Annoyed With Api Test Kit

DavidG_LA
  • #1
HI all,

I did a check of Ammonia, pH, nitrate and nitrite using my new API kit. Then went to my aquarium store and several of the values were way off...the worst being nitrate, which was WAY off.

So, I have started looking at other test kits that may be more reliable and easier to read the values.

I have 3 separate 5 gallon Betta tanks, so a test that is not too time consuming would be a help.

Any suggestions? I am considering Nutrifin, Sera, Salifert (although not sure if that will work with freshwater).

Anyway, I would probably want to check the main 4 (ammonia, pH, nitrate, nitrite) and perhaps iron, chlorine and hardness.

I am reading conflicting reviews all over the web, so hoping you can help shed some light for me.

Thanks!
-David
 
Keith83
  • #2
What did your local pet store use to test your water?
 
sloughdog
  • #3
Curious why you think your test results were way off compared to the lfs? Was there a control to test your kit vs the lfs test kit?

That being said, the liquid test kits are generally regarded as more accurate than test strips. However, I recently came across a peer reviewed scientific article stating there was virtually no difference between liquid and strips. However, I believe it depended on the “freshness” of the strips. I will attempt to find the article.
 
BottomDweller
  • #4
What did the lfs use? Maybe they were using test strips which were inaccurate and the ApI test kit was right? The ApI freshwater master test kit is generally regarded as accurate and easy to use. The only one that can be a problem is nitrates if you don't shake it hard enough.
 
baldegale
  • #5
the nitrate is explainable. nitrate bottle #2 has to be shaken significantly as the chemicals can separate. you have to shake the life out of it for at least a minute otherwise it can be inaccurate. this is what I do:

shake bottle one for 30 seconds, immediately put the 10 drops in the 5ml of water, then shake the water for 10 secs. then shake bottle two vigorously for 60+ seconds then IMMEDIATELY put the 10 drops in, and then shake the water vile vigorously for 60 more seconds.

theres been a couple people on here that had drastically different results since doing this. after knowing this I shake every bottle before I use it just to be safe.
 
Inactive User
  • #6
Then went to my aquarium store and several of the values were way off...the worst being nitrate, which was WAY off.

Did they re-test your water at the LFS using the same kit?

The issue with the nitrate test is a reagent in bottle #2 is insoluble, and it tends to settle and compact over time. It needs to be shaken vigorously for 30 seconds in order to ensure that it's suspended evenly throughout the solution. Likewise, after being added to the sample of tank water, the test tube needs to be shaken vigorously for 60 seconds to ensure the reagent reacts.

I think all the testing kits are much of a muchness as they all suffer from the same issue: the inconsistency of trying to associate a colour reading with the chart. The tester's perception of colour, the type of lighting available, all affect it.
 
baldegale
  • #7
Did they re-test your water at the LFS using the same kit?

The issue with the nitrate test is a reagent in bottle #2 is insoluble, and it tends to settle and compact over time. It needs to be shaken vigorously for 30 seconds in order to ensure that it's suspended evenly throughout the solution. Likewise, after being added to the sample of tank water, the test tube needs to be shaken vigorously for 60 seconds to ensure the reagent reacts.

I think all the testing kits are much of a muchness as they all suffer from the same issue: the inconsistency of trying to associate a colour reading with the chart. The tester's perception of colour, the type of lighting available, all affect it.

I couldnt imagine being color blind and trying to do all this.
 
midna
  • #8
i'd trust my readings over a fish store's tbh
 
Rtessy
  • #9
I couldnt imagine being color blind and trying to do all this.
Haha, it's not fun. I literally have to send a picture to a friend of mine and have them tell me what it says...
But I agree that the nitrate test really has to be shaken. Shake bottle 2 for 30 seconds, and bang in on the counter for a bit, then the whole tube for 1 minute.
 
baldegale
  • #10
i'd trust my readings over a fish store's tbh

especially if said fish store is a petsmart/petco
 
Inactive User
  • #11
I couldnt imagine being color blind and trying to do all this.

I think another issue is that people are using the ammonia/nitrite/nitrate tests as part of routine maintenance in a way that encourages frustration. They're asking "what ppm is it?", trying to arrive at a somewhat precise reading, when these tests are far too inconsistent to offer any reliability in that aspect.

I think a better way to approach is to ask "is it over a safe ppm?". If the ammonia test isn't a yellow, the nitrite test isn't a light blue, the nitrate test isn't a light-medium orange, then it's time for a water change.

erhaps iron, and hardness.

API sells a test kit for general hardness/carbonate hardness. In addition, there are electronic test pens for pH and total dissolved solids. TDS pens are quite frequently used by shrimp breeders due to the requirement for low TDS.

I'm not sure if there's sufficient benefit to test for chlorine if you're using water conditioner. If it's an issue of underdosing the conditioner, just add a few drops extra.

Likewise, I'm not sure of the benefit of testing for iron unless you have a heavily planted tank and are attempting to test for a specific Fe ppm as part of a fert dosing regime.
 
baldegale
  • #12
I think another issue is that people are using the ammonia/nitrite/nitrate tests as part of routine maintenance in a way that encourages frustration. They're asking "what ppm is it?", trying to arrive at a somewhat precise reading, when these tests are far too inconsistent to offer any reliability in that aspect.

I think a better way to approach is to ask "is it over a safe ppm?". If the ammonia test isn't a yellow, the nitrite test isn't a light blue, the nitrate test isn't a light-medium orange, then it's time for a water change.



API sells a test kit for general hardness/carbonate hardness. In addition, there are electronic test pens for pH and total dissolved solids. TDS pens are quite frequently used by shrimp breeders due to the requirement for low TDS.

I'm not sure if there's sufficient benefit to test for chlorine if you're using water conditioner. If it's an issue of underdosing the conditioner, just add a few drops extra.

Likewise, I'm not sure of the benefit of testing for iron unless you have a heavily planted tank and are attempting to test for a specific Fe ppm as part of a fert dosing regime.

good way to look at it. I was more thinking from a beginners cycling standpoint!
 
DavidG_LA
  • Thread Starter
  • #13
theres been a couple people on here that had drastically different results since doing this. after knowing this I shake every bottle before I use it just to be safe.

Thank you...I read about this after that test, so I will try again and see if my results are different.
 
Inactive User
  • #14
good way to look at it. I was more thinking from a beginners cycling standpoint!

Gosh, I'm not even colourblind and I find myself struggling to read the colour chart. It still amazes me that there's any difference between 10 and 20 ppm nitrate.

Having just fishless cycled my first and aquarium and just two days ago starting a second fishless cycle for a quarantine tank, I've settled on a method that allows me to minimise having to shake bottles and clean test tubes: I only test for nitrite during the cycle, I only test for whether nitrite is 0 ppm or not 0 ppm, and I test nitrite everyday.

It's what I did towards the end of my first cycle and it makes sense (to me at least) to do it from the beginning because ultimately the limiting factor for whether your cycle is finished or not is the oxidation rate of your nitrite-oxidising bacteria (NOB). Your ammonia-oxidising bacteria (AOB) reaches its target oxidation rate (2 ppm ammonia is my recommended dose) weeks ahead of your NOB, so there's not much purpose in continually testing for its ppm. Likewise, nitrate is of low toxicity to AOBs and NOBs, so there's not much purpose in testing for it continually.

The terminal event signally the cycle completion is: 24 hours after dosing 2 ppm ammonia, nitrite reads 0 ppm.

Not that I'd recommend this testing procedure for beginners, as there's a few inherent assumptions that might confuse them.
 
DavidG_LA
  • Thread Starter
  • #15
HI all,

Thank you all so much for the input. To answer everyone's questions, the fish store is a pro aquarium store, not a Petco/Petsmart. They tested my water using the same API reagents as I did. My nitrate read light orange, the store read dark red. They tested twice using different bottles of reagent. I think this one was my fault, though, and I didn't shake the bottles correctly. I will try again and see what I get.

2 of the tanks were at about 6 weeks - then we decided to transplant them into new (and larger) tanks, so I am sure they are partially going through a new cycle. The gravel, decor and filter medium was all put into the new tanks, but we added about 2.5 gallons of new water. The third tank was a complete start over, so that tank is only at about 3 days into its cycle.

My 3 tanks read a little ammonia, some nitrites and quite a bit of nitrate. My LFS said to add bacteria and see where we are once I use the bottle up. One of the three bettas are showing signs of stress (a bit lethargic) so hopefully, it can pull through.

I trust my LFS and the advice they are giving, but if you have any suggestions, I am open to advise!!

Thank you!!
 
Hunter1
  • #16
Minnow,

And I only test for nitrates. All of my tanks have been fully cycled for months, and are over filtered.

I’m almost through my 3rd refill of the nitrates test while still having plenty of the ammonia/nitrites/PH solution from the first purchase.

I did buy a second kit for the office tank but am only using the nitrates test there too.
 
Tsin21
  • #17
I highly recommend Sera nitrate test. Easy to follow the instructions and easy to read the results.
 
AJ34
  • #18
I assume the chain pet stores use the test strips. I cannot see them taking the time to use all the chemicals involved. The nitrate test took me a while to get right, you have to shake that bottle until your arm hurts lol. I wouldn’t trust my local stores as they have given me bad advice assuming I know nothing even though I’m in there all the time and they should recognize me by now!
 
HORNET1
  • #19
HI David & Welcome to Fishlore.
I'm certain that many or perhaps most on the forum will disagree, but I do not like or use the API Test Kit.
I have one of the kits, but I haven't used it in well over a year. I use the test strips occasionally, but I primarily rely on observation, light feedings, plants, and regular 30% water changes twice weekly for a healthy enviorment.
My plants and fish are thriving.
How long have you had your aquarium up and running?
 
AJ34
  • #20
HI David & Welcome to Fishlore.
I'm certain that many or perhaps most on the forum will disagree, but I do not like or use the API Test Kit.
I have one of the kits, but I haven't used it in well over a year. I use the test strips occasionally, but I primarily rely on observation, light feedings, plants, and regular 30% water changes twice weekly for a healthy enviorment.
My plants and fish are thriving.
How long have you had your aquarium up and running?

You make a good point, for me anyhow I am doing water changes regularly regardless of testing. However, it is nice to have on hand in case there is an issue with a fish to help pinpoint if it’s the water. For example my tap didn’t have nitrites or nitrates but suddenly they started appearing in my water... so essentially when I was doing frequent water changes I was adding those in instead of removing . So I waited a little longer and used prime until the water issue resolved, if I didn’t test I wouldn’t have known to do this and probably would have lost more fish.
 

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