Best Aquarium Test Kits 2020 – Reviews & Top Picks

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Aquarium Test KitPicture this: you’ve done your research, picking out the perfect tank, substrate, plants, decorations — and of course, fish — for your aquarium. Now you’re ready to fill your aquarium with water and get started decorating the ideal home for your fish.

Stop right there! If you haven’t yet considered exactly what sort of water is right for your fish, you could quickly be putting them in tremendous danger. Even if you’ve selected a freshwater or saltwater with a balanced pH to begin with, it can still be affected by the addition of sand, plants, and decorations.

That’s why it’s so essential to have trustworthy aquarium test kits to rely on. They’ll tell you everything you need to know about the quality and composition of your aquarium before you introduce your fish, ensuring their safety from the beginning.

We’ve examined, compared, and tested dozens of aquarium test kits to bring you this comprehensive list of reviews for the best, most reliable test kits out there. Read on to discover everything you’ll need to know to give your fish a safe and happy home.

A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Best Overall API Freshwater Aquarium Master Test Kit API Freshwater Aquarium Master Test Kit
  • Measures all essential aquarium chemical levels
  • Includes instructions and equipment
  • Can be used for over 800 tests
  • Best Value API Ammonia Freshwater & Saltwater Aquarium Test Kit API Ammonia Freshwater & Saltwater Aquarium Test Kit
  • Lots of tests for a low cost
  • Fast, accurate, and easy to use
  • Have tests for ammonia
  • Premium Choice Nutrafin Master Test Kit Nutrafin Master Test Kit
  • Incredibly comprehensive 10-factor testing
  • Fast and easy to use liquid testing system
  • Compatible with freshwater and saltwater aquariums
  • Sera Aqua-Test Box Aquarium Test Kits Sera Aqua-Test Box Aquarium Test Kits
  • Tests for 9 measures of aquarium chemical balance
  • Easy to read results
  • Comes with everything you need for testing
  • Red Sea Fish Pharm Pro Test Kit Red Sea Fish Pharm Pro Test Kit
  • Amazingly accurate measurement of magnesium
  • Essential for maintenance of saltwater reef aquariums
  • Laboratory grade equipment
  • The 6 Best Aquarium Test Kits – Reviews 2020

    1. API Freshwater Aquarium Master Test Kit – Best Overall

    API Freshwater Aquarium Master Test Kit

    Many aquarists consider API’s Freshwater Aquarium Master Test Kit to be the gold standard for at-home testing, and with good reason. It’s a reasonably priced, highly accurate, and comprehensive test kit that’s easy to use and supported by a wealth of tutorials for first-time users. Whether you’re buying a test kit for your first freshwater aquarium or your fiftieth, API’s Master Test Kit is a fine choice.

    Designed not just to measure the six essential aquarium levels — ammonia, pH, high range pH, water hardness, nitrite, and nitrate — but also to adjust them when necessary, API’s test kit is an all-in-one solution to keeping your fish tank healthy and looking its best.

    Equipped with four test tubes, a holding tray, a test tube rack, and a laminated color card, testing your aquarium levels is fast and easy. Simply fill the test tubes with water from your aquarium, add the test drops to individual tubes, and compare the color to the included reference card. If you need to take any action to adjust a level, instructions to do so are included on the card.

    In short, API’s Master Test Kit is our go-to kit for freshwater aquariums, and we give it our strongest recommendation.

    Pros
    • Measures all essential aquarium chemical levels
    • Includes instructions and equipment to fix any unbalanced levels
    • Can be used for over 800 tests
    • Reasonably priced
    Cons
    • Only includes 4 test tubes for measuring 6 different levels

    2. API Ammonia Freshwater & Saltwater Aquarium Test Kit – Best Value

    API Ammonia Freshwater & Saltwater Aquarium Test Kit

    From the same company that produces the industry-standard test kit for freshwater aquariums, the API Ammonia Freshwater & Saltwater Aquarium Test Kit is a versatile and inexpensive solution to testing for every fish tank. Designed specifically to test for ammonia, the most harmful chemical for aquariums and a leading cause of fish death, it’s a streamlined product that may well be the best aquarium test kit for the money.

    Liquid testing ensures a completely accurate readout every time you use this test kit from API. Employing an easy-to-read color chart for quick comparisons, it can test for ammonia levels from 0 to 8 parts per million. Simple and easy to use, all you’ll need to do is combine a few drops of water from your aquarium with the test solution in the provided glass tube, then compare its color to the reference card.

    Providing enough liquid for 130 tests per package, you’ll be fully prepared to keep your fish safe and healthy from ammonia contamination for years to come.

    Pros
    • Lots of tests for a low cost
    • Liquid testing solution is fast, accurate, and easy to use
    • Tests for ammonia, the number one danger to many fish
    • Compatible for use with freshwater and saltwater aquariums
    Cons
    • Does not come with a remedy for high ammonia levels

    3. Nutrafin Master Test Kit – Premium Choice

    Nutrafin Master Test Kit

    For most aquariums, a six-factor test like the one provided by our top pick will be more than sufficient. That said, if you want to explore the possibilities of raising more exotic fish or adding uncommon plants to your aquariums, you’ll need a more robust testing kit. With 10 test parameters, the Nutrafin Master Test Kit is an excellent choice for this purpose.

    With liquid tests for ammonia, pH high range, pH low range, calcium, phosphate, iron, nitrite, nitrate, KH and GH, this test kit from Nutrafin is equally well-suited for use with freshwater and saltwater aquariums. Also included are five glass test tubes with caps, two pipettes, one spoon, instruction booklets for each testing parameter, and a reference card for easy testing comparison.

    Coming in at the highest end of the price range for aquarium test kits, the Nutrafin may be out of the question for anyone on a tighter budget. But if you’re looking for the most comprehensive testing kit available on the market today, you won’t find any better than Nutrafin’s Master Test Kit.

    Pros
    • Incredibly comprehensive 10-factor testing
    • Fast and easy to use liquid testing system
    • Includes instructions on how to correct any imbalances
    • Comes with everything you need for testing
    • Compatible with freshwater and saltwater aquariums
    Cons
    • Quite expensive

    4. Sera Aqua-Test Box Aquarium Test Kits

    Sera Aqua-Test Box Aquarium Test Kits

    A more reasonably priced alternative to the above test kit from Nutrafin, Sera’s Aqua-Test Box Aquarium Test Kits offers many of the same testing parameters with an equally easy-to-read design — but is not outfitted with the same literature to teach you how to make adjustments if anything is off-balance.

    For anyone who’s already familiar with protocols for correcting chemical imbalances, or is willing to spend time researching them, Sera’s test kit offers a value that no other aquarium kit can beat. It includes tests for ammonium/ammonia, pH value, nitrite, nitrate, total hardness, carbonate hardness, phosphate, iron, and copper — a complete regimen that’s perfect for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums.

    Pros
    • Tests for 9 measures of aquarium chemical balance
    • Comes with everything you need for testing
    • Easy to read results with included reference card
    • Best price for a comprehensive test kit
    Cons
    • Does not come with instructions for how to correct imbalances
    • Still quite expensive in comparison to most test kits

    5. Red Sea Fish Pharm Pro Test Kit

    Red Sea Fish Pharm ARE21415 Pro Test Kit

    Designed specifically to test for magnesium levels in a reef-style saltwater tank, the Red Sea Fish Pharm Pro Test Kit is a hyper-specific option for testing that has the benefit of laboratory-grade accuracy. Because magnesium levels are so critical to the care and maintenance of reef tanks, it’s worth considering investing in this test solely for its incredible precision.

    Utilizing a high-precision titration method, the Red Sea Fish Pharm may take some getting used to for anyone without a background in hard sciences. But with materials for up to 100 tests, you’ll have plenty of room for error as you learn to use this remarkably accurate testing method.

    Pros
    • Amazingly accurate measurement of magnesium
    • Essential for maintenance of saltwater reef aquariums
    • Laboratory grade equipment
    Cons
    • Only measures magnesium
    • Steep learning curve

    6. RUNBO Aquarium 6 in 1 Test Strips

    RUNBO Aquarium 6 in 1 Test Strips

    Strip-style testing is usually not our favorite method for checking aquarium chemical levels. This is due in large part to how difficult they can be to read — creating a great potential for errors that could be dangerous to your fishes’ health and well-being.

    The RUNBO Aquarium 6 in 1 Test Strips, however, seem to not be plagued with any of the usual problems of strip test kits. Performing over 50 tests with these strips, we found them to be one of the most reliable strip testing kits we’ve ever used.

    Including tests for nitrite, nitrate, general hardness, pH, free chlorine, and carbonate, these test strips are well-suited for taking quick and easy measurements in freshwater tanks but aren’t capable of testing in saltwater.

    Pros
    • Good precision for a strip-style test
    • Easy to use
    • Tests for 6 essential freshwater chemical levels
    Cons
    • Not compatible with saltwater tanks

    Buyer’s Guide

    Test kits are an essential, if sometimes intimidating, part of aquarium care and maintenance. Before you commit to buying a certain test kit, consider the following topics:

    Who Needs an Aquarium Test Kit? What Are Aquarium Test Kits Used For?

    To better understand the importance of testing and adjusting your aquarium’s water, consider this:

    The air we breathe is primarily composed of nitrogen and oxygen, with trace amounts of other chemicals and vaporous components. If this balance is upset by a stronger chemical, such as carbon monoxide, we can quickly become sick or even die. Furthermore, the balance of nitrogen and oxygen must remain relatively stable for us to enjoy good health.

    Fish in an aquarium experience the same sort of relationship with the water that they live in. Composed mainly of hydrogen and oxygen, the water that fish spend their time in is also strongly affected by a host of other chemicals that are either acids or bases.

    Because different fish tolerate different levels of acidity (measured as pH) and chemicals, tests are essential for making sure that their water stays within healthy ranges for every chemical present.

    In short, everyone who owns an aquarium should regularly be using test kits to ensure that their fishes’ living environment is safe and healthy!

    What to Look for In Aquarium Test Kits

    No matter which type of test kit you end up choosing, it’s important for it to have the following three qualities:

    • Accuracy is perhaps the most important quality of any test kit, as small differences in readings can produce vastly different environments that may or may not be healthy for your fish. Look for certified lab-tested kits to ensure their complete accuracy.
    • Tests also need to be easy to read and compare to any provided charts. Because there is no standard design for testing readouts, this is where you will see the most variance from kit to kit.
    • Comprehensive testing for every value that your specific aquarium needs will depend on whether you’re building a freshwater or saltwater aquarium. Always choose a test kit that is made specifically for the type of aquarium you’re creating.

    Types of Aquarium Test Kits

    Aquarium test kits come in three main varieties:

    • Electronic test kits use electrodes and digital measurement hardware to pinpoint a precise pH but are often expensive enough to be outside of the budgets of most aquarists.
    • Strip test kits use a specially treated, color-changing paper strip to indicate relative pH and chemical levels. They’re inexpensive but can be difficult to get accurate readings from.
    • Liquid test kits rely on the interaction of chemicals with small water samples to indicate water composition. Reliable and accurate, they’re the choice of many expert aquarists.

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    Conclusion

    Since most beginners will be working with freshwater aquariums at first, we highly recommend the API Freshwater Aquarium Master Test Kit as the go-to option for accurate, easy-to-read testing. Reasonably priced and extremely informative, it’s a comprehensive solution to freshwater aquarium testing that can help keep your water appropriately balanced for almost any fish.

    While somewhat more challenging to read the test results from, the API Ammonia Freshwater & Saltwater Aquarium Test Kit has the dual benefits of being very reasonably priced, as well as compatible with both freshwater and saltwater aquariums. It’s a great option for anyone on a tighter budget and beats out many other test kits in our reviews based solely on its versatility.

    For more reviews on gear for your Aquarium, check out these posts:

    Best Aquarium CO2 Regulators 2020 

    Best Aquarium Sands 2020

    Best Aquarium Stands 2020


    Featured Image: Jellaluna, Flickr CC 2.0