If you want to keep your school happy and healthy, and your aquascape thriving, you need to check the pH and nutrient levels regularly.
Failing to keep an eye on the acidity levels could lead to your fish getting sick, algae growing out of control, or bacteria being able to develop -- which requires far more work than monitoring the pH level in your water regularly.
A suitable pH measuring device is going to give you fast, accurate results, and let you compare those results to what you’ve already recorded. Having a stable baseline measurement to base your decisions off of is critical to maintaining a thriving ecosystem.
5 Of The Best pH Meters For Hydroponics In 2019
Now that you know how we’ve compared each of the different pH meters available in 2019, it’s time to start showing you what we think the best are.
Below are 5 of the top-rated pH and water quality testers we’ve been able to find.
Each passed both our tests and the tests of customers who purchased before you and left valuable feedback based on their experiences.
1. Apera Instruments Electronic pH Tester - Easy auto
The Apera Instruments electronic pH tester is, by far, the best pH pen we’ve found.
It features an automatic calibration feature with built-in buffer recognition and automatic temperature recognition, so you get accurate readings at the temperature you maintain in your tank.
In testing, it provides consistent results even as the batteries begin to drain. It is powered by AAA batteries and has a large digital display for easy readouts.
- Highest rated pH pen available.
- Automatic calibration.
- Built-in thermometer.
- Large digital display
- Slightly on the expensive side
2. Dr. Meter pH100-V Pocket Size pH Meter - Convenient ph
Dr. Meter pH100-V is another good pocket-sized pH meter. The main difference between this and the Apera Instruments is that the Dr. Meter doesn’t automatically self-calibrate.
Dr. Meter does include packets of calibration solution at various pH levels to ensure you’re getting an accurate reading, so you want to make sure you’ve gone through the steps to calibrate the pen before you start testing your tank water.
Once calibrated, it is highly accurate and can test your water at your tank’s temperature, instead of having to wait until the water reaches a specific temperature.
- Meter Includes Calibration Solution.
- Highly Accurate.
- Reads At The Current Temperature.
- Requires Calibration Before Using.
3. Cakie Digital pH Meter - Wide Use
For a “cheap” pH meter, the Cakie Digital pH meter is one of the better ones available.
It’s routinely knocked off by other competitors and has been available for a few years, so getting assistance from the manufacturer -- or a replacement in case yours is broken -- isn’t too hard to do.
While it is incredibly sensitive, and labs around the world have come to rely on it for quick testing, we’ve found that sometimes it can be too sensitive.
This is only an issue for smaller tanks.
Larger tanks aren’t nearly as susceptible to extreme fluctuations in pH levels.
- Incredibly Sensitive And Accurate.
- Used By Labs Around The World.
- Backed By The Manufacturer Guarantee.
- Need To Ensure You're Buying An Authentic Cakie Meter.
4. Membrane Solutions Digital pH Water Quality Tester - Fast And Accurate
Membrane Solutions is relatively new to the market but have built their digital pH meter specifically with aquarists in mind. The electrode is capable of measuring the full range, from 0 to 14 pH, and automatically adjusts based on temperature.
The smaller size makes it compact, so it doesn’t take up a ton of space in your cabinet or drawer, and the display is as straightforward as it gets.
The only readout provided is pH, so if you’re looking for water temperature, too, you might want to look into one of the higher-end, like the Dr. Meter or Apera Instruments.
- The Compact Size Makes It Easy To Store.
- Capable Of Measuring A Full Range, 0 To 14.
- Large Display Is Easy To Read.
- Only Provides PH Reading.
5. CityFarmer TDS Hydroponic Nutrient Meter - Accurate And Reliable
The CityFarmer TDS Hydroponic Nutrient Meter is one of the only meters that can accurately test distilled and reverse osmosis water. If you’ve used distilled in your tank, the CityFarmer TDS can give you accurate readings.
It can help you dial in trouble areas and auto-senses the temperature, adjusting the readout based on your tank’s current temperature, instead of requiring a room temp.
You do need to know ahead of time that the TDS measures parts-per-million instead of giving a direct pH readout. If you’re not familiar with the difference, the instructions will help you convert the TDS to a pH reading.
- Automatically Senses And Adjusts To Temperature
- The Sensor Works With Distilled Water.
- Easy To Read Display.
- Measures ppm Instead Of Direct PH.
How We Judge The “Best” Digital pH Meters
With so many different meters to choose from, ranging from the low-end cheap aquarium pH tester to the ultra-high-end lab testing equipment, it can be hard to pick one that you know will work for what you need it for -- and won’t bust your budget.
We’ve looked at a wide range of the testers available and ran them through a variety of tests, using factors that we believe are most important.
Below are a small handful of the criteria we kept in mind when making our recommendations.
Standard Range vs. Extended RangeThere are two types of pH meters, standard range, and extended range. For most people’s tanks, a standard range tester is going to be more than sufficient. It ranges pH between 0 and 14, while extended ranges (as the name implies) measures outside of the standard 0 to 14.
Accuracy & Consistency
Ease Of Operation
Unless you’re operating on a large scale, such as commercial breeding operations, a standard range is more than enough to get you by.
When you’re testing the water, the temperature plays a significant role in how effective the test is going to be, and how accurate the results are. We recommend purchasing a meter that has an automatic temperature sensing feature to help avoid potentially misleading results or inaccurate samples altogether.
Without having a temperature compensation feature, the tester may require you to leave the water at room temperature before it’s able to obtain a reading.
Even though managing your aquarium may not require the same level of accuracy as performing laboratory tests, you still need accurate results every single time you use the meter.
We’ve verified that each of our recommendations is accurate to within .002 units to guarantee you’re not going to potentially upset the ecosystem in your tank by adding too many or offsetting too few nutrients or chemicals.
While many of the “fancy” meters do have a ton of extra features, navigating your way through those features (and understanding the readouts) is like getting a college degree, in some cases.
We also wanted to ensure that the meters we recommend come equipped with everything you need to test under a wide variety of conditions.
Some meters expect you to pay extra for different electrodes, for instance, where the “best” will give them all to you with your original purchase.
There’s no point in spending your hard-earned money on a tool that’s going to break down after a few uses, or saving a few bucks to get a “better deal”, only to find out that the tester breaks as soon as you use it and the company is nowhere to be found when it comes time to ask for a replacement.
Each of our recommendations was thoroughly tested in real-world scenarios, used, and abused, to ensure that it won’t let you down when you need it -- or leave you scrambling to find a replacement or get help from the manufacturer months down the road.
Budget is one of the primary factors we’ve considered, weighing it against the features offered by the manufacturer.
Since most aquarists are hobbyists, it doesn’t make sense to spend hundreds of dollars on lab-grade equipment that may only be used a few times a month.
Simple meters that have the features you need, while being priced competitively were immediately ranked higher than more expensive models that were price-padded by added features that may never be used.
Having additional features, outside of accurate testing capabilities, is an area we reserved for last because, while some may make life easier, they’re not always required.
While it may be convenient to have the ability to connect to a computer or have Bluetooth connectivity, these features usually end up costing more money for and aren’t used nearly as often as you think they would be before you bought the tester in the first place.
So, What Is The Best pH Meter In 2019?
After pouring through hundreds of different water quality testers, we’ve found out that the Apera Instruments is, by far, the best, most accurate pH meter available. While it is slightly more expensive than the rest, the quality shows, and price directly reflects the quality.
Behind that, Dr. Meter pH100-V is our second choice, and slightly less expensive.
It’s hard to go wrong with either one, so you’ll want to base your personal decision on what other customers have said, who have used it similar situations to you. We only recommend what we think are the best, then let you decide based on your own specific needs!