What to test for and why

Discussion in 'Water Parameters and Additives' started by Jaak, 16 May 2009.

  1. Jaak

    Jaak

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    Mekaeel, here goes a few more examples I found which helped me:

    Salinity:
    NSW levels average around 35ppt. This is what we should be aiming for within a reef tank. However areas such as the Red Sea have higher than average levels at around 40ppt. If you are running a Red Sea biotope, then it’s acceptable to have a salinity of between 35ppt and 40ppt.
    However, for a normal mixed reef tank you should aim for 35ppt, anything lower than 32 or higher than 38ppt may induce stress upon the inhabitants.
    To correct a low salinity level, use salt water made up to 35ppt for your top up water (dripped slowly) until the aquarium level has reached the correct level.
    To correct a high salinity level, remove a qty of salt water and replace with fresh RO water (dripped slowly).
    Whatever changes you make to salinity, they should be made gradually, do not increase/decrease salinity levels by more than 1ppt per 24hours.
    As for equipment for testing, DO NOT use a swing arm hydrometer, they are usually very inaccurate and unreliable. Either use a refractometer or a high quality calibrated hydrometer (if it is under £30 then its probably no good!)
    You can buy reference solutions for calibrating a refractometer which are usually made up to 35ppt, but you can also use RO or de-ionised water to give just as accurate a reading which should be zero on the scale. In fact you can even use tap water, run the tap for a minute or so to clear any debris and make sure it is about 25c, this should also give you a zero reading, compare it against RO water to be sure, but as we are talking parts per thousand not millions like with a TDS meter, even a tap water of 300TDS is not going to effect the reading which as I say is in parts per thousands, not millions.
    See here for more information Refractometers and Salinity Measurement by Randy Holmes-Farley - Reefkeeping.com

    Alkalinity:
    Alkalinity (dKH) should be maintained close to or just above NSW levels (7dKH) Aiming for 8 to 10dKH gives you a bit of a buffer zone.
    If Alkalinity levels are low then pH levels can fluctuate, stony corals will stop growing, as will calcareous algae’s like coralline.
    To increase Alkalinity levels, dissolve a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda in a glass of RO water and drip into the tank. Test daily and continue this process until you have reached the desired level.
    To decrease Alkalinity levels, this will drop on its own if you are not adding any additives and your fresh salt mixes are lower in Alkalinity than your current aquarium level. You need to test a fresh salt mix to establish the Alkalinity level, if it is high, then consider changing salt brand or stop water changes until the Alkalinity level in aquarium has dropped to the desired level.
    See here for more information http://www.reefkeeping.com/issues/20...ture/index.php

    Calcium:
    Calcium should be maintained at between 390 and 450ppm, preferably bang in the middle at around 420 to 430ppm.
    Many corals require calcium in the form of calcium carbonate to build their skeletons and grow. If calcium levels are below natural sea water levels, stony corals will stop growing, as will calcareous algae's like coralline.
    There are several ways of increasing calcium levels - calcium reactor, dosing kalkwasser, using an "off the shelf" liquid additive, to name the 3 most common methods.
    If your calcium levels are unusually high, do not panic, it will drop naturally if you are not dosing any calcium supplements and assuming your fresh salt mix contains a "normal" level of calcium. You should always have a fresh batch of salt water tested to check for any abnormalities in the salt, it's not unheard of to have a new bucket of salt containing as low as 300ppm calcium, or indeed as high as 550ppm!
    See here for more information http://www.reefkeeping.com/issues/20...ture/index.php

    Magnesium:
    Magnesium should be maintained at between 1250 to 1400ppm, ideally at 1300 to 1350ppm.
    Magnesium is important as it helps keep in balance calcium and alkalinity levels. If Magnesium is low then this will in turn result in fairly rapid changes in Alkalinity and Calcium.
    If your Magnesium levels are low, you can increase it using an "off the shelf" liquid additive, or using a mixture of Epsom Salts (magnesium sulphate) and Magnesium Chloride at a ratio of 1:8
    If your magnesium levels are high, then test a fresh salt mix to see what the mg levels are, if unusually high then consider changing your salt brand. Carrying out regular water changes with a salt containing less magnesium than your tank level, will gradually bring the magnesium levels down.
    See here for more information Do-It-Yourself Magnesium Supplements for the Reef Aquarium by Randy Holmes-Farley - Reefkeeping.com

    pH:
    Many aquarists complain about "low pH" in fact probably more than any other parameter!
    It is a complex issue and I'm not going to go deep into it here.
    Curing low pH problems can be difficult, every tank is different in terms of size, stocking levels, flow, etc, so there is no one golden cure I'm afraid.
    The first things to consider are:
    Good air flow around the tank, ventilation in the room.
    Water movement in the tank, especially at the surface.
    The use of macro algae in a sump or refugium, either lit 24/7 or reverse lit at night only.
    Stocking densities, lots of fish breathing in a small space will result in a lower pH.
    Is the Alkalinity too low? (Below 7dKH)
    For more information see here Low pH: Causes and Cures by Randy Holmes-Farley - Reefkeeping.com

    Ammonia:
    Ammonia is highly toxic to marine fish and invertebrates, however, due to the large amounts of bacteria in the water, the ammonia is rapidly removed and therefore does not usually create a problem in most established tanks. It only becomes a problem if something dies, which can cause a spike in ammonia levels which can have a snowball effect resulting in more creatures dieing one by one until you have a total tank crash!
    Any dead fish discovered should be removed ASAP.
    See here for more information Ammonia and the Reef Aquarium by Randy Holmes-Farley - Reefkeeping.com

    Nitrite:
    Nitrite, the step between Ammonia and Nitrates in the Nitrogen cycle, is actually less toxic to marine fish than many people believe. With freshwater fish it is a different story though, and as most of us have kept freshwater fish at some stage, that is where many of us get our beliefs that Nitrite at any level is fatal, simply not true.
    At levels as high as 300ppm or more some marine fish can still survive!
    Having said that, you really want to keep nitrites at undetectable levels. In a mature aquarium that should not be a problem, but in a new aquarium nitrite will be present for a few days or even weeks, this is why slow stocking and patience is important in the first few months of setting up a marine aquarium.
    If you detect nitrite in your aquarium, it is likely something has recently died, or a lot of things have recently died, like in the event of a prolonged power cut for example.
    Testing for nitrite isn't necessary week in week out in an established aquarium unless you really feel you want to test it.
    ]See here for more information Nitrite and the Reef Aquarium by Randy Holmes-Farley - Reefkeeping.com

    Nitrate:
    Fish can tolerate nitrate levels of up to 100ppm in some cases. However, corals and inverts are not as forgiving. Nitrate’s in a reef tank will fuel problem algae’s and cause highly coloured SPS corals to turn brown due to the increase zooxanthellae algae cells within the coral polyps. This in turn can also slow the growth of the coral.
    Fish can start becoming stressed at levels over 50ppm and regular outbreaks in fish diseases can occur.
    Acceptable levels within a reef tank are 10ppm, preferably zero.
    To reduce nitrates, there are numerous things to look at, however the main reasons for high Nitrates are overstocking, over feeding, use of poor quality water for water changes and top ups, poor water circulation, in-adequate filtration or poorly maintained filtration, old sand, lack of water changes, etc, etc
    See here for more information http://www.advancedaquarist.com/issu...t2003/chem.htm

    Phosphates:
    Phosphates should be kept at undetectable levels in a reef tank. Anything above 0.03ppm will fuel algae growth and inhibit coral growth.
    You should always run a phosphate removing media such as RowaPhos, preferably in a reactor, to reduce Phosphates. All the food we add to the tank contains phosphates; also tap water is high in phosphates, especially in rural areas, so good quality zero TDS RO water should always be used.
    See here for more information Phosphate and the Reef Aquarium by Randy Holmes-Farley - Reefkeeping.com

    Iodine:
    Iodine is a complex substance and the theories behind testing and dosing are just as complex. Rather than me try to explain this here in a few sentences, you need to read the following 2 links to fully understand the reasons behind testing and dosing.
    For more information see here http://www.reef-eden.net/iodine_in_t...f_aquarium.htm and here Chemistry and the Aquarium

    Strontium:
    There is very little known about the importance of Strontium levels in a reef tank. Some hobbyists believe corals stop growing if levels are below 5ppm, however there is no real scientific evidence backing this up yet. Strontium is found in natural sea water at levels of about 8ppm, so we should aim to replicate the natural conditions our livestock has come from. Anywhere between 5 and 15ppm seems to be recommended. Most good salts should already have these levels and no further dosing should be necessary, however if you find that Strontium levels are below 5ppm then additives can be used at the stated dose on the bottle.
    For more information see here Chemistry and the Aquarium

    Potassium:
    Testing and dosing Potassium is a relatively new thing in reefkeeping. It has become popular amongst expert hobbysists specialising in SPS corals using ULNS (ultra low nutrient systems). Some have identified that maintaining the correct levels of Potassium (380ppm) have increased colours in SPS corals significantly.

    Iron:
    As with Strontium, very little is known about the benefits and negatives of dosing Iron to a reef tank.
    The main effect seen that people talk about is the darkening in macro algaes like Chaeto and Caulerpa. Also the possible prevention of Caulerpa racemosa going sexual and polluting the tank. Randy Holmes Farley carried out a small scale survey on the effects of dosing iron and although it was a small scale survey, he came up with figures that suggested Caulerpa was 96% less likely to go sexual when dosing iron than those who were not dosing.
    A lot of us are now using the ULNS (Ultra Low Nutrient Systems) with very low nitrates and phosphates, this in turn is causing our refugiums which were once filled with macro algaes to start receding as less and less nutrients become available. Perhaps if those using ULNS were to start dosing iron we would see a turnaround in the growth and rely less on bacteria to consume the nutrients and go back to letting the macro algaes take a share of the work?
    Another plus side of this would be we may see less micro algaes appear such as diatoms as the macro algae competes for the nutrients.
    Too little is known as to whether over dosing iron to NSW levels will be harmful to other inverts, from the articles I've seen so far, there appears to be no side effects to massive over dosing.
    For more information see here Chemistry and the Aquarium

    Silica:
    Many of us are under the impression that if we have diatoms in our tanks, then we have too high a level of silica. We see countless posts on here every week asking how to get rid of diatoms, but how many times have you seen someone suggest that they test for silicates?
    Silica easily enters the aquarium through poor quality water, either untreated tap water or RO water with a higher than ideal TDS due to poor maintenance in changing the pre-filters, membrane and di-resin.
    Silica is found in NSW at levels of around 0.06 to 2.7 ppm, we try to replicate all our other parameters to NSW levels, so why not Silica as well?
    Silica is not only taken in by diatoms, but molluscs and sponges also benefit from it. Sponges utilise the silica to form internal structures, called spicules, which help them retain their shape. Molluscs such as limpets, utilise silica, for the growth of their teeth (radula), and a possible theory as to why such molluscs do not live long in captivity is the absence of silica - although still only a theory.
    Reefkeeping is moving at a fast pace and I believe it wont be long until we actually see experienced reefkeepers dosing silica into their tanks (you read it here first folks!)
    For more information see here Advanced Aquarist Feature Article
     
    Jenaid and Dane like this.
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  3. maj

    maj

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    great thread this
     
  4. deadmeat2016

    deadmeat2016 Wouter

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    Nice read man :) bit disappointed bout them not not having done experiments with elevated magnesium levels
     
  5. chikaboo

    chikaboo

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    Sorry all just a few quick questions .... when is the best time of day to conduct routine tests ... are there situations where testing should be avoided like (like people dont usually test their sugar levels just after eating) coz you would not get true readings .... Morning/Afternoon .... Before feeding / ******mins/hrsafter feeding .... Lights on/Lights off ..... After/Before waterchanges ....
     
    Last edited: 9 Aug 2010
  6. Tidy

    Tidy

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    thanks for the info
     
  7. Scatmansworld

    Scatmansworld

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    thanks for the post amn,helps
     
  8. chikaboo

    chikaboo

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    Bump ... bump .... bumpity bump
     
  9. herkie

    herkie R.I.P.

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    Thank you very much Jaak, this clarifies a lot of things I have been wondering about.
     
  10. AndrévN

    AndrévN

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    8 Months and no reply LOL
     
  11. chikaboo

    chikaboo

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    I even forgot about but yeah ... would like an answer on this ....
     
  12. chikaboo

    chikaboo

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    Ahemmmmm ... Looks like we in for another long 8 months ... maybe more .....
     
  13. SchyffS

    SchyffS Reef Aquarist

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    I will attempt this for sake of getn closure...:)

    pH - day time - 2 hours after lights on and any time after that(algae photosynthesis)
    pH - night time - 2 hours after lights out(algae respiration) and any time after that (verifying effect of kalk on pH) if dosing kalk after light out.

    Alk - same as above

    Ca, Mg, - weekly/monthly

    All the rest - whenever you wanna.
     
  14. Reidwans

    Reidwans

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    this covers the basics which is spot on question I have is dosing ammounts of the different substances is always tricky
     
  15. Stanley

    Stanley

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    this helps a little for more understanding on the dosing
     
  16. Jenaid

    Jenaid

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    THANKS..making sense:blush:
     
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