HEY! What are your phosphate levels? Mine have been crazy for years!

SludgeMunkey

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Johnny O. Farnen
Less a discussion and more a heads-up:

Check your aquarium/pond water phosphate levels! Mine have been through the roof ever since I moved to Nebraska. I was never able to determine why as I often cannot see the forest for the trees.

I knew that our tap water here was loaded with silicates, which I remedy by the addition of horsetails (a semi-aquatic plant) int the sand and gravel stage of hacked critter my water treatment system. This easily helped lower "brown algae" numbers which are actually silicate base diatoms.

After suffering HUGE cyanobacter, dinoflagellate, and green algae blooms in my outdoor enclosures and ponds, I was shocked to find out that our local tap water phosphate levels are through the roof @ 8ppm +/- 2ppm !!!! (Due to water volume required I am forced to use tap water and the garden hose for my outdoor ponds, tanks, and enclosures...I cannot collect enough rainwater and snow melt to get through the summer here...)

A bit of research and college level chemistry led me to aging all tap water with my usual regimen plus the addition of aluminum oxide to remove the obscene levels of phosphate.

Edit: Please note I used our municipal water reports for the last ten years AND the Aquarium Pharmaceuticals brand phosphate test over a period of six months to gather accurate data.


I had no idea our phosphate levels were so high. Until the last month or so, phosphate was just not a component of water chemistry I ever bothered to examine. If blooms of the type I described above are an issue for you, test your phosphate levels!

If you have a problem like I do, which is a big issue in water supplies in agricultural areas, you need to invest in a good aluminum oxide or iron 3 oxide neutralizer. You local water chemistry will dictate which version to use.

Please note that for maximum effect and minimal risk to you amphibians you need to age with the previously mentioned oxides BEFORE you treat with chlorine/chloramine/metal neutralizers. This takes much more time, but is safest for your critters.

Due to volume I am forced to buy bulk aluminum oxide "gravel" (purchased as 35lb sacks of sandblasting media on eBay), but small scale (aquarium) testing shows that Seachem Brand PhosGaurd is the best OTS product for the average, non-basement dwelling science geek.
 

TristanH

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Interesting - wow, that's a lot of phosphate. Here in the UK we routinely have sewage plants that discharge effluent at 1.5 ppm, so 8ppm is really high.

Soluble phosphate is not actually toxic though, it just stimulates a lot of algal growth. Have you experimented with using zooplankton (Daphnia etc) to control the algae? Great fishfood too. You could also harvest aquatic plants to remove phosphate from the water.

You should be a bit careful with aluminium as it can be quite toxic to aquatic life. Alternatives include bentonite clays, which are more or less inert. There is also a product called Phoslock which is a lanthanum enriched clay that is apparently non-toxic, but I don't think it is available for domestic applications.

Regards
Tristan
 

herpvet

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Interesting - wow, that's a lot of phosphate. Here in the UK we routinely have sewage plants that discharge effluent at 1.5 ppm, so 8ppm is really high.

Soluble phosphate is not actually toxic though, it just stimulates a lot of algal growth. Have you experimented with using zooplankton (Daphnia etc) to control the algae? Great fishfood too. You could also harvest aquatic plants to remove phosphate from the water.

You should be a bit careful with aluminium as it can be quite toxic to aquatic life. Alternatives include bentonite clays, which are more or less inert. There is also a product called Phoslock which is a lanthanum enriched clay that is apparently non-toxic, but I don't think it is available for domestic applications.

Regards
Tristan

Hi,

Just a comment on this - you should perhaps be aware that high phosphate is potentially toxic - it is believed to at least potentially contribute to a calcium deficiency ("metabolic bone disease") by reducing availability. Something to consider if you have high levels, and those do sound very high. May be worth considering even check radiographs of bone density of your amphibs?

Hope this helps,

Bruce.
 

TristanH

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Hi Bruce, thanks I wasn't aware of this. However, I think this mainly relates to dietary phosphorus?
Early death by junk food? High levels of phosphate in sodas and processed foods accelerate the aging process in mice

As it turns out there is some research on this looking at tadpoles of a tropical treefrog. Judging by the abstract this suggests there isn't much toxic effect at levels up to 200mg. Perhaps this is because the P is in the water column rather than concentrated in specific foods, as is the case with humans eating crisps, fizzy drinks etc?
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Perhaps I should have said that phosphorus is not very toxic at levels normally found in the environment, even those where it acts as a pollutant by increasing nutrient levels.

Regards
Tristan
 
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