ESV's Seawater mix is prêt-à-porter...

I like to mix it up a bit. Last year I gave a bag of the Tunze Reef Salt a whirl. I wasn’t overly impressed with it for the cost and, though possibly completely unrelated, I experienced a considerable increase in algae growth while using this particular salt. After finishing that bag, I planned to give it one more shot, but the shop was out of stock, so I went back to the old standby that is Instant Ocean. I’ve now been using Instant Ocean for the past 6 months or so.

About the same time that I picked up the Instant Ocean salt, I started reading about ESV’s new “B-Ionic Seawater System”. This immediately piqued my interest, as I used ESV’s B-Ionic two part solution for years and have always associated the name with quality products. I also found quite attractive the photos around the web of this salt being mixed up completely clear, zero residue. Anyone who has mixed a batch of most other salts can identify with at least one of the following; scum (sometimes brown), chunky leftover residue, maybe a mixing pump or heater crusted in deposits. I can attest to all of the above. Look familiar? —>

The biggest draw for me was the claim that ESV salt is ready for use very shortly after mixing. Many may not find this 4 part mix convenient, weighing or measuring separate components. However, space in the city can be at a premium. It’s just not always feasible for everyone to have a 55 gallon drum of pre-mixed saltwater taking up space. When I consider that waiting for X salt to mix up in the laundry room typically requires 24 to 48 hours of a power cord and bucket of swirling water to trip over, a couple extra steps to mix is of little consequence to me. As someone who does irregular water changes as time provides, the ability to mix a batch and use it within the hour is a game changer.

So I finally finished the sack of IO and got around to ordering a 200 gallon mix from Premium Aquatics. At $71.99 plus shipping for a 200 gallon mix, I believe this ends up roughly the same cost per gallon as Tunze Reef or Reef Crystals salts. If purchasing the smaller ESV salt mixes, of which PA happened to be out of stock when I ordered, it may be bit more pricey.

The 200 gallon mix comes shipped in two boxes. Box 1 contains a sack of Sodium Chloride. Despite the sticker on the bag that instructs to leave the bag in the box, the box is heavy and unwieldy so the first thing I did was remove it and place it in an old salt bucket with lid to stay dry. Box 2 contains the rest of the ingredients – a sack of Magnesium Chloride, 2 bottles of liquid Component A, 1 bottle of liquid component B. Also included are a plastic measuring cup (broken, in my case) and a set of measuring spoons. This set of measuring utensils is a boon for those who may find themselves replacing measuring cups and spoons stolen from the kitchen more often than they should.

The instructions and chart are clear as to the precision in measurement for each component. I wanted to give this mix a try as soon as I got it, and opted to go by weight to be as precise as possible. You can click on the pic of the instructions to read them for yourself, so here’s the synopsis:

1: measure water / determine amount of each component to use.
2: measure / mix in #1 sodium chloride, wait till it mixes (5 to 10 min max)
3: measure / mix in #2 magnesium sulfate, wait to mix (5 to 10 min max)
4: mix liquid A, wait 1 min
5: mix liquid B, wait 1 min

Long story short, I’m impressed with this salt mix. In under 30 minutes, I had a bucket of * crystal clear * reef water. This 30 minutes included taking photos, reading the instructions carefully, and 20 of the minutes were simply waiting for step 1 and 2 to mix (even just 5 min for each would probably suffice!).

Unfortunately, I wasn’t as precise as I probably should have been. My weights were exactly on, but the initial amount of RO/DI water I started with was haphazardly measured… I knew it when I added the water to the bucket and said “___ it”. A habit from all previous salt mixes, perhaps?

My batch mixed up to 31ppt, kh of 8.5 on Elos kit, Calcium at 470 on a Salifert, and, unfortunately, as I was counting drops for Magnesium, the kit ran dry…! Despite the low salinity, I did a quick change with the water since my display tank had drifted to 34ppt anyway. What took place was a 10% water change. Nothing amazing. Nothing negative. Nothing more, nothing less. Next time, I’ll plan to do ~25% change, be a bit more precise with water measurement and get some full testing with magnesium included.

This 4 part mix is not any more annoying than mixing up a bag of Reef Crystals. That it is essentially prêt-à-porter after an hour or so, that there is no 24 hours (hardly 24 minutes!) of aeration, cloudiness, particulate matter and power head tripwires may have just sealed the deal for me. Will update in a few weeks once I get a new Mg kit and have watched a couple water changes. In the meantime, I am very pleased with this initial batch and am looking forward to using it.