If you are looking for the best way to test aquarium water, you have found the right guide.
Today, we’re going to break down a dozen+ different aquarium test kits and water quality test kits to help determine which is right for your specific environment.
We’ve done the hard work for you so you can focus on doing what you love: maintaining a beautiful, healthy, and thriving ecosystem for your fish, corals, plants, and invertebrates.
What Are The Best Aquarium Test Kits?
Below are comparisons for each of the different aquarium test kits we investigated. Please note that these are presented in no particular order. We recommend each of these test kits in different situations, based on your specific needs.
1. API Freshwater Aquarium Master Testing Kit - Helps Monitor water quality
If you want to avoid the hassle of putting together an entire aquarium test kit on your own, the API Freshwater Aquarium Master Testing Kit is one of the best aquarium test kit packages we have found.The kit is specific to freshwater systems and includes everything you need to monitor your water’s quality. Inside, you get seven bottles of solutions to test the water, along with a diagnosing color card and four glass vials to separate your results.
- The kit contains everything you need in one place.
- The color card makes it easy to diagnose potential problem areas.
- The kit does not come with a holder for your testing tubes.
2. API Freshwater And Saltwater Aquarium 5-In-1 Test Strips -accurate Ph Tester for fish water
If you’re only looking for a set of aquarium test strips that gives you a rough idea of your water’s quality, the API Freshwater and Saltwater Aquarium 5-In-1 test strips could be precisely what you need.
They can quickly measure the level of nitrates, nitrites, calcium hardness and pH levels in your tank. The only downside is that these strips do not measure the ammonia levels.
- Provides quick and semi-accurate results to give you a general idea of your water’s quality.
- Economical and affordable packaging makes quick testing easy to do.
- The results are nearly instantaneous.
- The included strips do not test for ammonia levels.
- You may have slight difficulties determining the exact colors against the included chart.
3. Tetra Test Strips - 6-In-1 Strips For Fresh & Saltwater - clean method to check water quality
If you are looking for a planted aquarium test kit, the Tetra test strips are a great deal. They’re a 6-in-1 test strip, helping you quickly identify potential problem areas in your water’s quality. You can receive the results within 60 seconds of dipping the piece into your tank.You can use the strips to test everything from chlorine, nitrites, nitrates, hardness, alkalinity, and pH. Each package comes with 25 test strips, making this one of the most affordable aquarium test kits currently available.
- The test strips are easy to read.
- The results occur in less than 60 seconds.
- The strips test the most common problem areas in your tank.
- You will need to altogether remove the label to see the color chart.
4. Seachem Ammonia Alert System - ideal For marine and freshwater use
If you need to accurately test for ammonia and want to guarantee you are getting the most accurate results possible, the Seachem Alert Series Ammonia Alert test kit is exactly what you need.
This ammonia test kit provides a more accurate reading compared to test strips. Test strips are primarily used to spot potential problems while the Seachem ammonia test kit and give you the exact ammonia levels in your tank.
- The test kit provides a more accurate reading than test strips.
- The test kit is easy to use; the included instructions help you get quick readings.
- The kit is based on Seachem’s Sensor Technology.
- This is an ammonia-specific test kit; it does not test other nutrient levels.
5. Red Sea Aiptasia-X Eliminator Kit - easy to use
The Red Sea Aiptasia-X Eliminator Kit is more than just a test kit. If you have a problem with glass anemones building up in your tank’s water, you could benefit from the eliminator kit. It is primarily designed to help you monitor the Aiptasia levels in your water.The biggest issue for people who keep saltwater aquariums with live rocks and corals is that Aiptasia levels can grow to uncontrollable levels. When this happens, your live rocks and corals will begin to suffer. The kit includes everything you need to help eliminate Aiptasia.
- The test and elimination kit is easy to use and comes with detailed instructions.
- The kit provides you with instantaneous results.
- Some customers have complained about receiving inaccurate readouts.
- The plunger may need to be replaced, depending on how often you use the kit.
6. Seachem Stability Water Stabilizer - safely establishes bio-filter
Whether you are operating a freshwater environment or a saltwater environment, you can use Seachem’s Stability water stabilizer solution. It is designed to keep your environment safe and helps to break down the potentially harmful nutrients in your water.Stabilizer, if you have never used it before, will help decontaminate your water by breaking down organic waste, nitrites and nitrates, as well as ammonia. This gives your livestock, corals, live rock, and plants a healthy environment where they can thrive.
- The stabilizer is easy to use and does not create overdosing situations.
- You can get quick results by using just a small amount of the solution.
- This stabilizer is excellent for new tanks and freshwater cycle schedules.
- The stabilizer is expensive, so you’ll want to use it sparingly.
7. Instant Ocean Water Test Hydrometer - Great accurate hydrometer test
A hydrometer, if you aren’t familiar, can help you quickly test the salt levels in your saltwater aquarium. It also enables you to measure the specific gravity levels in your tank.The test kit is designed to keep your hands dry, so you don’t potentially contaminate your results. The hydrometer features an easy to read scale to give you accurate results.
- This is one of the more economical hydrometer and salt testing kits available.
- The design of the kit helps keep your hands dry and eliminates contamination.
- The kit is compact and easy to store when you’re not using it.
- Depending on your situation, some customers have complained about inaccurate results.
8. Stript Health 7-In-1 Aquarium Test Strips - fast results
Stript Health is a company that has long been known for producing high-quality products and water testing kits. The Stript Health 7-In-1 Aquarium Test Strips are no different. They are designed to help you quickly identify problem areas in your tank’s water.You can use the test strips to determine your carbonate levels, your water’s alkalinity and pH levels, the general calcium hardness, amount of free chlorine, nitrites and nitrates, as well as ammonia levels.
- The test strips are affordably packaged and economical to use.
- The instructions make it easy to identify potential problem areas.
- You can see the results on the strip within 60 seconds after dipping.
- Some customers have complained the colors bleed into each other, creating potentially inaccurate readouts.
9. JNW Direct 7-In-1 Aquarium Test Strips - great quality tester
JNW Direct is another company that has developed a reputation for manufacturing high-quality products. Their 7-In-1 Aquarium Test Strips do not break that mold. They are designed to give you quick readings of potential problem areas and do the job well.After dipping a strip into your tank’s water, you can quickly identify your water’s alkalinity, carbonate levels, chlorine levels, hardness level, level of nitrates and nitrites, as well as your water’s pH level. If you notice issues, you can begin to rectify the problems in your tank.
- Each package includes 150 test strips, making this an affordable option.
- The test strips are easy to read.
- Some customers have complained about inaccurate test results.
10. Salifert Calcium Water Test Kit - provides accurate calcium levels
If you need to test the calcium levels inside of your reef tank, the Salifert Calcium Water Test Kit is one of the best reef test kits available in 2019. Each package can perform between 50 to 100 tests, based on the level of accuracy you want to obtain.
- The test kit is easy to use with detailed instructions to receive accurate results.
- Your results are returned within 60 seconds after running the test.
- Depending on how many times you use it, this could be an expensive testing kit.
11. Pinpoint American Marine ORP Monitor - extremely easy to set-up
If you are looking for the best electronic aquarium water testing kits, the Pinpoint American Marine ORP Monitor helps you quickly identify the ORP levels in your tank’s water. ORP, if you aren’t familiar, is oxidation-reducing potential.
ORP helps you identify the level of oxidation in your tank if you use external oxidizers, such as potassium permanganate.
- This is a high-quality electronic water testing kit explicitly designed for ORP.
- The monitor provides quick and accurate results.
- Customers have complained that calibrating the device can be challenging to do.
12. Salifert Magnesium Test Kit - consistent test kit
The Salifert Magnesium test kit is specifically designed to help you monitor and maintain magnesium levels inside of your aquarium. Each package can be used for up to 50 tests, but we recommend running two test strips at a time to guarantee accurate readings.If your water’s quality is continuously in flux and you are trying to get a handle on it, properly testing for magnesium while monitoring alkalinity levels is critical. This test is designed solely for use in saltwater tanks.
- The test kit is easy to use and provides fast feedback on your magnesium levels.
- The kit is only for use in saltwater tanks. Not recommended for freshwater systems.
- The results can be hard to read, so we recommend using two strips at a time.
13. API Saltwater Master Test Kit - Economical
The API Saltwater Master Test Kit is one of the best nitrate test kits currently available. If you want to maintain a healthy and thriving saltwater environment, the package can help you quickly identify potential problem areas that need to be addressed.
The kit includes everything you need to test your saltwater environment. You can monitor your pH range, ammonia levels, nitrite and nitrate levels, as well as hardness and free chlorine. For saltwater systems, the API Saltwater Master Test Kit could be all you need to spot trouble areas.
- The test kit is easy to use and provides accurate readings.
- The multipurpose kit can quickly identify most trouble areas.
- Because this is an all-in-one kit, it is more expensive than others.
Aquarium Test Kit Types
To properly maintain your freshwater or saltwater aquarium, there are 11 different test kits that you may need to use.
Each of these 11 different types of test kits includes:
- Alkalinity Testing
- Ammonia Testing
- Calcium Testing
- Chloramine Testing
- Chlorine Testing
- Copper Testing
- Iodine Testing
- Magnesium Testing
- Nitrate Testing
- Nitrite Testing
- pH Testing
alkalinityAlkalinity refers to how the pH levels are shifting or remaining stable in your fish tank. If you want to maintain a thriving environment, you need to maintain a pH level of 7 to 12. Measuring your water’s alkalinity helps you determine where your pH levels are sitting and what you may need to do to stabilize them.
ammoniaAn ammonia test kit helps determine how busy your fish have been excreting waste. When a fish eats, they will process the food and leave behind debris and byproducts. This waste can raise your ammonia levels, creating potentially harmful situations. High ammonia levels are one of the most common causes of fish dying. An ideal environment will contain zero ammonia.
calciumIf you are running a saltwater aquarium, you will be required to maintain healthy calcium levels. If your calcium levels get low (or high), you could be creating a dangerous environment for your fish while also depriving your corals of their required nutrients.
Chloramine occurs when the ammonia and chlorine levels are high enough to begin creating chloramine as a byproduct. Chloramine is incredibly toxic to your fish, so testing for it regularly can help save you a ton of frustration down the road.You want to use a chloramine test kit to verify that this toxic byproduct is not being produced in your water.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re keeping a freshwater aquarium or a saltwater aquarium. If you are using tap water to refill and cycle your water, you are going to have chlorine that needs to be removed or cleaned.High chlorine levels can be toxic to your fish, plants, corals, and invertebrates. Consistently adding a chlorine test to your regular maintenance schedule is highly advised.
Copper is a nutrient that is not required by anything you can place into your tank. Fish, plants, corals, and invertebrates do not utilize copper, so you want to make sure you are removing it.If you have old pipes in your home or you are using water that has been passed through copper pipes, you will notice your water’s copper levels increase. Before adding this water to your tank, you need to measure the copper levels and then remove the metals if found.
Iodine is something that you’re going to commonly experience when you are maintaining a saltwater fish tank. In saltwater tanks with corals or invertebrates, iodine will be a requirement and need to be supplemented if your iodine levels drop too low.Iodine is essential in saltwater tanks and must be checked regularly. You do want to avoid adding too much of the nutrient into your water, though. Too much iodine can create a harmful environment. If your levels are too high, you will need to cycle in new water.
Naturally-occurring magnesium in saltwater environments typically ranges between 1,200 parts-per-million and 1,400 parts-per-million. You should work to maintain these same natural levels inside of your saltwater tank.A magnesium test kit will help identify where your magnesium levels are at and whether, or not, you need to supplement the nutrient (if your levels are low) or cycle in new water (if your levels are high).
The nitrates in your water are nutrients that get converted into nitrites during a naturally-occurring cycling process. While nitrates are not as harmful as ammonia, they can still create toxic environments to your fish when they reach high levels.A nitrate test kit will help you maintain ideal levels. In a thriving environment, your nitrate levels will remain below 20 parts-per-million. Once your nitrates go above 20 parts-per-million, you could be dealing with toxic water that needs to either be cycled or wholly replaced.
Nitrites are a byproduct that occurs when bacteria in your tank begin transferring ammonia into nitrates and then convert those nitrates into nitrites. Nitrites, at nearly any level, are always toxic to your fish. Once they reach higher levels, they will become lethal, and your fish, corals, invertebrates, and plants will die.Testing for nitrites levels in your water can help you get ahead of potential problems and diagnose why the nitrites began occurring in the first place. When your nitrites levels get too high, you will be required to do a complete water refresh. Cycling isn’t enough.
Taking measuring the alkalinity levels in your tank one step further, a pH test gives you a more accurate visual for what you are working with. pH levels in your water will range from 0 to 14. 0 is considered a highly-acidic environment, while seven is deemed to be neutral and 14 is highly-alkaline.Your fish, corals, invertebrates, and plants will all require a specific pH level in the water. Maintaining this level is critical to keeping them happy, healthy, and thriving in the aquascape you have created for them.
Aquarium Test Kit Frequently Asked Questions
Maintaining a healthy ecosystem can become a full-time job all on its own. When you understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, the frustrating times move into the past and maintaining your tank becomes more natural to do.
We’ve collected a dozen of the most frequently asked questions that pertain specifically to maintaining your aquarium’s water quality. If you’re wondering why testing is so important, hopefully, the questions below will give you the clarity you need.
What do I need to test in my aquarium?
The elements you will need to test for in your aquarium’s water differs significantly between freshwater and saltwater environments. In both situations, you will need to monitor the water’s chemistry to ensure it is consistently delivering what your livestock, plants, and corals need.
At a fundamental level, you need to measure the hardness, ammonia, nitrates, and pH levels in your tank. Monitoring each of these elements will help you identify and get in front of potential problems before they create a hazardous environment.
How often should I test my water?
Once you understand what you should be looking for while testing, you will quickly realize how important it is to develop a consistent testing schedule. Properly maintaining the water in your tank is always easier than attempting to fix problems because you didn’t test often enough.
We advise testing your water at least once a week, using an all-in-one test kit. Paying attention to the different variables you’re checking for will let you run more in-depth tests if you notice issues. Then, you can move back to testing every two weeks or even once a month.
Can I use reverse osmosis in my tank?
Reverse osmosis water, or RO water, can be the right choice for your aquarium depending on your goals. While reverse osmosis water is more expensive than other types (like distilled, for instance), reverse osmosis can make your life easier.
Using RO water in your tank helps give you a natural baseline to build nutrients from. If you want to promote the healthiest and most natural development of your fish, corals, invertebrates, and plants, the added expense of reverse osmosis water may be worth it.
How do I minimize ammonia buildup?
Ammonia levels, by themselves, aren’t entirely toxic to your fish. However, when ammonia levels get too high, they can create byproducts (such as nitrates and nitrites) that will create toxic (even lethal) situations for your livestock.
If your ammonia level test comes back showing that your levels are climbing (or worse, already out of control), you have a few options to deal with removing the ammonia from your water.
You can start by swapping out half the water in your tank with freshly cycled water. You will also need to make sure that you are cleaning your gravel. Gravel helps contain bacteria that can produce the byproducts that create toxic environments.
You will also need to make sure you are removing anything that has begun to rot. This rotting creates higher levels of ammonia. Then, you will need to remove your filter, free it from any clogs, clean it properly, and determine if it is functioning correctly.
Next, you will want to look at your feeding schedule to make sure you aren’t overfeeding. Overfeeding creates large amounts of waste from your fish, and uneaten food can be broken down into bacteria that helps increase ammonia levels.
Finally, you will want to think about adding ammonia pellets to help absorb free ammonia. Then, remove extra food from your tank when you notice that it has gone uneaten. Fixing an ammonia problem in your tank can be done with the right approach.
What is the best type of water to use?
If you’re like most aquarium owners, you are typically going to revert to using tap water from your public water system. If you do use tap water, you will want to make sure you are leaving it out long enough for the chlorine to evaporate.
Another option is using reverse osmosis water. Reverse osmosis water is more expensive than tap water but is a much healthier option. It is worth noting, though, that reverse osmosis water will require more attention to detail until you have obtained balanced levels of nutrients in your tank. For freshwater tanks, using distilled or tap water is your best bet.
How can I drop my tank’s pH levels?
If the pH levels in your tank have come back out of the range that your fish, corals, invertebrates, or plants require, dropping the levels to a more suitable level is easy to do. You will want to start by swapping out old water for new water.
You can also lower your tank’s pH levels by including balanced water, adding in driftwood, certain types of moss, and plants that can help neutralize the water.
How often do I need to clean my tank?
To maintain a healthy environment for your fish and plants, you will want to develop a consistent cleaning and maintenance schedule. Having a regular schedule that you follow will help ward off most problems you could encounter.
However, if you test the water and see that a specific level is off, you will need to take a more dynamic approach to clean the tank. Cleaning at least twice a month is recommended. This includes vacuuming your gravel, removing your filter, and potentially swapping water.
You also want to make sure that you are staying on top of removing uneaten food and taking care of algae buildup when you notice it beginning to form.
How do I improve my tank’s water quality?
If you notice the quality of the water in your tank is beginning to diminish, clarifying potential problems is easy enough to do. Here are a few pointers to help improve your tank’s water quality.
Make sure that you are using a substrate that your livestock prefers. You also want to ensure you are maintaining a regular cleaning and testing schedule. When you notice problems beginning to happen, getting on top of them before they can get out of control is critical.
You can also consider adding plants to help process some of the harmful bacteria and nutrients in the water while replenishing the helpful bacteria and oxygen your fish require. Finally, you can use biological filter media to help improve your water quality.
How can I check the ammonia level in my tank?
Ammonia is an element that you’ll need to keep an eye on. Once you notice ammonia beginning to be produced, getting on top of it before it becomes a problem can save you a ton of time and money.
Testing with an ammonia kit will help identify where your ammonia levels are at and take precautions when you notice them beginning to climb. The opposite side of this equation is only testing when you start seeing fish and plants die off. That creates a massive problem for everything inside of your tank and should be avoided at all costs.
What level of nitrates is considered “safe”?
Nitrites and nitrates need to be removed from your water as soon as you notice them beginning to build up. High nitrites and nitrates can create toxic, even lethal, environments for your fish, plants, corals, and invertebrates.
While testing your water, if you notice that your nitrates are rising about 0.5 parts-per-million, you know that you have a potential problem on your hands. Once nitrates rise above 0.5 parts-per-million, you are creating a toxic environment for all living organisms in your tank.
What happens if my water is too cold?
For the most part, there are two types of fish: coldwater and tropical. Coldwater fish do not mind cooler temperatures. However, tropical fish can become lethargic and develop sickness or disease when your water levels become too cold.
You can mount a temperature monitor or thermometer to the inside of your tank to maintain a consistent visual on your water’s temperature. If you notice it becoming too cold for your tropical fish, you can purchase an external heater to raise the water’s temperature.
How does reverse osmosis affect pH levels?
Reverse osmosis water allows gases inside of the water to pass through it more effectively than other types of water. This means that RO’s water is typically in the 6.0 and 7.0 range. If you notice that your pH levels are out of sync, you can use reverse osmosis water to bring them closer to neutral more quickly.
Why are my fish starting to die?
If your fish are dying, the chances are high that you have let the levels of specific chemicals or nutrients become out of sync with what your fish require. There are a handful of reasons behind what is killing your fish.
Your water could contain ammonia levels that are too high, or your water’s pH levels have become out of sync. This creates either an acidic or alkaline environment that is out of the normal range for the fish you are keeping.
You could also be neglecting your water’s cycling requirements. Changing old water out with new water is essential in every tank.
Your fish could be stressed out by other tank mates or through being crowded. If you have a smaller aquarium and have included too many fish, your weaker fish will begin to die first.
Or, you could be overfeeding your fish. This creates a situation where they will eat themselves to death, or create too much waste which can pollute the water around them.
What Are The Best Aquarium Test Kits In 2019?
After sorting through dozens of different aquarium test kits and test strip products, we have found that the two best aquarium test kits in 2019 are from API.
The API Saltwater All-In-One Master Test Kit and the API Freshwater All-In-One Master Test Kit are the only two kits you need. Choose the one that meets your specific tank, and you will have everything you need to identify potential problems before they become hazardous.
Affiliate links & Images from Amazon Product Advertising API. Last update on 2019-12-07.
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