Test Kit Comparison

Discussion in 'Water Chemistry' started by gabbyr189, Feb 5, 2012.

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  1. gabbyr189

    gabbyr189 Bubble Tip Anemone

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    So I’ve been working on this for a little while now, as I plan to find replacements for my old API Test Kits - from back when I was new to the hobby. I had originally bought an API Saltwater Master Test Kit (ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH) and an API Reef Master Test Kit (calcium, alkalinity, phosphate, and nitrate). I bought these test kits because my LFS told me they included everything that I would need. They were also packaged nicely. I was the typical inexperienced new reefer who had yet to learn the importance of doing her research.

    I’ll be honest when I say that some of these tests seem to be decent, but how can we really know unless we have something to compare it to? Yes, many stores offer free water testing, however, they often use test strips (which are more inaccurate than any other alternative). I am lucky enough to have a great LFS nearby that uses Salifert test kits, which have an unbeatable reputation. I thought that the API alkalinity test kit seemed pretty accurate, but what do I know? I realized (assuming the Salifert test kit was accurate) that my alkalinity was 3 dKH higher than what I had originally thought!

    The quality of several of the other tests that came with this set are just pitiful. The color scales are completely unreadable! The nitrate test kit comes with a color scale with three similar shades of yellow right next to each other, two of which are indistinguishable (especially when looking at the test solution). It is impossible for me to tell the difference, and I have 20/20 vision. I can barely even tell the difference just looking at the color card (seriously, they are same shade of yellow). I recently bought an American Marine pH probe because I was concerned about the pH in my system. I received the calibration solution yesterday, and calibrated it last night. Before I measured the pH of my system with the probe, I pulled out my handy API pH test kit for a comparison. My best guess using the color scale was 8.0. I then handed it over to my boyfriend (bbrian189), whom I share the tank with, and he guessed 8.4 (although, he is partially colorblind..). I retested the pH probe by sticking it back into the 7 and 10 calibration solutions, and they indeed measured 7 and 10. I rinsed the probe and placed it in the tank. Our pH is 7.7. I think that speaks for itself. The worst of the tests is the phosphate. I simply cannot read it. I know that phosphate test kits are terrible in general, so why do companies sell them? Not everyone knows that they are terrible, meaning they think their phosphate is 0 when it isn’t. Why not just discontinue it? If a company must sell a phosphate kit, at least use a better color scale.

    I recently bought a Neptune Apex aquarium controller. It was incredibly difficult to come to this decision. Aquarium controllers come with so many features, that it is almost impossible to choose if you aren’t familiar with them. It took me a while to come to this decision… I even started a thread about it, and posted my decision a few weeks later. Someone replied asking how I came to this decision, as they were looking to buy one too. I realized that I had spent so much time comparing them, that I couldn’t even remember what essentially made me choose the Apex. I felt terrible that, after all that, I had nothing to give them. I will not make that mistake again.

    I have made tables comparing all of the well-known brands for the most common tests performed on the marine and/or reef aquarium. I have categorized them by the type of test. In the first row underneath the test heading, I have made columns for each brand I could find. I have found the lowest base prices and listed them under each brand. I did not include shipping here, as shipping is different for different people and/or situations. For example, I have an Amazon Prime account, meaning I get free, two-day shipping on many items sold on Amazon. Others may be making large purchases, and get free shipping that way.

    Prices:
    It is very hard to compare the prices of these tests kits because each kit provides a different number of tests. To resolve this, I calculated the price per individual test (for companies that specify a number of tests). This makes it possible to compare the prices on a level playing field. For example, a Salifert Magnesium Test kit costs $26.99, whereas the Red Sea Test costs $29.99. Many would choose the Salifert because it is cheaper, without realizing that Red Sea gives you 100 tests and the Salifert only gives you 50! You can simply divide to found how much you are paying per individual test. For the Salifert you are paying $0.54 per individual test and for the Red Sea, you would only be paying $0.30! In addition, Red Sea sells test kit refills for many of their tests. In this case, they sell a 75-test refill for $12.99, only $0.17 per test! That means that when it comes time to buy your second test kit (and third, fourth, etc.), you will forever pay over 3 times the amount for the Salifert, as you would for the Red Sea.
    Some brands do not specify the exact number of tests that their kit will provide you. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as these tests are usually titration-based, and are often more accurate. In this case, the number of tests may depend on your individual levels (e.g. if you have a higher concentration of magnesium in your tank, you may need more drops of test reagent to reach the endpoint of a titration-based magnesium test).

    Reviews:
    The reviews and popularity should be taken into consideration as well. It can be difficult to compare the reviews, as there are many online sellers, with separate reviews for each! We always know that there is always that one bitter “one star” reviewer, whom is still angry for one reason or another. A low number of reviews could either mean that the product is unpopular or the store is unpopular. If that “one star” reviewer posts on that same website, they could really mess up your decision! To try to solve this problem, I looked at reviews from five major online retailers. It was originally six, but I realized that Marine Depot and Petstore.com share their reviews (as every one was the same). Good idea on their part! If all stores shared product reviews, then this much effort would be unnecessary! Anyway, what I did was I entered the average ratings from each retailer, and took the overall average by combining reviews from all of the retailers. I was careful to weight these reviews by the number of reviewers. I wouldn’t want to take a 4 star rating, with 40 voters on Bulk Reef Supply and combine it with a 2 star rating from 1 voter on AquaCave.com, and then tell you guys that the average is 3 stars (because it isn’t). I listed the total # of reviewers for each test kit in order to get a sense of the tests popularity.

    I hope these comparisons will be helpful to new reefers that aren’t familiar with these test kits or their reputation. I have probably made a mistake somewhere! If you catch one, tell me and I will correct it. I am sure there will be more reviews, new brands, product upgrades, price changes, etc. in the future, so I will do my best to keep it up to date! There are links in the actual Excel document, which I have attached, so it won’t be too difficult to keep up with it. Enjoy!


    Individual Test Kit Comparison:
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    Multi-Test Kit Comparison
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    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Feb 7, 2012
    11 people like this.
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  3. oki_reefer

    oki_reefer Astrea Snail

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    Very nicely done and very helpful. This is something that I have been looking into and trying to come to some conclusion on what to order.
     
  4. Thatgrimguy

    Thatgrimguy Flying Squid

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    Lots of work went into this one!! Thanks for doing the research for us!
     
  5. lmr2o

    lmr2o Millepora

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    very nice post! thanks for putting in the work and sharing with us
     
  6. NanaReefer

    NanaReefer Fu Manchu Lion Fish

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    Awesome! Wonderfully put together. Thank you so much for your time and efforts :)
     
  7. cosmo

    cosmo Giant Squid

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    good job! thx for doing the legwork! I just got a red sea reef kit to replace API! Holy cow does API suck after using this!
     
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  9. lynnmw1208

    lynnmw1208 Skunk Shrimp

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    very nice! I still would rate salifert lower in magnesium readings. Mine always gave me super low readings and when I switched to the red sea pro kits i realized my mag is actually a lot higher :) LOVE that they have refills tho which is the #1 reason I buy it plus the ease of using.
     
  10. dowtish

    dowtish Horrid Stonefish

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    Awesome write up! thanks for your time and efforts!

    Were these the red sea pro test kit reviews, or just the regular older test kits?
     
  11. pgoodsell

    pgoodsell Horrid Stonefish

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    Great write up. thanks for sharing. :)
     
  12. sticksmith23

    sticksmith23 Giant Squid

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    Awesome write up thanks for your time and effort.
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