Owning an aquarium can be a rewarding experience, but maintaining good water quality and chemical balance within your tank can be stressful and frustrating. To make matters worse, failing to keep your water in check could lead to fish sickness and even death. In order to avoid this, finding the best aquarium test kit to understand the water parameters of your tank is important.
Luckily, aquarium test kits provide everything you need to test the levels of different potentially harmful compounds and levels in your aquarium. We’ve tested countless aquarium test kits in our tanks, and our reviews and buyer’s guide below will help you choose the best one for your needs.
Best Aquarium Test Kit Options:
What is the Best Aquarium Test Kit?
Our all-around favorite aquarium test kit is the API Freshwater Master Test Kit. It includes multiple solutions for up to 800 tests to help you monitor pH as well as levels of nitrates, nitrites, ammonia. It provides accurate readings for each so that you can maintain the proper ranges in your tank water.
Types of Aquarium Test Kits
There are three primary types of aquarium test kits, each with a different method of analyzing your water.
Test strips are strips of paper with pads attached to them that react to different chemicals or pH levels. Each strip contains a series of pads that turn a different color when exposed to a specific water parameter.
Liquid test kits consist of multiple bottles of solution, each of which will react in a certain way to ammonia levels, nitrite levels, nitrate concentration, or pH. You’ll need to take a water sample in a test tube and test the sample with the appropriate solution.
Electronic tests involve a battery-powered device that you dip into your tank water. The reading for your designated water parameter will appear on an LCD screen. Most electronic testers are highly accurate, but they’re expensive and limited in functionality.
Test Strips versus Liquid Tests
Test strips are generally the most affordable, as the only ongoing purchase you’ll need to make are the strips themselves. The strips provide accurate enough readings to be useful, but they aren’t ideal for precision.
Test strips are very convenient and fast to use. You simply dip them in your tank, take the reading, and move onto the next parameter or your next tank. You don’t need to worry about cross-contamination between tanks, as every strip is intended for single use.
Liquid tests typically provide more accurate results. They still give a range rather than an exact number or concentration, but the color scale for comparison is generally easier to read and a bit more precise.
However, liquid test kits take longer to get results and are much more involved. For each tank and each parameter you want to test, you’ll need to fill a test tube with tank water, add solution, shake, and wait several minutes. This can be time-consuming and may not be worth the added precision if you have multiple aquariums.
Additionally, you need to be careful to avoid cross-contamination between tanks when using liquid test kits. This requires that you clean each test tube thoroughly before moving onto the next aquarium.
What To Look For In An Aquarium Test Kit
When you’re deciding on the best aquarium test kit for your tanks, make sure you consider the below factors.
Not all test kits provide the same accuracy, so you’ll want to make sure you get one that suits you and the animals you keep. Most test kits used by amateur and intermediate aquarists provide a range of the desired water parameter rather than an exact reading. Test strips have the widest range, and liquid tests are more accurate but not as precise as electronic testers.
If you want total control over your water or keep certain fish species that require precise levels, you may be better off with an electric tester.
Number of Tests Per Kit
No matter what style of test kit you purchase, you’ll eventually have to replace some portion of the supplies. Test strips are disposable and require the ongoing purchase of new strips. Liquid test kits include solutions that you’ll need to replace when they run out. Even electrical testers require calibrating solutions that you’ll need to replace when you’ve used those that come with the kit.
To avoid having to make another purchase in a short amount of time, pay attention to the number of tests that are included in your kit. The more tests that come with your kit, the longer it will last.
Keeping aquariums is expensive, and although water test kits are an essential item for keeping your animals alive and healthy, you should consider your budget when deciding on a kit.
If your budget is minimal, you may be able to get by on less accurate test strips. If you have a large budget and want the most precision possible, an electric tester may be ideal for you.
Testing your water can be time-consuming, especially if you have multiple tanks to test. You should keep in mind how convenient a test kit is when deciding if it’s right for you.
Test strips are disposable and just require a quick dip directly into your tank. You can take levels of each tank you own in just a few seconds with the disposable strips, and you can move from tank to tank quickly without worrying about cross-contamination.
Liquid test kits are slightly less convenient than strips because you’ll need to clean each test tube after each use. This can be very inconvenient if you have multiple tanks and need to avoid cross-contamination.
Electric testers are very straightforward for testing purposes, but you’ll also need to clean the device after testing each tank and ensure it remains dry in storage. For some aquarists, the high degree of precision may not be worth the extra work during testing.
Finally, take a look at the reviews for any test kit you’re considering. No one understands a test kit and knows the benefits and downsides of using it more than the aquarists who buy them and attempt to use them themselves. Keep in mind that any product will have both positive and negative reviews, so it’s best to check several reviews and consider the pros and cons discussed by the customer.
How to Use an Aquarium Test Kit
Your aquarium test kit will only be helpful and as accurate as possible if you know how to use it properly. We’ll detail the general process below.
Before you dive into testing your water, you should thoroughly read the instructions, even if the kit seems straightforward to use. It’s crucial that you use the equipment precisely as intended, as even slight misreadings or mistakes may not pick up on dangerous or deadly water parameters.
Next, you’ll want to collect everything you’ll need to carry out all of your tests for all of your tanks if you have multiple aquariums. Preparing before you begin will keep you organize and focused, save time, and help avoid mistakes.
While testing strips and electric testers can be placed directly in your tank, it’s a good idea to pull a sample of tank water into a separate container for testing. This will help avoid accidents and testing mistakes and will minimize cross-contamination for electric options. Liquid test kits will always require that you pull a sample before testing.
Add the Reagent
If you’re using a liquid test kit, you can add the solution designed to alter the color of your water depending on the water parameter you’re testing. Follow the instructions included with your kit very carefully to ensure you add the correct amount, as improper volumes can throw off the validity of your test.
Shake and Wait
If you’re using a liquid test kit, you’ll now need to shake the test tube containing your tank water sample and the reagent vigorously. The directions included in your kit should give you an idea of how long to shake and how long to wait to get the most accurate reading.
Compare Colors and Data
Once you’ve waited the recommended time after shaking your test tubes, hold up the tube next to the comparison chart that came with your kit. Your goal is to match the color of your water with a specific color on the chart to get an accurate reading. It’s best to compare against a light background so that you can clearly see the colors.
Once you find the color on the chart that appears to match your water sample, you can analyze the data and determine the value for the given water parameter.
If you’re using test strips, your clean-up phase will simply be throwing away the used strip. Liquid test kits require more thorough cleaning, as you’ll need to make sure each test tube is clean, uncontaminated, and ready for use during the next testing period. If you’re using an electric tester, you’ll need to clean the probes thoroughly and dry them completely before storing them.
Take Your Time!
Above all else, don’t rush! Testing your water can be tedious, but doing it correctly will ensure you get the most accurate readings possible and can make changes in your tank to keep your fish, invertebrates, bacteria, and plants healthy.
What Are the Benefits of Aquarium Test Kits?
Aquarium test kits are invaluable tools that provide a wealth of benefits to you and your tank inhabitants. Below are the two most compelling reasons to use these kits.
Understand Your Water Parameters
The nitrogen cycle that naturally occurs within every fish tank can be confusing. Fish waste introduces ammonia into your water, which can build up and kill any living organism in your tank.
Ammonia and leftover food get consumed by bacteria, which leaves nitrites behind. Nitrobacter, another bacteria in your tank, consumes nitrites and produces nitrates, which are then removed during water changes. Nitrites and nitrates are also deadly if they build up in your water.
The process can be challenging to understand and impossible to predict, but aquarium test kits give you insight into where the process stands and exactly how much of the toxic compounds – ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates – are in your water. You can react accordingly and maintain good water quality with proper testing.
Most aquarists use water test kits to maintain healthy water for their fish. Most fish are very sensitive to levels of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates, so the accumulation of any of these compounds can increase the risk of sickness, fungal infection, fish stress, and even death.
Ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates are invisible to the naked eye, and testing is the only way to measure their presence accurately. Maintaining these levels along with a healthy pH will help your fish thrive and maintain happiness in their tank.
Best Aquarium Test Kit Options
We’ll include a brief list of our favorite aquarium test kits, followed by more in-depth reviews of each.
- API FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT
- Sera Aqua-Test Box (+ Cl) Aquarium Test Kits
- Tetra EasyStrips 6-In-1 Aquarium Test Strips
- BOSIKE Aquarium Test Strips, 125 Strips Fish Tank Test Kit
- Freshwater Aquarium Test Strips 6 in 1 – Fish Tank Test Kit
- JNW Direct Aquarium Test Strips for Fish Tank 9 in 1, 100 Strip Pack
- SJ Wave 6 in 1 Aquarium Test Strips with Thermometer
- Milliard Aquarium Test Strips / 7 in 1/100 Count/for Fresh Water and Salt Water Tanks
- Hanna Instruments HI98103 Checker pH Tester with Ph Electrode and Batteries
This complete liquid test kit comes with everything you need to monitor the most important water parameters, including pH, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. It also comes with a solution for monitoring pH levels that are higher than usual for fish that require an elevated acidity. This kit does not include a test for water hardness.
The color card is very easy to read, which means your test will be more straightforward and accurate.
It includes solution for 800 tests total, and it’s very affordable, especially given how many tests you get.
- It includes solution for 800 tests
- The easy-to-read color card offers simplicity and accuracy
- It includes tests for all required water parameters
- It’s very affordable
- It offers good accuracy
- It doesn’t include a test for water hardness
- Some of the solutions will run out before others
This liquid test kit includes test tubes and solutions for monitoring pH, nitrites, nitrates, and ammonia. It also provides testing solutions for total hardness, carbonate hardness, phosphate, iron, and chlorine, so you can monitor more levels with this kit than most others.
The color card is very straightforward to read and provides excellent accuracy.
The whole kit comes in a convenient carrying case that holds all the test tubes, solutions, and other equipment you’ll need.
This kit is a complete testing solution for your tanks, but it is very expensive.
- The included color card improves accuracy
- It comes in a convenient carrying case for easy storage
- It includes all of the necessary testing solutions
- It provides additional solutions for total control over your water levels
- It’s very expensive
- Buying replacement solution can be challenging
These test strips are super convenient, as they allow you to test six different water parameters for freshwater or saltwater tanks at once. They’re useful for pH, ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, chlorine, water hardness, and alkalinity.
These strips are quick to use and don’t require any clean-up. However, they are far less accurate than liquid test kits and provide a much wider range for a reading.
This kit includes 100 testing strips, so you’ll be able to monitor multiple tanks or a single tank for long periods. Especially for the number of strips you get, this kit is very inexpensive.
- The testing strips provide a simple process
- Each strip includes six tests for rapid readings
- The kit is very affordable
- Testing doesn’t require any preparation or clean-up
- They test for all required water parameters and some additional ones
- The strips are far less accurate than a liquid test kit
- You can’t test individual parameters without using an entire strip
These test strips provide readings for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, pH, carbonate hardness, and chlorine, so they’re useful for freshwater and saltwater aquariums. Each strip provides six different tests in one, making the process very convenient and straightforward.
The strips provide less accuracy than a liquid test kit, but the process involves no preparation or clean-up. These may be ideal for you if you need to test multiple tanks each week and don’t want the testing to take a long time.
They’re very affordable, and the kit includes 125 strips, each with six test pads.
- The strips make monitoring levels very straightforward
- Each strip tests for six water parameters at once
- It’s affordable
- No preparation or clean-up will be required
- It’s suitable for freshwater and saltwater tanks
- The accuracy isn’t as good as with liquid test kits
- You can’t test for a single parameter without using an entire strip
These test strips include six pads on each, which allow you to test for pH, nitrites, nitrates, ammonia, chlorine, and water hardness with a single strip. They’re suitable for monitoring levels in freshwater and saltwater.
The strips are easy to read, but they don’t provide the same accuracy as liquid test kits. However, they’re super convenient, disposable, and require no preparation or clean-up after testing is complete.
Each kit comes with 64 strips and is more expensive than many other test strip kits.
- The strips make testing super convenient and easy
- Each strip gives readings for six parameters at once
- The strips are wide and very easy to read
- No clean-up is necessary after testing
- It’s useful for freshwater and saltwater aquariums
- It’s comparatively expensive
- You can’t opt to test a single parameter
- It doesn’t provide the same accuracy as liquid test kits
These test strips provide readings for an impressive nine different parameters at once, including pH, ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, water hardness, carbonate hardness, iron, copper, and chlorine. These are suitable for use in freshwater and saltwater tanks.
The strips are thin and can be challenging to read, and the results are less accurate than liquid test kits. They’re best for beginner aquarists who want general readings and don’t need total control over their tanks.
The kit comes with 100 strips and is very affordable.
- The strips allow easy water testing
- Each strip gives nine different readings
- It’s very affordable
- No clean-up or preparation is needed
- It’s suitable for freshwater and saltwater tanks
- It’s not as accurate as liquid test kits
- The strips can be challenging to read
- You can’t test for a single parameter without using a whole strip
These test strips each provide results for six water parameters, including pH, nitrates, nitrites, ammonia, hardness, and chlorine. They’re easy to read, but they offer much less accuracy than liquid test kits.
The kit includes 100 tests and is very affordable. It also comes with a stick-on thermometer, but it’s not very accurate, so we recommend against relying on it for temperature readings.
The strips are very convenient to use and are suitable for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums.
- The strips make testing very simple
- Each strip has six pads for different parameters
- It’s very affordable
- You won’t need to clean up after testing
- It’s useful for freshwater and saltwater
- It provides less accuracy than liquid test kits
- The included thermometer isn’t accurate
- You can’t test for a single parameter
These test strips provide readings for seven parameters, including pH, nitrite, nitrate, alkalinity, water hardness, carbonate hardness, and chlorine. They don’t offer insight into ammonia levels, which is an essential reading for maintaining safe water.
The strips are very easy to use and are suitable for beginner aquarists. You can use these for freshwater or saltwater aquariums, but you may need to supplement with an ammonia test kit.
It comes with 100 strips and is very affordable.
- The strips are convenient and straightforward
- Each strip tests seven parameters
- It’s affordable
- It’s useful for freshwater and saltwater
- It doesn’t test for ammonia, a crucial parameter to monitor
- It’s not as accurate as liquid test kits
- You can’t monitor a single parameter without using a whole strip
This electric tester provides speedy and highly accurate readings for pH. It won’t test for any other water parameters, so you’ll need to supplement this with another kit. However, it’s ideal for monitoring pH in tanks with sensitive fish species.
It’s very straightforward to use and gives easy-to-read levels on the LCD screen. The narrow probe makes getting readings from test tube samples a breeze.
This tester is relatively expensive, especially since it’s only useful for a single water parameter.
- The probe makes testing in test tubes easy
- The convenient LCD screen makes monitoring levels simple
- It provides very accurate pH readings
- pH levels are fast and easy to read
- It’s expensive, given the limited functionality
- It can only test for pH
- You’ll need additional testing kits to test other parameters
Aquarium Test Kit FAQs
Can I Use the Test Strips for Saltwater Fish Tanks?
Many test strips are suitable for freshwater and saltwater. It’s crucial to choose strips that include more than the essentials, as alkalinity, chlorine, and phosphate are all critical levels to track in saltwater tanks.
Does the Tank Size Matter When Choosing a Test Strip for My Aquarium?
Test kits will work in any size aquarium, so you don’t need to worry about the aquarium volume when deciding on a kit.
Can You Use a Pool Test Strip for Your Aquarium?
A pool test strip won’t harm your water, but it won’t provide the information you need. They don’t test ammonia, nitrites, or nitrate, all of which are crucial levels to maintain in an aquarium.
Does the Temperature of the Water Affect the Results of My Test Strip?
Generally speaking, the temperature in your tank doesn’t matter when conducting water tests. The strips will return accurate values regardless of the water temperature.
If My Test Strip Indicates a Problem, What Do I Do?
High levels of ammonia, nitrites, or nitrates can often be corrected with a significant water change, but you should also ensure the healthy bacteria in your filter are thriving, as they manage these levels more reliably. If your pH is too high or too low, you can add an aquarium-safe pH adjustment in small quantities until you’re within your desired range.
When Should You Test Your Aquarium Water?
Weekly tests of all crucial levels are highly recommended so that you can monitor your water quality over time. You should perform dedicated tests if your fish ever appear sick or lethargic.
How Often Should You Test Your Aquarium Water?
Testing your water at least weekly is a good rule of thumb. This will help ensure that none of the hazardous compounds spike can cause problems for your fish. Weekly tests will also help you decide when a water change is required.
Maintaining the proper levels of pH, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates in your aquarium can be stressful, but it’s crucial that they remain within healthy ranges. Aquarium test kits can help you monitor all of the important levels that are otherwise impossible to track, allowing you to make necessary changes to keep your fish alive, happy, and healthy.
Our all-around favorite aquarium test kit is the API Freshwater Master Test Kit. It contains 800 total tests for all of the necessary levels, including pH, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. It’s very accurate and can help maintain healthy water for your fish and plants.