So what is the best test kit to check your water parameters? A question often asked and even more often debated. Most have their favorites, are not bashful about sharing, and will argue and stomp their collective keyboards in defense of their choices. The fact is we all have our opinions and reasons for using the test kits we use; and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!

Although an obvious generalization, a great number of aquarist use different kits for different parameters. Salifert and Red Sea for this and that. Elos and Nyos for that and this. Hanna for the other thing. The point is many mix-and-match different manufacturers tests to come up with the “best”. Some even say they use API tests exclusively (and have really successful reefs by the way) while others say they are simply not accurate at all. Again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!

Not a Discussion on Perfect Parameters​

We all need to know and understand the major parameters in order to achieve the best environment for the inhabitants in our glass boxes. This is not an article intended to determine the perfect parameters, but our own Randy Holmes-Farley outlined the guidelines/recommendations in Optimal Parameters for a Coral Reef Aquarium: By Randy Holmes-Farley as outlined below:

So Many Choices


I’m not interested in starting a sand storm by giving my recommendations on what brand(s) of test kits are the best. In fact (and a little hint to the point of this article) I would say what is best for me; is not what’s best for you.

The test kits available to us as hobbyist’s are just that – hobby grade tests kits. Sure there are far more accurate testing mechanisms available but the bottom line is most of us don’t even have fish rooms in our houses, let alone a laboratory full of expensive testing equipment. So beyond the occasional sending a water sample to Germany to have it tested, we’re stuck using the hobby kits available. Once again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

A Different Way of Thinking What’s Best

So what’s the best kit? In my opinion it’s the kit that is easiest for the user to use, regardless of brand. It’s as simple as that. Pick a kit that is the easiest for you to perform and read consistently, test after test after test. Be it counting drops, looking for the slightest color change, comparing a color to a chart, or adding reagents, pushing a button and getting a digital readout – use whatever is the easiest for you to use and read, time and time again.

Once we get our parameters to our desired level (likely somewhere in the ranges Mr. Holmes-Farley outlined above), I feel the most important factor is stability, not the actual number measured. Since we are hobbyist’s using hobby test kits, there is a built in error factor anyway. So if we are within range and within range consistently, does the “exact” number really matter? I think not, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that either as it is simply my opinion.

Let’s face it…water testing is a necessity that is quite honestly a pain in the caudal fin. I’m merely suggesting we stop asking for what is the best test kit “out there” and start looking for the best kits for ourselves. Our goal should be consistency and stability, not a particular number. Okay, yes, the number needs to be within an accepted range but we need to be able to perform a consistent test every time we put water in a little testing vial.

You may already have your “best” kits and find them easy to perform and read. If so, congratulations. But if you’re not comfortable with your current kits or are just getting started, all I’m suggesting is to do a little experimenting. Shoot for ease and consistency over a particular brand. If you are active in a club, I would suggest a test kit meeting. Everyone brings their “best” and you get a chance to experiment with some brands you may not be familiar with. Or talk to your fish buddies and try the kits they use if different from your own.

So let’s think outside the box, or shall I say vial, and aim for stable, consistent parameters for our little eco-system. They are in our care and I can assure you they don’t care about brands. They are looking for the comfort of a stable environment in your house. That is all that matters. And lastly, you may not agree with this philosophy of testing, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Happy Reefing – and testing!!!

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