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Test Kits


I may be branded a heretic for saying this, but frankly, you don't have
to have any test kits to have a successful planted tank.  I have a pH
and a phosphate test kit.  The phosphate kit was only useful in telling
me that my tap water had some phosphate in it.  Other than that, it only
confirmed what my eyes told me.  When I had a lot of algae, guess what,
I had a lot of phosphate.  When the algae was under control (by
improving the growing conditions for the higher plants) the phosphate
was gone.  The pH test kit alarmed me when I first started using CO2,
(it read 5.8 to 6) but the pH dip had no noticeable effect on the health
of my fish.

I'm not saying these kits are not useful, nor am I saying that you don't
need them.  I made my changes slowly, with lots of time for observation
between changes.  I read everything I could get my hands on, including
lurking on this and other lists.  Now I have a heavily planted tank,
with a fairly high fish load.  I trade back plants to my LFS every two
weeks, and have no fish health problems.  (In fact about a month ago, I
bought some loaches on impulse (Botia Dario, according to Axelrod,
haven't found any other pictures of them).  Discovered they had Ich
after dumping them in the tank.  Watched them.  Two days later the ich
is gone.  Next day, the rummynoses have it.  After three days, I decided
to leave the lights on overnight, to warm the tank a little.  The
rummynoses cleared up, and noone else got it.  Back in my bad old days
of relying on chemicals and test kits I never got out of an ich episode
without losing fish.)  I top off evaporation losses whenever they bother
me, and make sporadic water changes, no more often than once a month.
Life is good!

But enough of my bragging.  If testing makes you feel good or helps you
balance your tank, the money you spend on the kits will be more than
repaid.  Buy the best you can get, because a test kit that you can't
rely on will cause more trouble than it will ever prevent.

Specifics (for the argumentative sort):  55 gal; homemade hood, 2 Chroma
50s, 2 75s (40 watt); homemade heating cables; yeast reactor into power
head (recharged when the plants slow down); 3" gravel, initially set up
with the Tetra Initial D (I think that's what it was called), now has
some red clay I picked up in Alabama added; occasionally fertilized with
SeaChem Flourish; Vals, crypts, swords, sags, several bunch plants,
duckweed, and ceratopteris something (I'm not getting into that one!).
Filtration is two power heads with sponges feeding into an empty
household canister filter (to increase CO2 contact time).


PS:  Now that I've said I have no fish health problems and bragged about
my low maintenance tank, I fully expect to get home to a massive fish
kill, with algae spilling over onto the carpet!