low cost one at that.
The only monies spent are for salt and electricity for the powerheads which are nominal. Especially to rid yourself of Bryopsis.
Time and effort is all it akes. And really not that much effort.
I would say that 85% of my exposed rock had Bryopsis (hair algae) covering it.
There isn't a single visible strand on andy rocks in the tubs now.
Remember, the key is patience. Let this process run its course.

And a few last minute tidbits I remembered.
Your coralline will die back, receed etc.
My thoughts on this are GREAT!
Now my rock is more porous for additional pods, mysids, worms etc.
Coralline will grow back.
Throughout this process the sponges, and pods on my rock have not died off.
Everytime I do a waterchange they are there and plentiful.


IME the above process is very effective at PO4 reduction.

Regarding the OP's situation stated in the first post at this point in time (rock exposed to muriatic acid and boiling water) it's fair to assume there is a lot of die off on and inside your liverock. No living algae either, so the above rock cooking process won't be a good solution for you.
I would recommend placing your dead rock in a container heavily filtered with GFO and keep running it until phosphates are undetectable.

dirk_brijs
09/04/2010, 08:38 AM
[QUOTE=Gary Majchrzak;17608505]live rock is renewable.

"cooking" liverock to reduce phosphates doesn't involve heat or muriatic acid.
The method for PO4 reduction here:


I know that.
I said first I did a muriatic bath rinsed (drastice treatment)
and then started Boiling (putting the rocks in a dark environment with lots of water movement) as my phosphate levels were soo high but even both treatments didnt get my phosphates down?? As it seems they still leaking phosphates??

Gary Majchrzak
09/04/2010, 08:47 AM
you killed everything in/on your liverock with muriatic acid- including bacteria.

it's probably very safe to assume that you prolonged the PO4 reduction processs by using muriatic acid to kill everything.

when you say "boiling" you didn't actually use heat, did you?

"Cooking" LR doesn't involve heat............................

dirk_brijs
09/04/2010, 09:09 AM
no no heat involved.
Just as described in your first reply.
Though isnt the muriatic acid also supposed to remove all Phosphates from the rocks? Even inside the rocks?
started the boiling more as a curing process?

Gary Majchrzak
09/04/2010, 09:14 AM
The process of "cooking" LR in my link requires living bacteria.
Bacteria are alive and muriatic acid kills living things.
Dead organisms boost levels of PO4.

I've never heard of muriatic acid being used to remove phosphates- it's usually used to kill things.

dirk_brijs
09/04/2010, 09:35 AM
Muriatic acid is commonly used as drastic treatment to remove Phosphates and copper from rocks.
See attached thread about it.
http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1587539&highlight=muriatic
just wondering if Phosphate levels can be soo high that even Muriatic acid would not help anymore??

Gary Majchrzak
09/04/2010, 09:46 AM
I've only ever used muriatic acid to kill things and/or clean up coralline algae.
Someone else will need to chime in on using muriatic acid to knock down PO4.

Yogre
09/04/2010, 10:06 AM
There's been some discussion here in Reef Chem of using acid to remove PO4 by stripping the outer layer of the rock where the PO4 is entrained chemically. The drawback of course is that it makes live rock dead rock.

To the OP... if you had 20ppm PO4 in your water originally, you have a ton of PO4 entrained in your rock. That's why your still seeing detectable levels in your rinse water. The cooking process Gary outlined won't work, all the bacteria on your rock are dead.

You're going to have keep soaking the rock in phosphate-free water and changing out the water till the phosphate is gone. Alternatively, you could run GFO on your soak tank, changing the GFO frequently. Be prepared to run through a lot of GFO.

Depending on your budget, it may be less hassle to junk the rock.

Gary Majchrzak
09/04/2010, 10:31 AM
if the expense of GFO is cost prohibitive this case might would be a good case candidate for the use of lanthanum chloride BUT

you'll need to place the rock in a system with a skimmer and (IMO) it should also include a 10 micron mechanical filter.

this rock is re-usable- it just needs some TLC.

Yogre
09/04/2010, 12:19 PM
I forgot about Lanthanum chloride. That could take out a lot of PO4.

10 micron mechanical filtration is definitely a good idea if using LaCl.

bertoni
09/04/2010, 02:49 PM
If the phosphate in the rock is contained in a thin surface layer, then a muriatic acid can solve a phosphate problem. How often that's true, I don't know. Personally, I'd consider ditching the rock. I'd get another test result first, but that's a lot of phosphate. If you're patient, you likely can clean up the rock. Lanthanum chloride is a reasonable approach to try. Let us know how it goes.

dirk_brijs
09/05/2010, 04:15 AM
as what product is this sold? Is this commonly available?

Gary Majchrzak
09/05/2010, 06:40 AM
many companies label dilute LaCl3 for aquarium use simply as "liquid phosphate remover"

HighlandReefer
09/05/2010, 06:54 AM
Lanthanum chloride and GFO will remove phosphate that has leached out of the rock into the water column. It does not remove the phosphate until then. The phosphate will leach out in proportion to the concentration in the water column & rock. So it could take some time to leach all the phosphate out of the rock using these methods.

Using diluted muriatic acid will dissolve the very outer layer of the rock. Not much. As long as there is no phosphate embedded deeper in the rock, you are fine. If layers of calcium carbonate built up on the rock from coralline algae (for example) while in a high phosphate (or high heavy metal) water column, then all those layers need to be dissolved to reduce the phosphate so there is no chance it would re-enter the water column down the road. This is providing the rock originally came from low phosphate waters where it was taken from.

The only way you can tell if there is significant phosphate in the rock after treating it using the above mentioned methods is to soak the rock in rodi water for a while and then test the water used to soak the clean rock for phosphate.

dirk_brijs
09/05/2010, 07:40 AM
Lanthanum chloride and GFO will remove phosphate that has leached out of the rock into the water column. It does not remove the phosphate until then. The phosphate will leach out in proportion to the concentration in the water column & rock. So it could take some time to leach all the phosphate out of the rock using these methods.

Using diluted muriatic acid will dissolve the very outer layer of the rock. Not much. As long as there is no phosphate embedded deeper in the rock, you are fine. If layers of calcium carbonate built up on the rock from coralline algae (for example) while in a high phosphate (or high heavy metal) water column, then all those layers need to be dissolved to reduce the phosphate so there is no chance it would re-enter the water column down the road. This is providing the rock originally came from low phosphate waters where it was taken from.

The only way you can tell if there is significant phosphate in the rock after treating it using the above mentioned methods is to soak the rock in rodi water for a while and then test the water used to soak the clean rock for phosphate.

Thats why I know there must be still a significant amount of PO4 left in the rocks as the water I have them in has no PO4 trace but after a day in it jumps to a 10.0ppm reading. This again after a double muriatic bath?
So basically what you saying is chuck the rocks as for sure PO4 will be leaching for a long time and water changes to come?

HighlandReefer
09/05/2010, 07:48 AM
If the rock is leaching phosphate to produce a concentration of 10 ppm in a short period of time, It may take months to get it all out. Rock can be expensive, your choice. ;)

You could try replacing the rodi water every three days or so, for a while and see how it goes. :)

Personally, I would just go for some new dry rock. You may also have heavy metals tied to the rock as well.

HighlandReefer
09/05/2010, 07:55 AM
FWIW, it is possible that new dry rock can be high in phosphate and high in heavy metals depending on where it is taken from. If the rock is taken from polluted water, then it would be high as well. ;)

dirk_brijs
09/05/2010, 08:03 AM
If the rock is leaching phosphate to produce a concentration of 10 ppm in a short period of time, It may take months to get it all out. Rock can be expensive, your choice. ;)

You could try replacing the rodi water every three days or so, for a while and see how it goes. :)

Personally, I would just go for some new dry rock. You may also have heavy metals tied to the rock as well.

having to do 100% water changes every 2 or 3 days will run up the bill too I guess. Soo leaning more and more to chucking the rock out and getting some new rocks.