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Target Parameters for Saltwater Aquariums

Here are the acceptable ranges for most saltwater aquariums. Temperate aquariums, or those that mimic a specific biotope will differ, but for the most part these are the values you will be using as a goal point:

  Ideal Reef Tank Macroalgae Tank Fish Only
Ammonia 0 ppm 0 ppm 0 ppm 0 ppm
Nitrite 0 ppm 0 ppm 0 ppm 0 ppm
Nitrate 0 ppm 0-10ppm .5-10ppm 0-30ppm
Calcium 425 400-450 400-450 350-450
Alkalinity (meq/L) 3.5 2.5-4 meq/L 2.5-4 meq/L 2.5-4 meq/L
Alkalinity dKH 10 8-11 dKH 8-11 dKH 8-11 dKH
Specific Gravity 1.025 1.025-1.028 1.022-1.028 1.022-1.028
Temperature (F) 79 73-83 73-83 73-83
pH 8.2 8-8.5pH 7.8-8.5pH 7.8-8.5pH
Magnesium 1250 1250-1400 1250-1350 1100-1400
Phosphate 0 ppm 0 ppm <.5 ppm <.5 ppm


When comparing your parameters to the values in the chart above, it is important to remember to plan for changes/corrections only over a period of time, and only if you are not getting the results you want. If it isn't broken, don't fix it. The exception is ammonia, nitrite and nitrates, which if too high can be brought down quickly with water changes with a likely positive benefit. You will want to make sure the water used in the change is close to the other parameters that are present in your tank if you do a very large water change. Of special importance during water changes is pH, Temperature, Salinity (measured here as specific gravity; even though that is not entirely accurate that is what you will likely be using). 

Unless you are an advanced aquarist maintaining a complicated reef system you can usually take care of trace elements with regular water changes. Dosing them is often problematic and unnecessary, and testing for trace elements can be expensive. If you do look into testing and potentially dosing trace elements, Potassium is considered the most important trace element in reef aquariums and likely the best place to start. 

Trace Element g/kg
Potassium 0.3953
Bromide 0.0663
Boron 0.0044
Strontium 0.0079
Fluoride 0.0013

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