Today there are a few options available for keeping tabs on how a tank is doing. Perhaps the most common method is to use hobby-grade test kits like those from Salifert. For many years I used these kits to monitor key SPS parameters such as Calcium, Alkalinity, Magnesium, Phosphate and Nitrate. They are simple to use and can produce results in a few minutes.
But advances in the hobby have made lab-grade testing available to reef keepers. I consider alkalinity to be one of the most important elements to monitor on a constant basis and a few years ago I started to use the KH Director from GHL. Another option is the Alkatronic from CoralVue. With these types of units you can not only test one time per day but multiple times per day, a great option for reefers who typically test once a week with hobby grade kits.
Another huge benefit with these automated devices is the option to control alkalinity based on test results. A doser hooked into an alkalinity monitor can adjust the amount of alkalinity being dosed to maintain a certain dkh, a measure of alkalinity. A calcium reactor can be controlled in a similar manner.
Having the ability to maintain rock-solid alkalinity levels with this adaptive control feature is huge since SPS react very badly when there are large swings in alkalinity. For my tanks, I like to keep alk at 8.5 dkh and with my KH Director it stays locked in at that level.
The Trident from Neptune is another lab-grade monitor/controller that can measure and control alkalinity. However, it can also measure calcium and magnesium, two other elements important for keeping a healthy SPS tank.
A Step Further With GHL’S ION Director
GHL’s ION Director will take it a step further. This unit can measure calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium and nitrate.
But there is more……an ICP test will deliver the most comprehensive analysis you can get for an aquarium. What is an ICP test? ICP stands for Inductively Coupled Plasma and testing is done using plasma that is heated to 10,000 degrees Kelvin. It literally rips molecules apart, providing the most accurate saltwater aquarium test results available.
Triton has an ICP test that provides precise views into 36 different key elements. Triton also sells additives that can be used to adjust different elements up or down based on the test results. CoralVue has a new ICP Water Analysis that can test 40+ elements while ATI has one that tests 43 parameters.
Every few months I do like to order an ICP test, whether the tank is looking good or not. It makes sense to do a test when the tank is doing well since the data will provide a baseline versus results generated when the tank is not doing so well.
So that is a brief overview on the different testing options. One important point I always like to make is to not underestimate the power of observation. Use your eyes to help gauge the health of a tank and avoid chasing numbers by targeting very specific data points. Instead, seek parameters within acceptable ranges.
If you would like some help with a new tank build, including help designing a custom aquarium, or help re-configuring your current setup then you can visit this page for more information. And if you are looking to add some equipment, I do sell GHL, Pax Bellum, Reef Octopus Calcium and Kalk Reactors and Royal Exclusiv products, including Dreamboxes, which is the equipment I use and recommend. I also sell Reef Brite metal halide and LED fixtures as well as Maxspect & IceCap Gyres.
As for additional insights and information, please explore my many other reef tank and SPS related articles as well as my YouTube channel. For an even deeper dive into reef tank care you can check out my Reef Keeping Master Class. This online course is an immersive and one of a kind educational tool designed to help reef aquarium hobbyists build and maintain a beautiful SPS reef tank. The course is a series of video presentations with some supplemental video from my YouTube channel. There are also quizzes to help students retain and understand the information presented in the course.
Need some frags…..I can help with that as well 🙂 Please visit my SPS Frag store to see what is available.