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FAQs about Marine Water Test Gear, Use 2

Related Articles: Product Review Marineland Labs/Aquarium Systems Hydrometer, Part 1 By Steven Pro, Captive Seawater Quality, Nutrient Control and Export, Seawater Test Kits, Nitrates, NitritesAmmonia, Phosphate

Related FAQs:  Marine Test Gear 1Marine Test Gear 3, FAQs on: Rationale, Selection, Use, Troubleshooting, Testing Methods: Liquid Reagent/Colorimetric, "Paper", Titrametric, Electronic & About Brands/Manufacturers, & pH Measure/Test Gear, Specific Gravity

Some test kits are better (more accurate, precise) than others...

Nitrates in Salt Water Aquarium  - 08/26/06 Have a 100 gallon salt water fish only live rock aquarium. Have had it for six years or so. Never had major die out until recently. Now I have four fish in it--a marine Betta, a yellow tang, a Valentini puffer, and a stingray. All of my readings are great, with the exception of nitrates, which are 200 or above. I have been doing water changes like crazy--- two a week for the past month. I use RO water. They tested my RO water to see if it had nitrates--none. I do have a protein skimmer, but my aquarium guy says its too small for my 100 gallon tank. (Even though I bought it there from someone who knew what size tank I had.) Today I added two bags with nitrate sponge material, but my aquarium guy says he is still stumped as to why I have high nitrates. He recommended I email you. Hope you have a suggestion. Thanks, Gini <<Gini:  At this point, I think you should double check your test kit.  A nitrate level of 200 would be unusual if you are doing regular water changes.  I once was freaked out by nitrate readings with Jungle test strips.  The strips were unreliable.  Best of luck,  Roy>> Test kits and bosses going bad - 11/28/2005 Happy Holidays!  I work for a LFS. My boss is a great guy, very smart and loves his work.  However, he and I have a standing argument. <That's what bosses are for. Remember to let them win sometimes ;)> He refuses to acknowledge that test kits go bad. The tests that we perform on our customers' water is performed with some kits going back to expiring in '97. I have taken chemistry in college. I was taught that reagents go bad. I have a problem with testing my customers water and not being 100 percent confident about the results. <Absolutely. I applaud you for being so responsible> Can anyone settle this argument once and for all? What's the longest a test kit can go? <Certainly. As long as the expiry date on the box :D. If not stored correctly (sealed, cool, dry, dark place), they may not even make it that long -- as an example, some reagents in nitrate tests are photosensitive and exposure to light will denature them over time.> Thanks so much. <Thank you for writing... John>

Inexpensive Ammonia test kit, Nessler's Rgt formula  11/11/05 Hi, Good Fish Folks I have been using your website from India for 6 months now, and it has helped me a lot. I have come across a very simple & inexpensive test for ammonia and I am giving it below for folks like me living in places where regular test kits are hard/ every expensive to obtain.   Ammonia in water can be tested by buying a solution called "Nessler's reagent. It is a cheap reagent and is available at all shops selling laboratory chemicals. The procedure is simple. Take about 5ml or one teaspoon of aquarium water in a glass test-tube; put 3, 4 drops of reagent. Observe for 5 minutes if water remains clear it means no ammonia. If water turns any shade of yellow, ammonia is there. I have link to a website which has a color chart, in case anybody is interested.  A small bottle costs Rs. 80/- only, has no expiry date and can be used for a long time.  I have been using this for last four months and the results are satisfactory.  I am looking for similar tests for nitrite & nitrate. Hope this helps Sandeep R India <Thank you for this. Bob Fenner>

Digital Testing Equipment 9/19/05 We all know how important it is to regularly test the various parameters of your tank. Of course, that usually brings up the hassle of attempting to distinguish between very subtle variations of hue when using conventional chemical test kits. Plus, I like the more precise readings that would be achieved by using digital test equipment. Do you have any particular recommendations for equipment? It would be pretty cool if there was one device that would read salinity, pH, alkalinity, calcium, and nitrates, but I don't think that is possible using the technology that is readily available today. <The technology you want is definitely available, just cost prohibitive.  See www.aquaticecosystems.com for digital instruments, meters, analyzers, etc.  The best compromise for the home hobbyist is probably a colorimeter.  Most colorimeters work with a variety of tests and use specially designed lights and light meters to "see" the color of a test sample.  Hannah or Hach just released such a unit that is targeted toward the public and hobby aquarium market, but it is very expensive, as are the reagents.> So, what units do you recommend for the tasks, and if possible, could you give some feedback as to what priority you would obtain them, and which units might not be worth the cost because they don't provide enough bang for the buck (or they are troublesome to use and keep calibrated)? Feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, or concerns. Mark A. Kaczynski <Because many of these devices are beyond the interest and budgets of most hobbyists, I don't have a lot of specific information, but I can give some general advice.  pH meters are widely available, simple to calibrate and relatively inexpensive.  The high importance of pH and the low cost/high quality of meters and "pens" makes this a no brainer in terms of "bang for your buck".  Similarly, electronic temperature monitors with programmable high and low limit alarms are a good buy.  Pinpoint recently released a calcium meter which was reviewed exhaustively by Randy Holmes-Farley.  It sounds like it is a good device, but is probably most useful to maintenance providers or those with many tanks, however since calcium tests are notoriously time consuming and hard to read it may be worth considering.  If you are keeping corals, there are a few decent PAR meters available at reasonable prices.  These can be a very useful tool when deciding where to place corals.  My last bit of advice is that while all of these gadgets are certainly nice to have and useful... don't be ruled by them!  Many aquarium gadgeteers become obsessed with maintaining perfect numbers on the readouts of their monitors and forget the importance of simply observing the animals!  Best Regards.  AdamC.>

Spot test of Silica and sodium  9/3/05 Do you know of any spot testing kits for sodium and silica in water treatment applications? Best Regards, Allan L. Macaraig Chemical & Environmental Engineer <I would try LaMotte and Hach companies... if they don't list these tests specifically, contact their tech.s via the Net, phone. Bob Fenner>

Salifert Phosphate Test Dry Regent Consistency 8/23/05 Hello WWM Crew, I recently purchased a Salifert Phosphate test kit from my LFS. The dry regent in it does not seem totally dry or at least it seems to clump together a little.  I am wondering if this is what you have experienced? Other dry Salifert regents have been bone dry as in the Ca test.  If your experience has found it to be sugar smooth I am going to take mine back.  I am concerned because my LFS's air conditioner has been out all summer and the store has had it's share of 90 degree days with 70% humidity.  I'm just wondering if the regent has been compromised.  Sorry to ask you guys but the Salifert website doesn't have any contact information. <Peter, the reagent should be free flowing as sugar.  I've used Salifert Phosphate Test Kits and the reagents were dry and not clogged as you say.  James (Salty Dog)> Thanks Peter Williams - Testing the Waters - Hello! I've been reading through the thousands of chat information you have about tank setup and had a few questions. I recently purchased a Glass Tropic Marin Hydrometer and a Instant Ocean Plastic Hydrometer for backup or comparison. After reading more on various web sites I was told that I would need a Refractometer and that the glass and plastic models are inaccurate and vary too much. Is this true? <Not entirely... the Tropic Marine hydrometer you have is a quality instrument and should be reasonably accurate. Most all swing-arm hydrometers are usually accurate, but not well calibrated - that is to say, they will read consistently but they may be off by 0.001 or more.> And if so can the cheaper Portable Refractometers($50.00) be used or is the more expensive full Ocean Tech($100.00) required? <Refractometers all operate the same way... just the build quality of the instrument will suffer.> Just see so many people going back and forth on this that I wasn't sure and figured the master reef keeper would know. <I use my refractometer to calibrate my swing-arm hydrometer.> Also I am debating over the test kit to use and which tests. I've been told to stay away from the Aquarium Systems kits and go with the Salifert ones. The Salifert tests are more but are they that much better or worth the money? <Yes, although the Aquarium Systems tests are decent - I'd avoid the Aquarium Pharmaceuticals and Red Sea tests.> Or do you know of another test kit? <LaMotte or Hach... but these will cost you even more.> I heard SeaChem also to be good but less then Salifert. I don't mind spending the money for a good product. As for which tests, I was thinking: phosphate, nitrate, calcium, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, Alkalinity <At the very least nitrate, pH, calcium, and alkalinity.> I told that after I cycle the tank with my live rock that I wouldn't need the Ammonia or Nitrite tests. Does this sound correct? And do I need a low range nitrate after cycle? <Yes and yes... if you are in the money spending mode, then having all those tests won't hurt you, but it's true that you won't use ammonia or nitrite very often after your tank is cycled.> And finally I was going to use ESV KALKWASSER to replace the calcium and baking soda for a buffer. Do you recommend any other supplements or items I need to add to treat the water? <Sounds good to me.> Thank You for your great advice and web site, J <Cheers, J -- >

When in doubt... check the checker: Test Kit accuracy 3/29/04  Thank you for your reply. I had already bought a test kit replacement of the same variety (Hagen), rechecked my water and was still getting these sky high results, however I have taken your advice and purchased a different type (Tropic-Marin) and guess what - perfect results 8.4.  <ahhh... good to hear. As hoped/expected>  I have contacted Hagen as both of their test kits (new and old) gave the same inaccurate results. I have also spoken to a marine fish specialist retailer and they told me that this manufacturer is renown for inaccurate test kits he said that he had sent all of his stock back to Hagen (UK). So thanks again Anthony I can now sleep soundly once more!!! Dave Squire (England)  <always welcome. With kind regards, Anthony>

TEST CRAZY 3/19/04 Hello,  I am writing from Liverpool and have recently purchased and matured a marine reef tank, I think your site is great although I do lose days reading the advice you give, I wonder if you can help with one of my questions? <Glad to help! Welcome to the hobby!> I am a little confused with all the different tests you advise on your site, I do carry out weekly pH, Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate and salinity level checks, but I am unsure as to whether I need to be testing for calcium and iodine or anything else... <IMO, Salinity, pH, Alkalinity and Calcium are mandatory to test for (Also:  Ammonia, nitrite and nitrate during the cycle).  Other than that I recommend testing for anything that you are adding, and if you can't or don't test for it, don't add it!> As I said I have a 5 month old 44 Gallon Eheim tank and with 20KG of Live rock (cured in tank), 5 fish, 5 shrimp and some corals and feather dusters etc.. <All sounds very good if not a bit crowded.> I have recently found a cleaner shrimp dead it does not look like it had been attacked but I lost one of my two dancing shrimp about a month ago, I still have one dancing shrimp and a fire shrimp and they have both lost legs, I put this down to the introduction of a pistol shrimp last month which I have now exchanged. I have two peppermint shrimp and a new sexy shrimp but they are all healthy. <Pistol shrimp can and will aggressively defend their territories against other shrimp.  Most crustaceans are quite sensitive to acclimation.  Are you performing a slow and careful (dripping works well) acclimation?  They are also very sensitive to salinity and won't thrive in much less than normal sea water salinity (1.025).> After reading some of your FAQ's I am concerned about the test's I need to be carrying out or the additives I need for my reef set-up and whether the pistol shrimp was ever to blame for limb loss and whether it is me at fault. <Iodine additions can stimulate molting, and iodine overdose has been implicated in crustacean death.  The pistol shrimp is certainly a possibility too.> Thanks for the past insight and hope to hear from you soon. English Boy. <I hope this was helpful.  In a nutshell, be mindful of acclimation and proper salinity (always do check the salinity coming from your retailer...  it can often be scary low.)  Best Regards, Adam>

Hach and laziness Bob,     Do they have a website this Hach line? Thanks, Michael <Michael... try your search engines: http://www.hach.com/>

Nitrate testing! Dear WWM Crew!    Thanks for all your help in the past. I was able to cure the ich, but lost fish to a fungal infection... and returned the survivors to the LFS. Anyway, getting to the point: A few weeks ago I complained that my Red Sea Nitrate test kit always read Zero PPM for nitrate -my 72G tank has a wet dry and DSB and has been running for 7 months with  plenty of crabs and shrimp -It had fish for 2 weeks only before they were moved to a QT. Based on your advice I purchased a SeaTest kit. It reads Zero too! I'd believe this number, except for one thing -I could never get the 2nd reagent to dissolve completely! Is that why I'm getting zero PPM even with the low range kit! Narayan <Yes, likely so... Sounds to me like these test kits' reagents are "old"... I would return them to your dealer for replacement. Bob Fenner>

Nessler's Reagent Strikes Again! Greetings!  Want to say thanks again for your web site and all the great information you have there.  <If you loved the planet, the hobby as we do... you would/will do the same>  Here is my problem. I have a 55gal marine setup and up to this past week, I was using bottled water from the store because my tap had unacceptable levels of copper in it (planning to build a mini-reef eventually). Since I was worried about chlorine & chloramines, I was adding Amquel+ by Kordon. Now when I tested my water at home, I was using a test kit by Tetra and I was coming up with 0 nitrites, 0 nitrites and 0 ammonia. When I bring a water sample into my LFS (local fish store.....I'm still learning the abbrev of your site) they always got readings of ammonia between 0.25 and 0.5 ppm even though I tested the water not even an hour earlier and got 0 ammonia. Everything else they tested always came up optimal (0 nitrate, 0 nitrite, SG 1.023, pH 8.3).  Water change after water change, still was getting the same results (my recycle guy must hate me because of all the empty water jugs in the bin). The whole time I was using the Amquel+ on the new water. I took a closer reading of the Amquel+ label and it says that you should not use an ammonia kit based on Nessler reagents. I found out that they are using the test kit Dry-Tab by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals.  Having a minor in Chemistry (it was a while ago though) I have an idea of what a Nessler reagent is. I am wondering if that is what Dry-Tab is using and Tetra is not (neither says anything about what they use on the box). Could this explain why they always get high ammonia readings while I am getting none?  <Yes... the conditioner is rendering the false negative result>  If that is the problem, it will be solved soon because I am now using RO/DI water so I no longer have to lug gallon after gallon home from the store.  <Good move>  My RO/DI water is also testing at less than 5 TDS so I do not see a need to continue the Amquel+ any more....unless you think I should continue to use it.  Thanks again!  - Ray  <I would discontinue its use. Bob Fenner>

Test Strips - Any Good? >Hi and good day, crew. >>Saludos, Bernd.  Marina today. >Has anybody any experience with Test strips from Mardel or other company? Are test strips in general reliable? Thanks, Bernd from Honduras >>I personally have had no experience with these test strips.  However, I would tend to doubt their reliability without at least first confirming with a known quality kit.  I would make several tests upon which to base an average.  I would also try one of the reefing forums, and http://www.wetwebfotos.com/talk and ask around.  Marina

Good Morning From Bernd - His LFS Has Closed! Good morning, crew. I'm the guy from Honduras. My LFS has closed. <I hate when the place you deal with closes...  Feel bad for the store owner.. but worse for my fish.> Now I have only one more store in the whole country that carries marine stuff. <ouch> I was using Instant Ocean salt mix the last 2 years. The other store has only Kent Salt mix and Crystal Sea Marine Mix , which would You prefer? <Personally I have never used anything but instant ocean, but I have know people that are quite happy with their Kent Salt.  But, reading articles online I found more than a few stating that Crystal Sea Marine Mix is one of the best.  Check out this link here: http://reefkeeping.com/issues/2003-03/rs/feature/index.htm  Seems to say that they are quite happy with the Crystal SMM.> From reading Your FAQ site, I know that You like the Instant Ocean, but I can't get that any more. <You should look online and see if you can order Instant Ocean from online vendors and have it shipped directly to your house.> Also, I need new test kits. He has Seachem kits  and FasTest from Aquarium Systems.  Which should I choose? <I recently tried the Seachem kits at a friends home and found it not only very nice, but seems to be quite accurate.  I would vote on that one.> Thanks as always, Bernd <Sorry to hear of your LFS closing.  Hope things work out for your and your fish. -Magnus.>

How Do I Use This Thing?  Float Hydrometer Primer >Hi, I'm setting up a 110g saltwater tank. >>Cool. >I was given a glass Saltwater Hydrometer (by Marine Enterprises), approx 12 inches in height. The problem is: I have no idea how to use it. No instructions were given with it. >>No problem.  They don't come with instructions for the most part.  It's a float hydrometer, and it's really easy to use. >Is there a website with step by step instructions on how to use the meter properly. This meter has what looks like little pellet balls and some type of wax in the bottom of it.   Thanks for your response, America >>Easy-peasy, America, no website needed.  What you will need is something to put some of the water you wish to measure the salinity of into that is TALL enough to let the hydrometer float freely.  My favorite is a device I make myself out of clear plastic tubing (you can get this at the fish shop) that is capped and sealed on one end (needs to be watertight).  About 1" in diameter is fine.  Then, you fill it with the water, drop in the hydrometer, and you want to look at the lines on the really skinny part.  There will be one fat one that's pure water, a salinity or specific gravity of 1.000 - that's pure water.  (Btw, don't measure especially cold or warm water, make sure it's room or tank temperature - between 73F-82F - as this WILL affect the proper measurement).  So, the hydrometer should float so that the lines BELOW this 1.000 mark are what hit the top of the water - this measurement is your specific gravity. It is at this point that I MUST urge you to start buying books, because (and please don't take this as an insult, we all start from a position of no knowledge), if you don't know how to use the simplest hydrometer made, then I fear there is much other invaluable information you don't have as well.  There are MANY excellent beginner books, Bob Fenner's "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist" is one, and you may wish to search for books by Martin Moe, Jr., C.W. Emmens.. aw heck, to http://www.reefs.org/library/reading/  and http://www.reefs.org/library/reading/beginner/beginner.html and search the database for books on saltwater for beginners.  Also, you will find (if you have regular internet access) that the talk forums for our site and reefs.org are EXCELLENT for quick information.  Our sister site is http://www.wetwebfotos.com/talk - know that many of the folks who answer questions here are "on duty" there.  If you do join, let 'em know that Seamaiden/Sea Maiden sent ya.  ;)  All my best, and Happy Holidays.  Marina

Automated testing machines??? Hi Guys, <Hello Paul> I manage a commercial Live Lobster Facility in New Zealand.  The factory has a total of 17 tanks that run independently of each other and as such water quality testing takes a considerable amount of time every day.  I am keen to find out if there is available any automatic testing instruments to test ammonia and nitrite as these two tests are the ones I carry out on a daily basis.  I have searched the internet high and low, with no success, and am beginning to think such instruments don't exist - CAN YOU HELP? <I would contact the folks at Horiba (see them on the Net) re such gear. I have used their instrumentation for assaying copper, DO, ammonia... can be fully automated. Bob Fenner> Regards Paul Olsen Hagen KH test kit... and Xenia Just like to say ahead of time, thanks for helping out!  Ok, here's my problem.  On the WWM website I have read many times that you want to keep the dKH around 8-10.  On my Hagen KH test kit it says that anything above 125 mg/L is too high.  When I convert 125 mg/L to dKH I get 7 dKH.  So, if I was to shoot for 8-10 dKH that would be at least 143.2 mg/L.  So what level am I supposed to aim for? <you want to aim for 8-10 dKH> My calcium is at 450 ppm right now and my KH is 130 mg/L (or 7.28 dKH). This is all assuming I did my calculations correctly, please feel free to double check my math! <Why don't you try a test kit that is not so confusing. Try Salifert or Red Sea pHarm. (the reason I say this is if the test is a pain to use you will more than likely not test as much as you should) Also if the test kit is old it will give you incorrect readings (there should be a date on the package with expiration on it.>   While I have you here, I have a question on a pulsing Xenia I have had my eye on.  There is a pulsing Xenia that I want at a LFS, but the LFS isn't really local!  It's about 1.5 - 2 hours away.  I heard that Xenia don't travel so well.  It's a large rock completely covered with Xenia and I would love to have it, but I don't want to get it home just to find I've killed it in transit.  Any help on how/if I should get it home would be great.  Thanks so much... again, and again, and again!!! <you should have no problem bringing the xenia home. I would say bring your own Rubbermaid (in case they do not have large Styros) or ask the LFS to place it in a  large Styro and with lots of water.2 hours should be no problem. Remember to acclimate them slow once you get home. good luck MikeH> Steve

- Calcium Testing - Crew: I just received my first calcium test, as I am preparing for some coral additions.  The test instructions say to add a certain amount of RO or Distilled water during the test.  Do I really need this kind of water? <If the instructions say so, I would follow them.> I currently use filtered tap water for top-offs and filtered, aerated for salt mix.  What is the need for the pure water? <So that impurities don't throw off the test. You should be able to pick up a gallon of distilled water at the grocery store.> Thanks, Rich

- Procuring Test Kits - Thanks, I did a search on Hach, SeaTest and Sera.  I could only find SeaTest.  SeaTest and could only find a calcium test, I couldn't find a alk test.  However, I did find Salifert calcium and alk test.  Does Salifert have a good rep? <A decent one, yes.><<TMC in the UK... Quality Marine in the US are their distributors. RMF>> So, after I receive my calcium and alk test... we should be able to figure out what needs to be done next with the tank? <Yes.> Thanks <Cheers, J -- >

- Additives and Test Kits - Thanks, Which Calcium and Alkalinity test kits do you recommend. <Hach, SeaTest, and Sera are all worth owning.> Are there any other test kits I should buy? <Hmm... a good nitrate test is always useful. Iodine/dide tests are good too but harder to find... other than that, I think you can skip most if you stick to a regular schedule of water changes.> Daryl <Cheers, J -- >

- Additives and Test Kits, Follow-up - Thanks, <My pleasure.> I'm still sooooo confused... <Oh? Please explain.> I'm thinking of ordering a Red Sea Calcium test (which tests dissolved calcium), and a Red Sea pH/Alkalinity test.  How does that sound? <Uhh... was Red Sea on that list of worthwhile test kits I gave you? I don't think so... I've not used these personally but have heard less than favorable reports from other aquarists. It's worth your time to spend a few extra dollars to get higher quality test kits.> I was thinking of also ordering a magnesium test kit, but can't seem to find one...is one really needed? <Not in my opinion.> Can I get by with just the calcium and alkalinity test kits? <I'd have nitrate, pH, calcium and alkalinity.> Since I will be putting in an order, which additives do you recommend? <I wouldn't 'order' any but wait until the tests come and confirm what you may or may not need.> I currently have Seachem reef complete, Seachem reef calcium, Seachem reef trace, and Seachem reef carbonate.  Will these suffice, or should I order different additives? Thank you sooo much, I wish there was some way to make this a little simpler! <Cheers, J -- >

Question on Testing  Hi!  We are just starting out and our 45gal tank has been cycling with LR for 1 week. How often should we be testing? Once a week? Once a day? I know it is important too test but just don't know how often.<I would just test twice a week, until the aquarium cycles> Thanks,<good luck, IanB>  Grneyes 

Test Kit recommendations 11/1/03 Hello, <howdy> Well, its about time that I buy a test kit. My LFS give free tests to all parameters I want, but I'm just getting tired of driving over there twice a week. Would you buy a LaMotte, Red Sea, Salifert, Seachem  or would you suggest a different manufacturer? I want the master kit that includes all tests. Thanks in advance. Mike <LaMotte would be far and away the best choice. Hach is also a top shelf brand. For a less expensive "best pick" I'd take Seachem. Anthony>

Interpretation Of Iodine Test Results... Howdy. <Hi there- Scott F. here today> Dosing with Lugol's and had been using Salifert I2 test kit that is based on pink color of supernatant. That test never produced detectable iodine so bought new kit. New kit is much different (simpler, better?) and breaks out iodide, iodate, iodine. Instructions say that formation of precipitate with iodide test means concentration is greater than .2ppm. What is not clear to me is whether or not they mean if precipitate forms at 2-minute mark or if it forms at all. At 2 minutes, yellow color matches .04-.06ppm color chip. At 3 minutes, dark ppt forms. Are you familiar with this kit? <I have used it in the past, but I do not have any recent experience with it. You bring up a good point...Not sure if the precipitate forms at the two or three minute mark...I would not assume anything, either.> Does formation of ppt at 3 minutes mean that I need to back off dose? Salifert Web site is under construction and LFS is no help, Thanks, George. <Well, George, what I might try is the "end run" to get hold of someone at Salifert that may have the knowledge of the workings of this kit...I'd talk to the LFS and find out what wholesaler they get the kits from, and-in turn, who supplies the wholesaler (hopefully, Salifert or their domestic sales reps). Yep- it has all the makings of a wild goose chase, but it may help you locate someone at the company who can help. In fact- here's an open call to any WWM reader that might know the answer to this question, as well....Regards, Scott F>

Initial fill, what to test? > Hi crew, <Hello! Ryan with you> I have question about the initial fill on my tank. > I am planning on keeping various SPS and at least one of each T. maxima and T. squamosa. I have heard conflicting opinions on what to do. I have not purchased a RO/DI unit yet and need approx. 110gal water for my tank set up. The easiest thing for me to do would be to just fill the tank up with tap water and let it run for about a week; then mix the salt in the tank. <Tap water acceptable in some aquaria: Reefs are not one of them.  Either invest in a RO/DI unit yourself, or buy the prepared water from a quality LFS.>  (Why is the practice of mixing salt in the tank frowned upon by some?) <The initial mixing of salt in the tank is fine, it's just not safe once livestock is present.> So I guess one of my questions is will that be ok or will I regret it in the future b/c of silicates or some other stuff that will be in the tap water; or does my plan sound fine? <Investing in good water is truly SAVING yourself money.  The better your source water is, the less: Livestock will die, supplements you'll buy, frustration you'll endure.> > After the initial fill I am planning on storing tap water while aerating it b/f using it, its just that I don't have enough storage capacity to do the whole 110gal; so the tank is the only thing I have that big.  <OK...a cheap 20 gallon tank should be plenty of water to have on hand for a weekly water change.>  I have plans to purchase an RO/DI unit in the near future. <So maybe just buy the water until you're there> One last question can you recommend some reliable test kits to use to make sure my tap water is ready for mixing with salt. Like what brand for chloramine, and anything else that would be helpful to test for? <You should test for: Nitrite, Nitrate, pH, Ka, dissolved oxygen, ammonia, salinity, and calcium if you plan on reef-keeping.  As far as quality of kits, I've had decent luck with Seachem.>  Thanks a lot for your help and keep up the great work.- Ryan <I sure will, and you keep working on the new project.  I know it seems overwhelming, but just keep researching and you'll be fine.  Have you found www.reefcentral.com yet?  It's a great resource as well.  Best of luck! Ryan Bowen>

Broken Hydrometer <Hello! Ryan with you today> My hydrometer broke while I was doing a water change. <Ouch!> I think not of the weight balls got in to the aquarium but it is hard to tell. <That's good, weight balls are usually composed of lead.>  The hydrometer had this red liquid (alcohol?) for the thermometer. The place where it broke was in the changing water tank.  That had a really oil like odor after wards.  All my fish appear to be ok. Any recommendations I am not quite sure what to do? <Watch your livestock very carefully for signs of stress, and prepare quarantine containers now.  Run some extra carbon, perform a 10 gallon water change every day for a week.  "Dilution is the key to pollution!"  At the first sign of stress (most likely heavy breathing) quarantine your affected animals.  Best of luck!> My tank is a 175 gal Marine set up with 80 to 90 pounds of life rock and a wet and dry filter Thanks

Test Kit Shopping List... Scott, <Scott here, Captain...> Sorry, forgot to ask two more.  It is now or never (or at least quite a while) for getting stuff mailed to me here. <I see!> 1) Am testing pH, Ca, NO2, NO3, phosphates, alkalinity, specific gravity. Any other tests kits I should be using? <I think that you have a full set of kits to monitor the basic parameters that you need to care for a reef. Sure, you can test for stuff like silicate, strontium, oxygen, etc., but I think you have most of what you need. However, I do recommend a copper test kit. If you are going to treat sick fishes with copper, you must be able to monitor its concentration to avoid a potentially lethal "dose". Add that one to your list!> 2)  Am buffering RO water, but other than that, not using any additives (iodine, Kalk, etc.)  All my levels seems to be good, and steady so far -dKH 8-9, Ca - 450, pH 8.3, spg 1.025. <Sounds great...Just keep monitoring and adjust as needed to keep things consistent> Thanks again. Jim <And thank you for writing, Jim! Regards, Scott F>

- Accurate Alkalinity Test - Hello all- I have a question for whoever has the time. <Sounds like I'm next in line - JasonC here...> Ok, maybe 2 questions. Alk: 7dkh or 10.5 dKH (this is explained in info below) Ca: 300mg/l Ph: 8.4 S.G. 1.025 I have been using the Aquarium Systems Fastest for checking alkalinity. I recently purchased a refill for the reagent bottle and it came with a different style tip on the bottle. I used the tip that came with the new bottle and my alk reading was 10.5dkh. I put the tip from the old bottle on and the reading was 7dkh. The 7dkh is  the normal reading I have been getting with the old tip, (I have been trying to raise alk with ReefBuilder) but now it has me wondering if my past tests have been accurate and my Alk is REALLY 10.5 dKH not 7. I can see that the drops are a bit smaller with the new tip. <That is a bother... certainly drop size would be a factor.> Is there some way I can check the accuracy? 3.5dkh seems like a big margin for error. I imagine you will suggest comparing against another kit. <You got it - a different brand would be best.> But who knows. <You could also ask the folks at the store to test it for you.> As long as we are on the Alk subject, I change a little less than 10% of water every week. I just started using deionized water a few weeks ago and I prep it as follows: (And I do the same with the top off water) aerate plain water for 24hrs, add salt, aerate another 24hrs, add buffer if needed. <I'd do that the other way around - buffer first, then salt.> I use ReefBuilder if Alk is low. Superbuffer if ph and Alk are low.  When I aerate water I use a 600gph pump with a small air pump hooked into the aeration nipple on the output. It moves the water around quite well. I was wondering if the water may not get aerated enough. Should I think about a bigger air pump? <I'm sure this is fine.> In the main tank, it seems like I can not get Alk above 7dkh or Ca above 300ish without adding these supplements all of the time. I add Tech CB in main tank when Ca is low. It seems like the regular water changes should keep things more in line. <Regular water changes aren't necessarily going to boost calcium, but would keep it in stasis. If you have a good number of calcium consuming organisms, then calcium will get used up if you don't supplement it.> I will go through a ton of ReefBuilder and Tech CB if I keep this up. <Not uncommon, is why many people start using calcium reactors.> Ca is always on the low side also. I will dose with Tech CB and Ca will be up around 400mg/l for a few days but then drops down again. <Sounds like you should be dosing calcium on a daily basis and not waiting for the levels to drop.> I know that Ca and Alk should not both be on the high side at the same time. And I also read that the Ca and Alk should be in balance before using Tech Cb. I am assuming that a Ca of 300mg/l and an Alk of 7dkh is in balance (both on the low side) and I am ok with adding the Tech Cb. <Yes.> But it seems like I am adding it quite often and not getting much results. <Again, is par for the course with this type of additive, and potential for consumption of calcium.> I am fine with spending the money as long as I am on the right track. <Consider that calcium reactor.> Am I? <For the most part yes, you're certainly not on the wrong track.> Ph is always around 8.4. It is the only one that is where I want it (or where it should be). Hope all is great for you. :) Many thanks for your help.  Dennis <Cheers, J -- >

- Test kit Recommendations - Yo, Crew... <Good morning, JasonC here...> I am a new marine aquarist with a 37 FOWLR tank.  In your opinion, who makes the best/most reliable water test kits and what tests should I perform with what frequency?  I have read varying opinions and value your thoughts. <Depending on how much money you want to spend... Hach and LaMotte make some of the best kits available to the hobbyist, but they are also the most expensive. Salifert, Sera, and SeaTest are less expensive and quite reliable. In all cases, the reagents used for the tests have a shelf life so make sure you get fresh ingredients and replace them when their expiration date hits. As for a test regimen, while the tank is cycling you should probably test at least once a week and nothing is stopping you from testing every day or every other day - for typical cycle testing you need ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate tests. Once the tank has cycled you should continue to test nitrates every so often, but it is less important. I will admit to not having tested nitrates in months... perhaps I'd better go do that now ;-) If you begin to lean towards more of a reef tank than FOWLR, you should test for nitrates more often in addition to calcium, alkalinity, phosphate, and maybe even iodine. Oh and don't forget a device to test your specific gravity and pH - always good to know what those numbers are.> Thanks for the input! Bob <Cheers, J -- >

- Conductivity & Salinity - Quick question: I have recently acquired a Milwaukee conductivity monitor. I want to use this to monitor the salinity of my tanks, but I cannot find a table for converting conductivity to salinity at a given temperature. I have looked all over the Internet. Any idea where I can find a table or graph? <Well... my only tool available here was the Net, so I used Google to find this: http://www.radiometer-analytical.com/all_resource_centre.asp?code=112&s=go I think you might find the information you need there, but you should also contact Milwaukee Instruments.> Thanks, Steve. <Cheers, J -- >

Water test results >Dear Marina (Lady of the sea? (Marina Maris!!!),      >>Indeed!  Thusly my ubiquitous nick (at least wherever I am on the web -- Seamaiden). >Mostly good news here. I obtained a test kit with a higher range (and less accuracy) and am now receiving an Ammonia reading of 1.0.   Nitrite remains just under 2.0. All other parameters remain the same 78*F, pH 8.2. Nitrate something less than 10. I did anticipate your advice for a water change and swapped out 10 gal. as it was all I had on hand (now I have 40 waiting in the wings).   Thanks for the support.  Rick >>Good to hear you've got a better handle on actual test results, and it seems that you'll just need to sit tight and let the bacteria do their thing.  This is what is supposed to happen, with a final result being zero ammonia and nitrite readings, but possibly high nitrate readings (always controllable with water changes).  Marina

LaMotte Test Kit for Calcium - Colorimetric Titrations - 8/10/03 Hey folks, For the life of me, I can't tell the difference between purple and blue. So, I'm not sure of the reading on the LaMotte Calcium test kit (it's anywhere between 480 and 700!) I wish they would make a test kit with color changes that are easier to differentiate!. Any Advice???   <titrations can be difficult to read for some, but really it's a matter of someone showing you good technique to do them. Most folks are too impatient in deciding the approach to the titration point. It's important to swirl/mix long enough to weather the slight teetering change zone. The diff should be rather pink V. blue here. If you feel frisky... do try Aquarium Systems calcium test kit. I like it much. Less accurate perhaps than LaMotte, but an easier color change> How do I know that the color change is blue? Is it the blue like on the box it came with? <not spot on...> Or is it the first noticeable blue-ish change? <an instantaneous shift in color, rather> I put a plain white sheet of paper behind the test container when making my reading, but still no help. Sometimes it looks blue, but if I tilt it, I can see purple. Thanx.-RY <I wonder if you are making the mistake many of us do and are expecting a change within a second or few of each added drop on the approach? My apologies if you have already, but do read the instructions thoroughly again, and follow to the letter. As you approach the titration point, take more time swirling and mixing. The change is night and day... not the impending blended color. Do hope this helps. Anthony>

-Different readings from different test kits- Hi Crew, <Hello, Kevin here> I am in the process of setting up my first marine tank. I am doing it  humanely. <Hurray!> On the first real cycle of the ammonia it has come down to 0 -.50. Nitrites  at this point are 5. My dilemma is that one test kit (Saltwater Master by  Aquarium Pharmaceuticals) is showing the ammonia at .50. The other kit (Marine  Master Saltwater Test Center by Marine Enterprises) is showing the ammonia  completely cleared. I am new at this and I sometimes feel overwhelmed, so your  insight would be very important. <Aquarium Pharm's marine test kits are very unreliable, I've seen way too many people have false negatives when something bad was going on. I had little luck finding a vendor that sold the other kit, but if reading Marine Enterprise's site is any indicator, this one isn't too reliable either. The cheapest line of kits that I feel confident using on my own aquarium is the Fastest/SeaTest line mfg by Aquarium Systems. Salifert and LaMotte are higher end kits that will work wonderfully as well. I'd suggest testing again on any of these recommended brands. Good luck! -Kevin> Thanks in advance, Tom

- Electronic pH Tester - Hey guys hope all are well, quick question, I am wanting to buy a Milwaukee ph tester for Anthony's Kalk slurry method. <Ok.> Which of the Sharp water proof testers would you guys recommend ph 53 ph 44 etc. <Most are very similar, and should probably depend more on your budget. I use a pH 44.> Have a great day! <You too.> Rocky <Cheers, J -- >

- Test Kit Use - Hi again, <Hello to you, JasonC here...> I also had one more question. I bought the Saltwater Master Test Kit today made by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals. Would you recommend this brand? <Is ok, but sometimes their tests are dual use - freshwater and saltwater, even though they sell the kit for 'saltwater' use.> I normally get my water tested for $1 at my local store but wanted to have something I could use at home. <Wow, what a racket... best to test at home, and then spring for the dollar if you're unsure of the results. If I were you I'd look for another local store that would test your water for free. Many will when you are a regular customer.> All the dry tab or tablet mixes were really expensive and I figured it would be cheaper and more reliable if I had the store check it for me at 1 month (or should it be shorter?) intervals where I can also get tips. <I'd test a little more frequently if this is a new system... perhaps once a week. Once things get settled and you're more familiar with the cause/effect relationships in your system, you can test a little less.> So is this master kit that I bought reliable for testing in between these periods? <Should do fine for now.> I really appreciate your suggestions. Rocko PS: Sorry, I forgot to mention that I bought the liquid version of the tester kit. <No worries. Cheers, J -- >

- Odd Test Results - I've been monitoring pH with FasTest colorimetric kit and was happy that I was getting a very stable 8.2 (now trending close to 8.3 with installation of calcium reactor). However, I borrowed a Sentron Argus pH meter with ISFET (non-glass) probe and got readings very close to neutral. I've got fresh calibration buffer and did two-point calibrations about 50 million times and I still get a pH of 7.0 to 7.1 on the meter for my tank water. Used some good old litmus paper too and it was in agreement with something close to neutral rather than the FasTest result. I am new to this. Is there something special about reef aquarium salt water that renders inaccurate results with instruments not specifically designed for this use? <Nope.> Specific gravity is 1.024 and the water tastes like sea water so there really is salt in it. Given that, I find it hard to believe the neutral readings and figure I should trust the FasTest result. What do you think? <Actually, I'd trust the electronic device more so... I've never been a fan of colorimetric kits, not that I'm color blind but I have an awful time discerning between ten shades of purple, so I prefer and use a digital meter. I'd consider running a water sample down to the local fish store to see if their results are similar. How about the life in the tank? I'd imagine that at a pH of 7.0 you'd have a hard time keeping anything alive... that might tilt your test results in one direction or the other. Cheers, J -- >

KH and dKH I have an Alkalinity test kit that measures in KH <carbonate hardness> and not dKH. (I think its KH, the measurement is in the 100 -120 range) I want to be able to translate that to dKH because that is what most recommendations are given in.<Alkalinity should be around 8-12 dKH> Is there an easy formula for this?<Found this link for you hope it helps http://www.chaoticreefer.com/TestKits/SalifertAlkalinity.htm >  Or can you provide a recommendation on alkalinity level for a reef tank in KH? <8-12dKH is recommended> Thanks.<IanB>

Test Kits Hello, Maybe I have a very stupid question but here I go. I have a Saltwater test kit but now I am cycling a freshwater tank (Aquarium Pharmaceuticals). The ph, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate can be tested using the same drops and colors? Thank you, Rodrigo.<You need to make sure that the directions on the box say it works for freshwater and for saltwater. Found this link that might help you http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_Display.cfm?siteid=6&pCatId=4487 -IanB>

Calcium and KH test kits... Thanks for the quick response. My Alkalinity test kit shows a color chart ,but only 'high', 'low' and 'normal'. <Chuck that kit in the trash, it's of no use to your tank.> According to the color match, I am right in the middle of normal. <And that means what? Unfortunately, "normal" doesn't mean anything. 10 dKH would, as would a reading in alk, so go out and get a decent carbonate hardness kit (Salifert, SeaTest, sera, etc)> Since I first sent the question about my high calcium readings, I tested my source (LFS) salt water. It too tested high, but at the store, it tested 375. <Ah ha! Your kit was likely way off. I'd suggest a Salifert brand calcium kit.> I am in the process of getting a better test kit and a carbonate hardness kit also. Being very new to this, I am quite concerned about the well being of my 'critters'. I will watch Calcium and Alkalinity very close for awhile. <Great! Keep testing. -Kevin> Thanks again, Art Ling

Test Kit Brands Hi Ronni, Thanks again for your input. I would very much appreciate if you could recommend to me ammonia/ammonium, nitrite and nitrate test kits that are easy to use and are accurate to the level that we can be comfortable. BTW: I am currently using the test kits from Sera GmbH. That's all my LFS is carrying at the moment. However, he did mention to me that if I tell him what I want, he'd be able to get it for me. <go to this site....these are the ones that I have started to use http://www.reefsplendor.com/pages/testing/fastest.html good luck, IanB><<These crooks have folded.>> Thanks & Rgds,   KC Somaratne

Salifert Tests Hey WWM crew, <Hi Bill, PF here>     Just a quick question. Are most calcium tests including the Salifert test only testing calcium hardness, which is expressed as  calcium carbonate mg/l. And your test result should actually be multiplied by 0.4 and these numbers are based on a specific gravity 1.025. thanks Bill <In all honesty, you should be asking Salifert that. There chemists would be much more knowledgeable about their test kits than I am. PF>

Test kit types, accuracy Hey there Crew I tested my alkalinity on my 55 gallon reef tank and it was 9. I am using a tetra KH test kit that changes color , so all you have to do is just count the number of drops ( not sure if I explained that well ). This test just seems to easy. Do you have any experience with this test kit . You don't even have to match any color just wait till it changes from one color to another. <The "end point"> Just need to know if it is reliable. Any thought would help. OH ya I have a RedSea calcium test kit and work the same way . Really easy to use . are these test kits good? <Yes, these types of titrametric test kits are by and large more accurate than the more-popular colorimetric/comparison types. Bob Fenner> Thanks Chris  

Where can I get buffers for calibration? I've received an electronic pH tester, but it didn't come with calibration buffer... I need a buffer with pH or 7.01 and then either 4.01 or 10.01 to calibrate it. Where can I buy this (or what can I use?) thank you, Luke <Mmm, I would buy such "standards"... either from/through the industry (try Marine Depot or Custom Aquatic... links on WWM, or through a chemical supply biz on-line. Use your search engine and the term "pH standard solutions". Bob Fenner>

Test Kits Hello everyone. I was recently given some LaMotte test kits, one for Calcium hardness and one for Alkalinity (carbonate hardness). I have not yet used either and before I do I would like to understand if there are any differences from the simpler kits. The Alkalinity kit measures in ppm and does not reference any other quantity that I am used to hearing "KH", what is the appropriate ppm for alkalinity 600ppm?  With my old test kits I simply used the color scale but it did not give any number conversion so I never knew exactly the true alkalinity. Are these test kits good?  Will I need any others to test Alk and Calcium levels? The gift giver is one that believes that if it cost more it most be better!!!  Thanks for your advice.  Mike <Do learn to use these tests, they are far better quality than the inexpensive simple colorimetric tests.  The proper alk levels are 3.5 - 5 meq/L or approx. 10-12 DKH (or KH).  You won't need another kit for calcium or alk other than to replace reagents. You get what you pay for in test kits!  Enjoy!  Craig> Tetra Test Help? Anyone got the directions that go with the TetraTest Laborett kit for NH3/NH4 testing?  I've seen it mentioned.  Mine came with all the others, but not that one.  Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks much, Marty <Sorry Marty- I'm afraid I don't have the Tetra kit, so I can't be of help here...My recommendation is to email Tetra (look for their website on your favorite search engine), or post a query in the WetWebMedia.com Chat Forum- maybe a fellow hobbyist who uses the kit can provide some help! Either way, I'm sure that you'll get the answer in a short time! Regards, Scott F>

- Which Test Kit? - Hello Crew, <Greetings, JasonC here...> I can not tell you what a great resource your site has been. It has been of great help. <Glad to hear it.> I was wondering what test kits you would recommend for calcium. I have been using the Red Sea Calcium Pro but am not to pleased with it. <I've used the Sera test kit with good success...> Thanks for your input. Keep up the excellent work. <Will do.> Mike <Cheers, J -- >

Test kits Morning Bob, <Don here today> Just a quick few questions regarding test kits. I have the Kent test kits for NO2, NO3, PH. I find them very difficult to give me an accurate figure. When you look at the PH chart compared to the test kit color to be honest it could vary between 8.00 to 8.4. Therefore you are never 90% sure what the result is. At least with the Sera CA test kit you know how many drops x 15 to give you a more accurate reading. Are all PH test kits that broad, or is it just the way of the Kent kits?? <Any colorimetric test (which most hobby tests are) are subjective to say the least. I like the Salifert and many give LaMotte high marks. A bit more costly, but if you can get regular readings I think it is worth it. Right after the first of the year I plunked down $90 (US) for a pH meter and have never regretted it. I would highly recommend this device as it give a constant accurate reading at a glance.> Lastly there are so many tests these days to test, are all of the irrelevant. Ammonia, Calcium, Copper, Iron, Nitrate, Nitrite, Oxygen, Phosphate, KH, Ph, Magnesium and many more. Can you advise which ones I should have. Also can you give me the perfect readings for the above tests. <I would recommend testing anything you are purposely adding to the tank (calcium, alkalinity, iodine, etc) In addition (since they are poisonous to the animals) ammonia, nitrite, nitrate. I was having some trouble with hair algae so I was testing phosphate. Really, if you keeping hardy to medium care animals and are doing regular water changes with a decent salt, you don't have to test that much. Perfect readings are going to depend on what time of livestock you have in the tank. Generally, pH 8.1-8.3, calcium 350-450ppm, alkalinity 8-11 dKH ammonia, nitrite, nitrate all 0 for a reef.> Thanks, you guys do a wonderful job. <Thanks, Don> Best Regards Stuart

- Salifert Instructions - HI. <And hello to you, JasonC here...> I've been searching for and can't find instructions for the Salifert dissolved organics tests. I just purchased one and it has 2 vials you use but the instructions always say vial on the right. What about the water in the vial on the left?? It's so confusing.... Any help will be most appreciated. <I'm really not 100% sure, I've never used this test before but... that doesn't mean I don't have an opinion. I think that second vial is either for just color analysis of your sample or it's a duplicate, in case you lose one.> Thanks for your time. Lucinda <Cheers, J -- >

Aqualab test kits at LFS Bob: <Hello> I wanted to tell you a story about these Aqualab test kits and my LFS.   <Okay> I went up there to have my Ca checked (I mentioned this in my earlier letter today - turns out it's about 320 - so I will use Reef Calcium to raise). While waiting in line, I observed them using the dip strips to test a customer's NO2 and NO3 (one strip does both).  He informed the customer that both reading were undetectable to which news the customer reacted with some surprise but was otherwise thrilled.  That seemed odd to me as my impression of this customer was of the "fly-by-night-kill-many-fish-in-the-process-of-learning-then-give-up-all-together" variety.  I waited my turn, then as my Ca was being tested (by a more reliable test kit) I told him to go ahead and test my NO3 as well.  Well, no surprise, it was "unreadable".  Now I happen to KNOW my NO3 is around 40ppm at the moment (tested upon return home to confirm - with 2 different kits - both read 40ppm)  Obviously, his kit was bad, perhaps old, who knows?  My concern is, if it was wrong about the NO3 what if the customer had NO2?! (She purchased a fish upon learning how perfect her tank was by the way, and some poor butterfly went with her.) <Yikes> Now knowing the owner of this LFS, he would resent my input on this as being meddlesome and a "know-it-all" but it genuinely grieves me that these fish have to suffer from such poorly-trained shop owners (who also sells birds and dogs by the way).  I just wish there was some way to teach them better. <You're helping here... and I am not deterred by speaking with other hobbyists... in stores or elsewhere. Bob Fenner> David Ammonia Source for Experiment Dear Crew: As part of a school science fair project about aquariums, my 9 y/o daughter is going to be testing the sensitivity and reliability of Seachem's Ammonia Alert. What would be the best inexpensive, easily obtainable source of quantifiable ammonia to add to the water she'll be testing this product in? Of course, no fish are involved in the test--she'll be using glass containers of just saltwater (1.025) and just fresh water. Thanks, Steve Allen. <I would use simple "cleaning ammonia". that can be serially diluted (it still is a breathing irritant, so please do the dilutions for your daughter), making "stock" solution of a known concentration (look into a Hach or LaMotte... or even a Salifert test kit for ammonia to "check the checker" (the Ammonia Alert tm). Bob Fenner>

Refractometer 2/28/03 I recently purchased a refractometer designed for salinity measurement.  After calibration, I noticed that it was way off from what I thought I had in my tank.  Using a plastic SG meter, I measured 1.024; with the refractometer, it was 1.029.  I keep the plastic device clean and free of build-up, particularly on the pointer.   <very good... and for all of the daily FAQ readers: it is a necessary habit to give your plastic/glass hydrometer a rinse with distilled or deionized water after every use to prevent mineral build-ups that will skew readings in time> With another, brand new plastic meter (from another company), I also get 1.024.  I read up on refractometry, especially regarding its use in determining the SG of urine.   <I hope there isn't a seawater v. urine analogy coming <G>> In that context, I read that the accuracy can be affected by protein.   <dammit... ;) > Reasoning that even with a good skimmer there is dissolved protein in the tank water, I thought that this might account for the discrepancy.   <ahhh...no> After all, a display tank will have more dissolved in it than just sodium chloride.   <the amount of proteins/incidentals in urine is... ahhh... very different from habitable seawater. (Although I have seen some aquariums in my travels that were so neglected that it looked like the fish were swimming in piss). Refractometers are used everyday in seawater by science and aquarists alike in the tens of thousands of unit numbers. The problem with your refractometer is either simply that it is a defective unit... or, more likely, that it is a hobby grade unit or a handheld unit. Handhelds are slightly effected (more so) by temperature than table tops (although the difference would not be so great to explain the .005 dif you noticed). Furthermore... those $50-100 hobby models are dubious if not junk too often. For that kind of money, you could get 2 or 3 top shelf glass hydrometers that are much more accurate and never need calibrated.> I would be curious about your experiences with refractometry to determine SG/salinity. thanks tom <if you do have a lab grade or table top refractometer, then I am honestly at a loss to explain the discrepancy short of defect. Refractometers are nifty toys... but really not necessary. Use your plastic hydrometer for convenience and safety (no matter how many times I call them junk <G>) and have a decent $20-50  professional glass hydrometer on hand to spot check the plastics periodically with. Best regards, Anthony> Tank cycling and testing Hello Bob and crew! <Howdy Eric, Don with you today> Hope everyone is doing fine.   <Well since you asked, it is -2F out today and that is kinda ugly. Other than that I am not too bad for a 47 year old fat man!> I have a question concerning some odd test results during the beginning of cycling my new tank.  I have had some excellent input in the chat rooms, but wanted to get the opinion of the pros, especially since some of the advice is conflicting a bit. I have a 75 Gallon tank for which I added 100 lbs of live rock 8 days ago. Originally, based on smell and looks, I'd say it was about 80-90% cured. 1/2 the pieces 100%.  BTW- Most pieces are very large. 13-19 Lbs.  I'm using all Salifert testing kits.  I tested on day 2,4, and 6 for ammonia, NO2, and NO3.  The odd thing is (to me anyway), I had about 1ppm for NO2, 25 ppm for NO3, and 0 for ammonia, on all three days, with the exception of NO2 falling down about 1 notch to .5 by day 6 (hard to tell though, as the color testing method is a little tough to read, as I'm sure you're all well aware)  No ammonia, but NO2 and NO3?? hmmm.  Well after a while I suspected that as good as Salifert is, maybe it's a bad batch.  I took the test kit to my LFS on day 7, and I, and the person there, both tested on what he knew to be a high ammonia tank.  He with his kit, and I with mine.  He came up with 2, I with .25 (once again, colors on the low end of the scale are hard to read, but my best guess is .25).  He felt I should stick with what my Salifert test kit says, as it is better than what he has to use.  I bought an Aquarium Pharm. ammonia kit, went home and tested, and (I'll say it again, colors are tough to judge), I came up with .25.  All other things look fine.  Temp, PH, salinity, and etc. My questions are: - Is it possible that my Salifert kit was bad?  It certainly looks like it to me.  Or at least weak anyway (reading too low), in detecting ammonia. - Is it worth "popping the tank with a little food, and if so how much?  I was warned by my LFS guy to be careful, as it may trash the tank if I add too much, and cause me to re-mix (He could be wrong though). - Is it possible to have had ammonia in the tank, but not enough for a good cycle to build enough beneficial bacteria?  The spike of NO2 level on my tank, seems kind of low compared to other cycling levels I've read about <Well, you did say the rock was partially cured? Could there be enough base bacteria etc to cause these readings? I don't know if I would conclude the test kit is bad. Do you have a local lab/school that might be able to do a more sophisticated test for you? I don't believe it is necessary to add food at this time. You state that the cycle is 8 days in and cycling can take from 4-6 weeks or more so you have a ways to go> My take on this: - The Salifert ammonia test kit I received is not up to par (bad batch). <Hmm, I'm not ready to make that conclusion yet> - It's not worth trying to pop the tank.  If I had/have  nitrites and nitrates, then I MUST have had ammonia at some point. <Agreed, but maybe being turned over fast enough that it is not showing up on the test> - Even if my Ammonia, NO2, and NO3 levels were somewhat low overall, it's fine.  As long as I start with one small, hardy fish, after cycling completes, the beneficial bacteria should build up over time, and if the single fish is hardy, he should be fine. <Again, wait for the cycle to complete. Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate at 0. Then start with the fish. Make sure the fish you start with is one that fits with your overall plan for the tank> Any input you can give me would be appreciated a lot.  I'm not really 100% sure where to go with this.  On the plus side, my tank looks awesome right now and I am very happy about that! <Congrats! Hang in there, have patience (your best friend now) and you will continue to be successful> Thank you. <My Pleasure, Don> Eric N.

Re: Tank cycling and testing Thanks Don! <My pleasure, Eric> Where do you live that it's so cold? Not San Diego I'm guessing ;-)   I used to live in the NE, <Yep, that's the place!> but I'm glad it's where it's warmer now (South Carolina).  A quick update and 1 quick follow-up question if I may. update: Things are starting to look a little more normal after I tested again yesterday.  I'm pretty sure that NO2 has dropped slightly, from .2 to maybe .1, or at least .15.  Hard to say at that color range, but I don't think I can quite call it .2 anymore.  NO3 has jumped up to almost 25, from 5 the last time around.  Ammonia still 0.  Alk is at 13dh.  PH still 8.0.  BTW- I brought water samples to my LFS (well, not so local, 100 miles way, but it's worth it), and his numbers seemed to jive with mine, more less. <Good to hear, all sounds normal. Yes, the colorimetric tests can be difficult to read. I have found that with the Salifert tests I can 'see' the colors a little better in sunlight or at least natural light> Question: I see little white flecks swirling all around my tank.  Not enough to make it cloudy, but enough to notice with the PC lights on.  My LFS guy seems to think they are air bubbles, but not once have I seen my powerheads or return pump spit a burst of bubble out.  .  My overflow certainly kicks up plenty of bubbles/air, but I don't see any making it to the return pump (of course I don't have the advantage of PC to see down there!)  I do have 3 baffles in my sump, between my overflow and return pump.  I do have fine oolite sand, but I really don't see any of it being stirred up considerably.   The LR still looks like it has a little of the sand dust on some of the fine algae pieces/hair hanging off of it, but I've "turkey basted" them to death, and it doesn't seem to be removing any more of it. I think whatever dust is on it, is not going to blow off easy, which is why I don't think the rock is causing these white flecks.  Sorry for being so long-winded, I just wanted to give as many details as possible.   <all good> Do you think this is just the bacteria, or part of the cycling process in any way, and if so, should I notice it go away completely after the tank cycles?  If not part of the cycling process, what do you think it might be, and what would you suggest to get rid of it? <Hmmm, little white flecks could be a number of things, but I have never seen bubbles that look like white flecks? If you can get a small magnifying lens or even a low power microscope, you should be able to tell if these are debris, mineral (like precipitate) or even some kind of little critters. Until identified, hard to respond.> Thanks again! Eric N

- Calcium & Alkalinity Tests - Hi Crew, <Greetings, JasonC here...> I have a question (or a few) I have had my reef tank set up for about 5 months. There has not been to much coralline algae growing in the tank. I purchased a Red Sea calcium and alkalinity test kits. Are these good kits?? <I'm not sure... I've never used them.> For the life of me I cannot determine alkalinity with this kit. It only has low, normal, and high on the side also has mill/eq. <Millilitre Equivalents [mill/eq] should be sufficient to get a reading... multiply the number you get by 2.8 and that should give you the dKH reading.> I tested my calcium with the same brand kit and it was 350. alk was somewhere between normal and high. I've added some Kent dKH buffer and over the last few days I've noticed small patches of darker purple coralline all over the glass. I am not sure when I should stop adding this Kent dKH buffer. I have been adding daily for the last four days. <What do the instructions say?> Can I assume that because coralline is appearing that the water conditions are starting to get better???? <I wouldn't jump to that conclusion myself... the conditions may have been right all along.> I also have a bottle of Kent liquid calcium can I add this to increase calcium levels or should I not. I was told by my LFS that I would be better throwing it in the trash that putting it in my tank. <I would agree... you're best bet for supplementing calcium are the two-part systems, like ESV B-Ionic.> Please excuse my ignorance I need help. <Here's your chance to educate yourself - read this article: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/calcalkmar.htm > Oh ya one more question. My Red Sea calcium test kit reads calcium in increments of 50. Directions say for every drop of reagent this counts as 50. I added 3  plus 4. which would be 7x50=350. if this only measures on increments of 50. Will it give the same reading if calcium is 310 apposed to 345. <That's a question for Red Sea... in the mean while, consider the Sera test kits as they have a much finer granularity.> thanks ??????? I need serious help. Should I stop adding these supplements? I am afraid that if I add to much and alkalinity gets to high my tank will have a snow storm. <Your numbers aren't that high, but I would for certain read that article so that you will have a better understanding of what's going on here and the relationship between calcium and alkalinity.> Thanks so much for all your help. Chris     I had to write this quick sorry for the mess <Cheers, J -- >

- Test Kit Questions - <Greetings, JasonC here...> Thanks for your help so far with my first foray into freshwater fish keeping. My setup is coming along nicely, but I am not happy with my water testing kit. <Oh?> I'm using a kit recommended by the LFS (TetraTest Laborett, the only one they had), that asks me to compare the color of the water, after adding reagents, to the colors on a printed card. <This is pretty standard, even some of the highly-regarded kits are managed in a very similar way.> There must be a better way, or at least a kit with smaller increments to help read the results with greater precision. <Well, if you are independently wealthy, there are chemical analysis computers that can do all the tests from a vial of water - pretty much a hand-held spectrum analyzer, but they are quite costly - about $2,000.> Can you recommend a good, accurate kit? <Well - a good and quick way to determine what if anything is off is by asking your store to do a test on some sample water for you, and then compare their results to yours. If you're really looking for other options, perhaps a Sera or LaMotte kit will give you more satisfactory results.> --Charlie <Cheers, J -- >

LaMotte or Hach test kits Are there any brands of test kit that are particularly reliable? <most hobby test kits are weakly reliable at best. Although I personally like most of Aquarium systems line. None can compare to Hach or LaMotte brand though. Well worth the investment.> I have been using Aquarium Pharmaceuticals and Red Sea brands purchased at Petco. Both are testing negative for nitrites. The AP brand ammonia is very hard to interpret due to the subtlety of the color changes, but it seemed t be zero to me. Then I tested with the RS one and got 0.25! I then tested fresh RO Seawater (made with red sea salt) and also got 0.25. Needless to say, I no longer trust either test. <agreed> Any recommendations? Thanks, Steve Allen <best regards, my friend. As per above. Anthony>

- Odd pH Fluctuation - Hi Jason. <Good morning.> I don't know if you remember me, but I wrote you last week about my pH being a reverse of what is should be. <I do remember.> Low in the day, high at night. <Right.> I figured out my problem! <Oh good.> I have 2 250W MH and 4 65W PC (2 Actinics 2 10K daylight).  Every time I turn on the 2 PC daylight bulbs, my pH monitor drops from 8.4 to 7.99 instantly.  Every time.  Then when I turn it off it raises to 8.4 just as quick.  Amazing. <Perhaps not so amazing, but glad you found it... on the same day I replied to you last, I was walking the dogs with Bob and said, "You recall that guy who is having pH problems... I wonder if it is a problem similar to when you run the vacuum cleaner and it dims the lights... in other words, the power supply is sensitive to fluctuation. Sounds like that's what it is.> only happens with the PC daylight bulbs.  Everything is on the same circuit too. Weird. <Again, not really weird when you think about it for a while... but did have us both looking in the wrong direction.> Just thought you would like to know. <Much appreciated.> Brad <Cheers, J -- >

- Investing in a Digital pH Meter - Hi WetWebMedia, <Hi, JasonC here...> I recently started a small marine aquarium business.  Because I have a number of different systems, I often go through a test kit rather quickly.  I've been thinking about the digital testers which are supposedly highly accurate, the only disadvantage is that their an investment. <Well, any piece of equipment that helps you do your job more effectively would be an investment, but the $60-70 you would spend on a handheld meter would be a rather small one, but quite invaluable in the long run.> I really need something quick, accurate, and reliable.  If you could recommend a couple to me I would greatly appreciate it. <I use the Milwaukee Instruments Smart Meter.> Thanks and keep up the good work! -Alicia 5th Day Aquatics <Cheers, J -- > - Re: Digital pH Meters - Do you recommend any specific digital pH testers? <I thought that I had put that information in my previous response. I've used the Milwaukee Instruments Smart pH Meter with good success... do believe it is a pH44. Cheers, J -- >

Ph Meter Calibration Questions Hello, oh wise ones.  Have a question, have not used my American Marine pH monitor in awhile and can't find info from the manufacture. I searched the site and did not find. How do you calibrate?  I have new standard solutions #7 and #10.  Any help, as always is greatly appreciated.  Thanks Brian <Brian- contact the manufacturer directly at: loudell@bestweb.net>

Plastic vs. glass hydrometer Anthony, Again, I can't tell thank you enough for you advice.   <truly a pleasure> I thought I'd share with you some news today.  You mentioned in my original question that there must be a simple answer...I think you're correct.  On a whim, I took a sample of tank water to work with me (I'm a veterinarian), and checked the salinity.  My refractometer read 1.017!! I couldn't believe it.  My hydrometer at home is telling me 1.024.   <heehee... piece of crap plastic hydrometers... I don't know why they even make them. Don't get me wrong... the cheap glass hydrometers can be equally inaccurate... but they don't stray. They are consistent and can be trusted after a single comparison to a reference point like a refractometer for those that cannot afford one. Plastic hydrometers can be corrupted in so many ways- junk.> I was so dumbstruck, I checked it twice more on separate refractometer.  One read 1.016 one read 1.017. >Please tell me this is the likely cause of my problems.   <hard to say... but very stressful indeed. And the difference in success between species was the difference in tolerances perhaps> If this is it...I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry.  I have closed off my top off, and assume that it is best to allow natural evaporation to gradually return the salinity back to normal. <its not that scary low that you need to add salt. I'll agree> Jeff <best regards, Anthony>

Does His Water Has More Calcium Than A Quart of Milk? Hello All, <Hi there. Scott F. here!> I'm here again with another learning project. <All part of the fun!> I'm wondering if you could help direct me in interpreting my SeaTest Calcium test kit results. I just bought this kit today and promptly tested my water, carefully following the directions. According to the test (I ran it twice to be sure) I'm running  at 1080 mg/1 Ca. <Gosh- I certainly hope not...! LOL> The test kit itself says it only tests 0 to 500 mg. So if your familiar with this kit, when you get to reagent 3 you add drops and swirl on each drop until the test water turns pure blue. <Right..> My test water started to change at drop 62 and became pure blue at drop 72, you now multiply 72 *15 =1080. <Hmm...something is definitely amiss here! A dumb question, but are you sure that you rinsed the measuring tube in tank water before commencing the test? Did you fill Reagent #1 to the mark shown on the dropper in the kit? Another possibility-Did you get all of the contents of the granular reagent out when you performed step 3? Just some thoughts.> If I understand all this, I'm very high on my Ca. Is this a bad thing? <Well, excessively high calcium could be a big problem, but you'd probably notice a "snowstorm" in the tank, as there is only so much calcium that can stay in solution. Unless you have been adding a ton of calcium supplements in a (no nice way to put it) reckless manner, or your source water contains extremely high amounts of calcium to begin with, I'd say that the problem lies with the testing procedure, expired reagents, etc. Maybe you should take a sample to a dependable LFS for a calcium test to see if they get the same result. At least this will eliminate the possibility of ultra-high calcium levels if the test results in a "normal" reading. Also, you may want to contact Aquarium Systems regarding the problem you are having. They may offer a recommendation for correction, or some other remedy for this problem> Tank is a 55g started November 16th 2002. Removed crushed coral substrate 1 week & 2 days ago and replaced with 4" DSB. (My wife suggested out that the new sand bed is probably the cause of the high Ca here). Could she be right AGAIN? :-) <Well- "high" is a relative term. There is "high" (like 400-450 mg/l), and then there is HIGH (1080 mg/l)! Deep sand beds certainly help maintain high calcium levels, among other benefits-but the level that you are recording is really unusual...Try the suggestions that I made...hopefully, you'll get things straightened out!> Thanks in advance for the help. Dave <Thanks for stopping by, Dave- and Good Luck! Regards, Scott F>

Calcium Tests-Shaken Not Stirred??? Kind Sirs, < No "sir" needed! Scott F. here today!> I have a question regarding the Calcium test kit by Aquarium Systems. Guess to be quite honest do I blame the test kit or the tester??? <It's a good hobbyist test kit, IMO. Certainly not as accurate as a LaMotte or a Salifert, but I like it myself> I thought I read that on the site, that although it's not one of the best, it is an inexpensive test kit to help monitor calcium levels. <Yep> It happened to be carried by my LFS. But testing for the past week (first time calcium tester) I haven't been able to get a reading below the 500 limit. The test never changes over to its "true blue" color. If I may go through the process. Step 1 small vile of tank water, seems easy enough, taken from the top of the tank to prevent hands from entering the tank. Reagent 1 to line indicated, again thought I could handle it, do shake reagent before filling dropper to mark line. Reagent 2, dated March 04, figure still good. Swirl to mix. Should this be stirred??? <Nope- just swirled> Then adding drops of reagent 3. Directions indicate swirl after each drop? <I'd swirl after each drop> Usually  swirl after adding 5,problem??? <This might be> Also should this be stirred??? <nope- I wouldn't stir> A brief supplementation history: Tank 30 gal, about 20 lbs of live rock, upon recommendations of LPS, when purchasing last few lbs of rock, Bought and used Kent calcium, Kent Strontium and Kent Essential Elements. Up until that point I never supplemented anything to the tank. (4 years). Found your site, learned about the ion problem of calcium chloride, strontium supplementation is not really required but still use the Essential Elements to add iodide to the tank (for cleaner shrimp), <I think that you'd do better to just make frequent (2x weekly) small water changes. If you are going to use additives, you need to test for them> Added calcium, a capful every 4 days up until 2 weeks ago (for about 1 month total), I was going to finish the bottle, figured with water changes and only using calcium chloride about 3 to 4 months I wouldn't have an ion problem. (But I learned that I should test before supplementing so I stopped adding until I can get the test kit figured out.) <Great move on your part- you will not regret doing it this way> PH always test around 8.4, no variation between day and night, figure it's the new (closed) house situation that I read about. And alk is always around 3.4 meq. I think it's on the low side, <Actually, that's a good reading, IMO> only buffer added is Red Sea Buffer  that came with the test kit, added to Water change water (not to tank) after instant ocean salt added and aerated overnight. <Good technique, aerating the water before use, particularly if you're using R/O> Not sure if any other tank condition would affect the test. Water changes are 4 gal every two weeks. Also, does SeaChem Calcium have a shelf life? <Yes it does- I'd consult them for specifics (see the link to them on our site> LPS has a few small bottles, (it mostly carries Kent products), and from the dust covering looks like it's been there awhile. Figured I'd switch to SeaChem after using up the Kent Calcium. The only calcium requirements I have for my tank at the moment is for Coralline algae growth. <Seachem calcium is Calcium gluconate, and this stuff will grow coralline like crazy, if used correctly. I'd use Seachem's test kit if using this product, by the way> Coralline consists of  some purple and green growth (little) some bleaching but leaned that's from improper dosing. Think it's form lack of, not excessive. <Lots of reasons for coralline declines> The only other calcium test kit available from LPS would be Red Sea. Would it be worth purchasing and testing or should I look to purchase test kits online? I'd stick with the Sea Test for now, and switch to the Seachem if using their calcium product. (would like to avoid if possible-tank spending monitored to easily) Temp is a steady 78 degrees and salinity is 1.021. <Sounds fine> Thanks for your help, DaveK <Well, Dave- sounds like you're on the right track...Just keep thinking about making your hobby as simple as possible. Unless you have very specific reasons, I'd avoid using lots of different additives. Remember, the adage that we both touched on "don't add something to the water unless you are going to test for it". In many cases (there are, of course, exceptions), simply executing regular water changes can provide all of the trace element replenishment that you will need to maintain a healthy system. If you keep things simple, you'll enjoy your hobby so much more, and will really be successful in the long run! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Test Kits Hello, I had asked a question about probably water toxin problem.  Well the bad news is that I lost the yellow tang and several green Chromis.  The good news is that the Maroon Clown , Wrasse, and the yellow tail damsel are looking better.  I still do not know what happened.  I did 5 gallon water changes daily and I think things are better. The mushrooms and the polyps still do not look good.  I am wondering if my test kits are not very good.  What is a good quality test kit? Thanks Tracy <I'm very sorry to hear of the losses, my friend. But I am reassured to hear of your wonder and sleuthing intuition. It is true that most hobbyist test kits are mediocre at best. Too many are shamelessly inaccurate or unreliable. For a top shelf choice... go for Hach or LaMotte. For a cheap hobbyist kit, I like most of the Aquarium Systems line. They cannot compare though. Best regards, Anthony>

Re: New tank not cycling? I hate to keep bugging you, but I have some more questions.  I removed what looked like an uneaten piece of shrimp on Thursday before  your last email response.  Couldn't quite tell what it was anymore.  I did not feed Thursday evening or yesterday.  I added 20 lbs of live sand on Thursday night.  All the store had were 20 lb. bags. <Bags? Real live sand does not come in bags... real live sand has many worms, crustaceans, other invertebrate infauna... but what a few businesses sell as such will work here... bacterially> Tested the water this morning and the ammonia has since risen between .5 and 1.0 ppm and the nitrites are up to about 4 ppm (tested twice).  Should I do anything?  Water change or something? <Yes... hopefully for the last time... Please read where I've been sending you (www.WetWebMedia.com) re cycling... do change water (with pre-mixed) if your ammonia or nitrite approach 1.0 ppm> By the way, I'm sure you know, you were right about the test kit.  I was using quick and easy test strips for my freshwater tanks.  I tested Distilled water, tap water and water from the bigger freshwater aquarium.  The test strips indicated 0.25 for the ammonia on all three. When I tested with my Red Sea test kit, all three were zero and also with zero nitrites.  So much for quick and easy.  Once again, any help or suggestions would be appreciated.  Thanks! <How would I know what you already are familiar with? If you have "general" questions (whether you're aware of their implications, leads to other areas)? Please avail yourself of the articles and FAQs on marine aquarium husbandry on WWM. Bob Fenner>

pH probe calibration hope you guys are having a merry Xmas.  one small question.  I have 2 electronic ph meters reading .25 different.  is there a homemade solution or method to calibrate these? the 4.0-7.0-12.0 solution packets that they came with, but used them up a while back. I can't seem to find where to get more, but figures there was an easier way? thanks for the help. Neil <There are "stock solutions" one can make at home from "household" materials... but... I would purchase new standards (you can find them using your computer's search engines with the term: pH standards.) And, if it were me, mine, and the two were still a quarter point different, I would send them into a lab for testing there. Bob Fenner>

- Bad Test Kit? - Hello gentleman. <Hello, JasonC here...> I have a question for you regarding a possible bad ph kit (or my naivety). I'm setting up a new 125 gal. I added dead aragonite (4") and water (all proper treated by time)  last week. After letting the tank circulate for a day I did an alk and ph test. The initial results were a ph of 7.5 and alk of 12 dKH. The ph seemed a little low and alk was toward upper end. To the point, I added some ph buffer as directed. The next day I took ph and alk tests and the results were; ph 7.5 (no change) and alk had risen to above 15. I didn't do anything at that point and waited until today and re-tested. The results are the same as before, 7.5 ph but the alk actually went up a point!! I'm wondering if this is a result of a bad ph test kit. All my kits are Salifert which I thought were one of the better brands. <They are quite fine... and the reagents typically have an expiration date on them so that should be your first indicator on the validity of this test kit.> (I know a different kit to test the test but I'm still sort of getting over the initial investment here.) <I understand.> Would it be advised to use Kalk as buffer for large water change to buffer ph up and hopefully keep alk same or better yet lower? <Kalkwasser will not buffer the alkalinity but could increase the pH - you could also try plain-ole' Arm & Hammer baking soda... this works quite well and is hard to overdose.> Lastly will a high alk level affect LR (assuming I can get ph level up)? <No... but do try to keep it within a normal tolerance.> Was hoping to do quickie cure/scrub to help cycle new tank. <A fine plan.> Thanks for your help. I don't know where your seemingly infinite patience comes from. Maybe years of reefing now that I think of it. <Perhaps.> Brad Comegys <Cheers, J -- >

Salifert ammonia tests Hi Guys,     All of my test kits are Salifert, but my question concerns the Ammonia kit.  I've posted this question on the board, but got no response so I'll try here. My ammonia kit at this time comes up with cloudy water without the yellow tinge which would seem to me to indicate NH4.  While I was cycling my tank, the test was cloudy, but with a definite yellow hue.  Is it normal for this test water to be cloudy with a zero reading, or am I not doing it right.  This is my second kit in six months so I think it is fresh.  My NO2 and NO3 values are each 0.00.  Just hard for me to believe that there is always ammonia in the tank, but I never see any nitrite or nitrate no matter when I test.  I test pretty often, several times a week, as I have a small tank. Thanks a lot, Mike <Hi Mike, I don't use the Salifert test, but this is similar to the other ammonia tests on the market using this method. Your nitrite test would also be a good guide, no nitrite, unlikely there is ammonia.  I would prefer a clear result that is easier to compare but the Nessler and salicylate tests are all we have! Hope this helps!  Craig>

Test Kit I would like to know your opinion on Seachem's calcium test kit , I can get it at a good price at LFS. I know you guys normally recommend Salifert brands but it is a lot more expensive. Should I pay the extra money for Salifert or will the Seachem's kit be fine? Thanx for help. <It's really a matter of preference. I have used both with good results. I find Salifert's kit to be a bit more consistent, but it can be a bit trickier to use than Seachem's. Both are excellent companies that make some very fine products. I don't think that you'd do too badly with either one. Good luck!  Regards, Scott F>

Friends don't let Friends use Dip Test Strips Wow, nice to hear from you so soon! I'm using "Aqua Lab I" test strips. <Ughhh... I think I'm feeling queasy! When I joked before about a Wardley kit being the most dubiously accurate kit I could think of, it never crossed my mind that ethical retailers still sold test strips! No joking here... I wouldn't take dip strips for free. And Mardel is in fact a quite reputable company with many fine products. I simply have no admiration for this one> They measure both Ph and Alk by dipping the pad and looking at the color. <Oh, ya... I'm quite aware of them... I think they must be high profit or really cheap to produce. I cannot fathom any other reason why they would be marketed to test aquariums with valuable livestock in them> And to tell you the truth, this am, the Ph was a bit lighter in color which indicates lower Ph at about 7.4! <Ahhh... let me suggest that you definitely use a second test kit to compare with the one you currently use. The top shelf would be a LaMotte or Hach. Expensive but worth it for the investment you have in your tank. Very reliable too. Else, its hit or miss on the mid-priced hobby kits. I'm comfortable with Aquarium Systems brand for this and most dry reagent kits otherwise.> I will use the Kalk at night and the Sodium bicarb at day. <as directed by your test kit readings> Now, should I buy another test device for my Ph/Alk? <does a bear bring a reader's digest in to the woods?!?> Thank you for being there! Pam <in Pittsburgh? OK. :) Thank you, dear. Anthony>

Reading Water Test Results I have received excellent feed back many of the WWM crew and am planning several changes to improve the quality of our 29G tank. <Hopefully, I can help today! Scott F. here this morning> I have the following questions about reading/interpreting the water test results (I didn't find this info in any of the FAQ's): Q1: is it normal for the results not exactly match the color card? <Normal, but not desirable. Unfortunately, quality control, age/type of reagents used, and lots of other factors can affect color development in hobbyist-grade test kits. Also, in my experience, most liquid reagent test kits tend to be a bit less accurate than dry reagent kits after some period of time> Q2: if the test results are "between" two of the color chips on the card should I (a) interpolate (b) round-up to the next highest reading? <Well, If it were me, I'd take the conservative approach and take the reading that is less attractive! Example- I'd go with the lower pH, higher nitrate reading, lower dissolved oxygen reading, etc. Pessimistic, perhaps-but better to be safe than sorry if interpolation of results becomes necessary, IMO> >Q3: my Wardley (Hagen?) Ammonia test kit has instructions for mathematically adjusting the results based on temperature and pH.  The test requires twenty minutes and I would assume that the 5ml of water is at room temp at that point.  What temp should I use for the computation (a) room temp (b) tank temp (c) it's all relative because any ammonia is bad? <Good question. Yes- all ammonia is bad! However, I'd consult the manufacturer to see what temp to adjust for. Certainly, at the start of the test, tank temp is the factor. But after the sample sits for a while- room temp is the correct one...Maybe you can try to keep the test vial suspended in the tank in some way (in an enclosed container like a specimen holder, etc. to avoid possible disasters if the sample spills) in order to keep a steady tank temp as your reference?> Q4: hitchhiker question.  I was looking at a turbo snail that I recently purchased and discovered "something" attached to its shell.  I only saw this because the light was just right.  It is very small perhaps less than a mm in length.  It appeared to be hairs spread out in a plane - sort of a fan arrangement.  It was twisting back and forth - much faster than the water current around it.  It frequently "retracts" for one or two seconds and then reappears and I am assuming this is some sort of feeding behaviour.  Any Ideas? <Could be anything from a small anemone to a coral polyp- or lots of stuff in between! You may have to "break out the books" for a proper ID! Anthony has a great photo and caption in his "Book of Coral Propagation" describing how xenia can attach to even a sleeping snail...really funny- and entirely common, actually!> I cannot share enough compliments on the support all of you provide.  Many thanks for helping us sort through the industry's chicanery. Rex Merrill <Well, Rez, it's certainly our pleasure to help assist however we can. We're all learning new stuff every day! That's why this hobby is so addictive! Good luck! Regards,  Scott F.>

Warm Enough? Thank You, Scott. I will lower their temp. Should I keep it around 78? <I think 78 degrees is perfect!> If I have a pretty stable system how often should I be checking AM, Nitrites, PH, etc.... It is a 60 gal and we do at least a 5 gal water change weekly, but I usually only test water maybe once a month. Should I be doing this more? Thanks in advance!!! Freckleface <Well- I'm fairly conservative...I like to do once a week checks, but many successful hobbyists perform checks bi weekly with good results. As I always tell people- don't get crazy about trying to hit an exact nitrate reading, etc. Instead, look for how well your tank is doing- spot trends, note changes in formerly stable parameters. You can learn so much by following these trends! Have fun, and continued success! Regards, Scott!>

The HHH and Testing, Gear Fever Wow!  That was fast!  I can't tell you how pleased I was to see a response so quickly!  What you say makes sense and I think I am going about things the right way so far.  Currently, I plan on volunteering my services (small as they may be) at the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth.  They seem to be going through some difficult times (financially) right now and I am hoping they'll be happy for any help they can get! <Many public aquariums are on the skids or close right now... some were very poorly planned as being able to pay for their construction, ongoing costs... But their strength is their volunteer staffs...> I spent the better part of last night surfing through your website and although it may seem a bit presumptuous, I feel like I almost know you now. I think what you do with your website is great, and I respect how you do it: very approachable, with class, and with a bit of humor <Indeed, you do know us then> OK, before I become too long winded (I know, I know...too late) I didn't see any place on your site about how to inspect older aquarium equipment and tanks.  I have an old glass tank (90G) that has been sitting around in a garage through the winters and I was wondering if it would leak after all the drastic temperature changes here in the frigid wasteland I currently call home!  Also, I have what I think is an old wet/dry trickle filter underneath and I'm not sure if I should try and use that or if I need to worry about replacing all the media/hoses, etc. I would think I probably should but if I don't have to I won't seeing as I am living on paupers wages!  So If I do have to clean or replace anything...any insight on what to use to as a cleaning agent?? <Do give all a scrub (some salt with a clean/new sponge, no soap, detergent natch), and place on a level, planar surface (stand you intend to use is best) with a clean sheet or two of newspaper underneath (to show small leaks) and fill carefully.... If hoses, fasteners don't look too bad, I'd try them as well> Thanks again Mr. Fenner! Have a great run! <Thank you... a Baby Huey twister trail as usual... just shy of masochistic... up and down hills, across an overhead river, scratched through the brush... glad to be back. Bob Fenner/Dogfish> Craig Carlino

Testing, Gear Fever LOL!  I would have to agree with you on that! I'm looking forward to seeing the schedule posted on the website! On another note, after reading some of the posts on water testing I noticed you mentioned that the best route was to use digital meters if you can afford them.  Is there any particular brand/model you see fit for the serious hobbyist? <Mmm, more has to do with actual maintenance of these tools... their careful calibration, storage. I like the "Milwaukee" line on the low-price end, and the Hach on the mid... there are some "high end" ones...> Am I living in a dream world or is there a product out there that will measure all of the following: PH, Salinity, Ammonia, Carbonate hardness, Nitrite, Nitrate? <... reminds me of the line in the "Terminator" movie: Ahnold, "... Plasma rifle with the Laser scope...". "Hey pal, just what you see". Other than pH, you can currently get a mass spectrophotometer (my choice? a Perkin-Elmer)... Do you have this sort of cash? Perhaps you'd like to adopt a fifty year old pet-fish type of guy?>   In the end I am not against spending a fair amount of money for the ease of use digital would provide. <Oh, that's more like it. Hard to justify at this point.> Nice chatting with you.... Craig C <Bob F>

Testing, Gear Fever HAHAHA!  Makes you wonder sometimes why we run doesn't it!!? <The beer? To socialize? The trail and exercise? Maybe the first two> Thanks for the info Bob! BTW:  Any idea when you may tentatively make it to the Bay area?  I used to live over in Monterey and I'd just love an excuse to get back out there for a weekend! <Maybe in a few months... the SeaBAY club is looking for Antoine and I to give pitches. Bob F> Craig C

Testing, Gear Fever Sorry, I think if I brought a 50 yr old pet-fish guy home the result would be immediate eviction of myself and said party by the better half.  (they tend to be picky about those sorts of things, don't they?)  LOL! <Ha!> Seriously though I was almost hesitant to ask that question for the obvious reasons.... I don't have the kind of cash needed for a mass spectrophotometer I suspect. However, I suppose I could buy a few different digital meters as I go.  I was mostly wondering what, if any digital meters were worth the cost.  It seems like the digital mode would take away the annoyance of waiting for colors to develop, trying to match said colors, and the expense of test strips in the long run.... <I understand... but hasten to add the small hand-helds do have their requisite shortcomings as well... re-calibration, maintaining standards, fragility... Colorimetric assays are fine for most all hobbyists, settings. Bob Fenner> Thanks again! Craig C

Testing, Gear Fever Yeah, I suppose that makes sense.  I guess I just like the gadget factor! In the long run I'd probably be happier saving the money for another tank, filter, etc. <Yes> Take care Bob and thanks for the input! <Welcome. Bob F> Craig C

Water Chemistry I have a 125g tank with 185 pounds of live rock. I was just wondering about the levels in my tank. Temp is 82, PH 8.3, Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 5, Phosphate 0, Iron 0, GH >200, KH 190, Calcium >600, Salinity 1.020. Should I worry about any of these levels and how should they be adjusted if necessary? <I would worry about the accuracy or your calcium test kit.  600ppm is practically impossible to reach.  Check out kits by Aquarium Systems, or Hach.  Also, your Alkalinity is a little low.  Check out the article below for more information on Calcium and Alkalinity.  Best Regards,  Gage http://www.wetwebmedia.com/Anthony%20pics/understanding_calcium_and_alk.htm> Thanks, Ian Roff

Test Kits Hello again. I have a couple of questions but some info on the tank itself. 55 gallon tank, wet/dry filter, protein skimmer, 10 gallon sump. I have 3 in crushed coral for substrate 3 large coral skeletons and some small pieces I got from Grand Cayman about 3 years ago while on vacation. They were washed up on the beach not taken from the sea! I boiled them and some shells before they were put in the tank and a piece of Tufa rock the tank cycled in 45 days with two damsels. Since the tank has cycled we have now 1 3in porcupine puffer, the 2 damsels, a yellow tang, six turbo snails.  All addition were done 2 weeks apart... now the problem. I purchased a fastest kit, heard this is a good kit. Well I did a test with it 2 days after my first water change the results were ammonia 0.2 nitrite 0 nitrate 10 which is as low as the kit reads but the color was lighter than the 10 so I'm guessing around 5ppm. ph was 7.8.  Salinity 1.022.  I took a sample to my LFS to compare readings there results were ammonia 0 nitrite 0 nitrate 5.0 ph was 8.2 salinity1.021. <I like these results better, I might try to raise the salinity a touch.> Using a saltwater master liquid test kit, mine is granular, theirs is liquid, could this be the reason? I followed the kit directions to the letter, whose am I to believe? If mine, I heard you can you use baking soda to raise ph is this true and how would you do it. My puffer is so cool I would hate to loose him he already eats out of our hand.  He's like a dog fish in the tank, all vibrant and healthy looking ,behaving normal. Sorry for long email, just want to try to provide you enough info to help. P.S. Great job you guys do there. It is appreciated by us all. <Thanks, helping makes me feel good about all my other bad habits. Ha.  In this situation I would find a third test, maybe take a sample to another LFS.  Baking Soda will raise PH, but is not considered a safe way to do it.  Anthony is working on an article regarding calcium and Alkalinity which mentions the baking soda method. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/Anthony%20pics/understanding_calcium_and_alk.htm "Baking Soda: The common culinary ingredient, sodium bicarbonate, is an often used and abused method of increasing the pH/alkalinity of an aquarium system. Unsupported, however, it is only temporarily effective and it is easily misapplied (spiking and stressing the system). Although it is the single largest component in commercial "sea buffers", it is not recommended for casual aquarists as a sole supplement when the safer and more effective options outlined above are available. " If your PH is low I would find the cause of the problem before dumping a bunch of baking soda in my tank.  Possibly the source water.  Get your water tested for a third time and let us know how it turns out, then we will go from there.  Best Regards, Gage>

Pinpoint ORP monitor Hello Mr. Fenner, I hope you are having a great day <we hope you are well too, my friend> Just wanted to ask you a couple of questions regarding the ORP monitor I recently purchased. I have a 80 gallon tank with a 20 gallon sump, with about 800 gph circulating through it, plus a skimmer connected to a Sanders 25mg Ozonizer. I have not used the ozonizer for about a week, and the Redox levels keep getting ridiculously high.  <hmm... very surprising without the use of ozone... are you sure the readings are correct? 10X water flow that you have is not exactly dynamic to support such high Redox> I have a couple of eels a passer angel and a Coney grouper (both fish small).  <my goodness... with the predators/messy feeders I now seriously doubt that you can naturally get Redox over 400mv without ozone. Do check accuracy> Since I bought the monitor, the levels have gone from about 500 to 1080! Which is were it currently is registering. I know something is wrong, as the fish seem as healthy as ever, and if those numbers were true I'd be better off trying to keep fish in liquid bleach. <exactly... the unit is clearly miscalibrated. Over 400mv is very unlikely> I 've noticed that the monitor has a calibrating knob, but I have no idea how to obtain an exact reference to properly calibrate the monitor. I have not found any ORP calibrating solution at the all the e-tailers I shop at, so I was wondering if you can shed some light.  <it is tough to get fresh solution for calibrating a Redox controller. Try the manufacturer or a scientific supply house. Also, know that most probes are only good for 6-12 months. Rarely up to 2 years old> I know American Marine say there monitors are already calibrated, but I know this cannot be the case with mine. I appreciate any help you can provide me with. Thanks, Harold Chamberlain <if this unit is new then allow American Marine to address the problem They cannot deny that the unit is faulted with readings like that. Best regards, Anthony>  

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