9 Best Aquarium Test Kits

As a pet owner, all you want to do is provide your pet with an optimally healthy environment where it can grow and prosper beautifully.

And when it comes to my pet fish, I might have made a few mistakes when I first started out (Yikes!)

We have all done it!

I was oblivious to the fact that there are specific aquarium parameters that I need to abide by to protect my fish from its down the flush state.

Luckily, with time I understood how to take care and maintain the pH, nitrate, nitrite, ammonia level of my aquarium and trust me when I tell you, keeping the aquarium water clean from toxins is important for the health of your fish.

Fortunately, there are plenty of aquarium test kits out there that you can use to ensure that the water in your aquarium is appropriate for your fish to live.

In this article, I have listed down 9 of the best aquarium test kits, which will help you stay on top of the dirty water dilemma.

Most importantly, which test kit is right for you?

Before we move on to detailed product descriptions, let me first explain to you what a test kit is and what should you be testing for in the first place.

Let’s Dive In!

Best Aquarium Test Kits

Product What can it test?
1.Aquarium Master Test API Freshwater Kit

pH
nitrite 
nitrate
carbonate and
general water hardness
2.Tetra EasyStrips general water Hardness
 nitrates
 nitrites
alkalinity (KH) and
pH levels
3.API Test Strips Freshwater and Saltwater  pH,
nitrite
nitrate
carbonate and
general water hardness 
4. Red Sea Fish Pharm nitrate
nitrite
ammonia
pH and
alkalinity levels
5. NYOS Magnesium (MG) Reefer Aquarium Test Kit magnesium
calcium
water Hardness
6. Nutrafin Master Test Kit ammonia,
pH,
calcium,
phosphate,
iron,
nitrite,
nitrate,
KH and
GH
7. NovoBlue 14-in-1 Water Test Kit Tester Strips hardness
pH
fluoride 
lead
 iron 
copper
 nitrates
 nitrites 
free Chlorine 
total Chlorine
bromine 
cyan uric acid 
carbonate
 total Alkalinity 
8. Red Sea Fish Pharm Marine Care Test Kit Aiptasia sp
Anemonia majano and
Boloceroides sp
9. Seachem Purigen for Freshwater & Saltwater ammonia,
nitrites and
nitrates

What is an aquarium test kit?

Aquarium test kits are manufactured and designed to help you in measuring a specific water parameter.

Wait! I can explain better!

Aquarium test kits are essential as drastic fluctuations in the chemistry of your fish tank water can make your fish fatally sick.

Generally, an aquarium test kit will contain:

  • A color card
  • Test tubes
  • Instructions
  • Testing solutions

What to test for?

Water has many chemical properties that include hardness, pH, nitrite, ammonia, and nitrate and carbonate hardness, etc.

All that gooey water? These tests will tell you what’s wrong!

The amount of these properties depends on the source of the water; hence they vary. Excess of all these chemical properties can wreak havoc in your fish tank.

1. Aquarium Master Test API Freshwater Kit

This is the ultimate kit.

The Aquarium Master Test Kit by API is any fish hobbyist dream come true!

This kit can be used to test aquarium and tap water for five different parameters which include pH, Nitrites, Nitrates,

High Range pH as well as Ammonia.

The best part about this test kit is:

That it will not break your bank.

This product from API is highly economical and comes with explicit, easy to understand instructions.

You do not need to be a water scientist to know how to handle this aquarium test it.

In my initial days as a fish owner, I found this kit to be extremely useful. The results provided by the test kit are good

but, it might not give those accurate readings that hardcore fish hobbyist is looking for.

Testing water parameters seem complicated and tricky, but for that, this aquarium testing kit will definitely help you out tremendously.

You carry out the tests by placing the correct amount of water in the test tube and mixing it with the right solutions. Which then change the color of the water and you can compare the color change with a color chart.

Pros

  • Great product for this price range
  • Gives good results
  • Comes with step by step instructions
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Not ideal for individuals who require to the decimal results.

2. Tetra EasyStrips

Tetra Easy Strips is another revolutionary product that has changed the water parameter testing game.

I really cannot stop raving about this product!

The Tetra Easy Strips can be used to test water parameters such as nitrate, nitrites, chlorine, water hardness, pH and alkalinity.

These easy strips are exactly what they are called; EASY

The test kit is a breeze to use and comes with an instruction manual plus the results are also somewhat accurate.

When I say accurate, it does not refer to actual readings, but you do get a sense of the water parameter levels.

I haven’t even told you the best part yet!

The Tetra Easystrips are not just accurate; they are fast too. You get results in only 10 seconds. Hence, they are great for emergencies.

Just dip the strip in your aquarium water and then compare it to the chart in the Tetra Water Care App.

You don’t even have to guess; the app will tell you all you need to know.

I mean, it does not get any better than this.

Pros:

  •    Easy to use
  •   Quick test results
  •   Light on the pocket
  •   Can be used for both freshwater as well as saltwater aquariums
  • Easy to understand results

Cons

  •   Does not give precise readings
  • Not as accurate as liquid tests

3. API Test Strips Freshwater and Saltwater

This aquarium test kit from API is a Godsend!

You can use the test kit to measure levels of nitrite, nitrate, general water hardness, pH as well as carbonate hardness of your fish tank.

These strips are just amazing at helping you in preventing any invisible water conditions that might be causing your fish to get sick or move on to fish heaven.

API is a company that you can trust blindly, all their products are magnificent, and these test strips also live up to the company’s reputation.

They provide accurate results in a short period.

The best thing about this is:

That you can use these strips to monitor both your freshwater as well as saltwater tanks.

Keeping your fish healthy and your aquarium clean has never been so easy. Just sip the strip in water and then compare it to the API color code chart.

Pros:

  •    Fast results
  •    Comes with a color code chart
  •    Easy to use
  •    Easy to read
  •   Light on the pocket

Cons:

  •   Does not test ammonia
  •    A little difficult to distinguish between colors

4. Red Sea Fish Pharm ARE21525 Marine Care Test Kit for Aquarium

This is an excellent test kit that helps you measure ammonia, pH, nitrates, nitrite and alkalinity levels.

This product from Red Sea Fish Pharm not only gives you accurate results but also is very easy to handle.

This test kit is great for beginners!

The test kit comes with instructions that easy to follow and the best thing about the equipment it that it is not at all messy.

All the equipment, fit back nicely into the box.

The test kit is no fancy, does not provide you with any expert details but is excellent for people who are just starting and do not need very to the decimal readings.

I know I am repeating this, but you really need to hear it again!

The colors do not create a mess; most liquid kits cause much more harm than good. The color spill, the bottles are of low quality, and at the end of the testing session, you end up looking like Dr. Hyde.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • High Quality Equipment
  • Does not make a mess
  • Easy to follow instructions

Cons:

•    Some customers complained of the packing

5. NYOS Magnesium (MG) Reefer Aquarium Test Kit

This kit makes you feel like a million bucks!

Such beautiful and high tech equipment gives you elite scientist vibes.

The NYOS Magnesium Reefer Aquarium Test Kit is highly accurate and perfect for any reef tank.

The product provides rather a precise analysis for different seawater conditions and is of great value as compared to its price.

You will not regret splurging on this aquarium test kit.

The kit comes with an instruction manual as well as tiny droppers that help you quickly measure the water parameters of your fish tank.

You can easily test the water hardness of your fish tank without any hassle.

The total number of tests that you can carry out using this aquarium test kit is 50.

Mixing is , and the colors are very vibrant!

Pros:

  • High-quality equipment
  • Easy to follow
  • Easy to use
  • Beautiful vibrant colors

Cons:

•    Takes some time to showcase results

6. Nutrafin Master Test Kit

This is an ideal kit for all the hardcore fish hobbyists out there.

The testing kit is a professional grade!

The Nutrafin Master Test Kit helps you to monitor calcium, pH, ammonia, general hardness, carbonate hardness, iron, nitrite, and nitrate as well as phosphate levels of your aquarium.

The entire equipment comes in a solid case that is also durable. It provides a fantastic working area.

The kit encompasses one spoon, two pipettes, four instruction booklets, and five glass test tubes.

Wait! There’s more!

You can use the test kit to measure both freshwaters as well as saltwater aquariums levels.

The best thing about this kit is that you can use it to measure all the water parameters of your fish tank; you do not need any additional test kits.

This aquarium test kit is definitely a must-have!

Pros:

  • Comes in a durable sturdy box
  • Tests all water parameters
  • Gives accurate results
  • Equipment is excellently organized

Cons:

•    The caps of test tubes are not tight enough; they can leak

7. NovoBlue 14-in-1 Water Test Kit Tester Strips

An all in one aquarium test kit!

What more could you ask for?

This amazing product can help you measure 14 water parameters such as total alkalinity, nitrites, nitrates, carbonate hardness, general hardness, iron, copper, lead, fluoride, pH, free chlorine and total chlorine, etc.

I literally am in awe of the aquarium test kit!

This testing kit can be used to measure more than just your aquarium water; you can even monitor your drinking water to make sure that it’s safe for you and your family.

You can perform in-depth analysis of your drinking water, all from the comfort of your home.

The company that produced this revolutionary product puts health first.

Just remember to store this testing kit at room temperature and also keep the tap tightly closed after each testing session.

All you have to do is dip a strip into the liquid and then remove it immediately afterward. Remember never to shake the excess liquid off. Proceed with holding the strip horizontally for about a minute and then compare the color of the strip with the color chart that comes with the product.

Pros:

  • It tests 14 different water parameters
  • Easy to use
  • Can also test drinking water

Cons:

•    Does not check for arsenic levels

8. Red Sea Fish Pharm Marine Care Test Kit

This is a fantastic product that helps to eliminate Aiptasia from your fish tank.

Aiptasia is very harmful to your marine fish.

Aiptasia is also known as glass anemous and can penetrate your fish tank via live coral or rocks.

The testing kit comes with two differently shaped needle applicators that are very easy to use.

Wait there is more!

This product is extremely budget-friendly and is a necessity for your marine fish tank.

There are not a lot of products in the market that helps you to get rid of Aiptasia from your marine tanks, and out of all of those, this product from Red Sea Fish Pharm is the best.

The product is quite famous for its efficient and quick results.

Pros

  • Easy to handle
  • Quick results

Cons

•    Is of low quality

9. Seachem Purigen for Freshwater & Saltwater

Seachem products rule the aquarium world, and with good reason.

And this product lives up to its name.

You can use this product to easily control nitrates, nitrites, and ammonia in your aquarium.

As the Purigen begins to absorb the harmful organic matter, it starts to change color and gives a slightly brownish shade. As the process proceeds, it becomes completely black.

You can then easily go ahead and eliminate it all by using a mixture of bleach and water.

Hold on! Wait for it!

The best thing about this product by Seachem is that is can be used for both freshwaters as well as saltwater aquariums.

The test also contains a synthetic polymer that can be renewed again.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Renewable

Cons

•    Makes water a little cloudy

Water Parameters to Test for

Nitrogen Compounds

Nitrogen compounds dominate water, and the nitrogen compounds that you should test for in your aquarium include ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites.

Ammonia

There are nitrifying bacteria present in the water that break down the waste present in the fish tank and convert them into ammonia.

The Ammonia is easily measured by most of the test kits out there. The production of ammonia is a part of the nitrogen cycle.

It gets worse!

Ammonia is very toxic for the fish, even small traces of ammonia stress out the fish and make them much more susceptible to diseases.

The ammonia gradually shortens the life span of the fish, and you need to remove the ammonia from the aquarium water as soon as possible and its accumulation can be lethal.

Ammonia is fatal for fish in both freshwaters as well as saltwater aquariums.

In saltwater environments the pH is slightly higher which causes the ammonia gas to release, resulting in much more chaos.

Nitrite

The nitrogen cycle also includes the production of nitrites. The nitrifying bacteria make use of the available ammonia and then multiply inside the aquarium at fast rates. The nitrifying bacteria known as Nitrosomonas convert the ammonia into nitrites.

But wait! There’s more…

Nitrites are known to destroy the hemoglobin of the fish by obstructing their oxygen metabolism.

As the nitrogen cycle proceeds, the nitrites get converted into nitrates. Nitrites are not as toxic as ammonia, but they seem to stress out the fish.

Nitrites will not get detected by test kits once the nitrogen cycle in the fish tank is established.

If you are unable to detect the nitrite levels for 7 days, then the best course of action would be to immediately sort out the problem and bring relief to your fish.

Nitrate

The whole dilemma does not end here!

Nitrate production is actually the final stage of the nitrogen cycle. Is very easy to detect nitrates in the aquarium water.

Nitrates cause algae to grow drastically and give the aquarium water a green tint.

If you do not want your aquarium to get overrun by algae (eeew), then the best thing to do will be to take care of the nitrate level of the aquarium water.

Think I am exaggerating?

Even though nitrates are way less toxic as compared to nitrites and ammonia but still it can result in the organs of your fish having the same anger issues as Tony Montana in Scarface.

The nitrates lower the ability of the fish to fight diseases, the ability to reproduce as well as the ability to heal itself.

So, it is better to keep the nitrate levels to a down low, as you do not want to find up fish belly up and on their way to the fish toilet bowl paradise.

The Nitrogen Cycle

Phosphate

Ever notice how?

The water turns all greenish in a week?

Well you have phosphates to thank for that.

Phosphate are like the biggest supporters of algae growth, honestly who even likes all that green blob?

Phosphates serve as a nutrient for algae and drastically increase the amount of algae in your fish tank.

The presence of phosphate in aquariums are linked to dry fish food especially if there is a lot of left over low quality dry fish food in your fish tank.

If your aquariums seems to be overrun with algae all of a sudden, then testing for phosphates is not such a bad idea. Continue reading the article for phosphate removal techniques.

Calcium

Do you have a reef tank?

Then you better pay attention!

Calcium levels are essential for a healthy reef tank. Calcium is used by corals to strengthen their skeleton as well as feed their form.

The reefs then draw the calcium from the reef water and so can get depleted rather quickly. That is something you honestly do not want to happen.

In order to keep on top of this dilemma you need to test the calcium levels of your fish tank regularly. Reef aquarium hobbyists try to maintain the calcium levels of their tank at around 380 to 420ppm.

pH level

This one is a little tricky!

There is no normal pH level for fish, the appropriate pH level for your fish will eventually depend on the environment of its habitat in the wild.

Don’t worry! It’s not as complicated as it sounds.

Follow my fish pH level chart and you’ll be fine.

According to my experience freshwater fish are the jolliest in pH of 5.5 to 7.5 while saltwater fish need a pH of 8 or higher.

You need to remember a few thing!

Below 6.5 pH, fish can get stressed and ultimately experience stunted growth.

Below 5 pH, your fish might have difficulty reproducing and the baby fish will most probably not make it to their next birthday and even that’s a long shot.

Below 4 pH or above 11 pH, your fish will most probably move on to heaven.

Wait! Don’t start stressing out.

Remember that fish are highly adaptable, they need to be in order to survive.

The pH levels of water are never static, they keep changing throughout the day.

So when some know it all fish expert tells you that your fish needs pH 6.5 to see the light of day, just ignore them. The only thing that matters is that the pH of your aquarium water stays between 6 and 7. Light fluctuations are what you want, a drastic pH change will definitely stress out your fishy friends.

Fish pH Scale

General Hardness

Another term for General Hardness is water hardness.

Let me tell you what that actually is?

Water Hardness is basically the amount or the measure of the salts that are dissolved in the water of your fish tank. Especially, calcium and magnesium.

The hardness of water is relevant, it depends on the source of your water.

If the water’s hardness is high, it’s called hard and when it’s low, it’s called soft.

I know it’s difficult to thin of water as hard or soft, it being a liquid and all.

So the bottom line is that the water high in magnesium and calcium is called hard water while the water low in calcium and magnesium is known as soft water.

Water hardness is not something you should worry about if you use tap water but it’s a very vital component of water chemistry.

Most tap water has a water hardness that is sufficient, hence you won’t be facing many issues.

Monitoring the water hardness of your aquarium is really important.

Let me tell you, just why?

Some fish like cichlids and discus are very picky when it comes to water hardness. They needs hard water and soft water respectively to thrive. You need to keep an eye on the water hardness if you want to keep these fish.

Lucky for you, when it comes to saltwater tanks you really do not need to worry about the water hardness.

This is because the salt water tanks make use of RO/DI water, and the salt mix restore any lost minerals.

If the source of your water is relatively harder or softer, you need to adjust it according to the needs of your fish.

What happens if the GH is high?

New Fish Die

A high water hardness level will not be an issue if your fish are acclimated to the hard water.

Understand this! If they are acclimated….

What happens when you purchase a new fish and then add it to an aquarium that has a drastically high water hardness level as compared to the pet store?

Well, things will get a little messy.

What most fish owners do, well what I have also done in the past is:

That they buy a new fish, bring the little guy home, and keep it in a bag filled with water for about 30 minutes and then add it to their tank.

The fish then experiences what experts call, osmotic shock. It may take a few days, but the osmotic shock will most probably kill the fish.

The fact that osmotic shock is not an instant killer, most fish owners blame the quality of water for the demise of the fish.

Live Plants

Plants can generally survive in moderate water hardness levels but some plants are sensitive.

Plants such as Dwarf Sagittarian and Chain Sword have a hard time staying alive when the water hardness level rises.

The best solution to this problem is to select plants that thrive in the water hardness levels of your aquarium water.

Breeding

Are you an amateur breeder?

Just someone who wants to try it out.

Well keep in mind that most fish cannot successfully breed in too hard water.

The reason being, that most fish breed during rainy seasons in the wild. And as the homes of these little guys fill with rain water, the water hardness level of their surroundings drop.

Most experts state that this drop in water hardness actually indicates to the fish that they better start making babies.

Hence, if the water hardness level of your fish tank is high, your fish will most probably stick to a no baby policy.

via GIPHY

Carbonate Hardness

Carbonate hardness is just a mixture of bicarbonates and carbonates that are dissolved in water.

You really do not have to remember those names.

Carbonate hardness is a defense mechanism, it protects the pH of your aquarium even when the level of acids increase.

You can say that Carbonate hardness helps the pH of your fish tank stay stable.

The thing is, that this barrier is not permanent, once it’s gone, your pH can fluctuate again.

The higher the carbonate hardness of your aquarium, the more acid it can neutralize before the pH of your fish tank is affected.

As mentioned before, carbonate hardness protects drastic changes in the pH level of your tank, and such changes can actually shock your fish and ultimately kill them.

The question arises, what is best carbonate hardness level for your tank?

Freshwater Carbonate Hardness

Planted Tank 3 to 8 dKH
Shrimp Tank 2 to 5 dKH
Tropical Fish Tank 4 to 8 dKH
Pond 4 to 8 dKH
Cichlid Tank 10 to 18 dKH

Saltwater Carbonate Hardness

Reef Tank 8 to 12 dKH
Saltwater Tank 8 to 12 dKH

Testing Aquarium Water

The most important thing you can do as a fish owner, is provide your fish with a healthy environment, where it can thrive.

So I have discussed with you what an aquarium kit is? What you need to test for and what are the best products available in the market today.

It is now time to learn how to actually test your aquarium water.

The first two steps of testing your aquarium water include:

  • Knowing the water parameters
  • Selecting an aquarium test kit

I have covered both these steps above.

Let’s move on the actual testing.

Once you have chosen your aquarium test kit, make use of a disposable pipette or a dropper and then transfer the water from your fish tank into a test tube.

Generally test kits require about 5ml of liquid to give accurate results.

Never directly take water from the fish tank by dipping the test tube in it. Not only will the leftover chemicals in your test tube contaminate the aquarium water, but it is also difficult to measure.

Proceed by reading the instructions that come along with your aquarium test kit, this will help you know which testing solution to use. You usually just need around 3 drops of the solution.

Expiration dates are very important, before adding the solution always check its expiration date. An expired solution will most probably not give you definite results.

Vigorously shake the test tube and continue to shake it until you see a change in color. Then compare the color with the color chart of the aquarium testing kit.

Once you get the results, you will know if your aquarium is maintained or needs some adjusted.

Frequency of tests

You should always carry out an aquarium water parameter whenever you set up a new aquarium. After that you can do the tests after every week. This will help you maintain a healthy environment for your little fish friends.

Lowering Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate Levels in the Aquarium

Ammonia is part of the nitrogen cycle and it is highly toxic for your fish.

The safest level of ammonia is:

0 parts per million.

When I say ammonia is toxic, I need you to take that seriously!

Even 2 parts per million of ammonia can cause your fish to die.

You need to control the levels of ammonia in your aquarium, if you want your little fishy friends to live another day.

via GIPHY

Partial Water Change

Partial water changes are life savers!

A partial water change can help you decrease the ammonia levels of your tank tremendously.

The best thing to do is to conduct a partial water change at the very least, once a week.

This is not written in stone!

You can cycle your aquarium water much frequently than a week, if the tank conditions require that. A great way to check the necessity of water changes is by stirring the gravel with a fish net. If a lot of debris floats, then you really need to conduct more water cycles.

The first thing that needs to be done, is for your aquarium water to dechlorinate.

You can let the water dechlorinate itself by letting it sit over night or you can just treat the freshwater with a dechlorination product.

Be very cautious!

Remember to wash your hands in order to remove all traces of lotions, creams or soaps.

Also, go ahead and remove all the electrical appliances from the tank so that there is no risk of you getting yourself electrocuted.

Only connect those appliances again when you are done and everything is dry.

For a partial water change, there is no need to empty the entire fish tank, just change about 30 percent of the water. For example for a 10 gallon tank, change 3 gallons of water.

You do not have to remove the fish when you conduct the partial water changes, just put your hands in the fish tank gently so that you do not frighten the fish.

Use a scrapping tool to remove the excess algae from the tank, you can even use an old debit card to do your bidding.

Drain out 30 percent of the water in a nearby sink or an old bucket. Once the old water has been removes, carefully add the new dechlorinated water into the fish tank.

Remove Organic Matter

The decaying organic matter in the fish tank is actually one of the leading causes of the increase in ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels your fish tank.

I have already discussed the nitrogen cycle above!

Dead plant matter, fish waste and left over food add to the problem.

Take a fish net and try to scoop out anything that should not be in the fish tank in the first place.

Remember to also clean the filter of your tank, as a dirty filter can easily introduce organic matter back into your fish palace.

Replacing the filters is a big No!

As this could upset the bacterial balance in the water.

You should always give your fish enough food, that they can easily devour in 5 minutes. More than that would most probably be just leftover. Overfeeding your fish not only make them sick but also pollute the tank.

Hence try your best to not overfeed your fish and keep the water clean and free of leftover fish flakes or food.

Introduction of Healthy Bacteria

Who knew bacteria could be good?

Healthy bacteria can actually help by converting the ammonia in your fish tank into its comparatively harmless nitrogen compounds.

Every new tank faced the new tank syndrome!

A condition where the bacteria colonies are drastically reduced.

All you need to do is pick gravel from an older tank and add it into your new tank and voila!. Everything is great again.

Related Questions

How do you check ammonia levels in a fish tank? Most of the test kits cannot detect ammonia as the nitrogen cycle proceeds the ammonia become undetectable. Hence, when your fish start dying, its time to take out the ammonia kits to test for ammonia.

How frequently should I clean my fish tank? You should clean your tank at the very least twice a month. This will include cleaning the filters, the water as well as the gravel. If your tank seems abnormally dirty for some reason, it’s time to bring out the cleaning tools.

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