How to Choose Aquarium Additives Part One: Dosing Systems

How to Choose Aquarium Additives Part One: Dosing Systems

One of the most crucial elements to any successful reef aquarium is water chemistry. Additionally, one of the first details of this hobby that any participant must understand is the process of testing, evaluating, and adjusting particular elements within their water. Generally, dosing systems are one of the best ways to change one or more parameters or elements within an aquarium.

What Are Aquarium Additives?

Aquarium additives or supplements are chemicals added to the water in either liquid or powder form to change the aquarium’s water chemistry.

What are Dosing Systems?

A dosing system is a set of aquarium additives introduced to the aquarium on a particular schedule to replenish the levels of specific elements within the water. For example, if your tank consumes 20 ppm of calcium per day, 20 ppm of calcium needs to be added.

Types of Dosing Systems (Basic vs. Complete)

We have divided the dosing systems into two main categories; basic and complete dosing systems.

Basic Dosing Systems

These systems can also be referred to as traditional dosing systems. Basic dosing systems include alkalinity, calcium, and in some cases, magnesium. Traditionally sold in two-bottle formats, these systems cover just the essential elements and not much else.

Complete Dosing Systems

Complete dosing systems include alkalinity, calcium, magnesium, and many major and minor trace elements. The addition of these elements generally eliminates the need to dose these components separately and improves coral health, color, and growth. Some of these systems are also available in two-bottle format; however, many use more than two bottles.

Dosing System Comparison Chart

Dosing SystemATI EssentialsBRS 2-Part PharmaRed Sea Reef FoundationTriton Core7ESV B-IonicTropic Marin All-For-Reef
Type of SystemCompleteBasicBasicCompleteBasicComplete
Dosing MethodManual or with Dosing PumpManual or with Dosing PumpManual or with Dosing PumpManual or with Dosing PumpManual or with Dosing PumpManual or with Dosing Pump
FormatTwo BottlesThree BottlesThree BottlesFour BottlesTwo BottlesOne Bottle
Additional Element CoverageIncludes 25 additional elementsIncludes magnesium coverageIncludes magnesium coverageIncludes many additional elementsJust alkalinity & calciumIncludes 17 additional elements
Physical FormLiquidPowderLiquid or PowderLiquidLiquidLiquid or Powder
Best ForBalanced, affordable, and trace element coverageBasic, inexpensive coverageWant to use the Red Sea Reef ProgramWant to use Triton MethodBasic, inexpensive coverageEasy to dose with plenty of trace element coverage
Dosing System Comparison Chart

Dosing System Cost Comparison Chart

The following chart contains the estimated monthly cost of each dosing system for a 100-gallon mixed reef aquarium. For each of these products, we selected the most cost-effective size. Therefore, you can use this information to calculate what using one of these dosing systems would cost for your aquarium.

Dosing SystemATI EssentialsBRS 2-Part PharmaRed Sea Reef FoundationTriton Core7ESV B-IonicTropic Marin All-For-Reef
Cost Per Month$11.99$3.65$12.80$10.25$9.27$17.92
Dosing System Cost Comparison Chart

Alternatives to Dosing

Investing in a dosing system is the best way to preserve your water chemistry at the ideal levels, but it is not the only way. You can also replenish the necessary elements by performing frequent water changes with a high-quality salt. Frequent water changes are a good alternative for smaller tanks; however, regular water changes are time-consuming and expensive for larger tanks. Calcium reactors are an excellent alternative to a chemical dosing system for larger aquariums. If operated correctly, calcium reactors should cover all major elements and some trace elements.


Basic systems tend to be less expensive than complete systems. However, a basic system will not cover major or minor trace elements. Adding any required major or minor trace elements may bring the total cost of the basic system over the price of a complete system. You can also make your dosing regimen more cost-effective by buying chemicals in bulk and buying them dry. If you prefer the convenience of a liquid chemical, buy it in bulk and check its concentration, so you are not paying for a bunch of water.

After choosing a dosing system, the next step is to evaluate your system’s consumption of the essential major and minor elements and determine if you will need to address some of them individually by dosing additional trace elements. Stay tuned for part two of this article, where we will dive into those trace elements and establish some of the best ways to raise their levels individually.

In conclusion, if you have any questions about dosing or which dosing system may make the most sense for your particular system, we suggest contacting our support team.

Like this article? Share it here:
Subscribe to our Blog
Recent Posts
Get in Touch
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.