Questions about water parameters and testing

AquaticArt

Hello!

I've recently decided to jump into the hobby - specifically with the interest of starting a planted tank.

I ordered the API Test Kit to get a better understanding of the parameters of my tap water.
Ideally, I'd like to use this data to inform my selection of substrate/plants.

pH: 7.8
Ammonia: 1 ppm
Phosphate: 10 ppm
General Hardness: (Reading was off the chart provided with the kit (13 drops total))
Carbonate Hardness: 143.2 ppm
Nitrate: 0 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Copper: 0 ppm

Questions:
  1. If I find that these parameters are wildly out of line with the requirements of the plants/fish that I want to keep - is it generally better to start with tap water, and adjust from there? Or is it better to start with RO water? Seems like the tap water route might be more work/frustration in the long run(?).
  2. I understand that the plants/fish you purchase locally or online are likely not kept in water with parameters that directly match the water in their natural habitat. How do you determine the proper parameters to keep them at?
  3. Given that water testing is something that will be frequently done in the hobby - are there any digital water testing instruments in the hobby market? While I like the reusable API Test Kits - the idea of time savings from a digital testing tool sounds nice.
 

LowConductivity

Tap water is the least work….it does come out of the tap. If your tap water is liquid stone, you’ll be married to fish that find that acceptable. If your water is grossly soft, it’s not difficult to “add” what you need. RO would really only be an option if your water is ridiculously hard and you want to keep soft water fish, or you are trying to breed something special.

SA/CA and many SE Asian species are fine being kept in “unacceptable” tap water that’s harder than what they’d encounter in nature. African (Rift lake) fish which I have not kept, will struggle in water too soft.

Digital tools are fantastic if you are willing to spend the money. $15 “meters” from Amazon, generally are not. You can buy a whole lot of API pH test kits for the cost of a great meter ($300ish)
 

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