Water testing kits - product reviews

Discussion in 'General Discussions' started by A new day, Aug 6, 2019.

  1. A new day

    A new day

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    I've used 3 different water testing systems and have done some experiments with them (using all three at the same time, and comparing to lfs), so thought I'd share. Would also really like to know what others use and recommend, and why. Especially for cycling a new tank.

    1) Sera liquid test kits for pH, Ammonia, Nitrites (NO2) and Nitrates (NO3). Glass vials to which you add various reagents, with colour charts for interpretation.
    Advantages:
    - Liquid test kits are generally reliable. My readings correlated with those of the LFS.
    - Sera is a good German brand and it is readily available in stores in SA.
    - It tests the most important water quality factors when cycling a new tank.
    - It measures ammonium and then you use a table to work out the levels of free toxic ammonia in your tank based on the pH.
    Disadvantages:
    - A bit fiddly (opening and closing so many bottles, shaking every bottle etc).
    - I've struggled with opening some of the bottles (some nozzles) and had to use a thumb tack to pierce a hole, this made me question the size of the opening and possible reliability.
    - Time consuming (e.g. most take 5 mins to develop before reading), the whole deal takes me about 10 mins including rinsing the vials and packing everything away.
    - Takes up a fair bit of space in the fish drawer as there is a separate kit for 'element'
    - I have to use it when my toddler is not around as it all looks just so interesting and tempting :)
    Verdict: This is what I started with and what I still use. I suppose liquid tests are the gold standard.

    2) JBL Proscan system (not to be confused with normal JBL test strips) - uses a free app on your smartphone to scan in and interpret special test strips. You buy the starter pack with 24 test strips and a colour chart to put the test strip on before scanning with your phone. There is a recharge pack available with 24 more strips.
    Advantages:
    - Very quick (1 min) and easy which is useful when wanting to test before going to work etc when cycling a new tank. E.g. when you see the NO2 spike you can quickly add Prime.
    - Accurate - correlates well with Sera liquid test kits. JBL is also a good German brand.
    - Readings for NO2, NO3, Clorine, pH, KH, GH and CO2.
    - Finer calibration than Sera. E.g. instead of eyeballing the vial and estimating that your nitrates are 50, it will tell you whether it's 40 or 60. This will also be perfect for someone with colour blindness or someone who really struggles with colour nuances.
    - The app tells you whether or not your reading is a problem, and offers potential solutions (pushing JBL products of course). It shows where your reading lies on the green zone, orange zone and red zone.
    Disadvantages:
    - Does not test for ammonia, which is a bit of a bummer so you'll have to use a liquid test for ammonia anyway.
    - If your pH is below 6 it will simply say <6 so you won't know how far below 6 it is, so you'll have to use a liquid test under those circumstances.
    - Not as readily available at lfs in SA
    - A bit on the pricey side and only 24 strips per pack. You can't use the normal JBL test strips even though they look identical. I've done the experiment - you get a reading but it's nonsense.
    Verdict: I think this is a great product. Not using it at the moment because I'm struggling to find a recharge pack and don't want to buy another starter pack.

    3) JBL test strips
    Advantages:

    - Quick and easy (1 min)
    - Readings for NO2, NO3, Clorine, pH, KH, GH and CO2.
    Disadvantages:
    - Does not correlate with Sera liquid test kits or JBL proscan so I seriously question reliability.
    - Does not test for ammonia
    Verdict: I don't use it at all because I seriously question reliability

    What else is out there? Pros and cons?
     
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  3. Slade

    Slade

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    Great write up and I'm following for any further comparisons/discussions since I haven't tested many let alone settled on one I like.
     
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  4. Whoknows

    Whoknows

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    JBL make there own liquid test kit. Linked below I've always wounded how it compares to the Sera liquid test kits but I can barely afford one of them (IMO test kits are too expensive for something we use often)
    I don't trust there test strips either. Used them and got a no2 reading of 7 in a fully cycled tank with frequent water changes and not a very heavy stocking

    Forgot to link
    https://rebelpets.co.za/shop/all-products/fish/water-testing/jbl-test-combi-set-plus-nh4/
     
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  5. T. Guppy

    T. Guppy

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    Very interesting thread! I use the Sera quick test strips and so far no issues.. (minus the pea soup). Granted I do weekly water changes anyways so I don't really rely on the test strips that much
     
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  6. Cale24

    Cale24

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    Thanks, good idea.
    I have all Tetra liquid test kits, and JBL KH/ GH liquid tests, but I've not compared against data I know for a fact is very accurate. I've compared PH against a digital high end sampler and that's been inline for the most part.
    Also have a Waterlife liquid PH tester and it seems ok and compares well with the Tetra PH test, but some people have said the brand isn't great?

    The Tetra ones seem to work pretty well, although tend to give a false positive for Ammonia. Doesn't have the Ammonium benefit of Sera so would not advise it over that.
    The rectangular plastic vials I suppose prevent rolling off tables?
    JBL liquid tests are pretty good, with large vials and the brand in general is known to be pretty good.

    I've read API are good too but we don't get the brand down here in CT as far as I am aware.
     
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  7. OP
    A new day

    A new day

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    Yes the JBL strips seem to be all over the place. Eg it told me my NO2 was 0 when in fact it was still 0,5 according to the 2 other systems. Quite a crucial difference- one would think your tank is cycled when it’s not.

    So do you also currently use Sera liquid?
    The JBL liquid kit looks good, thanks for the link. Seems well put together.
     
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  8. OP
    A new day

    A new day

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    Are the Tetra kits you use also separate kits like the Sera, or 1 full kit like API? Yes it seems as if the Americans swear by API but I haven’t seen it locally either.
     
  9. OP
    A new day

    A new day

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    I’m the opposite :lol:I probably go way overboard with testing and even log it on a spreadsheet (at least for a new tank). :rolleyes: Will probably ease off on the testing once my tanks have matured and I’ve gained some more experience.

    I would like to aim for less frequent water changes once the tanks have matured, but to do that I’d like to know what’s happening with the water. And therefore I need to feel confident in the testing system.
     
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  10. Cale24

    Cale24

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    Yeah mine are all separate kits, as far as I know Tetra don't sell an all-in-one set like JBL or Sera? I ended up adding more as I went, so did them separately, but if I were to start over I'd likely buy a full Sera/ JBL set.
    Always heard test strips are only useful as a general gauge of parameters and have not used any myself - only liquid.

    Someone said API products were available in Durban but can't confirm?
     
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  11. OP
    A new day

    A new day

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    My Sera is also separate kits, not one full kit.

    I should actually do a proper price calc, I think. The separate Sera kits are not cheap either and perhaps the JBL proscan plus an ammonia test might actually work out cheaper for someone starting from scratch.
     
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  12. Whoknows

    Whoknows

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    I used those JBL strips while cycling made it harder then it needed to be but its done now ;)

    I'm currently using a regular maintance schedule:eek: no test kits until I can afford replacements... (Will hopefully be Sera) Still think they should be cheaper as it would get more people using good quality kits :thumbup:
     
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  13. Whoknows

    Whoknows

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    You can import your own API off Amazon if you want but it won't be much cheaper then buying something locally:(
     
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  14. Nico Hamman

    Nico Hamman

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    Salifert kits. Easy to use and accurate.
     
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  15. Adam K

    Adam K

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    I tried the JBL smartscan for my Tanganyikan tank. Seems to get very different readings each time to my Sera, so it's a problem. Nico why did you decide on Salifert kits? Is this for freshwater too?
     
  16. Nico Hamman

    Nico Hamman

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    Yup, Salifert is also for freshwater. I started using Salifert on my marine tanks mang years ago. Accurate and easy to use.

    An actual study was done comparing it with high end laboratory testing. Salifert came out tops.
     
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  17. David Kusner

    David Kusner

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    Great thread @A new day this type of information is very usefull and educational.

    But I agree with @Whoknows kits are very expensive in SA and continues ongoing testing gets very expensive.

    In my own opinion I have never been big on testing water paramters and I guess that perhaps having kept fish for so many years you learn things eventually over time that does not require continuous testing. Also if you are confident with your setups in terms of filtration and stocking and feeding etc..then test almost becomes obsolete.

    Again in my own opinion and experience testing freshwater in GP for Ph levels is not really going to tell you very much unless you keep a very sensitive species or are planning to breed and need specific Ph paramters to achieve this. Same applies to water hardness.

    I think the most important thing to test for is ammonia and nitrate. These are the "trigger" parameters that can cause tank crashes and fish fatalities. So I always advice new hobbyists to read up on amonia cycles and spikes and if you are considering buying a test kit then at the least purchase one specifically for amonia test.

    I am no scientist or chemist and so I understand the basic parameters required to keep a eco system alive and thriving. All test kits are probably generally designed with this in mind and so also not 100% accurate but good enough for what we need them to do.

    I also agree with the comments on test strips, you may as well purchase pool test strip kits and use them just to check Ph if you really need to, other wise I also agree they are very expensive in SA and not worth the money. Rather spend the same money on a bottle of prime or safe.

    SAFE is the only chemical I currently use for water changes with water straight out the tap and dont ever experience any fatalities. When in doubt on ammonia based on water smell and taste (Lol only kidding about taste ) and general fish behaviors or over feeding mistakes, I add seachem SAFE.

    Sent from my SM-N960F using Tapatalk
     
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  18. Adam K

    Adam K

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    Yup.

    For Tanganyikan and a couple of sensitive species in still keen on using with water changes but over time you can read the requirements instinctively.

    Is your Salifert test kit the comprehensive one for Marines?
     
  19. OP
    A new day

    A new day

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    OK so I've done a quick price comparison.

    For the Sera liquid test kits I've used Jungle Aquatics current prices on their website:
    - pH R160 for 100 measurements, i.e. R1,60 for each measurement
    - Ammonia R395 for 60 measurements, i.e. R6,58 per measurement
    - NO2 R225 for 75 measurements, i.e. R3 per measurement
    - NO3 R295 for 60 measurements, i.e. R4,92 per measurement
    I.e. each time I test the pH, Ammonia, NO2 and NO3 on a tank it costs me R16,10.
    Buying these 4 test kits will cost R1075.

    The JBL proscan starter pack costs R495 (Jungle Aquatics) for 24 strips, i.e. R18,13 per strip. This measures NO2, NO3, Clorine, pH, KH, GH and CO2 but not ammonia. If I add Sera ammonia test (R6,58) it comes out as almost R25.
    The JBL proscan recharge pack costs R300 (Fruugo) for 24 strips, i.e. R12,50 per strip. If I add Sera ammonia test (R6,58) it comes out as R19.

    The normal JBL Quickstrips (doesn't test for ammonia) cost R360 for 24 strips i.e. R15/strip i.e. comparable to using my 4 Sera kits to test water. Adding Sera ammonia to this brings it to R21,60. Very interesting that it is thus more expensive than Sera and not even reliable... Myth busted I think.

    Prices for the Salifert test kits came from https://www.test-kit.org/ but I'm not sure how many measurements per kits so couldn't work out unit prices. @Nico Hamman do you know how many measurements per kit?
    - pH R180
    - Ammonia R230
    - NO2 R170
    - NO3 R256
    I.e. R836 for all 4 kits (i.e. potentially cheaper than Sera, depending on how many measurements you'll get out of it). @Nico Hamman keeps discus so I would reckon his standards are high when it comes to accuracy.
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2019
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  20. Nico Hamman

    Nico Hamman

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    PH around 60 tests.
    Ammonia - 50 tests.
    Nitrate is 50 tests.
    Nitrite is 50 tests.

    That is if I recall correctly.
     
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  21. Cale24

    Cale24

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    I looked out for Salifert at a few LFS recently and didn't see the brand anywhere, unless I missed them somehow. Anyone know if they are available in CT?
    Or are they perhaps a marine focussed kit that one would find at marine specialist places?

    I don't need any kits right now, just interested for the next time I do buy.
     

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