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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-12-2003, 10:05 PM Thread Starter
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Location: Chicago
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What should I look for in terms of water testers?

Through decades of 10g tanks, and a couple of years of a now planted 30g, I have never owned, used, or even seen a water test. In my ignorance/stupidity/laziness I relied upon the LFS to tell me when cycling was complete. And in my unthinking cruelty I guess I decided upon what fish would thrive for me via trial and error.

Whatever my current water parameters, I haven't lost a fish in many months - the vast majority of my fish are a year or 2 old. Serpae, red-eye, and glow-lite tetras and a pleco.

I currently do a 10% water change weekly. I just use tap water, with a dechlorinator added.

I'm currently in the VERY early stages of planning a new larger tank, and the more I look into it, the more I realize I do not wish to just jump into it by trial and error. So I thought I might get a start monitoring my current tank.

What exactly does a test kit consist of?
How do you do testing?
How much do they cost?
Any name brands to look for/avoid?

I thought I'd toss this out to you guys, so I could know what to look for when I head to my LFS. Thanks in advance.

55gal - Coralife 4x65w cf, xp3, flourite, Hydor ETH300w, pressurized CO2 w/ rex(TM) reactor!

30gal - 55W AH, ecco 2232, flourite/gravel, DIY CO2 w/ Hagen ladder

3gal - endlers/cherry shrimp
4W cf, Red Sea deco nano, flourite
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-12-2003, 11:54 PM
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Location: Lake Villa, Illinois
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Aquarium Pharmaceuticals, Inc. makes some nice test kits. The basic kit test pH, Ammonia, Nitrite, General Hardness(GH) and Carbonate Hardness(KH). The kit cost about $25 at your LFS.

If you buy the kit, I also recommend a Nitrate Test Kit. It cost about $7.

This would be good starting point. You can also buy some detail kits that measure iron(Fe), carbon dioxide (CO2), etc. The kits can go up to $100. I do not recommend it when starting out....but its your money.
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-13-2003, 01:31 AM
Algae Grower
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I can't recommend any, but from what I have read, most of these test kits expire. One post that I read suggested only buying kits that have expiration dates on the package so that you know if the chemicals have expired.


55 g ~ 404 Fluval Canister ~ 110w 6400k photoperiod 8 hours at the end of the day
10 g quaratine/hospital
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-13-2003, 01:36 AM
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10% water change on a weekly basis is a little light IMHO. I would do no less than a 25% each week and normally do about 50% a week on my tanks. Except for my 10 gallon Endler's tank which I do 25% a day on.
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-13-2003, 02:07 PM Thread Starter
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I had seen a lot suggesting greater water changes, but my current system seems so simple - 1 3 gal bucket every weekend - and my tank appears spotless, the plants are growing, and the fish seem to be thriving.
What benefits might I/my aquarium expect from increased changes?

55gal - Coralife 4x65w cf, xp3, flourite, Hydor ETH300w, pressurized CO2 w/ rex(TM) reactor!

30gal - 55W AH, ecco 2232, flourite/gravel, DIY CO2 w/ Hagen ladder

3gal - endlers/cherry shrimp
4W cf, Red Sea deco nano, flourite
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-28-2003, 02:46 AM
Planted Tank Obsessed
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it will be better than the stuff you have now. plus tap water does have some nutrients. and it is always nice to play safe.
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-28-2003, 04:24 AM
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If your tank is doing well with a 10 % water change then LEAVE IT! One of the things I have seen with people in the marine tank realm and starting to see it in the planted realm is that they always want to do what others are doing. I think the key is to have consistency and balance. If 10% weekly works for your tank then so be it!


100 Gal Planted, two Filstar XP3, Milwaukee SMS 122 pH controller, Milwaukee reg/bubble, compressed CO2, reactor 1000, 7 WCMM, 12 Ottos, 14 neons, 1 SAE, 3 German blue rams, 2 Florida Flag Fish

10 Gallon...20 Endler's live bearers planted, peat/kitty litter/sand substrate

15 Gallon...Just Schultz Aquatic Plant soil
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-28-2003, 05:15 AM
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my question is how can you know your tank is in optimum condition if you don't have a test kit? your fish and plants can look fine even if trouble is lurking. i am confused. is it better to risk?
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-28-2003, 06:32 AM
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I find water testing is often over-valued, and plain observation might be more useful and sufficient than some of us think.

If you observe your fish and plants daily, and they seem to be thriving, healthy, growing, hungry, and breeding/propagating like nuts, I believe there is not much reason to go say from 10% weekly to 50% weekly just because some others found that's working for them.

In my case, I own three pH test kits, and I hardly use them. I know my water is 7.5 to 7.6, and with CO2 it comes down to 7.0-7.2. I like the AP kit more than the useless Tetra one.

The only thing I test once in a while is Nitrate. I have the AP test and I hate it, it gives me only zero readings, unless I use almost pure KNO3 solution (okay I am exaggerating). I recently bought the Red Sea test kit which seems to be much better, but my values have been constant 5 ppm in the tank and in the tap water. I stopped adding NO3 since I got three fat loaches that have quite some metabolism.

Anyway... just what I think... it's late :mrgreen:
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-29-2003, 05:10 AM
Algae Grower
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Well, I think it's great that your interested in learning about your water chemistry. Especially if your planning on cycling your new tank with fish. There is also a lot of info on the internet about fishless cycling if you want to go that route.

You'll want test kits for ammonia, nitrite, pH, and nitrate. There are plenty of others, but those are the most important from the fishes perspective. I have kits from Tetra and Salifert. I think I spent around $20 for the Tetra Master Kit and maybe $7 each for the Salifert kits. The Tetra Master Kit does not include a nitrate kit, so you'd have to buy that separately. A lot of people seem to be happy with the AP kits, too. Stay away from any kits that use test strips. You want either liquid of powder reagents because they are more accurate. Even so, none of commonly available kits will be perfect, but they will give you a pretty good result.

As for how you do the testing, the kits come with directions, which you'll need to follow precisely for accurate results. One nice thing about the Tetra kit, it includes a fact sheet on each test as to why you're doing it and what do with the results when you get them. You can also get all that info off the internet.

On your existing tank, you'll get the most use out of the nitrate test. The ammonia and nitrite will only be useful if you start having problems. It's always good to know the pH of your water and that of the tank your buying fish from for acclimating purposes.

Hope that helps.
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post #11 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-22-2003, 10:07 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks again, all.
Everything was going along swimmingly, and I back-burnered my ideas of improving my tank over the summer.

But recently I had a pretty severe algae bloom - several types.

Seemed to coincide with getting rid of my pleco which my wife thought had grown too big.

I realized I had grown complacent with my tank. I guess I pay more attention to it when the weather cools off in Chicago - not able to garden outside or golf. And I wasbummed about getting rid of the pleco.

So I scrubbed everything down, got me a new albino bristlenose, and I'm seriously looking into upgrading my light. From what I read, the best way to control algae is to get your plants growing as robustly as possible. And increased lighting is probably the best first step in that direction.

Expect to buy a test kit very shortly as well.

I'll keep you all posted.
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