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Practical Guide to ICP Tests

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

Hello friends of Royaltanks, today we want to offer you an article that I hope will be useful and interesting. The idea came to us when my friend Nando, following some problems in the tank, decided to take an ICP test, but he didn't know what it was or how to do it. Nando decided to buy an ICP 2 test from the aquaforest lab, therefore the guide and the results you will find in the last part of the article will refer to his tank.


One of the most important aspects for the management of our aquariums concerns the monitoring of significant values ​​(such as kH, Calcium, magnesium and so on). However, if we wanted to go beyond the classic reagent and photometer tests we should definitely have an ICP test done. This type of analysis, which is conducted in specialized laboratories, allows you to determine with a certain accuracy about 35, or more, water parameters (the more complete ones also allow osmosis water to be analyzed).

When to send an ICP test?

Personally I do not think it is essential to do them on a monthly or quarterly basis, the use or not of these tests should be done when a problem arises. However, I decided to analyze possible situations individually, so as to offer food for thought: Personally I do not think it is essential to do them on a monthly or quarterly basis, the use or not of these tests should be done when a problem arises. However, I decided to analyze possible situations individually, so as to offer food for thought:

1. There are problems:

When we have problems with animals (drafts and / or sudden coral deaths) and algae problems, it can be interesting to investigate the situation of all the elements in the tank. In fact, we know that some algae proliferate more easily in the presence of high percentages of silicates and phosphates. Very often, however, detecting the possible cause from the aquarium water is not simple, the algae in fact will tend to keep the value (for example silicates) low, on the contrary it is easier to detect the possible cause if it resides in the osmosis water and intervene. the consequence, for example, by adding a cartridge that retains silicates to the osmosis system.

2. Change of management method:

One of the cases in which I highly recommend doing ICP tests is when we change management (Balling, reactors, etc.). Ballings, for example, are not all the same. They can have very different concentrations of the elements. How could we proceed? We could repeat the ICP test every month, for 2 or 3 months, compare the results with respect to a starting situation and understand if the tank has deficiencies in important elements such as potassium, iodine, strontium (etc.) or excesses of the latter, intervening accordingly.

3. I have a "PRO" aquarium:

For the most demanding tanks, where the cheapest animal costs € 200, the systematic ICP test cannot be missing. The cost will in fact be minimal compared to the entire system and a complete and exhaustive analysis will offer interesting ideas to optimize management and intervene, if necessary, to avoid possible problems.

Aquaforest Lab

Let's enter in the practical part of the article. As previously mentioned for this ICP we have relied on Aquaforest Lab. ICP test 2 allowed us to analyze both the water in our aquarium and osmotic. The laboratory that conducted the analysis presents one of the most complex and innovative ICP-OES (Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectrometry), highest resolution on the market with plasma excitation with a unique and patented optical system made with horizontal plasma and vertical with a wavelength range between 130 and 770 nm. The analysis and processing of the entire spectral spectrum takes only 2 seconds and through this technique it is possible to analyze the composition of many different types of liquid samples, for example drinking water or sea water. The test gives us the possibility to detect harmful and dangerous substances for the inhabitants of our aquariums, but also allows us to find any deficiencies of 36 elements: Li, Si, I, Ba, Mo, Ni, Mn, Be, Cr, Co , Fe, V, Zn, Hg, Se, Cd, Sn, Sb, As, Al, Pb, Ti, Cu, La, Sc, W, Na, Ca, Mg, K, Br, B, Sr, S, P , PO4 to which the control of salinity and KH is also added. The ICP-OES analysis therefore allows us to highlight which macro-elements and trace elements to insert or decrease if abundantly present.

How to send a ICP test?

Welcome to the final phase of the article in which we will report, step by step, how to send an ICP test. The first step is to register on the Aquaforest lab website ( At this point we open the box that contains 2 test tubes (in the case of test 2, while in the case of test 1 the tube will be unique and it will be possible to analyze only the aquarium water) and an envelope in which we will close our samples to ship them. The specimen with the blue cap is the one for the marine aquarium water, while the red one is for the osmosis water. It is very important to close both the capsules and the packaging as well as possible, in order to avoid possible water leaks that could compromise our test. The next step is to take the code that we find on the test tubes and (once you have logged in on the site shown above) bring it back in the section that you will find at the following link. We just need to send our package. You will find the complete address inside the box, for convenience I will also report it here: Aquaforest, Ul.starowiejska 18, 32-800 Brzesko Poland.

As shipping methods I recommend one of the many sites that are online, I found myself particularly well with and selecting Ups or TNT as couriers (the shipping cost is particularly low and arrives much earlier than with the Italian post office). I hope this guide will by be useful to you and for more clarification do not hesitate to write me in the comments.

Below you can find an example of how the results will be returned.

The image does not show the complete test but only a part relating to the sea water results.

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