Up until 2008 orthodox reef keeping centred on monitoring a few chemical parameters using colour chart test kits. Not only were the accuracy of the readings from test kits dubious but the vast majority of other elements in seawater were completely ignored. This meant the two key processes impacting the water quality of closed reef keeping systems – (1) element consumption by creature metabolism and (2) contamination from external sources – were largely invisible to the reef keeper. This meant that water quality drifted over time with harmful impacts on livestock. So aquarists compensated for flying blind on water quality through the expensive practice of regular water changes as both preventative maintenance and a cure-all for problems.
In the “bad-old-days” the craft of reef keeping was basically an expensive process of trial and error steered by stories, opinions and product marketing. All changed in 2008 when TRITON Applied Reef Bioscience was founded with the express goal of bringing accurate, comprehensive and affordable chemical sea water analysis to reef keepers and professional aquarists worldwide. Using ICP-OES & HPLC technology TRITON empowered aquarists to: (1) Test their seawater, (2) Know what is in it, and, (3) Act to fix it when the chemistry strays from Natural Sea Water. TRITON formalised this paradigm shift with the TRITON METHOD – a reef keeping recipe that anyone can follow. The TRITON METHOD is as powerful as it is simple and is suitable for the hobbyist who just wants a beautiful, easy to maintain aquarium at home through to the demanding needs of public aquaria, zoos, and research facilities.
The TRITON METHOD is a holistic reef keeping system that brings together the key benefits of TRITON’s research into advanced elemental analysis of seawater (TRITON LAB), highly pure reagents for supplementing and treating seawater (TRITON REAGENTS) and premium LED lighting proven to benefit the growth of SPS corals (LANI). When combined with our famous customer support TRITON innovation makes reef keeping a pleasure, not a chore.
The TRITON METHOD: Introduction and Overview
Our goal as reef keepers is to emulate Natural Sea Water. Sea water is not mysterious you can create it using a recipe of distilled water and chemical elements in controlled proportions. Let’s assume you have set up your aquarium with a salt mix that approximates Natural Sea Water. Will it stay that way? Nope! Fish, invertebrates, plants and bacteria are constantly interacting with your sea water through respiration, excretion and the natural nutrient cycling. These biochemical reactions consume elements and shift their proportions away from those found in Natural Sea Water. Elemental consumption is both natural and normal and must be taken into account when reef-keeping.
The other fundamental process impacting on the quality of your seawater is elemental contamination. Like it or not undesirable elements will find their way into your aquarium. Metal corrosion from equipment, environmental toxins from paint, even the food you feed your animals are all sources of contaminants that can accumulate in and distort the balance of your Natural Sea Water.
Every reef aquarium will consume elements and receive contaminants in unique ways. The ONLY way to know what is actually happening in your system is to analyse your seawater. TRITON LAB testing is the most accurate, comprehensive and affordable seawater analysis available to reef keepers. When your water is tested you receive an email with a link to your results online where an easy-to-use ‘traffic light’ reporting system alerts you to any problems. An online calculator automatically tells you which supplement or treatment to use and the exact dose required.
The beauty of the TRITON METHOD is that you do not need to be a chemist to use it. Just test your seawater. Know what’s in it. Act to fix it.
Setting Up a TRITON METHOD Reef System
A TRITON METHOD aquarium is a sophisticated easy-to-use holistic solution for the modern reef keeper. The first step in reef keeping is to set up your new aquarium and allow the nitrogen bacterial cycle to become established.
To take advantage of the full benefit of the TRITON METHOD we recommend your system use a sump with a separate algae refuge (10-20% of system volume) which in turn flows into the main sump where you run filtration and apply reagent dosing. The return pump capacity should be around 10 x the system volume.
A healthy algae refuge will consume animal waste by-products and some metals while exporting useful proteins, carbohydrates and metabolites.
A key benefit of the TRITON METHOD is the elimination of the need for water changes. This is achieved using a daily supplement of TRITON Base Element solutions which replace all the essential macro and trace elements removed by the natural metabolism of you reef system (see elemental consumption above).
For A New System: Monitor Your Alkalinity Using a Droplet Test
Add Base Elements solutions to the sump of your system daily. The goal is to reach and maintain an alkalinity of 8dKH. Start with a dose of 10ml / 100L of each of the four Base Elements solutions (1,2,3a &3b). Continue to monitor your alkalinity – if after month it is still below 8dKH increase the dose of Base Elements gradually until the target level is achieved. Once at 8dKH reduce the dose. This ensures your system has the full compliment of base elements balanced in the correct proportions. Another important advantage of the TRITON METHOD over other techniques is that the Base Elements solutions also contain a comprehensive suite of trace elements so vitally important to the health of reef creatures.
Note: the rate of consumption of macro and trace elements will vary with the mix of living things in your system. So the daily dose of Base Elements will vary from tank to tank.
Note: Base Elements is also available in an ionically balanced super-concentrate form (7x) called CORE7.
Begin TRITON LAB Testing
When you have established a stable well balanced system send a sample of your sea water to TRITON LAB for testing. This provides a baseline measurement of the macro and trace elements in your seawater before any change due to biological activity and / or external contamination.
Feeling the Pulse of Your System
By keeping track of the amount of Base Elements you add to the system daily and running regular ICP tests you are effectively feeling the pulse of a beautiful, living coral reef system. Only the TRITON METHOD gives you such conscious control. When you system is first set up we recommend you run an ICP test every month. If everything proves to be balanced / stable and there are no obvious sources of contamination you can extend the interval of testing. Remember without testing you are flying blind. The cost and heartache of undetected contamination (replacement of lost livestock, seawater, time and labor) is always greater than the cost of periodic testing.
Detecting and Fixing Problems
While the Base Elements solutions deliver the essential foundation of macro and trace elements it is inevitable in small closed systems that there will be some drift from Natural Sea Water – either due to elemental (biological consumption) or contamination. The purpose of routine TRITON LAB testing is to alert you BEFORE serious and potentially expensive problems arise.
As soon as your test is completed and verified by TRITON LAB you will receive and email notifying that you results are available online. Just log into your account and your results are presented in an easy-to-understand ‘traffic light’ reporting system. Most problems are due to an element(s) being too low (supplement required) or too high (treatment required). The TRITON reporting system identifies these problems, flags them “red” and through an online calculator automatically tells you which supplement or treatment to use and the exact dose required.
Our support staff can be contacted for further information as can the wider TRITON METHOD community. Indeed by using the TRITON METHOD you are contributing to the greater reef keeping good! Each test contributes to a statistical database that models the biochemical behaviour of sea water which in turn improves the advice we provide to you our users. The TRITON METHOD was created for reef keepers by reef keepers. You do not need to be a chemist to use it and there is help available should you need it.
A Total Solution
The TRITON METHOD is the easiest and most cost-effective technique for any person interested in reef keeping. It is both simple to use and scientifically based requiring no knowledge of chemistry or analytical techniques. It replaces trial and error with the ability to make informed decisions based on accurate data from your own system. It protects the user from the untested claims and marketing hype associated with many expensive products in the aquarium industry.
The TRITON METHOD offers the professional reef keeper the same advantages but with the ability to scale our world class analytical services and reagents for in-house commercial, research and quality assurance programs. Anyone with a need-for-speed or volume processing should consider our TRITON ENVOY program which brings near-real-time, ICP sea water analysis to your organisation.
Tips for Beginners
A closed system reef aquarium is like a room full of people without windows – over time it gets stuffy and unpleasant from the build up of gases we don’t like! In your sea water system you can see signs of a “stuffy room” in the condition and behaviour of your fish, invertebrates and plants. It’s obvious something is wrong but what to do? The traditional solution is to change the sea water which buys some time but the stuffy room syndrome soon returns. The TRITON METHOD is like a breath of fresh air because it allows you to detect and measure contamination before it becomes harmful.
Metal corrosion from equipment, toxins from paint, even the food you feed to your animals can add contaminants that accumulate and distort your goal of maintaining “Natural Sea Water”. Fortunately, ICP testing can detect when these elements are in unnatural proportions and the Error Correction Report will recommend a treatment to fix the problem. However it is important to understand that there can sometimes be side effects from treatments applied to your reef tank.
For example when chemical filtration with activated carbon is used to extract Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC), or to treat copper contamination, it will also scrub some of the Iodine from your system! Likewise, if your Error Correction Report recommends an aluminium based phosphate remover (DETOX) it will also bind arsenic, barium and some fluoride. So follow up TRITON LAB testing is important to make sure the balance of elements in maintained in your system.