What test kits does a newbie need?

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by Cymen, Feb 1, 2015.

  1. Cymen

    Cymen Guest

    I'm a frugal person (*) that doesn't like to buy things twice and I've read that the API tests are pretty bad and the Salifert are good. Is that true? The part that confuses me is that there are quite a few Salifert tests and they all seem to be sold separately. So what do I really need? What is nice to have? Thanks!

    * Okay, fairly frugal -- I am into potentially expensive hobbies :).
  2. aqua-nut

    aqua-nut Supporting Member

    I use Salifert and like them. As to the actual tests, Ca, Alk, Mg, Nitrate, Phosphate (Hanna) are my go to, regular tests. pH is handled by my controller and a probe. I hate the test kit pH tests!

    As you are starting up a tank I'd have ammonia and possibly Nitrite. The problem being a frugal (aka, cheap) person too is there is rarely a long term need for ammonia and Nitrite. For me these two tests expire before I've used them 5 times!

    I've also been doing some thinking about the on-line/mail in Triton test. I might give this a try to act as a reality check for the testing I've been doing. It's expensive (~$40) so I'd only do it maybe once a year (see frugal above! :) )

    The other big question with testing is how often to test. I tend to test every month or so and then usually only Alk. When I get a real scientific bent, I'll do all five of my go to tests. That happens once every few months. o_O
  3. jonmos75

    jonmos75 Supporting Member

    I use the Red Sea Test Kits

    Reef Foundation (Ca/Alk/Mg)
    Algae Control (NO3/PO4)
    Reef Color (I/K/FE)....not as nessisary

    I also use Hanna Checkers (Alk & Phosphorus ULR)....the Phosphorus test result with math gets you your Phosphates...Hanna does make one for Phosphates, but the Phosphorus one is more accurate...
  4. bluprntguy

    bluprntguy Webmaster

    I actually like the API alkalinity test. It's quick and easy which means that you are more likely to test often. It's accurate enough. The other tests are pretty much rubbish.

    Actually, according to the Hanna website, they are both more or less the same accuracy, One just spits back the information in a different format. The Phosphate tester spits it back in a format that most aquarists are used to seeing.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2015
    Coral reefer likes this.
  5. Coral reefer

    Coral reefer President

    Red Sea are gonna be cheaper the salifert, and pretty much the same quality IMO. You can buy the refills rather than the whole kit again. Start w ca and alk. Maybe you will want phosphate and nitrate, although I don't have any nitrate kits I like. I use Hanna for phosphate. Also, not a kit but grab a refractometer.
  6. sfsuphysics

    sfsuphysics Supporting Member

    Depending upon where you tank is, I'd get API alkalinity and calcium just to check your tanks needs, then get others as issues arise, if you're good on water changes, and you don't have any algae issues (and don't have an algae eating fish) then I wouldn't worry about too much more. Nitrate kit if you have algae issues, not really keen on phosphate kits in general, and unless you are willing (and planning) to do something to aggressively attack the phosphates (i.e. using GFO) no reason to have a kit.
  7. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    The only item I think needs to be accurate is your refractometer. Make sure to calibrate it.

    API is fine for Calcium, Alk, and Nitrates.
    I think the deviation on what people consider ideal is larger than the test inaccuracy. ;)

    You will need Ammonia and Nitrite for initial tank startup, and perhaps quarantine tanks.
    API seems fine there also.

    I think the other tests (PH, Phosphates, and many more) are more for fun than useful.
  8. jonmos75

    jonmos75 Supporting Member

    Well I guess the first question we should have asked you (OP) was what type of water perimeters are you looking top achieve in your tank!!!!

    I agree I have used API and they work great unless you are trying to go with a ULNS (Ultra Low Nutrient System) which is what I run and the API test kit stops at 5ppm and when I tested my tank yesterday and my nitrates were 0.25ppm and you will never see that type accuracy as API, but it all depends on how Anal you want to get with your measurements .....

    I do disagree that Phosphates are a useful test..... as you need to test for them if you want to know what your Redfield ratio is....

    And after studding the Redfield ratio it has shown to me and my experience over the last year that it is almost spot on...example 3weeks ago I had 0.0 phosphates and 1.5 Nitrates and I was having green algae on the glass that I had to clean daily, 2weeks ago I tested and had 0.03 phosphates and 1.25 Nitrates and still had green algae on the glass but could go a two days with out cleaning, and now that I have 0.02 phosphates and 0.25 Nitrates (Redfield Ratio) I will probably be able to go 4-5days without having to clean my glass

    The long and the short is it depends on how often you want to test and how Anal you want to get about your nutrients in your tanks and what type of nutrient tank system you would like to run!!!
  9. wpeterson

    wpeterson Webmaster

    I would ask yourself what kind of reefer you are and how much you care about close accuracy of your tests.

    Most folks with reef tanks should be more concerned with stability and consistency over accurately exact levels for many things.

    The API test kits are less expensive and I find much easier to use than the Salifert or other tests. However, having easy tests means I use them more often. I own several more expensive and accurate tests kits, but I only use them for special occasions.

    If you're looking for a decent all around test, I would get the API Reef Master test (which has Alk, Calc, Nitrate, and Phosphate): http://www.amazon.com/API-Reef-Master-Test-Kit/dp/B001D6Z7QW

    If you are dosing anything, you should make sure you have a test kit for anything you dose.
  10. Cymen

    Cymen Guest

    Thanks to everyone -- I think that helps me out quite a bit. This is my first reef tank and I'm not going for anything specific yet (so not ULNS). Now I get why the API tests work for some people but not for others. It sounds like they would work fine for me as a beginner and now I know why I might want a different kit later on (but don't really need one now).
  11. jonmos75

    jonmos75 Supporting Member

    Yes use the API it works great and I have both sets and used them when I had to restart my tank and it had to go threw the cycle...and then decided to go to a ULNS so switched over to the Red Sea & Hanna test kits
  12. bluprntguy

    bluprntguy Webmaster

    The API phosphate test is basically useless for reefkeeping. I think the lowest reading is .1 or something. If you have .1 phosphates, my guess is that the hair algae covering every inch of your rocks would probably be as accurate an indicator as the API test.
    Coral reefer likes this.
  13. Cymen

    Cymen Guest

    Have you used the Red Sea phosphate test?
  14. Coral reefer

    Coral reefer President

    I've used them all, and while not perfect, I prefer the Hanna. Takes the color guessing out of the equation
  15. Enderturtle

    Enderturtle Volunteer

    My routine tests include Magnesium, Calcium and Alkalinity.

    When things aren't looking good in my tank, I test nitrates, phosphates, alk, calc, pH, magnesium.

    I use salifert test kits and I like their accuracy and precision. I use the hanna low range phosphate test.

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