What testers do I need?

Uzair Aiman

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Hi, I'm still a beginner in this hobby and I have a 20 gallon AIO tank with 2 clowns, a turbo snail and a frag of GSP.

For the whole time (around 2 months) I've had this tank, I just did weekly water changes and thats all.
I only have a portable refractometer, Salifert Ammonia tester and a Salifert Nitrite tester.

I keep my salinity at 1.022-1.023 all the time.
My Nitrite is always 0 and Ammonia is also always 0 after I cycled and added fish.
What other testers do I need in order to ensure my tank is thriving?
 

brmreefer

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With the current live stock you are good, but I would add Nitrate (NO3). Once starting to add more corals, then I would look into Calcium (Ca), Alkalinity, and Magnesium (Mg).

More advanced SPS, then add Phosphates (PO4).
 

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If you keep any lps or sps, this is the order that for rank importance (not including salinity but those are important)
  1. alkalinity+pH
  2. phosphate
  3. nitrate
  4. calcium
  5. magnesium
  6. nitrite/ammonia (this would be number 1 for cycling)



If you are just doing softies or fish
  1. Phosphate
  2. Nitrate
  3. Alkalinity+pH (if you want corraline algae then calcium and magnesium are handy but you can get around it)
  4. ammonia/nitrite (for cycling)
 
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IMO Nitrate is a MUST. Next is Phos....if going SPS, then Cal, Alk, Mag.
Alk is necessary, IMO, for pretty much any reef tank, but it is essential for any stony corals (lps or sps). Far more important than Nitrate or phosphate. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all important, but if I was starting a reef, and I could only afford to buy one test at a time, I’d buy an alk test before Nitrate or phosphate.
 

CanuckReefer

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Alk is necessary, IMO, for pretty much any reef tank, but it is essential for any stony corals (lps or sps). Far more important than Nitrate or phosphate. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all important, but if I was starting a reef, and I could only afford to buy one test at a time, I’d buy an alk test before Nitrate or phosphate.
I dont test Alk, never have in 25 years. BUT, I do believe it comes down to water change, tank volume, do you dose etc. Many factors....in saying this My tank is 75% softie dominant a few LPS, and one or two SPS. Nitrate is a huge factor for me with the softies, I need to know how much they are consuming, being I have no Skimmer or Sump. Your point is warranted still....it all depends on what type tank you have or intend to have...
 
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Uzair Aiman

Uzair Aiman

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I dont test Alk, never have in 25 years. BUT, I do believe it comes down to water change, tank volume, do you dose etc. Many factors....in saying this My tank is 75% softie dominant a few LPS, and one or two SPS. Nitrate is a huge factor for me with the softies, I need to know how much they are consuming, being I have no Skimmer or Sump. Your point is warranted still....it all depends on what type tank you have or intend to have...
Im only planning to add softies and LPS cause FOR NOW I'm not into the look of SPS (idk in the future tho hehe). I also dont run a skimmer and a sump cause Im only using an AIO tank. How do you keep your parameters in check? What do you test to see your corals thriving? I do weekly water changes and I havent dove into dosing anything in my aquarium (havent studied in that yet). So I guess Ill be needing a nitrate tester? What do you mean by your softies and/or LPS consuming nitrate? Do I need to keep it at a certain point? Cause my GSP seems to open just a little bit and not fully for the past 3 days and idk why. I guess Im going to buy and Alk tester too cause everyone seems to emphasize that if keeping corals.
 
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Uzair Aiman

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If you keep any lps or sps, this is the order that for rank importance (not including salinity but those are important)
  1. alkalinity+pH
  2. phosphate
  3. nitrate
  4. calcium
  5. magnesium
  6. nitrite/ammonia (this would be number 1 for cycling)



If you are just doing softies or fish
  1. Phosphate
  2. Nitrate
  3. Alkalinity+pH (if you want corraline algae then calcium and magnesium are handy but you can get around it)
  4. ammonia/nitrite (for cycling)
Im planning on doing a softie and LPS only tank since I dont really like the looks of SPS corals (For now hehe). So if I were to only buy an Alk tester and a Nitrate tester would it be enough? Or should I just buy all that you stated.
 
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Im only planning to add softies and LPS cause FOR NOW I'm not into the look of SPS (idk in the future tho hehe). I also dont run a skimmer and a sump cause Im only using an AIO tank. How do you keep your parameters in check? What do you test to see your corals thriving? I do weekly water changes and I havent dove into dosing anything in my aquarium (havent studied in that yet). So I guess Ill be needing a nitrate tester? What do you mean by your softies and/or LPS consuming nitrate? Do I need to keep it at a certain point? Cause my GSP seems to open just a little bit and not fully for the past 3 days and idk why. I guess Im going to buy and Alk tester too cause everyone seems to emphasize that if keeping corals.
Purchase the Alk tester, its not gonna hurt right? My parameters are kept in check by a host of things. 90 gallon. My CUC plays a massive part, my small water changes same, I feed a bit less than the average reefer I would guess, because I have to be careful on a medium sized system, with no mech filtration. Softies especially love to consume nitrate IN MY EXPERIENCE, why? I'm not sure, they just seem to grow at a better pace when Nitrate is present, not exploding but present....
 
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Uzair Aiman

Uzair Aiman

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Purchase the Alk tester, its not gonna hurt right? My parameters are kept in check by a host of things. 90 gallon. My CUC plays a massive part, my small water changes same, I feed a bit less than the average reefer I would guess, because I have to be careful on a medium sized system, with no mech filtration. Softies especially love to consume nitrate IN MY EXPERIENCE, why? I'm not sure, they just seem to grow at a better pace when Nitrate is present, not exploding but present....
I see okay. Ill just get both of the testers for now. What CUC do you keep/how many?
 

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Im planning on doing a softie and LPS only tank since I dont really like the looks of SPS corals (For now hehe). So if I were to only buy an Alk tester and a Nitrate tester would it be enough? Or should I just buy all that you stated.
Nitrate, Alk, I would seriously consider Phos as well. What are you feeding? Store bought, pellet, frozen, or reef roids etc? These can often be high in Phosphates. It's good to have a handle on the numbers this way, it can tell you alot, as far as which food seems to be higher in them or needs to be dialed back a bit. Some SPS like a higher Phos tank, others not so much, as you are steering away from the SPS, apparently, it still matters in terms of LPS and softies. I like my Phos numbers lower to non existent, but thats just me. You will get an argument in the other direction certainly....
 

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I see okay. Ill just get both of the testers for now. What CUC do you keep/how many?
90 gallon, two urchins, Sea Cucumber, brittle star, sand sifting star, strawberry Conch, a dozen red and blue leg hermits, trochus and Astrea snails, coral banded shrimp.....so with 20 gallon divide this down considerably. I would think you could get away with what you already have and add in a brittle or serpent star? These are great for getting under the rocks and in sandbed for detritus. Invaluable and one in a 20 would be a valuable addition....reef safe majority of them.
 
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Uzair Aiman

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Nitrate, Alk, I would seriously consider Phos as well. What are you feeding? Store bought, pellet, frozen, or reef roids etc? These can often be high in Phosphates. It's good to have a handle on the numbers this way, it can tell you alot, as far as which food seems to be higher in them or needs to be dialed back a bit. Some SPS like a higher Phos tank, others not so much, as you are steering away from the SPS, apparently, it still matters in terms of LPS and softies. I like my Phos numbers lower to non existent, but thats just me. You will get an argument in the other direction certainly....
Im only feeding them store bought pellets. Planning to buy some copepods and mysis to feed my clowns in the near future. What numbers should I be wanting in this LPS softie tank? Nitrate ( from your experiences ) should not be 0 but not too high I guess. What about Alk? If I do have a Phosphate and Alk tester, how do I control it?
 
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Im planning on doing a softie and LPS only tank since I dont really like the looks of SPS corals (For now hehe). So if I were to only buy an Alk tester and a Nitrate tester would it be enough? Or should I just buy all that you stated.


If you do water changes, magnesium test probably won't be necessary. 2-part dosing for alk and calcium typically has you dose them equally so hypothetically the calcium should be good if the alk stays stable. However, I would have both test (with alk being the most important). Phosphate is a must. You can dose with something like tropic marin all for reef which is an all in one solution, or you can do so with separate bottles. As for pH, you can get cheap pH meters.
 
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brmreefer

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Once the decision is made on what route to go, just remember the following:

  • Take things Slow
  • Make subtle adjustments as needed
  • Have a routine testing cycle to get a pulse on the system

A 20 gal system as quicker parameter swings that say a 150 gal system. With the system's current inhabitants there is not much consumption of the water's compounds and elements until adding some more coral. Recommend holding off on adding more corals until the system has aged a little more, but that is up to the owner. If adding corals anyways, try not to get tempted into adding too many at one time. This allows one to get a grasp on how much of the elements or compounds are being consumed on a daily or weekly basis. Have fun and enjoy. ;Happy
 

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When I started my first tank 38 gallon with the thought of maybe this or maybe that coral, I got into the routine of testing weekly and WC every other week. I even did kalk dosing. It gave me two years of data that I can look back at and see trends.

Ca, Alk, pH, then started with Mg and Nitrates and Phosphates. I do pretty much the same now, but found Alk was important for me as well as Ca and Mg. Both my N and P are pretty much too low to test now, but check it once in awhile. I was testing N and P weekly when my tank was algae covered and was trying to manage it. I rarely test pH now.
 
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Uzair Aiman

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If you do water changes, magnesium test probably won't be necessary. 2-part dosing for alk and calcium typically has you dose them equally so hypothetically the calcium should be good if the alk stays stable. However, I would have both test (with alk being the most important). Phosphate is a must. You can dose with something like tropic marin all for reef which is an all in one solution, or you can do so with separate bottles. As for pH, you can get cheap pH meters.
I really was thinking of buying that tropic marin all for one reef thing but since Im only planning to buy the Alk tester for now, should it be okay? Cause dosing it while not knowing the other elements' parameters are scary to me...
 
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Uzair Aiman

Uzair Aiman

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Once the decision is made on what route to go, just remember the following:

  • Take things Slow
  • Make subtle adjustments as needed
  • Have a routine testing cycle to get a pulse on the system

A 20 gal system as quicker parameter swings that say a 150 gal system. With the system's current inhabitants there is not much consumption of the water's compounds and elements until adding some more coral. Recommend holding off on adding more corals until the system has aged a little more, but that is up to the owner. If adding corals anyways, try not to get tempted into adding too many at one time. This allows one to get a grasp on how much of the elements or compounds are being consumed on a daily or weekly basis. Have fun and enjoy. ;Happy
Ill slow down the stocking in my tank for now. Planning to buy testers with the Tropic Marin all for reef solution soon cause it seems to be a bang for a buck. We ll see how it goes cause Im tight on budget at this moment. Planning to only buy the Alk tester first because people seem to emphasize that tester for corals before anything else
 
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