Carbon dosing – different products, different results

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    Carbon dosing is an awfully effective way of removing nitrate and to an extent phosphate. I’ve used it for a long time and i have tried quite a lot of different products and i think i can see differences in the results between them – all can be made to work, but a typical undesirable side effect is cyano.

    I am interested in experiences swapping between solid pellets and liquid carbon, but also between brands. If you’re swapped from vodka to a commercial mix what have you noticed, observed? Whats the difference – is it concentration, or are different molecules feeding different bacteria preferentially?

    Lets not make this a threads slagging products – i am sure all of these will work for someone and fail horribly for someone else. I am currently using vinegar, but know who have had really horrible results using it


    Hi Wayne,
    Although ethanol is most effective source, ethanol + yeast and acetate are also highly effective.

    They all perform they same function in bacterial culturing and stimulation which are highly effective in reducing nitrate, different types of carbon source effect the respiration, culturing speed and metabolism of bacteria. As to do the paramaters and quality of the water they work in. With temperature, ph etc. Also I read that bacterial growth is multiple times higher in the presence of a higher molecular weight dissolved organic mass than in lower.

    While phosphate seems essential, which phosphates are being accessed could be another question…

    I favour free carbon sourcing because it can be refined and dosed in a constant specific amount. Glucose to acetate (sugars over vinegars). A teaspoon of glucose is very effective at dissolving the Cyano out of a tank (although I’m not suggesting to test the technique casually).

    Can you elaborate on your experiences with carbon sourcing and your own observations with creating Cyano?


    Just a quick check Dami, did you mean ethanol rather than methanol as I’m pretty sure if my vodka was methanol I’d be dead by now. I’ve tried both solid carbon dosing and using a mixture of ethanol/acetate, pellets are so much less hassle but nowhere near as controllable.


    This is going to be very interesting.

    I have not used a solid carbon source.

    I moved from the liquid Zeo products to VSV and noticed no difference apart from price.

    Getting fed up with the sticky nature of my VSV bottles, after my careless use, I now use vodka alone.

    I produced a nasty cyano outbreak. I dont know why but fear I got carried away being too casual with dosing one thing or another and part of me wanting to see just how much my system could take. Well it took a lot and then made a lot of cyano with consequential loss of some very nice corals. That was stupid of me.

    I havent tried vinegar nor sugars alone.

    I have no proof, because I cannot detect N or P in my system, but i think I had an imbalance P to N (it may equally be too high soluble organic carbon in the system??) which favoured cyano over other bacteria and I now dose sodium nitrate to ‘keep down’ P by ensuring I am not N limited. I dont have cyano now.

    I dont have any proof to this theory but by muck and magic it seems to work for my tank i think because after carbon N is likely to be the next limiting nutrient and if it runs out then P cant be dealt with by the bacteria one is trying to culture by using a carbon source to ensure that element is not a limiting factor to growth.

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