what test kit for a beginner?

Discussion in 'Water Chemistry' started by jarthel, 18 Nov 2009.

  1. jarthel

    jarthel Member

    Messages:
    212
    as title.

    I'm currently thinking of getting API freshwater master test kit.

    Thank you
     
  2. Dan Crawford

    Dan Crawford Founder Staff Member

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    Daventry, Northants
    Hi, I wouldn't bother with a test kit. They are terribly inaccurate and awfully expensive, if your worried then just grab an Ammonia test kit and leave it at that.

    They are just my thoughts and my experiences but i think many here will agree that they aren't worth it.
     
  3. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
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    Location:
    Chicago, USA
    I agree with Dan. If you follow the basic principles of plant husbandry, especially the maintenance side then you don't need to waste money on inaccurate test kits. Buy more plants with the money saved instead. Have a look at a few different opinions in the thread Which Test Kits are Best?

    Cheers,
     
  4. jarthel

    jarthel Member

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    212
    well without a test kit, how would one know if the fish are dying because of too much ammonia. or the water has become acidic somehow. I'm a beginner and I do not think I would be able to just make conclusions based on observations.
    ---------------------------------------
    If I may asked (in regards to the linked thread), what is EI?
     
  5. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    8,953
    Location:
    Chicago, USA
    Well, fish cannot die of ammonia without showing symptoms of ammonia toxicity. Here are some classic symptoms:
    1. Fish gasp for breath at the water surface
    2. Purple or red gills
    3. Fish is lethargic
    4. Loss of appetite
    5. Fish lays at the bottom of the tank
    6. Red streaking on the fins or body

    So what do you do when you see these symptoms? Massive water changes. In fact it doesn't even matter why the symptoms occur, because when you see odd behavior the first thing to do is massive water changes anyway. How do you avoid this?
    1. Regular tank/filter maintenance
    2. DO NOT overfeed
    3. Regular large water changes
    4. Keep the plants healthy
    5. Be careful and follow precautions when adding medicines to the tank

    The most that the ammonia test kit can do is to corroborate what you are seeing with your eyes.

    Normal acidity in your tank won't kill your fish because most of your fish come from acid waters anyway. Abnormal acidity would be due to chemicals that you would have added such as ph down or something like that. If you're adding CO2 you absolutely will have higher acidity. As far as I' can tell the worst thing a beginner can do is to draw conclusions based on test kit readings because they don't know enough about the cause of the readings to draw the conclusions in the first place. I mean, look at symptoms 1 through 6 above. Don't you think you'd be able to figure something is wrong by observations? Don't you think you can follow the avoidance steps 1 through 5?

    Sure, see either EI DOSING USING DRY SALTS or the more concise JamesC's Estimative Index Explained

    Cheers,
     
  6. Themuleous

    Themuleous Member

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    Aston, Oxfordshire
    For a beginner, I personally would suggest an ammonia test kit and a nitrite text kit, I def until you get a used to keeping fish its worth it. Other water issues generally speaking aren't such an issue.

    Sam
     
  7. chris1004

    chris1004 Member

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    565
    Hi Jarthel / all.

    I would hasten to guess that you'll get one anyway as how are you to know who's right and who's wrong , right? After all the popular majority opinion seems to suggest that they are an absolute must, right? Surely that many people can't be wrong, right? Wrong....Beware cause next they'll tell you that phosphates/nutrients cause algae.

    Ok that was just for a bit of fun but If you do get one then the Api master test kit is about as good as any of them out there for home testing but be aware that they aren't as accurate as some will lead you to believe. I use one from time to time but consider the results to be ball park figures as opposed to absolutes. They can be usefull especially when cycling new filters. But having said that they only show you what you know is happening when cycling a new tank so is it really a worthwhile excersise?

    The test kits that I use most are the KH and GH ones (which to be honest I doubt if I could do without) but unfortunatly these are not included in the master test kit, nor are the other ones that I use only occationally namely the phosphate and iron test kits.

    From the master test kit I now only actually use the Ammonia and Nitrite ones (but only rarely) so was it really worth £25?

    Regards Chris.
     
  8. jarthel

    jarthel Member

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    212
    I won't be putting any fish until the plants has settled down. maybe a month or 2 after setting up the plants.

    :D
     
  9. jarthel

    jarthel Member

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    212
    Since I'm just starting I won't be doing any CO2 injection. Can I still use the EI dosing guide?

    Thank you very much


     
  10. Ed Seeley

    Ed Seeley Member

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    Nottingham
    To check if your tank's safe to add fish all you need is the nitrite test kit. After a week or so ammonia should drop off the scale anyway and once the nitrite level reacher 0 too then it will be safe to add fish. This should be after 2-4 weeks and the longer the better IMO as it lets the tank and plants get really established.
     
  11. AndyOx

    AndyOx Member

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    87
    Location:
    South Oxfordshire
    My own inclination would be to buy the ammonia and nitrite test kits on their own, during the initial phase of setting up an aquarium they are very useful, especially if you are new to the hobby and still learning to really look at what is going on in your aquarium. Once established though and you have a good maintenance schedule you'll not need them. As Clive pointed out the extra money can be put towards extra plants and perhaps a good all round fertiliser one which contains some nitrogen and phosphorus and/or trace elements. This will help ensure that your plants grow strongly. On this point I would suggest making sure that you can spot a true aquatic plant as well, a lot of outlets still tend to try to sell you drowned houseplants :lol: .
    Good luck!
     
  12. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    Location:
    Chicago, USA
    Yep, this is the proper approach. The various points of view about which kits to get are all coming from the angle of "Ooh, I want to get fish in the tank ASAP". My approach is completely different. It's more like; "You have no business adding fish to your tank until you figure out what you're doing"

    If I have no schedule or pressure to add fish to the planted tank then why do I need to measure anything? Who cares what the ammonia or nitrite test kit reading is? I can guarantee you that within 6-8 weeks the tank would have cycled. It can't not happen if you follow the basic procedures. The real concern is learning how to grow healthy plants and how to avoid algal blooms. I've annihilated more fish with CO2 than ammonia, that's for sure. So even after this cycle period, you still need to figure out injection rates. CO2 is a challenging technique, and it's made much more difficult when you have to worry about gassing your fish. If you don't worry about adding fish, guess what? There is no stress. No fish means you don't have to buy food or worry about organic waste due to uneaten food.

    So that's why it would never occur to me to spend money on any test kit, except for the CO2 dropchecker. Set the tank up, add as many fast growing plants as you can afford, add water, nutrients and CO2 and don't go over the top with lighting. Do 50% water changes 2X per week (or more) for the first couple of months. Sit back and relax. Leave the fish out of the equation and the level of complication will decrease exponentially. Look at your plants every day as long as you can. (I mean, that's why you have them, to look at them right?) The more you look at the plants, the more you will learn about them. It's that simple. All the arguments about how beginners don't know anything is completely laughable. Can you tell when a plant is growing? Of course you can. Can you tell when a plant is dying? Yeah, I'll bet you can. Program your mind to learn the skills of observation instead of programming it to trust test kits. I've never seen a test kit solve a problem that couldn't already be solved by observation. Sure, later on, after you understand what you can observe, then you can use test kits because you would have learned to place a priority on your skills of observation, rather than on some chemistry set.

    By the way, have you read Ed's Tutorial Setting up a higher tech planted tank?

    Cheers,
     
  13. paul.in.kendal

    paul.in.kendal Member

    Messages:
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    Location:
    Kendal, Cumbria
    Magic advice from Clive there. I love the way he (you) drills right down to the basics and then works back up from there. I'm about to start my first ever tank, and I have no intention of buying any test kits apart from the KH/GH/PH ones I've already used to find out what's coming out of the tap. I'll not be adding animals until I KNOW that my tank is ready. If test kits are unreliable/inaccurate, isn't it better to rely on careful observation (and a drop checker) coupled with reliable advice from experts like Clive?
     
  14. jarthel

    jarthel Member

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    212
    can someone please answer? thank you very much :)
     
  15. George Farmer

    George Farmer Founder Staff Member

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    Cambridgeshire
  16. chris1004

    chris1004 Member

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    565
    Hi Jarthel,

    EI stands for Estimative Index which is a term used to describe a method many of us use to ensure that the plants have all the nutrients that they need available to them all of the time. Basically this involves the use of fertilisers and big weekly water changes and is especially suited to high light co2 enriched tanks (but not limited to).

    Regards, Chris.
     
  17. jarthel

    jarthel Member

    Messages:
    212
    but it seems EI dosing (as mentioned in the link above) requires variation for non-co2 tanks (though I'll be using excel).
     
  18. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    8,953
    Location:
    Chicago, USA
    NO, this is not true! This is another basic misconception.

    Excel (or any liquid carbon) = CO2. Therefore you are starting a high tech tank because it will be carbon enriched. High tech, by definition means carbon enrichment. It doesn't refer just to all the equipment. All that equipment is necessary to control the rate of enrichment. In your case, you just happen to be enriching the tank with a Liquid Carbon intermediary instead of gas injection, so you don't need as much equipment.

    If you are enriching the tank with a liquid form of Carbon then all the high tech rules absolutely still apply.

    Again, you'll need to be even more careful with the lighting levels because Liquid Carbon is not as effective at delivering CO2 to the plants as gas injection is. You may have to use a lot more Excel than what is published on the bottle, especially in the beginning as the plants try to adjust to being flooded.

    Cheers,
     
  19. jarthel

    jarthel Member

    Messages:
    212
    NO, this is not true! This is another basic misconception.

    Excel (or any liquid carbon) = CO2. Therefore you are starting a high tech tank because it will be carbon enriched. High tech, by definition means carbon enrichment. It doesn't refer just to all the equipment. All that equipment is necessary to control the rate of enrichment. In your case, you just happen to be enriching the tank with a Liquid Carbon intermediary instead of gas injection, so you don't need as much equipment.[/quote]

    snip...

    Do I need to lower the dosage (e.g. less monopotassium sulfate) if using co2 as instructed by the seachem bottle? light will be 1WPG (4x 54W T5 HO with 2 tubes turned off).

    thanks again
     
  20. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    8,953
    Location:
    Chicago, USA
    Well, first of all, you're going to have to determine for yourself just how much Excel you'll need to add. You can start with the bottle dosing suggestions as a baseline number. I suspect that bottle dosing levels will be insufficient so watch for CO2 deficiencies and be prepared to make adjustments if necessary.

    Since Excel delivers less CO2 than injection, and since the lighting levels are low, then you don't need to dose as much nutrients but no one knows exactly what levels you'll need. You'll have to determine that. I suppose you can start with half the dosing levels and make adjustments from there, but that's just a guess. It's very difficult to predict the path in an Excel only tank. I haven't tried it, but perhaps someone who's had good luck using this technique can lend a hand.

    Cheers,
     

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