In the wild, owing to years of adaptations, biological and chemical elements in the marine fauna are pretty stable. However, in your aquarium, frequent water testing is required to maintain the best living environment for your aquatic friends.
We’ve reviewed the best aquarium water test kits available for your convenience. We’ve taken a few criteria like accuracy, testing methods, pricing, and test quantity into consideration before settling on the best ones.
Table of Contents
Best Aquarium Water Test Kits
Embrace a more accurate and scientific way of testing your aquarium water with API FRESHWATER MASTER. Although the process is a bit extensive for average use, the results are precise. With the ability to perform more than 800 tests in 5 categories, this product easily is the all-in-one solution for freshwater aquariums.
Pro Tip: Test your aquarium water at least twice a week.
- Targets most vital water parameters
The API MASTER enables you to perform 5 essential water tests, including pH, High Range pH, Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate. For freshwater aquariums, these tests are enough to maintain your tank.
- Top-notch accuracy all-around
Better than the strips, this lab test kit ensures that your water quality parameters are accurate. The strips often generate an inaccurate higher local pH and nitrite level.
- Consistent results
We performed a few iterations on each product to verify their consistency. The results for this product were quite consistent throughout and had minimal (<0.5%) deviations.
- Huge coverage of almost all of the required freshwater tests.
- Easy to follow instructions with educational material.
- Potential to do over 800 tests.
- Color charts are included for visual results and accuracy.
- Results can be a bit difficult to read due to the adjacency of colors.
- A test tube stand isn’t present in the kit. Standing up the tubes is challenging.
- The kit, understandably, isn’t easy to use.
API FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT is the best all-around freshwater test kit for beginner and experienced hobbyists.
In contrast to liquid water test kits, the Tetra 6-in-1 test strips offer accessibility, accuracy, and agility to the users. With 100 strips bundled with the pack, you don’t have to become a chemist to keep your fish healthy and thriving. However, strips are typically less accurate than liquid kits.
- 6-in-1 aquarium water test
In contrast to liquid test kits, you don’t need to separately test each parameter. Each EasyStrip lets you monitor 6 essential parameters, including Nitrates, Nitrites, pH, hardness, Chlorine, and Alkalinity at the same time.
- Easy and fast results
Forget using 2 different liquids to test nitrate. Dip the EasyStrips in a test tube, wait 60 seconds, and find out why your betta has developed a swim bladder disorder.
- Works for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums
Tetra EasyStrips works for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums. However, the acceptable parameters may vary.
- Easy to use and easy to read. Just dip the strip in a test tube, hold it horizontally, and you’re done.
- Fast and mostly accurate results. Easy for beginners who can’t operate liquid kits.
- Pricing is a big plus for Tetra EasyStrips. Most liquid kits come at a much higher price.
- The accuracy of the tests isn’t as consistent as we would’ve liked.
- These strips aren’t reliable for pH and water hardness measurements.
- Colors often bleed to adjacent blocks and may not match the charts.
Tetra EasyStrip 6-in-1 is the most easy-to-use aquarium water test kit.
Your fish release ammonia through their excrement. Built-up ammonia can harm them without a nitrogen cycle and regular monitoring. API AMMONIA 130 kit allows you to accurately test your tank water for toxic imbalance and ammonia spikes.
- Quick and accurate results
Although not as fast as strips, this API kit is quick to determine accurate levels of ammonia. The whole process shouldn’t take you more than 3-5 minutes.
- Supports both freshwater and saltwater tanks
This ammonia kit supports both freshwater and saltwater tanks. However, it performs better in freshwater.
- Consistent results
We took tap water(with chloramine) and conditioned freshwater for the tests. The results were consistent throughout.
- Results were pretty consistent and accurate throughout our iterations.
- Supports both ammonia and ammonium ions testing.
- The cost per test is comparable to strips and other products.
- The kit doesn’t produce results if the ammonia levels are below 1 ppm.
- Although the kit is also intended for saltwater, it produces an average result at best.
API AMMONIA 130-Test Freshwater and Saltwater Aquarium Water Test Kit is the best ammonia test kit for aquarium water.
Nitrate is the end product of ammonia and nitrite produced by your marine inhabitants. While it’s nearly not as harmful as those two, it promotes algae growth and pH imbalance. Salifert Nitrate Test Kit can accurately monitor your aquarium around 60 times and warn about abnormal figures.
- Detects nitrate as low as 0.2 ppm
The double reagent nitrogen test kit offers accurate and faster results in tanks even up to 0.2 ppm. Make sure that you understand the instructions and can perform the tests.
- Dual-range nitrate test kit
The Salifert Nitrate test kit comes with two separate reagents pre-bundled. You need to use them sequentially to test your water. This dual-range nitrate test kit determines nitrate levels of both reef and saltwater aquariums.
- Broad test spectrum
The kit allows testing nitrate levels from 1-100 ppm. You can test as high or as low nitrate levels as you want with accuracy. However, the color often varies with the powder reagent. Ensure that you use the right amount of reagent, as mentioned in the instruction.
- Easier to read than other nitrate test kits like API and Red Sea.
- The results are quite accurate and consistent.
- Great pricing for such a premium product.
- The color of the solution changes with the amount of reagents used.
- The test kit is more effective in the higher range than in the lower spectrum.
Salifert Nitrate (No3) Test Kit is the best aquarium water test kit for nitrate.
Appending to basic tests like ammonia, nitrate, and pH, you need to test other elements in a marine aquarium. With a total of 210 tests, the Red Sea test kit performs calcium, alkalinity, and magnesium titrations to help you maintain balance in your reef tank.
- Multiple vital element titrations
Red Sea Reef Foundation bundles calcium, alkalinity, and magnesium test kits in a single package. While it makes the kit a bit more expensive, the convenience is delightful.
Also, as the test patterns are similar, you won’t be fiddling to find the correct ratios.
- Detailed instructions and color chart
The Red Sea test kit instructions, typically, are quite detailed and comprehensive. This product isn’t different. You’ll find an information set and color chart for each test.
- Designed for marine aquariums
The kit is exclusively manufactured for marine and reef aquariums where a higher proportion of calcium and magnesium ions are present. General hardness (GH) tests are sufficient for freshwater tanks.
- High accuracy of (+/-) 2.5 ppm.
- Easy to read the results.
- Easy to use. Just mix the reagents in the water and swirl to see changing colors.
- The product is a little more expensive than other test kits.
- Bottle leaking and packaging issues have been prevalent in a few cases.
The Red Sea Reef Foundation Test Kit is the best multi-purpose test kit for marine aquariums.
General hardness (GH) is the concentration of dissolved mineral ions in water. Carbon hardness (KH) refers to the alkalinity of the water sample and measures the carbonate and bicarbonate concentration. As an aquarium hobbyist, you must keep these parameters in check with API GH & KH test kit.
- Separate GH and KH reagents
Separate reagent bottles have been provided in the package for each test. As you can alternate between the tests, this will help you prolong the shelf life.
- Easy-to-use reagent bottles
The bottles are designed to drip. This feature makes it easier to count drops for calculation. Keep the drops flowing until the desired color is reached.
- Simple calculation and accurate results
The titration calculations are easy and produce more accurate results than color charts. However, for this particular kit, the units are in dKH.
Tip: 1dKH = 17.86 ppm
- For freshwater aquarium
While you can use this kit for saltwater aquariums, it’s better to use dedicated mineral test kits for marine tanks.
- High accuracy and clean process.
- Glass test tubes are of premium quality.
- The instruction manual leaves a lot to desire. Many users claim that the number of drops isn’t mentioned. That’s because you have to count the drops until the desired color is reached to determine the hardness.
- No information booklet was provided.
API GH & KH TEST KIT is best for general and carbon hardness tests for freshwater aquariums.
Saltwater has a lower oxygen solubility than ponds or freshwater. Therefore, regular oxygen level tests are necessary to keep your reef and marine fauna alive and thriving. Salifert OXPT Oxygen Test Kit allows you to make necessary changes whenever you’re faced with critical oxygen dissolution issues.
- Specially designed for marine aquariums
The kit is designed to test saltwater oxygen saturation. Although freshwater and pond water is supported, it’s better to choose other dedicated products for those purposes.
- High measurement precision
You can measure oxygen levels from 2 – 14 ppm. The range, considering other products, is pretty broad and should satisfy your needs without any issues.
- Long shelf life and lower cost per test
With around 40 tests, you can keep and use the kit for months. Moreover, if your tank oxygen saturation levels are stable, lacking any changes, you don’t need to test them rapidly.
- The cup is easier to read from than tubes.
- The instructions are pretty clear and detailed.
- Consistency of accuracy is higher than other oxygen kits.
- Not suitable for freshwater usage.
- Color chart prints aren’t accurate to the output. However, they’re close.
- Takes a few minutes more than strips or other liquid tests.
Salifert OXPT Oxygen Test Kit is the best saltwater oxygen solubility test kit.
Apart from this list, there are hundreds of online and in-store kits available in the market. For those who want to explore the rest, here is a general guideline for choosing the best aquarium water test kits.
If you’re buying an all-in-one kit for multiple test parameters, consider keeping an eye out for the test names. Ensure that the kit covers all the essential tests like pH, GH, KH, ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite.
Depending on your preference and if you have a saltwater tank, you may also need it to cover more ground.
On the other hand, when purchasing standalone kits, make a point to get essential test kits separately for your aquarium.
In our experience, all-in-one kits are cheaper and last longer than standalone kits. However, most all-in-one strips are awful in terms of accuracy and consistency.
Accuracy and Precision
The best aquarium water test kit is the one that’s accurate and generates consistent results. A kit that gratifies you with a <15 ppm nitrate reading on a 50 ppm true rate, is worthless at best.
However, the accuracy of titration-based kits (reagents) also depends on the user. Ensure that you understand the instructions and the color changes to calculate (or visualize) the exact parameters.
If you’re trying a product for the first time, online reviews and forums are your best source of information about accuracy and precision.
Ease of Use
Ease of usage shouldn’t be the only determining factor when buying aquarium water test kits. Most easy-to-use kits, strips for example, while usable, aren’t as accurate as liquid kits.
If you’re keeping water fluctuation-sensitive fish like Bettas, Discus, and African Cichlids, you need to ensure that the kit is both accurate and easy to use.
We’ve enlisted a few easy-to-use liquid test kits that you may choose from, but for other products, consider checking online reviews to understand the extent of complexity before buying.
As discussed, the testing method is critical when choosing your water test kit. Consider determining what you need before buying strips, liquid kits, or meters.
For example, if a kit requires the user to go through complex calculations to determine the KH value instead of offering a color chart, it may not be suitable for average users.
On the other hand, strips may not be acceptable to marine aquarium hobbyists due to the requirement of precision and accuracy.
As we mentioned meters, they can be used to determine pH, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and in a few cases: ammonia. Although pretty accurate, they aren’t welcomed by hobbyists due to their expensive nature.
Quantity and Frequency of Tests
Cost per test is an important parameter in our books. As you might need to go through each and every test over a period of 5-7 days, the number of possible tests and the associated cost should be a major contributing factor.
Typically, the number of possible tests (quantity) is mentioned on the package. When checking things out, make sure that you understand the all-in-one test kit numbers. Confirm whether the number mentioned on the package is the total number of tests or for each parameter.
In some cases, products include a detailed parameter-specific quantity for convenience.
We don’t recommend going for the largest variations if you don’t have a few tanks to satisfy. A single kit with hundreds of test quantities will expire before you probably can use them.
Consider making a rough estimate of how many tests you would require for each tank and how many tanks you have. For best results, use the kits and the reagents before their expiration date.
Check on the package if your preferred kit is suitable for saltwater, freshwater, ponds, or all. Most kits are manufactured specifically to cater to a single type of aquarium water. It’s better to give it a thought before committing financially.
Brand Reputation and Pricing
Product reviews, brand reputation, and pricing are major factors when choosing the best aquarium water test kits. Focus on the negative reviews to understand their motivation behind them and if others are facing the same issues.
Check pricing and cost per test (price/number of tests) to determine if it’s viable and sustainable for your freshwater and saltwater tanks.
Check out our article on “Best Freshwater Aquarium Plants For Beginners“
There are 3 ways you can test aquarium water:
Strips: strips are chemically pre-coated kits that are easy to use and cheaper. However, they aren’t the most accurate.
Reagents: reagent-based test kits require taking a few ml of water and mixing the reagent with the sample. The final color of the solution determines the parameters. These kits are pretty accurate.
Digital meters: Lab-use digital meters can be used to test aquarium water, but they aren’t generally used due to their cost.
There are many different parameters with different “healthy levels” for each species. For example, healthy levels for Angel Fish look like:
-KH: 3-8 dKH
-GH: 4-10 dGH
-Ammonia: 0 ppm
-Nitrate: Below 20 ppm
-Nitrite: 0 ppm
-Alkalinity: 80-120 ppm (or 4-7 dKH)
-Temperature: 76-82°F (24-28°C)
Any amount of ammonia is bad for your fish, but 0.50 ppm isn’t terrible. However, you should regularly check water quality for ammonia spikes.
The Bottom Line
We’ve gathered and reviewed the best aquarium water test kits to help you choose the next one. Of all the products, we’ve liked the API Freshwater Master Test KitAPI FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT the best due to its all-in-one package and accuracy.