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Old 04-28-2012, 11:00 AM   #1 (permalink)
Fry
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Default Hanna Checker Calcium Colorimeter

Hanna makes some nice checkers for Saltwater aquaria. I own the ULR Nitrite, Phosphate, Alkalinity and the Calcium checker.

The reason I decided to review the Calcium checker here is because it's by far the most complicated checker they make, at least as far as the steps you need to take to get an accurate reading. I also had a few mental blocks reading the directions which lead to some wildly wrong results, so I'm hoping that this review might clear up any confusion.

The checker comes with ALMOST everything you need - and there's a lot.

The checker itself (Battery included, requires a screwdriver to insert)
2 syringes (white and green)
A bulb syringe
A cuvette (test vial)
A bottle of Reagent A
Many packets of Reagent B (around 50 I suppose, I never counted)

What's not included: Deionized (DI) water. I rinsed out and vinegared a small container to keep RO/DI water in, and keep it near the test kit.

So here's the process, and it may seem daunting at first - but once you've done it once, you'll be fine with it.

Prep:

Fill the white syringe to 1ml - meaning a FULL syringe - of Reagent A.

Fill the green syringe with tank water. Fill the syringe at least halfway - though you'll only need 0.1ml of tank water.

Tear open a packet of Reagent B and have it ready. I pinch a small groove into the packet after i open it to give the powder a little "spout" to get into the cuvette later.

Have some RO/DI water at the ready.

The Test, part 1:

Open the included cuvette (test vial) and squirt the white syringe containing Reagent A into the cuvette. Now fill the Cuvette to the 10ml mark with RO/DI water.

Cap and mix gently by tilting the cuvette up and down a few times.

Pop the cuvette into the checker and press the button. When it asks for C1, press the button again. It is now measuring the "baseline" color. After a few seconds of "- - -" being displayed, it will ask for C2.

The Test, part 2:

Remove the cuvette and remove the cap.

Drop 0.1ml of tank water into the cuvette. The EASIEST way to do this is the line up the green plunger line with a marked number measurement line in the syringe (say, 0,5 for example) and then plunging down to the 0,4 mark. 0.1 ml is approximately 2 or 3 drops.

That right there is the toughest part of the test

Once you've dripped in your tank water, empty the packet of reagent B into the cuvette.

I mention that you should open the packet before you start the test. If you're just ripping open the packet at this point and trying to finagle the powder into the cuvette, you'll find out exactly why I recommend you do this finagling prior to testing! The packets are very thin, and there's a tiny amount of powder in it. You have to get all of it out of the bottom of the packet, and it's a bit of a challenge at first. The big problem is that you're working against the clock since the Hanna checker shuts itself off after 2 minutes

Once you've gotten Reagent B powder into the cuvette, cap it off and shake for a few seconds. This will make the sample Purplish or Dark Blue.

Once the little bubbles you made from shaking make it to the top of the cuvette (under a second or three) pop the cuvette back into the checker, close it, and hit the button.

Bam, you're done. It seems daunting, but it's really not.

In a couple of seconds, it spits out a number. That's your calcium reading. No ranges, no guesswork, just a single number. Hanna claims that this test is accurate to within +/- 6%. Some people have done their own independent tests (like Mark Callahan, aka Mr. Saltwater Tank) and say it's actually closer to 3%, more accurate than claimed.

i highly recommend this checker. Yes, it's the most complicated checker Hanna makes, but even then it's not all that complicated. There's apparently some serious chemistry that goes into testing calcium, and that's why there's a few steps than most may be used to - but for it to spit out a number that's essentially within 3% variance, at a price that's only $55? I'm sold.

Buy this checker if you're an SPS fiend.

Pros: Highly accurate (within 3% of reality), convenient packaging, good price for the level of accuracy.

Cons: You MUST use the proper amounts of reagents, tank water and RODI. That means 1ml of Reagent A, 9ml of RODI, 0.1ml of tank water and 1 packet of Reagent B. The amount of reagent powder in Reagent B is tiny, so you need to mess with the packet a little to get it all out, which is why i recommend you do it before you start your testing. Most of these cons are mitigated after practicing a few times, which I recommend you do to ensure you get proper numbers.
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Last edited by kweckstrom; 04-28-2012 at 11:07 AM.. Reason: Spelling/Grammar
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