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FAQs about Marine Water Test Gear, Use 3

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

Here's a picture of my favorite little Nemo in my 90 gallon tank. John Ferris  

Hanna alk checker; actually, all test gear        2/11/16
Hello again.
recently found my LFS using their Hagen test kit for alk was way off.
they said ~6 dKH and I kept getting 11-12. Big difference! They later said their reagents were "bad".
Your site in a 2007 note mentions Pinpoint and Martini testers. ( I am color-deficient so test kits requiring good shade differentiation are hard for me).
What are your thoughts on reliability/accuracy of the Hanna checkers?
<They're generally good; however; important to "check the checkers" every now and then; hence "standard/ized" solutions like Jules' AccuraSea seawater; for testing. Bob Fenner>

Crazy Chemistry       11/6/15
I'm trying to rectify some water chemistry issues in my reef tank. I was using api test kits while I research the best option for a higher end test kit.
<? See.... that is, just read on WWM Re.... Hach, LaMotte are better brands/makers that are readily available (on the Net); Sera is about the best mainstream from LFS>

The temperature is 80 degrees F, 1.025 salinity, my alkalinity is 7.5 dKH, 8.0 ph, 0 ammonia or nitrite and under 15 ppm nitrate. I have used a single source of salt for my tank that was purchased thru a lfs. I don't use any additives, I swear, read on please. The issue arises with the apparently obscene levels of calcium, 600ppm.
<.... what is your source water?>

I brought a sample for testing at a lfs because I had feared I had miscalculated the results. The lfs used a red sea test kit and exclaimed that he had never seen such a high number of 630ppm of calcium and 1800 for magnesium. His advice is immediate water changes with a new salt mixture. My question is if I should proceed with a new salt mixture?
<Yes I would>

Also there is no noticeable malcontent in the various coral species, are they just habituated to these abnormally high levels?
Would these high results also indicate that my corals are somehow not able to make appropriate use of the calcium that does exist?
<To a smaller extent>
What factor inhibits calcium consumption?
<Too many to list.... again; what is it w/ folks NOT using the site? See the search tool? On every 14k plus pages>
Also the lfs suggested there might be other chemical ingredients in play because there is a "maximum level of saturation".
<Ah yes>
Is there any specific commercial chemical typically used in salt mixtures to alter calcium and magnesium levels?
<Some agents that interfere w/ cheap colorimetric assays; yes... How much of this do you really want to know? I'd simply drain about half the water and make up a better brand to replace>
If yes how do I either test for it or remove it?
<Can be done... for instance, for borates... but I would just skip to the new salt mix>
There is no discernible issue with the corals currently but this issue obviously needs to be addressed. Interestingly there is no calcium precipitate that is observed. Although the lfs also indicated there were measurable amounts of phosphate.
<..... ALL chemo-photosynthetic life requires measurable HPO4, NO3.... N, P, K>
Could phosphate presence drive the other parameters askew?
<Mmm; no>
I use Chemi-pure, Purigen, and poly filter,
<All good products; chemical filtrants>
staggered. I will continue to investigate but your opinion is the one I rely on, no potential sales involved, you understand. I'll be preparing a new batch of ro/di water with red sea pro salt mixture and allowing it to age while I await your response.
<Good.... again, see WWM re salt mixes. Bob Fenner>

Water Test Kits.     10/21/14
Just a quick question please. Are API test kits of decent quality?
<Medium junk... made by other folks. Cheapies... really neither accurate nor precise. But about right for the mass majority of US consumers>
Someone on a forum (an experienced breeder of marine and freshwater) said they aren't. He recommended a make called 'Saliferts',
<Yes; much better. Umm; in the qualities mentioned above>
which is a brand I have not heard of before. What brand of test kit would you recommend?
<Hahhhhaaahhhhhaaaaaaaa.. Posted over and over on the site>
Thank you.
Kind regards,

salt water pond... test gear, reading  12/2/10
I have a salt water Koi pond and for years have used a salt water test kit that has now been discontinued. I have tried every web site to locate something I can use as a replacement test kit with no luck. I really have no idea what to use to continue testing the pond for the correct level of salt.
<A "decent" refractometer. See here: http://wetwebmedia.com/spgmeas.htm
If you could tell me what to buy or use it would be greatly appreciated.
Also, what is the correlation of phosphate to salt concentration?
<Not necessarily any... there are some salts (combinations of metals and non-metals) that include "salts of phosphorus" as the metal... But soluble Phosphorus as Phosphate is generally not an ingredient in manufactured/commercial synthetic salt mix products. Read here:
and the linked files above>
Thank you in advance for your help.
Sandy Cerrato
<A good idea for you to become familiar w/ WWM's search tool and indices.
Bob Fenner>

high readings, SW... testing  -- 04/07/09
Hey gang,
<W and T>
You've been a big help with the plumbing....now for the water. HA!
So my new 220 plus two 50 gallon tanks feed through a 75 gallon sump.
I had to rush putting the LR and fish from the old system into the tank last month as I was leaving for vacation. All my old fish have lived and seem to be doing nicely. I have since added a couple damsels and they are doing well too.
I had a calcium carbonate precipitation event after a week or so. Never knew anything about that until 3 hours later on the internet!! This was all last month. I have yet to do any water changes since my bio load is very tiny...been adding LR in several batches.
Here are the current readings with API tests:
FOWLR Tank with Berlin style sump
Salinity/SG 1.026 {trying to get it down with just top off water}
PH 8.2 today {has been low since the set up...around 8.0}
Nitrites 0
Nitrates 5ppm {at the highest}
Phosphates 0.5 {that is what my water source has too}
<Mmm, I'd look into practical methods of reducing... keep under 0.2 ppm>
Calcium tested around 350 mg/l
KH is about 235 ppm
Alkalinity {Marine Aquarium test kit} over 16 mEq/l then gave up...never went red on the test kit...just yellow????
<Mmm, time for another test kit>
what is going on? {bad test kit?}
<Oh! Sorry, more than a bit asleep still. Yes>
I did use a different salt mix when the tank was set up. It was a bulk box of Instant Ocean bags. I read that some salts could elevated the Alk/Calcium
<This is so>
thanks for input.
Wes and Tracy
<Be chatting, Bob Fenner> 

Re: I love the changes to the site! JamesZ and BobF chatting, use of logs   4/12/07 Bob. <James> I am glad to read you are well. Have you done much diving of late? <Oh, yes... am out in Hawai'i presently> If so where have you gone? <The last few months... Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, South Carolina...> Regrettably, I think I have to stick with snorkeling for some time to come as I am still having ear problems. <Yikes... a good idea to visit doc's in this field for help here> Yes (small but frequent water changes), slow and steady wins the race. Who knows how much garbage snuck into the system for how long before the membrane actually went on the RO?!? <Mmm, there are some inexpensive in-line monitors (mostly measure "current" passage) that will warn of pending failure of components... Look on the net re... some are visual alarms (lights on or blinking... what we have) some are auditory...> The next time I notice faster than normal water output I will be far more proactive! Lol. I should send some pictures of the fish. Unfortunately, I take pictures very infrequently. A periodic photo-journal would give a pictorial account to go with the normal log book. <A good idea for sure> It would also be a very visual cue to some important water parameters and tank conditions and what the effects of these are over time.    James <BobF>

Marine Test Kit Readings Off The Chart! -- 01/29/07 My husband and I just bought a Red Sea marine testing kit for our salt water tank. <<I am not a fan of colorimetric test kits.  Many hobbyists have trouble matching up colors on the charts used with these kits...and many of the kits are just wildly inaccurate bunk in my opinion.  Much better to use titration method test kits of quality manufacture (Seachem, Salifert, etc.)>> When he tested the pH and alkalinity they were both off the charts. <<This may well be so...but I would confirm this reading with another brand of test kit>> The kit tells you what to do if these two items are too low but doesn't say anything on how to correct them if they are too HIGH. <<Partial water changes with properly prepared artificial seawater are a safe and effective method>> All the other levels in the tank seem fine, other than the ammonia which is at .25ppms. <<Mmm...has this tank been correctly/completely cycled?>> This kit has been helpful but does not help us at all with trying to fix the problem before something more happens, like our sea creatures dying. <<Do validate these kits, but in the meantime the partial water change can't hurt>> We would appreciate any help anyone can give us ASAP. Thanks, Sarah <<I sense you and your husband are new to the marine hobby...I'm happy to help out/answer your questions Sarah, but please do avail yourself of the plentitude of information on our site and elsewhere.  Please spend some time reading/learning at the following links and beyond.  Regards, EricR http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_2/cav2i5/Filtration/Filtration.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/martstkitfaqs.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ammoniamarart.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/maintenance/marineMaint.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water4maruse.htm  >>

Test Kits 1/23/07 I have an Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Salt Water test kit. Where do I find expiration dates. <More than likely you won't.  Personally, I pitch reagents that are a year old.> Tank has been testing  0 Nitrates since Sept. when it was set up.  Salt Water shop said nitrates are off the charts. Lots of hair algae!!!!! I'm  a beginner !    I have tried testing 2 other times. Nitrates are high but not with my original kit-still 0 <Unlikely, but your dealer may be measuring total nitrogen which would read high.  Make sure you are doing the testing procedure correctly also.  Most nitrate kits require 10-15 minutes wait time for the color to develop.  As for hair algae control, read here and linked files above. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nutrientcontrol.htm  James (Salty Dog)>

Re: Test Kits 1/24/07 Thanks for your input. <You're welcome.> Tests have definitely been done correctly. Tried other liquid nitrate test as well as strips and still 80-100. <Mmmm, time to seriously consider an efficient protein skimmer, and insure your stocking level is not high along with practicing nutrient control. James (Salty Dog(>

Re:  Test Kits 1/25/07 I have a protein skimmer and it's working. This may be the easy way out but if 3 nitrate tests show high and Aquarium Pharma. shows 0 --I'm thinking this is a bad kit! <I'm not fond of their test kits.> I have a 55 gal. with Yellow Tang, Blue Hippo Tang, Sailfin Tang, Scooter and Lawnmower blenny, 1 cleaner shrimp, peppermint, about 10 turbo snails and Hawaiian featherduster. 45 lbs. of live rock and lots of coralline. Isn't it possible the long hair algae is nitrate fed? <Certainly, algae thrives on phosphorous and nitrogen.  Your problem is overstocking.  That 55 is much too small for three tangs.  These three tangs can grow quite large and are heavy waste producers if properly fed.  Tangs also require pristine water quality, and having three in your 55 isn't helping matters any.  You may be in for disease problems down the road.  James (Salty Dog)> Lighting interference with pocket pH tester   1/12/06 Belated Happy New Year! <Thanks> I thought I would pass on an experience I have had recently that cost me dearly. I bought a Milwaukee pH tester, waterproof, very nice. Next I bought a new Jebo pc fixture with 2 65W half 10000K and half actinic lamps. This fixture has an external ballast which is very nice, lighter in weight and easier to hang above the tank. Now for the bad part. When I used my new tester on my tanks, I have 2, it read perfectly, 8.2 to 8.3 on each tank. Before I checked my pH levels again I bought the new light and was using it. On my smaller tank the pH was still 8.2 to 8.3 but my big tank was 6.9!! I panicked and got some buffer and started trying to get the pH up. Nothing was working. I don't know how much I finally ended up adding but I couldn't get the pH above 7.3. Hindsight being 20/20, I realize how big a mistake I made and won't repeat it. But I didn't find out what was the problem until I tried  to show a friend the way the pH tester worked and had it in a cup of water and turned on. It was reading 7.2 in the cup but when I brought the cup up to the top of the tank to test the water there the reading dropped to 5.4! I moved the cup with the tester in it back and forth a few times and watched the reading go up and down. Finally I turned the Jebo light off and the reading stayed put. And it tested the same as the test kit showed. I never thought about a light fixture interfering with a tester. <Mmm... RF... electronics...> Unfortunately I didn't learn until after I burned up most everything in my tank with high pH, 8.8 was the highest it tested. And of course then I started doing water changes and everything I could think of to bring it back down. It seemed to take forever to stabilize. I lost all of my 'pods, some snails, my serpent star, and cleaner shrimp which had gotten so big. I was heart broken for I don't know how long. The good news is that after what has seemed like forever my tank is back healthy. Even my 'pods are back and I have baby Nassarius snails too. They look really cute in there. I am still dealing with algae problems like a newly cycled tank but it's getting better. I am telling all of this to hopefully keep someone else from having a similar disaster. Agnes <Mmm, Please do consider writing Jebo re this interference issue... Could be very important to their business... especially when the folks at UL catch up with this part of the trade again. Bob Fenner>

Supplying the refractometer  - 09/14/06 Dear Sir/Madam, we are manufacture and export all kinds of optical instrument, such as refractometer, microscope, photoelectric colorimeter, telescope, gem tools, etc.. Please go to see our URL, www.newera-optical.com. Should you require further information on our products or services, please send email us. We will make prompt reply. <Will post your URL, offering. Bob Fenner> Best wishes, Norna WU Hunan New Era Industrial Trade Imp. And Exp.Co., Ltd. 417 Bayi Road, Changsha, Hunan, China Tel: 86-731-2252760 Fax: 86-731-2250570 E-mail: james_dai@hneco.com URL: www.newera-optical.com msn:nornaruyi_wu@hotmail.com

High ORP Levels  - 09/07/06 Hi Guys, <Hello Scott> I'm worried about my high ORP levels.  Here is a breakdown of my multi-tank system: 375 liter main tank, 220l frag tank, 300l refugium w/ DSB & Chaeto (reverse daylight photoperiod) & 90l sump.  Lighting consists of 150W 10,000K DE MH's and T5's.  Circulation is moderate to strong provided by SEIO & Tunze Stream Pumps.  Other equipment consists of a Skimmer (AquaC EV-240), Calcium Reactor, Kalkwasser Reactor & Chiller.  Livestock are mainly SPS's & Clams with some fish.  The tank has been running for only 10 months but was an upgrade form a smaller system.  Here are my tank parameters:             pH        -           8.23 to 8.33             Temp    -           26-27 Deg C             Alk       -           9dKH             Ca        -           380 The tank's inhabitants are doing well.  I've recently been dosing ozone with a 300mg/h ozone generator hooked up to an air dryer & controller.  The ozone is pumped through my skimmer in the sump.  I continuously run 800ml carbon split into 4 mesh bags running along the whole length of my first sump baffle which is just after my skimmer compartment.  I normally change 1/4 of the carbon every week when I do my weekly 60 liter water changes. When I first got my equipment to dose ozone I wanted to target a level of about 375 to start off with and then take things from there.  I monitored my ozone for over a month before trying to dose and found that at times my levels would peak at 375.  So I figured that with my levels being what they were I should rather target around 425.  I rigged up the ozone and adjusted the controller to switch off the ozone generator at 430.  My ORP levels did hit the 430 mark about 3 weeks ago.  Just to be safe I unplugged the ozone generator.  The problem is that since then my ORP levels have been rising steadily.  This morning I found my ozone peaked at 456 before lights on. The only time I find my ORP levels drop, other than the usual slight drop during the day, is when I do a water change but it comes back to it's original levels and then some in just over 2 days. I'm starting to get pretty worried.  I hope you guys can point me in the right direction. <Scott, I think the first thing I would do is clean the probe, then check the ORP.  If still high, try recalibrating the unit.  Be sure the probe is not placed near air bubbles and powerheads.  The inductive field near powerheads may affect the reading.  James (Salty Dog)> Thanks <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> Scott Which would you choose? Electronic test gear   9/1/06 Hello to everyone at WetWebMedia.com,    <And to you Aaron>   I can't stress how helpful this site is in both setting up and maintaining an aquarium, and want to say thanks for everyone's effort.   <Welcome>      I would have to say that I am fairly new to the whole saltwater reef situation, about 9 months in to my little 24 gallon tank and hooked pretty good, gotta have a bigger tank.  I have two Croceas that are growing very well and open nicely.  The one that I have had for about 5 months now has packed on about 3/4 inch of new shell, is that good? <Oh yes>   I have run into almost every single common problem known to this hobby.  Right now I am in a losing battle with stupid CYANO (I think it's actually kind of interesting stuff) <Is> , but I will win in the end.      The situation that I am in right now is kind of interesting, but first a little background.  I decided to try to figure how to be lazy when it came to doing those annoying colorimetric drip tests and super inaccurate hydrometers.  I decided to purchase an American Marine PinPoint Salinity Monitor.  I found out that my hydrometer read 1.024 but the salinity monitor read 1.031 equivalent in mS after calibration. <Mmm... this is way too "off" a difference...>   To help the environment and my already hemorrhaging wallet, I decided to get the AC adapter instead of using batteries.  There was a major problem, the reading was fluctuating by .7 mS. <!>   I worked with the president of the company for about four months, I became his problem solver.  I found out what the problem was and solved it, the ac adapter had to be regulated to 9 volts. <Oh! Yes> Learned a lot about circuits and transformers in the process.  I also get to beta test their new nitrate monitor when they get it, can't wait.    <Very good>   This is where my question comes into play.  I already have a pH monitor and a Salinity monitor.  Until I got the pH monitor I didn't realize how big of a pH swing there could be between night and day. <Some systems much more than others...> As my reward for solving this problem I am able to get anyone of the American Marine monitors or controllers.  I don't know which one to choose, and was hoping you might be willing to help.  If you had your choice which one would you choose, not including the pH monitor or the salinity monitor?  would you want a pH controller, a ReDox controller, calcium monitor?  You get the idea.  Their website is http://www.americanmarineusa.com/ and their product is top notch.    <Mmmm... for most cases, folks the calcium would be best... Myself, I'd get/use the Redox... if I had, intended to use Ozone, other means of adjusting such... or was really "into" monitoring water quality for other purposes (e.g. aquaculture)>   I have another question for you but this is long enough as it is.  A small glimpse:  Mass crustacean death in my tank.      This doesn't need to be posted in the question of the day because this isn't particularly useful to anyone else, I wouldn't think. <You are far from correct here. Your experiences, their relating are of high interest and use to others>      I thank you for any help you can shine down on my situation.  I do apologize for how long this message is.  Keep up the awesome work.  Conscientious Marine Aquarist and Reef Invertebrates are both highly informative.      Aaron <Thank you. Bob Fenner>

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>> Re: Nitrates in Salt Water Aquarium  - 09/01/06 They were using strips. I just bought a two bottle test kit. Same results (Even after a day of running the nitrate sponge.) Any other ideas? Thanks, Gini <<Gini:  Based on my experience, if you are using RO water that has no nitrates and you are doing frequent water changes, I don't know how your nitrates could consistently be so high (which is why I thought you might have a faulty test kit).  Can you take a sample of your water to a local fish store for yet another test?  One of the most reliable test kits is made by Salifert.  If you have a sump, you can grow some Chaetomorpha algae to help with Nitrates.  For me, it drops nitrates better than a protein skimmer.  Best of luck,  Roy>>

Anemone System/Calcium Levels/Faulty Test Kits - 08/14/06 Hello There; <<Howdy!>>    We are looking into converting our 92 gallon FOWLR tank to a more invertebrate type tank, specifically bubble tip anemones. <<Mmm, indeed creatures best kept in a "species specific" system>> We've been researching lighting, compatibility, feeding, and water quality. <<Excellent...have you been through our articles/FAQs?   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/inverts/cnidaria/anthozoa/bubbletipanemones.htm >> Our LFS gave us a Nutrafin calcium tester as well as magnesium tester so we can start tweaking our levels as we learn more about what we should know to adequately care for these guys. <<Hmm...balanced and excellent water quality is a must, but I think you should concentrate more at this stage on ammonia/nitrite/nitrate and getting/keeping all at "zero"...the calcium and magnesium will balance/be supplemented adequately through frequent water changes.  An "anemone" system will not have need for high levels/usage of these>> We happen to have beautiful coralline growth on all of our live rocks as well as what I assume to be "mini" bright-orange tube worms, so we imagined our calcium levels wouldn't be too bad. <<Are likely fine, yes>> Well, to our surprise, our calcium levels were well over 700, we stopped at 760 as to not waste our newly purchased test kit. <<I seriously doubt this is correct...I would try a better test kit (Salifert, Seachem) and see what you find>> My question is; is too much calcium bad for the anemones, and also just out of curiosity how do you think we've managed to have such an overwhelming calcium level to begin with?  Any information you can give us is greatly appreciated. <<An elevated calcium level shouldn't bother the anemone, but I honestly think your test kit is in error.  Try one of the brands I suggested and retest...likely the reading will be/is much lower...I would also obtain a kit to test your alkalinity to validate the calcium reading as these two components are mutually exclusive (please read here for better understanding: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/calcalkmar.htm)>> -Thanks <<Happy to assist.  Regards, EricR>>

Aquarium Systems Test Kits...Going Out Of Business??    8/7/06 To all, <Chris> Hope all is well at WetWebMedia. <Is OK.> I have 3 quick questions. I have a master test kit from Aquarium Systems, it is a FasTesT, and I also have a FasTesT alkalinity test. I have been through a few different companies, and these tests seem to me to be accurate, repeatable, and easy to use. <Yes, a reliable kit for the money.> I'm having trouble finding them online, and in my phone call to one major supplier, they told me that these were no longer going to be available as the company is going out of business. <The supplier or Aquarium Systems.  Very unlikely the latter will go out of business.> 1)  Do you know if this is true? <I'd say no unless Mr. Fenner heard something in the wind.> <<Still in business, though sold... still being made as far as I'm aware. RMF>> 2)  Do you know if they are going to be available under some other name? <I know they are now called Instant Ocean Test Kits.  Drs. Foster & Smith handle these kits.> 3)  If not, what tests do you recommend?  I think I read that Anthony likes Salifert? <Salifert is a reliable kit.  I have had no problems with Aquarium Systems kits. I really want to stick with the ones I use, because I trust what they're telling me about my tank.  I do use a Seachem calcium test that seems to work well. <It does.> Any thoughts? <Out of curiosity I am going to contact someone I know at Aquarium Systems and settle the matter.  Will post his reply on the dailies.> Thanks! <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> Chris

Laboratory Grade Thermometers   7/25/06 I'd like to tout a product that has been unwisely ignored by many aquarists. <<Okay>> This product is a liquid-filled thermometer that is accurate enough to calibrate a thermostat or temperature controller. <<Yes indeed, a "laboratory" grade thermometer can be a great help for determining the accuracy/degree of deflection of similar "hobbyist" grade devices>> I purchased two such thermometers last year and they are indispensable.  Most thermostats and temperature controllers must be periodically checked and calibrated. <<A good practice, yes>> The A-20 mercury thermometer that I purchased early last year from " http://www.sealifesupply.com/" is ideal for this purpose.  Its range, 66 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, makes it ideal for aquarium use.  It is a foot in length with markings every 0.2 degrees.  Using this thermometer, I discovered that my digital controller, which displays temperature to 3 digits, had drifted by 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit.  I also discovered that some of my analog heater thermostats were off by almost 5 degrees.  Later, during a trip to NY, I purchased the nearly identical T-4900/S80F1 thermometer from "http://www.millerweber.com/".  The T-4900 is filled with a non-toxic blue liquid and is especially easy to read. <<Mmm...something coming of increasing importance to my aging eyes>> Except for a slightly slower response, it gives identical readings as the mercury-filled A-20 which is also manufactured by Miller & Weber.  The often ignored liquid-filled thermometer may appear to be an anachronism in this digital age but I submit that nearly all thermostats and controllers must be calibrated by one. <<Indeed, and I'd like to mention...analogous to using a quality lab-grade hydrometer to calibrate/determine the amount of "differential" in your choice of tools used to measure salinity/specific gravity>> Regards, Paul <<Thank you for sharing.  EricR>>

Water Test Methodologies/Varying Qualities in Equipment - 05/30/06 Hello! <<Howdy!>> I have run up against a problem that is frustrating me to no end- I'm hoping you can help. <<Mmm, okay...let's see what I can do>> Every gadget or test kit I seem to purchase gives me a different reading on tank specs. <<Not atypical>> For example: Digital thermometer- 74 degrees in tank. Floating analog (red-dye style) thermometer - 79 degrees in tank. Refractometer - 1.025 spg. Hydrometer - 1.020 spg. Mardel dip strip test for Nitrate - 40 ppm Hagen reagent test for Nitrate - 10 ppm Similar situation with some other tests kits as well.  Who do I believe? <<Okay Stephanie, you're comparing apples to oranges...the differences you are seeing come from the differences in "quality/reliability" among the differing instruments/test kits you are using.  The floating thermometer is useful for detecting changes in temperature, but the inexpensive hobby grade models are usually anything but accurate. The same can be said of the hydrometer (both glass and plastic).  Accurate glass hydrometers can be had, but for the hassle involved with using one correctly, if you're going to put out 40-60 bucks for a hydrometer you may as well add a bit more money and get a good refractometer...or my personal choice, a salinity meter.  As for the nitrate test, the dip strips are useless in my opinion, I'm not surprised at the difference in the readings.  Stick with a quality reagent test kit (Hagen is "ok", but you may wish to look in to Hach, LaMotte, Salifert, or Seachem for better quality test kits).  Stick with the digital thermometer, the refractometer, and even the Hagen test kits (make sure they are new/fresh) and you'll be fine>> I am doing the tests within the same 5-minute interval.  Right now I'm choosing to believe whichever test I like the results of the best.  I'd like to take a more scientific approach to it.... <<Not all "black and white" here...much to be learned and "felt" in this hobby.  Even those "hobby grade" instruments and cheaper test kits (NOT the test strips!) can be used successfully as long as you recognize their limitations/quantify the results against a benchmark.  You already have access to the tools...the knowledge/understanding will come...>> Thanks! Stephanie D. <<Is a pleasure to assist.  EricR>> Salifert Test Results - 03/17/06 Hi Bob, this is Genaro. <<Hi Genaro...EricR here today...Bob's off crashing pupu parties.>> <Heeee! How'd you know? RMF> Can you guys help me on this please?  I test calcium with Salifert and the reading on the syringe is 0.02. What will be the  result on ca. and alk is in between 0.02 and 0.03 else Salifert test kit what will be the results?  I thank you so much... I can't figure it out. <<Well Genaro, I use Seachem test kits so I can't in all honesty give you an accurate answer.  I would send you to the Salifert website but that doesn't look to have any contact info.  I'm gonna recommend you go to Reef Central's "sponsor" forum (http://reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=801984) and post your question.  Someone there, or even Habib himself (Salifert's chemist, founder, and CEO), will be able to help you.  Regards, EricR>>

Salifert Test Kits... evidently not precise... are they accurate?  02-05-06 Hi - <Hello> I have two Salifert Ca Profi test kits, with expiration dates of 08/2009 and 23 July 2008.  I also have a Strontium/Calcium kit, with no expiration date, but I purchased it about 2 years ago.  Test results are: 465 for the 08/2009 Ca kit 430 for the 23 July 2008 kit 390 for the Strontium/Calcium kit without the expiration date I have thrown away the S/C kit since it is furthest off and has no date so I have no idea whether or not I should trust it. But what do you think about this?  Have you found similarly wild fluctuations with Salifert kits, and would you recommend another brand? Thanks, Carl <Mmm, well... Salifert is a "pretty good" test kit line (for hobbyist use) in the way of accuracy and precision, but there are others that are more so. Look to the LaMotte and Hach lines for better colorimetric assays here. Bob Fenner>

Ammonia sensing & water management   1/30/06 Hello Dr. Fenner: <Mmm, no doctorate... Just Bob, please> I am writing to ask, hopefully, if you might help us by giving a little guidance with respect to ammonia in aquaria, as a water-quality issue; specifically regarding the need for continuous monitoring of ammonia, as well as pH.  From searching the web, I am impressed by what you have done, your credentials in the field, and interest in promoting the safe, successful maintenance of fish in a healthy environment. As I am looking for professional advice from one who knows the need and can sort out the reality from the hype for us, I hope that you might have a moment to address our inquiry. <Okay> My company develops optical sensors, primarily for biomedical R&D.  We made one for visually determining the ppm ammonia (not ammonium) in water, useful in the range of  0.05 to 1 ppm, even up to 5 ppm .  It is suitable for continuous monitoring of tank water, has a reversible color-response to NH3, and is long lasting.  We have been encouraged that this would be a useful product - for the freshwater pet industry - but for the marine environment, we were told that a more sensitive sensor is needed in order to measure lower ammonia levels. <Mmm, no... the stated range is efficacious> So we made another sensor rendition that can be used for visual monitoring in the 0.005 to 0.1 ppm range. Thus, with the two sensors, we can cover the complete NH3 range that we think should be needed for aquarists. We are interested in the business opportunity that exists for ammonia testing.  Current thinking is that we provide two products: one for freshwater and one for marine.  The plan is to include a visual pH sensor (range 6-9) along with each ammonia sensor, so that both parameters can be monitored continuously and provide more value. However, a question of interest is if there is really a need for two separate ammonia sensors?  If no ammonia is the goal of a well-maintained system, and any detectable ammonia indicates that a problem exists that needs attention, then will the 0.005 to 0.1 ppm higher sensitivity sensor be all that is needed to cover all aquarists' concerns? <The "higher" scale is all that is of interest, saleable> With respect to the 'business opportunity' we are most interested in getting sound advise to help define and bring into focus who has the most interest, what and where is the greatest need, and the scope or size of the potential market(s). For instance, does visual monitoring present more value to the fresh or saltwater hobbyist, the retail store, pond operators, breeders, or the shippers and the distribution process? <Mmm, actually to all... the presence of ammonia/ammonium is a critical parameter determining health of aquatic livestock... for everyone. Likely your product, depending on price, would be attractive to all levels> Do the preponderance of conventional manual tests (strips or liquid-sample based ammonium test kits) cover the need? <Mmm, yes. The vast majority of tests/kits in the ornamental aquatics hobby interest are simple colorimetric assays... some repackaging of dry reagents by Hach, some sales by LaMotte and others, but many cheapy repackaged liquid reagent types on the low/freshwater end. There are some sales of colorimeters, spectrophotometric/titrametric means in our hobby/business, but these are few> Through various lines of inquiry, we have gotten confounding feedback. It ranges from encouragement that there is considerable need, to not so much interest because testing is only important during the aquarium setup phase while it is stabilizing? <Mainly, but this (and other aspects of nitrogen accumulation) are principal concerns when "something" is apparently wrong... and actually very real ongoing concerns in captive aquatic systems period> One store will say that NH3 is more important than pH, and another just the opposite. <Mmm, these two phenomena and resulting toxicity are intimately related... as you will know. Toxicity of ammonia increases abruptly with increasing pH...> We are well familiar with the literature and the science of ammonia measurement, ammonia and water quality maintenance, and the theory of proper management.  But we do not have a good real-world perspective of the practicing of ammonia testing in the field. <Mmm, ask away and I will try to relate my impressions, level of confidence, underlying rationale/referents> What I simply would like to know is if you think that we have something worthwhile and we should pursue it?  And if so, would you be interested in helping us gain guidance how best to introduce it to the industry, or be able to recommend someone else that could do so? <Is worthwhile... mainly depending on ultimate retail pricing... there are issues of distribution, how many levels there... parallels in other test gear, controller technology, sales that you might investigate (Hanna, Milwaukee, YSI... others have tried to make inroads to "pet-fish" markets with variable success...> I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to talk with you by phone, even briefly, in regards to this inquiry. Even better, if convenient for you, I will be in the LA area (Irvine) all next week and would be most pleased to have a chance to personally meet you. <... At this juncture, emailing will likely suffice. Am glad to help you> Thank you very much for your attention. I will be looking forward to your response. My contact information is given below including my cell phone. If amenable to me calling you, your number and a best time to reach you would be appreciated. Best regards, David Putnam <Had some parallel conversations (though largely unrelated), this weekend, giving a pitch here in Dallas... with a young fellow/aquaculturist who has a facility in Baltimore producing seahorses... re how to approach the presumed market, consumer... best... and avoid proverbially "shooting oneself in the foot". The ornamental, scientific, industry field might well be receptive to your product. Please do reply re your guess as to probable retail... as this will determine largely the scope of the present, likely future market. Bob Fenner> Salifert Test - 12/18/2005 I had written a short time ago w/ a question re: Salifert's KH/Alkalinity. I did steps 1-4 on the instructions no problem except I used 4ml. of water instead of 2 and had to use a lot of reagent. <If you don't follow the steps exactly, the test will not come out as per instructions. You'd have to take the formula that was used to calculate this tests readings and convert that to apply to a larger or smaller test sample. Best to just do exactly.> It was over 20 drops and if you look on chart I didn't see. I had to use 27 drops in order to change color. This didn't seem correct, am I doing something wrong? <Just run the test again, this time exactly as directed. If you still have the same problem, there should be a stipulation (water is very hard/soft). Try to call their questions and comments number if there is still a problem. Oh, and with some tests you have to involve a sample of RO or DI water. If this one says to, then make sure you're not just using tap. It really does matter. - Josh> Salifert how to  12/16/05 I am probably missing something basic but what am running into w/ my Salifert test kits for KH/ Alkalinity and Calcium is confusion at the time to read the results can you please advise, thanks Scott <Umm... don't know if I'm following you... but like most reagent type colorimetric assays, these kits and their comparative charts aren't easy to make out in terms of accuracy, nor precision. If something more accurate/precise is desired, you might look into Hach, LaMotte, even other types/methodologies (titration, electronics...). For test kit input period, and discussions of these chemistry/physics matters, please see WWM. Bob Fenner>

Nitrite Test Solution  12/9/05 Hello,  <Hello Byungho> I accidentally added Nitrite Test Solution liquid to my saltwater tank.  Currently I have hermit crab and live rock inside the tank. Are they safe from the hydrochloric acid? Please let me know and thank you for your help.  <Not completely safe. Depending on how much solution got in the tank and how large the tank is, you may experience a pH and alkalinity drop. I'd do at least a 20% water change. James (Salty Dog)>  <<And drop a PolyFilter in there, ASAP!  Marina>>

Seachem test kit, Unclear Instructions, Equipment - Go to the Man Himself  12/1/05 Hi, I just started administering copper to my 30g quarantine tank for a velvet outbreak. It contains 3 blue reef Chromis, 1 firefish, 1 filament wrasse, and 1 Lubbock wrasse. I used Cupramine and followed the directions exactly. I also have a Seachem test kit, but it doesn't seem to be displaying any results, even with the reference solution. Its a bare bottom, with pvc for structure, no carbon, and a couple sponge filters.  The test kit is brand new, but what is confusing me is it states to use the sample pipette for water to be tested, and fill to the base of the bulb, then repeat. This doesn't seem to be working, but there is a mark halfway down the pipette and I'm wondering if this is the fill indicator mark? The instructions do not give an exact volume for the test water (ex. in milliliters) and I was wondering if you know an exact volume for the amount of water to be tested? or if you know somewhere I can find out? Seachem's website has no information.  <Brandon, I have forwarded a copy of your query to Sea Chem. As soon as I get a reply I will get back to you. James (Salty Dog)> Thanks, Brandon 

Seachem test kit, Unclear Instructions - Go to the Man Himself, The Man Responds  12/1/05 <Brandon, I pasted my reply from Sea Chem below. Hope this helps you out. James (Salty Dog)> From: Seachem Tech Support <support@seachem.com> Subject: Re: Copper Test Kit Date: Thu 12/01/05 11:44 AM Dear James, Please reply to him that the reference is there to assure him that the kit is working properly. Since the reference is not giving the expected results than that means the reagents have gone bad. There are many things that can effect reagents, such as extreme heat or cold. Since the kit is not working properly he can contact us with his address and we will mail him replacement reagents. The directions are correct that you fill the sample pipette to the base of the bulb twice. Also recommend not to add any more than the directed amount of Cupramine until he get the replacement reagents. Best Regards, Seachem Tech Support Seachem Laboratories, Inc. www.seachem.com 888-SEACHEM

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