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Test Kits & Basics

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Offline sjames

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Test Kits & Basics
« on: November 17, 2016, 02:23:18 PM »
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Soz, unsure if this should be under cycling section, but I am new. I am getting everything ready in anticipation of my tank arrival end of next week - I'm so excited, that at the age of 51 I should know better.

1) Any recommendations on the best water Test Kit, covering all basis please?
2) Do rocks and wood (purchased from local aquarium shop) need any specific cleaning prior to setting or can it just go in following a fresh water swill?
3) Just going for plants to start, on previous advice will cycle after 2-3 weeks. Can I de-chlorinate the water in the tank (research says yes) and would I need to warm the water for just plants prior to 1st fill (research says no).

Thank you Simon

Offline Sue

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2016, 02:33:55 PM »
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1.
The most commonly used test kit is the API master test kit which contains testers for ammonia, nitrite nitrate and pH - both 6 to 7.5 and 7.5 to 8.something. Only use the one which applies to your pH.
There are other makes as well, and the Rolls Royce is Salifert which uses powders rather than liquid reagent.
Liquid/powder types are better than strips and they cost less per test.

2.
Give rocks a scrub under the tap to remove dust etc. Wood should be soaked in a bucket of water to remove the worst of the tannins. Some types of wood take weeks, others don't leach brown at all. Some types of wood need to be soaked to get them to sink. Soak it to find out which you've bought.

3.
Yes, dechlorinate the water and warm it as these are tropical plants, but only to the temp they'll be after cycling. You can turn the heater up when you start the cycle.
You'd probably be OK without dechlorinator as chlorine would gas off before you start the cycle, but unless you are certain you water company uses chlorine rather than chloramine it is safer to add dechlorinator. Chloramine doesn't gas off.

Offline sjames

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2016, 02:41:35 PM »
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V prompt as ever Sue (just had to donate, this site is fabulous).

Just checking on the chlorine again, you think, to begin with just plants it may not need dechlorination - does the API or Salifert identify the chlorine levels in the tap water?

Offline Sue

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2016, 03:00:06 PM »
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Only the strips test for chlorine.

Thinking about it, use dechlorinator. Plants, unless they are grown in sterile media, will have the bacteria we want on them. You don't want to kill those bacteria off by putting them in undechlorinated water. Anything that can seed the cycle is worth preserving  :)
And you'd have to add it anyway before starting the cycle so you may as well add it as you fill the tank rather than a week or two later.


If you are in England rather than Wales, Scotland, NI, look at this document http://www.dwi.gov.uk/about/annual-report/2014/index.html First select your region then look in the index for 'Drinking Water Quality Results - Chemical Quality. The chemicals are in alphabetical order and you need the section on Nitrate and  Nitrite. It's there rather than the section on chlorine because "Nitrite may be formed when chloramine is used as the residual disinfectant"

Offline sjames

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2016, 03:21:04 PM »
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Hi Sue, I was mentally doing so well, now that has bamboozled me completely....

 I am in Bristol and I have scrolled to the area of Nitrite and Nitrate. Shows very low Nitrite (I think), so this means little or no chloramine? Which is good?

You are patient, dealing with people like me!

Offline Sue

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2016, 03:35:48 PM »
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This from my area and is the kind of thing I expected to see
Quote
Northumbrian Water uses chloramine in the Middleton in the Tees area (Lartington works) and Yorkshire Water supplies water with a chloramine residual to consumers living in and around Doncaster, Skipton, Whitby, York and Pateley Bridge.


I've just looked at the western section and it doesn't give a list of places that have chloramine rather than chlorine. Does this mean nowhere has chloramine or everywhere does?




You could always ring them and ask if your tap water was treated with chlorine or chloramine. My experience with emailing them to ask just results in them sending a water quality report which doesn't answer the question.

Offline sjames

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2016, 03:51:49 PM »
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I called Bristol Water, they say no Chlorimine.

Forgotten why I asked - LOL - joking. So Sue, to be safe a small amount of dechlorinisation for the plants only. Phew I think.

Thanks 

Offline Sue

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2016, 04:37:30 PM »
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It also helps to know the hardness of your tap water. While you can buy test kits for GH (general hardness) and KH (carbonate hardness) you can find GH from your water company's website. Since you mentioned Bristol water I had a look. They say that all their water is hard or very hard. If you want to know which yours is, go to their website and do a search for hardness. At the bottom of the first section you'll find a link for 'postcode search facility' Clicking on that takes you to a map. Locate your town on the map and the box in the top left will say either hard or very hard.

When researching  fish you need that hardness. On the page before the map they give a table saying what they mean by hard and very hard. Look at the figures for mg/l calcium carbonate (also called ppm) and German degrees. These are the two units used in fish keeping.

Or to get a more precise figure rather than a range, get a shop to test the GH for you.



Because you have hard/very hard water you will almost certainly have a high KH. This is good for cycling as the bacteria we want to grow need it. It will also hold your pH stable during cycling.

Online Matt

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2016, 06:48:55 AM »
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Hi Simon,  Will you be following Sue's cycling instructions? http://forums.thinkfish.co.uk/fishtank-filtration-and-cycling/fishless-cycling-how-to-do-it/

I only ask because it may well take more than 3 weeks... sorry to be the party pooper!

Do you have a source of ammonia to feed the beneficial bugs during the cycle?

Offline Sue

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #9 on: November 18, 2016, 09:23:54 AM »
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I understood him to mean he would plant the tank, wait 2 to 3 weeks to start the plants off, then start the cycle  ???

Offline sjames

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #10 on: November 18, 2016, 09:50:29 AM »
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Hi Matt, Sue is right, I will be planting then cycling without fish, after a couple of weeks.

My family want fish by xmas, I have told them they will have lovely clear water and growing plants, in readiness.....something for the new year. I have waited this long, another month or two will be worthwhile.

Sue I am going onto that harness thing now.

Offline sjames

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #11 on: November 18, 2016, 10:03:09 AM »
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Hi Sue, my readings are as follows from Bristol Water info:

PHH avg 7.55
Degrees German 11
Total Hardness mg/l CaCO3 189

How do I view the outcomes?

thanks Simon

Offline Littlefish

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #12 on: November 18, 2016, 10:24:43 AM »
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Personally I would view the outcome with quite a big smile on my face, as that water seems to be more neutral to slightly hard, which gives you a great range of options when it comes to fish.
Then again, I might just be a little bit jealous as my water hardness is 17 degrees German, 322mg/l CaCO3.
 :)

Offline Sue

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #13 on: November 18, 2016, 12:15:35 PM »
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Littlefish has hit the nail on the head.

It is fine for cycling (lots of KH likely with that GH) and the pH is above 7. And provided you avoid the few species that must have soft or very hard water, you main problem is going to be deciding which fish as there are so many suitable species  :)


Online Matt

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #14 on: November 18, 2016, 09:54:22 PM »
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So glad to see this is being done correctly!! Sorry to have doubted you Simon!!

What I have never properly confessed to on here is that I followed poor advice when setting up my tank when I set it up a few years ago and used bottled bacteria waited 2 weeks and added fish... They went through a fish in cycle with me also not testing the water in any way... great advice from the shop... luckily harlequins are very hardy fish! Plus I have now learnt how to do things right next time of course!...

Anyways back to the topic in hand...
Do you plan to feed the plants in any way? Root tabs or fertilisers for example?

Offline sjames

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #15 on: November 21, 2016, 08:18:14 AM »
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Thanks guys for the responses, many advantages living in the west country, didn't appreciate lots of rain straight off the Atlantic being one of them. Great re the fish options.

Matt, seriously I am being 'nagged' to do the bottled stuff, they are telling me the plants and the bottled bacteria would be absolutely fine, and these seem like serious independent retailers. I have now read and heard enough, on here alone, to be patient and do it the 'proper' way.


Offline sjames

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #16 on: November 21, 2016, 03:36:44 PM »
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Along the same lines - does anybody have any views on water from a water butt? We have a huge one in the garden and ironically it would be easy to hose into the relevant room. Certainly chlorine wouldn't be an issue, but I wonder about parasites? Maybe this is a complete no go? thanks

Offline Sue

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #17 on: November 21, 2016, 03:51:47 PM »
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It depends on whether the water is likely to be contaminated with industrial air pollution, farmers spraying things, the substance your roof is made from, and birds using your roof as a toilet.

If the answer is that the water butt is safe from all those, you can use it. But it will be pure water and there are no fish in the trade that can survive in pure water. They all need some mineral content. The solution to that is to use remineralisation salts (fresh water ones, not marine) of the kind used by people who use RO water in their tanks. You would need to experiment with a bucket of water and a GH tester to find out how much remin salts need to be added to get the hardness you are happy with, then use that strength at every water change. It also means you could never use tap water for water changes if the butt runs dry; you would have to buy RO water from a fish shop, or an RO device to make it yourself

(RO = reverse osmosis, a process which removes everything from tap water leaving pure water)

Offline sjames

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #18 on: November 22, 2016, 08:20:59 AM »
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Thanks Sue, I will rule the water butt out immediately, keep it for the garden.

Offline sjames

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #19 on: November 28, 2016, 08:06:37 AM »
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Hi Sue, my initial point 3) above, about heating the water. Can I plant, then fill the tank with cold water from the tap, to then heat in the tank? I don't know how long it takes for the heater to bring the temperature to the desired 26C. My tank is 256L.

thanks

Offline Sue

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #20 on: November 28, 2016, 09:10:08 AM »
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Out of curiosity I have just measured the temp of our cold tap water, and it is 9oC. I am not a plant expert but I would think that is a bit cold for tropical plants.

Do you have a combi boiler or a hot water tank in the airing cupboard? If it is a combi boiler you can use hot tap water to warm the water going into the tank. But if you have a hot water cylinder it is safer to boil the kettle a few times to warm the water (because of what might contaminate the header tank in the attic)


Do you intend using a hose or buckets to fill the tank? In some ways a bucket is easier, though it will mean quite a few trips with your tank. It is easier to add boiling kettle water to a bucket. And it has the advantage that you can count the buckets and know exactly how much water the tank actually holds.
With the first fill you have a choice. You will need enough dechlorinator for the entire tank of water. With buckets you can either add the correct dose to each bucket or add it all to the first bucket. With a hose, add it as you start filling.

If you run the water into the tank through a colander, it will disturb the substrate less  :)

Offline sjames

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #21 on: November 28, 2016, 02:24:50 PM »
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Thanks Sue, I keep hoping there are some easy methods and was hoping for a hose, you keep telling me as it needs to be. My house has both a combi and a tank, as I have some solar panels, so I cant control where the hot water is coming from, therefore I will be getting a big bucket and boiling the kettle.

in simple maths terms a 10L bucket is 25 and a half loads - think the expression is yikes:

 

Offline Sue

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #22 on: November 28, 2016, 07:09:08 PM »
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If it is any consolation, I regularly remove 6 or 7 x 12 litre buckets and refill with 10 to 12 x 7.5 litre buckets when I do a water change  :)  [I don't have to lift the dirty water bucket more than and inch off the floor, but I have to lift the clean water bucket a lot higher which is why I use a smaller one to refill]

Offline Andy The Minion

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #23 on: November 28, 2016, 08:18:29 PM »
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@sjames If you have a Combi boiler and a cylinder I would put money on it that it is a mains pressure 'thermal store' or unvented cylinder (not one of the old dome top copper versions) because you cant mix low pressure hot water and the high pressure Combi system - at least not at the same tap.
So with care you could use a hose, two reasons - don't cook them if a flush of 45C water comes through :( but the main issue would be how to neutralise the chlorine or chloramine in the mains water. Dosing the tank with the correct amount of tapsafe/dechlorinator would be one way, or perhaps better in two or three doses as you fill.
I use a three canister inline filter with a carbon filter as the final stage and then a small amount of treatment but that is more work and hassle to start with.

Offline sjames

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #24 on: November 29, 2016, 08:49:51 AM »
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Thanks Andy, I think you are bang on with the technical.  But I will go kettle and bucket until I am more experienced. Timing wise will not be a burden as I am excited about it all, maybe as time goes by and I gain the experience I will be able to make short cuts.

Offline MarquisMirage

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #25 on: November 30, 2016, 09:00:00 PM »
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The chlorine in the water will evaporate and the greater the surface area the quicker it goes.  If you haven't planted yet I'd advise doing the hardscape (substrate, rocks, wood etc.) and then filling the tank with water so it'll cover the plants.  Leave for around 3-5 days meanwhile heating the water in the tank using your aquarium heater(s) to your desired temperature.  After the chlorine has gone do your planting.  :)

Be cheeky and ask a local fish shop if they'll sell you some ceramic filter (or whatever they're using) from one of their communal sumps.  This will help speed the process along.

Plenty of time to fulfil your xmas target.

Offline Sue

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #26 on: December 01, 2016, 09:15:38 AM »
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The chlorine in the water will evaporate

Some water companies are now using chloramine which won't evaporate.
I just looked at the DWI documents again and I now think that Bristol comes under Central & Eastern. There is a tiny wiggle in the boundary line which suggests the line is south of Bristol. So I checked that region and there is no mention of chloramine in Bristol there either.

Asking a shop for mature media is a good idea unless you know they have a disease in there at the moment. Put the old media inside your new one first in the direction of water flow. Leave out some of the new media to make room.







While looking in the Southern & Eastern region document I found this, which people living there might find useful.

Quote
Chloramine is used as the residual disinfectant by Anglian Water in Northamptonshire and surrounding areas (Bedford, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Peterborough) and also in parts of Norwich.
Essex and Suffolk Water use chloramine in the Essex area and parts of Suffolk and Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Southwold.
Severn Trent Water supplies with chloramine residual in nine zones in Staffordshire and one in Rutland.

Offline sjames

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #27 on: December 01, 2016, 01:51:34 PM »
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Thanks again.

Marquis, do you think planting in water is easy enough then? I was advised to do it when empty, your  way makes life easier as I can just fill the tank with hose and then heat. I'm not against the longer way, but if planting is easy enough in water that sound like a plan.

Offline MarquisMirage

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Re: Test Kits & Basics
« Reply #28 on: December 01, 2016, 07:45:10 PM »
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It's easier in a waterless tank because there's no parallax caused by the light refracted through the water.  There's also the possibility of disturbing the hardscape.  Are you sticking plants to rocks or wood?  You probably want to do that out of water.  So there are some challenges at the planning stage. 

Otherwise it's just a case of sticking a finger in the soil and putting the roots in.  Make sure you follow advice for specific plants though i.e. don't plant the rhizome of an Anubias plant.  Most aquatic plants don't like it if you put some of the stem in the soil so just make sure it's roots only.  Vallisneria is a good example of this.

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