Reef Raft Green Leptosteris

Vinegar/Vodka Dosing Calculator

by Justin Hester

Carbon dosing in all its forms has become a popular tool for reefers to keep their nitrates in check and reduce unsightly algae and cyanobacteria blooms.  figuring out the how much of these carbon sources to dose has always been a bit of  an art and a science.  We have come up with a spreadsheet that can calculate this for you instantly. The rates and amounts are what we have used in our tank now for years. *Update We have created an online calculator based on how we dose using our Apex with BRS 1.1ml/min dosing pumps.  You can find the Vodka calculator here.   We will be updating this shortly for our own recipe that combines Vodka and Vinegar similar to what Red Sea does with No3PoX which we have loved for years!  Please shoot us a comment at the bottom if you have any questions.  Now on to a little bit of a deeper dive on carbon dosing.

What is carbon dosing?

Dosing vinegar or vodka means that you will be feeding or cultivating a group of bacteria in your tank that will ultimately consume nitrate and a lesser amount of phosphate. Since this bacteria doesn’t just appear overnight, you need to start dosing with a small amount and then gradually raise it over time as you grow you bacteria culture. Should you want to stop dosing at a later date, this same gradual ramp down is reccomended so that your bacteria population doesn’t crash. More about that in this article.

Vinegar Dosing Regimen - Sheet1

Once your bacteria population is high enough to consume the required amount of nitrate, your protein skimmer will start to remove them as a milky white addition to your skimmate. As you are ramping up your dose of vodka/vinegar, you will typically see the bacteria show up in your skimmer first. As your dosage continues to increase, they will also typically begin to show up on your glass as well. This is typically where you will reduce your dosage amount by 25% in order to maintain the culture, but not create strings and films of this bacteria all over your tank where they are hard to remove from the system.

How to use the calculator

This calculator is build for the Bulk Reef Supply dosing pump which puts in 1.1ml a minute when on. This is important as we use this fixed rate to determine how to set the time on our Apex Controller to be “on” once the dosage is determined on the spreadsheet. I believe the original rates came from a great reefkeeping article about carbon dosing a few years back. If you have another dosing pump,the rate can easily be amended and the dose changed. The reason we dose a little each hour is because nothing good happens quickly in a reef tank.  Vinegar has a pH around 5.5 so if you were to dump your entire daily dose in at once, your pH and alk would definitely see some swing.  Neither of these things is desirable so hence the hourly dosing.

Once you have noticed a drop in nitrates or you start to see strings of white bacterial colony on your glass, taking your daily dose down by 25-35% should allow you to maintain a low or undetectable nitrate level.  Do keep in mind though that future changes in your tank feeding schedule or number of fish inhabitants can cause the nitrates to reappear or stringy bacteria to reappear so understanding this dosing process and the biology behind it is important.  The biggest thing to remember is fish poop ultimately = Nitrates so if you increase poop, you increase nitrates..  🙂

Happy reefing and please email us for a copy of either calculator

Any feedback is appreciated as well!