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Accurate Freshwater Test Kit

Discussion in 'Fish and Aquarium - all types' started by HazeX, May 2, 2006.

  1. HazeX

    HazeX New Member

    Hi everyone!

    I'm a fairly new fish owner. I have 2 Freshwater Tanks (18 and 55gal). The 18 has a small school of Neon Tetras and Albino Glowlight Tetras, 3 guppies, a Siamese Algae eater, and a Plecostomus catfish. It has your standard Power Filter (No wheel), a couple plastic plants, a rock and a big leafy live plant (still haven't figured out what kind it is (will provide a pic or two tomorrow)). It's clear as a bell. (gravel vacuum and water change always does wonders).

    55gal has just gotten underway. That is, its just been cycled, and new fish have been added recently. 5 Tiger Barbs, a Pictus Catfish, 5 Bala Sharks, (we're already planning a bigger tank for when the sharks get bigger) and a pair of Clown Loaches. They're all getting along quite well I'm happy to say. We dont have much in the tank as far as decorations yet. A few small plastic plants, and a couple live plants, that is, 2 bunches (tall single stalks that came in a bunch, short narrow leaves, medium to dark green, will get pics of that too).

    We currently have the power filter the tank came with (one of those walmart 55gal tank bundles) and a Marineland 50gal Power Filter w/Biowheel (those biowheels really do the trick IMHO) filtering this tank, and a 200w heater that came with it.

    Is there such a thing as too much filtration? :)

    Anyways, I'm quite neurotic when it comes to taking care of my fish. That said, I want to make sure the water quality is as perfect as possible. But I am somewhat colorblind and I find reading the colors on some of the test kits quite the task.

    So, my question to you is, is there any kind of digital test kit? Something that can give me some numbers to read? Is there a solutiion to this problem for someone in my predicament?

    Thanks for your replies. ;)
  2. gravity

    gravity New Member

    I've never heard of any kind of digital test kit, but a much simpler (and cheaper) solution would be to simply ask your LFS (Local Fish Store) if they'll test your water for you. I know Petsmart will do it, and all the local shops around me will do it for you too. Especially if you have some sort of handicap that interferes with your ability to do it yourself.

    Also, you probably want to look at maybe moving your clown loaches into the bigger tank with your balas. Clown loaches can get pretty big too.
  3. HazeX

    HazeX New Member

    Indeed. I've read that they can live up to 50 years (not sure if its true or not), so I imagine they'd get pretty big.

    I'm not much for surprises when I'm learning something new (even tho some are inevitably unavoidable), so I did quite a bit of reading from various sources (not just one ;)) about the fish I finally purchased.

    I've haven't found any digital test kits in my searches either. Figured if they existed, you guys would know. ;)

    I'll take a sample to Petsmart and ask them to test it. But with me being as the perfectionist I am, I'd be there 2 or 3 times a week. lol

    Would you recommend a solid, accurate, reliable freshwater test kit?

    I could I suppose get a pal to the do the reading for me, in between my Petsmart visits. :D
  4. kc5gvn

    kc5gvn New Member

    I don't know of any digital test kits. The Aquarium Pharmaceutical test kits, which Petsmart carries, are about the best that I have found. The Nitrate kit gets kind of hard to tell if it's 40 or 160, but if it's above 20 it's time for a water change anyway.
  5. 2manytanks

    2manytanks New Member

    Test kits - my 2 cents

    My personal favourite (so far) is the Aquarium Pharmaceuticals master test kit. It includes tests for PH, high PH, ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. It's a very easy to use kit and most of the colour charts have well defined colours which are easy to distinguish from one another. Their tests are also quite quick to do.

    My next in line is the Hagen Nutrafin master test kit. It includes the same tests as the AQ kit, but also includes tests for calcium, phosphate, iron, and carbonate and general hardness. The Hagen kit comes in a nice plastic case that folds open to reveal a nice working surface which holds all of the chemicals, test tubes, etc. It also includes some plastic pipettes which make it easier to accurately fill the test tubes. Drawbacks to this kit are that the silkscreening on the test tubes wears off very quickly making them virtually useless, and some of the colours can be very difficult to match up with the colour charts. Additionally, some of the tests take a long time to complete - it's a 20 minute wait for the ammonia test, and the chemical bottles are pretty small so on the most commonly used tests (ammonia, nitrite, nitrate) you will run out and need replacements quite soon. the ammonia and phosphate tests also have some glass bottles with really crumby drippers which are almost impossible to use without spilling some. Replacement test tubes are easy to come by for this kit when the silk screening has worn off or you've broken one.

    As for accuracy, well, I have no way of knowing which one is better - the 2 kits often give different readings - but at least either of them will give you a good ballpark reading so you know where you stand, and you won't get any better results by taking your water to your LFS for tests - they'll use one of these kits too. And, as for ammonia and nitrite - well they'll both tell you if they're not 0, who cares if one test reads .5 and the other reads .6 - it's still not 0 and needs to be rectified.

    I like having both test kits - I like using the case from the Hagen kit and the chemicals from the AQ kit, if I run out of chemicals for an AQ test then I can use the ones from the Hagen kit. The kits use different test tubes but use the same amount of sample water - so they're interchangeable really, so if you have a preference for one kind of tube you can use it. On both kits the tubes leak around the stopper when you shake them, so wrap some paper towel around the top.

    I had lots of questions about kits when I started and couldn't find any answers really, and I still don't know which is more accurate, but hope I've answered a couple. Mainly, if you have a problem distinguishing colours then the AQ kit would be better for you. As someone else mentioned, the nitrate colours can be hard to match up when they are at higher levels, but then you know you have to do a water change anyways, so no big deal.
  6. HazeX

    HazeX New Member

    Re: Test kits - my 2 cents

    Very good info. Thank you very much. I think I'll go with the AQ kit and see how it goes.

    What I've been using was the Jungle Labs Quick Dip Test Strips, and it appears my ph is low. Whats the best way to bring it up to where it should be? Everything else "appears" to be doing well. Nitrates, Nitrites, Hardness, etc. But the PH on the strip never really changes color when I test. (that i can tell) so my assumption is its low.

    I've seen the bottles of PH balance, but I'm concerned about dumping a ton of chemicals into my tank, "Safe for Fish" or not. The Aquasafe that I use to treat my tap water (I live in a big city) is about all I really want to put into my water unless otherwise neccessary.

    Any natural way to bring up the ph?

    Thanks again for the abundance of info. I really appreciate it. :y_the_best:
  7. 2manytanks

    2manytanks New Member

    ph level no problem

    Depends what you call a ph level that's too low. If it's between about 6.5 and 7.5 I wouldn't really worry about it. If you aren't having any real health issues with your fish I'd leave it alone.

    When I started my tanks I was concerned that my ph was too high for the fish I had - based on short little descriptions I was reading on each type of fish. So I started trying to lower the ph, that idea was a flop. It's expensive, it's only temporary, and the constant changes in ph level are harder on the fish than the "wrong" ph level is.

    Water hardness and ph level are intricately linked as well, It's been a while since I read about how it all works, so I don't really remember and can't explain it properly - but I'll try. There are 2 different hardness tests we might do, general hardness and carbonate hardness, water with a higher level of carbonate hardness has a greater ability to neutralize acid thereby increasing the ph. In my case, I have a high ph and a high carbonate hardness, so when I added chemicals to decrease the ph, it would very quickly come back up again due to the high carbonate hardness, and of course as soon as I did a water change. I was trying really hard to make sure everything was just "perfect" for my fish, but I kept having illnesses and deaths pop up. Better ways to lower my ph were to add driftwood to the tank, or peat to the filtration, they're a more stable and natural way to address the problem as they also help soften the water, but they're still only temporary and the levels still fluctuate when you do a water change.

    In your case, I'd suspect that you'd find that your carbonate hardness is a bit on the low side, and the best way to increase your ph and carbonate hardness would be by adding rock or shell to your tank (although I can't suggest what kind of rock) and useing something like ph up. But still you have the problem of having the levels change every time you do a water change.

    Most of what I have read lately by more experienced and knowledgeable people claims that we do not give our fish the credit they are due for their abilities to adapt to different water conditions, and in particular to those breeds that have been raised in captivity for generations and have become more adept at tolerating water conditions that are not the same as what their wild ancestors were used to. These people claim that wild fluctuations are much more harmful to the fish than living in a stable environment even if it's different than what they would experience in the wild.

    That seems to be true for me, my fish are all much healthier since I quit screwing with things and just worried about keeping it clean.
  8. 2manytanks

    2manytanks New Member

    Re: Test kits - my 2 cents

    OOPs, sorry, it should read "AP" not "AQ" - stands for Aquarium Pharmaceuticals.
  9. HazeX

    HazeX New Member

    Re: Test kits - my 2 cents

    No problem. :) Even tho I quoted you, I knew what you were talking about. Thanks again for the info. ;)
  10. HazeX

    HazeX New Member

    Re: ph level no problem

    Now that answers more questions in one lump than anything else you could have said.

    Pretty much, do what you can to get things started, like treat the tap water, cycle the tank (a new one that is), put in fish and leave them be. And of course, dont over feed them.

    Thats what I figured from the outset, frankly. But the more I read, the more I became concerned that maybe I need to keep a really close eye on this stuff. Now that you've reiterated my gut feeling, I think I'll do what you suggest. Just let'em be.

    In fact, with that said, I can take a bit of confidence in the quality of my water because of a stupid incident that happened a couple weeks ago (my own fault too).

    1 of the 3 guppies we have is yellow and black (can't think of its name), very gorgeous fish. Well, we have Siamese Fighting Fish in a 1 gallon tank (its my kids, its what started this whole thing lol). When we bought the SFF, it was in a tank with some guppies. Well, when I went to change his water a few weeks ago, I just figured I'd dump him in the tank with the guppies. He didnt bother the ones at the store, so I figured he'd be alright in there for 5min.

    He was in there maybe 15seconds and he hit the aforementioned guppy with all his might. Took a good 2/3's of a chunk out of the middle of his tail, leaving nothing but a bone sticking out of the tail. (you can see the missing part in the pic I provided in another thread) He quickly came out of the tank. Well, of course, that guppy was in bad shape at that point, and I really wasn't sure if he'd survive the night with the way he was acting.

    But, the next morning he was carrying on like nobodies business. And since has reproduced half of that beautiful tail he once had. In another week or two I guess it'll be back in full bloom, without being able to tell he ever took the hit.

    That said, I think I can take comfort in the idea that my water is doing pretty good, and i shouldn't worry.

    Thanks again for the advice. ;)
  11. 2manytanks

    2manytanks New Member

    Re: ph level no problem

    Yup, but of course, keep watching the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels - they'll let you know when something needs to be done before it REALLY NEEDS to be done. Don't wait for the fishies to tell you somethings up.
  12. HazeX

    HazeX New Member

    Re: ph level no problem

    Absolutely. :y_the_best:

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