Invertebrate Larval Biologist Ph. D. Rob Toonen’s, definition of what phytoplankton is; “In the simplest terms, phyto means plants, while plankton means tiny particles floating in the ocean – put it together and phytoplankton is simply a fancy word for tiny floating plants (such as diatoms and dinoflagellates).”.
Phytoplankton are the base of the ocean’s food chain and critical to all other forms of ocean life. Phytoplankton are essential in ocean ecosystems, and the home aquarium is no different. Zooplankton, corals, filter eating invertebrates (such as clams and feather dusters, etc) all feed on phytoplankton. Without supplemental feeding, the animals which eat phytoplankton are kept at critically low population levels. Loss of species diversification is one of the reasons home aquariums experience "crashes" from "old tank syndrome".
Phytoplankton are the basis of all marine food chains. They are critical to all ocean ecosystems, and the home aquarium is no different. Zooplankton, corals, filter feeding invertebrates (such as clams, sponges, worms, and feather dusters, etc) all feed on phytoplankton. Without supplemental feeding, these animals are kept at critically low populations. Loss of species diversification is one of the reasons home aquariums experience the “crash” phenomenon.
Phytoplankton feeds zooplankton and corals by providing a natural food source of appropriate particle size. Toonen discusses the suggested probability of SPS and LPS coral ingesting phytoplankton as evidenced by concentrations in their gut which are greater than those concentrations of the phytoplankton in the water column surrounding them. This may be evidence of corals intentionally consuming phytoplankton. A copy of the transcripts of his talk on the subject can be found here.
Corals feed not only on phytoplankton directly but also indirectly by feeding on zooplankton itself, which does largely feed on phytoplankton.
Live phytoplankton is considered the gold standard in all phyto products on the market chiefly because it has no equal. The biggest point in favor of live phyto is how it won't break down into nitrogenous waste the moment it's introduced to your aquarium, unlike frozen or preserved phyto. Live phyto is well........alive; and it continues to do so until it's either eaten or eventually skimmed out. When frozen or preserved phyto products are used (aka "dead phyto") all uneaten dead phyto settles out of suspension and collects in pools of nutrient laden detritus where they continue to breakdown, contributing to nitrate levels.
The second largest point in favor of live phytoplankton is it's nutritional value. Live phyto is as nutritious as it will ever be outside of active culture. This is why it's important to get live phytoplankton from culture to aquarium with as little time in between as possible. Temperature, time and other variables work together to reduce phytoplankton's nutritional value but there are methods for addressing these variables. In general, keeping phytoplankton cold as soon as it's pulled from active culture will extend it's nutritional shelf life significantly.
The most conservative way to feed Mike’s Phyto is to spot feed every 2 days and to store the bottle in the refrigerator with the cap open when not in use. Shake the bottle daily and before opening. This method is recommended for filter feeding corals. (i.e. sea apples, feather dusters, clams, scallops, sponges, sea fans, etc).
Water Column Feeding
TURN OFF SKIMMER
If spot feeding is inconvenient or impractical;
Add 1 mL per 5 gallons of water for Mike’s Phyto – Standard
Add 1 mL per 15 gallons of water for Mike’s Phyto – Premium
Feed every 2 days
Unlike frozen phyto products, it is very difficult to overfeed with live phytoplankton. Mike’s Phyto may turn the water column cloudy but this is temporary and resolves within a few minutes.
Always store Mike’s Phyto in the refrigerator with the cap open and remember to shake daily.
Why store in the refrigerator?
When live phytoplankton is exposed to lower temperatures, metabolic rates decrease and the organisms consume less nutrients; similar to entering a hibernation state. This “stasis” not only keeps the product fresher for longer but also dramatically delays product spoiling.