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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-23-2009, 02:40 PM Thread Starter
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test

Called petco,petsmart and asked if they did water test for aquarium water,they both said yes.Then i asked what kind of test kit did they use,they both said test strips.Why in the world would they use test strips when (most) everybody in the hobby knows that they are unreliable.I also called another lfs and they use API.I wanted to have my water tested.Whats the world coming to.This is disappointing.Just wanted to rant.
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-23-2009, 02:47 PM
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You can extend your rant: LFS who do testing for customers are doing a disservice to them if they do those tests without calibrating the test kits they use. Not even a LFS can take a nitrate or phosphate test kit and use it without calibrating it and expect to get usable results.

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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-23-2009, 03:53 PM
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Almost everyone is doing a quick dip test now for water testing. Even a test kit is only as good as the chemicals and the person doing the test. But a dip test is reliable enough for most needs.

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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-23-2009, 07:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
Almost everyone is doing a quick dip test now for water testing. Even a test kit is only as good as the chemicals and the person doing the test. But a dip test is reliable enough for most needs.

Jeff
Most people don't need to test the water at all, so I agree that any test is reliable enough for "most needs".

Hoppy
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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-23-2009, 09:14 PM
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i'm going to ask this

...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hoppy View Post
do those tests without calibrating the test kits they use.
...

I've heard this thrown around a couple of times... But:
  1. How does one calibrate their test kits?
  2. What test kits need to be calibrated?
  3. Are these your standard ap test kits (test kits not strips)?
  4. Did I miss something in my test kit manuals?
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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-23-2009, 09:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by clmntch View Post
... ...

I've heard this thrown around a couple of times... But:
  1. How does one calibrate their test kits?
  2. What test kits need to be calibrated?
  3. Are these your standard ap test kits (test kits not strips)?
  4. Did I miss something in my test kit manuals?
Here is a thread about NO3 and PO4 reference solutons: https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/wa...solutions.html

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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-23-2009, 11:35 PM
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Standard API or other brand test kits, where you fill the tube with some water, add reagent or reagents, and observe the results to tell how much of something is in the water, are kits that must be calibrated to be at all reliable. I spent my first 6 years out of college working as a research engineer, measuring lots of stuff, and very quickly learned that absolutely nothing can be assumed to be accurate unless it has been calibrated. Much of my time was spent doing calibrations. Usually we had a known accurate measuring device, one whose accuracy had been verified by calibration using very precise instruments. We then used that as a secondary standard to calibrate other measuring devices. Very often the calibrations just verified that the instrument was as accurate as it was supposed to be, but too often the instrument didn't calibrate well. But, I learned the rule - if you are going to use a measurement for something other than idle curiosity, you have to calibrate the measuring device first.

The history of this hobby is filled with people using test kits to determine that they have way too much phosphate or nitrate, only to find later that they really had very little, because the test kit was either wrong or was being used wrongly or was just too hard to interpret. So, if you plan to make a decision, like deciding how much of something to dose, using a test kit, you just have to calibrate the test kit first, or just admit to yourself that you are simply guessing.

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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-23-2009, 11:50 PM
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I made the reference solutions that Left C posted, for my API N and P kits. After that I was finally able to decipher the colors for what they really were, especially against a printed color card that doesn't even match half the colors presented by the reagent, and who knows if the printer was even working properly the day they made it.

I can't speak for everyone's kit, but my API PO4 kit doesn't match the color card at all, much darker. I think everyone who uses that kit should make the 1ppm reference solution to see the actual color they're looking for at 1ppm, the card is just confusing.


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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-24-2009, 09:23 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Left C View Post
Here is a thread about NO3 and PO4 reference solutons: https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/wa...solutions.html
Why don't some of you brains make batches of this and sell it on these forums? It would be nice.
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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-24-2009, 11:21 AM
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lfs only want to make sure that you don't have excessive amounts of ammonia, nitrites, or nitrates. that is why they use the strips.. also saves them time. bs.. but the truth

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post #11 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-24-2009, 05:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave k View Post
Why don't some of you brains make batches of this and sell it on these forums? It would be nice.
Hi Dave

Here is a quick solution to your request. All of Seachem's test kits come with a reference solution. You can use the reference solutions found in these kits. "Kits should contain a reference sample which can be used to both learn how to use the kit properly and check the integrity of the reagents. In the aquarium industry, Seachem alone includes a reference sample with its kits."

These are the reference solutions supplied in their test kits that could be of use in our freshwater aquariums:
Nitrite/Nitrate - 10.0 mg/L Nitrate
Phosphate - 1.0 mg/L Phosphate
Ammonia - 1.0 mg/L Total Ammonia
Iron - 0.4 mg/L Iron
Copper - 0.5 mg/L
Silicate - 6.0 mg/L
Iodine & Iodide - 0.06 mg/L Iodide

If you want, you can decide which are the ones that may benefit you. I hope this helps you.

Left C

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Last edited by Left C; 02-24-2009 at 07:39 PM.
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post #12 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-24-2009, 05:34 PM
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If you practice good husbandry and your fish/plants show no S/S of problems, what is the point of water test? when the test shows a problem-what do you do? Water change.
However; water test would be a good habit and teaching tool for the beginer IMO.
I feel the test strips are just as good as the high priced API types due to all the varibles...IMO
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post #13 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-24-2009, 07:15 PM
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Test kits need to be used correctly to base your routines and mainteance schedules, period.

You cannot rationalize away they are accurate "enough", for montoring when you simply do not know if they are or not.

If you want to guess, then just look at the tank, see wha other folks do as far as a routine etc.

Why even bother with the test kit at all then?

If you use a test kit, then you will want to calibrate it, this way you can rely on the measurements(and the cost and labor associated with test). Then you can make a decision about what to do for water quality, whether or not do to dose something, do a water change etc.

What good is a guess for monitoring? You need to confirm whether or not that test kit is correct over that particular range.

A test strip that measures say PO4 is not going to tell you whether you have 0.4ppm per day uptake etc out of the water column or not. It might be 0.1ppm, or i might be 1.0ppm, who knows..............so what good is this info? What if you assuem it's 1ppm and when it's really 0.1ppm? How far off and misleading can test kits be? Pretty far in many cases.


If you plan on using them for predictive purposes, dosing etc, then make sure to make a set of say 1ppm 5ppm, and 20ppm ppm's ranges for each nurient in question. I suggets Lamotte and Hach test kits, I have for over a decade now. Colorimeters and lab research also calibrated and uses a reference standard to calibrate the readings prior to running your sample/s.

So even a 20,000 $ lab machine demands this for good accurate results, now someone wants to suggest that their 5 $ strips are accurate enough?

Fine if you are okay with it...........just do not use that data to make any sort of claims for support You don't get to have that trade off, unless you like lying to yourself about things and assuming things you really have not checked out.

That's is why it's confirmed in the first place with a reference standard.
This way we know.

I know that this is a bit more than many, if not most hobbyists are willing to chew off. I know many will not spend the $ for the nicer test kits and then not do the calibrations, even if the how to make them is spoon fed to folks, they simply are just not going to do that step. Then many simply do not test consistently.

So rather than fighting that, I went the other way with EI, and avoid the test issue altogether. Many howled and some still about the method and how bad it is since oh my, it says not to use test kits.

It's ironic though, those claiming the utility and usefulness of test kits often rally against calibrations and high grade test kits. They want dirt cheap stuff, not to do the work, think someone else's calibration applies to them and their test kit without doing it themselves(very common) and also claim it's "accurate enough".

What the heck? And EI is inaccurate? haha

You do not get to use the cheapo stuff, cut labor, methods etc, and still get the same results. That's the trade off there. You can attempt to rationalize it to yourself, and say this does not matter to you, but then you slip down that slope that says being accurate does not matter anyway. You dilute your very argument that suggest you need testing in the first place.

Going to other way, you can be confident in the test kit measures using reference solutions over the range of interest. Higher grade testing equipment is easier and nicer, easier to read results, better resolution etc.
Then you know and that data can be used to make a decision about dosing, water changes etc.

If you want to argue "need", many tanks do not ever need testing of any sort.

That was hersey years ago, still is too many today, but it's rational using something like EI, large water changes on reef tanks etc, works well and avoids that issue. Folks like to avoid water changes also, so they look to test kits.

Regards,
Tom Barr




Regards,
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post #14 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-24-2009, 07:52 PM
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For me, test kits usually do two things. First is give me a comparison between sources. Buyer's tank to seller's tank, that sort of thing. For a comparison, accuracy doesn't need to be very high. The second is monitoring a cycling of a tank. Again, it's lees what the number is but whether or not the trend is rising or falling.

Any color test kit is subjective by nature and therefor less than accurate. Or possibly even repeatable. But again, for most general fish-keeping and plants, this accuracy rate is fine.

If you're into the chemistry, you're going to want more.

Jeff
post #15 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-24-2009, 08:08 PM
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Is the quality control of test kits really that bad, or is it calibrating your eyes to the color in your environment?

Here is a short list of things that I own that I have not calibrated:
-Tire pressure gauge
-Car speedometer
-Heart rate monitor
-House thermostat
-oven
-tape measure/micrometer/caliper
-multimeter
-guitar tuner
-measuring cups/spoons
-scale

I bet if I sat down and thought about it for an hour, I don't think I could come up with one case of a measurement device that I bought for personal use that needed to be calibrated.

FTR, I don't really test my tank. My ammonia test, my nitrite test, and my nitrate test didn't show anything when I started this tank, so I put them away and haven't touched them.

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