View Full Version : Test Kit Shootout! and Reviews in General


Cameron
01-19-2008, 5:07 AM
OK after digging through, I think we need a test kit meeting or a club sponsered review, roundup, shootout. This is just IMO, I would be VERY interested if the club sprang (or even got donated from manus) for several manufactorer test kits say for Ca and Alk and one of our local reefers ran through them for a review either at a meeting or just as a forum review telling us the specifics and accuracy of the various kits.

Salifert, Seachem, Elos, Sera, API, Lamotte, etc. There are a lot of test kits and I as a member would like to know what is working these days. Maybe see some pics of each test and hear about how easy they are to use.

For that matter, maybe the club should sponser a series of reviews. I know in the PC world many clubs such as these end up getting freebies to test out when the write up serious fair minded reviews. Personally, I find this area lacking in this industry. You often get a couple people trying some high profile products, but the stuff we use every day like food and chemicals rarely get any head to head testing.

Anyway just a thought.

ericmcj31
01-19-2008, 6:32 AM
Sounds good to me

LiveRock27
01-19-2008, 7:31 AM
I second this idea. I would love to find out how Seachem tests against other brands.

Roland Jacques
01-19-2008, 8:13 AM
Yep yep yep

LorenK
01-19-2008, 8:35 AM
Great idea Cameron.

jmaneyapanda
01-19-2008, 8:41 AM
I think I have an unused lamotte calcium and alk test kit i'll pitch for this.

jade76
01-19-2008, 9:12 AM
that is a great idea..I was actually just thinking about upgrading my kits to a better brand than Im using now.

Xyzpdq0121
01-19-2008, 2:29 PM
Cam, If you can get the major brands to donate the kits and do a professional write up, I think it would be awsome. I can prob get the club to pitch in for some but not every test from every brand. I will donate some tests out of my suitcase of testing equip.

wbholwell
01-19-2008, 3:28 PM
I think it's a good idea to also compare them to an outside "professional" test.

Anyone know of a good place to get the test water tested with a high degree of accuracy?

Roland Jacques
01-19-2008, 6:56 PM
We can make a list here of test kits, that WE can donate (our own kits, extras...) to be used for testing right here. i have a bunch also. (I think if they are relatively new kits that might work.)

We could probably resell some of the better kits for 30% off and recoup any money spent.

Ralph ATL
01-19-2008, 9:04 PM
Great idea! Actually, awesome idea. I am IN on this one!

some thoughts..................

1. they must be new kits with batch numbers
2. we need to test the same samples of water
3. we need to verify the samples with a known reference
4. I could donate (or get reimbursed from the club.....no big deal depending upon who is picking up the tab) 1 sample (1 time) to AWT.


I have had more freakin' issues with test kits than .........................

anyway, here is my current problem:
first, some history....
When I first started reefing, I used api for all my testing. Well, after killing about $1000.00 bucks worth of whole colony wild caught or maricultured sps due to:

round 1) API: phosphate & nitrate test gave me readings of 0 to 5, when nitrates were like 60 & phates sky high.
I went to all Salifert except dd merck (& HACH) for phosphates. Issues resolved after I pinpointed the problem.

round 2) as you may have heard, I had 3 of those screwed up alk test kits from salifert. He had so many issues that it was beyond belief with so many people. I again began having problems with my sps & tissue receding especially tips. Everyone said that it was alk. I bought 2 additional alk kits to verify Habib's. anyway, Habib sent me another kit with a reference solution that verified his other kits were so far off it was ridiculous. OK, it wasn't alk after all, however, since I was looking at alk due to the kits results, I lost 2 sps colonies by the time I realized that it was phosphates again. I switched back to api for alk. I also signed up for a monthly test with AWT, to verify my hobby kits, so I wouldn't have a nervous breakdown from this stress...whew! OK, let's get back.

round 3) I gave up salifert calcium due to saliferts mess with alk & my verification with AWT. I started using API calcium. This past week my results were saying that my calcium was at least 520. Stupid me, I lower my calcium dosing to get it to 450 or so. Sounds reasonable, right? wrong!
Here is my current AWT results done at the same time as API calcium & API alk (alk is close)

This was done 5 minutes before my 1 of 4 auto doses daily of my 2 part. So I know already that this would be the lowest readings of the day, but I didn't expect mag & calc that low!
AWT:
Ammonia (NH3-4) ........................Good .......................0.013
Nitrite (NO2)................................Good .......................0.003
Nitrate (NO3)...............................Good .......................0.4
Phosphate (PO4) ..........................Good .......................0.01
Silica (SiO2-3) .............................Good .......................0.4
Potassium (K) ...............................Low................ .........316
Calcium (Ca)................................Good ........................353
Boron (B) .....................................Low.......... ...............1.9
Molybdenum (Mo).................High......................... ..........0.3
Strontium (Sr) .............................Good .........................8.2
Magnesium (Mg) ...........................Low.................... .......963
Iodine (I¯)...................................Good .........................0.03
Copper (Cu++) ............................Good ..........................0.02
Alkalinity (meq/L).........................Good .......................... 3.26


So, as you can see my calcium was at 350 and mag at 963!!!!!!!!!!! freakin' awesome! (sarcastic), So I dose my calcium & mag up a little too fast (12 hours). I lost 1 of 3 tub birdsnest frags through tissue loss. No big deal, but again....these HOBBY TEST KITS! And I know how to drip a drop, measure, shake, swirl, wait, time, read, etc.
Calcium (470) is fine again & mag back to >1300. All corals are doing great (except that 1 tubs)

I have found API:
Great at alk & ph
sucks at nitrates, phosphates, calcium

I have found that salifert:
ok on calcium, really good at mag, really good at nitrates & amonia
sucks on alk & really sucks on phospahtes

I have used many test kits and found many to be inconsistent at best. I only state what I am very familar with. But there are many more that are great, & many more that suck.

PHOSPHATES:
perfect is DD MERCK & HACH (most likely ELOS, too)
whew!

LiveRock27
01-20-2008, 9:46 AM
Have you found a brand that is good/great with Calcium?

Ralph ATL
01-20-2008, 4:08 PM
salifert ok
within 50

LiveRock27
01-20-2008, 6:15 PM
Has any one had any experience w/the Seachem tests?

Ralph ATL
01-20-2008, 8:16 PM
Seachem will be fine. Just shoot for the middle range. Use the test results from the same kit. If your tank is looking good, you're fine! All hobby test kits have a margin of error. It's only an issue if you have a really bad kit. I'm sure a lot of Salifert alk kits are very good. I just had some bad luck. However, when your calcium is 350, but your test kit says >520, that's a problem.


Here is one of my posts on rc with Habib on 8.23.2007 after I received his comp test lit with reference solution:

I thank you for my replacement kit with the calibration or reference fluid!

I am really confused though.

on 08-23-2007

replacement kit says: 12.8/4.57
Old kit (0805-A-NV & 0406-E) says:10.6/3.77

on 08-24


replacement kit says: 13.8/4.91
Old kit (0805-A-NV & 0406-E) says:10.9/3.77
marineland (IO) says: 3.50

I tested the replacement kit with the reference fluid, and it came out to 7.0. (pretty much right on 6.5)

With the new replacement kit the syringe is a little different & the KH-IND is in a different bottle. Am I to do the test exactly as instructed as before?

Which test kit figure should I use?
If the new replacement kit is accurate, then my SPS's have been at 13 to 14 DKH. What signs of trouble should I be seeing? Should I take it down? EVERY known tester has stated that your kits are extremely accurate, and at most +/- 10% HIGH! They always state that your kits test out on the high end, so I kept my ALK (with the old kits) at around 9.9 to 10.9 DKH. What should I do?

Sincerely,
Ralph Scheriff

Cameron
01-21-2008, 12:01 AM
Someone more experienced than I should conduct the tests or maybe multiple people so we can get a few different perspectives.

I think we should keep the tests to Calcium, Alk, Mag, Phospates, Ammonia and Nitrates.

First we need to decide on the kits.

API
Elos
Hagen
Instant Ocean
Jungle
LaMotte
Merck
Red Sea
Salifert
Seachem
Sera
Tetra
Tropic Marin
Tunze

So what other tests would we like to see? What other suggestions do you have for how to test?

Ralph ATL
01-21-2008, 6:06 AM
The list looks good to me. I agree it would have to be a "professional" lab type person conducting the tests. Maybe you can ask your "friend" that came by your house when your sps rtn? Just a thought. No rush really. I would imagine that their are a few qualified people around ATL.

mwitten
01-21-2008, 9:12 AM
Someone more experienced than I should conduct the tests or maybe multiple people so we can get a few different perspectives.


So what other tests would we like to see? What other suggestions do you have for how to test?

Hach would be nice as well.

It might be nice to have a couple of different light sources available too... Not sure how to work that, but distinguishing colors has always been my big issue.

-Mike

bobz
01-22-2008, 12:22 PM
Holy cow! After reading this thread I'm afraid to use any of my test kits!!! Apparently all mine suck! At a minimum I guess I'll replace my API phosphate and nitrate kits. I am using Salifert for calc so guess that one is ok for now. Can some one tell me what AWT is?
Thanks
Bob Z

Cameron
01-22-2008, 12:28 PM
What online store carries the Hach tests these days?

Cameron
01-22-2008, 12:32 PM
Unless we can some donations, this could be a pretty expensive review. Anyone know how to get the ball rolling on this? Perhaps someone has some contacts with these companies and we can call them. Post here if you got ideas.

Ralph ATL
01-22-2008, 1:42 PM
I got my kit from HACH online. They have their own web.

Ralph ATL
01-22-2008, 1:45 PM
talk directly to each USA rep. I doubt if they would do it, for fear that their results are worse than someone else'. I don't know for sure, though. Just a guess.

kwl1763
01-22-2008, 3:58 PM
We discussed this a couple years ago at DFW and contacted andd basically most of them would only do if sanctioned by one of the bbig boys like advanced aquarist or reefkeeping mag. They wanted unbiased and fair results. They are OK with a fair comparison but when some goofball in our club is just doing it and he interprets it one way and they can't respond would you do it? I know I sure wouldn't. This one will be on our own dime at least mostly.

Cameron
01-22-2008, 5:14 PM
Maybe we should just test one param at a time. Each param would likely cost the club $200-$300 if we buy everything. We could start with Alk and move on from there. We may get some donations from manus, others from vendors selling the kits and hopefully a few from members.

kwl1763
01-23-2008, 10:59 AM
I will be willing to throw alittle money at this and I bet you others would also and we could get the $700 or so to test the big 3-5

The thing we need first though is a lab type setting and a la type protocall to ensure we're being accurate and consistent. If done this way we could probably actually publish in AA or reefkeeping which would be much more valuable then just a few of us knowing.

Cameron
01-23-2008, 11:36 AM
Think we could do a Bingo or poker night to raise the funds or some similar event?

Who here can do a lab type setup?

I think you are right about this. It is one of the most debated and asked questions by reef keepers and I could certainly see the review getting a lot of hits. Plus it would be a great start to a new series of reviews of various equipment. This hobby needs more independant reviews IMO.

Ralph ATL
01-23-2008, 9:53 PM
go figure........look what I found!

http://www.mbenassireef.com/?p=25

xokarmaxo
01-23-2008, 10:00 PM
Wow. I'm a bit depressed now... :unsure:

I use the API Saltwater Master Test kit and the Reef Master Test kit...

Nitrates reading 5-10ppm consistently and phosphates always 0.... does that mean that mine are actually way off?? :o

Ralph ATL
01-23-2008, 10:19 PM
yup

Ralph ATL
01-23-2008, 10:20 PM
and yeah, they ARE off!

Ralph ATL
01-23-2008, 10:22 PM
I guess it wasn't very clear, but I have found a site that did some testing of kits here:

http://www.mbenassireef.com/?p=25

Cameron
01-23-2008, 11:34 PM
I still think a head to head is necessary as this test looks suspicious to me. I certainly didn't like that he didn't use the included syringes with the Salifert kit. I can semi-understand why but in the end the tools provided are what the end user uses so testing without them seems to invalidate the test from that standpoint. It also seems odd how exact his measurements were in some tests.... looks suspicious to me.

Anyway, I am willing to throw in a NIB Tunze 6045 to get the raffle started on aquiring our own set of kits for testing.

mwitten
01-24-2008, 7:34 AM
I still think a head to head is necessary as this test looks suspicious to me. I certainly didn't like that he didn't use the included syringes with the Salifert kit. I can semi-understand why but in the end the tools provided are what the end user uses so testing without them seems to invalidate the test from that standpoint. It also seems odd how exact his measurements were in some tests.... looks suspicious to me.

Anyway, I am willing to throw in a NIB Tunze 6045 to get the raffle started on aquiring our own set of kits for testing.

(Cameron: I get my HACH kits directly from them, like other folks said).

This is kind of stream of thought, as this is a subject I have been interested in for a long time:

It depends on what we are looking for... I like to get as much as possible out of something like this, so I tend to bite off more than I can chew, however...

1) Test some standards.
2) Test some real water. Contaminants are a big part of this... I did not realize that one distributor was selling the wrong PO4 kit from Lamotte until I got a color that was not on the chart. It had been working up until that time, but some component suddenly got to be major enough to mess the test up. (The vendor, after I told them, started selling the right kit... it WAS buried in the instructions; this was a few years ago).
3) I like the idea of sending out a set of samples. I have been watching some RC discussions about services that are not too expensive.

The component that is so often left out is the human/technique part of this. I think Cameron's point on using the syringes is a specific example of that. The review was using a pipettor to automatically measure samples. Not too bad if you can afford it, and this type of test should be done, but I am not sure it gets at what we want as a club effort. Other factors that have a big impact on some tests is ability to read the results (colors, titration end points), general technique and understanding of things like not putting leftover titration fluid back in the bottle, proper mixing, etc.

One thought-as part of the test- might be to pick a parameter and a set of test kits and have folks come and run the tests themselves with different kits on there own water. Also bring the kit they have and compare it to others. Clearly some tests can't be run this way (some parameters change with even short term storage, like pH), but folks can see the real issues/advantages with each test. I would not be surprised at all to find that some folks will do better with some kits than others. Testing a sample or two with an outdated kit to show how big a deal that can be would not be bad either. As would a demonstration of how to make a standard.


Some practical considerations: These tests take time just to run, and you can only do one test at a time per kit, in general. Some ways around that might be for folks who have old kits lying around to bring them, but use the new reagents. I have all the tubes, etc. for at least two Lamotte ALK kits, for example.

Another consideration would be cleanup :unsure:

Having someone show who is really qualified (extensive chemical testing knowledge and experience) to show proper techniques would be good as well.

This may be taking things away from the original intent, but it has been something I have been thinking about for quite a while. Perhaps an SWU workshop kind of thing for the future.

-Mike

Ralph ATL
01-24-2008, 7:52 AM
looks suspicious to me.



It looks a little suspicious to me, too. The test was conducted in ELOS' country of origin, too.

wbholwell
01-24-2008, 8:04 AM
I certainly didn't like that he didn't use the included syringes with the Salifert kit.

This is exactly why I didn't like his test. He tested the chemicals in the kits, not the complete kit.:boo:

Schwaggs
01-25-2008, 8:55 AM
I volunteer to head up performing the tests. I am not a chemist but I am involved in the testing process as part of my regular job. Does anyone else want the job?

How thorough are we looking to get here? I propose the following test plan:

Samples taken from 2 or 3 volunteer's systems and submitted to AWT for complete, lab analysis. The requirements for the volunteer systems are:
- The volunteer system must be an established, un-troubled system
- The volunteer must pony up the costs of the AWT test (~$35)
- The samples should be taken at least 2 weeks after the last water change
- Each of the volunteer systems should different CA and Alk makeup methods
- The sample will be taken before any regularly scheduled dosing of any chemicals

The test sample for AWT and test kit validaion will be taken at the same time preferably Sunday or Monday (so the AWT sample can arrive and be tested at AWT without waiting through a weekend). The home test kit tests will be run at the same time as the sample being sent to AWT. Samples from each system will be gathered at a common location to be tested at the same time by the same person (to ensure consistancy).

I propose we run at least the big 3 (Ca, Alk, Mg) due to the overhead involved in setting up this test. More can be run if we can get test kits. Since we will be comparing the test kit to AWT (the standard), a single test kit brand for a single parameter can effectivly be checked for accuracy without having to test all brands of test kits for a given parameter.

Sourcing the test kits:
We need brand new - unopened test kits
I propose we ask club members to buy and provide test kits for this test. For example, I would be willing to purchase new Salifert Ca, Alk and Mg kits for this test. If other club members are on the verge of needing new kits, they can purchase their favorite brand or maybe a brand they have been meaning to try. We would use 10 - 30 tests from the kit (depending on how thourough we want to be), any remainder would belong to the member providing the kit. Once we get a list of the club members kits, the club can decide if it wants to buy some kits to fill in the blanks.

Number of test passes:
I think we should run at least 5 but preferably 10 tests with the home test kits on each tank sample. If we run 3 tank samples and 5 passes on each, we will use 15 tests from each kit. This leaves most of the test kit for the test kit doner. If we run 10 passes, this uses 30 tests which will come close to completly depleting some test kits...

Ralph ATL
01-25-2008, 2:01 PM
Of course I cannot speak for the entire club, bit IMHO everything you said sounds great except, It would be a good idea to see if ARC would "foot the bill" first. This is an ARC community project about reefkeeping. What does everyone think?




I volunteer to head up performing the tests. I am not a chemist but I am involved in the testing process as part of my regular job. Does anyone else want the job?

How thorough are we looking to get here? I propose the following test plan:

Samples taken from 2 or 3 volunteer's systems and submitted to AWT for complete, lab analysis. The requirements for the volunteer systems are:
- The volunteer system must be an established, un-troubled system
- The volunteer must pony up the costs of the AWT test (~$35)
- The samples should be taken at least 2 weeks after the last water change
- Each of the volunteer systems should different CA and Alk makeup methods
- The sample will be taken before any regularly scheduled dosing of any chemicals

The test sample for AWT and test kit validaion will be taken at the same time preferably Sunday or Monday (so the AWT sample can arrive and be tested at AWT without waiting through a weekend). The home test kit tests will be run at the same time as the sample being sent to AWT. Samples from each system will be gathered at a common location to be tested at the same time by the same person (to ensure consistancy).

I propose we run at least the big 3 (Ca, Alk, Mg) due to the overhead involved in setting up this test. More can be run if we can get test kits. Since we will be comparing the test kit to AWT (the standard), a single test kit brand for a single parameter can effectivly be checked for accuracy without having to test all brands of test kits for a given parameter.

Sourcing the test kits:
We need brand new - unopened test kits
I propose we ask club members to buy and provide test kits for this test. For example, I would be willing to purchase new Salifert Ca, Alk and Mg kits for this test. If other club members are on the verge of needing new kits, they can purchase their favorite brand or maybe a brand they have been meaning to try. We would use 10 - 30 tests from the kit (depending on how thourough we want to be), any remainder would belong to the member providing the kit. Once we get a list of the club members kits, the club can decide if it wants to buy some kits to fill in the blanks.

Number of test passes:
I think we should run at least 5 but preferably 10 tests with the home test kits on each tank sample. If we run 3 tank samples and 5 passes on each, we will use 15 tests from each kit. This leaves most of the test kit for the test kit doner. If we run 10 passes, this uses 30 tests which will come close to completly depleting some test kits...

jmaneyapanda
01-25-2008, 2:26 PM
I will donate a lamotte calcium and alk kit.

Schwaggs
01-25-2008, 2:58 PM
Just some quick math:

14 brands of test kit * Ca, Alk, Mg = ~$1,400.00
3 tests at AWT = $ 100.00

Does anyone know if the club would be willing to foot a $1,500 bill for this?

Ralph ATL
01-25-2008, 3:49 PM
I think we could lower the amount of brands, if needed.

Schwaggs
01-25-2008, 10:25 PM
Agreed. Also, if the club picks up the test kits we could add a usability test by letting club members perform some tests on the sample tank water samples. The results the general club members record can be compared to the 5 to 10 "control" test passes and the AWT test results. This would measure the test kits "ease of use" and repeatability.

Cameron
01-25-2008, 10:34 PM
I think your math is off a bit. A lot of those kits cost around $10 or less each. Few of them are $33 or more each.

BTW, I am ordering some Sera kits and I will order 2 extra (Ca and Alk). I also have NIB API Ca, Alk and Phos I will donate.

So here goes:

API - Cam: Ca, Kh, Phos
Elos
Hagen
Instant Ocean
Jungle
LaMotte - Panda:Ca, Kh
Merck
Red Sea
Salifert
Seachem
Sera - Cam: Ca, Kh
Tetra
Tropic Marin
Tunze

Its a start.

Schwaggs
01-25-2008, 11:08 PM
I just did a quick survey of the test kit prices from some online sources (since they were readily available) and I come up with $1087. I couldn't find all kits for all brands and would need to go back and figure out if all the kits include enough tests (some of the cheap kits only provide 20 tests, we need at least 30 or 50 of we want to run the repeatabiliy tests).

Ralph ATL
01-25-2008, 11:17 PM
Mr. President:
How much money do you think ARC would be able to "kick in" for something as valuable as this?
Ralph

Cameron
01-26-2008, 12:04 AM
Ordered the Sera Kits.

API - Cam: Ca, Kh, Phos
Elos
Hagen
Instant Ocean
Jungle
LaMotte - Panda:Ca, Kh
Merck
Red Sea
Salifert
Seachem
Sera - Cam: Ca, Kh, Mag, Phos
Tetra
Tropic Marin
Tunze

Cameron
01-26-2008, 12:09 AM
Lets say we only do Ca, Alk, Mg to start and we drop Tunze since they are ridiculously priced and I don't know any hobbyiest that would use them.

That would cut the cost down substantially and we already have $100 worth of kits ready to go so we would only need about $300 more to get the ball rolling. I bet we can get Seachem to kick in a set of tests since they seem to be big supporters. That would get the cost down to around $200, $225 maybe.

Linda Lee
01-26-2008, 6:23 AM
Maybe a loyal sponsor could could get these for us @ cost? It would be a terrific gesture and I'd certainly go out of my way to support such a sponsor.

It might even be a tax write-off for the sponsor if he outright *donates* them to a non-profit organization?

:)

kwl1763
01-26-2008, 10:28 AM
Do we know anyone with access to chlorometers? They make them for almost everything we're talking about. Any scientists or profs around? That would be by far the best reference. I have aphosphate one we could certainly use for that if needed. I'd also be willing to donate elos alk and calcium

Cameron
02-02-2008, 8:53 AM
I believe our volunteer tester has access to a variety of expensive reference machines.

mojo
02-02-2008, 9:48 AM
For what it's worth, I'm considering buying a multi-range colorimeter (http://hannainst.com/usa/prods2.cfm?id=009003&ProdCode=HI%2083203&test=1), but it'll be a couple months from now - I've got lighting and some other stuff to buy first. If these tests haven't been done by the time I get it, I'll donate the packets for use against the spectrometer...

Does anyone know if a sponsor is a dealer for Hanna?

Ralph ATL
02-02-2008, 7:32 PM
For what it's worth, I'm considering buying a multi-range colorimeter (http://hannainst.com/usa/prods2.cfm?id=009003&ProdCode=HI%2083203&test=1), but it'll be a couple months from now - I've got lighting and some other stuff to buy first. If these tests haven't been done by the time I get it, I'll donate the packets for use against the spectrometer...

Does anyone know if a sponsor is a dealer for Hanna?

how much is that bad boy?

Roland Jacques
02-02-2008, 8:18 PM
Does anyone know if a sponsor is a dealer for Hanna?
I saw some Hanna PH meters at Aquabuys, so...

I think those cost more than my truck.

Xyzpdq0121
02-02-2008, 8:25 PM
how much is that bad boy?


About $550...

Ralph ATL
02-02-2008, 8:35 PM
over my price range & needs

Roland Jacques
02-02-2008, 8:43 PM
$550 is not that bad. The one I heard about was much more.

mojo
02-02-2008, 9:04 PM
Each colorimeter is about $180. I was considering buying a phosphate colorimeter and possibly a nitrate (I want to play around with dosing nitrates). After you buy two for $360, it starts to make more sense to get a multi one for $550 that can do a range of 10-15 tests...

sammy33
02-02-2008, 9:25 PM
I think I can help out on this testing here. I have new API, Red Sea, Instant Ocean, and Merck/Rowa test kits I can donate. Since Cameron has the API kits covered I can donate these:

Instant Ocean - Alk, Ca, Nitrate, Phosphate (no magnesium test)
Red Sea - Ca, Mg
Merck/Rowa - Phosphate (high end $ test)

This would be a donation to ARC from Aqua Buys! :D

Cameron
02-03-2008, 2:30 AM
Alright Sam! We will make sure to include a nice bump for you and AquaBuys in the results of the testing!

API - Cam: Ca, Kh, Phos
Elos
Hagen
Instant Ocean - Sam: Alk, Ca, Nitrate, Phosphate
Jungle
LaMotte - Panda: Ca, Kh
Merck - Sam: Phos
Red Sea - Sam: Ca, Mag
Salifert
Seachem
Sera - Cam: Ca, Kh, Mag, Phos
Tetra
Tropic Marin

Ok so now we just need a few more kits. I am going to present this to the board and see what we can get in terms of funding/donations for the last few kits.

DaveJ
02-09-2008, 7:12 PM
Folks,

My name is Dave and I am a member of the Dallas/Fort Worth Marine Aquarium Society. One of my friends pointed me to this thread and I thought I would share our current experience with you guys since you are contemplating the same thing we are in the middle of doing. Perhaps it will save you some time and $$ ;)

Our saga started with an 8 hour test kit frenzy at my house last weekend. 6 of us pulled all our kits together and we each brought samples of our tank water for testing. We tested for the following... Alk, Ca, Mg, PO4 and Nitrates on all samples using the various kits we had. Our kits consisted of LaMotte, Salifert, API, Elos, Red Sea, Tropic Marin and a few oddball ones. As you can see we ran the gambit of price and 'repuation' in our tests. We also sent 3 samples out to AWT for comparison.

We are in the middle of processing the data and getting feedback from some of the manufacturers, as well as AWT regarding our results. I have also engaged a professional marine lab as a backup for AWT. This lab routinely is engaged by public aquariums and other industry leaders (even some of the test kit manufacturers themselves) to do testing. While not cheap, this was the ONLY way to verify all results.

Our test process was straight forward and is being done in 2 phases. The first was last weekend. We all tested all samples with our kits and compiled the data. We utilized clean testing containers, RO/DI rinses etc to keep things clean and often had two people reading the same test results. I won't go into specific data yet (as its not ready for public consumption right now) but I will share some of our findings thus far.

The first thing we did notice was that all the tests seemed to be pretty accurate, or at least came up with similar readings. We had some test kits that consistently were off from the others however and made special attempts, usually multiple tests to confirm those numbers. The kits that caused us some issues were the Tropic Marin Ca/Mg combo kit and the Tropic Marin Alk drops. The first due to the coloration being so faint it was often difficult to read. Our ca/mg readings from those ranged from accurate to as far off as 100ppm on Ca and 100-150 ppm on Mg. Or opinion was that the coloration on the combo kit was marginally accurate due to user issues. The Alk test we concluded was problematic in the size of the drop coming out of the dropper bottle. It was rarely consistent in size so the count was always questionable due to the volume of regent actually going into the tubes. API, LaMotte, Elos, Salifert and Red Sea did show some variations but they were accurate enough for Reef needs, often being small differences. The cases were we had multiple kits of the same product, the results also showed variations but again these were marginal for our purposes.

Keep in mind that the majority of our kits, with the exception of the PO4 and the LaMotte tests were only accurate within a given range. For example the Elos Alk test kits are 1 drop per dKH, so when we had what we felt was a tweener alk parmeter, it was off slightly due to the sensitivity of the test itself. LaMotte Ca/Mg and Alk actually measured to the PPM in the reading of the result, so that was usually easy to read.

As far as the results from AWT go... we are still in the process of hammering out the results and getting feedback/input from them directly. What we found was that the Nitrate/Alk readings were within the ranges we tested, but the ca and mg were way off. For example my own sample was 100PPM off on Ca and 200PPM off on MG, all on the low side compared to our kits. Our initial response from AWT was that their probes test for free ions on the CA and MG where our hobby kits test total CA and MG. We are getting some alternative opinions on this, but essentially what they are saying is that in the case of Calcium, their probes detect free ions of calcium only and not the calcium carbonate etc that the hobby kits do. The MG they say is testing MG once all the Ca is pulled out of the samples... that is why the readings were low. There was more in their response, regarding their opinions on the hobbyist goals in their tanks and how they supplement, the reasons for it and how it effects the chemistry, but the bottom line is that their readings do not concur or translate to a general hobby kit. Our issue with that right now is that if they are providing guidance on the levels and numbers, they need to have some sort of comparison a hobbyist can use to increase these important parms within guidelines we have established. For example.. if you get a reading from them of caclium at 360 ppm and you test your water with a kit, it will show 440. Both numbers may be correct, but they are not apples and apples... so unless the hobbyist knows this and KNOWS the difference, the information they provide is useless.

Anyway... I don't want to stop you from doing your own experiments, but I wanted to let you know you are not alone in this undertaking and we are actively moving onto the next phase.

The next phase will consist of a smaller sample, 2 or 3 samples, tested with the same kits, with a few additional manufacturers and NEW kits in a controlled blind situation were the tester has no idea which tank the samples came from and with multiple people reading the results. We will then send those same samples off the AWT and our independent lab for comparison purposes.

We will be publishing the results at the end in our clubs newsletter and on our site for discussion and use by all.

Ralph ATL
02-09-2008, 8:26 PM
Thanks for the info Dave! I look forward seeing your results!

AWT has some issues from time to time, and thankfully, most have seem to be corrected. Not too long ago, it was phosphate, Molybdenum, and 2 others that I can't seem to remember. Lately, it's been Calcium, and just YESTERDAY I received this reply from them:

Hello Ralph,
I've gotten this question quite a bit lately. We are looking into the situation at this time, but we believe that our probe is reading accurately.
The difference likely comes from the fact that our electrode only reads calcium ions, whereas your titration kit reads all forms of calcium.
According to Randy Holmes-Farley, as much as 20% of your total calcium can be complexed with other compounds, such as carbonate, bicarbonate, chlorides, etc. We will spend time working on the calibration curve of the probe this weekend, but I can tell you that at this moment, the probe is in a specially-made, calcium chloride standard that has 400.7ppm calcium in it, and the probe is reading 401ppm, so if it is off, it's not off by much. I'll let you know of any adjustments we make at the first of next week.

-----Original Message-----
From: Ralph
Sent: Friday, February 08, 2008 1:45 PM
To: RP-Staff; AWT Customer Service
Subject: AWT Website Contact

Below is the result of your feedback form. It was submitted by Ralph on Friday, February 8, 2008 at


contact_message: You have my calcium tested at 284. Calcium (Ca)...Low.. 284

I tested the same sample (yes, I did it correctly) against Elos, API, & Salifert trying to determine which of those kits is correct. Considering I get calcium precipitate if a raise it much higher, and considering my alk (you have my ALK at 3.66, so if you have my calcium at 284, logically it would not precip by raising it slowly)
Elos:425
API:520
Salifert:480
why are you so far off?

Ashlar
02-09-2008, 8:54 PM
Dave and the bunch of us are going to try to do the next round of tests on one common sample, so that we can also compare not only between kits, but also between users (to see if there appears to be user procedure issues.)

LiveRock27
02-11-2008, 12:45 PM
Is it true that Salifert is no longer making their Calcium and Magnesium test kits? I spoke to a person at Dr. Fosters about when it would be available and she said that Salifert was no longer making the Calcium test kit and from the looks of it they were no longer going to have the magnesium kits either. Just wondering if this is true or if Dr. Fosters is no longer going to carry it.

LiveRock27
02-11-2008, 1:27 PM
Never mind about the last post. I just spoke w/Sam at Aquabuys and he told me that Salifert is still making the kits, but I guess like Dr.'s he is no longer going to carry them because of their lack of customer support.

pfritzbelly
02-11-2008, 2:22 PM
On a related, but much smaller scale. Can anyone bring in a test-sized sample of water with high phosphates to the meet tomorrow? I have two different test kits, one Sera and one that came with an API set. I have never gotten a phosphate reading out of either set of tests. I have tried every possible dilution. No reading. I cannot believe that I am actually that lucky.....

Ralph ATL
02-11-2008, 2:58 PM
API cannot read phosphates in the low range, so it will be of no value to you. Phosphates should be 0.024 or lower in a reef aquarium.

pfritzbelly
02-11-2008, 3:22 PM
Neither the Sera or the API have EVER shown ANYTHING. I would just like to see them register something at all. Again, I can't imagine that I am that fortunate.

It is kind of like an antivirus program that never detects anything..... My faith in the efficacy begins to wane.

Ashlar
02-20-2008, 8:30 PM
We put the results together and did a bit of analysis..

http://www.dfwmas.org/pdf_files/Test%20Kit%20Analysis.pdf