The best aquarium test kits are invaluable tools that every aquarist needs to have. They allow you to accurately measure the state of your tank, and make adjustments when necessary.
Without this crucial information, you would have no way of knowing if your aquarium was healthy or not. Meanwhile, your fish could be suffering!
All of the most experienced aquarists we know invest in the best water testing kits they can get their hands on. If you want to follow suit, read this guide to see our recommendations.
Table of Contents
Putting together this list of the best aquarium test kits was something that didn’t take much time at all! Over the years we’ve tried pretty much every test under the sun, so we knew right away which ones to recommend.
You can get by with any of the water test kits on our list. It all comes down to which one has the features you’re looking for!
1. Aquarium Water Test Kit By API
You can’t go wrong with a test kit from API! This is one of the most popular test kit brands on the market. The company has served aquarists for over three decades and continues to make some reliable products to help you maintain underwater habitats.
- Accurate water test kit with testing solution and color card
- Kit comes with over 800 tests
- Monitors the 5 most important water parameters
- Made for freshwater aquariums only
This kit uses colorimetric testing. However, it’s a liquid-based test that requires the collection of samples. With the kit, you’re getting four glass vials as well as seven bottles of liquid testing reagent.
The reagents are used to measure some of the most important water parameters for freshwater aquariums. These include pH, high-range pH, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates.
The testing process is pretty straightforward. API does a fantastic job of making the kit foolproof. Everything is color-coded for simplicity. Plus, the reagent bottles are drip-style, making it a breeze to get accurate measurements.
Of course, API includes a handy color chart to get your results. After a few minutes, you should have the accurate results you need to keep your tank in good shape! In total, this kit includes enough materials to perform 800 or more tests.
- Highly accurate and trusted for years
- Test kit includes 800 tests
- Simple testing process
- Slightly pricier than other large kits
2. EasyStrips 6-in-1 Aquarium Test Kit By Tetra
If you want an easier alternative to liquid-testing, this kit from Tetra may be for you. Interestingly enough, this kit tests for more parameters than the API one. You’ll have the ability to test pH levels, chlorine levels, ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, hardness, and alkalinity.
- 6 different tests per strip
- Can be used for freshwater and saltwater aquariums
- Get test results in 60 seconds
- Convenient and easy to store
Tetra included all of these tests in one handy strip! After dipping the strip into your aquarium water, results appear in as little as 60 seconds. After that, you can compare the colors to the included chart and get the information you’re after!
One thing we like about these strips is the design. The various testing pads aren’t sitting on top of one another like they are with other products on the market. As a result, there’s less worry about cross-contamination or bleeding.
Overall, the Tetra kit is a reliable and easy option for aquarists. It works for both freshwater and saltwater tanks. Plus, everything is quick and disposable for convenience. What’s not to like?
- Delivers fast results
- 6 tests in 1 strip
- Can be used for freshwater and saltwater tanks
- Not cheap per strip
- You’ll work through 100 strips pretty quickly
3. Versatile Water Test Kit By BOSIKE
Check out this simple test kit from BOSIKE. We were a bit skeptical about this one. BOSIKE isn’t a huge brand-name like Tetra or API. That said, we were pleasantly surprised by the kit’s capabilities.
- Get test results in one minute
- For freshwater and saltwater aquariums
- Well-sealed bottle ensures that strips last for 2 years
- 6 in 1 testing
This, too, is a strip-style test. The fiber strips contain six panels to test individual parameters. Like the Tetra strips, the panels are spaced out pretty far to prevent bleeding and false readings.
With the strips, you can test the total hardness of the water, its pH balance, and carbonate hardness. It doesn’t test ammonia levels directly. But, it does show you the nitrate and nitrite levels, which correlate with ammonia.
The strips are super easy to use. They only require about two seconds of water exposure. From there, you have to place the strip horizontally and wait 60 to 90 seconds. After that, the colors should develop enough for you to read.
The bottle features the color chart, keeping everything compact and within reach.
- Get results in one minute
- Reasonable price per strip
- Can be stored for an extended period of time
- Color accuracy on container could be a better match
4. 6 in 1 Freshwater Aquarium Test Strips By Aqua Care Pro
Want to test your tank’s water every week? This kit will let you do just that! It contains enough strips for a year’s worth of testing. Some extra strips are thrown in for good measure, too!
- 6 in 1 test kit
- Quick tests for freshwater aquariums
- Large reaction area for easier comparisons
- Can be used for ponds as well
This is a six-in-one test kit that uses strips to provide readings. The strips are held in a compact and sealed container. The container is opaque and airtight, mitigating risks of light or humidity damage.
Great for freshwater tanks and aquariums, the test strips provide readings in as little as 60 seconds. The six panels on each strip test for pH, carbonate hardness, chlorine levels, nitrates, nitrites, and general water hardness.
The strips are well-designed. As long as you place them flat on a table as the color develops, bleeding and false readings shouldn’t be an issue.
The corresponding color chart is printed right on the bottle for convenience. The chart is spaced like the panels on the strip, so you can set your strip against the bottle for easy comparison.
- 6 parameters per strip
- Well-sealed packaging
- Great accuracy
- High cost per strip
5. Accurate Tank Test Strips By JNW Direct
If you need a little more testing complexity, these strips from JNW Direct have you covered. These small strips are surprisingly accurate. Like other strip-based tests, they use colorimetric results.
- Checks 9 parameters during each test
- Tests freshwater and saltwater aquariums
- Kit comes with 150 tests
- Comes with mobile app for convenient result tracking
The chart, which is printed on the bottle, is very detailed and covers most of the potential color variations. This is great for easy reference and less confusion!
With this test kit, you can test for nine different parameters! These include general hardness, chlorine, nitrites, nitrates, carbonate hardness, total alkalinity, pH levels, iron, and copper. The latter two parameters are particularly useful if you’re caring for inverts!
Each strip has all nine testing panels, so getting all that information is a cinch!
JNW Direct also has a handy smartphone app, which is a nice touch. Within the app, you can record results and keep track of how your tank is doing. It’s a great tool for long-term maintenance, as it helps you identify issues that need resolving.
- 9 tests per strip
- Compatible with freshwater and saltwater aquariums
- Can be some fluctuation with test results
6. Aquarium Test Strip Kit With Thermometer By SJ Wave
Quick, easy, and fuss-free, this kit will make it easy to stay on top of tank conditions for years. Another strip-based kit, this unit comes with a few handy extras.
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The strips themselves feature six colorimetric testing panels. The panels cover pH levels, chlorine levels, general hardness, carbonate hardness, nitrate levels, and nitrite levels. That’s six tests in one convenient little strip.
The kit also comes with a handy test tube. You can dip the strips directly into your tank. But, collecting a sample with the tube may provide more stable results at the moment. The tube is big enough to fit the entire strip.
You’re also getting a simple thermometer. It isn’t a complex digital thermometer. But, it can provide reliable temperature readings at a glance. Just stick it on the outside of the aquarium glass!
Overall, this test kit covers all of your bases. It’s not as in-depth as some other options, but it provides accurate readings for the essentials.
- Convenient tube if you want more accurate results
- Easy to identify parameter ranges
- Lightning fast results
- Shorter shelf life than some of the other water test kits on our list
7. Aquarium 7 in 1 Test For Fresh And Saltwater Tanks By Milliard
Good for both saltwater and freshwater tanks, the testing kit from Milliard is best for frequent testers. A single kit comes with 100 strips, which is enough for twice-a-week testing throughout the year.
- Each strip tests 7 different parameters
- Get accurate results in 60 seconds
- Easy to read, no bleed color pads
- Aquarium test kit comes with 100 strips
Milliard does a great job of educating aquarists about water conditions. The strips are very accurate. Not only that, but they’re well-designed and easy to compare to the color chart on the bottle.
With the kit, you’re getting a comprehensive fact sheet that provides some basic information about different water parameters. It’s a nice extra that can serve novice aquarists well as they get familiar with the needs of their fish.
The test strips provide results for seven different parameters in as little as 60 seconds. These parameters include pH levels, nitrates, nitrites, free chlorine levels, total alkalinity, overall hardness, and carbonate hardness.
As always, the strips are stored in a container to prevent environmental issues or contamination.
- Can test freshwater and saltwater aquariums
- Impressive accuracy and consistency
- Average number of test strips per bottle
8. Quick Read Aquarium Water Test Kit By Qguai
Last, but not least, we have this kit from Qguai. This one impressed us! The strips contain nine different testing panels, giving you a pretty detailed look into how your tank is doing.
- 9 in 1 test strips
- Fast and accurate results in less than 2 minutes
- Test strips can last up to 2 years in proper conditions
- 100% money back guarantee
The nine water parameters it tests include pH levels, chlorine levels, alkalinity, iron, copper, general hardness, carbonate hardness, nitrites, and nitrates. This is a good testing kit if you’re trying to establish a tank for more sensitive fish. It’s a suitable option for breeding tanks, shrimp tanks, and heavily-planted aquariums, too.
The test strips are your standard fare. Like others on this list, the panels are spaced out pretty decently to avoid any altered readings. They also line up with the color chart for quick cross-reference, which is always a plus.
The container deserves a special shoutout here. It’s opaque and very durable. More importantly, the lid is tight! With proper storage, Qguai says that the strips will stay in good condition for up to 24 months.
- Tests a whopping 9 parameters per strip
- Only 50 strips per bottle
The Importance Of Water Test Kits
No matter what kind of tank you have or what aquatic creatures you’re caring for, water testing is paramount.
Water composition is far more complex than most think. While it all looks the same, all water has dissolved minerals, chemicals, and other contaminants. It’s the presence of those contaminants that change the water’s chemistry and impact its viability to hold life.
Believe it or not, pure distilled water isn’t always the best thing for fish! Some beneficial minerals are a must-have for all aquatic creatures. Your fish are used to living in very specific conditions.
They might come from tropical rivers with high concentrations of acidic tannins or cool ponds with near-neutral pH balance. Water the case may be, an aquarium test kit will help you recreate it!
These kits let you look at your aquarium water from a new scientific perspective. You can learn about the chemical composition of the water and ensure that it’s right for your fish. Thanks to the accuracy of modern kits, fine-tuning water parameters has never been easier!
But of course, it’s not just about establishing the base living conditions. When you add living creatures into the mix, water conditions will constantly evolve and change. For this reason, it’s important to perform periodic testing.
You need to make sure that the environment continues to be safe for your fish. Contaminants like ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates occur due to the waste your fish produce. When those contaminants get out of hand, your fish tank could turn into a ticking time bomb of disaster!
Water testing makes it easier to prevent mass disasters, keeping you abreast of what’s going on beneath the surface. Potentially life-threatening water changes do not occur overnight. They take time to develop, giving you plenty of opportunities to rectify them before major damage is done.
With regular water testing, you can stay up to date on conditions and make appropriate changes to keep your fish healthy.
What To Look For In An Aquarium Test Kit
Before you head out and buy the first aquarium test kit you see, there are several things to consider. Despite their importance, not all kits are made the same. Just ask any scientist or lab specialist!
Water test kits aren’t something you want to skimp on. Your fish’s lives are on the line! To ensure that you’re getting a reliable kit that works for your needs, here are some things to look for.
First and foremost, you need to think about accuracy.
All aquarium test kits will provide you some basic data. But, that doesn’t mean that every reading is going to be 100 percent accurate.
I know what you’re thinking, “Why test if accuracy isn’t top-notch?” Well, most aquarists don’t need to have pinpoint accuracy. Most of the fish in the aquarium trade are relatively hardy and can adapt to subtle changes in water chemistry. As long as there isn’t a major shift, they will have no problems.
As a result, test kits only need to provide a certain degree of accuracy. Most of the affordable kits on the market today can give a pretty good idea of how your aquarium is doing without going into the scientific nitty-gritty.
All that said, there are instances in which pinpoint accuracy does pay off. Saltwater tanks and coral tanks, for example, require detailed readings to keep conditions in good shape. Some corals will die off unless parameters are just right.
In those cases, you will need to find a kit that can provide the most accurate readings possible.
Now, accuracy and price go hand in hand. With detailed readings and to-the-dot accuracy comes a much higher price tag. When you factor in recurring testing costs, things can get pricey pretty quickly!
We always recommend getting a test kit that matches the needs of your tank. If you have a basic aquarium with hardy fish, you can go with kits that offer lower accuracy levels. But, if you have tanks with sensitive fish and corals, you’ll need to shell out for a kit that’s more robust.
Number Of Tests Per Kit
The number of tests in the kit matters, too. There are two separate factors in play here. You need to figure out how many tests you can perform before you run out of materials, and you need to figure out how many parameters the test measures.
For the former, it always pays to get a large kit. In the establishment phase, you may need to test the water every few weeks. Even once you get your fish in, periodic testing every month or so is recommended. So, you’re going to go through testing materials pretty quickly!
A larger kit will last you for several months or years before you need a refill.
As for the number of parameters you need, this all depends on the tank you have. Test kits can vary wildly in terms of testing capabilities. Some will only provide basic information while others give you readings on things you never knew you needed!
Generally, standard tropical freshwater tanks need testing for pH, hardness, ammonia levels, nitrite levels, and nitrate levels. If you have plants, you can go the extra mile and look for a kit that offers phosphorus readings.
For marine aquariums, you’ll need a couple of additional testing capabilities. These include salinity and chlorine. If you have a reef tank with coral, you’ll also need to test for phosphate, calcium, and magnesium.
There are also some specialty kits out there to test for specific issues. For example, you can find kits that measure oxygen levels, the amount of iron in the water, and copper infusion. Those tests are good if you have a particularly fussy fish or invertebrate you need to look out for.
As you can see, the number of tests you’ll need increases as your aquarium gets more complex. You can get away with the basics for a little bit. But if you want your tank to truly flourish, you need to ensure that your test kit covers all the essentials.
Next up, we have affordability. Earlier, we mentioned that accuracy and price go hand in hand. The same goes for the number of testing parameters it includes.
Don’t ignore the price. You’ll be testing your aquarium regularly. While it’s never a bad idea to get a premium testing kit, you have to think about the recurring costs involved.
You see, test kits cannot measure parameters alone. Water samples have to be mixed with liquid or powder chemicals, called reagents. Reagents are responsible for giving you an accurate reading of the data. Whether you’re using simple strips or a fancy electronic tester, it needs regents to operate efficiently.
Water testing kits only come with so much reagent. At some point, you’re going to have to replace it.
Here’s where things can get pricey! If you have a complex tank and need to measure tons of parameters, your recurring costs will be steep!
Keep that in mind if costs are a big factor in the long-term.
Finally, you should think about how easy it is to perform the test.
Tests come in a few different forms, which we’ll get into in a moment.
Some are simple dip strips! Strip-based tests are the most convenient of them all. The only thing you have to do is dip the testing strip in the water and wait for the chemicals inside it to react and provide a reading.
Other types of tests are more involved. They may require you to take specific sample sizes, add reagents, and more. It’s an involved process that can take a good 20 minutes or so to complete.
That might not seem like a huge deal if you have a single tank. But when you have multiple tanks to test, you’re looking at several hours of work!
Again, match the convenience of the test to your needs. Sometimes, it pays to be able to take a quick test rather than going all out with the lab work!
Different Kinds Of Test Kits
In addition to the considerations we went over earlier, you need to think about the kind of test that works best for you. There are a few different options here. Each test offers varying levels of accuracy, convenience, and affordability.
Test strips are, by far, the most widely available. They also happen to be the most affordable and easiest to use!
As you might have guessed, these kits contain small strips. Usually made of plastic, the strips contain a series of reactive pads. The number of pads will vary from kit to kit. Generally, each pad measures for a single parameter, making it easy to find a kit that covers all of your essential parameters.
Test strip kits are colorimetric. This means that they rely on colors to provide readings. Kits come with a color chart, which you match to the strip to get your results.
The biggest benefit of test strips is convenience. Just dip the strip in the aquarium water, wait a few minutes, and voila! You have your results!
There’s no need to take samples or wait a bunch of time. In most cases, colors only take a few minutes to develop.
Now, there is a tradeoff. Test strips aren’t the most accurate. Because you’re relying on a color chart, there’s always some wiggle room that’s up for interpretation.
Furthermore, test strips don’t last a long time. They react to the environment. Plus, individual pads can bleed onto other pads and muddy up the results a bit. If you live in a particularly humid environment, you may see the strips change colors without even being used!
Color strips are good enough for most aquarists. They’re easy to use and typically come with all of the basic parameters.
Liquid tests are perfect if you want to get more in-depth information. These tests are also colorimetric like test strips. But, they tend to be more accurate.
Kits can be more time-intensive, however. Using a liquid test involves taking small water samples and adding appropriate reagents to the mix. This is fine for a single tank. But like we said earlier, larger multi-tank setups will take some time!
Another factor you have to think about is the reagents. Reagents can sometimes cause skin irritation, so you have to be extra careful when performing tests. They can also be costly to replace.
Those potential negative aspects are well worth the tradeoff if accuracy is what you’re after. They provide reliable readings and tend to last far longer than basic test strips. And, you get to live out your laboratory fantasy, which is always a plus!
Electronic Water Tests
Finally, there are electronic tests. These are more akin to what you’d see in a professional lab.
They are small, battery-powered devices that accept samples and reagents for reading. You will need to collect a water sample from the tank. But unlike liquid-based tests, there’s no significant waiting time. Most results are available in seconds or minutes.
When it comes to accuracy, nothing beats electronic testers. Most come with a screen for displaying all kinds of parameters. Get detailed information down to the specific decimal point!
If you have sensitive fish or reef, this level of accuracy can make all the difference.
The potential downside for electronic test kits is the price. Electronic kits don’t come cheap! They are significantly more expensive than test strips or liquid tests. Not only that, but you may have to buy multiple test kits to measure different parameters!
This all depends on the model. There are some multi-parameter units out there. But, they will require separate reagent compounds. All in, you’re looking at a significant investment to use an electronic tester.
Also, electronic units require occasional calibration. Leftovers from previous tests can muddy up the results, so these devices need to be calibrated from time to time. To do that, you’ll need to purchase an additional calibration compound, which only adds to the cost.
Don’t let the negatives turn you off. Electronic tests provide an impressive amount of information. If you have the budget to buy them, definitely go for an electronic test kit!
How To Use Them Properly
A water test kit will only provide accurate results if you use it properly! Improper use could lead to all sorts of issues.
Luckily, testing your water isn’t super difficult. Here are some tips to help you get the reliable readings you’re after.
Read the Instructions First
All tests work differently. Before you do anything, take some time to read the instructions clearly. What works for one test may not apply to another.
Become familiar with the testing process before you begin.
Collect Your Materials
Next, gather up your materials. This can be a basic test strip or several test tubes, reagents, and a color chart. It all depends on the kit you have.
Whatever the case may be, have everything on hand and ready to go. Time is of the essence with test kits. The last thing you want to do is hunt your materials down when you’re holding onto a sample
Gather Your Sample
If you’re using test strips, this is as easy as dipping the entire strip into the aquarium water.
But for liquid or electronic tests, you may need to collect a sample. We recommend using a clean syringe or pipette. Gather as much water as stated in the instructions. This is usually around 5 mL.
It’s also a good idea to label test tubes if you’re testing for multiple parameters.
Add the Reagent
Next, you’ll need to add any reagents or compounds. Add the appropriate amount exactly as stated in the instructions.
Too much or too little could result in false results.
Shake and Wait
Once you add the reagents, shake the tube to make sure that it’s fully dissolved and incorporated. Again, check with the instruction manual. Oftentimes, test kits require you to shake for a specified amount of time.
Don’t ignore those instructions!
Compare Colors and Data
Finally, you can compare the data. If you’re using a colorimetric test, this involves matching the color of the water sample to the included chart.
Look at the colors in natural daylight conditions. Colored lights from your tank may make you perceive the colors wrong.
Electronic tests are pretty simple, as they provide number readings. But, you should still have your desired parameters on hand to compare figures.
After you’re done, rinse out any test vials and clean up.
You don’t want to let old samples and reagents sit in the vials for too long. They could stain the glass and ruin your results for future tests.
Take Your Time
Our final tip: Take your time! Don’t rush the testing process. Every step can make or break your results.
Take things slow and make sure that you’re performing the test exactly how it’s recommended.
By now we hope you not only know what the best aquarium kits are, but feel comfortable using them properly. These little things play an essential role in your ability to keep your tank healthy and happy.
If you’re currently using a water test kit that’s not on our list and would like to know what we think, send it over. We’ll happily give you our opinion and suggest an alternative if we deem it unsuitable!