Which Test kits are best?

Discussion in 'General Planted Tank Discussions' started by bigbruce, 24 Mar 2008.

  1. bigbruce

    bigbruce Newly Registered

    Joined:
    23 Feb 2008
    Messages:
    11
    Which test kits are best value for money and accuracy.
    And where is the cheapest place to get them (i'm Scottish btw)
    And maybe a stupid question what tests do i really need (i have a new planted tank with co2 & mostly gold fish)
     
  2. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    11 Jul 2007
    Messages:
    8,953
    Location:
    Chicago, USA
    Hi bigbruce,
    I've got a great idea. Why not just save money don't buy any test kits? If you have CO2 then you will need a pH test reagent because that is what the drop checker uses. You may want to know the kH and GH of your water supply as this data is sometimes useful, but you only ever need to use the test for kH/GH once or twice a year. You could just take a sample of your tap to a local pet shop and have them test it for you. Use the money saved to buy more plants. All other test kits are rubbish in my opinion. Somewhere near the tail end of this post ( viewtopic.php?f=36&t=1211 ) is an explanation of why "best value test kit" is an oxymoron, like.."pretty ugly" or "jumbo shrimp". :rolleyes:

    I might add that if your dosing method is PPS or something similar then you may need to do some NO3/PO4 testing. In this case all hobby grade test kits are the same and you would need to calibrate them by measuring against standard solutions and plotting graphs and so forth.

    Cheers,
     
  3. StevenA

    StevenA Member

    Joined:
    30 Jan 2008
    Messages:
    513
    Location:
    Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire.
    http://www.aquaessentials.co.uk is a good place to buy the kits from, or anything else for that matter. The Nutrafin liquid test kits are pretty good. To start with i would certainly buy a Hardness(GH/KH), pH, Nitrate, and Nitrite test kits. ;) These are the essential ones to start with, after that there are many others you can buy if you feel the need.
     
  4. Arana

    Arana Member

    Joined:
    12 Oct 2007
    Messages:
    1,226
    Location:
    London
    I'm with Clive on this one, save your money! watch your fish and your plants closely and they will let you know if there is a problem :)
     
  5. Lisa_Perry75

    Lisa_Perry75 Member

    Joined:
    17 Oct 2007
    Messages:
    778
    Location:
    Southampton
    I agree with Clive and Mark. I'm sure 99% of other members would too!!! Read through the principles of Ei and you'll find out more.
     
  6. Terry

    Terry Member

    Joined:
    13 Oct 2007
    Messages:
    47
    Location:
    Cowplain, Portsmouth
    Agree with Clive. Dumped my test kit a few weeks ago when I coverted to EI. Not looked back since.
     
  7. zig

    zig Member

    Joined:
    4 Jul 2007
    Messages:
    686
    Location:
    Dublin Ireland
    I don't entirely agree, I think for a beginner with planted tanks they have their uses if even to give you an indication of where you may be going wrong if you encounter problems, I don't necessarily buy into the idea they are all totally inaccurate either, they can still provide good clues as to whats going on. They have their place, but after a while you probably won't use them because you will have more experience.
     
  8. GreenNeedle

    GreenNeedle Member

    Joined:
    19 Jul 2007
    Messages:
    2,706
    Location:
    Lincoln UK
    :wideyed: <---These big white things are what I use
     
  9. StevenA

    StevenA Member

    Joined:
    30 Jan 2008
    Messages:
    513
    Location:
    Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire.
    All these comments are great if you've got the knowledge and experience to know if things are not right, but test kits can provide a valuable insight to conditions in your tank when you are starting out. ;) But i do agree that after a while you could scale down their use if you feel confident enough.
     
  10. GreenNeedle

    GreenNeedle Member

    Joined:
    19 Jul 2007
    Messages:
    2,706
    Location:
    Lincoln UK
    Test kits in a planted aquarium can be dangerous especially for someone starting out because they tend to take the results (which are more often that not way out) and assume they have a problem i.e. high or low on something.

    They then start trying to move the result the other way by increasing or decreasing and this then creates a problem which wasn't there before.

    Therefore the best way for someone starting out or experienced is to stop testing and watch the fish and plants. If you get loads of algae something is wrong. If the plants start to show defficiency something is wrong.

    The only part of a planted tank that can hurt the fish (unless you are dumping many times more even than EI) is CO2 which again you can tell if the fish are gasping at the water surface you need to turn it down.

    Drop Checker is the only kind of test I use and that is more of a guide for CO2 levels not so much to tell me if I am too high, more if it is on the wane i.e. circulation issues etc.

    So in summary if you decide to test you must get proper calibrated laboratory tests like Lamotte and not your average run of the mill tests from a pet store as these are more than likely to make you think you have a problem when in reality it isn't there.

    Andy
     
  11. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    11 Jul 2007
    Messages:
    8,953
    Location:
    Chicago, USA
    Hi,
    I guess there may be several issues with the use of test kit from a beginners standpoint. Each issue is a double edged sword though, and which edge you get depends on the person using the kit. There are educational, practical and perhaps psychological issues.

    From an educational standpoint I suppose it's a good idea for a beginner to be introduced to the basic parameters of water chemistry such as hardness and pH. This much is clear. But what does the person actually do with this information? It depends on how much he/she is willing to read and research in order to gain a better handle on when to worry and when not to worry. How many times have we seen a question raised where a beginner is concerned his/her pH is not what was expected, or that it changed during the day? How many products are sold on the market that profess to "correct" pH? pH buffers abound and they are all completely useless, yet, we see many beginners buy a pH kit, measure pH, decide the number is not good and then proceeds to buy pH down and to dump sulphuric acid into the tank in an attempt to manage pH? If a beginner does not understand the relevance or ramifications of a parameter is it value added to even measure it? We know that pH is not an important parameter for the typical community tank and that high pH or low pH is only a concern for specific niche species. I would be willing to bet that a large percentage of beginner plant enthusiasts are unaware that their CO2 test is actually a pH test. I feel it would be better for a beginner to not start out with a pH kit, learn about the characteristics of pH through reading and research, and then, if there was some specific goal or objective to determine ph, then go out and buy the kit now having gained insight as to what relevance it has.

    Lets look at a nitrite (NO2) test kit. At what time, other than tank startup, would you ever see a non-zero reading for NO2? If a beginner is taught about the nitrogen cycle then he/she will know to expect an NO2 rise and fall. It may be fascinating and illustrative to do a test to see what the NO2 level is, but after that? I still have an NO2 reagent bottle from 10 years ago. Would it not have been better to simply know that the NO2 concentration buildup is inevitable and that it passes after a few weeks. Would in not be better to simply advise a beginner to not stock fish for at least several weeks? NO2 is completely irrelevant for plants so when would we ever need to test for this parameter?

    NH4/NH3? Similar story. NH4 test returns a positive result during tank startup. After that it would only yield a positive result if general tank maintenance was exceedingly poor. If the beginner fails to comply with standard tank maintenance procedures and fish die as a result, isn't it a safe conclusion that the fish died of ammonia poisoning? Would you have needed to test? Water pollution kills fish. End of analysis. :wideyed: NH4 levels that cause algae are read as zero on an NH4 test kit so this kit does nothing to help grow better plants. Better to learn about NH4 implications instead of measuring it.

    KH/GH? Again, nice to know but how does this help you to grow better plants? How many beginners actually even know what these parameters are and what they mean with respect to plants unless they did some heavy research? I'm sure someone will know if they live in a hard water district. You don't need a test kit for that. Will your procedures differ significantly if you have GH10 versus GH17? Probably not. Again, these are parameters that are best measured after someone has gained knowledge about their ramifications.

    NO3/PO4 - how many beginners are under the impression that NO3/PO4 causes algae? My guess is 100%. How many experienced aquarists who are plant beginners think that dosing NO3 is a bad idea? My guess is 100%. If a beginner thinks this and buys the kit and measures the values, then 100% of the time they will panic at the high values. Since many are seeing algae at the same time this reinforces the fantasy. In my opinion it would be better to have the beginner not buy these kits, unlearn the propaganda of nutrient/algae relationship first and then if necessary go test for nitrates/phosphates. They will then understand the ramifications of what they are measuring. SuperColey1 makes an excellent point here. Look at your tank with your eyes. Can you see BGA? What special knowledge or experience is needed here? If you see BGA then you need to dose more NO3. Who cares what the test kit says? Can you see BBA? Yes, it's black and looks like a brush. If you can see it you need to fix your CO2. No test kit required for this.

    In my opinion therefore the situation is completely reversed. Test kits do nothing for beginners except foster paranoia and misinformation. Yes there may be some comfort in having a kit but the kit doesn't save you. There are thousands of people using kits who haven't figure out how to solve the problems they are measuring for. On the contrary, I feel one should get test kits after one has experience, not before. To me a beginner with a test kit is more akin to being issued a drivers licenses before being issued a learners permit.

    Cheers,
     
    Zak Rafik likes this.
  12. Ed Seeley

    Ed Seeley Member

    Joined:
    3 Jul 2007
    Messages:
    3,262
    Location:
    Nottingham
    I agree with Zig. IMO everyone should have a Nitrite test kit at least when cycling a new tank. The length of time taken to mature a new tank can vary wildly depending on the factors in the tank and all you are looking for here is whether nitrite is present or not which test kits are much better at registering. If anything disastrous happens, or you lose fish, it is also a good test to do to check that there isn't some kind of problem with the filter maturity. When cycling my latest tank using Aquasoil I found that the Nitrite spike didn't disappear for nearly three weeks and this was with maure media in the filter! If I'd simply waited a certain amount of time and added the fish they would have experienced elevated nitrite levels. Filters do crash - it's rare but also people do turn off filters accidentally or when they add a large amount of biomass or suffer a die off of plants or a dead fish hidden somewhere there will be a nitite spike. A test kit can help identify that this has happened and then remedial action can be taken. It won't stop it happening but may help to solve the puzzle.

    I use test kits as guides (not relying rigidly to the levels they give but as an indicator of whether levels are rising or falling, and in this they are much more accurate) and I use them very irregularly (I do use my TDS meter and pH meter more often) genreally when I have problems and would never recommend using them to try and determine accurate levels of nutrients unless I calibrated them beforehand.

    I agree with Clive that in the wrong hands a test kit can cause more problems than it solves but to be honest I don't think that's a good excuse for not having them! The answer is that the people using them need to understand what to do with the results and if they buy a test kit they should make a concerted effort to learn what . The preponderence of 'pH up', 'pH down' and various buffers and salts are, in the main, simply marketing ploys to sell more products - they are not necessary.
     
  13. beeky

    beeky Member

    Joined:
    21 Aug 2007
    Messages:
    879
    Location:
    Chippenham, Wiltshire
    I thought I'd jump in as well and add to the confusion :D

    My view is that people starting out on the fishy hobby should get the ammonia/nitrite/nitrate kits and start testing as they cycle their first tank. It teaches important lessons in husbandry (is that sexist?!) and it also gives them something to do while looking at a fishless tank. Once cycled and fish are being stocked I don't think they're needed as long as the tank isn't overstocked. OK, they'll give a reason the fish have died if the tank is overstocked and crashes, but then if the owner overstocked the tank too much/too quickly would they be the type of owner who would test anyway?

    Harness/pH I tend to agree has too much emphasis placed on them. More damage is caused by people adding pH Down every couple of days as they've read they're neons like acidic water and they're tap water is 7.8.

    Some people just like testing though, they just need to be aware of the limitations.
     

Share This Page

Facebook Page
Twitter Page
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice