How to read API nitrates liquid test ? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-04-2014, 12:48 PM Thread Starter
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How to read API nitrates liquid test ?

I've had fish tanks for like 20 years now.. but when it comes to all these liquid tests and so forth the API one is the one I always use.. However when it comes to reading the nitrate test I get two different readings..

Are you suppose to hold the vial right on the white background of the plastic thing, or do you hold it slightly away from it ? The reason I ask is if I hold it slightly away the readings look more in the 10-20 range, but if I hold it against it they look closer to the 40 range..

Also the Test kit readings.. The Master test kit the 10-20 colors look identical... but on the single strip that you get from buying the nitrate kit alone.. the 10 is orange the 20 is like dark orange... SOO its like how do I tell what is what ??
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-04-2014, 12:49 PM
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I do not hold it right against the card.

Be sure to REALLY SHAKE the reagent bottles.
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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-04-2014, 01:02 PM Thread Starter
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I do for like a minute or two
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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-04-2014, 01:03 PM
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I put away nitrate test a couple year's ago when I started dosing nitrogen and noted 80 ppm a day after dosing.
Shrimps,rummy nose (canaries of the aquarium) still thrive so I don't worry bout nitrate levels.
Nitrates prolly closer to 60 ppm by week's end in my tank's which is when I perform water changes and re dose.
Is said that without calibrating the Nitrate test (can google this) that reading's are at the very least suspect, to outright erroneous.
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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-04-2014, 01:48 PM Thread Starter
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well I have discus and electric blue rams which are sensitive to nitrates..
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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-04-2014, 01:51 PM
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One of the reasons I do not recommend the liquid tests for novices is the number of ways to mess up the results. I may agree that long term testers who know what to expect from the results may be able to get more accurate results with the liquid tests. But when a person is newer, there are just lots of ways to mess up so that the results can be totally meaningless.
Holding the bottle totally vertical to get the right size drops, counting the drops and making sure they all get into the test vial, shaking before use, using a consistent light source and timing can all be blamed when the reading doesn't come out as expected. But that leaves the newer person with no idea of what to expect in very difficult situation of not knowing he is being mislead by his testing.
I feel there are times when getting slightly less precise readings from strips can get you a far closer answer than a test which is difficult to do correctly. Most should admit that the test is a "best guess" in either case when you are judging colors on a chart.

How to hold the tube to read the colors? Everybody seems to have their own favorite way as the directions often don't say.
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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-04-2014, 01:51 PM
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In general, I would take the API nitrate test with a huge grain of salt. It is notorious for being miscalibrated. If you want to actually get workable numbers out of it, make yourself calibration solutions, test those, and re-mark your chart.

With my API nitrate test it claimed my municipal tap water supply was 20ppm, source and other testing claims 3ppm. I made a 20ppm reference solution and the API said that was over 80ppm, but less than 160ppm (other test said something near but under 25ppm). And yes, I followed the directions precisely and used a timer for all the shaking, etc. I have found that it does work quite consistently, as long as it is used correcty it always produces the same color for a given ppm, test after test. However, those colors are very different than the chart.

Long story short - don't worry about which of the two squares it is. The test itself may be miscalibrated by a much larger margin than that.

Use the test for relative comparisons only, or calibrate it if you want useful numbers.
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-04-2014, 04:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by candymancan View Post
well I have discus and electric blue rams which are sensitive to nitrates..

It is the biological oxidation of ammonia to nitrites and finally nitrates that fishes don't enjoy.
With KNO3 as dry mineral salt,there is no biological oxidation of ammonia first so increase in nitrate reading due to addition of KNO3 is of no concern for many/most.
I will agree that in fish only tanks, where the biological oxidation of fish waste,fish food takes place , no plant's to help take up the waste,that high nitrate levels are indication of over feeding,over stocking,under filtration,and or poor maint and these should be rectified for the health of the fishes.
Studies indicate that hundred's of ppm of nitrates over prolonged periods are needed before fishes begin to show negative effect's but if tank's are run properly,,these hundred's of ppm are not a problem/can't be.
Adding the dry fertz DOES however increase TDS along with everything else we add to the tank from fish food's,med's,conditioner's,buffer's,etc so maybe for some sensitive species of fishes/shrimp's some reservation may be consideration. IMHO
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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-04-2014, 07:55 PM
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I made up a reference solution of some KNO3 - at 80ppm - the colour chart did agree - but it is pretty difficult to see the gradation of colour, and it is highly variable based on the light you are using.
Better to think of nitrate readings as zero, low, medium, high I think... you'll be less frustrated!

Best to do as mattinmd alluded to is to make up some solutions of known concentration, and test them all in parallel, then you'll know how your kit reacts.
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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-04-2014, 08:24 PM
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Another thing to do is dilute your tank water with tap water and test that, then back calculate the nitrates in your tank water.
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post #11 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-04-2014, 08:35 PM
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You should calibrate the test first https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...ht=calibration Its hard to match the color's if I hold it against the card its one color, if I hold it to the kitchen light its another color, if I hold it to the dining room light its another color. As long as it appears in the 10-20ppm range, I know my plants aren't going to run out. Its always better to have too much than not enough.


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post #12 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-05-2014, 01:20 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PlantedRich View Post
One of the reasons I do not recommend the liquid tests for novices is the number of ways to mess up the results. I may agree that long term testers who know what to expect from the results may be able to get more accurate results with the liquid tests. But when a person is newer, there are just lots of ways to mess up so that the results can be totally meaningless.
Holding the bottle totally vertical to get the right size drops, counting the drops and making sure they all get into the test vial, shaking before use, using a consistent light source and timing can all be blamed when the reading doesn't come out as expected. But that leaves the newer person with no idea of what to expect in very difficult situation of not knowing he is being mislead by his testing.
I feel there are times when getting slightly less precise readings from strips can get you a far closer answer than a test which is difficult to do correctly. Most should admit that the test is a "best guess" in either case when you are judging colors on a chart.

How to hold the tube to read the colors? Everybody seems to have their own favorite way as the directions often don't say.

Well the thing is im not NEW ive had fish tanks for 20 years now.. The pupose of this post was to ask what the proper way of reading the test is... Hold it against a white background on the chart itll read 1 step higher then when you hold it an inch away.. So if it reads 10ppm an inch away itll read 20 against, if it reads 20 an inch away itll read 40 against..

I use sunlight as its the best light to get the color...

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Quote:
Originally Posted by roadmaster View Post
It is the biological oxidation of ammonia to nitrites and finally nitrates that fishes don't enjoy.
With KNO3 as dry mineral salt,there is no biological oxidation of ammonia first so increase in nitrate reading due to addition of KNO3 is of no concern for many/most.
I will agree that in fish only tanks, where the biological oxidation of fish waste,fish food takes place , no plant's to help take up the waste,that high nitrate levels are indication of over feeding,over stocking,under filtration,and or poor maint and these should be rectified for the health of the fishes.
Studies indicate that hundred's of ppm of nitrates over prolonged periods are needed before fishes begin to show negative effect's but if tank's are run properly,,these hundred's of ppm are not a problem/can't be.
Adding the dry fertz DOES however increase TDS along with everything else we add to the tank from fish food's,med's,conditioner's,buffer's,etc so maybe for some sensitive species of fishes/shrimp's some reservation may be consideration. IMHO


Clearly you don't have Discus or rams.. Those fish cant handle houndreds of PPM of nitrates and honestly.. neither can regular fish... I've had fish get diseases easier once the nitrates get around 80-100ppm and you leave it like that.

As for rams, any higher then 40-60 and they don't live very long, and with discus.. they stop eating and get sick and hide once the nitrates get above 20 for long periods.. I Keep my nitrates at 5-20 depending on how much the water changes removed.. I tend to do 70% water changes every 4-5 days and by then my nitrates look like they are at 20, after the change they are a very pale orange which looks like 5-10 on the chart

As for ferts I don't use dry ferts I use Liquid, I dose Iron, Pottasium, and flourish every week and I dose excel once a day..

This is my tank btw well one of them I have 8 planted tanks

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post #13 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-05-2014, 02:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by candymancan View Post
Are you suppose to hold the vial right on the white background of the plastic thing, or do you hold it slightly away from it
Quote:
Originally Posted by Diana View Post
I do not hold it right against the card.
Agree with Diana. Not sure it makes for more accuracy in technical terms, but it helps me differentiate one step of the chart to the next.

Quote:
Originally Posted by candymancan View Post
Clearly you don't have Discus or rams.. Those fish cant handle houndreds of PPM of nitrates and honestly.. neither can regular fish
Perhaps this is one of the justifications for water changes. Those levels wouldn’t ordinarily be reached with typical water changes.
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post #14 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-05-2014, 02:07 AM
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I have been skeptical about my test results since I started using the API testing kits. I think they are great for determining the Ammonia and Nitrite levels, but the Nitrate is difficult to read accurately. I test my water regularly and use the same light to read the tests held lightly against the card backing.

To further complicate the issue, my tap water tested at levels between 40-80 ppm. This is rather high for tap water, although 40 ppm is allowable, and it makes me think that the API test is not that reliable.

I have an AQUARIUM.
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post #15 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-05-2014, 02:08 AM
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I was wondering if my test kit was even working, could never record anything convincing from my tank for nitrates.... so I checked the LFS water in the bag of fish one day - well and truly over 100ppm. It was working!
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