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RE: To: Aquatic-Plants at actwin_com

From: samm

>Being on a student budget, I wanted to know the most
>essential test kits for a planted aquarium

I my humble opinion which the majority of people are likely to disagree
with, you only must have a pH test kit. If you are injecting CO2 just
measure the pH before and after CO2 injection and shoot for a .6 drop in pH.
It is nice but you do not have to measure for nutrients. Obtain some Tropica
Mastergrow or mix up PMDD and add  the recomended amount each week. Do the
water changes religiously and this should take care of excess nutrients such
as iron. Find out the composition of your tap water from your local water
utility so you can determine what is in it without test kits. If you have an
ongoing algae problem it is very nice to have a Seachem low range nitrate
test kit so you can determine when your nitrates reach zero but you can
probably muddle through without one. I do not tweak the PMDD mixture at all
and just assume that the potassium and nitrate added as part of the
fertilizer and growing plants will eventualy remove the phosphate in the
tank. The one time I had bad algae the algae got worse before it got better
but it did eventually clear up. The best thing is to avoid algae altogether
by planting heavily with fast growing plants and using lots of light and CO2
from the beginning. If it is necessary to buffer your water a Tetra KH test
kit is useful and very cheap but you can determine how much to add by
measuring the pH. For example, if your pH is close to 7 and this is due to
low carbonate levels and there is little calcium in your water raise the pH
of your change water using calcium carbonate until you get a pH of 7.3 then
add baking soda until the pH reaches 7.6. If there is sufficient calcium
present then just use baking soda. Make a note of the amount of buffer used
and use these amounts with every water change. Over time with water changes
the KH of your tank will increase intil it is very close to your change
water levels. As the KH increases you will have to inject more CO2 to
maintain a pH of 7. Voila, safe CO2 injection without test kits.