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Test kits - What to buy

1019 Views 6 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  WarDaddy
I am setting up a 50 gallon. I will have injected CO2, add fertz, Depending on the time of day I will have 1 WPG up to 4 WPG of light on the tank. What are the parameters that I need to be testing for? DKh, Nitrates, Phospahates, PH (I have a probe for that on my AC3)... anything else that I need to watch?
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It can be fun to watch the various water parameters, but it is rare when those measurements are of any real value. Once you determine that your tap water is within an allowable range of GH and KH, you can ignore those, just by doing regular water changes. Once you settle on dosing non-limiting amounts of all of the nutrients, the EI method, you can ignore nitrates and phosphates. Once you realize that planted tanks don't need to be carefully cycled, you can ignore nitrites and ammonia. And, once you realize that pH is not an important parameter for a planted tank you can ignore it. That doesn't leave much that is important to monitor. I realize that not everyone agrees with this, but it is my opinion.
I see you points. Plants should be good indications that water is ok. The DKh and Ph would yield me the CO2 levels (I read that some where. That is what I was really interested in. That and trying to keep the Ph stable.

Thanks for the help
Bare essentials I would get:
1)Ammonia/Nitrite/Nitrate kit: since you will be cycling the tank you will need to know when its safe to add fish
2)dKH kit so you can make drop checker solution or equate pH to CO2
3)pH kit if you are not going to be using a drop checker

1 and 3 can be found in the API Master Freshwater testing kit for about $20 and the KH kit is around $7-9. Avoid test strips. And the best measurement, like Hoppy said, is how your plants are doing.
I see you points. Plants should be good indications that water is ok. The DKh and Ph would yield me the CO2 levels (I read that some where. That is what I was really interested in. That and trying to keep the Ph stable.

Thanks for the help
This pH/KH/CO2 relationship usually doesn't work in a planted aquarium. That relationship is based on the CO2/fact that your aquarium's water is carbonate buffered. This is not likely the case. Phosphate buffers are found in aquarium water and they invalidate this relationship. Phosphate buffers are usually much stronger than carbonate buffers, if I am remembering correctly.

The following comes from an article about the pH/KH/CO2 relationship.

"The pH-KH-CO2 Relationship

pH, KH, and CO2 have a fixed relationship as long as carbonate is the only buffer present (no phosphate buffers like pH-UP and- DOWN, Discus Buffer, etc). There are some parts of the country that have high levels of phosphates in their water supply. For those cases, determining CO2 levels will be difficult, as the phosphate will throw off the pH-KH-CO2 relationship, which means the CO2 charts and calculator below won't work. Note that the commercially available CO2 test kits will also be invalidated by the phosphates.

To determine your CO2 level based on the pH and KH, you can enter the values into the on-line calculator, or use the chart at the bottom of the page.

NOTE: If you aren't adding CO2 to your water, and the CO2 level based on the pH and KH indicates more than 5ppm, then it is very likely that some other buffer (such as phosphate) is present in your water. In an inhabited aquarium, the amount of CO2 produced by the fish will not have an effect on CO2 levels in the water. Any excess CO2 created by fish will dissipate into the air, leaving a fairly constant CO2 level of about 3-4ppm. If you test your pH and KH, and without adding any CO2, the chart says you've got 20ppm CO2, don't believe it.

In some case, water coming right from the tap can contain very high or very low levels of CO2. This can result in tap water with a high KH, and low pH. But, in just a few hours, that excess CO2 will dissipate from the water, leaving the normal 3-4ppm, and the pH will rise. Sometimes, the water might come from the tap with extremely little CO2, which can result in tap water with a low KH, and a very high pH. Again, after a few hours, the CO2 level will equalize, and the water will end up with 3-4ppm CO2.

pH/KH/CO2 calculator and chart

NOTE: This calculator (and the chart based on this formula) will only work if your water is carbonate buffered. If your water contains high levels of phosphates, it will alter your water properties, and invalidate these CO2 calculations."

EDIT: A drop checker was mentioned earlier. This is a good piece of equipment if you use a 4 dKH carbonate based solution along with the indicator solution. The drop checker is based on the pH/KH/CO2 relationship.
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