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Planted Tanker
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I'd stay with the ceramic diffuser.

Since the airstone produced bigger CO2 bubbles, there could've been one or two making their way into the DC, that would skew the read out. Just speculating of course.

If you could test the relative drop in PH between tank water that's been sat out for 24 hours, and current tank water, it would paint a more accurate picture.

You are looking for a 1.0 drop, or close to it. That's all a drop checker is doing anyway, measuring a PH drop.

The test will require a calibrated PH pen ($20 on amazon) Dipsticks arent accurate enough.
 
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