Testing Or Testing Patience?


Testing is an important part of the marine aquarists routine and includes the obvious one, seawater condition tests. Included though not quite the testing as generally understood is checking powerhead performance and the like.

It took quite a while getting the aquarium up and running. Fish only or reef, patience at times was a test itself as the routines of what and which were completed. Eventually of course all was done and there, a lovely marine system.

The aquarist has to feed the fish of course and this is never missed as it is obviously a necessity and fortunately also a pleasure. This happens daily, though the odd miss is not a problem.

As time passes there is another potential problem. The routine of testing the seawater becomes more of a chore. This is not to say that interest in the aquarium has diminished, simply that doing tests over and over week after week could become boring as nothing ever changes. The basic tests are of course to do with seawater and cover ammonia, nitrite and nitrate plus specific gravity (sg). So the aquarist decides to decrease the frequency of the tests and do them fortnightly. This in fact is fair enough as long as there has not been any negative variation in the test results. Testing is to prove the condition of the seawater and if the tests are positive it is safe after a few months to test less frequently. However at the first sign of quality reduction testing should be increased until all is proved to be quality stable again. A question needs to be asked as well – why has a reduction in quality occurred? The appearance of increased nitrate for example could indicate excess feeding.

It is the same with routine seawater changes, the need to carry these out is essential but the frequency is not written in stone. The changes are required to ‘freshen’ the seawater and at least partially replace lost trace elements etc. The minimum suggested amount of seawater to change each week is 10% of the net gallonage (including any sump). The amount of seawater changed can be varied upwards if for example there is a problem with nitrate. If the seawater tests as mentioned previously are fine then routine changes could be made every two weeks. A further reduction in changes is not recommended. Change frequency is also based on the organic load of the aquarium – the number of fish being the obvious example – more fish, more food, more waste, more seawater quality reduction.

Testing is not confined to special liquids and test tubes. ‘Tests’ include such things as observing the fish when feeding them ensuring there aren’t any abnormalities to be seen, checking the outflow of power heads (very easily done), checking the protein skimmer is properly functioning (again very easily done) and the like. Don’t forget the lights – are they getting a layer of salt on them, if so wipe it off with a damp rag (but beware of bulb heat), a salt layer on the bulbs could reduce the amount of light getting where it’s needed. Do the lights require changing? Fluorescent tubes and metal halide bulbs have a finite life before the output power and light freqency begin to change. Poor lighting will not do corals much good.

So testing doesn’t need to test patience as well. The aquarist should carry out frequent testing when the aquarium is new, however as above if all is well there isn’t anything wrong with a little adjustment in testing practices. Adjustments should never be extreme and the aquarist of course should never put ‘I can’t be bothered’ first!

We aquarists much of the time think we’re in charge. Well we are to a considerable extent, we put the aquarium together, we introduced the livestock and we decide what the fish get to eat and how often. The truth is, however that we are in fact supporting the one really in charge, Mother Nature. For example, fish have evolved over a very long time and require appropriate food, some even specialized food and failure to provide it will bring reduced health or worse. If we slacken our observations of the aquarium environment too much and seawater quality reduces then Mother Nature could take the opportunity to introduce more life. How about some of that green stringy algae that grows everywhere? Maybe another type could appear to vary the scene a bit, a carpet of reddish brown algae covering rocks and sand. Getting rid of these could really test patience. No aquarist wants that.

As experience increases routine testing and seawater changes can be varied on a reasonable basis without mishap. Applying patience is part of this routine. For the most part this produces a happy aquarist and that’s what we all want!


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  6. Ok, I hear and obey! When the selections currently held are exhausted then testing can be elaborated, probably by going through major testing in more detail.

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