Accuracy of API Freshwater Test Kit vs Tetra Strips


New Member
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Just started
So, I'm fairly new to fish keeping and I'm keeping a hawk's eye on my tank because I listened to bad advice from a store employee and am now doing a fish-in cycle instead of a fishless cycle. So, I got the API test kit so I can check my readings daily and know when to do water changes and such. So far, I've only lost one fish that I think was already stressed when it went into the tank anyway and the rest are doing fine.

I'm having a really hard time reading the results on the test kit, especially for ammonia and I'm not showing any nitrites or nitrates 14 days out as of today. I've started reading the samples against a white wall at the same time of day so the conditions are the same between measurements, but that got me to thinking about the accuracy of the test. Because I'm a nerd and I like data (this is a great hobby for me, because it allows me to keep spreadsheets ), I got some Tetra test strips to compare some of my readings from the master kit and I'm puzzled about a couple of things.

For one, the pH is WAY off between the two tests. The master kit shows the pH in my tank as being >7.4 and <7.6. The test strips show it as being around 8.4! I've heard dodgy things about Tetra, but is this normal?

Also, the master kit shows no nitrates or nitrites, but the test strip showed a very, very small amount of both.

So, I'm thinking the master kit is more reliable than the strips, but I wanted to get some other opinions, because I'm concerned about the pH discrepancy. If that's what's keeping my tank from cycling, I'm going to facepalm hard. Also, is there a better brand of strips to use as a daily test?


Active Member
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More than 10 years
A liquid test kit is suppose to be better than the strips. At least that is what everyone says. I have never used them myself, and find it interesting that you have gotten a nitrite and nitrate reading with them and not the liquid.

I have always wondered why the strips have such a bad reputation VS. the liquid tests. But I am not a chemist, so I guess I have just listened to the people on forums about them without really researching it, or testing it out myself.

As far as how accurate the API master test kit it, it is my understanding, again form people on forums, that they serve the purpose for the hobby. But there are more accurate and expensive ways to test water for PH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate.


Fishlore Legend
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Lwhekk, Ssi-ruuvi Imperium
5 to 10 years
Not only are the strips less accurate, but they're more expensive to use than liquid tests.

I can tell you that if the pH is 8.4, that's most certainly not what is messing up your cycle. It's a pH of under 6.5 that ruins a cycle.

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