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whats the best (cheapest yet reliable) way to check your ferts stats in the water? like how would i check the ppm of iron, potassium, phosphate, and all that stuff in my planted tank so i know what i lack and what i have too much of? please help! any insight is appreciated!!

right now im just adding the recommended dosage of seachem iron, potassium, excel, ferts, co2, trace, nitrogen... how do i know if im not over/under dosing? thanks!
 

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The cheapest way is observe your plants carefully.
If you under does, your plants will show signs of deficiency.
You can also buy some testers to test your water parameters.
However, testers usually are not very accurate.
 

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It is true that your plants are the best indicator of the situation in your tanks. But if you're just starting out, I can see where you'd want to measure to get a good feel for what goes on when.

If you want to test fert levels, the main two which you can at least, somewhat accurately measure are nitrate and phosphate. There are good, accurate, and pricey test kits, and there are other cheaper alternatives. Whatever ones you use, you need to verify their accuracy by using solutions of known concentrations. Iron test kits are fairly useless, and potassium ones, as I understand it, are expensive and hard to find at the hobbyist level.

right now im just adding the recommended dosage of seachem iron, potassium, excel, ferts, co2, trace, nitrogen...
Don't forget to add phosphorus (phosphate).
 

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Dosing depends on light, CO2, plant species, stored nutrients, quantity of plants, fish load, and the status of the plants. IMO its best to wait until its established to figure out plant uptake for the tank and adjust dosages.

Just dose regularly, regularly change the water, and dose with hydrogen peroxide or glutaraldehyde to suppress algae until the plants are established and growing well. Also, prune out all decaying organic material.
 

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SWAG here - Go with the recommended ratios of all items outlined in a particular ferts plan (EI, PPM - or whatever commercial regimen you choose). If you have an assortment of plants, these ratios should hold pretty true to the plants uptake of nutrients. Then all you have to measure in NO3 to see if you're maintaining some level of nutrients in the water column. With the probable exception of Potassium (which is largely a function of the water going into the tank) and the possible exception of Calcium, your NO3 levels should be close to the mark as to your overall levels, as long as you stick to one plan or just use the fertilator targets.

If run properly (don't short your shaking or standing times), APC NO3 tests are not bad and they're cheap. Specific test kits for iron etc. etc. etc. vary in accuracy and tend to be expensive, at least compared to the cost of an APC master test kit.
 

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I use 2 dosing plans and both work extremely well. I rarely test my water, but I do 50% water changes weekly.

I have a dwarf cichlid fry aquarium grow out aquarium that doubles as a plant grow out aquarium too. It does not have CO2. I use a Seachem dosing calculator that I wrote a few years ago.
http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/...ng/45119-seachem-dosing-calculator-chart.html

All my other aquariums have CO2. I use the following dosing regimen version of EI. It uses a GH Booster instead of adding potassium sulfate which is included in the GH Booster. I use Seachem's Equilibrium for the GH Booster and Tropica's Plant Nutrition liquid for the trace product.
http://www.barrreport.com/estimative-index/2819-ei-light-those-less-techy-folks.html

Both of these dosing regimens work great for me and, like I said, I rarely test my aquarium or tap water.

Lamotte makes great test kits, but they are a bit pricey. I use Seachem's Phosphorus and their Nitrite/Nitrate test kits. They come with reference solutions.

Should you decide to use test kits; it's best that you calibrate them for 2 or 3 reference points. The following link has a procedure to make reference solutions.
http://www.plantgeek.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=10830
 
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