Test Kits - How to get good results

Test kits play an important factor in our aquariums and are a "must have" as a part of kit for your aquarium and plays 2 primary functions:-

Fish Safe Water

It sounds so simple but your water could be killing them. Test kits not only measure water parameters but when water parameters reach certain levels they can be toxic to your fish. Even if they do not reach toxic levels - elevated levels can increase stress in a fish and stress is usually a major contributor to diseases as it lowers immunity. It is very important to have a test kit on hand as catching issues in their early stages is very important - the longer it is left the worse it becomes. Regular testing is a good idea as well as testing as soon as you notice something abnormal happening in the tank - catch it early - catch it quickly - fix it quickly.

Problem Solving

It helps determine probable issues as well as water quality. When you have an issue with your aquarium a good test kit will do one of two things - it will either identify an issue to be resolved or it will eliminate issues to be resolved. There can be a number of different reasons why there is an issue with your aquarium or why a fish died and a good way is to get some direction. What I mean by this is - is the problem that you have water parameter related. Do the tests. For example - did the fish die because of poor water conditions, did it have a disease or did it die from old age or aggression in the tank. A test kit will help identify or eliminate the issue.

One of the most popular test kits for freshwater is the API Master Freshwater Test Kit and if you can not find your users manual here is a link for you.
API Master Fresh Water Test Kit User Instructions.

Why can't I get the test kit right - is it faulty?

On of the main things I can not stress enough is read the manual that comes with the test kit! If you want to have a correct result be precise. One of the big issues with tests is that if you want a correct reading there are the do's and don'ts.

  • Do make sure the test kit vial (test tube) and cap is clean to start with.
  • Do not cross contaminate - if the vial or the lid has residue from another test it can effect the result.
  • Keep the regent nozzle clean.
  • Hold the regent upright (vertical) to get equal sized drops.
  • Check the manual to see if the regent bottle requires shaking prior to testing and if so how long?
  • Check the manual to see how long it takes for the result (some test kits are not immediate and require a number of minutes to get a correct result.)
  • Store your test kit in a cool dry place.
  • Make sure the test kit has not expired
  • When using colour charts the tube should be viewed in a well-lit area against the white area of the chart.
  • Don't put your finger over the top of the tube and shake - use the cap supplied with the test tube.
  • When using test strips hold the strip horizontally to avoid cross contamination.
  • Correct quantity of water to be tested. (fill to the line not above or below)

Ammonia not reading correct -

A common question we get asked is I have high ammonia and added a ammonia remover but my test kit is still showing the same amount of ammonia.

There are different types of test kits and the most common is salicylate-based ammonia test kit. In plain English, most ammonia removers do not remove ammonia immediately. What they do is bind the ammonia into a less toxic form which then will eventually be taken up as a food source for the bacteria in your filter which then eliminates it. Until this happens and in its bound less toxic form it is still ammonia and salicylate test kits do not know the difference between the less toxic form of Ammonia and the Toxic form of Ammonia, they just read total Ammonia.

Also keep in mind with the API Ammonia Test kit after adding the regents, cap the test tube & shake vigorously for 5 seconds then wait 5 minutes for the colour to develop

API Nitrate Test Kit common issue -

One of the main problems with the API Nitrate test kit is when the important procedure in the user manual is not followed and this has a major impact on the results.

Vigorously shake the Nitrate Test Solution #2 for at least 30 seconds. This step is extremely important to insure accuracy of test results. Also wait 5 minutes the result to develop.