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Help choosing a colorimeter

Discussion in 'Are you new to aquatic plants? Start here' started by Florin Ilia, Apr 23, 2011.

  1. Florin Ilia

    Florin Ilia Lifetime Charter Member
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    Hi,

    My name is Florin and I am a nub :)

    Since february I have a 12g nano which I am using as a prototype to learn about the hobby. That was the plan anyway - now I realise that a bigger tank would have made a better prototype but the deed is done.

    I have it planted with inexpensive & hardy plants, i.e. egeria, cabomba, cryptocoryne and an anubias. It's inhabited by some corys, some oto and some inverts. I'm only going to "upgrade" the plants when I know what I'm doing. The tank is lit by two Aquatic Nature Solar Vision clip-on lamps, 13W and 26W respectively. I inject CO2 but I am not fertilizing yet.

    I made some early mistakes which resulted in de-cycling the tank and I spent three weeks or so doing daily water tests. I bought several brands of chemical testers and I understood how "reliable" they are. They're good as general indications of things, and even for that they fail sometimes (combined with my lack of skill and patience, of course; I've never done more than one repetition of a specific test :).

    Reading around this forum a bit I understood Tom's point about which is the best testing kit: the aquarium. Do small changes, observe results, change again until happy.

    Two buts:
    1. I am too nubish at the moment to fully understand what I observe
    2. Even if eventually I'll get there, I still want to correlate "well-being" to numbers (Tom does that too btw)

    So let me get to the point of this post:

    I need some help choosing a better test kit. I set my sights on colorimeters. I looked at four products:
    Hach DR/890 http://www.hach.com/hc/view.document.invoker/VendorProductCode=4847000/View=HTMLCAT001/NewLinkLabel=Overview
    Lamotte SMART 2 http://www.lamotte.com/pages/common/newprod/smart2.html
    Hanna HI 83200-01 http://www.hannainst.com/usa/prods2.cfm?ProdCode=HI%2083200-01&id=009003
    Thermo Scientific Orion AQUAfast AQ4000 http://www.thermoscientific.com/ecomm/servlet/productsdetail_11152_L11193_80474_12769455_-1

    I tried to compare the list of tests that these devices can perform. The point is, if I'm going to spend a lot of money on this device, I'd rather it performed all the tests I ever needed.

    Here's a table where I tried to reunite all the tests from each of the 4 lists. I tried to leave out the same test done via a different method (but as I don't really understand any of this, I may have made mistakes).

    I colored green what I understand are the "fundamental" water quality tests and with yellow the fertilization-related or niche tests.

    [​IMG]

    Question 1. Did I color the right tests? Does anyone ever test for trace elements?

    I saw Tom recomending the DR/890 so I am taking that device as reference. Looking at my table, it looks like Hach DR/890 lacks:
    - Alkalinity /* is this relevant? */
    - Hardness (total) /* I wonder if this means General Hardness */
    - Phosphate /* but it has "Phosphonates" - is that the same thing? */
    - Potassium

    The others lack various combinations of tests relative to Hach and to each other.

    Question 2: is my assessment of the missing tests correct? Which device has the most complete array of tests?

    Question 3: which device is the most user-friendly of them?

    Thanks in advance for the advice,

    Florin
     
  2. Gerryd

    Gerryd Plant Guru Team
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    Hi florin,

    I cannot help much but with this. I purchased a used hach dr840 or 890 (???) 2 yrs ago via e-bay. Looked good but I never used it as I can use the plants to tell me how all is doing :) Just never got around to purchasing the reagents and such....

    So, shoot me a personal message (PM) if you want to discuss purchasing my meter...I would let it go pretty cheap compared to new or other used...

    Thanks.
     
  3. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Florin, I have a spare Hanna with about 800$ worth of reagents.

    750$ shipped sound good for a brand new meter with reagents?

    Tom
     
  4. Florin Ilia

    Florin Ilia Lifetime Charter Member
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    Thanks both for the replies. The point of my message was, "which colorimeter is better?". After I get my answer, sure, I'll shop around to see where I can get it for cheap (both offers sound great).
     
  5. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Well, reagents are an issue for any continued use.
    I make my own, but have access to a chem lab also.

    Otherwise, you are left with buying them from a company.
    Both are good if you use calibration standards.

    The Hach is smaller, hand help, the Hanna is small as well, but more a bench top.
    Both supply their reagents, but these will cost a fair amount and few folks monitor all these parameters often.

    More for a specific testing issue to test a hypothesis, never routine monitoring etc. That is only when eviornmental laws require such monitoring is that labor done.

    Either way, you'll do pretty good with the offers Gerry and I have here.
    You'll note, neither of us used them much also.

    You might find the Hanna cheaper in Romania, where I think they are made.
     
  6. Florin Ilia

    Florin Ilia Lifetime Charter Member
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    Thanks for the reply, Tom. I also found the thread where Gerryd was asking you for advice before buying the DR/890 :) Some good points there too.

    Where can I learn about calibration standards for these devices? Is it something I can do or do I have to send them to a lab for calibration?
    Is the reason for that time (takes longer to test with a colorimeter as opposed to a hobby test kit) or money (expensive reagents)?

    One more question:

    If I submit myself to the labor involved in using a colorimeter (the Hach or the Hannah), am I going to need additional testing methods/devices for the tests that the device can't perform? Or they really have everything and I just couldn't read the spec sheets right?
     
    #6 Florin Ilia, Apr 25, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2011
  7. Florin Ilia

    Florin Ilia Lifetime Charter Member
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    My quest to find a good testing device continues. About 10 days ago I fired off an email to each of the 4 companies:

    So far I received replies from LaMotte and Hanna. The Hanna guy just asked me what am I looking to monitor, I told him, then he went quiet. The LaMotte guy has been the most informative. He sent me the brochures below and gave me a quotation for the SCL-09 aquaculture lab ($2550.00 plus shipping cost).

    http://www.lamotte.com/images/pdfs/literature/SMART3%204pgr.pdf
    http://www.ilia.name/florin/1612%20LaMotte%20Aquaculture%20&%20Aquarium%20Products.pdf

    Keep walking.

    Florin
     
  8. Florin Ilia

    Florin Ilia Lifetime Charter Member
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    OK I didn't get very far. I got quotations from Hach, LaMotte and Hanna, but not the handholding that I need :) Back to the forum for that.

    Tom, if you had to rank the 4 colorimeters
    - Hach DR/890
    - LaMotte Smart 3
    - Orion AQUAfast AQ4000
    - Hanna HI 83200
    on accuracy and reliability, which would win?

    How about on user friendliness?
     
  9. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    I think the order you have them listed would be the ranking for most folks.
    Cost, the Hanna might be easiest, they sell reagents for all these units also, but they will be $$$ not matter how you do this until you make your own reagents.
     
  10. Florin Ilia

    Florin Ilia Lifetime Charter Member
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    What does a spectrophotometer do that a colorimeter doesn't? The seem to be at least twice as expensive.

    The internets told me this, which is not helpful:
    (for the record, I realise I'm probably pushing this too far, but inquiring minds want to know :) )
     
  11. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    You can select any range of light wavelengths with a spectrophotometer, the colorimeter is pre set(limited by the no# of wavelength settings it has).
    If you have all the needed wavelengths for the types of test you with t do for the reagents, then it does not matter.
     
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