What Test Kits Do I Need For A Reef Tank
Some hobbyists define reefing not as growing corals but as keeping water. What they mean is that if water parameters are kept in the appropriate ranges there is a good chance that reefing success will follow. However, since water tends to look like, well water, regardless of the levels of ammonia, calcium or other elements, a good set of test kits is one of the most important tools in a reefers toolkit. The necessary test kits can be divided into two categories, those required for the initial cycling process and those necessary for the maintenance of the tank as it matures. All the test kits needed by hobbyists at any stage of their reefing journey can be found here.
The Beginning Three
The first test kits that all new reefers (or for that matter anyone setting up any type of aquarium) need are those for Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate. These are the three parameters that need to be tested and carefully monitored during the cycling process. Here at Reef Casa we highly recommend that cycling be started by using a product such as Reef Casa Ammonia Chloride. Once the aquarium cycling process has begun the first element that will be present in the water is ammonia. The presence of ammonia indicates that cycling has begun. At this point a denitrifying bacteria can be added and the levels of ammonia will start to fall and nitrite levels will begin to rise. The use of a reliable test kit is vital to determine when each of these stages occur. In the last stage, nitrites will begin to fall and nitrates will rise. A tank is safe to add livestock when ammonia and nitrite both read 0 ppm and nitrates are present but below 10 ppm. All of these values should be confirmed through multiple tests over a period of time to ensure the tank is fully cycled before adding livestock.
The Reefing Trinity
For aquarists looking to keep only fish and invertebrates, no further test kits are necessary. However, since the vast majority of hobbyists are also planning on keeping corals in their Reef Casa aquariums there are three other vital test kits: Alkalinity, Calcium and Magnesium. While the chemistry behind the interaction between these three elements is somewhat complicated it is important that the following values be consistently maintained:
Alkalinity: 8-9 dKH
Calcium: 420-450 ppm
Magnesium: 1400-1500 ppm
As corals grow they consume all three of these elements so careful monitoring with a high quality test kit is important to ensure coral health. This allows reefers to determine whether or not water changes are sufficient to ensure levels remain constant or whether dosing is required. While these elements should be tested more often in newer tanks, once the tank is established weekly testing should be sufficient.
While there are countless factors and variables that contribute to a thriving reef tank regular monitoring of water parameters with high quality test kits are a foundation for reefing success.