Your test kit brand experience - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-20-2019, 06:28 AM Thread Starter
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Share your experiences both pro and con of test kits you have used. My experiences:

a) API strips
Pros: Easy to use. Can be a quick "smoke test" to see if further testing is needed

Cons: Woefully difficult to get an accurate reading; wide range of results

b) API liquid test kit:
Pros:. Cheap and easy to get. Often seen at your LFS. Results are usually accurate

Cons: Not as accurate as other tests. May need calibration. Difficult to read the results

c) Salifert liquid tests
Pros: Easier to read results, more accurate than API

Cons: Slightly more expensive and a bit more 'involved' than API tests
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-20-2019, 11:04 AM
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Iíve used farm-quality nitrate test kits (~$200 when I was more flush with funds), results to API comparable but often slightly different (even the farm nest kit said it was plus or minus one bar or plus or minus 12ppm from memory - so I figure I just use API kits to track trends).

API kh and pool kit always disagreed (I tended to believe the pool kit as er, more mixing and pools seem to need tighter control).
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-20-2019, 03:46 PM
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Need to make calibration solutions and learn how to interpret the colour. This can be done once per brand and then any liquid test kit brand will be suitable.

NO3
0 ppm => low
10 ppm => good
20 ppm => high

PO4
0 ppm => low
1 ppm => good
2 ppm => high

Ca
0 ppm => low
20 ppm => good
40 ppm => high

...
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-20-2019, 05:14 PM
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A while back I did a kitchen table test between API and Salifert.

With the NO3 test, Salifert was clearly more accurate. The API was pretty far off, surprisingly far off to me. Could it be related to "shaking"? Yeah, maybe but I have always really shaken it like mad. My guess is once it gets off, it will stay off. The Salifert is very consistent.

The API PO4 test was reasonably accurate. The Salifert PO4 only goes up to 3 ppm, which is pretty useless in my tank. At 3ppm my tank would be starving, so would never really be an option for me.

Here's a link to my entirely unscientific tests.......................

https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/1...l#post10675714

So for me, I use API for PO4 and Salifert for NO3. The absolute value is not that important, but relative values are. Basically looking to spot trends or anything wonky.

But more important than either are your actual dosing and the reaction of plants. I don't make decisions based on what I "want" the numbers to be, rather numbers that bring out the best in my mix of plants in my unique ecosystem.

For me, I try to keep NO3 = 30+ and PO4 = 5+. Any lower and hungry plants like Pantanal and other Ludwigia start to rebel. But as usual, your mileage may vary. You need to find out what levels bring out the best in your particular set up.
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-21-2019, 12:14 AM
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I had found the API nitrate test kits can read different when one is getting low in solution even though still not expired (maybe hot weather? Not shaking enough - but like above thought I had).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greggz View Post
A while back I did a kitchen table test between API and Salifert.



With the NO3 test, Salifert was clearly more accurate. The API was pretty far off, surprisingly far off to me. Could it be related to "shaking"? Yeah, maybe but I have always really shaken it like mad. My guess is once it gets off, it will stay off. The Salifert is very consistent.



The API PO4 test was reasonably accurate. The Salifert PO4 only goes up to 3 ppm, which is pretty useless in my tank. At 3ppm my tank would be starving, so would never really be an option for me.



Here's a link to my entirely unscientific tests.......................



https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/1...l#post10675714



So for me, I use API for PO4 and Salifert for NO3. The absolute value is not that important, but relative values are. Basically looking to spot trends or anything wonky.



But more important than either are your actual dosing and the reaction of plants. I don't make decisions based on what I "want" the numbers to be, rather numbers that bring out the best in my mix of plants in my unique ecosystem.



For me, I try to keep NO3 = 30+ and PO4 = 5+. Any lower and hungry plants like Pantanal and other Ludwigia start to rebel. But as usual, your mileage may vary. You need to find out what levels bring out the best in your particular set up.


Ah, that was great reading! Thanks for link. Think Iíll look into a Salifert nitrate kit or replace API one sooner rather than later.
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Last edited by Darkblade48; 07-22-2019 at 01:00 AM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-21-2019, 01:53 AM
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I use the API kits and have for years . I have a Sailfert nitrate kit I bought because my API was giving me a 0% nitrates , so I was concerned that it was in error and after reading that the Sailfert kits were so much easier to use i got one from my LFS. Well the Sailfert gave me the same results and I needed to add nitrogen to my fert regimen . Well the bottom line for me is that the API kit told me the same thing the Sailfert did , but the API has pH,Nitrate,Nitrite,and Ammonia tests for the same cost that the Sailfert Nitrate test cost me . I am just an aquarium hobbyist so I need to know changes more than exacts . For me the API Master Kit is just fine . As all things in this hobby it is up to what you want/need....lol

My wife says if I get one more aquarium she is going to leave me . I sure am going to miss her fried chicken .
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-21-2019, 05:50 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greggz View Post
A while back I did a kitchen table test between API and Salifert.

With the NO3 test, Salifert was clearly more accurate. The API was pretty far off, surprisingly far off to me. Could it be related to "shaking"? Yeah, maybe but I have always really shaken it like mad. My guess is once it gets off, it will stay off. The Salifert is very consistent.

The API PO4 test was reasonably accurate. The Salifert PO4 only goes up to 3 ppm, which is pretty useless in my tank. At 3ppm my tank would be starving, so would never really be an option for me.

Here's a link to my entirely unscientific tests.......................

https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/1...l#post10675714

So for me, I use API for PO4 and Salifert for NO3. The absolute value is not that important, but relative values are. Basically looking to spot trends or anything wonky.

But more important than either are your actual dosing and the reaction of plants. I don't make decisions based on what I "want" the numbers to be, rather numbers that bring out the best in my mix of plants in my unique ecosystem.

For me, I try to keep NO3 = 30+ and PO4 = 5+. Any lower and hungry plants like Pantanal and other Ludwigia start to rebel. But as usual, your mileage may vary. You need to find out what levels bring out the best in your particular set up.
Darnit I really need to spend some time and read through your entire journal, that is super interesting stuff.

30ppm nitrate? 5ppm phosphate??? Wowowowow!! Some would call you crazy!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Edward View Post
Need to make calibration solutions and learn how to interpret the colour. This can be done once per brand and then any liquid test kit brand will be suitable.

NO3
0 ppm => low
10 ppm => good
20 ppm => high

PO4
0 ppm => low
1 ppm => good
2 ppm => high

Ca
0 ppm => low
20 ppm => good
40 ppm => high

...
Hey, can you elaborate please? The way your post is right now isn't helpful.
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Last edited by Darkblade48; 07-22-2019 at 01:00 AM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-21-2019, 11:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jcoulter View Post
Darnit I really need to spend some time and read through your entire journal, that is super interesting stuff.

30ppm nitrate? 5ppm phosphate??? Wowowowow!! Some would call you crazy!
Those are are actual tank reading numbers, not dosing levels.

My actual NPK weekly dosing is 18:7:18 right now.

I think you will find those levels are not that unusual for densely planted tanks with lots of hungry stems.

IMO, whenever someone mentions a dosing scheme, pay careful attention to the pics of their tank. A lightly planted tank with slower growing plants is a completely different animal than a tank full of stems. And a tank with an active substrate is very much different than a tank with an inert substrate. Even the particular mix of stems can make a difference.

Just saying each tank needs to be taken in context, and what works for one may not for another. So look closely at each tank as a picture is worth a thousand words.


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Last edited by Greggz; 07-21-2019 at 04:27 PM. Reason: typo
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-21-2019, 04:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jcoulter View Post
Hey, can you elaborate please?

The printed cards that come with test kits are quesstimates of the actual colours and shades. Also not everyone see colours the same and lighting type and background colours changes everything again. So it is important to calibrate the test kit to individual conditions in order to get correct readings.

In most cases we want to maintain a certain concentration or a range of predetermined concentrations in our water column. We pick what is too low and good and too high in ppm. Then we make these three solutions and run them through the test kit. If colours match we are ok, if not then we rewrite the ppm on the card. This process is calibration.

For example, ADA Aqua Design Amano

NO3
0 ppm => low
2 ppm => good
5 ppm => high

PO4
0.00 ppm => low
0.05 ppm => good
0.10 ppm => high

Ca
0 ppm => low
20 ppm => good
40 ppm => high

...

Here is another example of the need to calibrate test kits:
https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/8...l#post11230545


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Last edited by Darkblade48; 07-22-2019 at 01:00 AM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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