I just ordered and received all of these test kits from bigalsonline.com (no problems with order, good experience overall) so I thought I'd do a little journal on these to see how it goes.
Nitrite & Nitrate
Red Sea Kits:
Seachem Testing Equipment :
The Seachem kits are some of the nicer kits I've owned. Each uses a white plastic "testing plate" that has 6 wells for testing.
The reagent dropers are nice, the droppers used to collect and measure the water to be tested are nice and easy to use (they are a little nicer than the droppers that come in the Seachem tank addatives such as Flourish.)
The powder reagents seem to be a little "clumpy" but not too difficult to work with. To level the power in the little spoon i just use the cap to scrape extra back into the powder vial.
The color comparison scales come with white "slips" that the scales slide in to make it easier to seperate the different shades of the scale when comparing to the test sample (more later.)
All of the reagents are clearly marked. The instructions are clear and easy to understand (except for the Nitrite & Nitrate test, which I'll discuss later.)
Red Sea Testing Equipment:
These are simple standard liquid reagent test kits.
Simple 12ml test vial comes with each one. The reagent droppers are of a good size and are easy to use.
The color comparison charts are easy to use for the KH and GH, and the PH scale has a decent seperation of shades throug out the scale.
I really like these kits. I've always wanted to be a scientist deep down, and the appearance and use of these kits satisfies a little bit of that desire.
The white slips for color scales may help with the complaints that I've seen from some people able the Seachem tests, saying that the scale is too hard to read that there isn't much difference in shades throughout the scale. I have very good color vision so I don't think this will be an issue.
The Nitrite & Nitrate test instructions are a little confusing at one point. The instructions seem to say that you can skip adding the Nitrite reagent if you are only doing a Nitrate test. Well, after waiting for a color change (which didn't happen) I added the Nitrite test reagent to the Nitrate test and that seemed to work. I repeated the test (doing what I think is proper by adding the Nitrite test reagent first, then adding the Nitrate reagent) and came out with similar results (and results that resemble the situation in my tank accuratly, so I feel this is the proper testing method, using both reagents.)
The Phosphate kit right now is not doing me much good. It seems that although this kit is labled for use in marine and freshwater, it doesn't measure high levels of phosphates in freshwater very well, stating that the water needs to be diluted to get a proper reading. The website says "This kit measures inorganic phosphate down to 0.05 mg/L, producing a unique easy to read yellow-green-blue color range in marine and freshwater. " but mentions nothing about having to dilute the water to get proper readings for most freshwater aquariums. The thing that REALLY made me mad was that while the instructions mention that you will likely have to dilute the test sample, it does NOT TELL YOU HOW TO DO THIS! If they tell you that you'll need to dilute, they should tell you how much RO/Deionized/distilled water you will need to dilute the test sample into then how much of the diluted sample to use for the test, then how to compare that test sample to the chart. I'm emailing Seachem about this, as it's very unlike them to do this type of thing.
Red Sea Comments:
The kits are simple and do their job. The only bad comment I would have would be against the pH test. The color scale that the reagent produces seems to be of a different color hue / saturation level than that of the chart. This can make it a little tough to determine where in the scale you are. As I mentioned before I have really good color vision and I'm easily able to seperate different hues and saturations of color, so this might actually be a bad thing when trying to read the results of this kit.
Seachem First Tests:
Phosphate results aside (see above in Seachem Comments) the kits worked well. Nitrite was near 0, Nitrate at 20mg/L which should be a good range. I'm going to test some more before I start trying to add a Nitrogen/Nitrate supplment. The Iron kit showed me that I was low on Iron, so I dosed enough iron to bring the level up to 0.20mg/L which is recommended on the back of the Flourish Iron bottle. (Note: I need to try to find out some kind of conversion scale between mg/L, ppm, etc. Seems like everyone uses a different scale.)
Red Sea First Tests:
KH was 3 degrees and GH was 4 degrees. I'm probably going to supplement to get the KH up a little bit since I'm dosing CO2 and want to minimize pH swings. The pH test read around 6.2 which is a little lower than I want. This is a little lower than the pH test strips that I was using, I expected this due to the cheap test strips, but wasn't sure if it would be higher or lower (more likely than not lower due to the CO2.)