Which Is The Best Testing Kit?

Caroline J
  • #1
I believe my tank has finally started its nitrogen cycle. I currently have 4 guppies and 3 ghost shrimp in there, along with 2 live plants. Which water testing kit would you recommend? I'd prefer one that shows actual numbers, not just colors that you compare to a chart like the free testing at Petco. I've heard it isn't very accurate anyway. And is there anything I should do to help the cycle quicken? As I said, I'm not 100% sure since I haven't gotten it tested yet, but the water has been very foggy the past few days and it's around this time I think everything should be starting. I greatly appreciate any suggestions or help! - Caroline
 
BottomDweller
  • #2
I have never heard if a test kit that shows numbers rather than colours. The apI freshwater master test kit is one of the best out there. It is much more accurate than strips and lasts a lot longer.

Tetra safe start has helped speed up cycling for me.
 
goldface
  • #3
API master test kit is definitey the most popular, but is it the best? I don’t know. I personally don’t have the entire testing kit myself. For ph, I use Elos. It’s quick, and easy to read. There’s no need for two ph tests, to test both high and low, like the API requires you to do. I rarely test anything nowadays, but if I did have to run out and buy some, it might be Elos or maybe something entirely different, like Sera.
 
Caroline J
  • Thread Starter
  • #4
I have never heard if a test kit that shows numbers rather than colours. The apI freshwater master test kit is one of the best out there. It is much more accurate than strips and lasts a lot longer.

Tetra safe start has helped speed up cycling for me.
Oh really? I must be thinking of the wrong thing. How specific is it? And I've heard that one is one of the best, thank you! I think I'll be getting that one. Is it too complicated to use? And ah OK great, I really appreciate you. Can I use the Tetra Safe while fish are in the tank? I'm assuming so.

API master test kit is definitey the most popular, but is it the best? I don’t know. I personally don’t have the entire testing kit myself. For ph, I use Elos. It’s quick, and easy to read. There’s no need for two ph tests, to test both high and low, like the API requires you to do. I rarely test anything nowadays, but if I did have to run out and buy some, it might be Elos or maybe something entirely different, like Sera.
Ah OK great! I'll definitely keep that in mind, although I am aiming to find one that shows ammonia levels, nitrates and nitrites as well as ph. I appreciate the suggestion though! I'll remember that.
 
-Mak-
  • #5
There are digital meters for almost anything, but besides pH and TDS they're all very expensive.
 
Caroline J
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
Very true. I've been saving up money so hopefully I have enough, but I'll try my best to find the cheapest around me. Thank you for the advice! I think I'll be using the API Freshwater Master Test Kit (unless someone had an issue with it they'd like to share) since I feel as if it's the most accurate and well worth the money.
 
BottomDweller
  • #7
Oh really? I must be thinking of the wrong thing. How specific is it? And I've heard that one is one of the best, thank you! I think I'll be getting that one. Is it too complicated to use? And ah OK great, I really appreciate you. Can I use the Tetra Safe while fish are in the tank? I'm assuming so
I find it easy to use. The only thing you must remember is to shake the nitrate really hard. If you don't then nitrate can appear to be 0.
Yes you can use TSS with fish.
 
Pescado_Verde
  • #8
The ammonia test kit in the API set has known issues when used in conjunction with ammonia locking water conditioners such as "Prime". Seachem, of course, recommends their own test kit. I've never used it but am assuming that it will differentiate between total ammonia/ammonium and available ammonia. Hope that's not too confusing.
 
Gone
  • #9
I know some people use cycle boosters like TSS, but I'm not convinced they work. One thing for sure, if you use cycle boosters your water readings won't make sense, and you won't know what is going on with your cycle. I recommend letting nature take its course with cycling. If you get an API test kit, you'll be able to monitor the water parameters so you can do water changes when necessary to protect your fish, and you can watch the cycle as it progresses, and recognize when it's complete. Just make sure you do frequent enough water changes and enough volume to keep the ammonia plus nitrites at 1 ppm or below. Adding plants will help speed the cycle as they introduce a bacteria colony. Mostly adding plants will make nitrites show up sooner.
 
Inactive User
  • #10
There are digital meters for almost anything, but besides and they're all very expensive.

They're quite nifty, but they do require monthly calibration with a reference solution to maintain accuracy.

There are some very expensive pH meters that essentially require no calibration, but they're attached to the aquarium such that the probe is always in contact with tank water.

The in the API set has known issues when used in conjunction with ammonia locking water conditioners such as "". Seachem, of course, recommends their own test kit. I've never used it but am assuming that it will differentiate between total ammonia/ and available ammonia. Hope that's not too confusing.

I remember vaguely reading about this (but I can't quite remember the mechanisms responsible).

Nevertheless it's worth noting that with a ammonium reading, you can calculate your free ammonia and total ammonia using conversion tables. This is one such conversion table published by the Florida Dep't of Environmental Protection.

know some people use cycle boosters like , but I'm not convinced they work. One thing for sure, if you use cycle boosters your water readings won't make sense, and you won't know what is going on with your cycle.

I think people put too much into stock idea the idea that bottled bacteria products lead to unstable cycles/parameters.

One also has to distinguish the documentation provided by various bottled bacteria products as to their efficacy. For e.g. this and this are the patents for Dr Tim's One & Only (I believe TSS is a result of Tetra's negotiations with Dr TI'm for European distribution). The detail is very comprehensive, and is far more than anything that's been offered by any other manufacturer for their bacteria additives.

Apart from this, it's important to underline that more than 20 factors are responsible for nitrification, including but not limited to: free ammonia inhibition of nitrite-oxidising bacteria, free nitrous acid inhibition of ammonia-oxidising bacteria, Total Dissolved Oxygen, organic accumulation, carbon-nitrogen ratio, temperature, turbulence, competition from aerobic ammonifying heterotrophic bacteria, competition from anaerobic denitrifying heterotrophic bacteria, metabolic substrate concentrations, inorganic carbon availability, alkalinity, salinity, pH, etc.

A lot of the testing equipment and procedures for these parameters aren't accessible for hobbyists, and so I think the best we can do is a rough guesstimation of what may be happening during a cycle and why it might be happening.

In respect to this, I don't think there's anything in particular about bacteria additives that makes it the most likely causative factor for any cycling issues or wonky parameters. I would hazard a guess based on what I've read in this and other forums that it's the least likely explanatory factor.
 
Caroline J
  • Thread Starter
  • #11
The ammonia test kit in the API set has known issues when used in conjunction with ammonia locking water conditioners such as "Prime". Seachem, of course, recommends their own test kit. I've never used it but am assuming that it will differentiate between total ammonia/ammonium and available ammonia. Hope that's not too confusing.
Ah OK interesting. And no don't worry, it wasn't confusing! I don't use any ammonia locking water conditioner, so thankfully it shouldn't be a problem. Thank you so much for the warning, I really appreciate it!

I find it easy to use. The only thing you must remember is to shake the nitrate really hard. If you don't then nitrate can appear to be 0.
Yes you can use TSS with fish.
Perfect, we actually just ordered it online last night. Thank you so much for the warning! I'll keep that in mind when it comes in.

I know some people use cycle boosters like TSS, but I'm not convinced they work. One thing for sure, if you use cycle boosters your water readings won't make sense, and you won't know what is going on with your cycle. I recommend letting nature take its course with cycling. If you get an API test kit, you'll be able to monitor the water parameters so you can do water changes when necessary to protect your fish, and you can watch the cycle as it progresses, and recognize when it's complete. Just make sure you do frequent enough water changes and enough volume to keep the ammonia plus nitrites at 1 ppm or below. Adding plants will help speed the cycle as they introduce a bacteria colony. Mostly adding plants will make nitrites show up sooner.
Thank you so much for the advice, and I completely understand wanting to let nature take its course, since I'm not very fond of chemicals anyway. We just ordered the API Freshwater Master Test Kit last night so it should be in soon! I'm also hoping for another live plant soon, maybe Anubis. I greatly appreciate all your suggestions.
 
Gone
  • #12
A lot of the testing equipment and procedures for these parameters aren't accessible for hobbyists, and so I think the best we can do is a rough guesstimation of what may be happening during a cycle and why it might be happening.

I agree. I also believe the above is in agreement with my statement that, "...your water readings won't make sense, and you won't know what is going on with your cycle." That's another way of saying, "rough guesstimation."

I'll be the first to admit I'm not going to study very comprehensive patent details, nor am I going to study 20 factors responsible for nitrification, free-ammonia inhibition of nitrite-oxidising bacteria, etc., etc., etc., etc. Not that I have any problem with someone doing that, I admire it. But I don't believe the vast majority of hobbyists have any desire to do the work it would take to attain a masters level knowledge of chemistry in order to successfully keep a fish in an aquarium.

Letting nature take its course can be done and easily understood by anyone with an API Master Test Kit, and aquarium, and an ammonia source. As you noted, if you choose the right cycle additive, monitoring water parameters is essentially useless, because the vast majority of people have no idea what's going on. A look at the high number of people using cycle additives that have "What the heck is happening to my water readings?" questions.

Just my two cents, but I appreciate your response.
 
Inactive User
  • #13
Just my two cents, but I appreciate your response.

And I yours as well. In the overall scheme of things, I'm a pretty ambivalent fence-sitter when it comes to bottled bacteria products. I use them but I don't subscribe to most of the marketing hype around them.

But fundamentally, I don't think they're the cause of wonky water parameters: water parameters flit in and out out of optimal alignment while cycling simply on account of the innate chemical and biological processes that occur during cycling regardless of whether a bottled bacteria product is used or not. In effect, if a cycle used a bottled bacteria product and the parameters became wonky, then it would've been wonky even if a bacteria additive hadn't been used.

To a significant extent, water source is an (if not the most) important determinant in how a cycle progresses, and given that we know how much water varies from locality to locality, it's no surprise that cycles tend to exhibit all sorts of patterns and behaviour.
 
skilletlicker
  • #14
I wish there was a reasonably priced, more accurate readable alternative to the API Kits. So I read all these threads about it but haven't found one yet.
 
w3amz
  • #15
The nitrite test in the API kit is rather poor. There is no good way to differentiate over 0.5 ppm. All colors at that point look the same and nothing like the test card. Because I'm a pro and tried API to reduce costs I will no longer use it. I went back to using LaMotte. You get what you pay for believe me. One can google lab test kits and get pro kits. Just be ready for the $80 price tag per kit.

People would be surprised how far API kit's read against lab counterparts. My impression of the API test trial is it's pretty useless for reliable readings.
 
Gone
  • #16
People would be surprised how far API kit's read against lab counterparts. My impression of the API test trial is it's pretty useless for reliable readings.

That's interesting. I did a comparison once, my daughter worked at a lab testing water for spas, and those results came out pretty close. But I realize mine is just one set of conditions. I do agree that the color charts can be ambiguous when matching the solution.
 

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