Bored of drop tests - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-17-2016, 04:25 PM Thread Starter
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Bored of drop tests

I started off using Tetra dip testers but I heard they're not too accurate (and mine were way out of date so they were almost certainly inaccurate) so I'm currently using an API master drop test kit every few weeks or after events like introducing new flora and fauna. As far as I can tell, that's a nice accurate way of testing your water but boy is it tedious, especially the nitrate test. So I'm looking for an alternative. Options I'm thinking of are:

1. Go back to paper strips, they were much easier. I could spend a couple of months testing with strips at the same time as my drops to reassure myself that they were reasonably accurate.

2. Lower frequency tests. Now that the tank is settled, I probably don't need to test very often any more. I'd still like a better testing regimen though because I'm sure at some point I'll feel the need to tear down and start again.

2b. Lower frequency tests but mitigated by a seachem ammonia alert and ph alert sticker.

3. Electronic meters. On amazon you can get a PH meter for about 10 and a TDS meter for 3! Maybe just use them for the majority of the time because that's low hassle. But are they accurate and does TDS alone give a reliable warning of changes?

4. Seneye. I'd love this and the 70 cost is bearable. It's the ongoing cost of the same again every year on slides which really puts me off this option, plus the requirement to buy another 100 server box to really get the most from it.

What are your thoughts?
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-17-2016, 06:40 PM
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I asked myself this very thing not too long ago. My thoughts...

1. I wouldn't go back to strips. Bad information is worse than no information. You'll end up discounting things thinking they're OK and look elsewhere to explain problems.

2a. This is what I do.

2b. The pH ranges for the Seachem tests was too wide for me. I still have a slight interest in using the ammonia test, but I'd like to test it to see how accurate it is. For example, would it pick up the impact of a dead fish?

3. I use a pH meter. I also use a TDS meter to try and gauge whether I'm adding more ferts than I need.

4. The Seneye doesn't seem to do all that much for freshwater. It measures ammonia, but the other items don't seem like they'd change without you noticing. Maybe pH if you get a CO2 dump. Did I miss something? An automated solution for what the API Master Kit does would be great.

Another option you didn't mention are Hanna checkers. They're expensive so I haven't tried them.

http://hannainst.com/products/checke...mmonia-lr.html

Last edited by infolific; 10-17-2016 at 06:45 PM. Reason: Adding more info.
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-17-2016, 06:51 PM
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Hello TwoTurtles,

Welcome to the forum. Here is the way I do it, of course everybody has a comfort zone given by their trust in equipment, trust in themselves, cash and time.

For most parameters, testing with aquarium grade test kits is like walking in the dark trying to find the sink and the towel (had another image in my head, but let's keep things family friendly). What the test kit shows is around the value that is actually in the aquarium. How much are they off is a function of many other parameters. However, most test kits nowadays have a systematic error for the same aquarium water. That is to say, if today you measure your aquarium with test kit A and it has 10pmm, and tomorrow on the same aquarium with the same test kit you have 30ppm then you can say it increased. It would be wrong to say in increased with exactly 20ppm. Thus good to make an idea, bad to make a decision. There are other ways of measuring the conc. in water but prepare to put some heavy cash aside. Another good option if you really feel you need an accurate image of what is in a tank is to have your water tested at a local water lab or uni.

Instead of relying on the known inaccurate testkit I find that it is better to know what you put in the aquarium and put enough of it to feed the plants. A mature tank should have ammonia at 0 all the time. A ph crash can be avoided by having good KH ~3 or more. Also know that most of the pH values for freshwater fish on sites are based on either dreamt up values or what happened to work for that person. If the site says 6.4-7.2, nothing bad will happen if the pH is 7.5 promise.

I would go with the electronic meters, as long as you understand what they measure and how. The pH pen needs to be calibrated and replaced, the confidence interval for most of the cheap pens would be +/- 0.5 . The TDS meter actually measures conductivity and should provide an estimate of all substances that are in the water column and conduct electricity. It is a great fast read of your aquarium. In a way, it is like me saying all the edges of my room have a length of 180m . Big room , yes. Can you say if a piece of furniture with a height of 3m fits in ? No, because like TDS it does not give a detailed picture of individual measurements/nutrients.

That being said, I find I frequently use a TDS meter, a pH pen /probe, a KH and GH tests (because I use RO water). Ammonia tests can be used if you are in a hurry to start up a new tank but not absolutely necessary.
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-17-2016, 07:29 PM
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TwoTurtles,

option 3 is by far the best and easiest form of taking the pulse of your tank.
Initially, I would build a comfort level by using the API drop-tests and the electronic tests together. You will then learn quickly to just rely on the electronic test.
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-17-2016, 08:05 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks a lot for the answers everyone.

It seems like the consensus is pretty much that a TDS meter would be a useful addition. Not to completely replace the drop testing but to give me a hint that something has changed. I can then break out the full kit to find out what. Although actually the more I read about water chemistry the more I realise that I am never going to find out exactly what is going on.
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-18-2016, 12:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TwoTurtles View Post

1. Go back to paper strips, they were much easier.

2. Lower frequency tests. Now that the tank is settled, I probably don't need to test very often any more. I'd still like a better testing regimen though because I'm sure at some point I'll feel the need to tear down and start again.

2b. Lower frequency tests but mitigated by a seachem ammonia alert and ph alert sticker.

3. Electronic meters.

4. Seneye. I'd love this and the 70 cost is bearable.

What are your thoughts?
1. Don't go back to paper strips, too inaccurate.

2. Lower frequency testing is great

2b. Seems like another pain.

3. Big Plus for pH & TDS meters.
I can go around to all my tanks and estimate things in mere moments.

4. Seneye. Bought one but only to measure PAR and other lighting specs.
Knowing full well I would never purchase the slides. The slides seem costly to me.


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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-18-2016, 01:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TwoTurtles View Post
I started off using Tetra dip testers but I heard they're not too accurate (and mine were way out of date so they were almost certainly inaccurate) so I'm currently using an API master drop test kit every few weeks or after events like introducing new flora and fauna. As far as I can tell, that's a nice accurate way of testing your water but boy is it tedious, especially the nitrate test. So I'm looking for an alternative. Options I'm thinking of are:



1. Go back to paper strips, they were much easier. I could spend a couple of months testing with strips at the same time as my drops to reassure myself that they were reasonably accurate.



2. Lower frequency tests. Now that the tank is settled, I probably don't need to test very often any more. I'd still like a better testing regimen though because I'm sure at some point I'll feel the need to tear down and start again.



2b. Lower frequency tests but mitigated by a seachem ammonia alert and ph alert sticker.



3. Electronic meters. On amazon you can get a PH meter for about 10 and a TDS meter for 3! Maybe just use them for the majority of the time because that's low hassle. But are they accurate and does TDS alone give a reliable warning of changes?



4. Seneye. I'd love this and the 70 cost is bearable. It's the ongoing cost of the same again every year on slides which really puts me off this option, plus the requirement to buy another 100 server box to really get the most from it.



What are your thoughts?

With a stable tank, I went back to test strips, but I calibrate each batch with my API tests and I supplement with observations of livestock and plants. I like to look at the tank more than playing with test kits.

I use a TDS pen frequently as my canary test.

For new tanks, or when the plants or stock starts to show stress, I revert back to the more sensitive, drop based tests.



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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-18-2016, 01:30 AM
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You can look at the Hanna Checkers that cost around $50 per checker. For freshwater they have kits for Lo Range Mn, High Range Phosphate, Fe and Calcium and magnesium hardness.

If money is not an issue then you can check out the Hanna HI-83200 multi-parameter photometer. Similar to the small checkers but can do more types of tests. It has a test for NO3, PO4, SO4, Cu, Mn, Fe, Mg, K, Ca, ammonia, Chlorine, etc.


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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-18-2016, 02:10 AM
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Much depends on how stable the tank and how consistent you are.
The strips may not be very accurate but they are consistent. Once you get things lined out and operating all you will be looking for is changes. Once you get used to reading a specific color and that color is not changed from the last test, whether it is 2.0 points high or two points low, is not what you are wanting anyway.
This is where you have to know yourself and be honest. If you WILL use strips, you will find the answer is much better than if you WON'T use drops!
I go with the quick ease of strips and as long as it is steady, that's all I want/need. But if I see changes, I verify with liquids tests even though the API liquid nitrate is almost useless for my water. I have to use half tank water and half distilled to get the reading down to show what is correct. Works fine up to about 20PPM but just totally useless above that.
So what works best depends on how you and your tank operate.
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-19-2016, 07:52 PM
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If you don't enjoy testing, don't do it. An occasion where a test result will greatly benefit you is a rare occasion, so the risk of not doing testing is very slight. You can make the "need" for testing much smaller by not trying to adjust the parameters of your tap water or other source water used for water changes. Changes to tap water parameters usually occur very slowly, as the amount of rain increases/decreases, for example. So, you can ignore the small differences from one water change to another.

Another way to greatly reduce the "need" for water testing is to change about 50% of the water every week or two. That prevents slow changes in water parameters from building up to be major changes over time. It also resets the tank water to very close to the tap water parameters very often.

Also, by dosing fertilizers routinely, the same dosages every few days, you can easily calculate the maximum build-up of each of the nutrients, and be sure that your routine water changes are preventing excessive build-ups.

This is a hobby, not a job. So, a good goal is to maximize the time spent doing things you enjoy, and minimize the time spent doing things you don't enjoy.

If you get your kicks from growing fish that cost you a lot of money you will probably be much more inclined to learn to enjoy water testing, which is another obvious way to handle this.

Hoppy
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post #11 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-20-2016, 12:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dukydaf View Post
Hello TwoTurtles,

Welcome to the forum. Here is the way I do it, of course everybody has a comfort zone given by their trust in equipment, trust in themselves, cash and time.

For most parameters, testing with aquarium grade test kits is like walking in the dark trying to find the sink and the towel (had another image in my head, but let's keep things family friendly). What the test kit shows is around the value that is actually in the aquarium. How much are they off is a function of many other parameters. However, most test kits nowadays have a systematic error for the same aquarium water. That is to say, if today you measure your aquarium with test kit A and it has 10pmm, and tomorrow on the same aquarium with the same test kit you have 30ppm then you can say it increased. It would be wrong to say in increased with exactly 20ppm. Thus good to make an idea, bad to make a decision. There are other ways of measuring the conc. in water but prepare to put some heavy cash aside. Another good option if you really feel you need an accurate image of what is in a tank is to have your water tested at a local water lab or uni.

Instead of relying on the known inaccurate testkit I find that it is better to know what you put in the aquarium and put enough of it to feed the plants. A mature tank should have ammonia at 0 all the time. A ph crash can be avoided by having good KH ~3 or more. Also know that most of the pH values for freshwater fish on sites are based on either dreamt up values or what happened to work for that person. If the site says 6.4-7.2, nothing bad will happen if the pH is 7.5 promise.

I would go with the electronic meters, as long as you understand what they measure and how. The pH pen needs to be calibrated and replaced, the confidence interval for most of the cheap pens would be +/- 0.5 . The TDS meter actually measures conductivity and should provide an estimate of all substances that are in the water column and conduct electricity. It is a great fast read of your aquarium. In a way, it is like me saying all the edges of my room have a length of 180m . Big room , yes. Can you say if a piece of furniture with a height of 3m fits in ? No, because like TDS it does not give a detailed picture of individual measurements/nutrients.

That being said, I find I frequently use a TDS meter, a pH pen /probe, a KH and GH tests (because I use RO water). Ammonia tests can be used if you are in a hurry to start up a new tank but not absolutely necessary.
I have read that ORP (which captures the organics, etc) is more important as a measure of water quality in fish tanks than TDS, and that the latter should be reserved for those using RO/DI water.
Whatare your thoughts on this? Thanks, Greg
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