Best Aquarium Test Kit – Review & Guide

It is impossible to tell the quality of your aquarium’s water just by looking at it.  The only way to know if the quality is good or bad is to use water testing kits.

Many aquarium hobbyist companies produce and sell water analysis tests.  These tests are often sold individually, or as a “master” kit for convenience and to save money.

Using a water test kit weekly is important to keeping a healthy fish tank.  These test kits help you to track toxin levels and other water parameters.

When buying water test kits, make sure they meet the needs of your specific aquarium setup.  There are slight differences in components to check between freshwater and saltwater tanks.

Aquarium Test Kit Reviews

API Freshwater Master Test Kit

This Master Test Kit from API focuses on freshwater aquariums.  It provides all the necessary equipment for testing. The kit targets the five most important water parameters in this type of environment.

The five areas this kit tests are pH, high range pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels.  These are the most important water parameters in freshwater systems.  Too many toxins will cause your fish to die.

This kit comes with seven bottles of testing solutions and four test tubes and caps.  It also comes with detailed instructions and a color chart for accuracy.  Doing individual tests help to improve accuracy.

With this kit you can perform about 800 tests total.  They recommend testing the aquarium water at least once a week.  This means this kit could last you over two years!

Pros

  • The kit provides all the equipment needed to complete water testing.
  • Instructions include some tips to achieve proper water quality.
  • Includes two types of pH monitoring tests.

Cons

  • The scope of the kit only focuses on freshwater systems.
  • This kit does not include other supplementary tests, like water hardness.

API Saltwater Master Test Kit

This Master Test Kit from API focuses on the needs of saltwater aquariums.  It provides all the necessary equipment for testing. The kit targets the four most important water parameters in this type of environment.

The four areas this kit tests are pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels.  These are the most important water parameters in saltwater systems.  Too many toxins will cause your fish to die.

This kit comes with six bottles of testing solutions and four test tubes with caps.  For easy use, it also includes detailed instructions and color chart for accuracy.  Individual tests are more accurate and precise.

You can perform over 550 tests with this kit.  They suggest performing water tests once a week to allow you to fix any issues that come up.  This many tests could last over two years.

Pros

  • The kit provides all the equipment needed to complete water testing.
  • Instructions include some tips to achieve proper water quality.
  • Individual tests are more accurate than all-in-one tests.

Cons

  • The scope of the kit only focuses on saltwater systems.
  • This kit does not include other supplementary tests, like water hardness.

API Reef Master Test Kit

This Master Test Kit from API focuses on the needs of reef aquariums.  It provides all the necessary equipment for testing. The kit targets four key water parameters in this type of environment.

This kit tests calcium, carbonate hardness, phosphate, and nitrate levels.  These are unique and important water parameters in reef systems.  Poor water quality will hurt the mini ecosystem.

This kit comes with seven bottles of testing solutions and four test tubes with caps.  For easy use, it also includes detailed instructions and color chart for accuracy.  Individual tests are more accurate and precise.

You can perform about 500 tests with this kit.  They suggest performing water tests once a week to allow you to fix any issues that come up.  This many tests could last over two years.

Pros

  • The kit provides all the equipment needed to complete water testing.
  • Instructions include some tips to achieve proper water quality.
  • Individual tests are more accurate than all-in-one tests.
  • Includes tests unique to reef aquariums.

Cons

  • The kit does not include other important tests for pH, ammonia, and nitrites.
  • You will need to supplement with other general aquarium test kits.

Tetra EasyStrips 6-in-1 Aquarium Test Strips

The Tetra 6-in-1 Test Strips are the simplest form of water testing.  These mini kits are great for beginners and make checking water quality easy.

These 6-in-1 strips test nitrate, nitrite, water hardness, chlorine, alkalinity, and pH levels.  These are all very important basic water parameters every hobbyist needs to watch.

There is no need for any equipment to perform tests.  Everything is either in the bottle or on the bottle’s label.  This includes instructions and color charts for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums.

Tetra offers a large bottle of 100 test strips.  If you do one test each week, one bottle will last you almost two years.  Check the expiration date.  These strips become inaccurate after this point.

Pros

  • Water testing takes less than a minute to complete.
  • All test samples taken at the same time.
  • Great for beginners to get accustomed to water testing.

Cons

  • Does not include ammonia testing with these strips.
  • Not as accurate as individual testing with dedicated reagent solutions.

NutraFin Master Aquarium Test Kit

Nutrafin offers all their aquarium test kits in this single master kit.  It is usable for both fresh and saltwater tanks.  It contains all the necessary testing equipment too.

There are ten different water tests to keep your water stable.  There is  phosphate, calcium, nitrate, nitrite, ammonia, carbonate hardness, general hardness, and iron.  It also has pH high range and pH low range tests.

The kit also contains five glass test tubes with caps, two pipettes, and one spoon for measuring.  The four  instruction booklets are easy to follow and come with easy to read color charts.

Nutrafin sells the test reagents separately so you can replenish your kit as you need to.  No need to buy a full kit if you do not want to.

Pros

  • Includes a wide range of water tests.
  • Good for use with freshwater and saltwater aquariums.
  • The carrying case makes for a great workstation.

Cons

  • Kit does not run out of reagents for each test at the same rate.
  • Lacks some specialty tests that are useful for testing reef or planted tanks.

Sera Aqua-Test Box (+ Cu) Aquarium Test Kit

German brand Sera offers most of their aquarium water testing kits in what they call the aqua-box.  This large kit focuses on freshwater and pond environments.

This kit tests nine different water parameters.  The basic tests include:  pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and total water hardness tests.  It also includes more unique tests for carbonate hardness, phosphate, iron, and copper.

They provide everything needed for proper testing in a convenient case.  You get the testing solutions, four vials, syringe, color chart, and instructions.  Even a pen for log keeping, and a solution to clean vials.

The instructions are available on the manufacturer’s website in case you lose yours.  Instructions come in 17 different languages, making it usable by almost anyone.

Pros

  • Kit contains a large variety of water tests.
  • Test solutions sold individually for when you need to refill your kit.
  • Instructions come in 17 different languages.

Cons

  • There are two freshwater aqua-boxes that differ on one test, instead of having both in the same kit.
  • Instructions include all Sera tests which may not come in the kit which can be

Sera Aqua-Test Box (+ Cl) Aquarium Test Kit

German brand Sera offers most of their aquarium water testing kits in what they call the aqua-box.  This large kit focuses on freshwater and pond environments.

They provide everything needed for proper testing in a convenient case.  You get the testing solutions, four vials, syringe, color chart, and instructions. Even a pen for log keeping, and a solution to clean vials.

The instructions are available on the manufacturer’s website in case you lose yours.  Instructions come in 17 different languages, making it usable by almost anyone.

This kit tests nine different water parameters.  The basic tests include:  pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and total water hardness tests.  It also includes more unique tests for carbonate hardness, phosphate, iron, and chlorine.

Pros

  • Kit contains a large variety of water tests.
  • Test solutions sold individually for when you need to refill your kit.
  • Instructions come in 17 different languages.

Cons

  • There are two freshwater aqua-boxes that differ on one test, instead of having both in the same kit.
  • Instructions include all Sera tests which may not come in the kit which can be

Sera Aqua-Test Box Marine (+ Ca) Aquarium Test Kit

German brand Sera offers most of their aquarium water testing kits in what they call the aqua-box.  This large kit focuses on saltwater or marine environments.

They provide everything needed for proper testing in a convenient case.  You get the testing solutions, four vials, syringe, color chart, and instructions.  Even a pen for log keeping, and a solution to clean vials.

This kit tests nine different water parameters.  The basic tests include:  pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and carbonate hardness tests.  It also includes more unique tests for phosphate, iron, copper, and calcium.

The instructions are available on the manufacturer’s website in case you lose yours.  Instructions come in 17 different languages, making it usable by almost anyone.

Pros

  • Kit contains a large variety of water tests.
  • Test solutions sold individually for when you need to refill your kit.
  • Instructions come in 17 different languages.

Cons

  • Does not include all quality tests offered by Sera.
  • Instructions include all Sera tests which may not come in the kit which can be

Red Sea Fish Pharm Marine Care Test Kit

Red Sea’s Marine Care Test Kit offers complete testing of the water quality in your tank.  Its design focuses on the monitoring and maintenance of fish only marine aquariums.

The Red Sea kit includes all the required equipment to complete proper testing.  It comes with eight testing solutions and three testing vials.  For easy use, it also has measuring tools and color charts/instructions.

This test kit provides tests to check pH, ammonia, nitrates, nitrites, and alkalinity.  Keeping these in check will ensure a healthy living environment for your fish.

There is enough solution to test the Ammonia and pH 100 times.  Whereas, there is only enough to test the nitrates, nitrites, and alkalinity 50 times.

Pros

  • Kit includes all the basic water tests and one unique test.
  • The instructions are easy to read and understand.
  • Comes with a convenient and safe storage container.

Cons

  • Focuses only on fish only systems, so if you have plants or coral you will need to supplement with other tests.
  • The number of tests provided in this kit is less than what other kits offer.

Salifert Master Reef Testing Combo Kit

The Salifert Master Reef Testing Combo Kit is a collection of individual kits.  These tests are for checking the quality of saltwater and reef aquariums.

Unlike other kits, this combo kit is not produced by the manufacturer.  Rather, a seller of the brand decided to bundle this collection of tests together.  They left out some basic tests though.

Calcium, nitrate, phosphate, pH, alkalinity, and magnesium are the tests included.  These are very important parameters to watch in marine tanks.  Water that is too acidic or lacking in certain minerals will harm marine life.

Because these are individual testing kits, you will use up some tests faster than others.  This means that instead of having to buy a full kit again, you can replenish only what you need.

Pros

  • Includes unique tests needed to maintain saltwater and reef systems.
  • Each test contains its own instructions and required equipment.
  • Tests are very accurate.

Cons

  • Does not include basic tests for nitrites and ammonia.
  • Does not come with a storage container to house all the individual test kits.

How to Use an Aquarium Test Kit

Aquarium water testing kits follow the same basic process.  Even though each brand may have slight variances, the general steps are pretty much the same.

First thing to do is prepare for doing the tests.  Make sure that your testing kit is usable and not missing any elements.  Give yourself a clean working environment with enough space.  You will want to, then, label or notate each tube or vial with what is being tested inside.  You don’t want to get confused, have to start over, and waste a series of tests.

Now you will fill each test tube with the amount of water indicated by the kit’s instruction sheet.  Perform one test at a time.  Add the desired testing solution, or reagent, to the water sample according to the instructions.  The solution will usually be in liquid form, but can come as a powder too.

Cap the test tube and shake as directed.  Some kits react faster than others.  You will find any wait times in the instructions.  Be careful not to wait too long, some kits lose accuracy past a certain time frame.

Now, compare the colored results against the color chart provided in the kit.  If the color falls within an acceptable range you are good until the next scheduled test.  If the color falls outside what is acceptable, then you need to make some adjustments to your tank.  Some test kits will provide you with general suggestions and solutions to try.

We recommend testing your aquarium water once a week.  Always follow the steps for proper use and testing provided by the manufacturer of the kit.

Advantages of Having and Using an Aquarium Test Kit

The only way to know the quality of the water in your aquarium is to test it.  Looking at the water will not tell you if toxins are present or if the pH is too high.  If you think you can, then you may have subjected your fish to terrible living conditions.

Testing your water at least once a week is very important.  You can catch any issues before they get serious.  Test kits make doing the tests easy and fast.  Keeping a log is a good idea too.  Logging every test result will show you how one parameter may affect another.

Using water tests also gives you the opportunity to get to know each one of your tank’s inhabitants.  Knowing what they like their water to be will move you beyond the basics of fish keeping.  You will get to know how they react when the water is perfect and when it is not.

Another huge advantage to water testing is not killing your fish!  Fish and other marine life, especially saltwater species, are not always cheap.  Letting an entire tank die could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.  All because you thought water testing was not important enough.

How to Select an Aquarium Test Kit

When selecting an aquarium water test kit there are some things you want to consider.  What type of tank do you have:  freshwater, saltwater, or reef?  What are the preferences of your livestock?  Do you have live plants?

Freshwater Tanks

For freshwater aquariums, you are going to want to test and keep track of the basic water parameters.  These would include the pH, ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels.  You can add alkalinity and water hardness tests if you have plants, or issues with pH fluctuation.  Test for chlorine as well if you are using tap water for water changes.  Tap water has small levels of chlorine that could cause problems for your fish if not kept in check.

Saltwater Tanks

The tests used for freshwater are also going to be important for saltwater tanks.  You will also need to check salinity, or the saltiness of the water.  Make sure to use a pH test that covers saltwater, usually called a high range test.

Reef Tanks

Reefs need more trace elements in the water than other tank systems.  These minerals allow coral to build their skeletons properly.  Use the same saltwater tests for reef systems.  But also add tests for calcium, phosphate, and magnesium.

Always keep in mind the preferences of your livestock.  You can have fish that like higher pH or harder water more than others, and vice versa.  Keep in mind that water tests will only tell you where a specific water parameter is at.  It is up to you to know what the levels should be at for your fish to keep them happy and healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a kit labeled for freshwater be used for saltwater?  Generally speaking, the answer is yes.  Keep in mind that the color charts may be different.  The needs of a saltwater tank differ from those of a freshwater tank.

Do water test kits have an expiration date?  Yes they do.  An expiration date may be on the individual test solutions, or on the storage case itself.  The expiration date notes when a particular test will become inaccurate.

If the water test comes back bad, does the kit come with a way to fix the problem?  No.  The manufacturer may include some generic troubleshooting in their instructions for each test.  But, no water additives or the like come in the kits.  There are too many possible issue to put a fix for each one in a test kit.

Are these water test kits hard to use?  Not at all.  Each kit comes with ease to read instructions.  Some add pictures instead of just using text.  Test strip kits have far less steps than using test tube kits making them the easiest but not the most accurate.

Are these kits all inclusive or do I need to buy other kits too?  Aquarium water test kits are not all inclusive.  Even the ones that use the term “master kit”.  The most useful tests are the ones included.  Depending on the needs of your aquarium, you might buy other, more unique or lesser used, tests helpful.

Will the kit give me the same number of tests for each test?  Maybe.  Some kits might have enough of each type of test to run out at the same time.  Others might not for a variety of business reasons.

Wrap Up Summary

Water quality testing is an important part of keeping any type of aquarium.  It should be part of your maintenance routine from the very start of each tank.

Try different test kits out to see which work best for you among the various brands and methods.  Keep in mind the needs of your fish to keep them healthy.

These kits will contain the most important tests that need testing regularly.  But there are other water quality tests that you can explore as needed.

 

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