Test strips vs liquid testings


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I know everyone always says that test strips are unreliable, but where did this come from?

I have an API liquid test kit that I use all the time, but I've compared those results to Jungle brand test strips that I got before buying the API kit, and every time the results have been 100% the same for ammonia, nitrIte, and nitrAte. I never compared the hardness or alkalinity, as I didn't have those liquid tests at the time. The only reason I stopped using the test strips was because they were more expensive in the long run, and when there are tank issues, no one will take your problem seriously if you mention that you use test strips.

I do kinda miss the strips because they were quicker, and I found it easier to read the nitrAte readings, but they're too expensive for me to ever go out and buy again for testing in the long-run, regardless of how good or bad their accuracy is.

So, what makes test strips so inaccurate? Is it at all possible that only some are inaccurate, and others are accurate? Or that maybe they're only inaccurate because of human error or occasional "bad batches"?


Fishlore VIP
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Pensacola FL
More than 10 years
I've used both ammonia and nitrate strips and the ammonia strips were always more of a guesstimate than anything, as far as ammonia level. I used them as an indicator of ammonia being present rather than getting a proper reading. The nitrate tests I could never get to work right, they for some reason came out with a pinkish (iirc) color that wasn't even on the chart. I ended up going with liquid just because of the headache it was causing.


Fishlore Legend
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3 years
There have been several instances where newer members have been having issues with their fish, but didn't think their nitrogen levels were too high. Then they get a liquid test kit, and realize their levels are much higher.

It may be that it's an issue of certain water qualities (I recently discovered that things like hardness and pH can actually affect certain test kits), or it may be a matter of use (the test strips not being used right), or just a matter of the quality of the strips, but there have been issues with them in the past.
What you use is up to you, of course. If you find something that is reliable for you, then go with it.

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