Saving Money On API Test Kits (Use Half?) - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 03-19-2016, 03:59 AM Thread Starter
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Saving Money On API Test Kits (Use Half?)

I like APIs test kits I really do not think there is much difference in accuracy between test kit brands if you follow the directions. I do think the biggest difference across the brands are the colors and resolution of the reading (how fine the brackets are measured in).

You save some money when you buy the API master kits however I personally think they market the kits to run out at different intervals. Surely everyone tests for nitrate more than anything else, and even if you tested everything at once every time you will run out of nitrate solution first because it requires 10 drops. You will likely test ammonia more often than nitrite and nitrite only requires 5 drops, with ammonia being 8. Starting to see a pattern? This was likely intentionally ratioed this way since all tests use the same amount of sample water...which brings me to my next point.

The 5ml line is not 5ml, I assume most people use a syringe to fill their tubes once without dumping them out because they overfilled. If you use 5ml (I tried several syringes) it goes above the line, this may have also been intentionally done.

10 drops for nitrate is easy to split in half right? Use 5 drops for 2.5ml instead assuming accuracy will not be affected with a smaller sample...I have not sucked up what they call 5ml into a syringe to measure it yet but I bet it is something totally impossible to cut in half like 4.5ml and measuring out 2.25ml is not easy.

So can it be done? Has anyone stretched their nitrate test kits? I test quite oftenly across multiple tanks so it was just a thought, they kind of have me buying them individually now to restock the kit now at 3x the cost per bottle.
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 03-19-2016, 04:12 AM
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I don't think its a conspiracy. The nitrate #2 is practically precipitating out of solution as is (which is why you have to shake it so much). If it were any more concentrated you would be pouring out a paste. Either way, I think most people would go through pH the fastest but it only uses 3 drops.

Using less water should be fine. If you make calibration solutions you could even use half the test solution with the same 5mL of water, it will just make the colors paler.


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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 03-19-2016, 04:29 AM Thread Starter
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I find the pH useless I can not get an accurate reading out of it.

My #2 N bottle is not thick, I shake it but seems unnecessary some people claim they have chunks in theirs. I order mine online from a vendor that sells many of them weekly so the supply is always fresh and the dates are years out.
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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 03-19-2016, 02:16 PM
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I recently ran out of Ammonia bottle #2, but still have about 1/3 of bottle #1 left. But of course you can't buy just bottle #2, you have to buy both.I think you have to shake the Nitrate bottle #2 not because it is thick, but because it needs air bubbles to work accurately.
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 03-19-2016, 02:35 PM
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I do cut corners like that.
Any test that calls for an even number of drops I will use 2.5ml (measured with a syringe) and half the number of drops.

GH and KH tests: 2.5 ml sample, then count each drop as 2 degrees.

If a problem shows up I can easily retest with 5ml samples and full measure of reagents.

Another way to fine tune the results:
If the NO3 test is in any of the red-hot pink-fuchsia tones (that is, over about 40ppm) I cannot tell what it is. I will use just 1ml of tank water + 4 ml of distilled water, and the original amount of reagents, then multiply the result by 5. However, if any test hints that the tank has more than 40ppm NO3 I will do a 50% water change, then test again tomorrow, ready to do another 50% water change. No need to actually figure out what it really is. But the concept is valid.

Another economy: The waiting time is different for each test. So I line them up with the longest waits first, then the shorter waits, then the read immediately tests. That way I am staying busy testing GH, KH, pH and similar (no-wait) tests while the ones that have to steep a while are doing their thing. I set a timer when the first one is mixed and read that one when the timer goes off, then move on down the line hoping that the interval between reading and recording each is the same as the time it took to set up each, so that I am reading each at the correct time.
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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 03-19-2016, 02:45 PM
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It all has to be adjusted to what we each find. Personally, I've never found the master kit to be a value as I rarely use several tests while it doesn't include those I do use. Given time, you find what you do want to test and what you don't. nitrate, I test fairly often but I've not used ammonia or nitrite tests in a long time. I operate so that I do not expect any of either. I use tap water in all tanks and have very hard alkaline water. that leaves me wanting to do a simple, quick check just to see that all is stable.
The Jungle brand test strips are good for that. I get 5 of the readings I use and don't need more than just seeing it the same as last time. If a reading go off far enough to bother, I'm alerted to look for the cause. Normally it is something simple to spot with a check of the logbook. Maybe I failed to do a water change on one tank or skipped a filter cleaning?
But most of the things we do will work better if we modify what and how we do them.
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 03-19-2016, 05:40 PM
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NH3 test 1.3ml and 2 drops each.
NO2 test 1ml and 1 drop.
NO3 test 1ml and 2 drops each.
PO4 use 1.7ml and 2 drops each.

GH & KH can be 2.5ml and each drop counts as 2.
Ca can be 2.5ml and each drop is 40ppm after solution 1 @ 5 drops.

Evilbay for a 5ml graduated cylinder just a few dollars.

I went as far as test tube rack and tubes.
Makes water testing day easier on the budget.

My findings on this method.
NO3 does not work well with a 1 drop test in .5ml False positives can be obtained.
Same with NH3 and false positives.
I doubled the water and 2 drop tests are more accurate.

pH, better off buying a pen tester and ditch the color game.


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Last edited by Maryland Guppy; 03-19-2016 at 05:41 PM. Reason: edit for pH
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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 03-19-2016, 05:51 PM
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Chances of error/false reading is higher if you do this.
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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 03-19-2016, 06:05 PM
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I prefer not to go less than half a test tube (2.5ml) because the smaller volume can pick up colors from the room too easily. At least the larger volume is easier to read.

I actually do more with the strips, the same as PlantedRich- A quick test, then compare to prior results. Has something changed? If so, then to more extensive testing.

I also only use ammonia and nitrite tests when I am doing the fishless cycle, or when I have added new fish to a tank. The ammonia strips are OK, though I still have an API kit that has probably expired.
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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 03-19-2016, 07:57 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for your input everyone, I guess I may not mess with the test afterall. I always start my nitrate test first, then ammonia followed by nitrite as I find that is the order they take the most time to develop in. What is nice is I can walk away for 15min and come back and the tubes will not have gotten any darker or lighter so it seems as if as long as you read them after 5min you are okay up to who knows maybe an hour?
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post #11 of 15 (permalink) Old 03-19-2016, 11:17 PM
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I am pretty careful to read them on time, but I also notice some do not change much. I could write down the color it first appears, and never mind waiting on some of the tests.
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post #12 of 15 (permalink) Old 03-20-2016, 01:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Teebo View Post
What is nice is I can walk away for 15min and come back and the tubes will not have gotten any darker or lighter so it seems as if as long as you read them after 5min you are okay up to who knows maybe an hour?
I only clean the test tubes after the rack is full.
Sometimes for comparison after WC's.
NH3, NO2, & NO3 are unchanged for an unlimited time.
PO4 turns dark and cloudy with particulate matter/coagulation.
Ca test turns clear after time.
GH & KH will continually change due to minute evaporation.

If we are testing multiple tanks, as some of us have many.
You can't go wrong.
NH3 tests are extended from 100 to 400
NO2 tests are extended from 180 to 900
NO3 tests are extended from 90 to 450
PO4 tests are extended from 150 to 450

1% of the time I get a false positive that requires a full sample test.
The hardest part is getting used to rinsing pipette, cylinder, and test tube with sample water before applying reagents.
This turns 4 test kits into an equivalent of 17.
Depending on place of purchase it's still a good bit of money.

Back to the core question.
Have you finally decided to purchase KNO3 and dose to meet your needs?


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post #13 of 15 (permalink) Old 03-20-2016, 01:31 AM Thread Starter
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I am not sure yet, I am being suggested to add potassium and iron before adding nitrogen to see if my plants green up and return to normal growth but I have a feeling it is nitrogen they need right now based on my testing.
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post #14 of 15 (permalink) Old 03-20-2016, 01:49 AM
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I too own horses, my primary hobby.
They still do not drink at every watering hole.
Aquatic plants are my second hobby they drink at every watering hole.


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post #15 of 15 (permalink) Old 03-20-2016, 08:36 PM Thread Starter
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Lightbulb

I really like the idea of using quick test strips first, then using liquid tests if I need verification! What does everyone use for strips? They can be expensive, is there anywhere I can buy them in bulk maybe a white box or no-label strips? Some people buy pool strips in bulk just boxed in a non-retail packaging.
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