Silicate Test Kit. 50 Tests. Detects low levels of silica in water. Silica is used by diatoms (microscopic algae) to build their protective covering. An abundance of silica may dramactically increase diatoms ability to thrive, which may be seen as a dark brown growth on all objects in the aquarium.
Introduction to Silica
Silica (SiO2), Silicic Acid (H2SiO3), Silicate (SiO32-) and several other Silicon (Si)- compounds, are normal constituents of seawater and freshwater. These substances usually occur in low concentrations and are non-toxic.
Silicon compounds would be of little relevance to the aquarist, if it were not for the fact that certain microscopic algae called diatoms, use Silica to build their protective covering, that completely encloses the individual cells.
Diatoms are always present in small amounts in any aquarium, but if they reproduce to greater densities, their presence can be detected without a microscope as a dark brown growth on all objects in the aquarium.
This phenomenon nearly always occurs in a newly set up marine tank, where the clean sand, rocks etc. turn dark brown for several days to two weeks. This brown growth consists of millions of diatoms, that form a pioneer vegetation on the formerly barren surfaces. As the dissolved Silica is used up, the diatoms gradually decrease their numbers to make space for other settling organisms.
This initial diatom-bloom, which disappears after 1-2 weeks, should be regarded as a natural and beneficial phase in the development of a new aquarium.
Diatom Bloom in established aquariums
Under certain circumstances, diatoms may bloom in older aquaria. This is usually caused by a combination of two factors:
The diatoms are supplied by sufficient Silica to maintain their growth.
The diatoms are not inhibited by the presence of other organisms. This means that the aquarium environment is relatively poor, with insufficient competitors for the diatoms.
Such outbreaks can be treated in two ways:
Introduce fresh live rocks, more invertebrates and by checking the water parameters, (Nitrate, Phosphate, Calcium, Alkalinity), to establish if the environment is still favorable to maintain many species of algae and invertebrates. Check also your protein skimmer and carbon filter for optimal performance.
Testing for the source of the Silica influx. Significant amounts are usually introduced by the tap water used for water changes or as compensation for evaporation. Other possibilities are: use of unsuitable rocks, sand or filter materials, which dissolve significant amounts of Silica into the water. For example, certain kinds of glass based filter substrates for fluidized bed filters may release Silica, facilitated by the constant grinding of the media inside the filter. Although certain water additives may contain some Silica, the amounts involved are seldom relevant, since these additives are usually very much diluted upon dosage.
The maximum allowable Silica concentration of freshwater used to make up seawater is dependent on the stability of your aquarium ecosystem and on the volume of water changes and freshwater additions. In a well balanced reef aquarium with little need for water changes, a detectable amount of Silica in the freshwater source is generally acceptable. Should, however, diatom blooms tend to occur, measures should be taken to purify freshwater prior to use.
Tap water with high Silica levels can be purified by using reverse osmosis filtration. The performance of the equipment should be checked regularly, by testing the Silica level of the filtered water. If the Silica source is found and eliminated, the Silica concentration in the aquarium will decrease naturally, after which the diatom bloom will gradually disappear.
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