I’m all for testing your tank’s water parameters. Certainly when you are setting up your saltwater tank watching your tank’s ammonia/nitrite/nitrate levels is vital. The last thing you want to do is add a fish too early when the tank isn’t ready.
Once your tank is through the initial cycle, continuing to test your tank’s water parameters can hold key clues when you are fighting issues such as algae outbreaks or fish death or disease if and only if you do two things:
- Test regularly
- Keep track of test results
The point of testing your tank is to gather data. And if you aren’t testing, then you aren’t gathering data.
The value of the testing increases dramatically when you test on a regular basis. I recommend weekly at a minimum. If you are making changes on your tank such as adding biopellets, starting the use of kalkwasser or stocking your tank with fish while it is new, I recommend testing every 3 days.
As you gather data, you can start watching for trends. If you are adding biopellets, then you’ll be watching for a drop in phosphate or nitrate levels. The use of kalkwasser requires a close eye on calcium, alkalinity and pH levels to dial it in correctly.
The more data you have, the quicker you can spot trends and make adjustments if necessary.
Of course, all this data gathering is only useful if you do the second step:
Logging test results
When I’m called in to consult on a problem tank, one of the first things I do is ask for the log of test results.
Often times, the hobbyists doesn’t have this data because either they don’t test their tank (see “testing regularly” above) or because they don’t keep track of test results.
If you are going to go through the effort of testing your tank, keep track of the results!
A pen and notepad works fine, or if you fear paper like me, a simple spreadsheet on your computer will work. (For those of you looking for a logging app for your smartphone, none of the aquarium logging apps do what I want yet so I’m not using one and can’t recommend one. If that changes I’ll let you know.)
The more you test and log your results, the more valuable the data becomes.
For example, if your SPS corals start bleaching, then sudden changes in tank parameters if the first place I’d be looking.
If you are only testing after the bleaching occurs, you’ll likely miss the event that caused the bleaching to start and you’ll be left scratching your head on why your sticks are dying.
Besides logging test results, also log events in your tank. Events include equipment changes, coral color changes, fish deaths or additions, algae outbreaks, onset of coraline algae, etc.
I promise you that you won’t remember what you are observing in your tank and you certainly aren’t going to remember the exact date when you started dosing your tank or added your new skimmer. Write it down! It costs you nothing and the payoff of having the data can be huge.
I’ll be the first person to admit that sometimes things happen in your tank and you’ll never be able to figure out why they happened. Sometimes fish and corals die for no reason. Hard corals can start turning brown when it seems like you haven’t changed a thing on your tank. If you had test result data, and plenty of it, you’ll have a chance to pinpoint the issue. Without data, you are left guessing and hoping that the negative trend in your tank reverses – if it ever does. Hope is nice, but data is better.Browse the Store! Questions?