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How to Use Hanna Checker Colorimeters to Dial In a 2-Part Calcium & Alkalinity Dosing Regimen

In this video, we show you guys how to take advantage of the very popular Hanna Instruments Checker Colorimeters to dial in a dosing regiment using the most popular two-part solution on the market, ESV B-Ionic.

Maintaining proper water chemistry is arguable one of the most difficult aspects of keeping a healthy captive reef tank. It can be especially difficult for those of you just starting out but thankfully we have some amazing tools and supplements that can really help us on our journey to create a beautiful thriving reef tank at home.

Your first step in getting your water right for corals is deciding whether or not your tank even needs extra supplementation with additives. The demand for elements is all based on the corals in your tank and how much they use. In tanks with minimal coral, a regular water exchange schedule may suffice for replenishing the necessary elements the corals need.

Lordhowensis fragments on a frag rack ready for sale.

In most cases, once the coral bug has bit, you will quickly start collecting corals and packing your tank with frags that will begin to grow and deplete these necessary elements from your tank. This will result in chemistry swings in between your water changes that can really stress out your corals and other animals inside your tank. In order to identify these swings and prevent them, you need to test your water.

Neptune Systems Fusion Graph

Calcium and Alkalinity are the two major parameters that reef keepers watch to ensure the corals have what they need to grow. Calcium and carbonates combine to create calcium carbonate which is then deposited by the coral to build a skeleton. There are other elements involved in the process here but these are the major players the corals use the most, without them, stony corals cannot survive.

Hanna Instruments Checker Colorimeters are a very popular choice for water testing at home because they can eliminate some of the human error and discrepancies that come along with titration and color comparison type water test kits. They are small, quick and convenient. 

After getting your calcium and alkalinity checkers to monitor your tank water, daily testing is going to be required for the first few weeks in order to determine how much ESV B-Ionic your tank needs. You want to run a few practice tests using the checkers, you can find some great instructional videos on YouTube and our technical support team is also happy to answer your questions.

The goal here is to perform the test procedures correctly ensuring you obtain an accurate test result using the Hanna Checkers.

Aquarium Test Result Log

You will want to create a testing log for your tank to help dial in your tank’s demand. A little notebook works fine but you can also download pre-formatted “aquarium logs”online or take advantage of one of the various aquarium maintenance and tracking apps which are really becoming quite powerful.

Aquarium controllers such as the Neptune Systems apex lets you manually log these measurements and create a graph in order to see the trends and daily changes which can be very handy, especially when dialing in a dosing regime. The critical part here is to record your test results. It does not matter how you do it, just be sure to record it so you can reference the test results in the future.

Neptune Systems Apex Fusion

We have an excellent article on our Charts & Diagrams section with some great resources for finding a test log solution that works for you.  Check it out>

I recommend starting your testing 24 hours after a water change. You really want to start dosing the ESV B-Ionic with balanced water parameters to begin with because the product is designed to maintain these parameters, not make drastic adjustments. If your parameters are not balanced to begin with, a few water changes with a high quality salt mix should get you back on track.

Next up, acquire yourself some ESV B-Ionic which has long been our best selling two part solution because it works and it works well. The product is completely ionically balanced like synthetic seawater which means that not only are you getting calcium and carbonates but also all of the other major, minor and trace elements, in the proper ratio, that your tank needs to maintain a healthy environment for the corals.

B-Ionic is a two part solution, each liquid component is intended to be dosed in equal amounts, daily. The smaller 32 oz bottles come filled with solution and will not require dilution but the larger 1 gallon bottles are only partially filled with a concentrate and will require dilution with RO/DI water before use. 

E.S.V. B-Ionic alkalinity supplement soaking in warm water bath.

Something to note here is the alkalinity component will take some time to dissolve, up to 72 hours or more. Submerging the container, inside a bag, in warm water (120° – 140° F) and storing in a warm place will help with dissolving the solution. Do not use the B-Ionic solutions until the concentrate is completely dissolved with no visible solid material. 

Next, start by adding the minimum recommended dosage which is 1 ml of each B-Ionic solution per 4 gallons of aquarium water directly into your tank. The solutions should NOT be dosed at the same time, it is best to wait about 30 minutes in between dosing each solution so they will not precipitate. If the solutions come in contact with each other, a chemical reaction will occur and the solutions will be useless.

Administering the daily dose can be done manually but you will soon learn the value of automating the process with a dosing pump. We have some great pump options here at Marine Depot including Kamoer, Aqua Medic, Neptune Systems, ATI, Bubble Magus and GHL.

Dosing Pump

24 hours after your first dose, test your water and record it. Do this daily for the first 5-7 days, all the while maintaining the daily dosage of B-Ionic. Sit down and look at your results after this time has passed, did your levels rise, fall or stay the same?

If the calcium and alkalinity levels stayed the same, continue dosing this same amount daily.  At this point you can reduce testing the tank water to once per week because this means you are meeting your tanks demand.

Calcium and Alkalinity Graph

If your levels increased, you likely want to discontinue the dosage of ESV B-Ionic because your tank simply does not need it and a regular water exchange is perfectly suitable for replenishing any elements for the corals you have.  This will be common in tanks with only soft corals or smaller tanks with minimal coral. Do a water change right away to get your parameters back in line and continue with your regular scheduled water change thereafter.

If the calcium and alkalinity levels dropped, increase the daily dosage by 1 ml per 4 gallons of tank water and repeat the daily testing process over the next 5-7 days. You will really want to keep repeating this process of increasing your dosage in small increments weekly until you see that your daily tests are maintaining the parameters you desire.

Once you have your dosing amounts set for your tank, you can likely reduce the frequency of testing your tank. I know it seems like testing daily is going to be quite demanding on your time, and it will be. The outcome, however, will be a precision dosing regime that is perfectly tailored to the animals inside your tank. This is the hardest part of supplementing a reef tank, knowing what your tank needs. Every tank is different and following this strict procedure will ensure you are adding only what you need and not get you into too much trouble when trying to dial it in.

Reef Tank Water Parameters

Be sure that you can check out our water parameter guidelines for an outline of minimum and maximum reef tank  parameters. The exact numbers you keep will be based on your tank but just remember, stability is the ticket. Pick a number within the guidelines and stick with it.

Some notes for using a Hanna Checkers at home.

  • Wash your hands before testing and dry them well.
  • Always rinse your testing vials with RO/DI water before and after use.
  • Be sure to acquire and use a microfiber cloth to clean the vials during testing.

This technique of daily testing and dialing in your dosing amounts can really be applied to any brand of  two part solution and home water test kits. The only difference would be the recommended starting dosage amount. Learning how to maintain calcium and alkalinity is only the beginning but should be your first step in maintaining and understanding what happens inside your reef tank.

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