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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi All,

I have been wanting to setup a 100 gallon tank (6' x 1.5' x 1.5') for some 16 Tropheus Cichlids.

However, I have a problem with my water parameters. I have very high phosphates and silicates. Eventually, I get green water at high light or brown algae at low light.

I've decided on getting a Alumina Oxide resin to eat up the phosphates or silicates. But, would this work with silica sand?
I worry that the supply of dissolved silica from the sand will just immediately exhaust the Alumina Oxide Resin.

I have read that the dissolved silica from the silica sand will eventually run out. Is this true?
If yes, then after I get rid of the dissolved silica, I should be able to use the Alumina Oxide Resin long term.
 

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Oh my.... this one is actually kind of fascinating. And when I first went in on this, unfortunately I didn't realize the 'deep dive' that would subsequently be involved... :oops:
And, while Imma gonna try and set this down a notch. There IS a lot to unpack here in the chemistry & science of this thing.

So, standby... I suspect 'El' Hefe' is going to love this one. :cool:

* BLUF: NO.
-
Okay then. That's all folks! Nuthin;' to see here ya'll. So, keep it moving now. Yep, that's right.
ahem
But, it's never - QUITE - that easy, is it?

-
- Premise: Activated Alumina, when when provided in Aluminum Oxide resin format, will 'adsorb' (NOT mis-spelled) excessive silica from aquarium source water.
Answer: Correct.
- **BCA: Will the use of AA supplied in Aluminum Oxide resin format to treat excessive silica in source water provide a sustainable, cost effective and EFFICIENT solution to the high silica content present in source water?
Answer: NO
-
- Problem Statement: Why not? Or, in more 'wordy' terms.... why doesn't the BCA support use of AA in removing excessive silica content from aquarium source water?
As follows,
  • Sustainment: AA will need to be pre-treated at 300F prior to each use. The amount of activated Aluminum Oxide resin required for successful treatment is, a this point - unknown. Conducting a pre-treatment de-silicazation (DS) process of the source water prior to each use and introduction into the water of the aquarium, might be more difficult to maintain in work than the 'typical' home aqaurium hobbyist is prepared to commit to.
  • Cost Effectiveness: Additionally, also unknown is the initial cost of the Aluminum Oxide resin along with just how many high temperature 'activations' it can sustain before degrading and potentially becoming non-viable for use and must be replaced. However. the required equipment utilized to pre-treat the source water in the DS process is comparable to the 'standard' Tanganyikan Rift Lake pre-treatment reservoir setup require for the 'usual' addition of salts and bicarbonate to raise the hardness and PH of the source water to acceptable levels in the aquarium.
  • Efficiency: This could more accurately be described as - PRIORITIES. In this case, that means what may work best in removing the excessive silica content form the water, may actually be at odds in keeping the aquarium healthy and proper for the living occupants kept inside it. Cichlids in this case, with a species that is well known for a very high activity level and metabolic rate. In short - they are eating and waste-producing MACHINES, man! Oh yes.....
NITRATES.
And Tropheus sp. et all... are also known for sensitivity to water quality problems. Unfortunately, a displayed symptom of that water quality sensitivity is all too often.... death. So, in the relatively small confines of a 100 gallon aquarium, the Nitrates produced by a lumping, bumping nipping and chasing (happy!) colony of Tropheus will necessitate some pretty high-volume, high-frequency water changes. All that to ensure the measured level of Nitrate buildup in the water remains below a somewhat safe level of 20 PPM. In a somewhat over-stocked aquarium, keeping those Nitrates diluted safely down, will be harder to accomplish than it seems.
And flushing all of that wonderfully pre-treated, low silica water out of the aquarium once, possibly even twice per week is gonna load you up with all kinds of work.
-
Recommendations: Yes, I didn't come into this thing with the intention of just pointing out problems! Providing possible solutions to those problems is always kind of nice, hmmmmm?
  • Silica neutralization in sand substrate. Yes, I said that. Why? It all comes down to that wonderfully slippery and sticky film we refer to simply and fondly as 'bio-film'. That is, a helathy colony of beneficial filtration bacteria (BB) will coat literally EVERY surface in the aquarium exposed to the water. That includes the sand substrate. In fact, that includes Every Single Grain of sand in the substrate (Top layers of the substrate will have substantially higher colonization level of BB than lower, impacted levels. So, what does that slippery layer of bio-goo do? It coats, slows down and can actually work to prevent dissolved mineral solids from leaching into the water of your aquarium. Silica in this case, that could come out of a sand substrate.
  • Aquatic Plants! (Those that know me on this site, were surely expecting this). Unfortunately, aquatic plants can be kind of a hit or miss proposition with Tropheus. Diana Walstad had great success in keeping a colony of Tropheus in her heavily planted aquarium. Others have reported that their colony of Tropheus have looked upon aquatic plants placed in the aquarium with them, as sort of an all-you-can-eat buffet or something! In this case of herbivorous residents in the aquarium, LARGE plant refugiums have been set up for use with very good results in removing Nitrates (and Phosphates) from the water of the aquarium.
  • Removal of excessive Silica from the source water: Even in industrial applications, Reverse Osmosis RO filtration of the source water to strip out dissolved mineral solids is still seen as the most efficient and economically viable means to perform that task. Use of (partial?) RO filtration to pre-treat the source water with a reservoir-based system for your aquarium, may provide the easiest and most sustainable method to lower the excessive silica content from your source water.
-
-
* BLUF: Bottom Line Up Front
** BCA: Business Case Analysis
-
Primary Source Material: Exceptional selectivity for dissolved silicas in industrial waters using mixed oxides (Journal Article) | DOE PAGES
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Oh my.... this one is actually kind of fascinating. And when I first went in on this, unfortunately I didn't realize the 'deep dive' that would subsequently be involved... :oops:
And, while Imma gonna try and set this down a notch. There IS a lot to unpack here in the chemistry & science of this thing.

So, standby... I suspect 'El' Hefe' is going to love this one. :cool:

* BLUF: NO.
-
Okay then. That's all folks! Nuthin;' to see here ya'll. So, keep it moving now. Yep, that's right.
ahem
But, it's never - QUITE - that easy, is it?

-
- Premise: Activated Alumina, when when provided in Aluminum Oxide resin format, will 'adsorb' (NOT mis-spelled) excessive silica from aquarium source water.
Answer: Correct.
- **BCA: Will the use of AA supplied in Aluminum Oxide resin format to treat excessive silica in source water provide a sustainable, cost effective and EFFICIENT solution to the high silica content present in source water?
Answer: NO
-
- Problem Statement: Why not? Or, in more 'wordy' terms.... why doesn't the BCA support use of AA in removing excessive silica content from aquarium source water?
As follows,
  • Sustainment: AA will need to be pre-treated at 300F prior to each use. The amount of activated Aluminum Oxide resin required for successful treatment is, a this point - unknown. Conducting a pre-treatment de-silicazation (DS) process of the source water prior to each use and introduction into the water of the aquarium, might be more difficult to maintain in work than the 'typical' home aqaurium hobbyist is prepared to commit to.
  • Cost Effectiveness: Additionally, also unknown is the initial cost of the Aluminum Oxide resin along with just how many high temperature 'activations' it can sustain before degrading and potentially becoming non-viable for use and must be replaced. However. the required equipment utilized to pre-treat the source water in the DS process is comparable to the 'standard' Tanganyikan Rift Lake pre-treatment reservoir setup require for the 'usual' addition of salts and bicarbonate to raise the hardness and PH of the source water to acceptable levels in the aquarium.
  • Efficiency: This could more accurately be described as - PRIORITIES. In this case, that means what may work best in removing the excessive silica content form the water, may actually be at odds in keeping the aquarium healthy and proper for the living occupants kept inside it. Cichlids in this case, with a species that is well known for a very high activity level and metabolic rate. In short - they are eating and waste-producing MACHINES, man! Oh yes.....
NITRATES.
And Tropheus sp. et all... are also known for sensitivity to water quality problems. Unfortunately, a displayed symptom of that water quality sensitivity is all too often.... death. So, in the relatively small confines of a 100 gallon aquarium, the Nitrates produced by a lumping, bumping nipping and chasing (happy!) colony of Tropheus will necessitate some pretty high-volume, high-frequency water changes. All that to ensure the measured level of Nitrate buildup in the water remains below a somewhat safe level of 20 PPM. In a somewhat over-stocked aquarium, keeping those Nitrates diluted safely down, will be harder to accomplish than it seems.
And flushing all of that wonderfully pre-treated, low silica water out of the aquarium once, possibly even twice per week is gonna load you up with all kinds of work.
-
Recommendations: Yes, I didn't come into this thing with the intention of just pointing out problems! Providing possible solutions to those problems is always kind of nice, hmmmmm?
  • Silica neutralization in sand substrate. Yes, I said that. Why? It all comes down to that wonderfully slippery and sticky film we refer to simply and fondly as 'bio-film'. That is, a helathy colony of beneficial filtration bacteria (BB) will coat literally EVERY surface in the aquarium exposed to the water. That includes the sand substrate. In fact, that includes Every Single Grain of sand in the substrate (Top layers of the substrate will have substantially higher colonization level of BB than lower, impacted levels. So, what does that slippery layer of bio-goo do? It coats, slows down and can actually work to prevent dissolved mineral solids from leaching into the water of your aquarium. Silica in this case, that could come out of a sand substrate.
  • Aquatic Plants! (Those that know me on this site, were surely expecting this). Unfortunately, aquatic plants can be kind of a hit or miss proposition with Tropheus. Diana Walstad had great success in keeping a colony of Tropheus in her heavily planted aquarium. Others have reported that their colony of Tropheus have looked upon aquatic plants placed in the aquarium with them, as sort of an all-you-can-eat buffet or something! In this case of herbivorous residents in the aquarium, LARGE plant refugiums have been set up for use with very good results in removing Nitrates (and Phosphates) from the water of the aquarium.
  • Removal of excessive Silica from the source water: Even in industrial applications, Reverse Osmosis RO filtration of the source water to strip out dissolved mineral solids is still seen as the most efficient and economically viable means to perform that task. Use of (partial?) RO filtration to pre-treat the source water with a reservoir-based system for your aquarium, may provide the easiest and most sustainable method to lower the excessive silica content from your source water.
-
-
* BLUF: Bottom Line Up Front
** BCA: Business Case Analysis
-
Primary Source Material: Exceptional selectivity for dissolved silicas in industrial waters using mixed oxides (Journal Article) | DOE PAGES
Auballagh,

This reads quite discouraging to the use of Seachem Phosguard or equivalent Activated Alumina.
However, what about all those success stories I have read about people with algae problems being solved after adding Activated Alumina?

I am really more concerned about removing the dissolved silica from the sand...
I suppose I should read up on the best methods for washing and cleaning out the sand...
 

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Joined
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4,864 Posts
Whew..... your response informs a lot, and makes this thing MUCH less complicated than it could be.
I am really more concerned about removing the dissolved silica from the sand...
I suppose I should read up on the best methods for washing and cleaning out the sand...
-
Alrighty then. It might be best not to over think this thing. As per.....
Silica neutralization in sand substrate. Yes, I said that. Why? It all comes down to that wonderfully slippery and sticky film we refer to simply and fondly as 'bio-film'. That is, a helathy colony of beneficial filtration bacteria (BB) will coat literally EVERY surface in the aquarium exposed to the water. That includes the sand substrate. In fact, that includes Every Single Grain of sand in the substrate (Top layers of the substrate will have substantially higher colonization level of BB than lower, impacted levels. So, what does that slippery layer of bio-goo do? It coats, slows down and can actually work to prevent dissolved mineral solids from leaching into the water of your aquarium. Silica in this case, that could come out of a sand substrate.
-
Meaning? it's all about TIME. Sorry, yer not gonna have 'immediate gratification' with the ultimate solution to your silica problem. But, give your BB time to work their 'magic' and they will eventually coat just about everything in the aquarium with bio-film. This means, that though it is strongly recommended you fully rinse out the dust from your substrate before placing it in the aquarium... the silica (and a whole bunch of other dissolved mineral solids) initially leaching out of the sand, will ultimately be restricted over TIME by that coating of bio-film, and will drop to lower and lower levels in the aquarium water. :)
-
Be patient though. The TIME thing in silica reduction can take quite a few months, when getting a new aquarium established....
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Whew..... your response informs a lot, and makes this thing MUCH less complicated than it could be.

-
Alrighty then. It might be best not to over think this thing. As per.....

-
Meaning? it's all about TIME. Sorry, yer not gonna have 'immediate gratification' with the ultimate solution to your silica problem. But, give your BB time to work their 'magic' and they will eventually coat just about everything in the aquarium with bio-film. This means, that though it is strongly recommended you fully rinse out the dust from your substrate before placing it in the aquarium... the silica (and a whole bunch of other dissolved mineral solids) initially leaching out of the sand, will ultimately be restricted over TIME by that coating of bio-film, and will drop to lower and lower levels in the aquarium water. :)
-
Be patient though. The TIME thing in silica reduction can take quite a few months, when getting a new aquarium established....
Auballagh,

I do appreciate what you have pointed out.

You mentioned bio-film coating the sand. Wouldnt disturbing the sand bed slow down the process. Like for example, when we rake the sand to remove gas pockets?
 

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4,864 Posts
Well, YES.... and, NO.
Huh?
- YES, you are right in that the sand in the lower levels of your substrate will undoubtedly have less bio-film growing on the individual grains of sand, than those in the top and upper levels. And yes, periodically churning through the sand substrate (beyond what the dedicated digging efforts of your Cichlids will produce), is all part of the process of successfully keeping a sand substrate over the long term.
And also YES: The (temporary) use of AA in reducing the amount of free silica released by the sand substrate in your newly established aquarium, may help a LOT in controlling diatom build up throughout the aquarium. The use of that stuff might work pretty good in mitigating silica buildup for those (admittedly frustrating) first months of the aquarium's existence. The continued use of AA, will probably not be sustainable in the long run however...
-
- But NO, once you've got a healthy colony of BB in your filtration system and aquarium - the bio-film they live in will grow incredibly fast on every surface exposed to the water of the tank.
Trust me, over TIME the diatoms created by the silica released in the sand substrate WILL decline as the silica in your sand grains (and rocks, etc...) they use to grow, is bound up and locked-down out of their reach, under layers of all that wonderful, BB bio-film.
It just takes - TIME. :whistle:
 
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