Is it worth buying test kits?

Apple

My fish have been nearer the surface recently, they’re a bit discoloured and stay around the surface, touching it and not moving sometimes. (Gold tetras) I think it’s because I have bad levels of something, I’m not sure what, in the fish tank. I don’t really want to spend lots of money on test kits, as I would have to buy a couple because I don’t know which chemical, or if any is off, are the kits necessary? Could I solve the problem by doing more frequent water changes? I think it’s a good point to say also that my filters haven’t been cycling for 6 weeks so I don’t think I have a bacteria established tank, which is why I think the fish being ill is caused by too high levels of something. I last changed 25% of the water 3 days ago, and I got the tetras 3 days ago as well. My platy fish aren’t really affected as the tetras are, I think they’re more hardy but they do go to the surface a bit more than they used to.
Thanks for any help
 

carsonsgjs

A test kit is a must have in my opinion. Something that tests for the basics - ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, ph, and maybe kh and gh. Sounds like you are doing a fish-in cycle, which I recommend you read up on but basically large regular water changes are required to keep ammonia and nitrites down until the cycle is complete - something you need a test kit to measure.
 

Apple

okay..thanks I’ll look it up.
do you recommend any test kits? I was looking at the API master kit but its £30, strip tests also have rubbish reveiws but are a lot cheaper.
 

Cinabar

API freshwater master kit will have everything you need, and it includes hundreds of tests. It’ll last you a good long while. Strips are cheaper but also much less accurate. It might even cost more per test.
 

Apple

API freshwater master kit will have everything you need, and it includes hundreds of tests. It’ll last you a good long while. Strips are cheaper but also much less accurate. It might even cost more per test.
okay, if I get it do you think I should also get one for hardness and chlorine? I use de-chlorinator but am a bit paranoid at my measuring.
 

MacZ

Having your own test kit is always a boon. Because otherwise you would have to go to a store that does this as a customer service. Problem is: Many stores then only tell you "safe".

I can say nothing about the API test kit, because it's not sold here, but it doesn't really matter, because most drip tests are provided by a handful of chemical companies, that produce for the aquarium companies. So if it's API, Sera or Fluval, the chemicals likely come from the same manufacturers.

Most strip tests are only rubbish due to being prone to user error. If you can get your hands on JBL or Sera strips, when handled correctly those are astonishingly accurate. But you don't buy them for accuracy. Strips are designed for a quick "too low/high" check, not for exact numbers.

It might even cost more per test.
I get a 50-Pack for 8€, which includes 50x 6 tests per strip (NO3, NO2, GH, KH, pH, Cl2) if you calculate this up for 6 separate drip tests, the price/performance-value is unbeatable. All provided you are willing to get good quality and know how to use them.
Question is though: Do we have to test for all of this each time?

if I get it do you think I should also get one for hardness and chlorine?
If you use de-chlorinator as per instructions you can leave the Cl-Test. (Edit: But I'd probably do a test whether your tap is even chlorinated, because if not, this might free you of buying dechlorinator alltogether.)
KH/GH on the other hand is really useful.

For both the strips are more than sufficient, though, in my opinion.

My test-array: Strips (6 in 1) for NO2/NO3 and occasional checks on my tapwater, drip for pH, meter for TDS/EC.
 

Apple

Having your own test kit is always a boon. Because otherwise you would have to go to a store that does this as a customer service. Problem is: Many stores then only tell you "safe".

I can say nothing about the API test kit, because it's not sold here, but it doesn't really matter, because most drip tests are provided by a handful of chemical companies, that produce for the aquarium companies. So if it's API, Sera or Fluval, the chemicals likely come from the same manufacturers.

Most strip tests are only rubbish due to being prone to user error. If you can get your hands on JBL or Sera strips, when handled correctly those are astonishingly accurate. But you don't buy them for accuracy. Strips are designed for a quick "too low/high" check, not for exact numbers.


I get a 50-Pack for 8€, which includes 50x 6 tests per strip (NO3, NO2, GH, KH, pH, Cl2) if you calculate this up for 6 separate drip tests, the price/performance-value is unbeatable. All provided you are willing to get good quality and know how to use them.
Question is though: Do we have to test for all of this each time?


If you use de-chlorinator as per instructions you can leave the Cl-Test. (Edit: But I'd probably do a test whether your tap is even chlorinated, because if not, this might free you of buying dechlorinator alltogether.)
KH/GH on the other hand is really useful.

For both the strips are more than sufficient, though, in my opinion.

My test-array: Strips (6 in 1) for NO2/NO3 and occasional checks on my tapwater, drip for pH, meter for TDS/EC.
Thanks so much, I found the sera strips on Amazon for £12, which is a lot cheaper, and I’m not really looking for accuracy more for just safe levels for my fish. (It’s only a 15g fish tank)
I was wondering if you knew wether too much de-chlorinator is equally bad for the fish tank as too much chlorine? If not it’s okay, thanks for your help
 

Wayne73

It's the golden rule....you need test kit(s
Cost of kits far far out way replacing dead fish or water tonics (meds). I use NT LABS aquarium test kits, they're in the price range of £25/£35. Dechlorinator only advice is to follow the directions on the bottle.
 

MacZ

I myself have no need for a dechlorinator but you would have to add a whole lot to a tank to become really dangerous. Like a 500ml bottle in 100 liters of water.
 

Tryne

What do you mean by 'filters haven’t been cycling for 6 weeks' ? They didn't run for 6 weeks? Or you started the tank 6 weeks ago? If something is not right with the filter(s), then that's the first thing to fix.
 

OutsideFoodBlob

Some very solid advice and recommendations! Especially regards quality test strips: learned something new myself.
When in doubt, even in the absence of a way to test your water, doing a water change is a good idea. You will see it recommended time and again.
 

Apple

What do you mean by 'filters haven’t been cycling for 6 weeks' ? They didn't run for 6 weeks? Or you started the tank 6 weeks ago? If something is not right with the filter(s), then that's the first thing to fix.
no, there’s nothing wrong with the filters. I meant that they haven’t been running for very long in the tank, so the nitrogen cycle isn’t very established
When in doubt, even in the absence of a way to test your water, doing a water change is a good idea. You will see it recommended time and again.
yes!
I was just going to do water changes instead of testing the water, because even if the numbers are off I’m pretty sure the solution is to just change the water. It solves many things. But I should probably buy tests if i want to be a responsible fish owner.
 

ProudPapa

. . . I was just going to do water changes instead of testing the water, because even if the numbers are off I’m pretty sure the solution is to just change the water. It solves many things. But I should probably buy tests if i want to be a responsible fish owner.

You certainly can get by with just doing water changes instead of testing, but you need to do fairly large ones, and fairly often (I can't give numbers; there are too many variables). Testing can save a lot of work.
 

gilpi

Im not an expert but decades of fishkeeping and dozens of tanks later, the only test kit I ever used was a hydrometer for my salt water tanks (a must) Good filtration, water changes and not overfeeding has kept my tanks healthy and thriving for years. Perhaps the tap water quality where I have resided has been ideal but I never felt the need to do any testing.
 

Cherryshrimp420

This forum is heavily reliant on test kits...I guess because they are useful diagnostics tools across the internet. But they are not a part of and should not be a part of regular fish keeping.

Knowledge of the cycle, proper maintenance etc to keep ammonia/nitrite at 0 at all times should be the goal. Don't wait on the tests, because by the time we detect them in the kits it would already be late. These spikes rise and fall very quickly, usually within 24 hours, so it is unlikely we will ever catch these values at their peak. The health of the fish is the most immediate indicator and water changes first.
 

applejax

First thing I do if I notice something odd or not normal. Also gives me an idea on fertilizer dosing and water changes.
 

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