Forming the foundation of complex food webs in nature, phytoplankton is a generic term given to a range of autotrophic micro-organisms that float in ocean currents feeding on sunlight. Their presence provides food for a range of consumer organisms higher in the food chain, either directly or indirectly.
Generally, the nutrition provided by dosing ‘phyto’ has been proven to bolster diversity in reef aquarium systems and to provide knock-on benefits for a plethora of captive organisms.
However, with numerous manufacturers offering this product in a variety of forms, selecting the best product to use on your reef can be a bit of a minefield. Personally, we prefer to use ‘live’ phyto, and for this, a refrigerated product containing only specially selected species that enter a dormant phase under such conditions is required.
For our review we chose Reefjuice from Reefphyto as it fits the criteria above. This is a concentrated mixture of 4 phytoplankton species that provide a range of cell sizes (2-20 microns) which are all known to be predated by a range of reef aquarium organisms. Specifically, clams, feather duster worms, tunicates, sponges, soft corals and zooplankton (copepods and other invertebrate larvae) will directly consume these species, and other species will feed on the increased population of microfauna that is generated. This product is also concentrated and cleaned to a level that means that just 1ml each day can provide an effective concentration in a moderately stocked 20 UK gallon system, and will not introduce harmful substances. Furthermore, with a shelf life of 10 weeks, this product easily provided for the needs of our 45 UK gallon test tank, being all consumed a couple of weeks before it reached it’s expiry date.
In terms of our direct experience with this product, we were very impressed. For a start, delivery was excellent. Being a refrigerated product, this needed to be quick and Reefphyto didn’t let us down. Packaging was also excellent with the tactile pouch providing not only a satisfying view of the thick green soup within, but also means of easy addition to the system and storage. The cap didn’t leak at all and kept the product fresh throughout the test period (take note that a pungent smell is completely normal for concentrated phyto!). In terms of visible results, the tank showed noticeable signs of improvement after about 5 weeks with SPS polyp extension improving (see right) along with a noticeable Amphipod population boom. Water tests confirmed that pollutant levels did not increase during the test period.
So to summarise, we found that this simple programme of dosing provided noticeable positive results even after just a few weeks. Initially concerned about the potential for such a product to negatively impact on water quality, and doubts whether this food source would even be viable after storage in such a manner, we are pleased to confirm that we had no such problems. On a final note, it’s worth mentioning that we added the product directly to the tank in an area of high flow but didn’t turn the skimmer off for our tests… if you can turn your skimmer of for an hour or so after dosing we’d suggest that the effectiveness of the phyto may be enhanced.