Having set-up and managed several different reef aquaria over the last decade or so, we’ve used quite a few different biological methodologies and employed a range of different technology in the quest for the best possible conditions for our stock. In that period we’ve seen companies, and the approaches they tout, rise and sometimes fall away into obscurity. The use of probiotic supplements to attain low nutrient levels in reefs is an approach that has gained popularity in recent years and now appears to have become firmly established as a viable methodology for the long term maintenance of reef aquaria. Furthermore, this method is clearly capable of producing some of the most visually stunning aquaria, particularly SPS dominated systems. Given this, and the fact that our own test system had reached a point suitable for the deployment of such a method, we decided to conduct our own foray into the world of probiotics.
After several weeks of research into the various different options, we decided to go with Prodibio for our trial as this seemed the simplest method by far, and we were impressed with their positive and open attitude when we chatted to them at Aqua2013. Originally established in Lyon way back in 1998, this isn’t a ‘flash in the pan’ operation. Following a buy-out and relocation to Marseille in 2006, Prodibio are now a major player in the low nutrient reef market with a diverse and highly respected product range (encompassing both freshwater, pond and marine) distributed across 5 continents.
So before we go on to the all-important results of our trial, let’s look at exactly what the ‘system’ comprises. Presented in a neat plastic box, the Biokit Reef is Prodibio’s complete package for attaining and maintaining low nutrient levels. Within the case, multiple glass ampoules are held securely in rows, with each clearly labelled to show exactly what it contains. Unless you have severely reduced dexterity, these ampoules are very easy to handle and simple to use. Basically all you do is slide the short piece of rubber tube that comes in each box over the end of an ampoule and snap off the end. No liquid comes out until you do the same with the other end and then the contents of the ampoule simply trickle out. We use the lid of the box to put the empty ampoules and tips before these go into the bin, and we dose each ampoule into our sump so it mixes well before entering the main display. We’ll be honest there is a small risk of cutting yourself once you’ve snapped-off a tip, but you’d have to be pretty clumsy! We find it a little fiddly to get the snapped-off ends out of the tube occasionally but that’s really not a major issue and overall we find the process of dosing rather enjoyable. As well as being so simple, the BioKit can also be stored at room temperature and has an unlimited shelf life. The BioKit reef (standard range) consists of 30 xxg ampoules, specifically:
6 x Biodigest – this is a solution containing nitrifying/denitrifying bacteria of various strains, essentially a powerful bacterial supplement
6 x Bioptim – this is a source of amino acids, enzymes, natural vitamins and trace elements to assist the bacterial population
6 x Reefbooster – this is a potent mix of fatty acids to be used once low nutrient conditions have been achieved, mainly for coral nutrition
6 x Iodi+ – an Iodine supplement to ensure fast growing corals do not deplete levels
6 x Stronti+ – a Strontium supplement again to ensure fast growing corals do not deplete levels
(Note: The BioKit reef is also available as a ‘nano range’ and again consists of 30 ampoules but these are smaller at xxg per ampoule).
In terms of dosage, Prodibio offer a simple dosage chart HERE. With our tank weighing in at around 600l in volume, we add 3 of each type of ampoule every 15 days. That’s it! Having said that, we only add ReefBooster occasionally as it looks extremely potent and as such we’ve actually ended up with quite a few spare ampoules of this substance. We do sometimes add it to thawed frozen foods for our fish though and it seems to be enjoyed.
So that’s all very interesting but did it actually have any tangible effects on our test system? Well, although the effectiveness of such products is hard to quantify we did note some test results and make some anecdotal observations. Firstly, we noticed that our Phosphate reading dropped to its lowest ever reading around 2 weeks into the programme – just 0.01ppm (measured using a Hanna Phosphorus Checker ULR). Our Nitrate level has always been undetectable on commercial kits and remained so. We also noticed intensified colouration in some of our SPS corals along with greater polyp extension. The latter seemed particularly prevalent when we used ReefBooster but this did also cause our skimmer to overflow for several hours when we added significant amounts (Prodibio inform us this is completely normal and recommend dosing at lights out then turning off your skimmer until the next morning). We’ve carefully observed for several weeks and it does appear that growth has been slightly improved with our SPS corals. Couple this with the fact that we’ve also reduced frequency of water changes, have a high fish load, and have completely removed our Phosphate and Carbon reactors (now running Chaetomorpha as only other source of nutrient removal) and the evidence for the effectiveness of this regime becomes all the more compelling. Although the cost of the kits may initially seem expensive for long term use, the reduced expenditure on salt, resins and electricity (to run reactors) should be taken into consideration. Furthermore, in terms of time and effort required this is certainly far less hassle than other nutrient reduction methods we’ve used. In conclusion, we are pleasantly surprised that achieving low nutrients could be so simple. For more information click on Prodibio’s banner and don’t forget to check out some of the images of our test tank in the gallery below.