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FAQs about Marine Water Test Gear, Use 1

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

Related FAQs:  Marine Test Gear 2Marine Test Gear 3, FAQs on: Rationale, Selection, Use, Troubleshooting, Testing Methods: Liquid Reagent/Colorimetric, Dry Reagent Test/ing, "Paper", Titrametric, Electronic & About Brands/Manufacturers, & pH Measure/Test Gear,


Nitrate test kits 7/26/05 All of the test kits test for NO3-. So the number I get from these tests I need to multiple by 4.4 or I don't need to multiple? Thanks, Andy <Andy, to be sure, I would contact the manufacturer by email, they all have sites with a contact form.  Ask them what their kits measure.  James (Salty Dog)>

Nitrate test kits 7/25/05 I have been caring for saltwater aquariums for many years now and have recently (about two years ago) started to maintain reefs. I have used a variety of different test kits from dry tabs, to liquids, to strips. I know that it probably depends on the brand but which kind is considered "the best" or the most accurate? <I like Aquarium Systems test kits.  Reasonably priced and reasonably accurate for our needs.>Also, I remember reading something about multiplying the number you get by three or four or something like that to get the true nitrate level. It had something to do with what the test kit was actually testing for. Do you know of anything like this? <You need to know what the test kit is measuring, nitrate as an ion or as nitrate nitrogen.  Total nitrogen is the result of the 4.4 multiple.> I am very confused on that subject. Now any time I get a reading of any nitrate I feel that it is to much especially if a reading of ten really means forty.<For our purposes, a reef tank should not exceed 20ppm of NO3-N.  For fish only 20-40 is acceptable for most species, although we don't like to keep nitrates that high as they do increase nuisance algae growth.  Hope this helps.  There are FAQ's on this subject on the WWM, keyword "nitrate testing".> Thank you for your help, Andy <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)>

Nitrites, Nitrates, Chemistry, Oh My 07/01/05 Hello, crew: Dum-dum here. <That would make me Twiddle Dee Dee> So, I've read a great deal about ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, and the nitrogen cycle, as pertains to aquariums and ponds. Only, something isn't clear to me. When we test for "nitrite" and test for "nitrate" are we really testing for NO2- NO3- /ions/? <Mmm, yes, for the most part> Or are the tests detecting things like NaNO2 or KNO3, and so forth. In other words, are we literally revealing the presence of the ions, or rather the presence of molecules bound to the ions? <With the simple colorimetric assay kits for aquarists mostly the ions> Next, if it's really the ions, are NO2- and NO3- soluble gasses? <Mmm, yes...> Finally, any pointers to something that talks about this in true detail, for a non-chemist? Joe Kraska <... the Net... NO2, NO3 gases... and a large pot of coffee, 2 liter diet soda, time. Bob Fenner, ex H.S. chemistry teacher>

New Test Kits? - 06/10/05 Is it possible for my nitrite levels to be 0 and have a reading of .25ppm of ammonia? <<Possible, yes.>> Is my test kit giving me inaccurate readings? <<Another possibility.>> The type of test kit I have is a colored measurement type. I also have signs of nitrate measuring at 25ppm. I'm just wondering if I'm on the right path in completing my cycle stage, or if I am already done cycling and my test kit is just showing me inaccurate numbers? <<If the test kits are in question then get new/different ones or have a buddy come over and try theirs.  If the tank has finished cycling your ammonia should be zero.>> Thanks for your time! You guys are great. <<Regards, Eric R.>>

Alkalinity Test kits, Canister filter inserts and Nitrate 5/24/05--Part3 - (And No Shills Necessary!) Thank you for the quick response to my questions below (and the free "keeping spouse happy with tank" advice)! <Glad to! As for the spouse... I am glad that others can benefit from my failures! Ha! Actually, my wife is very tolerant.> Per your advice, the lava rock is removed, and I'm planning on adding the remaining live rock in one batch (after confirming it is cured by keeping it in tub in garage). I'll also buy a better alkalinity test. I've been using Jungle Quick Dip strips, but they have always been "off the chart" in the "ideal" range. I've been questioning their accuracy. Any recommendations on best test? <Always choose an alkalinity test that is a titration type. Titration tests require you to add drops of reagent until a change from one color to another is observed. The value is calculated from the amount or number of drops of reagent that are added. Test kits for alkalinity that use dip strips or compare to a color chart are very unreliable. I am fond of Salifert and Tropic Marin alkalinity kits, but many good ones are available.> I'm going to go with selling the Fluval, but keeping the Eheim for the great water movement it gives me. I had heard--LFS--that filling the Eheim completely with the Eheim filters would "polish" the water without creating nitrates. Do you agree? Or would I be better just having the Eheim completely empty? (I'm the guy who knows there is no way I will be doing weekly maintenance on the canister--most likely just every month or two.) Thanks again for your help and great site. Greg  <I disagree with your LFS, but there is no harm in trying. If you observe nitrates after a couple of months, I would either step up the maintenance or remove all media from the canister filter.> P.S. I'm going to shill for you. I made an Amazon Honors Payment to you guys and was surprised that more people don't do the same. I'm always buying stuff from the LFS when I go in and pick their brains because I feel their time is worth something and they're in business to make money. More so for you guys who are doing this site free of charge to the fish-keeping world. Not everyone is made of money--although this isn't the least expensive hobby I can think of--but I'm still surprised people don't throw a bit more change/bills in your electronic glass jar. <Thanks for the contribution! It is refreshing and uplifting to cross paths with someone who is willing to voluntarily support something they find value in. Best Regards. AdamC.>

Identifying anemone/feeding, using test kits... Hi Crew, <Debbie> Any information you can lend will be appreciated. I have read over and over all the FAQ's I could find and looked at all the pictures I could find but still can't really tell what my anemone is. I think I finally found the answer but then it also sounds like another one too. At the LFS, they called it a Carnation Anemone, when I asked what family that was from they said, Stichodactyla gigantea, it's like the Ritteri. So here it goes. It has short yellow tentacles, under the tentacles is a deep orange color, then this color is down the column until the end where its yellow. If it balloons up its more of a yellow column but when it goes back down its orange. I thought it might be a dyed anemone but read where all the anemone would be the same color. <Mmm, no... can be multi-colored... and from your description it sounds like this one is dyed> Is that right? I don't know if I should put it on the sand which they had it on in the LFS, and they also said that they have had it for 3 weeks and it was still beautiful, healthy too, but back to my question. I put it on the sand, and it laid on its side, so I moved a small piece of rock under it and it ballooned up till it fell off, so I've left it in the sand and it hasn't moved an inch in 2 weeks. Does get some slime under it but is that from it trying to attach itself to the sand? <...> Also I was wondering if I could blend all the krill, Pacifica plankton, squid, Cyclop-Eeze together and squirt it near the anemone. <.....> This anemone also never closes during the day or through the night and is still open when I turn on the lights, and then it closes for 1-2 hours and stays open again. Is this normal, or should I be worried? <........> Another question I have is my tank has been running for 1 1/2 years now and I'm probably the most brain dead person but I cannot read the Red Sea calcium test I bought or the Seachem pH/ALK. When ever I read the results I just can't believe it because the calcium test I get from my water goes below their chart and my heart starts pumping, also the Seachem Alka test says 1 drop equals 0.5 meg/L and I have to use 5 drops before it gets to the right color and then it says to divide it by 2. Well my number is 1.25. Does that mean its 12 and its suppose to be 7-8. Are my fish going to die? Could you please help me. My PH reads 8.1 with the Seachem test kit but reads 8.3 with the Red sea one. All the other tests are good or I would be worrying about them too, but those are easy to read. I'm doing everything to prepare the water properly, water changes weekly. I also add Aragamilk along with the water changes. I even went home and got a water sample so they could check my water first before I bought it. Really care about these animals and a lot of stress to, to make sure their happy. Thank you for all your time. Debbie <... please return this anemone, don't buy anymore livestock that you can't identify... and read on WWM re test kit use, alkalinity... Bob Fenner>

Broken Hydrometer...What Now? 4.26.05 I was using my Hydrometer to test the salinity today and it broke inside my tank. The Alcohol was not released but some of the little silver balls or weights sunk into the gravel. I do not have any fish yet because I am still in the two week waiting period. What should I do ? I know this is probably lead so I siphoned all I cold find. Please Help !!!! <Hi Harrison, I would remove all the substrate, and wash it down with freshwater, making sure that all the heavy metals are gone.  Heavy metals are capable of poisoning your fish, so do your best to get every little bit.  Good luck, Ryan> Observations and interesting testing (expired test kit reagent) info. Hi Crew, First of all let me thank you guys for all your help. I have a 10 gallon SW with fish for 22 months now and I finally beat a bout of ick with your help. I would also like to add that I also suddenly had an algae problem which also resolved itself following your advice. <Good> I think that most of your readers, including myself, tend to think you are too conservative but I can testify that when your advice is not heeded problems do happen and with your advice things do work out fairly well. In my case I overstocked my 10 gallon and I felt all was well since they were peaceful fish  and they seemed to get along well. Recently I had an ick attack even though I had not added anything other than food for over 4 months and I lost 3 fish. 2 cardinals did not get ick and a clown goby was saved after following your advice. What I find interesting is that although I considered the fish as doing well and getting along they in fact were stressed. They did not fight because they were peaceful types but evidently they were stressed since they got ick. <Yes> And now that I just have 3 fish they swimming patterns have changed dramatically and where before they kept to specific areas they now cruise the whole tank which to me indicates they were too intimidated to try it with the other fish present. <As your title states, good, worthwhile observations> I recently posted a question about the life of testing regents. I decided to ask Aquarium Pharmaceuticals themselves since I am using their saltwater test kit. Their answer: In response to your question, each reagent bottle has a Lot # printed on the bottle.  The last four digits are the month and year of manufacture. Example: Lot # 28A0102.  This is a pH reagent manufactured in January of 2002.  Ammonia, High Range pH, Nitrate, and GH all last for three years. Nitrite and KH will last for four years. Freshwater pH and Salt Level test are good for 5 years.  I would not trust these kits after they have expired. <Me neither> Since I know I bought them 22 months ago when I started this hobby I decided to check the bottles in my test kit which is made up of  tests for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and PH. Well, to my surprise, they were not all from the same year. 2 were from 0802 and 3 from 1199. So 3 were probably expired or just about to expire when I purchased the set and the other 2 are about expired now. I either bought them from Dr Foster or Pet Solutions. <Thank you for this. Will share. Bob Fenner> Unstable ISFET Probe When Immersed Dear Crew, I recently purchased a pen-type pH meter with an ISFET probe. It has a single-point calibration at pH 7.0 that I think is adequate for my aquarium use. I noticed that its readings are accurate and stable provided that I place a drop or two of the test solution on the electrode tip of the probe. When I immerse the ISFET probe into the same solution, the readings are unstable and vary widely. Which pen-type ISFET pH probes will give stable readings when immersed?  <Paul, I would direct that question to the manufacturer of your probe.> Thanks very much. <You're welcome> 

Devin's Got a Bad Test Kit Hi again, Sorry about not including the specifics. When I test my water that I put in the aquarium it is probably <1, and when I test my aquarium water it is at least 150ppm. What should I do?  <Could be that you have a faulty test. Have you taken a water sample to any of your local fish stores for comparison to your results? There's not enough information in your previous email to discern what the source of your problem might be, but a reading of 150 ppm of nitrate is so high it sounds like a misreading or bad test kit to me.> Sincerely, Devin <Cheers, J -- > 

Live rock from hell Good Morning Thank You James... <You're welcome>  I was thinking that last night after I sent you the e-mail so I prepared water and I'm going to do that today. Keeping fingers crossed and hopefully this will do the trick. One other thing, you got me thinking on those test kits and this morning I did a barrage of testing, trying to sort out what is accurate and it boggles my mind that I can use 3 different manufactures and get 3 different results, even if I repeat the testing with the same kits, I get different readings.  I checked the codes on them and they are all within a year of expiring.  Think the aquarium hobby needs to have some sort of guidelines for manufactures because it seams they just feeding on us. I will e-mail you in a few days and let you know how it worked out.  Have a great day and thx again.  <Frank, you have to remember that the cost of these test kits pretty much limits how much accuracy can be had for the money. I think they pretty much warn you whether it's good or bad. Good test kits are available from LaMotte and Hach. You won't get them for $7.95 though. Do a Google search for these names, they sell direct and they do list the prices. Good luck. James (Salty Dog)> 

- Help, Crabs Dying, Follow-up - Thanks J! <My pleasure.> We are going to slow down and I took several deep breath's!  LOL - good advice. <Works in most circumstances.> Thanks for the info on the Coral Beauty, she looks great, eats great - she has the food gone in 30 seconds or less! <Sounds good.> I will watch her if I get worried again. Glad to have so many experience people like yourself to help us along - it is the LFS's that continue to "sell" us stuff before it is ready, they don't care if you crash your stuff I guess as they think you will just be back for more... too bad, not good long term business plan. <No, but most businesses of this type are worried about the here and now, the immediacy of paying the bills.> Thanks again! Do you have any preference for Alkalinity and Ca testers or test kits? <I've always liked the Sera tests, the SeaTest(s) are pretty good too.> Don't mind paying a lot for ones that are worth it! <Well... you can spend lots of dollars on nice kits, the ones I mention are reasonable. If money is no object, the Hach and/or LaMotte kits are excellent.> Anne & Rick <Cheers, J -- > - New PinPoint Calcium Monitor - Hello guys, have any of you used the new Calcium Monitor from Pinpoint (retails for $249)?  <This item is very new and unfortunately they don't send me new products for testing so no... I haven't used it.>  Any ideas on how long the probe will remain accurate (just the replacement probe is $199)?  <No idea at all, but like any monitor probe, I would suggest that you clean it often. Many probes go south prematurely because folks leave them in one spot for as long as they last. But man, that is an expensive probe. Think of the number of calcium tests you could buy for that... knowing the calcium level from minute to minute seems excessive, perhaps even obsessive/compulsive to me, although I'm sure there are some out these who've already snatched these up. I'm going to stick with my titrations.> Thanks,  Franz <Cheers, J -- >

High phosphates not detected with old test kit Hi crew, I have been battling hair algae (Derbesia) in a 90 gal reef / 30 gal sump. I have been removing algae manually, reduced feedings, reduced light (650w total de HQI) to 8 hours per day. Top off water is from 100gpd 5 stage ro/di. I have read lots of books and this site extensively. I have been following suggestions from these sources without much progress. I had a small amount of razor Caulerpa in the sump and recently added a good size Chaetomorpha and red grape algae to the sump with ~65watts of compact fluorescent. Added SCWD on closed loop to increase circulation. Now for the question: I have been using Salifert test kits to test nitrate, nitrite, phosphates and alkalinity. The phosphate test did not change color so I assumed the phosphate levels were undetectable and not a problem. Today, I brought a .5 liter sample of my tank water and my top off water to the LFS and they were kind enough to test my water to help determine a cause for the algae. The LFS test showed phosphates off the scale! I definitely have high phosphate levels which helps explain the algae problem. When I got home, I tested the same tank water bottle with my Salifert PO4 test and it came back negative. Do the test kits expire? Should I throw out my test kit and replace it? <Hello Pat.  Usually the shelf life of the reagents in test kits are not to be trusted much over a year with an exemption to ph kits. If you have had it more than a year replace it and test again.  Salifert test kits are very accurate and reliable.> On the algae side of things, will my macro algae out-compete the hair algae and solve my problem naturally?<It can provided other measures are taken along with this.  Phosphate removers are like band aids.  If you do not get rid of the source of phosphates you will be continually using one of these products.  You didn't mention if you do a 10% weekly water change.  This is a must for starters.  You also didn't mention whether you are using a protein skimmer, this is a must to combat nuisance algae.> I added a poly filter as well.<The PolyFilter is a good idea, but is not designed solely around removing phosphates.> Do I need to add a phosphate sponge to accelerate the process? The LFS was recommending ROWAphos phosphate remover and a pressure canister. <I use a Magnum H.O.T. and run PhosGuard in it as a preventive measure.  As long as phosphate levels are low in the system, this will last quite some time.  Adding the macro is a good idea, it will compete for food with the nuisance algae.  I also have a Caulerpa growth in my tank. Many aquarists are going to refugiums with a live sand bottom with some live rock and Caulerpa and leaving the refugium lights on 24/7.  A lot of good has been reported as to the effect this has on minimizing nuisance algae.  Good luck.  James (Salty Dog)> Thanks for the info and the great books: conscientious marine aquarist, reef invertebrates, book of coral propagation, etc. -Pat SeaTest calcium test Well after using this test kit I am thoroughly confused. I have finally after 2 years decided to test my calcium level. I have never dosed Kalk or any other calcium supplement other than water change which I did about 5 days ago (4 gallons). My 55 has varius softies and mushrooms, I run 220 watts VHO 1 white 1 blue. Now for the question after getting a recommendation I bought a SeaTest calcium test kit online. I read through the instructions and think I have followed them verbatim. After I took tank sample and added 1st reagent my sample turned extremely cloudy, then with the addition of the packet my sample turned purple, the kit says true blue color change so I continued to add drops of #3 until I had reached 32 drops. The instructions never said anything about the change to purple to begin with is this normal? <Not normal as far as I recall. I would contact the folks at Aquarium Systems ( http://www.aquariumsystems.com/frames1.htm) and ask technical help there for information re your reagents. Bob Fenner>

Re: SeaTest calcium test I contacted Aquarium Systems which told me to cut my sampling of saltwater in half and use regular water for the other half. <Huh? What is the rationale, if they offered such, for this? Folks who use this kit... use it on/with seawater...> The only other thing it changes is the last step which you have to double to get things straight. Thought you may want to add this in case someone else can't easily see a change from purple to blue this makes it violet to blue and easy to tell the difference. Thanks <Thank you for the follow-up... Methinks the folks at Aquarium Systems have some product re-working to do. Bob Fenner>

Calcium test kits? Dear WWM crew,   Was curious if anyone there had experience with this brand of kit. According to the dating on the package the reagents are within their shelf life, but when I add the first step with my saltwater I get no color change to blue? << And you are sure you should?  Hmmm, I doubt it has gone bad. >> Any help or a recommendation for a different kit would be much appreciated! << I don't think you can go wrong with a RedSea test kit. >> Thanks In Advance <<  Blundell  >> Test Kit Discrepancy 12/16/04 Hey folks, I'll cut right to the point (sort of). I have a LaMotte Ca test kit. I have two Salifert Ca test kits. The LaMotte indicates something like >800 ppm. The Salifert shows less than 200 ppm. Now I just realized today, after months of using the LaMotte kit that it measures CaCO3 (calcium carbonate) which isn't the same as just free ion Ca (right?). <Well, I will be totally direct... maybe.  Sort of.  Is your LaMotte test kit a harness kit or calcium kit?  It sounds like it is a harness kit which would measure all hardness metals (Ca and Mg mostly) and give you a result AS IF all of the hardness was from calcium.  I would trust the Salifert, especially since they agree with each other.  It is also possible that one of the reagents is bad.> Ok. I previously bought a Salifert Ca test kit when I started getting the really high LaMotte kit readings. This (the Salifert) should just measure Ca ion concentration, right? I thought the Salifert was wrong when I started getting readings of 190 ppm over the past couple of weeks. So, I bought another Salifert test kit. I got the same readings as the first Salifert, which is OK and sort of a relief for me to know that at least the kits are accurate with respect to each other. <Salifert test kits are know for good quality, but also for subtle, hard to see color changes.  I can usually see the color change best in bright natural sunlight and often get verification from my wife.> I started to throw out the LaMotte Kit when I read that it measures CaCO3 not Ca, which would make the readings seem substantially higher, right??? So maybe the LaMotte readings of 800+ are actually OK since it's not just measuring Ca by itself. <The kit is probably fine, but it is not measuring what you expect it to.> Is there a formula to determine the amount of Ca (in ppm) from CaCO3 reading or a table to cross reference the readings? Should the CaCO3 be around 900 or so? Is my thinking outta whack? BTW, my alkalinity is 12 dKH (Salifert test). Thanks, Randy <There may be, but you would probably have to measure the Mg and subtract which would probably defeat the purpose.  Best Regards.  AdamC.>

Test Kit Query Hi. <Hello! Ryan Bowen with you today> My name is Peter and I was wondering if I could get info on test kits. <Sure.> Is Salifert as good as I hear? <Accurate as far as my history with the product.> I'm looking to buy the following: (Iodine, Calcium, Nitrate, Nitrite, Alka/KH, pH, Ammonia, Dissolved/Oxygen) is this ok or m I missing something? <Depends on the livestock you intend to keep- But the list does seem pretty thorough.> Do you know best retailer on the net as far as prices? <What's cheap today can be costly tomorrow- I'd look for closeout sales.  Google is your best friend for pricing.> My LFS is not much of a help. Do you know a GOOD retailer in NEW YORK CITY especially Staten Island or Brooklyn? <Sorry, no, I'm from the other side of the country!> THANK  YOU VERY MUCH FOR " WETWEBMEDIA" and all info on it!!!!!!!!! <No problem at all.  Good luck in your hunt! Ryan> Strontium test kit expiration date Bob, I like to get a Strontium tester, but I don't see an expiration date, as mention by the manufacture of Salifert tester. Pls let me no how to go about it, or just avoided. << Wow good question.  For me, if I see it in a store I'd buy it and use it.  I would think they would have a long shelf life, and I've never heard anyone say they had one that went bad.  But then again I only know a couple people who even own a Strontium test kit. >> Thank you.   Eddy. <<  Blundell  >> <You're joking...? ... RMF> Calcium test kit instructions Hello I have a simple request. I use the Hagen calcium test kit, and I have seem to lost the instructions, how many drops of what? do you happen to know the right sequence? << Wow, no idea.  I recommend you post this on reefs.org.  I think your chances of finding someone who uses the same brand of kit will be higher there. Or, just go into a local pet store and right it down from one of there boxes. >> thank you Tammy <<  Blundell  >>

Calcium test kit accuracy 10/03/04 I have read several of the FAQ's on calcium, and still have a question.  I have a 125g that I started Sept. 1.  I added 125lbs of un-cured LR on Sept. 11.  Euro-reef skimmer (in sump), fluidized bed.  A lot of my LR has a white coating on it - like a crust.   <assuming you have adequate water flow for curing rock (20X+ turnover of the tank?), this may simply be decay from hard curing rock> My calcium readings are off the chart (>500ppm).   <this seems very highly unlikely after even a few hours (without precipitating). Much more likely that you are getting a misreading from your test kit. Even new kits can give false readings. Do take a water sample to a friend or the LFS for a test of CA on a different type or brand of test kit> I read about the possibility of a "snow storm" and it is scaring  crap out of me.   <no worries... you would have to be/have been adding obscene amounts of Ca> I changed 19gallons of water today, using DI water - <yikes! now that is dangerous. Never, ever use/add raw DI or RO water. Always aerate for 12+ hours then buffer 2+ hours in advance of salting or using for evap water> calcium is still off the chart.   <I see... all the more reason after using demineralized water to believe that this is a misreading on your test kit> I have only added Bi-onics only once. Today I just added the Alkalinity part (part 1) in the hopes of driving the calcium down. What to do? <I'm as certain as I can be from here that you have a bogus test reading... test again my friend. Anthony>

ORP accuracy/calibration 8/15/04 Hello, <Cheers> I recently purchased a pinpoint ORP monitor for my 110g reef tank.  I placed the probe in my sump about 4-5" away from my pH monitor as per the instructions.  The instructions also stated it my take 24-36 for a true reading so I waited a couple days.   <this is true... very good> I was a bit shocked yesterday when I noticed the monitor said 586mV and this morning it is a little bit above 600mV.  I'm very confused as to how my levels are so high, I do not use Ozone. <even with ozone, this would be a surprisingly high measurement... the unit is clearly misreading here. 350-425mv is a safe range. Do recalibrate the unit and perhaps give is a few more days to break in. Contact the mfg or your LFS for support if you didn't mail order it (one of the many benefits to supporting your LFS)> Thanks for your time. Chris <best regards, Anthony>

Test Kit Hi, Is Master Test Kit (Fresh/Salt) 50 Strips (Mardel) a good product to test salt water? Range for ammonia is: 0, 0.25, 0.50, 1.0, 3.0, 6.0. Range for pH is: 6.4, 6.8, 7.2, 7.6, 8.0, 8.4. Range for total hardness is: 0, 25, 50, 120, 250, 300. Range for alkalinity is: 0, 80, 120, 180, 240, 300. Range for nitrate is: 0, 20, 40, 80, 120. Range for nitrite is: 0, 0.5, 1.0, 3.0, 5.0, 10.0. <Sounds appropriate.  I'd also recommend testing dissolved oxygen and phosphate, even copper.  Could be very helpful.  Ryan Bowen> thanks     Mohamed.

Iodide and magnesium <Hi Peter> Have one coral at present but want to get more and intend getting a starfish in future, have some Caulerpa on live rock. Should I test for/add iodide or magnesium? <I believe its always a good idea to test for things you put or add in your tank. Most of these chemical are added in the water but as you continue to add corals you are going to need to start considering adding additional supplements.  Then you would definitely need to test.  I'm assuming you've already got the ammonia, ph, nitrate, nitrite, test kits?>  Do you think these inhabitants would use up/need more than regular (fortnightly) water changes would provide? <Right now I think you are okay, but as you add more corals this might change.> I am purchasing calcium and alkalinity test kits/supplements. <Sounds like you are definitely on the right track Peter.  Good luck, Mac>

-pH meter woes- HI crew I decided to do a water change on my reef tank the night before my wedding and honeymoon. <Congrats! On the wedding that is, not the water change ;) > I cleaned all my powerheads, pumps, overflow etc. just to be on the safe side while I'm gone for the week. I get to my 10% water change which is rodi water with tropic marine that I had heated and circulating for 24 hours. I take my Pinpoint ph meter's probe out of my tank to measure the new water and it had a ph of about 8 so I mixed some SeaChem reef buffer in a cup of RODI and stir it into the salt mix to get too the 8.15 ph level that my tank is at. Then I put the probe back in the tank and change the water. All of a sudden my tank is at ph 8.95 so I freak and switch back half of the old water and the ph goes to 9.05 I add a gallon of RODI and the ph says 8.87 so I think that's odd and I take the probe and test the old water which was 8.15 and it say 9.1 . crap my meter is messed up. I tried to calibrated it with the 7 and 10 solutions and it was all over the place if I tapped the meter it would jump up past 7 to 8 then 5 . so I turned it off for five min and then was able to calibrate it. Needless to say my tanks ph is 7.95 and all my freaking was for nothing. My question is what happened and what should I do now? the meter is only 4 months old. <The first step would be to change the probe and see if it calibrates easily. Otherwise the problem would be with the meter (uncommon) and you'd have to take that up with American Marine. My pH meter finally crapped out a couple of months ago and I haven't really missed it much, it's very easy to get caught up in the numbers when they don't really matter all that much in a healthy tank. -Kevin>

Whacky Readings (5/1/04) I don't get it.... <Me neither>   My ph is around 8.5 When I measure the alkalinity its off the charts. They say to add by the dropper till the water turns from blue to pink, it doesn't do that until I unload about 2 syringes full. <Is this a Salifert test?> Reading the chart that would make my alkalinity in meq/L about 11 and the KH value in dKH 28. Can this be right, if so how did that happen (I use a water softener and a RO/DI) Everything says about raising pH and alkalinity but how do you lower the alkalinity if the PH is fine. The pH from my tap and out of the RO/DI is very high (I have very very very hard water)  The TDS out of the RO/DI is 50-75 and the PH is 8.4   The tank is indeed new with only live rock and mushroom and 1 button coral. I have not added fish yet till I think the tank is in good condition. <Smart> Ammonia Nitrates and Nitrites are all low to zero so the tank is cycled. Also, some of the coralline algae is green, it looks likes the pink/purple stuff but its green, is it a bad algae cause my phosphate tests show color. <You have phosphate in your water? Strange with you not having fish. Perhaps your RO/DI unit is not working right. I'd mix up some fresh saltwater and test it for alkalinity and phosphates. You should be able to find info on excessive alkalinity by searching WWM.> thanks guys, love ya mark <Hope this helps. Steve Allen><<RMF thinks the test kits are non-functional... and and/or the RO/DI device as well>>

pH Test Equipment Hello, I am having trouble finding Seatest by Aquarium Systems. Do you mean Fastest?  <ahhh...yes.> Do you know of an online store that sells the test kit that you are talking about so I can order one?  <yep... http://www.reefsplendor.com/pages/testing/fastest.html just one of many places. And keep in mind that efficacy is somewhat in the eyes of the beholder with colorimetric test kits since we all see color differently. A kit that is very clear to me may not be as much so for you. That's why digital equipment is recommended so heavily. pH pens like the Hanna instrument you have unfortunately are low grade pieces of equipment. A handheld meter will serve you better my friend if you choose to invest.> Thanks, Jeff <best regards, Anthony>

GH levels Greetings WWM Crew - <cheers> Happy first Sunday of NFL football to ya!! <indeed... and looking forward to the first Monday night when the Pittsburgh Steelers pulverize the Patriots (or at least redeem themselves :P)> In preparation of upgrading my 30 gal FOWLR to a 55 gal reef, I just picked up a Hagen test kit and tested my 30 gal for levels other than nitrate, ammonia, pH and nitrites. All looks well - Nitrite >.1 mg/l; Ammonia - 0 mg/l; Nitrate - 7mg/l; pH - 8.6;  <odd about the lingering nitrite... should be zero> Iron chelated and non-chelated both @ 0 mg/l; Phosphate - 0 mg/l (use RO/DI water); Calcium 280 mg/l (I know - that one is low);  <not that low or surprising if your Alk is high> Carbonate Hardness - 120 mg/l. The one that is off the scale is my General Hardness (GH) - I stopped adding the drops when it hit 800 mg/L (40 drops @ 20 /drop). I tested the GH 3 times.  <oh ya... that'll knock the Ca down> What I am wondering what effect does such a high GH have on a FOWLR (current)  <little> and reef (future) tank, if any?  <not a whole lot more... but do find the source of this high Alk/hardness. Test source water or determine if misapplied supplements (buffer) did the trick. 7-12 dKH would be the target and350+ ppm Ca would be fine too. The high end of both at the same time is not necessary or easily possible (or safe for that matter)> Can't seem to find anything when I do a search.. Thanks!!! David Kittanning, PA <Go........ Steelers! Anthony>

Pittsburgh Stores I have a question for those few of you that are familiar with the dealers in the Pittsburgh area (Anthony, Steven Pro). Which would you buy stock from given the choice <I like them all for certain things.> or would I be better off to have it shipped in from FFE or something of that sort? <FFE is a great sponsor of ours, but I always prefer to purchase livestock that I have seen. Drygoods I would order in a heart beat, but I am always leery of purchasing livestock sight unseen.> Lately the LFS closest to me seems to have been slipping in their water quality or something as I'm always seeing corals that are not happy and fish that don't seem so happy and their answer is always "I just did a water change" is that an ok answer? <I bet I can guess who this is. The problem with one store in particular, is they have begun transshipping a lot of their livestock. The fish and inverts are much cheaper, but in generally rougher shape.> I would like to add a lionfish to my set up soon and am debating where to buy it. <My best answer is going to be a bit of a cop out. You really have to shop around. I do not purchase all my livestock (both for personal tanks nor customers) from one source. I always check out different places and select the best stock from them.> Thanks once again for all your help, Colleen in Pittsburgh, PA One other quick question, I'm currently using Masters test kits. Is there a better brand I should get as these never did show any nitrites or nitrates and still are showing all levels as being 0 (ammonia, nitrites, or nitrates)? <I am not familiar with a "Masters" brand, but I think (because of previous correspondence) you are referring to the Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Dry-Tab Master Test Kit (pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate). I really like this brand/model. They have individually sealed, dry, dated reagents. I have also used Seachem's and Salifert's pH, alkalinity, and calcium kits and have gotten consistent results. -Steven Pro>

Found a kit Hi, The local shop has one kit and it is a Seachem Multitest, the Seachem website says it works with chelated copper, will this work? <Yes!> Thanks again for your help, <A pleasure. Bob Fenner> Harold Chamberlain San Jos? Costa Rica

Test Kits Thanks a bunch, I noticed that my alky. stays constant at 4.0 meq/l, that is good I suppose. as far as test kits go what do you like to use, what is pretty accurate? thanks Jamie <colorimetric test kits are rather subjective (we all see color differently). Most hobby grade kits aren't very accurate anyway... yet they are good enough to spare us from having to spend hundreds on research grade reagents. When possible do keep redundant kits of different brands to verify results. For higher end kits I have enjoyed using Hach and LaMotte. But overall... I am very satisfies with the reasonably priced Aquarium Systems brand kits. Best regards, Anthony>

Ammonia test question Hello Bob, et al I have been reading the info on your site for the past few months and have just set up a marine tank a couple days ago.  <congratulations!!! Please continue to learn and do enjoy the journey> It is a 29 gallon with 25 lbs live rock and 3 inch deep live sand bed.  <very fine> I have a test kit that test for both free ammonia (NH3) and total ammonia (NH4+). Which should I be testing for at this point? So far, after 48 hours, all my readings, free ammonia, nitrite and nitrate are still all 0.  <ammonia spikes often do not occur for a week or more. All should be settled within 4 weeks. Quite frankly, with cured live rock, you might not notice much or any ammonia or nitrite... still, please wait one month before stocking more> I turned off my protein skimmer at this point to see if I will start getting some ammonia readings. Is this okay? or should I keep the skimmer running? <PLEASE keep the skimmer running... it will improve the cycle and protect the live rock... it might even prevent serious spikes if anything goes sour (like a hard live rock cure)> Thanks for sharing your vast knowledge with all of us that are learning! Kevin <have patience my friend. You have a nice set up... all will be fine in time. Anthony>

Test Kit Question Hello Mr. Fenner, I just wanted to say keep up the good work. This is the best site that I have seen on saltwater, period!.  <kind thanks, my friend> Anyways, I was wandering if you could suggest a reliable and easy to read saltwater kit. I have a Red Sea kit and I can hardly tell what color test result matches the color scales. Very vague results and very frustrating. I am tired of spending my money over and over again to only find what I buy does not really work all that well. Your opinion would sincerely be appreciated. Thank You, Jim <unfortunately... there is a lot of variability between brands and even within the same line of colorimetric kits. Each line has some easy/accurate kits and some more difficult ones as well. Furthermore... the colorimetric kits are perceived differently by different eyes. Some people are colorblind or nearly so... others are more keen. For me... I like most of the kits in the Aquarium Systems line. Cheap, easy... fairly accurate and easy to read (but none are perfect). The best is to use digital meters when possible. Hach kits are good too but expensive. Best regards, Anthony>

Fwd: FAMA to WWM from... re LaMotte test kits, water quality... Ms. Crews: I was referred to your website by the LaMotte Company, who thought you might be able to help us with some water quality problems we are having with our 300 gallon museum display tanks. Can you refer me to someone who is familiar with water quality and chemistry? Any information you could provide would be greatly appreciated. <Fire away my friend. Bob Fenner, WetWebMedia.com> Kristen Schmid Senior Animal Keeper The Newark Museum Mini-Zoo Nitrates quickie question Hi Guys <Cheers, dear> Just a quickie - we cannot get an accurate reading for nitrates in our marine tank. Currently we use three - a tab test, powder and liquid. The results are: Tab test - 100ppm + Powder - 50ppm Liquid - 10ppm! Quite a difference! All tests are relatively new. Which would you rely on? <well as a rule, dry reagents are more reliable and longer lived (shelf life) than liquids. Have you checked the dates of all reagents to be sure that they are fresh? Also know that test kits may read nitrate as an ion or as nitrate-nitrogen and there is a difference of 4.4 with the multiple. So.. a reading of 10ppm with a multiple factored in could very well agree with the 50ppm reading (one in the same). Do read your test kits more closely to determine what form of nitrate they are actually reading and if the reagents are actually not expired> Thanks Lesley <kindly, Anthony>

Salifert Test Kits Mr. Bob, <Steven Pro this evening.> I know how you like Salifert test kits, <I do, too.> but they do not have expiration dates on them. Do you think they expire anyway? <All kits and their reagents will go bad in time.> I heard that all kits (including Salifert) will expire in about a year, is this accurate? <I do not know if all reagents would go bad in one year, but I would guess that they would all remain reasonably accurate for one year. You may want to contact customer support. All Salifert kits come with a batch number which may relate to expiration. -Steven Pro>

Ammonia emergency Hi Bob, <Anthony Calfo in your service while Bob travels Australia taking more fantastic pictures for WWM. Although, he did get some funny looks in the Public Aquarium with his tripod setup while shouting at a porcupine puffer through the glass to "vogue" and "give me pouty...now give me a pouty look!"> I was wondering if you could help me.  <I assure you... it is I that need help... hehe> I have looked through the FAQ's and can't find a similar situation (although I sure have learned a lot about other things!). This is a long story, but I think you need to know the background to help. My husband and I have a 90 gallon fish only tank. We have a wet-dry filter, a protein skimmer, and a canister filter. (all rated for 90 gallons or more) The first week that we set up the tank we added the sand, fake corals, and water and let it sit for about a week. The second week we added 20 lbs of live sand and 6 damselfish. 3 weeks into it we had not had any readings for ammonia, nitrates, or nitrites. The people at the aquarium store said that sometimes when you use live sand, you don't see any ammonia spike.  <ehhh...not exactly true. A lot of live sand can temper a spike, but cured live rock is better and neither are likely to great in a tank in one week (the time from week 2 addition to the statement at week 3)> So that week we traded in 2 damselfish for a Sailfin tang. A couple of days later, we brought back the other damselfish because they were picking on the tang. We traded those in for a pink-tailed trigger. The next week we added a flame Hawkfish and a powder brown tang. So 5 weeks into this we had 4 fish and still no readings for ammonia, nitrites, or nitrates.  <wow...even in a fully cycled tank...this is a lot of fish to add so fast. I understand your eagerness... I certainly have been there too. I just wish that you hadn't got the same bad advice that I did from salespeople all to eager to make a sale> About 4 days ago (week 6), we had a big ammonia spike, it was off the charts for our test kit. We did a 50% water change this day) My husband added something called ammo-lock, which is supposed to neutralize the ammonia. big mistake, I think because then we didn't know what the readings were).  <yes... a mistake indeed. Be sure to use dry tab ammonia test kits now for accuracy with this in the water> Yesterday we came home and the fish all looked dark and stressed. We tested the ammonia, it's still off the charts. We did a 15% water change yesterday, and then a 50% water change today. I waited a couple of hours and tested again, still off the charts for ammonia with absolutely no reading for nitrites or nitrates.  <which indicated that you are still early in the break in period> What is going on with our tank? If it is just now cycling after 6 weeks, why don't we have any nitrites or nitrates?  <because they haven't been converted yet from ammonia> Sorry this is so long, but I sure hope that you can help us. Thanks in Advance! Amy <with the fish life being out primary concern we have to way the stress of moving them again so soon with the stress of them staying. For now, let me suggest that you get some fully cured live rock (you must trust the retailer big-time here... clear water, no odor and no ammonia in the rock tank). The live rock can bring in some established bacteria to quickly and eagerly reduce the ammonia. You will of course be doing some series water changes too. If this tempers the spike in three to five days... ride it out. It may be very fine within 2 weeks. Else, reduce the fish load and build it back up slowly. Do archive this site to set-up articles and ammonia FAQ's for more info. Kindly, Anthony Calfo> 

Testing Water How long after doing a water change should you test the water to see if there are any differences? <If your kits are sensitive enough, you could record a change in several hours.> Thank you for your help <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Test Kit Questions Hey Robert, <<Not Robert but JasonC, Bob is away diving>> I have a quick question about my 55 gallon reef tank. All of my levels as far as Nitrites, Nitrates, Ph, Salt seem to be in good shape but I have a lot of hair algae growing and am wondering the best possible solution of getting rid of it. I added some Seachem Phosguard in a filter bag to hopefully reduce the growth but I was wondering if there was any other good ways of killing it. I have a undergravel filter with a good protein skimmer and a sump with a lot of Caulerpa algae in it as another filtering device... Ur advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank You...Mark <<is all normal for newer tanks, which I am making a guess there as you are testing for Nitrites - am I right? Anyway, if you haven't already you may want to think about a fish that takes interest in eating algae, or at the very least an invert. There are too many to list - check through the various pages on www.wetwebmedia.com  Cheers, J -- >>

Looking for a Log that won't drive you crazy JasonC, Aquadraco here :-) ... anyway, I saw an inquiry in the daily questions for aquarium log software. Here is a link to several different ones with explanations of each: http://saltaquarium.about.com/cs/softwaremaint/  -herb <<much appreciated. Will post on the dailies for all to see. Cheers, J -- >>

Test Kits Hi, just needed to know what types of test kits I should use for an established tank. Do I need a low range nitrate or hi, and do I need ammonia, ph, calcium, phosphate, or nitrite? I plan to keep fish only and maybe a few mushrooms or anything else that might be able to survive under a power compact lighting system. My tank is about two weeks old, but I can just get free tests during the nitrogen cycle at the LFS. I was looking into the Fastest brand or perhaps the Salifert. Any advice or comments would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again. <For a fish-only tank, I like the Dry-Tab Master Test kit from Aquarium Pharmaceuticals. It contains pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate tests. They are reasonably accurate, inexpensive, easy to use, and difficult to contaminate. -Steven Pro>

Test kits I am interested in buying a master test kit for my FOWLR tank. I have heard of three good brands, Hagen, Salifert and Fastest. Which one do you prefer? I have been reading reviews on the net rating Fastest and Salifert as the supreme. Just need a push in the right direction. Thanks. <I have the Salifert pH, calcium, and alkalinity test kits and have been very happy with their performance. -Steven Pro>

Disappearing Ca and Bogus Test  Gents, <Only Bob and I... the rest of the crew actually work real jobs for a living <smile> Anthony> To answer your test kit doubts, I was using a SeaTest kit and have recently bought a Salifert. They agreed on the readings when I transitioned to the more accurate Salifert test. The cited values are from the Salifert kit. I'll try supplementing a small volume to see if I can get a higher reading. <Thank you.. and yes, interesting that it should take so much product and still barely influence the system... hard to believe> Also I have no stony corals, just one "red" open brain coral (Trachyphyllia). <<Mmmm, this IS a stony coral. RMF>> <all the more reason for the suspicion, this one stony coral is EXTREMELY slow at calcification> Only additive is the ESV two-part - I'm trying to be a minimalist. <I can appreciate that> With regard to a Ca snow storm, it's obvious when it occurs - precipitation as soon as the solution is added?  <absolutely.. a tragic marvel to behold> I've never seen it. Could it slowly plate out on your tank walls like a ghostly algae? <not so and still reflect the daily consumption of free calcium that you are reporting. And keep in mind... calcium doesn't just get sucked out of the system... calcium AND carbonate get sucked out to form calcite/aragonite/whatever... yet you aren't reporting the same severe difficulties with alkalinity. The calcium in my opinion isn't disappearing, it just isn't being reported accurately for some reason. Hehe... or it is, but your two-part mix is missing the calcium component...hehe. The glass jar concentration test will tell you something> Thanks again! See you guys at a San Diego meeting sometime soon. <it would be my pleasure! Is it true that SDMAS has dancing girls after every meeting <wink>? Anthony Calfo> David

I think I am in trouble Hi bob, Me again the Turk :-) I had all fine until last week , when my dad got to be hospitalized and had no time to get RO water and I put bottled drinking water. Since then I all types of algae problem. First brown/red hair all over. Cleaned that now I have blue green. I checked Monday and had low GH, KH, CAL . So I added buffers and cal. Now I have following- temp- 26.5 C gravity- 1.0255 ph - 8.5 kH- 260 mg/l gH - 1400+ mg/l wow I don't think this is good calcium 850 + PO - 0 nada <What? Something/s are way off here... Please, first have your water tested by a store, other hobbyists test kits... the general hardness and calcium are likely not what you state.> I still have the algae unfortunately but all other creatures seems happy. I am looking forward to your comments thanks <Do have the kits checked against others. Bob Fenner>

Re: still learning! <<Hello, JasonC again...>> I added Seachem's Alkaline Buffer 3 days ago. Now the ph is between 7.8 and 8.0. The buffering capacity, (which I understand now, thank you!) <<ahhh good.>>, is like an aqua color, maybe it's off the scale? The strips are difficult to read. <<egg, I'm not a big fan of these types of tests. You might want to think about a FasTest, Salifert, or LaMotte pH test.>> My Damsels have been going strong the whole time. <<good stuff.>> Maybe it's all that Cape Cod food I harvest at the beach! <<Perhaps. Cheers, J -- >>

Test Hi..! How could I know PH levels, nitrate and nitrite for my aquarium? and how could I change levels as I would like. This in order to set my aquarium ready for a stingray. <There are various test kits available to test for the parameters you mentioned. Levels for pH and nitrate are best kept in the proper range by water changes. Nitrite is controlled when you tank is properly cycled. Please read many of the article under the following link http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marindind2.htm -Steven Pro> Thanks. Attn. Carlos Gorgon

Tunicates/Sea Squirts and the Salifert Phosphate Test Kit Bob, Once again I need your knowledge regarding a couple of questions for my 100 gallon saltwater tank: (1) I noticed at my LFS that they had some of the large yellow and blue tunicates available (like the ones pictured in your excellent book, Conscientious.. p. 336). I am interested in adding these to my tank, but was not sure what their requirements are, i.e. light, current, compatibility, etc. My lighting is 4 x 96W 48 inch Power Compacts; two 10,000k super daylights and two 9600 actinics. These are on for 12 hr/10,000K and 14hr./Actinics. Fish are yellow tang, four cardinals, lawnmower goby, one damsel and one Pseudochromis. I also have several hard and soft corals, as well as two Tridacna derasa and one T. squamosa.  <Please see/read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ascidians.htm> (2) Do you know of anyway to verify that the reagents in the Salifert's Phosphate test kit are still good?  <Yes... by making a solution of known or some given concentration having phosphates (you can even use a bit of "Coca Cola" tm for the phosphoric acid contained therein to give you a yes/no answer> I tested my tanks water and the reading was 0.0, but I also tested my tap water and my outside ponds water and these results were also around 0 ppm.  <They may actually be zero> This has me concerned that the test kit reagents are no longer viable. As I ordered it from my LFS, they did not know the age of the kit as they had none on their shelf and ordered this one for me. If you know of any solution that would act a good control or standard, please let me know. I would not be concerned about the phosphate level, but I have had some algae in the last 4 months grow on a couple of my live rocks and areas of the sand bed and I have to clean the green algae off the front glass twice a week (which the Tang loves to eat as I clean it off!). My protein skimmer, Aqua C 150, requires cleaning every 4 days. Nitrates when tested measure 0.0 ppm, pH is 8.3, and alk 3.43. I have a Korallin calcium reactor that now uses CaribSea ARM for the media and the effluent is alk 45 dKH/540 ppm CA; I was using SuperCalc Gold before switching to ARM two weeks ago, as I was concerned about phosphate from the Super Calc Gold might be the causing the algae growth. <Maybe> Thank you again for your advice in the past. Other then these two questions my tank has done very well, with water very clear and all life growing and active, due to the information you have supplied on your website. <Ahh, a pleasure to be of service. Bob Fenner> Regards, Kevin

Re: NO3 Test Kit and pH Buffer Hi Bob, Thanks again for your reply, which is very helpful for my understanding about pH control. Regarding the NO3 test kits, may be I have confused you with the names and numbers. To my understanding, both Tetra and API say they measure the same thing, namely, NO3-.  <Both do have test kits with this measure> One would expect both reagents to give same results. <Yes> As API states very clearly that it is not measuring N-NO3, therefore if anything, Tetra would give a reading 4 times lower than API. But in my case, I got an opposite result - Tetra is 4 times higher.  <Seems that one of their reagents are shot> A friend of mine told me that he had a similar problem with the Tetra test kit and somehow got to understand that API may be measuring free NO3 ions whereas Tetra may be measuring both NO3 ions and any Nitrate compounds in the solution, and that only free ions are our concerns. I have no way to know whether this is the case. <Mmm, a few ways... the easiest, most straightforward to contact Tetra for technical help, customer service: http://www.tetra-fish.com/ and ask for help in deciphering their test kit results. Bob Fenner> Regards, David

Re: NO3 Test Kit and pH Buffer Thanks Bob for your very prompt reply. Both the Tetra and API test kits say they measure nitrate (NO3-) in ppm or mg/l. <Yes... these are equivalents> In particular, API says it measures total nitrate which may be 4.4 times higher than some other kits that only measure Nitrogen as Nitrate.  <This is so> But in my case, I got higher results from Tetra which does not seem to make sense to me.  <Simple stoichiometrics my friend... you can/could do the math... nitrogen as a percent of nitrate... three oxygens to one N...> I had in fact tried 2 different samples from different sources, one from my tank and one from tape water. The Tetra gave a reading of 20 ppm for tape water and 40 ppm for my tank. The API gave a reading of 4 ppm and 8 ppm respectively. <I believe both...> On the pH problem, I am not concerned about a 8.1 pH. However, since I noticed the drop in pH, I was anticipating a further drop and therefore planning ahead of what to do in case it drops below 8.0.  <Mmm... good to anticipate, plan... but you may never experience this "drop" due to sufficient alkaline reserve at or about the 8 or so point> I read somewhere in your website about an opinion that if nothing is done to maintain your tank's pH, you would expect the pH to drop by 0.1 every week and adding baking soda is a solution to this pH depletion problem.  <One solution, yes... as are water changes, ready-soluble sources of carbonate, bicarbonate in a system...> Just to make sure I get it right, is it true that the use of ca reactor, in a proper manner, should by itself alone, take care of the pH depletion problem?  <Yes... as well as biomineral, alkaline content, carbon dioxide availability...> And if one has to raise the pH level, calcium hydroxide (or calcium chloride) should be added, rather than baking soda? <At some point, yes... In most systems, the addition of sodium bicarbonate will not elevate pH beyond about 7.8... try it yourself...dissolve some in freshwater or some freshly made and pH depressed (maybe with the simple organic acid acetic, or vinegar, CH3COOH) seawater...> Am I also correct to say that adding baking soda will maintain or increase the buffer but not the pH? <... Mmm, yes... the baking soda will only increase the pH to a point... but will continue to add (to saturation) to alkaline reserve... at that point> I am somewhat confused about a high pH and a high buffer. Is it correct to say the two have no direct relationship, but a high buffer will help to maintain a constant pH (whatever it is, high or low)?  <Yes... you do understand> Once again, I thank you for your help, this is my third time receiving advices from you. Regards, David <We will keep going over these phenomena, pH and alkalinity, till you feel you understand them. One is a "point", the other "resistance" to change in that point. Bob Fenner>

Re: Yellow Tang getting brown patches, test kits,  Mr. Fenner, Thank you for your replies. I just want to tell you how much I am enjoying the book. Wish I had it last year. <Ahh, I as well> Just to let you know, I think I found the culprit causing the staining on my Tang. <What was/is it?> My ph is to low. I did 3 different tests and they all came up low. 8.0 or lower. I am getting a Red Sea Test Kit. It seems to be the better of the others I use. Fastest is good but I have a hard time reading it. Saltwater Master by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals is the other and the worst. None of the test colors are even on their charts. This is the one I've been using and it really taught me to have more than one test kit in the house. <Thank you for this personal account, input as to test kits> I will be doing a slow drip tonight of Kalkwasser. Hope it works and will let you know how my Tang is doing. He was worse this morning. Thank you again. Lois <Be chatting my friend in fish. Bob Fenner>

NO3 Test Kit and PH Buffer Hi Bob, I have a reef tank of about 180 gal and have been using Tetra's test kit for NO3 for some time. Recently I bought an API NO3 test kit and discovered a big difference in the test results. Very roughly, the Tetra test kit gives a result that is 4 to 5 times higher than the API one. Bob, are you aware of such a difference and why? How should I interpret these readings? <Mmm, there shouldn't be such a large difference as this... Do check for me if the "units of measure" are the same... "Nitrogen as Nitrate", Nitrate in ppm, what have you... and take a sample of your water to a local fish store and have them check your NO3 level... it may be that the reagents of one kit have "gone bad"> I have been using Ca Reactor for my reef tank since 2 months ago. Over the past 2 months, PH dropped from 8.5 to 8.1. It has stayed at this level (8.1) for the past 2 or 3 weeks. My KH is about 10 or 11. I am wondering whether I have added too much CO2 and is trying to reduce the amount.  <Hmm... the pH and KH levels are fine... you might experiment with letting the effluent pH (from the calcium reactor) be a couple of tenths of a pH point higher... and see what this results in pH and alkalinity wise over a few days...> My question is: would the use of Ca Reactor, with the right amount of CO2, be able to maintain a stable PH of around 8.2. <... yes... given one more principal factor... the type, amount of "feeder stock" that you're melting in the reactor> I also understand baking soda can be used to maintain the PH, but not sure whether I should go for this option together with the use of Ca Reactor. Your advise is much appreciated. Regards, David <Baking soda, sodium bicarbonate won't raise the pH in settings, levels of use in a situation like yours... you could add some calcium hydroxide solution (Kalkwasser), calcium chloride... but I wouldn't, am not concerned... a pH of 8.1 is fine. Bob Fenner>

pH levels Mr. Fenner, <Hi there> I have my 90 gallon system up and running for a month now with about 90 lbs of live rock, a bunch of turbo snails, 2 cleaner shrimp, hermit crabs, 4 Emerald green crabs, 2 Percula Clowns and a Royal Gramma. Ammonia is zero, Nitrite is zero, and Nitrate is between 5&10. My PH Level a week ago was 8.1 to 8.3, but today it is a purplish colours that I don't even see on the green to blue scale.  <Bizarre> I am not sure what to make of this PH level. Is this too high or too low?? Everything seems to be doing just fine. John Kummer <Think something is amiss with the kit. Do "check the checker" here... test a freshwater (tap) sample, some newly made-up seawater... and get on down to a LFS (local fish store) and have them check your kit against one of theirs. Bob Fenner>

Re: High Nitrate Hey Bob, How are you? I think you'll like this one.  <Hmm, hope so.> Well I went to my LFS to get some Macroalgae and live rock for my nitrate problem. I have been going to this store since I first set up my system. So I tell the owner about my nitrate problem and explained to him how my nitrate level have been weird, he suggested getting a new test kit, because something didn't sound right. So I got the rock and algae any way, just to be safe, when I tested my water the nitrates in my quarantine was less than 10ppm and in the display tank with all the live rock it was 0ppm. Is that unbelievable or what.  <What> So for the fun of it I tested the water using my old kit and sure enough the nitrates in both systems came up as over 80ppm. I still wanted to be sure so this morning I took a water sample of both systems to my LFS and had them test it and it was the same as what the new kit read. Needless to say I am happy.. Have a good weekend. Gillian <You as well my friend. Bob Fenner>

pH, test kits I have 2 test kits one tablet form one drop they both give me different readings which one is more accurate and can you recommend a good test kit for future use. <Mmm, there are tablet and liquid test kits (colorimetric assays) that are about the same accurate and inaccurate... A bunch to say here... but generally both types of kits are "accurate and precise (rendering consistent readings) enough" for aquarium use... Do please read over the following FAQs section on kits: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/martstkitfaqs.htm Hach, LaMotte, Salifert are some of the better manufacturers/brands. Bob Fenner>

Saltwater Test Kit Preference? Hi Bob, Just one more question - you are the best resource I can find! What are your favorite brands of test kits, taking into consideration: reef-necessary precision, affordable cost, ease of use, quality of product. Currently, where I work, (Rick's Fish and Pet Supply; Frederick, MD) we stock Aquarium Systems SeaTest and Fastest test kits, including their FasTest Master Kit (PH,NH3,NO3,NO2) and their SeaTest Reef Master Kit (Calcium, Phosphate, Low-Range Nitrate), along with every other imaginable individual kit they make. <My faves are listed on our site here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/martstkitfaqs.htm> I have read that these kits are not appropriate for reef use because of... their accuracy, I suppose? <Accuracy and precision...> What's your favorite? <See above> I just wrote you another letter, too: I was getting 4 Banggai Cardinals for my 29 reef, but you advised against it - I was going to get enough to school - how many is enough to school for you? Would 2, 3, or 5 be better? <Not the number of individuals... the size system... you will end up with one fish... Bob Fenner> Thanks, Ben

Re: Saltwater Test Kit Preference? Bob, A clarification: on your site, you say: My main question is: Do you have a recommendation for test kits? <Salifert, Hach, LaMotte...> I have gotten varying advice. One fish store recommended Tetra's test, another recommended Hagen's. Aquarium Systems SeaTest and FasTest seem to have a wide following but the store recommending Hagen said he quit carrying the FasTest and SeaTest kits because he got a lot of complaints about inaccuracy. In your book, CMA, you picture the SeaTest and FasTest kits. <These are okay... made by Hach for AS...> If SeaTest and Fastest are made by Hach, and you recommend Hach, are they that bad?  <Hmm, well... the reagents are made and packaged by them... but they are not strictly speaking Hach's products... not as accurate per the type, range of tests...> What are prices like on the others? I know LaMotte is very expensive, but what about Salifert and Hach? I'll look on my own, I just want a general idea of their class of price. <Salifert is reasonable, about twice the "average" sort of assay/test kits as the "major brands" pricing. Hach about three times> Also, looking at the Hach website, they have lots of different KINDS of test kits. Do you recommend a kind? Color wheel, color block, dip strip, spectrophotometers or colorimeters?  <Depends on what you're going to do with the gear, testing... likely the color block/colorimetric standards will do. I'd skip any/all dips... The kinds? Pick out the "pet fish" ranges you're interested in/use. Bob Fenner> Check out this page for a precision chart: http://www.hach.com/Spec/SKITMETH.htm Ben

EC/TDS Meters Mr. Fenner, I purchased a Milwaukee Model SM301 Conductivity and TDS meter, but found that it has very limited instruction on how to read and define the meter reading. I was wondering if you might have any knowledge of this. The following are some of what I am looking for plus any other info you can offer. <Hmm, would contact the Maker: http://www.miltestersusa.com/ re better, more instructions... and/or the folks who sold you this gear.> Meaning of mS/cm? <micro-Siemens per centimeter... a "new" standard of conductivity measure equivalent to "micro-ohms per centimeter"... the company "Siemens" IS that big, influential"... A higher reading indicates more ionic content, higher conductivity...> The range of the unit is 0 to 1990 mS/cm. What is considered a normal reading? <Normal for what? Marine, brackish, freshwater, Koi ponds, water for epiphyllums...? Again, I would, will cc Milwaukee Instruments here... Bob Fenner, WetWebMedia> Leldon

Salifert Does anyone have any contact information for Salifert? I have been unable to find anything other than they are located in Holland. Any help would be greatly appreciated. <Hmm, I generally get info. about them from the suppliers myself! They don't have a site just yet... as you'll see the name www.salifert.com is registered... Bob Fenner> Thank You, Steven Pro

Monitor probe Hello Mr. Fenner, I have a quick question about a Milwaukee ORP monitor and controller. I'm not sure If you are familiar with this type of brand. The instructions are not very helpful. My questions is the probe?? Does it sit all the way in the tank or does the first couple of inches go in the tank? <The first few inches.... they're made to be overall waterproof, but it's best just to dunk the end in a few inches> Also, sorry maybe two questions/ The instructions say something about a rinsing solution what is this solution and why didn't they include this?  <Hmm, don't know... add on sale? Good clean water (reverse osmosis, de-ionized, distilled... will be fine here)... here's their URL: http://www.miltestersusa.com/ Write and ask the manufacturer as well! Be chatting, Bob Fenner> Hope to hear from you soon, Ryan Hebert

Test Kits? Robert, What do you think is the best all purpose test kit for fresh and salt water tanks? Hagen Aquarium Master kit? <LaMotte, Hach, YSI... other folks make "fisheries", "water quality" kits that include spectrophotometric, titrametric as well as more-accurate-than-one-needs colorimetric (like most pet-fish units) assays with a whole bunch of testing parameters... but the Salifert and Tetra kits are likely about the best for aquarist use. Please read over the FAQs posted on our site: www.WetWebMedia.com re tests/testing. Bob Fenner> Thank You Tanya Hawkins

Product info. (cycling, test kits, the death business/Tortugas...) Hi Bob Since my nitrite is at 1.0 I am going to do a water change today and try to siphon off any extra debris on the substrate. I was thinking off picking up some beneficial bacteria at the shop. Any recommendations? Will this help my tank recycle quicker. What do you think is Bacter Vital Good Or is Cycle just good enough ? <Cycle can work or no, but both are inferior by far to Bio-Spira> Should I get one that is designed for Marine use or are they all basically the same. <Designated for marine use is better> What is a good enough water test kit Sea Water? this one is easily available here.) <See: http://wetwebmedia.com/martstkitfaqs.htm> Thought you may be interested if you didn't already know, there is a 1 pg. write up in today's Miami Herald "Tortugas gets full protection" Last week the National Park Service signed off on the final section of a complex and controversial plan that put nearly 200 sq. miles of the waters in Fl. off-limits to fishing or the taking of any sea life. <Yes, good news IMO. Saw this news elsewhere... have followed the developments for years... Now, how can we speed up getting the U.S. to stop bombing Vieques, and further along get all folks out of the death business, hmm?> If you have access to cable/satellite there is going to be a 30min.Ecowatch Special "Coral Crisis" at 7pm this Tuesday. NBC 6 with oceanographer Jean-Michel Cousteau with rare underwater video and world's leading scientists. <Perhaps "world's leading PR science types> The News Paper address is: www.miami.com Thanks again Kam <Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner>

Re: Miami Herald click onto local/state then when the screen comes up scroll down a bit until Florida comes up the click onto it the look for the Dry Tortugas. Correction the water test kit is SeaTest I said Sea water. Kam <Thank you, and I understood/stand. Bob F>

Easiest to read ammonia/nitrite/nitrate kits I am trying to find out which test kits for ammonia/nitrite/nitrate are easiest to read.  <The new ones by Red Sea claim they have "more than a shade" difference in their colorimetric standards for comparison. I still like the Salifert line... and for the maximum readability there are actual meters... Bob Fenner> I have a hard time matching colors on the two kits that I have used. Is there any kit out there you would recommend? thank you Thierry Genoyer

Test Kits Can you make a recommendation for a manufacturer(s) of test kits? <Salifert, Hach, LaMotte> It would be for my own use, my business use, and possibly for a recommendation to AMDA. I would like your opinion for 2-3 manufacturers of reliable and accurate test kits. I want to be able to test for the following: Salinity/Specific Gravity Temperature pH Alkalinity Calcium Ammonia Nitrite Nitrate Phosphate It would be best if each recommended manufacturer made all of these kits.  <They do> It is something AMDA is considering, but that I am not suppose to talk about yet. You will probably find out about it at MACNA. Thank You, Steven Pro <If for the AMDA, get the Hach kit with a colorimeter/spectrophotometer. See their website. Bob Fenner>

Red Sea Test Kits Hi Bob, It's so nice to have an expert like you for a new saltwater addict like me to turn to for help. Your advice is always appreciated. <Very glad to be here> Anyway, I was wondering if you have any experience with Red Sea marine test kits.  <A little> I've had my 75 gallon tank with 100 pounds of live rock set up and running for about 4 months now. It has a Remora Pro skimmer, 2 Maxijet 600 powerheads, and an Eheim 2217 canister filter for filtration. I can't seem to get the ammonia to get to zero. The water readings have pretty much always been as follows: <Really? Interesting...> Ammonia: .25ppm Nitrite: 0 Nitrate: from undetectable to about 5ppm pH: 8.4 The tank only has 2 sally light-foot crabs, 1 cleaner shrimp, 1 lonely damsel and about 65 snails. All of these are doing fine. Do I need to try different test kits, or do I just need to wait longer for the cycle to complete? <A few things may be at play here... even though it's been four months, your 100 pounds of LR may still be "dying off" sufficiently to produce this ammonia... and the few invertebrates you list can do this as waste product as well... I would approach this trace question from the opposite end (not the origin per se) and boost aeration (like with a long airstone set along the side of the tank, or added powerheads, etc... and increase your lighting (with just more hours per day if you have no plans to increase intensity) and add some marine macrophytes (Caulerpa, Halimeda, Gracilaria... algae)... You should see the ammonia disappear within days pending these changes. Bob Fenner> Once again, I thank you for your help. Dave Hopkins

Salifert Test Kit Chemicals Hiya and happy day to you. <Thank you, the same to you> I'm wondering if you know (and I'm betting you do) what the chemicals are in two of Salifert's test kits. The first I'd like you to identify is thebottle labeled "Ca-3" in the Calcium Profi-Test and the second is the bottlelabeled "KH" in the KH/ALK Profi-Test. <Hmm, will have to wait till I'm back home to look this up, or do as I suggest you do:  contact them, even via the Internet and ask directly>If these two bottles containdifferent chemicals, what happens if one drop of what's in the Ca-3 bottle gets into the KH bottle?  <Hmm, contamination... and not a good type for the materials they are testing for... if this has happened I would likely toss the reagents> Also, is the little pipette tip used on the 1 ml syringe in these two test kits a universal product (as in could I carry one with me to a lab supply company and purchase another)? The reason I ask is that my Calcium test did not contain one, and according to the instructions, it should have. <Universal, standardized> Sorry to bother you with these questions, but I know you have the answers and I couldn't find Salifert's website anywhere (or the answer to my questions in your exhaustive FAQ's, which I faithfully check before emailing you with my inquiries). <Will have to add their URL... thank you for this input. Bob Fenner> Many thanks, Sherri

Amquel/Test Kit questions Hiya Bob. Thanks for all of your assistance. Your help is invaluable. I happened to read on the bottle that Amquel can't be used with Nessler reagent test kits. How does one know if a test kit has Nessler reagents? <A constituent here is Nitric Acid... yellow readings as indicators... and your test kit will likely contain warnings re nitric...> If one uses test kits with Nessler reagents, and has also been using Amquel to treat tap water in both marine and saltwater tanks, how long does that stuff, if used over a period of time, remain in the water to affect test results? <Hours to a few days> Happily, I've purchased a KM RO/DI/Hi-S 60 gpd unit which should be here in a few days, so I won't have to use Amquel or the like anymore. Yea!  <Yes, a much better route> My tanks grow brown diatom algae in bumper crops, so I am quite excited to be getting this unit. We did check Home Depot and a number of online retailers of various home water treatment systems, and for the output and stages this particular KM unit offers, nothing came close price-wise. <Ah, thanks for this input> Another thing that I'm wondering (since I have you as my captive audience *grin*) is about a hitchhiker that came along on a lovely piece of rock that I ordered sight unseen from FFE. It was supposed to be a 3 to 5" mass of tea cup Caulerpa, but my goodness, it has 5 or 6 different varieties of plants as well as a dozen or more tiny feather dusters and some kind of little tentacled patch with circles on the end of its tentacles!  <Yes... these "items" don't come "punched out of a machine"... Perhaps a zoanthid of some sort...> What I'm concerned about, though, is something black, flat, and slimy, about 1" by 1" in size or so. I didn't know what to do with it (kinda scared of it, actually) so I left it there. <Good... likely a sponge species... and will pass with no problem...> When I looked at it yesterday, it appeared to have a bright yellow or orange circle of color on it, which wasn't there last night when I looked at it again (it had moved a bit further into a crevice in the rock). I don't want to handle the rock too much because of all the little feather dusters, but I'm fascinated by that thing. Any idea of what it is? Sorry I can't send you a digitized pic (yet -- but give me a week). Actually, I went to go look at it again and it's no longer on that rock, so I sure hope whatever it is isn't bad! Have a blessed Easter! Sherri <Thank you my friend. And no worries re this organism. Bob Fenner>

Tank cycle Dear Bob- First, thanks for a great site-I just happened to bump into it a few weeks ago and now continually go to it for info. Briefly, I have had a 90 gal. tank up for 6 wks. In the first 3 wks I added 40lbs of live sand and 70 lbs of aragonite. The ammonia spiked, came down not to 0) and I added 90 lbs of cured live rock at about 4 wks. My concern is the tank has not completed its cycle yet. Ammonia is still detectable 0.01-0.03 and there are nitrite readings. I have a Lifereef LF125 Berlin set-up with a Venturi skimmer. PH seems to be high at 8.8 but probably because it is still cycling? <Hmm, the pH should not be this high... I would check the checkers... use another test kit> I have not added any additives but have kept the lights on for about 10 hrs a day since week 5. thanks for your help and insight. R.Duke <Keep waiting on any other livestock till your ammonia and nitrite are at zero. Bob Fenner>

A Few More Questions Bob Since you were such a help with my PC lighting, I have some more questions..... <Hmm> Right now I have 65 gallons of water at sg 1.024 and temperature of 78F. All this water is run through an Amiracle Maxi Reef 100 W/D using a Iwaki 30 series pump. I went with the larger pump so I could provide enough flow for multiple returns, rather than decorating my tank with powerheads. And of course the whole system is lit by a 2x96 power compact with room for a 2x55 if I get crazy. <Sounds good> So now the testing questions...... 1. I started with the SeaTest hydrometer. Will this work well enough, or should I consider a floater? I see a lot of discussion on hydrometers, but no clear cut answers? <This unit is accurate and precise enough for all aquarium use> 2. I have found the same problem (all talk, no answers) with test kits. I've been leaning towards the Salifert line. Any advice would be greatly appreciated here. I've read so many horror stories about people wasting money on poor kits. <This whole line is excellent... easy to use, good standards...> Now the tank questions...... 1. This coming week, I'm going to order live rock from FFE. I'm going with a box of their $99 stuff and a box of larger handpicked rock for a good base. That will give me 90lbs. So I plan to pick off the obvious dead stuff, rinse it off a little and throw it in the tank to begin the cycle. At this point, I will also add an inch or so of some substrate. So am I missing anything? <Please read through our websites section on "Live Rock" and the few hundred FAQs in various files under sub-headings like "LR Selection", "LR Placement", "LR Curing"... the site's URL: www.WetWebMedia.com> 2. Should I add a damsel or two, or just let the rock do its thing? <IMO, the latter> 3. I plan on skimming (Turboflotor or Urchin) the crap out of the tank during cycling. Acceptable? I here people say not to skim during cycling. BTW, have you heard anything about the RedSea Prizm? <See the WWM site under "Skimmer Selection FAQs"...> 4. Next to last question. During cycling, should I just watch, keep everything clean and keep that water topped off, or do I need to do more? I'll track ammonia, nitrite and nitrate and do a major water change after cycling is complete. Are there any other parameters I should pay close attention to during cycling? <See the site... alkalinity, pH and biomineral content in addition> 5. Finally, additives. What and when? B-Ionic, CB Tech C Balance? During cycling? After cycling? I'm lost on this aspect. <Very easy to get lost here... see the site, buy and read the references referred to there in the FAQs... a huge category of misinformation... misuse... induced losses...> Thanks again Bob. It's been three months (and tons of cash), but I finally have water. I'm getting close here. Paul <All things in good time my friend. Bob Fenner>

Calcium testing Hi Bob. I thought you might like to hear of a problem I've come across with using the Seatest's Calcium test. I was concerned with a low calcium reading so I thought I would repeat the test to ensure accuracy. During five tests all conducted within half an hour, I got some strange readings. One test never did change color from pink to blue, suggesting a calcium level over 700. The other four tests ranged from a low of 375 to a high of 420. Is this sort of variation normal when testing calcium? <No... decidedly not> Should I average the readings? <I wouldn't...> Is there a more reliable brand? <Yes... more accurate (measuring what's there), precise (rendering the same results)... like Salifert, Hach, LaMotte...> I've also heard that there are TDS meters that test calcium accurately for a couple of hundred bucks. Are there any you would recommend? <Hmm... no... as far as I know total dissolved solids meters only approximate calcium concentration measures...> Thanks for your help, your site is very informative and the advice you offer is priceless. Dave. <Hmm, must be why it doesn't pay! Bob Fenner>

Please advice! (need for investigation, test kits...) I have been trying to get my 55 gal tank running for 8 months or so. Here is what I got. In filtration I have a Emperor the one w/ two bio wheels, a bio-matrix Skilter 400 duel filtration & a skimmer tower, as for water circulation I got two power heads, each on both ends of the tank, two 48' 50/50 & Actinic bulbs, I don't have that much live rock in it, crushed coral as a bed base I'll say 2 or 3 inches high. What else do I need to keep my tank in good shape. <Do you have, use test kits? These would give you a good idea of what is going on in your water... and areas you might seek to improve.> I have been buying fish but I cant seem to keep them alive for more then a month. I also started a 55gal.Hospital Tank with exactly the same filtration & light set up, where I was forced to move my fish to (2 Clowns, 1 Domino Damsel,1 royal dottyback,1 puffer and 2 anemones), due to ammonia levels. My second question is I used to have pawn on my back yard with the particular rock settings you know, those reddish, brownish colors, would it be safe to put them in my tanks after having them cleaned of course, for decoration purposes. Thank You so much for your time on reading this letter. <Thank you for writing... Probably no on the pond rocks... and we need to work on finding out what is "missing" or "wrong" with your system if you are continuing to lose livestock. Please read through the "Toxic Tank Situations" and "Set-Up" and "Filtration" sections and associated FAQs posted on the Marine Section of the site: www.WetWebMedia.com for more than we can go through here... something is awry here... Bob Fenner>

Re: Please advice! Thank you so very much for answering my letter in such a short time, I went out and bought myself a complete water test kits and everything is right on the dot, except my nitrate its at 40 ppm's, I used to have undergravel filtration set up on the tank a while back but it was not running, maybe gases formed due to the lack of water circulation, I don't know. I took it out tested the water and placed a Magnum canister filter for 10 hours to help clean up the mess from the under gravel filters, tested the water everything came out good, would it be safe to put the fish back in at this time? I spent 4 hours reading through the faq's posted on your great page, I learned a lot. This is the best page on the net, trust me I looked. Thanks again for all your help. <Ahh, thank you for your kind comments. Deeply gratifying to find one's work of use. Yes to the plan to return your fish livestock. This is likely the best place for them to be. Bob Fenner>

Re: Salts and testing  Thanks for the quick response. I have a follow up question. If I stopped adding ALL supplements once I begin using the Reef Crystals, how long do you think it would take to see any meaningful results via my test kits? (calcium, iodide, etc.) <Hmm, meaningful? Almost immediately...> Thanks again and hope all well, Tony <Ahh, yes, just busy... which is good... as usual. Bob Fenner>

Test kits Bob, Thank you for your recent help with the Dottyback & royal Gramma. I have returned the Dottyback and replaced it with a cleaner shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis) <A much happier arrangement no doubt> I have another question for you. I bought a Red Sea Fish Pharm Saltwater Test kit (Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, Ph, & Alkalinity) last fall before setting up my 55 gal. saltwater tank. I consistently get the same readings when I do the Nitrate test. (2.5 ppm using the liquid reagents and 10 ppm using the dry reagent) I don't think that can be right.  <Uh, no...> They should either be climbing or dropping off. I doubt that I have enough live rock for them to really drop off. <Would definitely "test the testers" here... sounds like you have bunk reagents... take them back to the dealer, and they can/will return them back up the line...> My 2 1/2 month old set-up is as follows: 55 gal. UG filter plenum 40 lbs. Aragonite 4 lbs. Fiji live rock (Working on slowly) Lee's 16 inch Counter Current skimmer Whisper 5 Power Filter Penguin 660 Power head twin tube shop light hung over glass tops. 200 watt Hagen Tronic heater Livestock: 2 ocellaris/Percula clowns (I think they're ocellaris. Dealer said they were Percula.) Royal Gramma Common Cleaner Shrimp 6 turbo snails 6 blue-legged hermit crabs I suspect that the test kits are either old or just inaccurate. I haven't done a water change in a month or so. I had to throw out a big batch of water, then had the Dottyback in my hospital tank which I was using for mixing water. I now have a 5 gallon pail that I am using for mixing water. Because of the time since a water change, I really think that nitrates should be rising. <You are correct> Do you concur that the nitrates should either rise or fall? If so, would you suspect the test kit's age or quality? <Both> My main question is: Do you have a recommendation for test kits? <Salifert, Hach, LaMotte...> I have gotten varying advice. One fish store recommended Tetra's test, another recommended Hagen's. Aquarium Systems SeaTest and FasTest seem to have a wide following but the store recommending Hagen said he quit carrying the FasTest and SeaTest kits because he got a lot of complaints about inaccuracy. In your book, CMA, you picture the SeaTest and FasTest kits. <These are okay... made by Hach for AS...> Somewhere I read (I thought it was your book, but couldn't find it again.) that test kits that have transparent color guides are better. I like the look of the Aquarium Systems tests, they look like they would be easy to read results. Are there any other test kits that have transparent color guides rather than cards? What about the test strips that you just dip in the water; are they any good? <Yes, accurate and precise enough for aquarium use...> Thanks for all your assistance. Jeff Schulz <Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner>

Adding Tang, death of blenny, Ca testing... Hi again Bob, Sorry to pester you, but don't say you weren't warned. :-) You probably remember me by now. <No worries> I am *still* wondering what you meant by this. > > I strongly sense a larger system in your near future.> Does this mean if I get a Tang, I will *need* to get a larger system!? <Eventually yes. More to the point, this is/was a matter of premonition. I foresee a larger system for you.> Re: Death of bicolor blenny. > Much more important...how long should I wait since the death of that other fish?? My records indicate he died on 2/15. :-( >I don't know why he died, so this gives me pause. >As I told you I put in a couple cleaner shrimp. They have attended to the Midas (and my fingers) :-) Clues to death-- heavy breathing, lying on side, not eating. kind of stayed that way for a few days. He ate when first in tank and seemed ok. Though what do I know? Several people insisted blennies and gobies act strange, but I was pretty sure something was wrong. Had no idea what to do. I was going to guess suffocation. <Very likely yes> Maybe from gill parasites or maybe from the tank (lack of O2). The Midas blenny is ok, though. Goes to surface a lot but not all the time, not sure how they swim anyway. He spends much time in his hole being a fish puppet. :-) <Typical> I have a partial cover (maybe a 3/4 covered). I have the algae in the Ecosystem filter. (not sure if this does anything for 02 though). And a Rio 600 that goes from the sump to the tank. (I'm assuming you have seen one of these.) The water moves quite a lot wavy especially at the top. Question is: is it enough? <Can be tested with gear... but livestock are best indicator... Would add an airstone, other surface disruption, perhaps a submersible pump, powerhead to mix water more thorough/vigorously> I am giving you this info, so if I do need more water/air exchange, you can tell me perhaps. I don't want to have the same thing happen. >> Much more important...how long should I wait since the death of that other fish?? My records indicate he died on 2/15. :-( ><Would wait a good two weeks> No problem. >I think I have the calcium question figured out. (?) I was just reading the test wrong. It is a bit hard to tell when it changes colors (I am using SeaTest). ><I understand> Ok, since you understand this, I am going to ask you, have you seen/used the SeaTest Ca test? <Yes>If so, it changes from magenta to violet to blue violet to pure blue. If you wait till it turns to pure blue you might be putting in 40 + drops (600!!). And if you only wait till it turns violet it might be 20 (300). My fish is alive and has no burns and the sand is soft ,so I am assuming it isn't too high. If I wait till it turns blue violet it is around 405 or so. Obviously I want the right no. though and not just the one I would want. (If you get what I mean). It's either right or low. <Or too high...> The directions say wait till it turns pure blue. I was told by two different LFS that this is misleading. So how would you read this? I say blue violet, because I am guessing they are thinking blue. But what do I know. BTW, I have no coral yet so maybe this is not real necessary to know?? <Not as necessary to know... and wouldn't fool with, belabor too much... pH is a useful enough window for you for now... and do agree with your assessment of this colorimetric assay... blue-violet is fine... not misleading> Since I lied :-) and asked re: Ca, I'll hold off on the on the substrate until later. <Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner> Thanks again. This is a GREAT service you provide. Nice to have a really knowledgeable person with nothing to sell (ok books :-)) --Jane <And myself.>

Test Readings Hi Bob, My 90 gal reef tank is 6 months old. From the very first time I tested my water the readings were as follows; pH - 8.0 Alk - 3.7meq/l Nitrates - 0 <really?> Calcium - 400 Last night I tested and came up with; pH - 8.4 Alk - 2.4meq/l <a bit low> Nitrates - 0 calcium - 425+ I change 5 gals of water a week. I add Coral Vital 3 times a week. <contact Weiss about the effects of pouring in sugar> I use Kent Liquid calcium and Kent TECH I Iodine. The Calcium is added to my NURCE. Previously, I added 5 tsp.s of calcium to my five gallon NURCE. A month ago I upped it to 8 tsp.s when I fill the NURCE. The only thing that has changed in the tank, was I've added a powerhead, which the corals seem to really appreciate. Everything looks fine, better than ever. But why would the pH climb and alk drop? <Enhanced photosynthesis... increased anaerobiosis from adding sugar to the system...> Any suggestions/info would be appreciated. Thanks again for your past help and the web site is great! Thanks again, Tony <Stop using the sugar water, look into a calcium reactor or at least the use of baking soda to re-elevate the alkalinity. Bob Fenner>

Re: Test Readings Hi Bob, Thanks. Yes, my nitrates test 0. I'm using Salifert's kit. I've got 2 small fish and 5 corals in 92 gals. I only feed every 3-4 days. All seem fine.  <Ah, good> If I use Kent's liquid Pro Buffer, will that work the same as baking soda? <Yes... it's ostensibly/largely the same... sodium bicarbonate (plus some carbonate)> On Coral Vital... I thought (read) that this stuff is the greatest thing since the protein skimmer?!?!?? Have I wasted my money...again? <Not in my opinion... it's an old (European) cathartic... but not a good idea to add sugars ongoing to an established captive system> Thanks for your help. Hope all is well, Tony <All is my friend. Bob Fenner>

Salt water test kit Bob or whom it may concern, Hello, let me say what an honor it is to be speaking with you. I have read many of your articles and respect your knowledge and the years of service you have provided to the hobby. <Thank you> Here is my problem. I know it is going to be rather ambiguous but I am hoping you might have some recommendations. I recently bought a used 75 gallon DAS tank from an individual. He gave me a bag full of little vials. He told me this was the test kit for the tank. The problem is it has NO instructions. He apparently did not know how to use them either. The bag contains 5 tests. Copper reagent (1 vial liquid), PH indicator (1 vial liquid), nitrite reagent (2 vials liquid part A and B), ammonia reagent (2 vials liquid part A and B), nitrate reagent (3 vials liquid part A, B, and D one vial powder zinc dust) part C), it also came with a little water vial and a small scoop for the powder. I know the simple answer is to just throw it all away and go buy new. I thought of that BUT complete test kits start at around $50 AND I have 3 complete sets of each. They appear to be brand spanking new too! I am hoping that you with all of your knowledge might know how to utilize these test. Maybe one drop of each liquid and look for a particular color? I don't know. The kit was manufactured by a company called Marine Enterprises out of Towson, MD. I tried doing a search for them on the net and all I found was a boating company. I truly hope you might have some advice on how to go about using this test kit. Any help would be greatly appreciated. <Hmm, looking in my spiffy Buyer's Guide (the industry does have periodicals...), Marine Enterprise does have a posted 800 line: 200-7258... give them a call and ask them to send you a set of colorimetric standards (comparative color), and the instruction sets that come with their kits... Explain your situation to them> While I have you does pom pom xenia or creeping xenia have any special needs? I have both and the creeping appears to be dying rather quickly. <Hmm, brisk, discontinuous current, high dissolved oxygen, some organic content in their water, absence of proximal stinging-celled animals... I would start using some iodine weekly and activated carbon once a month... to discount chemical interactions...> Thanks in advance, Rick Snoddy
<You're welcome, Bob Fenner> 

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