We have so much to learn about the inner workings of ICP testing. We asked Reef Therapy Sponsor Steve Visser of ICP-Analysis about his own machine and testing processes.
What is the difference between ICP MS and ICP OES machines?
The majority of ICP tests are OES (Optical Emission spectroscopy), at ICP Analysis we use MS (Mass spectrometry.) MS measures the mass of atoms whereas OES measures the wavelengths of the atoms and ions.MS and OES are different machines with different testing methods. MS can go down into the parts per trillion (ppt). OES can go to parts per billion (ppb).
Macro elements of Sulfur, Magnesium, Chlorine, Sodium, and Calcium and Potassium should have similar results across companies, but trace elements will have a variety of results as OES struggles to detect them at the low ppb as it is beyond the detection limits of OES. Laboratory standards consider at most a 5% variance in the test results. We test the elements in each sample three times. We consider a test good if the results remain within 5% of each other after all three tests, most of our results are less than 2%.
How should I send my ICP test water sample in?
With our complete test kits, we provide a USPS postage label. Other delivery companies can be used though we do not provide return postage for those. Please ensure the labels are filled out completely on your tests. We run saltwater and freshwater/RODI tests separately. Also creating an account on the app is necessary for us to post your results. Without an account created, we will be trying to reach out to the customer to remind them to create an account.
How can I see my ICP test results?
The results are posted to our app ICP Analysis. This can be opened through our website or by downloading the app.
What if I cannot/forgot to register my ICP test?
As long as you have made your account we can attach the test to the proper account once we receive it. If you have multiple sources, we may have to contact you to ensure we register it to the correct source.
How do I contact ICP-Analysis?
The best way to contact us is through the website.
What is the turnaround time on an ICP test?
The turnaround time is 1-2 days from us receiving the test.
What is your process after receiving an ICP test?
We start the day by scanning all the tests we have received into the system. From there, we separate the salt water and fresh water/RODI tests from one another. Then we run the tests in their respective batches. Once all the testing is complete we will upload the results to the app, which allows for customers to view their results.
How do I interpret the ICP test results?
If a value is highlighted yellow, the element is under the recommended levels. If it is highlighted in red the element is over the recommended levels.
Is it okay to have any traces of anything in my RO/DI water analysis?
Successful reefing is actually all about good source water, and the numbers on your analysis of your source water should be as small as possible. If anything comes into your system via your source water, even in levels as low as 5 parts per billion, they can build up over 3-5 months and become toxic. Standard ICP-OES can’t detect elements in the very low parts per billion, so ICP Analysis.Com uses Mass Spectrometry which can detect parts per trillion.
Is it safe to have any level of copper in a reef aquarium?
Copper is safe at 10-20 parts per billion, and soft corals seem more resilient to higher levels of copper.
What is the element that you see most frequently at levels that are too high? And too low in a reef aquarium?
The element we frequently see too high is lithium, and this comes from salt mixes, with Magnesium being the carrier. If you have high lithium and it comes from your salt, water changes won’t bring it down. The elements we frequently see too low are Iodine, Iron, and Zinc. A tank can suck up Iron and Zinc in just 24 hours, but for Iodine, even a high level of 120 parts per billion is pushing the limits of detection on standard ICP-OES. That’s why we use mass spec.
Does my ICP test water sample deteriorate over time?
Your test water can freeze and it will still be okay. Bacteria and phytoplankton will be obliterated by the temperature of the plasma, so that’s not an issue either.