Balling Method for Calcium, pH Explained for Reef Aquariums

By | March 28, 2015

Revised 2/24/16

Overview:
The Balling Method is a dosing regiment to sustain optimal parameters of calcium, sodium bicarbonate (alkalinity), and other trace elements in a marine reef aquarium for calcium building corals, coralline algaes, and other invertebrates. The main idea is to maintain consent parameters, but also make these elements biologically available for a balanced environment. The largest benefit of the method is control, which helps for a thriving aquarium.

This article specially overviews the popular Tropic Marin Bio-Calcium Original Balling Method, which is the original Balling method.

Salt, dosing, Marine

The method creates a major benefit of not having a calcium reactor. This is because the addition of the balling mix provides all the depletion of elements.

By not using a calcium reactor, this creates some benefits.
The pH of the whole tank can be maintained at a higher level, because no acidic calcium reactor effluent are added to the tank anymore.
The reactor effluent can also contain traces of phosphates, dissolving out of the reactor media. So, another benefit is that no phosphates are added to the tank anymore, other than what is added via foods/feeding.

Quality Source- 3 Stage Bio-Calcium Original Balling

The Balling Method sustains the parameters shown below:

  • Calcium: 380 – 420 mg/Liter
  • Magnesium: 1200 – 1350 mg/Liter
  • Alkalinity: 6,5 – 8 dkH
  • Salinity: 33 – 35 Promille

The Balling Method uses three canisters of different solutions:

  • Calcium Chloride Dehydrate
  • Sodium/Natrium Bicarbonate
  • NaCl-Free Sea Salt with ALL required minor and trace elements

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When used correctly, all levels of major elements remain constant, with calcium levels at 420 mg/l, magnesium at about 1300 mg/l and carbonate alkalinity at 7 dKH.
80% of Germans use this method and aquarists who have been using the method have accounted for a doubling in size of small polyp stony (SPS) corals within about 100 days.

References:
Leonardos Reef; Guide to the Balling Method
Balling Method Award Winning
Reef Aquarium Chemistry Maintenance (Highly Recommended Read)
Tropic Marin; Balling Method (Recommended Product Source).

The procedure was published by Hans-Werner Balling in 1994 in the technical journal on aquaristics DATZ (Die Aquarien und Terrarien Zeitung): Balling, H.-W. (1994)

HERE’S A VIDEO BY DR. HANS WERNER BALLING:
The Balling Method explained by Hans-Werner Balling

Explained:
“Why two part dosing (calcium and sodium Bi-carbonate), three part systems (calcium and sodium Bi-carbonate, with just magnesium), or “balling light” is not the same as the Hans-Werner Balling system made by Tropic Marin.

The important part is learning about the relationship between the ions of calcium chloride and sodium Bi-carbonate. It’s important when dosing minerals into a delicate system and learning especially how the coral polyp takes in the calcium ion from the calcium chloride element, and the carbonate ion from the sodium element, and what’s left behind is “UNBALANCED SODIUM CHLORIDE”. In the balling light or two/three part system THIS is where your imbalance comes from.

Left behind is sodium from the Bi-carbonate and chloride from the calcium, these two together of course make sodium chloride, and here lies the imbalance in two part, all of a sudden there’s extra sodium chloride with no other elements attached to it floating around in your tank. AND by doing a water change, you are only removing the percentage of that water change of the imbalance.

So, if you are dosing two/three or light systems and rely on water changes alone to address the imbalance, and say only removing 10% of the water, only 10% of the imbalance is removed.

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(May 30, 2011)

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(Dec 30, 2011)

Advanced Aquarist- Featured Aquarium

Now, by adding into the mix part C of the Balling Method, the remaining sodium chloride has something to balance it, which includes the 70 trace elements.

Of course, there’s an argument which this system too raises the sodium chloride level, and yes this is correct, BUT here’s the defining factor. It’s doing it in a balanced format in the same way like just adding more sea salt to the system. It’s balanced, so there’s no ionic risks. Even the most minimal water change would cater to any salinity rise. However, due to sodium chloride being in balance and at such a very low level, this is not an issue. Oppose to as an unbalanced system with just sodium chloride floating about is.

What’s an issue, are two part or light systems allow for free amounts of sodium chloride in the system with nothing to balance it, allowing for a complete imbalance, which cannot be addressed fully by water changes. A % water change only removes a % of the imbalance.

There’s only one way to keep a system in balance when dosing calcium and sodium Bi-carbonate and that’s to add in proportion NACL free salt. (Part C)

To make the point more clear, the very first original Sea Salt mix from Tropic marin, which still to this day forms the basis of all their salts, is a 100% mixture of A B and C of the Tropic Marin Balling system together!

Product Resource:
Premium Tropic Marin Pro Reef Sea Salt from Germany

Premium Tropic Marin Pro Reef Sea Salt from Germany
There is simply NO BETTER Reef Sea Salt (marine fish too)

So there’s no argument the chemistry in itself proves it. If dosing a system with nothing to balance the excess NACL, it create an imbalance. This is where part C of Balling comes in, which makes up everything found in a sea salt mix, including all trace elements without adding additional NACL. Hence the term for part C as NACL-FREE sea salt. Lets be clear part C is not just magnesium as in every other other 3 part system, it is the whole bells and whistles found in sea salt as stated before WITHOUT any NACL component.”

References:
3Reef.com; Balling Method explained
Balling Method- Practical Fishkeeping
Reef Aquarium Chemistry Maintenance

How to dose:
The three (salts) parts of the method are all mixes and dissolved separately in Reverse Osmosis (RO) water. The three parts can be added to the display aquarium via dosing pump in a well circulated area. The three can also be added in three sperate locations of the aquarium to help prevent precipitation.

How-to-dose-Balling

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Tropic Marin Tips and Tricks

Salinity in the aquarium will rise slightly due to the salts. The increase will easily be adjusted when doing water changes or adding additional water.

Conclusion:
This method created by Dr. Balling is a easy to-do, which addresses some chemistry concerns of a saltwater reef aquarium. It has benefits over the traditional Calcium Reactor or Kalkwasser in the way it maintains high levels of Calcium, alkalinity, a stable pH, without the added acids or phosphates, and without the excess of sodium chloride to the tank. As a result, corals respond by doubling in size. The method has shown better results than traditional reef keeping with two part systems, or three parts systems with added mag. with simple water changes to remove extra sodium chloride. The method is simple to use, which is why it’s becoming more and more popular around the world and not just in Europe.

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