The current gold standard for determining ionic content in an aqueous sample, particularly in the case of seawater, is inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES) analysis. Within very small margins of error, this method of analysis reports the presence and concentration of various elements of interest (certainly, to aquaculture, horticulture, and research professionals) when titrimetric and/or colorimetric analysis methods lack the necessary resolution or are generally unavailable. Admittedly, what qualifies as "necessary resolution" is unique to each individual system or research project, however it is generally the case that ICP-OES, performed properly, produces such high resolution that trace element content less than 1 ppb is discernible; the procedure is quite rapid, an added bonus. Researchers and commercial growers, in particular, have use for such resolution because it enables them to monitor system chemistry and intelligently correlate ionic values with study outcomes and productivity, respectively.
A decade ago, such analysis was prohibitively expensive (or even unavailable) for many researchers, growers, and system technicians. As is typical of many services, economy of scale with time has increased availability and decreased cost of ICP-type testing, in general. As this trend continues, ICP analysis will be within the budget of an increasing number of consumers.
As mentioned elsewhere on our site, we have established a working relationship with Reef Labs, who shares our vision and commitment to progress and integrity. Reef Labs owns and operates their own ICP-OES system, based in Tampa, Florida. Importantly, Reef Labs has a firm grasp of ICP technology, as well as supportive analytical methods utilized to enhance precision of detecting specific ions beyond current ICP capabilities; to that point, Reef Labs actively researches the equipment and invests in the technology in order to maximize the usefulness of analyses performed. Furthermore, Reef Labs understands system requirements in recirculating seawater ecosystems, enabling them to advise their clientele of the relative significance of ionic values reported in a sample. They have recently incorporated their own ICP-MS (mass spec) into their range of analytical methods, enhancing the resolution (relative to the capabilities of ICP-OES) for a number of important elements and bringing added accuracy to their analyses.
Captiv8 Aquaculture receives no kickbacks or other remuneration from Reef Labs for referrals or completed analyses. We unreservedly recommend Reef Labs as a provider of ICP analysis as a service to our customers.