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Old 02-04-2008, 10:36 PM   #1
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Bald Faced Newbie - Part II - Water

OK - water this time.

First off, testing. I am looking at some kits and I like the Hagen Master kit, for its breadth of tests. Can be gotten (relatively) cheaply at thatpetplace for $65 total. I wrote Hagen to ask them some questions, one answer was that each test has enough reagent for 50-100 samples. I asked about the sensitivity of the tests and I stumped the respondent.

What are the thoughts on this test package? With my background, I am totally at home in matching color charts, it is a non-issue for me. Are the tests fairly reliable and the gradations from color to color not too large?

Second - tap. I have a well, should be fairly hard but I have no numbers. I don't expect any issues here, may even have the benefit of a little extra Ca.

Third - flow. I bought a Rena XP2. Will this give me enough flow and turnover (55g)? I've read turnover rates of 5x, 10x, etc. What is the time basis in these numbers, hours? Is this sufficient (see #4 below) for oxygenation? The LFS had no air pumps at all on any of their SW displays.

Fourth - Tank covers. How much is needed to be exposed to atmosphere? I have a 'classic' 55g tank, 48"x13" (roughly), is this surface area/volume ratio high enough I can have some covering or do I need it totally open? The lamp fixture (260W) will sit about 5 inches above the tank top.

OK - now time to contribute something, probably only for the DIY'ers but here it goes anyways:

pH - pH is measured using a glass pH electrode. This electrode generates an internal potential depending on the number (or lack) of hydrogen ions on the outside surface. This potential is compared against a reference electrode. A reference electrode is typically a simple electrode consisiting of a solution of KCl saturated w/ Ag (silver). The solution is kept in place with a porous plug of some sort. The solution must be allowed to slowly weep though this plug into the solution where the pH is being measured.

Many pH electrodes are what are called 'combination' electrodes. That means that the reference and measuring (pH) electrode are combined into one. If you have one of these take a close look at it and you should find a tiny orifice somewhere near the bottom. This is the porous plug to the reference electrode. It may be white as ceramics are a common material for these plugs.

The measuring of the pH can be done simply with a voltmeter. Place the positive lead on the pH electrode wire and the negative on the reference wire. If it is a combination electrode there may only be one wire, with a BNC connector on the end. In this case place the positive lead on the center conductor and the negative lead on the outside of the connector (connected to the shield in the cable which is what the reference is tied to).

A glass pH electrode gives a voltage of 60 mV for every pH unit. A pH of 7 is 0 mV, this is your starting point. Acidic pH's are + mV and alkaline pH's are - mV's. Knowing all this, a tank with a pH of 8.2 should give a mV reading of -72 mV.

Now the rub. The reference electrode over time becomes contaminated, it is a porous plug after all. This causes the mV reading to drift to zero, even for the same pH. In the above 8.2 pH sample, you may get a reading of only -30 mV after even a couple of months of use. This is totally natural and the proper behavior of the electrodes. That is why you have to calibrate with buffers from time to time.

In the voltmeter reading scenario, to get an accurate pH reading you would have to take some measurements and plot the points. To do this you need two (three is better) buffers. In a SW aquarium, buffers of 7 and 9 would be perfect.

Measure the mV reading with the electrodes in each buffer and plot them. Be sure to mark the x- and y-axis with the proper units and values. Connect the two dots (if three you may have to 'fit' a little) and you now have a calibration curve.

Using this curve you can now take a raw mV reading from the electrodes and get the appropriate pH.
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Old 02-04-2008, 11:27 PM   #2
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Ok I got lost in the chemistry discussion (not my cup of tea). But regarding the first question Hagen is good I have some Hagen tests Salifert test kits seem to be the preffered tests on this forum.

2nd With Saltwater RO/DI water is highly reccomended from a RO/DI unit This is the one I have http://www.melevsreef.com/ro_di.html You may find that your well water will test with Nitrates and Phospates that could cause issues later on. Using a RO/DI unit will give you 99.99% pure water.

3rd 10-20x turnover is suggested. Usually from powerheads and sump return pumps.
Canister filters are good for flow but usually kept empty except for some chemical media when needed. You will find a lot of Saltwater aquarists don't even use canister filters just 1.5-2 pound live rock per gallon and some powerheads for flow

4th Having a covered top is really to prevent jumpers other than that not necessary. Pointing a powerhead at the surface of the water will help with Oxygen exchange if you decide to cover the tank.

Do you have a protein skimmer yet? helps with water quality as well.

Seems like you know your stuff and I hope I was helpfull still new at this as well
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Old 02-05-2008, 02:28 AM   #3
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...
Second - tap. I have a well, should be fairly hard but I have no numbers. I don't expect any issues here, may even have the benefit of a little extra Ca..
I wouldn't gloss over this one lightly. Test your well water for everything before you use it. Specifically, nitrates and phosphates. Keeping pristine water conditions is pretty tough if what you're starting off with isn't even close to pristine. Yeah... you might get some extra Ca, but normally there's some bad stuff that comes along with it also. Ca is easy and cheap to increase! There so much stuff that can be in your water - especially well water - that if you end up having issues down the road, you'll never really be able to rule out whether or not it's due to your water.

Also, consistency with your water is important. I started out with filtered tap water, only to later find some nitrates sneaking into the water during the winter months. (I now use DI.) Using tap, you just never know what's in the water from day to day. Using RO/DI, you're pretty much sure you've got pure water each and every day.

Regarding test kits - the only Hagen test kit I have is for phospates, and it was a waste of money. Bought it before I understood what I was doing and only later realized the sensitivity of it stinks. If any color at all shows up on that Hagen test, it's way too much to start with! I use API (Aquarium Pharmaceuticals) and Salifert. API tests are a good value for the money, but skip the API nitrate test kit. You can't really get a reading below 10ppm with it. With a Salifert nitrate kit, you can get readings of 0.2ppm. Personally, I use Salifert for nitrate, calcium, phosphates, and magnesium. I use API for ammonia, nitrite, pH, alkalinity, and also calcium from time to time.
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Old 02-05-2008, 11:06 AM   #4
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I agree with the above, but I would add to check your tap for ammonia as well. I am on well water and use a RO/DI unit and test it with a TDS meter.
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Old 02-05-2008, 04:41 PM   #5
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I would also add that you do NOT want to cover your tank with anything solid. Use eggcrate or check the platic netting thread I started. The gas exchange (oxygen/CO2) takes place at the surface of the water. You want the surface of the water to ripple not be flat and smooth. This is usually accomplished by pointing a power head towards the surface. There is no need for airstones oir pumps in a sw tank. All the airstones do is break the surface tension at the surface of the water allowing for the gas exchange. Rippling the surface is better and easier to do.
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Old 02-05-2008, 11:00 PM   #6
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I would also add that you do NOT want to cover your tank with anything solid. Use eggcrate or check the platic netting thread I started.
I am curious about this what is the thread title??
Wouldn't a fish jump threw eggcrate I guess it would have to be a pretty precise leap on the fishes part to make it threw the hole. And I would think that eggcrate on the top of the tank would not look very nice. do you have a photo of what you have done. It sounds interesting. Also If the tank has a glass top it usually is not completely covered there is a space in the back for equipment and air. So even if it is covered and there is a powerhead pointed at the surface wouldn't the Gas exchange still be taking place.
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Old 02-10-2008, 06:34 PM   #7
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that your well water will test with Nitrates and Phospates that could cause issues later on. Using a RO/DI unit will give you 99.99% pure water.
I was planning on testing anyways - I am absolutely no rush here, still haven't started putting the stuff together. What would you call an acceptable incoming nitrate level? There are going to be nitrates anyway (how much until you have to decant?), so a little coming in wouldn't hurt? I guess it depends on the level. We are in an agricultural area here so I would suspect that the nitrates will be higher.
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3rd 10-20x turnover is suggested. Usually from powerheads and sump return pumps.
What is the time frame there? Hours I am guessing, as in 550 to 1100 GPH (55 gal.)
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Originally Posted by fijiwigi
Canister filters are good for flow but usually kept empty except for some chemical media when needed. You will find a lot of Saltwater aquarists don't even use canister filters just 1.5-2 pound live rock per gallon and some powerheads for flow
Really? No benefit of substance at all?
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4th Having a covered top is really to prevent jumpers other than that not necessary.
I think a nice stainless screen mesh would work.
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Do you have a protein skimmer yet? helps with water quality as well.
Yup. We'll see how it goes once I get the live rock in place. Thanks for the input.
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Old 02-10-2008, 06:37 PM   #8
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I agree with the above, but I would add to check your tap for ammonia as well. I am on well water and use a RO/DI unit and test it with a TDS meter.
My water comes in through a carbon bed and the a UV system, also a sed filter (we have elemental particulate lead). I *think* ammonia is adsorbed onto the carbon, I can't remember. I would be surprised if the phosphates are.
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Old 02-10-2008, 08:41 PM   #9
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My water comes in through a carbon bed and the a UV system, also a sed filter (we have elemental particulate lead). I *think* ammonia is adsorbed onto the carbon, I can't remember. I would be surprised if the phosphates are.
If you buy a TDS Meter and test it you will find out if your source water has any dissolved solids. I personally like having a RO/DI unit it gives me piece of mind and if a problem presents itself I know it is most likely not the water source. Well worth the investment there are some out there you can get for under 200 dollars. Water quality is the most important factor and with spending thousands of dollars for a reef aquarium the 200dollars for pure water is a valuable percentage of your money invested to be a successful hobbyist
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Old 02-11-2008, 01:07 AM   #10
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If you buy a TDS Meter and test it you will find out if your source water has any dissolved solids.
Any water that is not RO/DI or distilled will have a TDS reading. Especially well water. So a TDS meter on your source wall water won't really tell you much.

Quote:
I think a nice stainless screen mesh would work.
Seems like a stainless mesh is going to get hot and reflect a lot of light. But if you go that route, just make sure it's a stainless steel that will not corrode with the saltwater splash/spray it will get. All stainless is not equal, nor "stainless" for that matter.

Quote:
I *think* ammonia is adsorbed onto the carbon, I can't remember. I would be surprised if the phosphates are.
I think you're right... the carbon should take out the ammonia. But some carbon blocks will leach phosphates back into the water. During the manufacturing process, most carbon is rinsed in, I think, phosphoric acid at the end. So there is normally residual phosphates in the carbon. That's why when buying activated carbon for use in filters, it's best to get a high quality grade and not go cheap as the cheaper ones will leach phosphates into your tank.

Quote:
What would you call an acceptable incoming nitrate level? There are going to be nitrates anyway (how much until you have to decant?), so a little coming in wouldn't hurt? I guess it depends on the level.
For me, acceptable is zero. For you, it all depends on your goal for your tank. I have several LPS corals in my tank as well as my fish and I've been able to keep my nitrates below 1.0ppm (using DI water). And that's where I want them to stay. If you're doing a fish-only tank and think that say 20ppm is acceptable, then you obviously can get away with putting some amount of nitrates in with your fresh water. But just realize that there is more "stuff" in your tap water that we can't test for.
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