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Reef Tank Phytoplankton - Everything You NEED to Know

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Last updated on November 17th, 2023


Wall to Wall Reef Tanks

What is Phytoplankton?

Phytoplankton is a small, photosynthetic, microalgae that feed the smallest of filter feeders. Common creatures that eat phytoplankton include clams, sponges, copepods, coral, and a variety of other filter feeders! Phytoplankton are a floating algae organism, as opposed to larger algae that grow on rocks and glass.

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Benefits of Dosing Phytoplankton

Live phytoplankton provide a number of unexpected benefits. The main benefit of dosing live phytoplankton to the reef tank is that it will consume nitrates and phosphates. Meaning that you will see lower nutrients in your reef tank! Additionally, phytoplankton consumes CO2, meaning you will see a higher pH!

Another benefit of phytoplankton to reef tanks is to provide food for filter feeders. Creatures like copepods and clams benefit from having a natural food source that isn't normally found in a reef tank. An additional benefit is that filter feeding coral will also eat the phytoplankton and grow even more quickly.

Risks of Dosing Phytoplankton

Like anything else, there are also risks to dosing phytoplankton. The first being that not all coral eat this algae, and it is possible it goes uneaten. In addition to this, any phytoplankton that die can add to nitrate, phosphate, and silicates to your tank.

Storing Phytoplankton

Phytoplankton is best stored in a container in the refrigerator. The col helps prevent them from dying and rotting away. You will also need to shake the container on occasion to prevent the settled phyto from dying. If the phyto begins to smell like it is rotting, it like has and is not worth adding to your reef. At that point you will want to toss it and purchase a new container.

How to Dose Phytoplankton

Dosing live phytoplankton is actually the same as feeding your coral! You can target feed, or broadcast feed. With target feeding, just use a Coral Feeder or Turkey Baster and slowly add the phytoplankton near the coral, clams, or inverts you're feeding.

When broadcast dosing, you can simply add the phytoplankton to your tank. This will not help the coral as much, but will provide more to the tank and other filter feeders as a whole.

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Phytoplankton provides benefits including nitrate and phosphate reduction, and feeding filter feeding creatures such as clams, coral, and other invertebrates. Providing natural solutions to complex problems can help sustain long term results. And unlike most coral food, phytoplankton may help reduce your nitrates and phosphates instead of raising them.

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About the Author

Reef Stable Founder John Krenzer

John is a Software Engineer with a passion for saltwater aquariums, as well as the founder and president of Reef Stable. He started in the aquarium hobby as a child with a 20 gallon freshwater aquarium. His interest in aquarium life grew and in 2008, John set up his first saltwater aquarium.

Today, John maintains an over 300 gallon reef tank system, consisting of a 120g reef and a 210g reef. These large tanks are contained within the same system, sharing a sump as a means to reduce total maintenance and increase total water volume.

John writes articles for the blog as a means to learn about more reef aquarium topics. These articles act as a reference for the readers as well as himself. John updates these articles frequently to provide additional information or make corrections as new information becomes available.

If you would like to request an article, tank tour article, or to collaborate, let me know via the Contact Me Page!

About Reef Stable

Reef Stable was initially founded in 2019 as a reef tank parameter log to fill a need. Reef Stable quickly grew, becoming a location to solve all of your reef tank problems as well as a place to learn.

Reef Stable now provides a Reef Blog, Reef Aquarium Guides, Coral Care Guides, Identification and Solutions for Pests and Algae, and Reef Dosing Calculators, in addition to the original Reef Parameter Log.

Reef Stable continues to grow, striving to provide a single location for all your reef tank needs!

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