Last Updated on December 7, 2020 by Anne Thynne
It goes without saying that if you’re an enthusiast of marine life you should have an aquarium full of fishes at home or at your office. You might think that fishes can survive in the pond or river without anything, so, they could survive in a fish tank without anything but food. That’s not true at all. The pond or river or ocean has a biological filtration system that keeps the water suitable for fishes. You can’t maintain that in your fish tank without having a proper filter and the best aquarium test kit.
An aquarium test kit is what you need to determine if the water in your fish tank is suitable for your fishes or not. You’ll be surprised to know that the water in a fish tank can be more contaminated or toxic than water in a natural resource. So, it’s necessary to keep a check on how the water is doing in a fish tank to make sure it doesn’t harm your fishes.
Most of the time, aquarium fishes die due to the ammonia or nitrite toxicity in the water. Other reasons could be fluctuation of pH or presence of chlorine in the supply water. And to ensure safety from all that you need to know the condition of your tank water. Aquarium test kit comes in handy for measuring all these water parameters and contamination.
Table of Contents
- Our Top Picks At A Glance
- Types of Test Kits
- Which Tests Are the Most Important ones?
- How To Know Which Aquarium Test Kit Is Best For You?
- The Best Aquarium Test Kits Reviewed
- Final Thought
Our Top Picks At A Glance
Types of Test Kits
Still, you may not think aquarium test kits are important. But you’ll be surprised to know that there are roughly 12 types of tests for the aquarium water. This truly means that if you’re not serious about keeping the fish tank water clean and proper for your fishes, it’s time for you to get serious.
The types of aquarium test kits are given below-
- Ammonia Test Kit
- Alkalinity Test Kit
- Calcium Test Kit
- Chlorine Test Kit
- Copper Test Kit
- Chloramines Test Kit
- Iodine Test Kit
- pH Test Kit
- Nitrate Test Kit
- Nitrite Test Kit
- Magnesium Test Kit
- Carbonate Hardness & General Hardness (dKH and GH) Test Kit
Among the 12 tests, not all are important. Also, the tests vary from salt water to fresh water. Not long ago, to get these tests done, it was necessary to buy separate test kits. But now, you can buy test kits as a combo. One test kit package contains more than 5 to 7 types of tests that are most important.
Which Tests Are the Most Important ones?
Not all the tests are equally important. But some of them have to be done without another option. To make sure that your fishes don’t die, you have to perform the tests described below.
For Saltwater Aquarium
For saltwater, the most obvious test is to check the salinity of the water. Usually, there’s an amount of salt in the water where the fishes can survive naturally. As the water in a fish tank is contained and has no connection with outside water whatsoever, the salinity level can increase or decrease. It causes the fishes to suffer and eventually die. So, the salinity test is very important. 1.02 is the best Specific Gravity or S.G for saltwater. It can be measured with a Hydrometer or refractometer.
Usually, in saltwater tanks, people love to have corals and other living organisms that require the presence of calcium in the water to survive. So, it’s very important to make sure that there is enough calcium in the water of the fish tank. The necessary amount of calcium is 350 to 450 PPM (Parts per million).
An element that is necessary for all living creatures is magnesium. No creature can survive without it. More importantly, it is essential for the development and growth of marine life. It’s lighter than calcium and saltwater. The oceans usually have 1280 PPM of magnesium; you can have the same amount in your fish tanks.
Ammonia, Nitrates, and Nitrites
These are toxic materials created through the fish waste, uneaten food and decaying plants. In any fish tank, a bacteria colony is created inside the filter media or the live rock (in case of salty tank), which keeps the levels of these materials low. Thus keeping the fishes safe. There has to be a regular check to make sure that the Ammonia, Nitrates, and Nitrites levels are not higher than usual.
For Freshwater Aquarium
Ammonia, Nitrates, and Nitrites
In freshwater tanks, the nitrogen cycle is stronger and the bacteria kill these harmful materials. If it’s found that these three materials are present and increasing, you’ll be able to notice that the nitrogen cycle isn’t working properly and the filtration process needs to be pumped up.
In freshwater tanks, the pH level is an important factor. However different species of fishes have different pH level requirements. For example african chiclids prefers high pH (~8), whereas discus or shrimps prefers lower pH range. It is wise to control the pH naturally in your tank.
How To Know Which Aquarium Test Kit Is Best For You?
Now, the biggest concern should be how you can find the aquarium test kit that is best for you. Well, it wasn’t a long time ago that everyone had to buy each test kit separately to test their fish tank water. But now, these test kits are available as combo packs where you can find different types of tests together.
Another problem is that there are now a lot of different combo packs. You can choose one but you have to make sure some parameters are met because you will not require all the tests.
Here are some factors you should consider before buying a test kit for your fish tank –
- Ease of Use: For business and the competitive market, companies are coming up with different kinds of test combo packs according to user necessity. Some of the manufacturers are trying to meet the demands but at the end of the day, they are complicating the use of the test kits. Let’s face it, taking these tests are nothing less than doing scientific experiments at home. As a normal human being, not everyone will have the same knack for experiments, nor will everyone be able to conduct them properly. Thus, a test kit has to be simple enough for everyone to use. Otherwise, you will be buying a test kit too complicated for yourself and wasting money.
- Long Lasting: After the aquarium, fishes and extra accessories like filters and heating system, buying an additional test kit means spending more money. Unless you’re a marine life enthusiast, a person who is trying to have an aquarium for the first time will get annoyed. To make sure the water is fine, the tests are required to be taken at the frequency of once per month or so. So, the test kits may run out soon. Buying a new test kit every time is spending not only your money but also your time. While buying one, you should make sure that it has enough material that you can conduct tests for a long time without any interruption. Otherwise, it’s just not worthy of the time.
- Accuracy: Now, The fact is that you can say that you could determine the problems without taking any tests. Because if one of your fishes falls sick, you will notice. But the problem, in this case, is that a fish can get sick of a lot of things. It’s almost impossible to determine what the reason is. To get accurate results behind a fish’s getting sick, you need a test kit to find out what’s wrong with the water of your aquarium. I once didn’t pay attention to this and ended up taking the lives of those mute creatures I was meant to nurture. So, to accurately know what’s wrong with the water of the fish tank, taking tests are important. Before buying a test kit, don’t forget to check which test kit provides the most accurate result. Because due to inaccurate results you might end up doing the wrong thing and harming the fishes.
The Best Aquarium Test Kits Reviewed
API Master Test Kits (Best Freshwater Test Kit)
API is basically the most trusted brand for aquarium test kits. It has specific kits for specific types of fish tanks. For instance, this one is their master kit for freshwater tanks. It includes 7 bottles of testing solutions, 1 color card and 4 glass tubes with measurement caps. This is an all-rounder test kit for any freshwater tanks.
With this kit, you can test the most viable 5 water parameters with maximum accuracy, making this test kit actually the best one to use for freshwater tanks.
- Finds out The invisible Problems: Apart from some problems in the water, most are invisible. These invisible factors will appear in your water and kill your fishes. You will not even know how your aquatic friend died. This master kit helps to identify the most vital 5 parameter levels which cannot be found without taking tests.
- Accuracy: Truly this kit is considered to be the most accurate master kit. Most of the kits show ammonia levels up to 0.2% but the actual ammonia level in water should be 0% and with this kit, you can actually determine if the ammonia is present or not. If the test results show that there’s no ammonia, then there will actually be no ammonia present in the fish tank.
- Maximum Number of Important Tests: Most other test kits only provide tests for only one or up to three parameters. But with the freshwater master kit, you can test 5 most vital problems. This makes the master kit most feasible.
- Usability: A measurement card and measurement caps for all type of tests are added with the kit. So it’s very easy to use this test kit and find out the results.
- Maximum tests can be taken
- More accurate than most other test kits
- Very easy to use
- Can be used for a long time
- Usable in all types of fish tanks including saltwater fish tanks
- The measurement caps are complained to have leaks sometimes
API Test Kit Individual Aquarium Water Test Kit
Another common problem of the water in a fish tank is that it can be contaminated the most by ammonia. The fishes are not just living there. They are also defecating there and fish foods which they don’t eat are getting mixed with the water creating a strong amount of ammonia.
Usually, it takes 2-3 weeks before understanding that the water is getting dirty. But ammonia is created from the very first day the fishes start to defecate. So it’s very important to measure ammonia. If you think without the ammonia nothing else will be of a headache just like some other marine lovers, then the individual aquarium set is what you need.
Just like the ammonia tester, the individual testers are available for all 11 types of testing of the fish tank water. You can buy only the ones you need. Now the question might arise if there are combo packs, why would you need to buy the testers individually.
Well, not all type of water gets contaminated by all type of problems. If you can identify which problems you will face most frequently you can only get those testers. Buying extra testers in a combo pack other than those you need is just wasting money. So, buying individual testers are quite feasible.
- Every tester is The perfect one: In a combo pack, the effectiveness is divided equally. So, you will not find dedicated results. They are accurate, yes, but they can never be as accurate as of the individual testers. So, if you buy the phosphorus tester. For instance, it will obviously give better results than the combo pack phosphorus tester.
- Budget friendliness: In a combo pack, you might not need all the testers because your water might never lack magnesium due to the amount of magnesium in your tap water. So, you won’t need the magnesium tester. But in a combo pack, you would have to buy one. So, if you buy an individual, only the ones you need, you will save a lot of money.
- Long Lasting: To ensure the price limit, in combo packs, the number of testing materials is less than of those in individual packs. So, if you buy a combo pack and do ammonia testes, it will run out faster than the individual ammonia testers. So, for longevity, individual packs are better.
- Accuracy: Individual testers are undeniably better in giving results. There are dedicated color strips the measure the amount of each material. But in combo packs, you will get one big color strip to measure.
- More long-lasting than combo packs.
- Better accuracy due to individual color strips
- Works instantly
- A bit high priced due to the high amount of strips and longer usage
API Saltwater Master Test Kits (Best Saltwater Test Kit)
In a saltwater fish tank, the main problems those occur are high pH, Ammonia, Nitrate, and nitrite. So, you may only need these three or four testers to make sure your saltwater is safe. This is only applicable if your water is okay on every other way. If so, you only need the API Master Test Kit for saltwater aquarium.
This kit comes with 4 tests including 6 bottles of testing solution, 1 measurement color card, and 4 glass test tubes with measurement caps. API master kit is famous for its rugged accuracy. The level of accuracy in this testing kit is higher than any other testing kits of the same class.
The best part about this kit is that it measures the main problems that occur in a saltwater fish tank. These problems are the main reason for your fish loss. So, if you can identify and solve these problems with this one kit, why bother buying others?
- Best available kit for Saltwater fish tank
- Contains only the most important tests for saltwater tanks
- Provides high-accuracy results
- Does not contain the secondary important tests, less cautious than other test kits
API Reef Master Test Kit (Best Reef Test Kit)
If ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, and pH are not your main concern and you have a perfect nitrogen cycle that prevents these to occur, the next best thing you need is this one. These above mentioned are the most general reasons why fishes suffer and die, apart from these, there can be some other reasons which don’t occur much but when they do, there are not many ways of identifying them.
In this case, the best way you can take the tests other than the most possible ones is the API Master Reef tank test kit. This test kit is specially designed to identify the levels of calcium, carbonate, water hardness, and phosphate. These are actually debris in the way of the development of a fish.
But most certainly they can be the reason why your little friends are dying in the environment you created for them. So, to make sure that these unwanted rare problems don’t attack your fishes, you should get this kit now.
- Identifies the invisible uncommon problems
- This kit is the most accurate one to measure the levels of carbonate and phosphate
- Most Kits promise to have water hardness measuring tool but don’t offer any, this one has the best water hardness measurement solution
- Can be used on all types of water
- The problems mentioned are quite rare, so usage is very limited
Red Sea Fish Pharm Marine Care Test Kit
One kit in this list other than API is the Red sea fish Pharm marine care test kit. With this kit, you can test nitrate, nitrite, ammonia, pH and alkalinity levels 100 times. So if you follow a cycle of testing in two weeks gap, it will last for 50 weeks, that’s almost a year. Though the amount is less than the individual strips.
This kit gives the accuracy of ammonia up to 0.02 ppm. Actually, 0.02 ppm ammonia does not quite harm the fishes but still is harmful. The alkalinity test can be done 55 times which is one of the highest in all packs. You can test the nitrate 100 times. The most important test of all is the pH test. Usually, right after the ammonia problem, the most common problem is the pH problem.
Due to the sudden increase or decrease in pH, fishes can be damaged. So, it’s very important to check the pH of the water every now and then. That applies only if the water from your source has alkalinity or acidity. Other than that, it’s okay not to take the test.
- Can perform 100 test
- You can use it for almost a year or so
- This offers a pH test in a combo kit
- Applicable for all kinds of fish tank especially reef tanks.
- Not a good value for money
If I am to determine the best aquarium test kit, there are some criteria to measure. Let me tell you the verdict first and then I’ll explain why I chose it to be the recommended one. According to my measurement, the best one is undeniably the API Master Test kit for Freshwater. Now the reasons why-
As you’ve already spent quite a lot of money on tanks, fishes and other necessary accessories, it’s always good to be a little bit marginal. For taking each test, it only costs you around $0.30 whereas other test kits can cost up to $0.84. So, you’re saving a lot of money here which is very ideal.
The only different product in this list the red sea one which has ammonia test accuracy up to 0.02 ppm whereas the API Master gives an accuracy of 100%. The very existence of ammonia is harmful to fishes. So, undeniably this one is the most accurate one.
To maintain a proper fish tank, among the 12 tests, you will only need 5 major tests to take regularly. The API Master Test kit contains them. So, you are getting all of the required safety measures from on single kit which is cheaper than others.
And finally, about the universal usage. All other kits are dedicated for a specific type of tank. Though they can be used everywhere, not all types of tanks require the same test. But the API Master kit provides the major 5 tests needed for every type of fish tanks.
So, we have a winner here. If you want to buy the best and the most economical one with an all-rounder performance, the choice is very clear. Go with the API Master kit for fresh water. It has been reviewed 3700+ time and only 4% of the reviews are negative. It’s worth buying if you’re planning to buy a test kit.