How Do Foods Pollute Reef Tanks?

Pollution from food, nitrate, and phosphate are some of the most hotly debated topics in reefing. Almost no one is willing to go on record about the best levels or approaches.

It's time to share our recommendations on when nutrients turn into pollution and when pollution turns into poison. The exact numbers all these tanks are going to run on and the most comprehensive reason as to why, to date, all that is coming up:

How Does Food Pollute Reef Tanks? 

The single biggest source of pollution in most modern reef tanks is the daily addition of fish and coral foods. Addressing food pollution is a challenge that's addressed in every successful tank.

Foods are nutritive or beneficial and are required for survival. Even broken-down organics and residual nitrates and phosphates can be beneficial in some ways. That's until imports and exports find themselves out of balance. They start rising at some point. They become pollutive. 

Most reefers would agree that no fish or coral wants to live in polluted water, but we might not agree on what polluted water is. What if we apply the actual definition of pollution? 

Pollution: A substance with a harmful or poisonous effect when sufficient quantities are absorbed, respiration, or ingested. 

Some of these poisons may cause immediate mortality. Some may make the fish or coral sick or susceptible to other stresses. Some poisons may even lead to subtle changes in health that may not be noticed for years. This mission better explains why some corals thrive and others randomly kick in.

The old tank syndrome, a blanket diagnosis for everything, was going fantastic. But you changed a thing, but now the tank has taken a hard turn for the worse. Prolonged stress and poor water quality are some of the most likely culprits. 

Pollutants from foods can be divided into two buckets: nutrients like phosphate and nitrate, which are mostly near-to-midterm problems and easily correctable at almost any point.

Then there is everything else, like the buildup of unused vitamins and minerals in the tank. Many are often untested, even with ICP, because they bioaccumulate in the tissues and are nearly impossible to diagnose when mortalities occur. However, they are also entirely avoidable with some common-sense approaches.

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