Pete Giwojna

Dear Amanda:

I’m glad to hear that your problem with the residual nitrates turned out to be due to a test kit with reagent that had expired.

When it comes to the test kits, I don’t like the Red Sea kits or the Jungle kits much at all, and I would generally avoid those brands, but most of the other test kits will serve reasonably well for the home hobbyist. Assuming they haven’t expired, the Aquarium Pharmaceuticals test kits are actually pretty decent in my experience, but the Instant Ocean Test Kits by aquarium systems are a notch above them, and, although they are the most costly, the Salifert kits are widely considered to be the most accurate and reliable. I’ll provide you with a little more information about the Instant Ocean and Salifert test kits below, Amanda, since you’ll probably want to go with one of those brands if you decide to upgrade your saltwater test kits.

Instant Ocean Test Kits

Aquarium Systems has taken their ever-popular fasTesT® Saltwater and SeaTest Reef® lines of water testing kits and grouped them into one line, now named Instant Ocean® Test Kits. Nothing has changed about these products, except that rather than having to buy separate Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, and Phosphate tests, these are now simply combined as two-in-one Ammonia-Nitrite and Nitrate-Phosphate kits. As before you can buy individual pH, Alkalinity, Calcium, and Copper tests, the combination Ocean Master and Reef Master multi-test kits, and reagent refills.

The average hobbyist will find the Instant Ocean Test Kits to be fast, reasonably accurate, and very easy to use. The wide-mouth and wide-base testers make it convenient to add the reagents, and they don’t tip over easily. The color comparator chips slide right into the tester, and the colors are vibrant, which makes reading the test a bit easier and leaves you feeling a little more confident about the results. Testing times range from 2 up to 20 minutes, so the results are quick. With the convenient individual foil packets, keeping the granular testing chemicals dry, fresh, and active is usually not a problem.

However, the chemicals are time-use dated and the hobbyist should be sure to check the printed expiration date on the foil packets before buying any of these kits, because any particular one may have been kept for some time on a store’s shelf. If you happen to get outdated reagents, contact Aquarium Systems to see if they might replace them.

All things considered, the Instant Ocean Test Kits are probably the best choice for an experienced marine aquarists due to convenience, ease of use, affordability, and relative accuracy. The instant Ocean Master Test Kit in particular is an excellent bargain that contains Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, Alkalinity, and pH tests, all in the same package. Instant Ocean also offers a Reef Master Test Kit that would be ideal for seahorse keepers who keep compatible live corals with their ponies.

Salifert Pro Test Kits

Made in Holland, even though Salifert test kits may be little more complex and costly to use than other brands, they are considered by many aquarists, particularly reef keepers, as being THE best choice in test kits. They offer a wide range of both basic and reef water tests, and are said to be some of the most precise and accurate available on the market, which is important for accurate dosing when additives are needed, and they also feature bold color changes and good color comparison charts. The drawback to the Salifert kits is that they are not as easy to use and are considerably more expensive, even more so recently given the current exchange rates For the US Dollar versus the Euro.

The Salifert Nitrogen Cycle Package is a better bargain than purchasing the individual test kits — it’s a master test kit that includes Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, & pH tests in one package.

Best wishes with all your fishes, Amanda!

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna

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