If you are a beginner to the saltwater aquarium hobby, you might be a bit overwhelmed with all the advice! There is so much information out there, and you might get confused over what is actually necessary for your aquarium and what is not. 

Thankfully, we are here to provide you with the information you need to set up and maintain the perfect saltwater aquarium, no matter who you are and how long you have been looking after marine life for!

Today we are talking about phytoplankton. You might have heard about it and heard that you need it in your aquarium. However, you might be wondering what it actually is, and why it is important. Let’s dive into the topic and work out why phytoplankton is great for your aquarium! 

What Is Phytoplankton?

Phytoplankton is microscopic organisms that exist in both salt and fresh water. They are single-cell beings that rely on photosynthesis to turn sunlight into chemical energy. Because they need the sun, they exist near the surface of the ocean.

As phytoplankton get their nutrients from the sun, they are seen as the foundation of the marine life food chain. So many creatures feed on phytoplankton, from fish to invertebrates. Then, of course, slightly bigger marine animals feed off the creatures that feed on phytoplankton. This means that phytoplankton makes all life in the ocean possible. 

Why Add Them To Your Saltwater Aquarium?

Phytoplankton is a critical part of the natural marine world, but does that automatically mean that they are necessary for your saltwater aquarium?

The short answer is yes, if you are wanting your aquarium to thrive. 

They Are Food for Live Feed

One of the main reasons that phytoplankton is important is because they are food for a lot of aquarium essentials. Copepods and amphipods are equally important in creating a sustainable and healthy food supply for a lot of aquatic fish and invertebrates, but in order for the copepods and amphipods to reproduce and maintain a steady level, they need phytoplankton to feed off. 

As live feed creates a healthy diet for the inhabitants of your saltwater aquarium, cultivating them in a refugium means that you will also need to add phytoplankton. 

Adding live feed such as copepods and amphipods, and then adding phytoplankton, means that you are recreating the natural marine food chain in your aquarium. Being as natural as possible when keeping any sort of animal in captivity is extremely important for the happiness and health of the animals. Fish are no different, and they will truly thrive when in a saltwater aquarium that is replicating the oceans and reefs they come from perfectly. 

Coral Feed

A lot of soft corals such as gorgonians and pagodas will get nutrients from phytoplankton. Adding phytoplankton to your tank means creating a more natural environment for your corals and a range of feed for them. 

The addition of phytoplankton to a reef tank has been known to promote the growth of coral and for their colors to look brighter. 

There has been a suggestion that hard corals do also get some nutrients from the phytoplankton in the water, however, this is up for debate.

How to Dose Phytoplankton

If you are wanting to start adding phytoplankton into your saltwater aquarium, the best advice is to do it slowly and carefully. This means that your marine life won’t get too overwhelmed! 

We sell phytoplankton on our website for under ten dollars. When it arrives, store it in the refrigerator. This keeps the nutritional quality of the phytoplankton high. If you are storing them for a long time, remember to keep an eye on the creatures and make sure they are not all stuck at the bottom. This can cause them to die. Shake the bottle at least weekly to make sure this does not occur. 

Before you dose your aquarium, shake the bottle to make sure the phytoplankton is distributed in the bottle. 

When deciding how much phytoplankton to dose, consider how much coral, copepods, and amphipods are needing feeding in the area. Start small as to not overwhelm the aquarium. 

Direct Dosing

You might wish to give direct doses to your coral. This means extracting a small amount of phytoplankton into a pipette then pointing it at a specific coral before releasing. Target feeding your coral means that you use the phytoplankton sparingly and don’t put too much into the tank that might affect the quality of the water. 

General Dosing

However, a lot of hobbyists choose to put a general dose of phytoplankton into their aquarium. This is easier and less time-consuming, and it does mean that anyone who wishes to feed off the phytoplankton can.

However, giving your aquarium a general dose of phytoplankton does run the risk of creating an algae bloom that creates a discoloration to the water in your aquarium. If you overwhelm your aquarium with phytoplankton, your water will have a green tinge to it. 

Algae blooms are a part of nature but it is understandable to not want them in your saltwater aquarium!

An Important Part of the System 

Phytoplankton is an important part of the food chain of the ocean world, and therefore just as important in the food chain of your saltwater aquarium. 

In order for the wonderful creatures in your aquarium to flourish, make sure you are adding phytoplankton!