Milwaukee PH55 meter

This is likely not a new problem at all but very few people seem to know the answer.I have this Milwaukee hand held ph meter with which I have always struggled to get fairly quick and accurate readings of altum water (TDS 12 and PH 5) It seems that the very low TDS water "robs" ions from the meter probe rendering it more and more slow and undependable as weeks go on. It is stored in Milwaukee storage solution, and calibrated often in the proper Milwaukee #7 and #4 solutions. Have other people found a more adaptible meter? Also, it would be my thought that the life of the probe would be extended indefinitely if the TDs was not so low. ED indicated recently to me that my TDS was unnessessarily low at 8-12 ( for the altums)and things would be fine ,if not better at 40-100 as long as the PH stayed low.That I can do easily.Will the ph meter work better?
Regards Al Dicks

Re: Milwaukee PH55 meter

Hi Al,

Where are you based, please do add this to your personal details so that we can see that when you post, it helps us to assess what your water conditions may be.

The cost of a pH meter is directly related to the quality of the electrode. Pen type pH meters have cheaper electrodes and the cheaper electrodes just simply cannot measure pH accurately in soft water. The softer the water, the higher the quality of the electrode needs to be before you will get a stable reading. For soft water in which you keep discus and altums this will therefore just simply not work. However, a TDS of 8-12 is actually quite low and you could increase that to 40-60 without harming the altums (however, adjust this slowly otherwise you could have problems). Your pH readings would be more stable then, but the pen type electrode is still actually not going to measure the pH very accurately at this TDS and the readings will still take quite a while to stabilize, and it is questionable if the reading will be accurate.

My general advice with regard to buying a pH meter for aquaria in which you want to keep discus and altums in soft water would be to buy a cheaper range laboratory pH meter with a separate electrode. Milwaukee has some good models that will be adequate for these requirements.

Kind regards,

Somerset West, South Africa

Re: Milwaukee PH55 meter

It looks like all these relatively cheap pH monitors have a dubious useful life, be it the pen type and also some of the affordable Milwaukee's, the cheaper, the faster they go... like inkjet cartridges.
The Milwaukee pH 600 is just as good as every single look alike on Ebay, probably all made by the same Chinese manufacturer... it is what I call a disposable, or at best, un-abusable (treat it lake a baby and you might get a year off of it. It's only worth what you pay on Ebay without the brand name on it... around 10 bucks +/-... that's what they're worth.
I had a Milwaukee SM802, now substituted by the MW802, it was a good meter, but the probe went dry and a new one at almost 70.00 alone, at that time, was something I was not interested in... but these are good if you give them the TLC they need. Lately I was working with a pent type Hanna TDS meter and simple regents, along with a bit of knowing my water and intuition. So I won't recommend a particular brand and would rather say that if you take care of it, the precision of the readings from these Milwaukee units are all that we really need... they don't have to be spot on.

This said, and as i explained, in the aquarium, we are better off with a TDS of anywhere between 40 and 100, little less, little more, won't hurt. In nature these fish live at 8-15 TDS, or a tad more, but we have a continuous and constant (sorry for the redundance there), even if very low hardness. In the aquarium fish and plants, especially plants, and water changes with pure RO and acids eat the little hardness we provide, so it is best to keep it just soft... I mean, 70-80pm of TDS is still by all means very soft, and 100ppm is still way on the soft side.
God listens. He may not always give you everything you want, when you want it; but he always gives you what you really need, when you need it most!

Re: Milwaukee PH55 meter

Hello again
by the way ,I am in the Cleveland Ohio area..use a well with a tDS of 300 and a PH of 8.2 ( lots of bicarbonate).. My RO, from two separate units into two different 110 gal tanks, comes out at 8-12TDS with a ph measured at 5.8.I have no altums right now,but the tanks I am working with are long running holding tanks with a tds of 8-10 and a ph of about 5. I am expecting altums from John at HAW in the near future. When I tried to lower my ph from 5.8 (the RO puts it right there in the tank) to 5, I ran into trouble with both of my PH55 units.Now I am not so sure where I am other than below 6 by a reagent test ..and my experience making the water.
The Milwaukee ph 55 is already an upgrade from the simple units.Though a pen type,It has a separate ,replaceable still does not work for long even when well cared for .Costs $50.00 with the probe costing $30.00. I could never get the PH 600 to work at all well.
I just spoke with a senior tech at Milwaukee ( I have spoken with them many times over a few years) who was refered to me by the regular tech who was unable to help anymore. THe senior tech indicated the following:
1.My problems were normal
2.I needed to purchase a better unit like a MW101 but with an MA918 probe substituted on it...the solution in that probe can be refilled . THis all costly..particularly switching out the probe and still having the probe that the unit actually comes with.I would do it ,though if I have to.
3.All my measurement problems will ease when I raise the TDS with a product like Discus Trace(ED recommended Discus Trace). ADDING the trace elements will add hydrogen to the water and help the units read.Adding salt ( at least pure salt)he says won't help as it contains no hydrogen. Nonetheless,I had heard of that trick and thought that it maybe seemed to help

Any one with any advice to add. I am going to try to keep on going with my PH55s ( or at least a new one)but will watch for better results once the TDS is up. I am also going to send my old PH55 units back to Milwaukee and see what they say.Neither one is very old and one probe was purchased in july.

Regards Al

Re: Milwaukee PH55 meter

Al, if your liquid reagent test is yellow to a light orange, and your pH meter reads between 4.5 and 5.5, or even a bit more, you should be fine. One way to not break the bank is having two pen type monitors to compare readings. The idea is not to stress ourselves up about this. With such a soft TDS, and already a pH of around 5, I would only add the Discus Trace at half of the recommended dose and catappa leaves and/or rooibos... and not much of anything, because any thing you add to your very soft water will be exponentially more powerful than in a water of a higher hardness.

John's (HAW) water parameters were very similar to yours, just yesterday, right out of his RO. He was tweaking around his new filtration setup getting ready for the shipment that (knocking on wood), should arrive Monday I believe.

I've also been on contact with the exporter, and he has everything well calibrated on his side too, all in the goal of helping John supply us with the best healthy altum possible.

God listens. He may not always give you everything you want, when you want it; but he always gives you what you really need, when you need it most!

Re: Milwaukee PH55 meter

Hi Al,

Just another bit of advice.

When your TDS is as low as you make it with your RO unit, in other words 8-12, the carbonate levels are rock bottom and what causes the pH to drop in your holding tanks is that carbon dioxide, CO2, dissolves in the water, reacts with water and is converted to carbonic acid. This then dissociates to release free H+ which drops the pH.

Reaction: CO2 + H20 = H2CO3 = HCO3- + H+ (if you will excuse the limited way I can type this on the forum, the equals sign should actually be an equilibrium sign with a forward and reverse arrow)

As soon as you add fishes, they will produce ammonia which will be covered to nitrite and then to nitrate in your biological filter. This conversion releases H+ in other words makes the water acidic, and in soft water this process is so rapid that it can cause such a dramatic drop in pH that it is referred to as "pH crash".

So as Ed mentions, your pH is fine without any further addition of acid and once you add your fishes you will also have to watch that the pH does not drop too low. Keeping fishes in soft water is a completely different ball game and is one of the major adjustments in your approach that you have to make when doing so.

If you adjust your TDS to 60 - 100 as discussed before, you will also be adding just a bit of bicarbonate and you will find that to be beneficial as it will just assist you to not have too severe drops in pH.

I hope this is not too bewildering, it is part of the learning curve when you want to keep these fishes.

Kind regards,

Somerset West, South Africa

Re: Milwaukee PH55 meter

After getting a bit more info I though I would reply again:
1.Both of my PH55 meters are going back to Milwaukee Instruments..likely I will receieve at least some warranty claim.
2.Actually,as it happens,my Ph does not decrease on standing in my holding tanks.I do know that it can and I have crashed water. The water comes out of the well at 7.4, off gases to 8.2 if left in a glass.If it is going to the house or the RO units,it goes through a large iron remover and a standard salt based softener and out a tap into either of two RO units. It comes out into the storage tanks at that TDS of 10 and a PH, as measure by those meters and backed up by the reagent test, of 5.8.It pretty well stays there. 25 drops of muriatic acid ( max 50) lowers the ph to 5 quite well. The number of drops should not vary ....25 drops is the current addition.Last winter it need more muriatic.than now...

3.I receieved the Discus Trace.A full addition of this material into 100 gals of RO water raises the TDS from 10 to 20. So, as a TDS increaser it is pretty lame. Is this the same product that you mean?. It is a liquid.It takes 3.33 tablespoons of solid hardness additives( calcium chloride,epsom salts and baking soda to raise the same 100 gal of RO water to 120 TDS. That's my discus recipe. I have and could add RO Right with the Discus trace..that would work. Comment?

4.I will contact John at HAW

5.Can you tell what is the best wide range PH test kit to use?.I am using a cheap API Pond wide range kit but never exactly trusted it

Regards again Al

Re: Milwaukee PH55 meter

Hi Al, and yes, Discus Trace is the same product, not so much meant to increase hardness proper, but to provide trace minerals to the altum. As you note it minimally affects hardness.

NOTE: Most if not all the advice I may give is focusing on wild caught P. altum and their acclimation. Being that these fish come from a water that is virtually exempt of any mineral hardness but nevertheless, that the different species from this environment have the ability to satisfy their mineral requirements mostly from their diet and not so much from the water itself, still, the low environmental mineral content has an influence on the fish itself, or said on a scale of 100, 10 is better than 0 (does this make sense?), and 90, comes from the diet... these numbers are by no means scientifically based, I am using them to illustrate an example. Studies of this have been done on fish and their are some studies, done on cardinals, that shows results indicating better growth in fish fed on a mineral rich diet vs. a more balanced diet, in very soft water. Now remember, we are talking acclimation, not yet conditioing, breeding or long term captivity (point at which they will benefit from water that is harder).

So, I understand you are adding the full or recommended dose of Discus Trace to 100G and your TDS doubles (from 10ppm to 20pm), and that sounds about right. Can I assume you are working with a bare bottom tank? of that you have a truly inert subsrate that provides zero additional hardness?

I use a substrate (quartz based river sand) that provides minimal hardness, and I pretreat this sand with muriatic acid to bubble out the excess calcium and magnesium, thus avoiding the bad bounce backs provided by harder water. At first it may drive a new water column into the low 100's, but after a few months it can vary between 30 to over a 100, influenced by water change schedule. My RO water (from a semi commercial RO Unit, a GE Merlin) is coming out at around 40ppm right now and pH 6.4. So I am taking advantage of my "well used membranes" to help to maintain the TDS I want.

Now, I understand your main concern is the lack of precision of your pH meter supposedly due to reading issues in the very soft water (???). isn't this were the topic started?

So, I'm sorry if my recommendation may have misled you... I don't think the Discus Trace will actually help in providing water that will help your pH meter get a better reading... if you need to increase TDS and just that, and not significantly affect your pH, you may have to do a little playing around with elements that very slowly dissolve in the water but that will allow a pH balance (keep it where you need it). You have commercially prepared buffers by Seachem, Kent, etc that may help you. I have used a small bag of crushed coral for this purpose, or my substrate does the job. The Discus Trace is for the benefit of the fishes health.

If I would use straight RO as I do, without any addition, in time, I will see it in my fish, eating less, being less active (I've done it), but I have had time to understand what is going on and make corrections.

OK, so I'll just finish off and let you go back to the topic proper by saying, as I said, I am focusing on newly acquired wild caught altum. Domestically bred is a while different ball game.
God listens. He may not always give you everything you want, when you want it; but he always gives you what you really need, when you need it most!