Testing And Dosing for a newbie

shrive81

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Hey guys,

So I have been researching for a few months now trying to understand all the craziness around starting a reef tank with fish. I have purchased all my equipment and just waiting on the tank to arrive in the next week or so. I will be using Dr. Tim's to cycle the tank initially then will add some fish slowly and start adding corals (which ones i have not figured out yet) My concern and i guess confusion is with testing and understanding the ideal parameters and what dosing I should be doing or if any and knowing what to do when they are out of proper parameters.

The main Questions:

1. What are the ideal parameters I should test for on a new tank that will have fish and corals:

2. With those parameters that i am testing what is the proper range or ideal numbers.

3. What dosing is a must and how often or how do i understand how much i need to dose (aka does the bottle have it on it)

4. What is the best test kits or testers to buy. I have not purchased any test items yet.



I appreciate all the help. I know this is a pretty big ask and i believe i have small understanding but any advice for a new guy would be great. I don't want to mess this up and also don't want a algae factory hahahaha
 
Fritz

Ludders

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Many questions and I'll try my best to help answer them all for you.

1. Ideal parameters
This depends on what kind of reef you have. Soft, Mixed, LPS dominant, SPS dominant etc.
Also which brand of salt mix you will be using.
Now I use the Red Sea Pro salt mix and find this a very consistent product. I maintain the high alk level, calcium and mag it's set to at SG 1.026.
The main thing and key here is stability over anything else.

2. recommended range?
see point 1.

3. vital elements and how much?
Salinity, Alk, calcium, magnesium, phosphates and nitrates are all essential to monitor and control.
The aim is for stability, so you don't want you coral using up the trace elements throughout the week and then buffer it all back up at the weekend. We call this a parameter swing and it will cause your SPS coral to bleach out and die.
What you need to do is test as regularly as you need (which will be daily at first) until you have a gauge on how much your tank is consuming.
Each coral consumes these elements to grow and survive, so it's subjective and constantly changing within our tanks.
Dosing pumps control accurately how much we put back in on a regular basis to maintain stable conditions.

4. what test kits are best?
Hanna test kits I would say are the best, but red sea make some pretty good pro test kits which I've found to be okay.
 

PatW

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Ideal Parameters:

As above, can vary. But salinity 1.025 - 1.027. It is best if kept constant hence an ATO is HIGHLY recommended. Also for salinity measuring get a decent refractometer.

ALK - again stability is key. I run 8.0 DKH. SPS are generally kept at 8.0. But people run from 7.5 - 12.

Calcium - generally over 380. I run 450. Here a bit of wobble is not terrible.

Magnesium 1200-1400. I find that water changes pretty much keep this constant.

Nitrate - I run 1 ppm. But people run from .5 ppm to over 20 ppm. Generally SPS are below 5 and LPS higher.

Phosphates - below .03 ppm. Only 2 test kits can detect these levels: Hanna ULR Phosphorous and Hanna ULR phosphate.

Tests:

Hanna makes decent tests as does Red Sea Pro and Salifert (the cheapest of the three). Now many tests depend on you being able to tell shades of some sort of color. I would highly recommend watching some you tube videos on tests that you are interested in to see if you would feel comfortable using them.
 

mike550

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@shrive81 I'm a bit more than a year into a new tank and as a newbie reefer. Here are a couple of things that I've learned along the way. First, don't manage to the numbers. I try to stay "near" my targets, and there's a bit of drift, but as others have said, stability is key. Second, take your time adding fish and corals. Corals certainly need a stabilized tank and the ability to extract nutrients, etc from the water. Third, you can get a lot of advice on R2R. Find the advice that will work for you.

As to your questions, my goal is a mixed reef tank, and here are my current "target" parameters and what testers I use

Salinity: 1.025 - Hanna HI98319
Alk: 8.5 - Hanna HI772
Nitrate: 5-10 - Nyos
Ca: 450 - Salifert
Mg: 1350 - Salifert
Phosphates: 0.05 - Hanna Ultra Low Phosphorous HI736

As you are cycling your tank, you'll want to watch ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate.

Good luck!
 
BRS

\m/reefsnmetal\m/

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I won't kick a dead horse with the parameters, but have some advice for your second two questions. Dosing additives will have instructions telling you how much to add based on test values. You probably won't need to start dosing for quite some time until you have corals that use up nutrients. I personally got away with weekly water changes for my tank until the corals took off, now I have to dose. As far as test kits are concerned, avoid API as they are notoriously inaccurate. I use Red Sea Pro test kits.
 

NeonRabbit221B

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Nothing I could add that others havn't drilled home besides reiterating that testing and dosing are all about stability. Don't chase numbers for pH/Alk but adjust your routine/setup until those numbers fall in line on average. BRS has great dosing calculators to determine alk consumption.
 
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shrive81

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Thanks guys ha I am a firefithree so I am gone a lot for 2-5 days at a time so testing every day isn’t possible but will just try to be as consistent as possible...
 
Fritz

Ludders

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Perhaps best go for a fish only with some soft corals then if you're away a lot. LPS & especially SPS take more care.
Softie reefs can look pretty sweet given a bit of thought and effort.
 

92Miata

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If you can test nothing else - test alkalinity. Its absolutely the most important parameter - and frankly - more important than the other parameters together.


I very much disagree with people saying you don't need to dose initially - coraline algae is probably the most important organism in young reef tanks - and if you're not maintaining alk, you're not growing coraline. A significant percentage of issues newbies have boils down to not having coraline eating nitrate and phosphate - and getting algae instead. Maintain alkalinity from day 1.
 

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