Creating idyllic living conditions for our wet pets is the goal of every aquarium keeper. Water cleanliness and stability are so vital to tank health that hobbyists utilize a variety of aquarium test kits to help them determine the quality of their tank water.
A common aquarium test kit will come with liquid reagent, a test tube and color chart. Reagent is dripped into a sample of your aquarium water inside the test tube. A lid is usually placed on the test tube so it can be shaken and mixed. The color of the liquid eventually changes and the corresponding color on the reference chart determines your water quality.
For a fish-only saltwater aquarium, you should test pH, Alkalinity, Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate. Nuisance algae growth, a common problem for aquarists, is often the result of too much Phosphate and/or Nitrate.
For a reef tank, you should test all of the above plus Calcium, Magnesium and Phosphate. Many reef aquarium owners try to replicate natural seawater as much as possible, so testing for the presence of minor and trace elements like Iodine, Strontium, Potassium, Boron and Iron are also a part of their regimen.
Water changes help replenish these materials, but large fully stocked mixed reef aquariums filled with coral often require supplementation. As you may have guessed, the only way to know how much to supplement is by testing your water.
Smart aquarium owners often use an aquarium controller or monitor in addition to regularly testing their water since these devices often log the data which is useful for identifying changes. Our most popular test kit brands are from Salifert, Red Sea, ELOS and API. For hobbyists that find testing a bit tedious, a great alternative to standard tests are Hanna Checker Colorimeters.
If you are having a water quality issue or have a question about test kits, please contact our aquarium experts today. If you would like to learn more about ideal water parameters and testing, please reference our Reef Tank Parameters Chart and read Which Parameters You Should Test For (and Why), How and Why to Test Your Aquarium Water and Considerations When Choosing Water Test Kits.