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Best Reef Tank Test Kits

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Last updated on November 17th, 2023


Best Reef Tank Test Kits

Choosing the Best Reef Tank Test Kit

Choosing the best reef tank test kits can be very difficult, especially if you're new to the hobby. Based on the parameter, certain test kits may be better than others. It depends on how often you need to test, if you are low on time, or even if the colors are hard to differentiate. This should help you decide the best test kit for each parameter.

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Best Alkalinity Test Kit for Reef Tanks

Alkalinity is one parameter that you should check daily. As close to the same time every day as possible. This lets you know if your corals are consuming more or less than you are dosing. Making it easier for you to correct.

If you're going to test daily, my criteria is that the test needs to be easy and fast. For that reason, I recommend the Hanna Alkalinity Checker. This test takes less than 5 minutes and is accurate with a digital readout. No color matching or other "kinda sorta" measurements.

My second choice is between the Red Sea Alkalinity test kit or the Salifert Alkalinity test kit. These are not very fast tests, but they are accurate and much lower cost. So if you're willing to spend 5-10 minutes per day with these test kits, you can save some money.

Reef Stable Recommendations (Alkalinity)

Best Calcium and Magnesium Test Kits for Reef Tanks

After alkalinity, the next most important parameters to test and maintain for coral growth are Calcium and Magnesium.

Both Calcium and Magnesium really only need to be checked weekly as they should not change nearly as fast as alkalinity. Since these parameters don’t need to be quite as tightly maintained as alkalinity, I suggest using the Red Sea or Salifert test kits.

While there is a Hanna Calcium Checker available, it is not as simple as their Alkalinity Checker, nor does it seem as accurate as the Red Sea or Salifert test kits. Recently Hanna released a new Magnesium checker, but if you’re only going to be checking weekly, I don’t think it’s worth the extra money.

The one exception is that the Hanna Calcium Checker and Hanna Magnesium Checker are great for those who are color-blind or have a hard time determining changes in color from the other test kits. In this case, the added costs of the Hanna Checkers really aren't that bad, and are worth it. Another case is that being a bit easier and having a digital readout, if it means you will actually test your water, it's worth the money to get the Hanna Checkers!

Reef Stable Recommendations (Calcium)

Best Nitrate and Phosphate Test Kits for Reef Tanks

Until recently, nitrate and phosphate were parameters you would measure once per week at most. Now, honestly, I think this should change to AT LEAST once per week. If I had an automatic tester for them, I would test Nitrate and Phosphate daily. But since we are still testing by hand, weekly should be enough.

The real question is why would someone test nitrates and phosphates more than once per week? The honest answer is that we add too much stuff to our tanks. Between over-feeding the fish, coral foods, dosing nitrates and phosphates, and even other additives that cause a rise in nutrients. Frequent measuring of nitrate and phosphate will let you control these parameters to get great coral color and growth, but minimize algae growth.

I may sound like a broken record here, but recently Hanna has done a great job creating a Nitrate Checker and Phosphate Checker that are easy to use. However, there are multiple Checkers for each that Hanna makes now.

For Nitrate, you will want to use the High Range Nitrate Checker. The High Range Checker will handle from 0.0 to 75.0ppm of Nitrate. While the Low Range Nitrate Checker handles 5.00 to 50.00ppm, and has more accuracy, it is far more than needed and is much more difficult. The Hanna High Range Nitrate Checker will cover all of the scenarios you will need with plenty of accuracy!

When it comes to Phosphate, Hanna offers 4 different checkers with different ranges (excessive, I know). The first is the Phosphorus Ultra Low Range Checker. This checker measures phosphorus, which can be converted to phosphate. The range for phosphorus is up to 200ppb, which means it can measure from 0.00 to 0.613ppm of phosphate. Honestly, while I have used this Hanna Checker, it is far lower range than most will need, and if you are above this low range, you will need another test kit anyway.

The next checker offered by Hanna is the Phosphate Ultra Low Range Colorimeter. This Hanna checker has a range of 0.00 to 0.90 ppm. While there is more resolution, and a wider range than the Phosphorus Ultra Low Range Checker, it is still a very small range.

My personal suggestion is the Hanna Phosphate Low Range Checker. This tester has a range of 0.00 to 2.50ppm, with a resolution of 0.01ppm. Giving it the best of both worlds! However, if you're okay with a resolution of 0.1ppm, which I am, the Hanna Phosphate High Range has a range of 0.0 to 30.0ppm! That means you can know where you're at no matter how high your phosphate will likely get! While it is rare to be over 5 ppm, I have seen phosphates over 2.5 ppm in a number of tanks that have algae and/or cyano problems.

Reef Stable Recommendations (Nitrate & Phosphate)

Best Test Kits for Cycling your Tank (Ammonia and Nitrite)

Certain parameters such as Ammonia and Nitrite really only need to be tested when cycling your aquarium. And in all honesty, it is mostly a case of it is present or it is not. Once these parameters are no longer present, you will likely not need to use these tests again until you set up another reef tank. So what do I suggest? Honestly, the cheapest option available will do the trick. The API Saltwater Master Test Kit has all of the test kits you will need for cycling your reef tank!

Reef Stable Recommendations (Nitrite & Ammonia)

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Overall, if you're willing to spend the time and can see the color differences in these test kits, save yourself some money and use Red Sea or Salifert test kits. They are slow but tend to be accurate and cheaper overall.

If you dread testing your water, and feel like you barely have time as it is, the Hanna Test Kits are really your best bet! They make it easier to measure parameters and the digital read out takes away a lot of the guesswork.

My personal suggestion is to spend the money and get the Hanna Checkers. They make it much easier, removing guess work and the "kinda sorta" factor. The little bit extra that you will spend is well worth it if you actually do the water testing!

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About the Author

Reef Stable Founder John Krenzer

John is a Software Engineer with a passion for saltwater aquariums, as well as the founder and president of Reef Stable. He started in the aquarium hobby as a child with a 20 gallon freshwater aquarium. His interest in aquarium life grew and in 2008, John set up his first saltwater aquarium.

Today, John maintains an over 300 gallon reef tank system, consisting of a 120g reef and a 210g reef. These large tanks are contained within the same system, sharing a sump as a means to reduce total maintenance and increase total water volume.

John writes articles for the blog as a means to learn about more reef aquarium topics. These articles act as a reference for the readers as well as himself. John updates these articles frequently to provide additional information or make corrections as new information becomes available.

If you would like to request an article, tank tour article, or to collaborate, let me know via the Contact Me Page!

About Reef Stable

Reef Stable was initially founded in 2019 as a reef tank parameter log to fill a need. Reef Stable quickly grew, becoming a location to solve all of your reef tank problems as well as a place to learn.

Reef Stable now provides a Reef Blog, Reef Aquarium Guides, Coral Care Guides, Identification and Solutions for Pests and Algae, and Reef Dosing Calculators, in addition to the original Reef Parameter Log.

Reef Stable continues to grow, striving to provide a single location for all your reef tank needs!

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