Test strips VS API master test kit

foxgirl158

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So I thought I would do a little experiment today with my new master test kit. (It was supposed to come in on Monday but got delayed until yesterday :/). This was my first test with the master kit, and I wanted to see how much the parameters differed between the strips and liquid tests. I have been using the strips since I set my tank up around this time last year.

STRIPS:
Ammonia: 0 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: around 10 ppm (the color was between 0 and 20)
pH: 7.8

MASTER TEST KIT: (please let me know if I’m not reading these correctly from the picture below)
Ammonia: 0 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: 10 ppm
High range pH: 8.2

I found this extremely interesting, as the only parameter that differed was the pH. I’ve been told, and I’ve seen others been told, that the strips are highly inaccurate and to get the master test kit. But really, the only difference was the pH. Granted, it’s a big difference, but is it really enough to warrant getting a whole other kit?
 

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Bruce Leyland-Jones

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So I thought I would do a little experiment today with my new master test kit. (It was supposed to come in on Monday but got delayed until yesterday :/). This was my first test with the master kit, and I wanted to see how much the parameters differed between the strips and liquid tests. I have been using the strips since I set my tank up around this time last year.

STRIPS:
Ammonia: 0 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: around 10 ppm (the color was between 0 and 20)
pH: 7.8

MASTER TEST KIT: (please let me know if I’m not reading these correctly from the picture below)
Ammonia: 0 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: 10 ppm
High range pH: 8.2

I found this extremely interesting, as the only parameter that differed was the pH. I’ve been told, and I’ve seen others been told, that the strips are highly inaccurate and to get the master test kit. But really, the only difference was the pH. Granted, it’s a big difference, but is it really enough to warrant getting a whole other kit?
Kudos for putting the effort in to test the theories. ;)
You'll learn that it's easier to work out the differences between colours, if that was info that you really needed to know. in the liquid tests, rather than the strips.
(Most people use a 5 in 1 test strip, which doesn't actually measure ammonia).

That said, once your tank is cycled, all you really need to know is whether or not ammonia or nitrites are present. It doesn't matter what the reading is, if it's there, then something is amiss.
The difference in pH is interesting...I wonder which is the most accurate?
Does your water supplier provide info on such matters? If they did, perhaps you could test your tapwater with their figures in mind?

Personally, I prefer the liquid tests, but I do have a lab-orientated background, from back when it was all fields around here.
 

Myraan

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All the colours on the strip look the same to me, and I found using a JBL strip that uses an app to read the colours gives widely varying results compared to JBL liquid tests. IMO pH is only an issue if its vastly different to what the hardness would make you expect or if you tank settles to be vastly different to your tap water, in which case you will know to be careful about changing too much water too soon.... and even then perhaps all that is needed is to add the new water more slowly than you other wise might.

For those reading who don't want to be bothered with the faff of liquid tests - I would still get some form of ammonia test, as it is the most important one to check when cycling or troubleshooting.

And the distrust of people on this forum is big.... you have probably noticed no-one accepts test results of "fine"....

Actually you could argue both your tests agree on pH anyway, if you round to the nearest half a pH unit, which very likely isn't far off the deviation one might expect from a simple colour test measured by eye.
 

AbbeysDad

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That said, once your tank is cycled, all you really need to know is whether or not ammonia or nitrites are present. It doesn't matter what the reading is, if it's there, then something is amiss.
Once a tank is properly cycled, ammonia and nitrites will always be zero so all you really need to test for is nitrates so you might decide how much and how often to do partial water changes. With the API liquid test kit, orange = okay, red = bad, do a water change soon!

As to any accuracy difference between strips and liquid tests, generally the liquids are considered more accurate, but we're not doing clinical studies for research papers so absolute accuracy just isn't required.

All of my tanks are established and I do sufficient weekly and bi-weekly (largely stocked grow out tanks) water changes so I rarely test unless I see problems.
 

WhistlingBadger

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I like the liquid kits because they make me feel like a mad scientist, and reinforce the perception my clients have that I actually know what I'm doing. Strips are definitely better than nothing. It's interesting that your nitrate readings are the same. The strips I've used have always shown nitrates far lower than actual.
 

PheonixKingZ

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Color match anything is not as accurate at digital readers, because everyone sees color differently. If you really wanted to do this experiment correctly, you would need to get digital testers for the above parameters, and then compare that to the strips and liquid to see how accurate they are overall.
 

Bruce Leyland-Jones

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Once a tank is properly cycled, ammonia and nitrites will always be zero...
No no no...a cycled tank is a balanced ecosystem, it isn't an invulnerable ecosystem, impervious to the stresses placed upon it.
Animals may die and cause an ammonia 'spike'.
Vegetation may die and cause an ammonia spike.
Courtship, or 'normal' fish aggression can raise stress levels and waste production.
Even bacteria can die off, due to bacteria just being bacteria.

In a well cycled tank, with excellent water parameters and conditions, one that isn't over-stocked and all the life within is content and thriving, such 'spikes' can be absorbed by the system and no spike shows.
Otherwise...

So no...in a properly cycled tank, ammonia and nitrites will not always be zero. That would be unnatural.

Right now, in every single one of our tanks, there is ammonia and there are nitrates in the water.
Granted, those chemicals are being processed, but they're there, nevertheless.
 

Myraan

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I like the liquid kits because they make me feel like a mad scientist, and reinforce the perception my clients have that I actually know what I'm doing. Strips are definitely better than nothing. It's interesting that your nitrate readings are the same. The strips I've used have always shown nitrates far lower than actual.
now I find the opposite with my current jbl strips that use ur camera on phone

But i generally had a consistent reading of 10 or so using API strips regardless of what liquid tests said.
 

itiwhetu

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So I thought I would do a little experiment today with my new master test kit. (It was supposed to come in on Monday but got delayed until yesterday :/). This was my first test with the master kit, and I wanted to see how much the parameters differed between the strips and liquid tests. I have been using the strips since I set my tank up around this time last year.

STRIPS:
Ammonia: 0 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: around 10 ppm (the color was between 0 and 20)
pH: 7.8

MASTER TEST KIT: (please let me know if I’m not reading these correctly from the picture below)
Ammonia: 0 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: 10 ppm
High range pH: 8.2

I found this extremely interesting, as the only parameter that differed was the pH. I’ve been told, and I’ve seen others been told, that the strips are highly inaccurate and to get the master test kit. But really, the only difference was the pH. Granted, it’s a big difference, but is it really enough to warrant getting a whole other kit?
I would like to know what happens with the pH test averages over say ten tests on ten different days.
 

AbbeysDad

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No no no...a cycled tank is a balanced ecosystem, it isn't an invulnerable ecosystem, impervious to the stresses placed upon it.
Animals may die and cause an ammonia 'spike'.
Vegetation may die and cause an ammonia spike.
Courtship, or 'normal' fish aggression can raise stress levels and waste production.
Even bacteria can die off, due to bacteria just being bacteria.
Perhaps I should have written that under normal circumstances, in a well established tank, ammonia and nitrites will nearly always yield a zero test result. So it would be a waste to routinely test for them. If there's an ammonia spike, the fish will be gasping in distress (or dead) well before you could reach for a test kit. And if the hobbyist is paying even a little attention, dead things should be removed long before decomposition results in an ammonia spike.
I rarely test for anything in my well established tanks, but for those that do, have at it. :)
 

itiwhetu

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When I used to do the fish work for a vet, I would always test the tank I was visiting with test strips. It was an instant result that the aquarium owner could understand and an indication of what was going on for me. I found liquid tests to be too cumbersome for the little extra information they provided.
 

DoubleDutch

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Asking myself if one can compare these to methods and tell they are more or less accurate based on 0, 0, 10 (last teststrip 0-20 which tells me it is less accurate btw).

If I put in a plain piece of white paper it won't color up as well. Is that as accurate as the liquid test ?
 

itiwhetu

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Asking myself if one can compare these to methods and tell they are more or less accurate based on 0, 0, 10 (last teststrip 0-20 which tells me it is less accurate btw).

If I put in a plain piece of white paper it won't color up as well. Is that as accurate as the liquid test ?
Why would API make the test strips if they didn't think they had a place in the aquarium world.
 

DoubleDutch

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Why would API make the test strips if they didn't think they had a place in the aquarium world.
I didn't say that they hadn't. As bacterial starters they can be used to me.
Only thing is I doubt you can tell they are accurate based on a 0,0,10 - test
BTW : Aquabrands don't make things cause they have a place in the aquariumworld, but cause they make profit.
 

AbbeysDad

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BTW : Aquabrands don't make things cause they have a place in the aquariumworld, but cause they make profit.
True enough, but then manufacturers don't continue to make products that don't sell and those that do, will end up with a warehouse full of trash!... and products that don't work, typically don't sell well after the marketing hype wears off and buyers become aware.

Test strips AND liquid test strips work with enough accuracy to serve the hobbyists purpose as the degree of precise accuracy in parts per million is relatively insignificant. There's probably a much bigger discrepancy in the hobbyist's ability to differentiate the subtle color differences in the results obtained from the test. :)
 

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