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What’s everyone’s thoughts on aquarium testing kits (Newbie)

Nathanh2150

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9 Oct 2020
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Norwich
Hi all
I’m looking on upping the game with water testing kits as I’m currently using the Tetra test strips.

I have been looking at the API FreshWater Master Test Kit but seeing what would be ideal for a planted aquarium

what would be the ideal testing kit for me as I’m a newbie to anything new that the testing strips don’t do so will be needing some advice.

any website or links to good testing kits would be amazing as I can do a bit of research 🧐
 

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erwin123

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I am new here to and I have learnt from UKAPS that test kits could do more harm then good if you use them to achieve some mythical target number in your water parameters.

However, I would like to share my experience. I bought a Sera NO3 test kit for the first time this year (I picked Sera after googling/youtubing "which No3 test is best...." ). My tank with 10-year old substrate and been surviving with a few crypts and I wanted to restart the tank.

I got an angry red colour result for my NO3 test. I considered that to be information that I needed to act on, even if I did not know the exact level of NO3, especially if one plans to keep shrimp in the tank? In other words, those with shrimps should try to avoid "red" results for NO3 and aim for "yellow" or "orange" results?

In addition, if I were doing a DIY fert route, I would view such a result as warning me that maybe I mixed up or miscalculated my dosing, for example? Similarly, if I get a test result that is the same colour as my tap water result (which has 0 nitrates), then maybe it would tell me that I made a mistake and had been only dosing trace rather than complete ferts?

Just sharing the colours of my Sera NO3 test results (i say "colours" and avoid saying ppm , mg/L as that would probably not be accurate):
tap water reference web.jpg

no3 23 mar web.jpg

no3 26 mar web.jpg

no3 10 apr 21 web.jpg



no3 07 jun 21 web.jpg
 

foxfish

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Hi Nathan, I think that would depend on what you want to test for and why?
Many planted tank carers dont test at all and some restrict their testing to just measuring the PH.
Of course lots of folk consider testing the water as part of the hobby and enjoy the experience but it is very easy to be mislead by false or misleading results!
 
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ceg4048

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Hi all
I’m looking on upping the game with water testing kits as I’m currently using the Tetra test strips.

I have been looking at the API FreshWater Master Test Kit but seeing what would be ideal for a planted aquarium

what would be the ideal testing kit for me as I’m a newbie to anything new that the testing strips don’t do so will be needing some advice.

any website or links to good testing kits would be amazing as I can do a bit of research 🧐
Hello,
There are no test kits that are in any way "ideal" for a planted aquarium. The problem with test kits are not merely because they are inaccurate and inconsistent, but that test kits and testing for parameters that very few understand is part of a wider conspiracy by vendors to extract money by preying on our fears.

So take for example the post above stating:
I needed to act on, even if I did not know the exact level of NO3, especially if one plans to keep shrimp in the tank? In other words, those with shrimps should try to avoid "red" results for NO3 and aim for "yellow" or "orange" results?
Well firstly, who says that a certain color should be avoided? On what basis do we presume that a certain NO3 level is toxic to our invertebrates? What are the physical signs of NO3 toxicity in fish and invertebrates? Has the mechanism of this toxicity been explained? Do hobbyists realize that NO3 derived from the nitrogen cycle in the tank is the end product of a toxic cycle that begins with ammonia and nitrite? Are they aware that this is completely different than directly adding inorganic NO3 to the tank?

No one explains or elucidates these issues. Doctrines and dogmatic limits are promulgated as if written on stone tablets.
No one questions or actually tests these limits, so the test kit becomes, in effect, a kind of virtual police, or some kind of bot.
Furthermore, if these bogus test results show red or [insert danger color here] then off to the LFS we go to buy some product to ameliorate the condition in the tank. It's almost like the movie Groundhog Day. the cycle is repeated infinitely.

Test kits are part and parcel of a massive disinformation campaign, first to mesmerize the public with lore of chemical boogiemen which then drives the unsuspecting like flies into the spiders web of more deceit.

The ironic thing is that there is actual value in some test kits, but these kits measure innocuous parameters such as pH, GH and alkalinity. As usual however, the value of these parameter are twisted and perverted so the hobbyist is told to "keep you parameters stable" so off to the LFS we go to buy some product destined to maintain the parameter. Does anyone even know what pH is? Do we know the purpose of alkalinity or GH? Are people aware that a so-called KH test kit is incapable of measuring KH and actually measures alkalinity instead? Does the average test kit lover even know the difference between KH and alkalinity?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, our heroes don't own any nutrient test kits (or have binned them) and their tanks are fine. Animals are healthy and so are the plants. pH/KH/GH test kits are used sparingly to obtain basic information and that's all. Basic plant and animal husbandry are are performed, with large and frequent water changes as the pillar of the technique and no one worries too much if these values vary naturally.

So really, test kits have some uses but not in the hands of beginners ironically. Without understanding the fundamentals of water chemistry there is little point in chasing these numbers or colors.

Cheers,
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
what would be the ideal testing kit for me as I’m a newbie to anything new that the testing strips don’t do so will be needing some advice.
My advice would be to buy a <"conductivity meter">.
So really, test kits have some uses but not in the hands of beginners ironically. Without understanding the fundamentals of water chemistry there is little point in chasing these numbers or colors.
I agree with the others, water testing is nothing <"like as straightforward"> as much of the advice would have you believe.

cheers Darrel
 

PARAGUAY

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I look on test kits as one of several things we can do to work "things out" eg simple test for ammonia nitrite. Accepting that other factors can alter accuracy.
 

Nathanh2150

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Hi All,
Thankyou for all your comments on this post I do appreciate it.
As I have always used testing strips I find myself in a different situation with my newer tank as before I had a fluval flex which was heavenly planted with monte carlo the growth was amazing. I use to use co2 in that tanks and do weekly water changes didn't do any ferts. I decided as I had a good space in my living room to invest in a aquascaper 900 open top tank done a lot of research into equipment so decided to go for a biomaster thermo 900 in the external filter i added carbon also ammonia remover like stone substance kept all sponges in the filter apart from one blue sponge to house the carbon and ammonia remover. I also added into the bottom tray some Aquario Neo filter media removing another blue sponge. I run a 5kg co2 bottle with a 2 reg co2 art regulator bubble count 10 per minute the co2 checker is lime throughout the day untill co2 is turned off though a plug timer which comes on at 11.30-8.30pm. I also run my co2 though a co2art inline diffuser. The lighting on the tank is a twinstar 900s which also is set at 50% intendancy comes on at 3pm-9pm everyday. The temperature of my aquarium is 25'c. The aquascapper 900 is heavily planted as was advised I needed more plants which i took note and brought a huge Amount. I have been doing daily ferts of 20ml before co2 come on also feeding the fish once every other day so the day i dont feed they are able to go around the tank to get any left over food or algae. I do weekly water changes of 50% which falls on a Sunday I also only clean out on the exturnel fillter the inflow sponges and leave the filter media sponges doing those monthly leaving the inflow sponges alone to keep bacteria going (hope that makes sense hehe :D )
Wile doing water changes I add Fluval Cycle Biological aquarium supplement 35ml added into the tank and Fluval Aquaplus tap water conditioner 35ml added into the tank.

( I know I have gone off track on why I ideally would like to look into new water testing kits but I wanted to add as much information possible to help out with my post)

I have always struggled with black beard algae also hair algae also green slim which I have a chemical to treat for that. but regarding the hair algae and the black beard algae I have done a lot of research regarding this and by the looks of things it will pass as its down to new tank symptom but with every water change I scrub to get as much as I can out of the tank.

Regarding my testing kit enquiry I was looking to see if there was another brand that I could use to help me further just in case I'm missing anything that the testing strips do not show.

I have currently noticed that my hair grass is starting to though out not looking as vibrant as it did so didnt know if there was somthing in the water affecting it.

I am more then happy to add photos if thats needed.
 

Kevin Eades

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I only ever test my tank to check the cycle when setting up. Everything else is done under the assumption that im weekly water changing and consistant ferts and lights etc the balance will remain. Keep look out for dead fish or pollutants such as waste food. Keep an eye on fish behaviour. I may test if I think i have an ammonia spike (only once I can remember for last few years) just to clarify my other observations. In terms of plant health I'm going to ask how it's going with upping the ferts? Have you seen better plant growth? I would say switch to EI dosing my tanks have been on it for 2 months and have taken off compared to a ton of tropica ferts. I hope you find the balance and get the tank where you want it. I'm now getting to have to optimise my flow more as the plants are blocking it and causing bba in some dead spots ha
 

Kevin Eades

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Also once you stop testing the hobby becomes much more relaxing. With a tank your size it should be pretty easy to keep it stable with good maintenance program.
 

MichaelJ

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I think the most important “test kit” is our eyes and common sense. If plants and fish are thriving we know we are on the right track, if not we have to investigate and correct. If I would see my fish showing signs of illness my first reaction would be to test for ammonia and nitrite. Just as I would take my temperature if I felt I had a fever...and wont if I feel fine... fairly straightforward.

NO3 and PO4 - those are fertilizers.. I don't test for NO3 and PO4 on a regular basis. I know I pummel my tanks with NPK as part of my dosing so why even bother? And, in my experience, there is absolutely nothing that suggest that high levels of NO3 (or PO4) is a problem for livestock (including shrimps or snails). I did test recently just to see as I was changing my NPK dosing to DIY - and here are the result:
PO4NO3.jpg


You can call it off-the-chart-blue and rage-red :) joking aside, my PO4 is probably around 30-40 ppm and my NO3 around 30 ppm (and still "Shrimp safe")... fairly consistent with my dosing. I've had these levels for a long time and livestock and plants seems fine with this. That said, I wont go higher than this - no need to.

GH (which is predominantly made up of Calcium and Magnesium): I try to keep a balance between the fishes natural habitats and the need of the plants and inverts (shrimps need Ca). So I am aiming for 5.5 GH which should provide plenty of Ca:Mg for plants as well. I may be wasting my time targeting a low GH, but as long as I don’t inflict any Ca:Mg deficiencies, it should be fine. My fish (mostly tetras) seems to be happy in the moderately soft water. And since I know what amount of Ca and Mg I am putting into my WC water I really have no reason to test this either, but still do so occasionally.

KH: I basically just rely on the KH that I get from my Tap/RO mix. After WC it usually sits around 2 KH. I really don’t know what the significance of KH is in the planted aquarium (or otherwise...), except that it act as a buffer against pH spikes - but why would I ever have that as long as I do my weekly WC and general maintenance? - another thing I have been taught not to worry about :) Also, the CO2-injection crowd are intentionally inducing big pH swings every day when they switch on their CO2 - another clue to me that I shouldn’t worry. I essentially stopped testing KH.

pH (combined with KH) used to be the culprit for all my troubles. I used to be caught up in aiming at a specific pH level…driven by a barrage of misconceptions…a total waste of time and money on acid and alkaline buffers that was turning my tanks into a soup of abrasive chemicals and almost ruined my tanks quite frankly. My pH is currently anywhere from 6.6 to 7.4…. Fish or plants do not seem to care… and as long as they don’t, I shouldn’t either so I rarely test pH.

TDS: If I had to choose only one measurement device it would be a good quality TDS meter. I measure TDS before and after WC, to make sure everything is good. For instance, an unanticipated rise in TDS is a good indication that my maintenance is insufficient. (happened in the past). I know what I am putting into the tanks by adding up all the ppm’s from NPK, trace and remineralization, and my TDS comes out fairly close to that number.


@Nathanh2150,
I've only used a couple of different brands of Kits (JBL and API). The liquid API kits seems fine to have in the arsenal to give you that occasional ballpark bearing, and Hanna Instruments TDS meters seems fairly good and consistent in my experience.

Cheers,
Michael
 
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Nathanh2150

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I tottaly understand where your all coming from with the testing kits but I feel like I may need one as the only issue I’m facing at the moment is the algae in the aquarium like when its been cleaned and the tank looks spot on 👌🏼 But throughout the next few days it goes back to algae again the fish are doing well the plants are doing well with new growth but the hair grass is now starting to struggle and I really dont want to loose it as it cost me a fair amount in tropica tubs I have attached some photos of what i mean I hope someone is able to help me as I feel like im hitting a brick wall where I cannot see over this issue ☹️
 

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MichaelJ

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I tottaly understand where your all coming from with the testing kits but I feel like I may need one as the only issue I’m facing at the moment is the algae in the aquarium like when its been cleaned and the tank looks spot on 👌🏼 But throughout the next few days it goes back to algae again the fish are doing well the plants are doing well with new growth but the hair grass is now starting to struggle and I really dont want to loose it as it cost me a fair amount in tropica tubs I have attached some photos of what i mean I hope someone is able to help me as I feel like im hitting a brick wall where I cannot see over this issue ☹️
@Nathanh2150 Provided you have ample nutrients (NPK), algae issues are fundamentally a CO2 / light (usually too much of it) / flow issue... I am not a CO2 expert, but I am sure the UKAPS Experts on this thread will chime in to provide some guidance that you can take to the bank... @ceg4048 , @dw1305 take it away! :)
 
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Andy Pierce

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I tottaly understand where your all coming from with the testing kits but I feel like I may need one as the only issue I’m facing at the moment is the algae in the aquarium like when its been cleaned and the tank looks spot on 👌🏼 But throughout the next few days it goes back to algae again the fish are doing well the plants are doing well with new growth but the hair grass is now starting to struggle and I really dont want to loose it as it cost me a fair amount in tropica tubs I have attached some photos of what i mean I hope someone is able to help me as I feel like im hitting a brick wall where I cannot see over this issue ☹️
I'd wager your algae problem is caused by too much light, rather than anything having to do with any water parameter. Whatever you're doing for lighting, go for a max 6 hours per day and half of whatever your current max intensity is. Try that for a couple weeks and if that solves your problem you can start creeping the lighting back up again if you like. 50% water change once per week also keeps things nice. If plants and animals are healthy and algae is your only problem, then you don't have a water parameter problem.
 

Nathanh2150

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Hi @Andy Pierce
I know this maybe a daft question but I'm gonna be doing my tank today and if I was to lower the light to 25% would that be ok for the plants as they have been use to 50% also if I was also to do a black out on the tank with black bin liners for a week would I need to turn the co2 off during that week and stop any ferts. I would also be looking to add an air stone for the week just to help with oxygen in the water. Also continuing feeding my fish once every other day. What's your thought's on this? also I would do a water change on the Sunday 1st Aug 50%. just dont want to spook my rainbow fish as there the main feature over the plants tbo :D
 

bazz

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I run a 5kg co2 bottle with a 2 reg co2 art regulator bubble count 10 per minute the co2 checker is lime throughout the day untill co2 is turned off though a plug timer which comes on at 11.30-8.30pm.
Hi,
I have a very similar sized aquarium and my bubble count is roughly 4 bubbles/second. I can't really understand why your drop checker is lime green all day with this injection rate on a 200l aquarium.
Looking at the photos I would hazard a guess your problems are arising from poor CO2 management, fluctuating/insufficient/distribution/flow.
If my tank looked like that I would up the water changes to every 2 days for a couple of weeks, optimize CO2, manual cleaning/removal of algae (cleanliness is paramount) and maybe fractionally lower light intensity, not so low your plants will be unable to flourish. You also do not mention which ferts you are using, could be you are lacking certain elements.
I also do not understand why you have ammonia remover in your filter has your aquarium not matured yet?
Lastly I am pleased to note that you value your fishes wellbeing above everything else.
Cheers!
 

erwin123

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By the way, since you mention you are already using Tetra test strips, are the strips telling you anything about your water parameters that prompted you to look into test kits?

Just a question of how you are positioning your twinstar light - when I look at the last 2 photos, the front of the pic seems to be well lit while the L. Super Reds and C. Balansae at the back (I guessing the species) seem to be in darkness? Or is the lighting from camera flash rather than the Twinstar..?
 

Nathanh2150

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Morning @bazz
Thanks for the comment on this post,
regarding the ferts I was advised from my local aquatic store that for the size of my tank and for the amount of plants 20ml daily is fine and also with the co2 with the 10 bubble count that was also ideal but if your having no issues with 4 bubble count I could also try that the plants are growing well also growing new growth. The ferts that i am using is Evolution Aqua Aquascaper Liquid Plant Food. Regarding the co2 drop checker the colour is not always lime green its only lime green when the co2 comes on and that's around half 11am id say it starts to show lime green around 1ish maybe havent really kept an eye on it as I usually don't have the light on until 3pm. I am doing a clean today of my tank so shall be doing a huge clean out again as i did before with brushing away the black beard algae also the hair algae and the green slim which only appears on the glass and some of the Lilly stems. I would say my tank has been fully set up now for around 8 months now.
I added Ammonia to my external filter as I have always had it in all my aquariums didnt see any issues before with having it in there. The charcoal & ammonia is branded as Fluval.

And to the last quote yes my fish are very important to me on there health and well being :D
 

Andy Pierce

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Hi @Andy Pierce
I know this maybe a daft question but I'm gonna be doing my tank today and if I was to lower the light to 25% would that be ok for the plants as they have been use to 50% also if I was also to do a black out on the tank with black bin liners for a week would I need to turn the co2 off during that week and stop any ferts. I would also be looking to add an air stone for the week just to help with oxygen in the water. Also continuing feeding my fish once every other day. What's your thought's on this? also I would do a water change on the Sunday 1st Aug 50%. just dont want to spook my rainbow fish as there the main feature over the plants tbo :D
I would give it a good clean, a 50% water change, do the adjustment to the lighting and see how that goes for a couple weeks with no other changes. Otherwise you'll never figure out what's going on.
 
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