The Triton Method Hack

This article is intended for those of you who like the idea of the Triton Method but don’t want to fully invest. You may be wondering if there is a way to use the knowledge of the method to your advantage, but using products of your own choosing. The short answer is, you can hack the Triton Method.

triton method

What is the Triton Method?

The Triton Method is a reef keeping program which has been available since 2008. The program works by laying out certain key filtration and return flow requirements in conjunction with Triton product supplementation.
The program works by testing and dosing your tank with their products which then brings it into the Triton Method framework. This framework determines a generic level of parameters in saltwater aquariums, with the intention of keeping those levels through continued use of their products.

The Triton Method is unique in that all reef aquariums following their program will be aiming for the exact same values at all times. Most other dosing programs or regimes allow the user to determine at what levels they would like to keep their water parameters. For this reason it is entirely possible to hack the Triton Method by running a system with different products, but utilise the filtration and return flow specified by Triton.

How does the Triton Method work?

In order to run the Triton Method, or a hack of the Triton Method, there are a few key criteria which have to be met, and it begins in the sump.

The Triton designed sump


refugium is a big part of the Triton method. The volume of the refugium suggested should be between 10% to 20% of the display tank volume with the preferred macro algae being cheatomorpha. Triton also suggest the use of T5 lighting, mixed blue and white on a reverse lighting schedule, over the cheatomorpha to encourage growth. In addition, they also suggest the use of one or two pieces of live rock in the refugium as a growing surface for caulerpa.

A refugium is multifaceted. Not only can it reduce and maintain lower levels or nutrients, but it also becomes a refuge in which pods can breed, both copepods and amphipods.

Keeping a refugium is not unique to the Triton Method, and can be hacked. In fact years before I had ever heard of Triton I was already using cheatomorpha as my main method of nutrient export. I never thought about the size of my refugium either. I just dropped the cheato in and watched it grow. I have found that any type of lighting it adequate for macro algae growth, with the red/blue spectrum being the best. I would probably keep away from the T5’s suggested by Triton. Although these are good, they are also very efficient at encouraging coralline growth in your sump, whereas the red/blue spectrum is less likely to.

chaeto in refugium
Return Flow Rate

Triton suggest a flow rate through the sump of approximately x10 the volume of your display tank. This is pretty simple to work out. If you have a display of say 70 gallons, you should have a return pump turning over 700 GPH. This turnover rate is particularly high.

My aim is not to discredit the above, but in my experience, having a higher turnover rate blocks the filter socks quicker which means changing over more frequently (although it has to be added that the method doesn’t include any form of mechanical filtration other than a skimmer). I think it comes down to the individual – I like a cleaner sump, and by running a system without filter socks I end up with more detritus than I would like settling in the sump.

Another argument on flow rate speeds is that the slower the flow rate the more ‘contact time’ you create as the water passes the skimmer, UV steriliser etc. I suppose the opposite could be said too – the more water that passes through, the more frequently ‘contact time’ is created. It really does come down to the reefer.

If you are following the Triton Method then go with x10 flow rate, if not then hack it. My return flow is approximately x5 and this is simply because it was easier to set up my auto top off at this flow rate.

Running a protein skimmer

Triton require that you run a skimmer. Specifically, they require that you run a skimmer in the compartment after the refugium. Now I am sure that it is just common practice to run a skimmer (with or without a refugium). There may be a few reefers who for various reasons choose not to, but generally speaking I think most reefers do.

It may be that they have made a point of adding the use of a skimmer due to the lack of other mechanical filtration. At any rate, I think most reefers would already have a skimmer in place.

Triton designed sump conclusion

In reality a Triton designed sump is simply the addition of refugium, with a higher than normal flow rate and a skimmer. All three of these are used in conjunction in many many saltwater aquariums worldwide without intentionally following the Triton Method, myself included.

They may be smaller or larger refugiums, and with or without additional mechanical filtration, but unintentionally they are all a hack of the Triton Sump.

How much live rock do I need for the Triton Method?

Triton specify 10% live rock for the reef structure. Yet again, this is simply the accepted standard for every reef aquarium. Live rock is the main method of biological filtration in any saltwater aquarium.

A hack on this is reducing the amount of rock structure in your display and introducing bio media into your sump which will make up for the live rock removed. There has been a trend of keeping displays as uncluttered with live rock as possible, and for those tanks bio media is the way to go.

Do I need a doser for the Triton Method?

At its core, the Triton Method relies on dosing to keep all parameters in check, and although Triton themselves recommend a 4 head doser as optional only, I would not go without an automatic dosing unit whether I was using the Triton Method or not.

Jebao Programmable Auto Dosing Pump DP-4, Black
  • Model :DP-4, Idea for Dosing CA / MG / AB Water or other liquid
  • 4 Channel Dosing Pump
  • Each Channel Provides 1 to 9999ml per day,24 timer per day

A automatic dosing unit is in my opinion one of the most essential tools in a reef keepers tool box, when hard corals are introduced to a saltwater aquarium. The moment a hobbyist starts collecting LPS and SPS corals the demands on the hobbyist will pick up a notch.

Corals thrive on stability and this is what a doser offers. By programming the dosing unit to manage parameters for you by adding the essentials throughout the day and night, you are making your life easier and making your corals happier.

Using Triton Core7 Supplementation

triton method

The Triton Method utilises its Core7 range (1, 2, 3a and 3b) to manage all parameters. Each delivers all basically needed major and trace elements including KH, Ca and Mg.

Dosage of the range is determined by the loss or gain of KH. When KH is lost then dosing is increased, and if KH is climbing then dosing is decreased.

Alternatives to the Triton Method

There are many other brands to choose from on the market including but not limited to

Red Sea Reef Foundation

ATI Essentials Two Part Supplement

Seachem Reef Fusion Two Part

Like Triton, the above brands also produce minor trace elements which can be dosed independently to meet the shortfall which sometimes occurs depending on coral uptake. The point is that, although Triton do offer the full package, you may feel like going in a different direction while utilising a similar format to Triton, adding your own Triton Hack.

Personally, before I knew of Triton I was using products by Tropic Marin with a refugium and skimmer, and I had not carried out water changes in years. This leads us nicely on to the next topic…

Do I need to do water changes with the Triton Method?

Triton Method originally became popular (or unpopular) depending on how you viewed water changes, their importance, and how Triton could claim to do away with them. Water changes had always been the go to method of removing nutrients from the system, and adding the required elements. Some reefers even now refuse to believe that you can run a saltwater system without carrying out water changes. Triton changed a lot of minds.

I haven’t carried out a water change for years, and my decision was based purely on my systems requirements – nothing to do with Triton.

Have a look at this article regarding no water changes.

What is a Triton ICP-OES test?

Triton consolidate their program by offering a comprehensive lab test. The lab test is refered to as an ICP-OES and it records every macro and trace element available in your tank. The test can be bought online or at your LFS.

Once you have purchased a kit you open an account online, and fill in your details. You then fill the supplied containers with your aquarium water as directed and post it off for analysis. The results normally come through in a week online. If you are using Triton products, the Triton ICP analysis will tell you exactly what needs to be done to correct levels with those products.

Triton Labs ICP-OES Water Test- Full Panel of 32 Elements - Saltwater Reef Testing Kit
  • Testing Elements Include: Na, Ca, Mg, K, Sr, B, Br, S, Li, Be, Ba, Ti, V, Cr, Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, Al, Si, As, Sb, Sn, Cd, Se, Mo, Hg, P (PO4), Pb, I.
  • The results of this test provide you with the most detailed analysis of marine aquarium water you've ever seen, enabling you to understand exactly what's missing, what's excessive, and what to do about it.

The Triton ICP can be used to ascertain the parameters of any saltwater aquarium, you do not have to be using Triton products.

It is worth knowing that there are alternative ICP tests available out there too, ATI being one of them, and in my experience just that little bit better, because it offers you the opportunity to test your RO water at the same time.

So there you have it!

I looked into Triton properly when I first became aware of it.  However, when I started digging a little deeper, taking an interest in their products, I noticed an abundance of similarities between the way I have always run my system, and the way a Triton system is run.

As I said at the outset of this article, this was written for those who like the idea of the Triton Method but don’t want to fully invest, this is your Triton hack.

The Triton Method Hack for Saltwater Aquariums
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