CerMedia’s MarinePure and the report of an Aluminum Issue

January 11, 2017 Phil Overton

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all you Reefers out there that have supported us through the years. MarinePure™ has been used for many years as the bio-filtration choice for high end reef systems. We routinely receive reports of success for meeting and exceeding hobbyist’s and professional’s bio-filtration needs, which in turn have contributed to stable and healthy reef aquariums. We were surprised to learn that several forum discussions have alluded to the possibility of MarinePure contributing to elevated aluminum levels in their tanks. We have had public aquariums and other experts confirm to us, following their extensive scientific in-house testing, they are not experiencing elevated aluminum or any other problems with their use of MarinePure.

How your system is set up and the chemistry is managed are critical in developing and maintaining a healthy reef environment. Careful consideration should always be given as to what levels of aluminum, pH and other chemistry is required for your reef environment.

CerMedia takes pride in its MarinePure product and believes in a scientific, professional approach using facts to back-up our statements. We made the decision to test several samples to look at the aluminum issue. Recently, Triton GmbH implemented an innovative testing program allowing individual hobbyists to check the chemistry of their own systems, and its relationship to the “ideal levels” of individual elements to make up a healthy reef environment (more info about them here http://www.triton-lab.de/en/ ). We decided that Triton, due to their popularity among Reefers, would be the best option to test levels of aluminum in tanks that were using MarinePure. Please note that these were blind test samples and Triton did not know they were sent from our facility.

Triton GmbH uses a variety of literature and expert sources to establish their recommended levels. Triton established the maximum level for aluminum in reef aquariums to be 2 μg/L (micrograms per liter) or 0.002 ppm (parts per million). CerMedia does not endorse or dispute these limits.

A review of literature suggests there are many possible sources of aluminum in a reef system which the hobbyists should be aware of. A brief summary includes;
• 8 different Salt Mixes – between 6 and 8 ppm 1
•Commonly available salt mix – 0.110 ppm 2
• Calcium Oxide – 1 ppm 2
•Food – 8.1 to 120 ppm 3
• Phosphate Removing Media – ??4

Please note that all the aluminum sources above are already well above the recommended level suggested by Triton. The test method Triton uses is called Inductively Coupled Plasma – Optical Emission Spectrometry (ICP-OES). This method will measure any compound containing the aluminum as the aluminum atom. It does this by breaking the compound down into its fundamental elements. In a natural reef eco-system, there are already vast amounts of Aluminum. In fact, aluminum composes over 8% of the earth’s crust as rocks and minerals. Virtually all of this aluminum is combined with oxygen or other elements and is inert in a reef environment. CerMedia fires MarinePure in order to bind any free aluminum with oxygen, thus making it inert. It is quite possible that some or all of the elevated aluminum being measured by Triton are in the harmless forms.

In test #1, we added 3 different MarinePure samples in canister filters and cycled them through three 20 gallon tanks for 35 days (with one sample continued for 90 days). We also had one tank with no media to act as the control. A commonly available prepackaged reef salt mix was used to make up the salt water in all the tanks. Specific Gravity was set to between 1.024 and 1.025 in each.

Samples included;
1) MarinePure Block
2) MarinePure Block Rinsed (to determine if dust from MarinePure was causing a problem)
3) MarinePure Block returned from a customer that had reported elevated aluminum levels

The results from Triton Labs are summarized below.




Triton Labs Set Point (max) 2 μg/L 0.002 ppm
Salt Water Control 67.69 μg/L 0.068 ppm

Day 35

Salt Water Control 62.63 μg/L 0.063 ppm
MarinePure Block (Rinsed) 23.79 μg/L 0.024 ppm
MarinePure Block (not Rinsed) 34.71 μg/L 0.035 ppm
MarinePure Block (used & returned from Customer) 36.87 μg/L 0.037 ppm

DAY 90

MarinePure Block (Rinsed) 10.66 μg/L 0.011 ppm

Based on these results, it was concluded that;

1) The amount of aluminum in the reef salt is already much higher than Triton’s recommendations.
2) The control samples had small variations. In all 3 MarinePure samples, aluminum levels appear to have actually gone down.
3) Not seeing increased aluminum is consistent with what public aquariums, industry experts, and most hobbyists have been reporting.

There are ceramic bio-media products on the market that are not fired, with claims that these products do not leach aluminum because they have not been fired. This statement goes against basic chemistry rules and logic. The compounds used in making our ceramic media, when fired in an oxidizing environment, will chemically bind within the ceramic matrix, much like rocks and minerals found in natural environments. This makes them harmless when used in normal aquarium water. This is a reason MarinePure makes the extra investment in firing all their products, thereby providing superior value.

We tested two variations of unfired ceramic bio-media product not manufactured by CerMedia. We used the same method described in Test #1 above. Salt water was made in three twenty-gallon tanks and circulated, for two weeks, through the tanks and canister filters containing the samples listed below. After the two weeks, blind water samples from the three tanks were sent to Triton for analysis. The results are in the table below.

Test #2



MarinePure Block 86 μg/L 0.086 ppm
Unfired Ceramic – Variation #1 302 μg/L 0.302 ppm
Unfired Ceramic  – Variation #2 625 μg/L 0.625 ppm

Based on these results;

The aluminum amounts are significantly higher from the unfired ceramic bio-media product than in the MarinePure product, certainly outside of variations of the Triton test itself. The test clearly shows that CerMedia’s fired media is the better choice when compared to unfired aluminum based ceramic products.

Aluminum in a reef aquarium can come from many different sources, and in many different forms, some potentially harmful, and some harmless. The hobbyists should investigate all additions to their systems if elevated aluminum is a concern. CerMedia believes MarinePure does not add harmful aluminum to reef systems.
Thank you for taking time to read this report. We appreciate all the positive and honest feedback MarinePure has received throughout the last several years.

1. The Composition of Several Synthetic Seawater Mixes by Marlin Atkinson and Craig Bingman Aquarium Frontiers March 1999. http://www.animalnetwork.com/fish2/aqfm/1999/mar/features/1/default.asp
2. It’s (in) the Water by Ronald L. Shimek. Reefkeeping.com. Volume 1. Number 1. February 2002 http://reefkeeping.com/issues/2002-02/rs/feature/index.htm
3. Necessary Nutrition, Foods and Supplements, A Preliminary Investigation by Ronald L. Shimek. Aquarium Fish Magazine. 13: 42-53.
4. Chemistry and the Aquarium: Aluminum in the Reef Aquarium. By Randy Holmes-Farley. The Advanced Aquarists, Volume II, July 2003 http://www.advancedaquarist.com/2003/7/chemistry#section-1


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Paul Pustulka
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