Liquid Versus Test Strips

Discussion in 'Aquarium Water' started by NavigatorBlack, Apr 16, 2017.

  1. NavigatorBlack

    NavigatorBlackFishlore VIPMember

    I'm not a great user of API kits (mine expired 20+ years ago), but I occasionally use them at work, teaching the nitrogen cycle to kids.
    I have also used test strips, which I prefer as they give much more information. Their only downside to me is their cost - they aren't as cheap per test as the reagent systems.
    When I have used both and cross referenced, the ammonia, nitrate and nitrate readings have always corresponded. The hardness readings have been the same with strip types as with the very useful API add ons.

    I prefer strips if I am collecting fish on trips south, as the kit is useless in the field. I end up with extra strips when I return. If anything, because they give more info, they seem superior.

    It's commonly said here that test strips are inferior to the API liquid kits. Does anyone have anything to back that up? A lot of aquarists I respect here make that statement, but I have never seen anything saying why.
  2. bgclarke

    bgclarkeWell Known MemberMember

    About all I can add is that when I first started in November 2016, I was using the Tetra 6-in-1 test strips before getting the API kit.

    During one of my fishless cycles, I did the API test and did a test with a test strip.

    For the tests on the strips that matched up with the API test, they did agree on the ranges.

    I do like the convenience of the strips.
  3. dcutl002

    dcutl002Well Known MemberMember

    I guess you go with what you feel comfortable with. I have used API kits for years.
  4. Dragones5150918

    Dragones5150918Well Known MemberMember

    Here is what I know about strips. The reason why we say they are inaccurate is because they become that way is a short period of time. If you took one of your strips and left it on the counter, after about 3 weeks to a month you should have a reading of your air. Goes quicker if there is a smoker in the house and other pets. You will get a ph reading, ammonia, and nitrate.....And with smokers nitrite. With pets, if one has an accident, or a cat box, the ammonia reading will activate....And of course ciggeratte smoke. Air has it's own ph, and depending on where you live, pollution, pets, and even humans change the ph, even from indoor and outdoor. So exposing the test strips to just air in your house gets them started. Now if they are individual package, the exposure risk goes down, and they will stay inactive until the package is opened. Unfortunately most strips come in a plastic container with a bunch tossed in. So every time you open the container, there is air exchange.....Cross contamination.

    Then you can get into human error, and when trying to retrieve a strip, a pad is accidentally touched. Even worse, the strips fall out, the carelessly gathered up and put back in the container.

    Then you can look at the age of strips. In the first few weeks, they are accurate, but beyond that....with the cross contamination of air exchange, the possible human error, they start to give falts readings. At first not much, but 2 months later, you readings can be a full point or two off. At 6 months, your pads can be as much a 5 points off. But again this is based on the air quality of your home.

    Most of what I have stated was done on personal research (yes I did leave test strips around my house, a container I opened daily, and one I left open), and internet searching. I was wondering the same thing, so I tested it.

    Hope this helps
  5. Zahc

    ZahcWell Known MemberMember

    I rarely test my water nowadays, but if I do, liquid all the way. Iv'e been told by numerous people that exposure to air makes the strips inaccurate, giving them a short shelf life. Honestly i've never used strips myself, just heard from other peoples experiences and they usually aren't good. Because of this I just can't put my faith into the strips. I obviously have no actual facts or or first hand experience to prove this though.

    However, I also think that there is a larger margin for error in the liquid test kits, something alot of people look past.
  6. bgclarke

    bgclarkeWell Known MemberMember

    The problem I have with the liquid test is that for the nitrate test 10/20 and 40/80 look identical to me.
  7. Dragones5150918

    Dragones5150918Well Known MemberMember

    10/20 look the same to me. My solution....."Hey bratling, come here and read this for me please "
  8. Junne

    JunneFishlore LegendMember

    I use API AND test strips. When I first started out 7 years ago, I got the API and used that for probably the first 6 months or so. After my tank was established, I went to test strips and I only use those IF I have a problem in the tank ( fish deaths, strange behavior etc ) then back it up with API if needed.
    I have found the strips to be very accurate compared to API.
    Nowadays, I rely mostly on my Seachem detector ( PH and AMMONIA ) which are in my tank AS A GUIDE. Again, if they show anything strange or my fish have changes/deaths, then I test with API or test strip.

    I don't know where people say the strips are "highly" inaccurate because they aren't. If stored properly ( from extreme cold / heat /light and in the container tightly closed ) they are very accurate, just not as sensitive in some cases.
  9. OP

    NavigatorBlackFishlore VIPMember

    It's interesting.
    I find the test strips superior because they offer GH, KH, and pH. To get that from API, you have buy extra kits. I find water hardness and pH more important than ammonia, simply because I have planted tanks with good stocking, and regular water changes and filter management. I suppose it's the luxury of experience with tanks, but ammonia is far down my list of worries. As a breeder of egg-laying fishes, water hardness matters a lot.
    I only buy strips when I am going to travel to where fish are, but after, I have them to use up. I keep them sealed, as they are expensive - that, not inaccuracy, is their main fault for me with a multi-tank fishroom.
    My TDS meter gets a lot more work than an API kit would.

    People keep writing "it's well known" or "people say" that strips are inaccurate, and those are phrases that fire off my skepticism. I'm glad no one got upset at an unorthodox question, and it has been a good thread to read. Thanks to all.
  10. TexasDomer

    TexasDomerFishlore LegendMember

    I used the test strips for GH and KH before I got the liquid test, and the strips were very inaccurate for me. They always told me that my water had a very low GH with a very high KH; I knew this wasn't the case because of the water reports for my area. Using the liquid tests, I got much more accurate readings.
  11. bgclarke

    bgclarkeWell Known MemberMember

    I watched a video from Aquarium Co-op yesterday comparing the API liquid test kit against the Tetra test strips.
    He mentioned that the API test strips were very inaccurate and that the Tetra ones were far more accurate.