Greggz 120G Planted Rainbow Tank

Greggz

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For some reason I am not even sure why, I decided to buy a couple of Salifert test kits (N & P). Had heard they may be more accurate than API, and thought why not see if there really is any difference.

So today after my water change, I took readings for N & P with the new kits. Both the N & the P were way lower than usual. I thought it was strange, so I got out my 25 ppm & 50 ppm Nitrate reference solutions.

Here is the Salifert test for the 50 ppm solution. To the naked eye, clearly not anywhere near 100 or 25, and pretty spot on for 50 ppm.
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So then I get out the API kit. Here is the result. Is that 40 ppm? 80 ppm? Heck, even with the naked eye it’s total complete guess.
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Then I decide might as well test the 25 ppm solution. Here is the Salifert. Once again, pretty much spot on.
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Here is the API. 50 ppm on the left, 25 ppm on the right. The 25 ppm vial on the right clearly looks like at least 40 ppm, and probably higher. To the naked eye, they look almost the same.
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Now I haven’t calibrated the API N kit for a while, but if it can get that far off, I don’t how useful it really is. I haven’t made up a phosphate reference solution, but will try and find directions and do so.

So the interesting part of this whole thing is that according to the Salifert kit, which I trust much more now, my N levels are actually much, much lower than I thought. I was getting readings of about 30 or so after a water change, and with the Salifert kit it was less than 10. And my Phosphate reading after a water change was usually around 3 or so, and with the Salifert kit looked like it was between .5 and 1.0.

What do it all mean? Really not much as I try to rely more on the watching the plants than the readings. However, I still take the readings, just to see if anything wonky is going on. I’m thinking now my tank is using way more Nitrates and Phosphates than I thought. I was actually going to cut down on some of my dosing, but not so sure now.

Anyway, I thought it was pretty interesting. Will try to get to the Phosphate comparison soon.
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burr740

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Well the updates are the same but the thread of conversation goes in different directions because there's a different crowd reading each one. When I first got into the hobby I used read Barr's 120 journal on at least 3-4 different sites. It was the same basic updates but different topics come up, trimming question here, light question there, anything really.
 
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tiger15

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Yes, in the API nitrate test chart, 10-20 have identical orange, 40-80 have identical red. It’s good enough for fish only tanks when red is bad, orange is OK, but not precise enough for planted tanks.

Same with API phosphate. It’s hard to differentiate levels between 0-1, or above 2. The matching shift if you look under outside or indoor light.

I’m waiting to see your phosphate comparison. Where did you buy the Salifert test kits?
 
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Greggz

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Yes, in the API nitrate test chart, 10-20 have identical orange, 40-80 have identical red. It’s good enough for fish only tanks when red is bad, orange is OK, but not precise enough for planted tanks.

Same with API phosphate. It’s hard to differentiate levels between 0-1, or above 2. The matching shift if you look under outside or indoor light.

I’m waiting to see your phosphate comparison. Where did you buy the Salifert test kits?
I just picked them up on Amazon. Might get to the Phosphate test today.
 

Greggz

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So on to the Phosphate tests. Mixed up 8 ppm, 4 ppm, and 2 ppm batches. Now keep in mind, I don’t have a lab here, just my kitchen stuff, so how accurate well who knows. But I can say that the 4 ppm is ½ of the 8, and the 2ppm is ½ of the 4 ppm.

First up API kit 4 ppm on left, 8 ppm on right. To the naked eye, I would have called the 4 ppm probably 3 or 4, and the 8 ppm I would have called 10.
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Now here’s where it gets interesting. The Salifert kit only measures up to 3 ppm. And I guess as expected both the 8 ppm on the left, and the 4 ppm on the right look darker than 3 ppm. And honestly they looked like exactly the same color to me. I couldn’t tell them apart.
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Next is API with 4 ppm on the left, and 2 ppm on the right. With the naked eye, I would have called the 4 ppm 3 or 4, and the 2 ppm 1 or 2. In general, I guess not bad.
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Next the Salifert with 4 ppm on left and 2 ppm on right. With the naked eye, I would have called the 4 ppm something more than three, and the 2 ppm I actually would have guessed 3. Once again, they are both really close in color.
pHosting.php?do=show&type=f&id=99418&title=4c.jpg


Since the Salifert is supposed to be the best kit for low readings, I went the extra mile and made up a 1.0 ppm and .5 ppm batch.
Here is 1.0 ppm on the left, and 0.5 ppm on the right. I probably would have called the 1.0 ppm as 2, and the 0.5 ppm as 1.0. Still not bad, and they do look different.
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And lastly here is the Salifert with 1.0 ppm on the left, and 0.5 ppm on the right. I would have called the 1.0 either 2.0 or 3.0 and the 0.5 as 1.0. Once again, they appear slightly different, but almost look the same.
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So that’s my completely unscientific probably mostly worthless analysis. What does all of the above nonsense suggest? Heck, I am still scratching my head. I would say for the planted tank purposes, I am going to stick with the API for Phosphates.

The salifert is pretty useless for 2 ppm or above, as they all just look like the same dark blue to me. And even with the lower ppm solutions, it didn’t seem to be any better than the API. Maybe even a little worse, as the colors just don’t look that different.

With either one, it's pretty much an estimate at best.
 

Allwissend

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Here is the API. 50 ppm on the right, 25 ppm on the left. The 25 ppm vial on the right clearly looks like at least 40 ppm, and probably higher. To the naked eye, they look almost the same.

Next is API with 4 ppm on the left, and 2 ppm on the right. With the naked eye, I would have called the 4 ppm 3 or 4, and the 2 ppm 1 or 2. In general, I guess not bad.

Next the Salifert with 4 ppm on left and 2 ppm on right. With the naked eye, I would have called the 4 ppm something more than three, and the 2 ppm I actually would have guessed 3. Once again, they are both really close in color.

With either one, it's pretty much an estimate at best.

Nice looking Boes, Greggz. Now keep in mind you have more experience then most people using test kits and taking action based on their result. So if your difficulty in interpreting the results is so high, what should the starter hobbyist take from this?

Also worth mentioning that calibration solutions are perfect optimal conditions for test kits... pure water, little contamination of organics and little other ions for cross-reactivity. In real aquarium samples it will be much more difficult to maintain this level of consistency, more so for the NO3 test kit. Now I seem to recall somebody suggestion you adjust your dosing based on the levels of NO3 detected ....well good thing we have EI :)

Then I see that the PO4 test is a little more accurate. Even the low range one might work well. Of course you would have to dilute 50%/50% your aquarium sample with RODI water to get a better range.

However, across all the kits (and interpretation of results), I think the message is that they over-estimate the concentration of nutrients. As such , don't stop dosing because test kit told you so. But increase dosing if test kit says lower than expected. I think this approach is safe given the ranges we play in and will prevent many plants for starving.
 

Greggz

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Nice looking Boes, Greggz. Now keep in mind you have more experience then most people using test kits and taking action based on their result. So if your difficulty in interpreting the results is so high, what should the starter hobbyist take from this?

Also worth mentioning that calibration solutions are perfect optimal conditions for test kits... pure water, little contamination of organics and little other ions for cross-reactivity. In real aquarium samples it will be much more difficult to maintain this level of consistency, more so for the NO3 test kit. Now I seem to recall somebody suggestion you adjust your dosing based on the levels of NO3 detected ....well good thing we have EI :)

Then I see that the PO4 test is a little more accurate. Even the low range one might work well. Of course you would have to dilute 50%/50% your aquarium sample with RODI water to get a better range.

However, across all the kits (and interpretation of results), I think the message is that they over-estimate the concentration of nutrients. As such , don't stop dosing because test kit told you so. But increase dosing if test kit says lower than expected. I think this approach is safe given the ranges we play in and will prevent many plants for starving.
Yeah all in all probably pretty much worthless drivel, and shows that any one of them is just kind of an educated guess. I do think they are useful to spot trends and relative measures over time.

Much better off to watch the plants and see what they are telling you. But that does take much time and experience to have any clue at all. In my tank I always feel that more is better, hence EI. More problems for me with too little than too much.

All in all, I will use Salifert for Nitrates, and API for Phosphates. If nothing else so I don't have to shake that Nitrate bottle like mad every time. Worth the slightly higher cost of the Salifert for me.
 

tiger15

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I am going to trash my API nitrate, but keep the API phosphate. If you examine the API nitrate chart, the 10 ppm color appears to be slightly darker than the 20 ppm, strange, isn't.

Are there any good iron test kits. I have the SeaChem kit, which is totally useless because it always reads non-detectable, even right after I dosed iron. Despite iron being the most important micro, I have been dosing in the dark.

I recalled reading Tom Barrs comments that many test kit results are suspect, so don't take them too seriously in making dosing decisions. He has access to real lab data for comparison. I used to have access to environmental lab too, but at that time I only keep fish, no plants.

The nutrient levels in healthy planted tanks can be insanely high compare with natural levels, yet plants thrive in more, not less. I am a convert in accepting EI as I don't think plants, or fish, in a glass box can ever be natural.
 

Kyalgae

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Yeah all in all probably pretty much worthless drivel, and shows that any one of them is just kind of an educated guess. I do think they are useful to spot trends and relative measures over time.

Much better off to watch the plants and see what they are telling you. But that does take much time and experience to have any clue at all. In my tank I always feel that more is better, hence EI. More problems for me with too little than too much.

All in all, I will use Salifert for Nitrates, and API for Phosphates. If nothing else so I don't have to shake that Nitrate bottle like mad every time. Worth the slightly higher cost of the Salifert for me.

I remember a while back with an older tank I thought I had 80ppm nitrates with the API test kit. From your testing I realize it was most likely a lot less than that Thanks for putting that together, that took some work. Useful stuff.
 
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tiger15

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I remember a while back with an older tank I thought I had 80ppm nitrates with the API test kit. From your testing I realize it was most likely a lot less than that Thanks for putting that together, that took some work. Useful stuff.

The color for 40 and 80 in API is identical, so there is no way to tell if the level is in the lower or upper bound.

There is actually greater chance of underestimate than overestimate using API nitrate if you don’t shake the second bottle vigorously. I shake 100 Times before dispensing bottle 2.
 

Greggz

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@Greggz have you thought about saving up for those hanna colorimeter things?

Just looked at their web site - wow, impressive and expensive (guess those 2 go hand in hand)
I don't think I foresee that one in my future. However, it would be interesting to take all the readings you can, then send the sample out to someone who does have one. There is a member on TPT who can do it, and will give all kinds of very precise readings on anything you can imagine.

Now that I think of it, that might be an interesting thing to try sometime.
 
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Greggz

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Now I don’t imagine this will interest too many people, but I have been adjusting my lights a bit just to see what happens.

For a few months, I was only running 4 of my 6 T5H0 bulbs. And things have been going well. Since they are going well, as usual I decide well let’s change something. So I started running all 6 bulbs for 6 hours of the 8 hour photo period.

The two additional bulbs are an ATI Purple Plus, and a Powerveg 660. These are two of lowest PAR most colorful bulbs you can find. They only add about 15 PAR or so at the substrate, but they provide a ton of color. Basically was curious to see if a blast of spectrum changed anything.

So been running them now for about a week and a half or so. First thing that caught my eye was more red in the Blyxa.
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Next I noticed some nice improvement in my Rotala Macranda Variegated. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best I have ever had it.
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Then my Ludwigia Cuba starting showing more red. And the flowers are wider/bigger than ever before.
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And same for Pantanal. Getting a little redder day by day now.
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So of course when I observe something like this, I PM my resident plant guru Burr and ask his opinion. It’s interesting he also feels that spectrum plays a bigger role in plant health/color than most realize. So once again, there’s my completely unscientific test.

Maybe there is more to the role of spectrum than most people give it credit for……or than again, maybe it’s something completely different? Well, I thought it was interesting anyway.
 

acinonyx

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Having a PhD in photochemistry, I have a hypothesis on how spectrum could play a role in coloration of plants. I am currently trying to compose an article about it, as well as the main shortcomings of LEDs (some that probably almost nobody realizes) compared to T5 lighting. Having said that, I think the longer wavelength part of the spectrum (red color) probably does not play a major role in increased production of pigments, however it SIGNIFICANTLY improves rendition of red and orange tones in the plants.

Also, keep in mind that most PAR meters struggle with measuring PAR at the edge of the "PAR spectrum". Just google Apogee par response and you will see it completely falls off above 650 nm, whereas 660 nm is where chlorophyll A actually absorbs.

On completely unrelated note, in the picture of Cuba, what do you think about the counterclockwise twist of the leaves around the stem? I have always observed this when my micros were starting to get toxic. For example, using large amounts of CSM+B I would get crazy twisting like that, that it looked like a propeller.
 

Greggz

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On completely unrelated note, in the picture of Cuba, what do you think about the counterclockwise twist of the leaves around the stem? I have always observed this when my micros were starting to get toxic. For example, using large amounts of CSM+B I would get crazy twisting like that, that it looked like a propeller.
Well I have no clue about that. I have been dosing a large micro dosing for several months now, but don't know if they are related.

I will say this. The plant is growing and propagating like mad, the color is getting more spectacular, the flowers are huge, and in general in just looks healthier than ever. If the twisting is a bad sign, it certainly isn't showing it in any other way......well, maybe not yet. We'll see how it progresses from here.