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    The Balling Method | How does it differ from Two Part?

    The Balling Method is the most commonly used supplementation method for reef aquariums in Europe and it is beginning to make some splashes here in the States, as well as Japan. Unfortunately, there is not much literature on this “new” method. Named after Hans-Werner Balling, the Balling Method was developed to solve the often difficult […]

    The Balling Method is the most commonly used supplementation method for reef aquariums in Europe and it is beginning to make some splashes here in the States, as well as Japan. Unfortunately, there is not much literature on this “new” method.

    Named after Hans-Werner Balling, the Balling Method was developed to solve the often difficult problem of maintaining Calcium, Carbonate, Magnesium, and Trace Element levels in the reef aquarium. The largest benefit of the Balling Method over other supplementation methods is control. Even the highest calcium and carbonate demands can be met, without the PH issues associated with Kalkwasser and Calcium Reactors. And because each additive is added independently it allows the aquarist to fine tune their water chemistry. 

    Although the Balling liquids can be dosed manually, they are frequently added to the aquarium via dosers such as the popular Grotech TEC III NG. This provides stable parameters and a continuous stream of trace elements, vitamins, and amino acids.

    The core of the Balling Method consists of:

    • Calcium Chloride Di-Hydrate
    • Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate
    • Magnesium Chloride-Hexahydrate & Magnesium Sulfate-Heptahydrate

    If you think these ingredients sound similar to Two Part, that’s because they are. These are the same ingredients used in Two Part to maintain Calcium, Alkalinity and Magnesium levels. In fact, it would not be a large stretch to say when dosing Two-Part (3-Part with the Magnesium addition) that you are following a lighter version of the Balling Light Method.

    The Balling Light includes trace elements, but skips many of the more complicated Amino Acid and NaCl free salt additions that are used in the Balling Complete Method. Instead it relies on the above Ca, Alk, and Mg ingredients and weekly 10% water changes. The weekly 10% water changes are to address a possible build up of NaCl. 

    Interestingly this is where U.S. manufacturers disagree with European manufacturers. For example ESV states that their B-Ionic Two Part method will not disrupt the ionic balance. Others makers state that the residual ions will maintain them at Natural Seawater Parameters (NSW). Whether or not the build up does occur, for a healthy low or ultra low nutrient reef system weekly 10% water changes should be, if not already, implemented.

    As previously mentioned, the Balling Light method does incorporate Trace Elements and this is really the only difference from traditional Two Part. These elements are added directly to the Ca and Alk solutions as shown below.

    • Calcium Chloride Di-Hydrate
      • + Strontium – Calcium
      • + Iron -Zinc
    • Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate
      • + Iodine – Boron

    Generally these are pure ingredients that the Aquarist obtains or a premade product such as Fauna Marin’s Power Trace or Ultra Trace B,  that are ready to be added to the Ca and Alk solutions. Also worth noting, when making DIY Two Part from house hold products such as Dowflake Calcium Chloride, since it is not 100% pure it does contain some of these trace elements in low levels.

    For more information on making your own Two Part supplement we highly suggest reading Randy Holmes-Farley’s article.

    On to the True Balling Method or Balling Complete. The most questions are asked in regard to the NaCl free salt used. NaCl free salt is literally synthetic salt mix without NaCl. The use of NaCl free salt is to maintain Ionic Balance when dosing Calcium Chloride (CaCl) and Sodium Carbonate (Na2CO3). Very few manufacturers make this. The most popular one we have come across is made by Tropic Marin. TM does state that this product is not available in the States, but if you do some research you can find it for sale in the U.S for ~$75.

    The NaCl Free salt is added to the Magnesium Solution, leaving you 3 containers with the following ingredients:

    • Calcium Chloride Di-Hydrate
      • + Strontium – Calcium
      • + Iron – Zinc
    • Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate
      • + Iodine – Boron
    • Magnesium Chloride-Hexahydrate & Magnesium Sulfate-Heptahydrate
      • + NaCl Free Salt
      • +Various Supplements

    At the very end you can see I add “Various Supplements”. This is generally where aquarists will add other additives such as vitamins or amino acids, but this can be done in the Ca and Alk solutions or an entirely new containers (#4) as well. There is no hard set rule, and with the addition of multiple dosing pumps the combinations are endless.

    Many of these additional Balling modifications have been given names such as Balling Complete or Balling Plus, however, the most well known version is Heinz Mahler’s Balling Complete Plus variation. I will not list it completely here as it is so long and also the most extensive we have seen. Using a total of six different trace element solution Heinz incorporates NaCl Free Salt, UltraMinS and the following elements:

    • Barium 
    • Strontium
    • Cobalt
    • Copper
    • Zinc  
    • Nickel
    • Chromium
    • Iron
    • Potassium
    • Iodine

    For a full write up on Heinz Balling Complete Plus method and Balling Calculator, check out his website ReefDreams.de

    Due to the cost of the NaCl free salt and various additives used in the Complete and Complete Plus variations, many opt “to go light” and follow Fauna Marin’s Balling Light, using Ultra Trace B supplements (Strontium-Barium, Heavy Metal Complex, and Iodine-Flourine). It’s very simple, mix the Ca, Alk, and Mg solutions and then add 25ml of a particular Ultra Trace B additive to the solutions. Ultra Trace B is compatible with DIY Two Part.  

    If you are using Two Part and are wary about adding the Trace Element Solutions to your Calcium and Alkalinity additives, there are other stand alone products out there that can achieve the same chemistry levels. (Ecosystems New NF Metals looks like good choice.) Other various “Trace Element” supplements can be found for Strontium, Iodine, Potassium, etc, by many different manufacturers. This is a great way to see if trace elements are for you with very little investment. We suggest taking the manufacture dosing instructions and cutting them by 50% for standalone trace element products.

    At this time I cannot say that the Balling Method is a true improvement upon traditional Two Part. I do see the importance in trace elements, and many Europeans do have great success with this method, however, others argue that these additional trace elements are not needed at all. These nay sayers do have a point. When performing frequent waterchanges with a quality salt many trace elements are replenished, but until some work is done in the lab to measure the utilization of these various trace elements, there will be speculation from both sides. If you’re curious, try it out. You may find that it’s for you.


    1. jack
      September 22, 2008 at 5:49 PM | Permalink

      Great article! I was in search for NaCl free salt, but I will just try the Light method for now.

      I have read that the balling complete may cause problems with Zeovit, have you experienced this?

    2. October 1, 2008 at 10:07 AM | Permalink

      Hi Jack,

      I apologize, I missed this one somehow. I know of aquarists using the balling method with Zeovit, but I am not sure what variation or how the extra trace elements will effect Zeo.

      I would suggest asking one of the resident Zeo Heads on zeovit.com I am sure Alexander would have an idea on the subject.

    3. aprojekt
      October 17, 2008 at 10:55 AM | Permalink

      Some people do even lighter Balling without magnesium addition, dosing just Calcium Chloride Di-Hydrate and Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate.

    4. October 22, 2008 at 1:23 PM | Permalink

      I post a question about Balling method with Zeovit in the ZEOvit forum. =) I always worry about to put too much trace elements in the tank. It may cause Algae bloom or some other problems. I think when you have ZEOvit, balling method may not be good. Using ZEO additives may be more appropriate.

    5. May 10, 2009 at 12:04 AM | Permalink

      Just wanted to comment that I came across this article for the 2nd time when looking up info on what the difference between the balling method (which I kept reading as bailing til now) and 2-part. Good, direct, info here.

    6. Drew
      May 27, 2009 at 9:26 AM | Permalink

      If you do some research you will find DowFlake already contains an excess of Potassium, Strontium, and Bromide. Soda ash will contain potassium salt. You will also find trace heavy metals are already in excess in most salt mixes.

      Here is std salt mix solution recipe:

      23.98 g sodium chloride ————96% by wt of totals
      5.029 g magnesium chloride
      4.01 g sodium sulfate

      1.14 g calcium chloride (dosed directly in Two Part)
      0.699 g potassium chloride (potassium in DowFlake)
      0.172 g sodium bicarbonate (dosed by Soda Ash or directly)
      0.100 g potassium bromide (bromide likely in CaCl2)
      0.0254 g boric acid (excess in Seachem salt)
      0.0143 g strontium chloride (possibly from CaCl2)
      0.0029 g sodium fluoride

      So three part already doese these elements.

    4 Trackbacks

    1. […] additions by experienced aquarists seeking the best coloration in their corals. (More info on the Balling Method here.) Most of the information on the benefits of these trace elements is strictly anecdotal, e.g. iron […]

    2. […] GBD’s Profilux Standalone Doser review has been underway over the past couple weeks. Currently we are using the Standalone Doser to pump 3ml of calcium and alkalinity solution 20 times a day, for a total of 60ml of each solution being added over a 24hr period. Balling Salts and Trace Elements from Fauna Marin will soon be added a la the Balling Method. […]

    3. […] prices and mimicry, has released a peristaltic dosing pump aimed at aquarists itching to try the Balling Method. The pumps can be had for 1300 Yuan or roughly $270 USD. Curious to try it out Adrian, a GBD […]

    4. March 7, 2011 at 8:01 AM

      […] and K Balance. Additionally, this reef  receives Calcium and Alkalinity additions using the Balling Lite method controlled by a Bubble Magus dosing […]

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