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  1. #1

    Product Comparisons - Water Test Kits

    In view of experiencing many Months of elevated Nitrite levels, I've become quite familiar with various water test kits and feel well enough positioned to do a product comparison test between the main 3 kits I've used.

    COLOMBO Aquatest Testlab Professional
    NT LABS Pondlab 200
    API Pond Master Test Kit

    Presentation and packaging:

    IMG_20180925_172346.jpg

    The NT Labs kit comes in a white cardboard sleeve box proudly displaying "Made in Britain" on the back, The Colombo Kit comes in a hard plastic carry case and does look professional, and the API kit comes in a plastic tupperware type container.

    The Colombo kit certainly looks the most professional especially if buying online based on a picture, but in reality its quite flimsy and fiddly.
    The NT labs kit has all the colour charts on the back of the box which looks good initially but doesn't take long before they drips of water and dirt cause the box to become tatty and tired looking. The box advertises that full instructions can be watched for each test on YouTube, but when I looked not every test was covered in the videos and some of the videos had been removed.
    The API kit has no fancy graphics, just a plain clear plastic tub with a card on the inside.

    Rating this aspect is difficult in the current climate of anti-plastic packaging because the Colombo plastic case looks the most professional and robust (but in fact is quite flimsy), the API kit looks average but is actually very robust and has enough spare room to add extra bottles, and the NT Labs box is the least robust but made from recyclable cardboard.

    The Colombo and NT Labs vials are plastic whereas the API vials are glass.

    MVIMG_20180925_171929.jpgIMG_20180925_171836.jpgIMG_20180925_171051.jpgIMG_20180925_171130.jpgIMG_20180925_171728.jpgIMG_20180925_171736.jpgIMG_20180925_171904.jpg

    Presentation Winner: Colombo
    Packaging Winner: API (Tough plastic and you can re-use the tub for fish food etc afterwards and glass vials)
    Eco-Friendly Winner: NT Labs

    Overall winner: API


    Value for Money:
    Colombo kit has 7 tests and cost £27.95 and includes: Ammonia / Nitrite / Nitrate / PH / KH / GH / Phosphate
    NT Labs kit has 6 tests and cost £21.00 and includes: As above but no Phosphate test
    API kit has 4 tests and cost: £25.10 and includes: Ammonia / Nitrite / Wide Range PH / Phosphate

    It seems strange that this particular API kit tests for Phosphates but not for Nitrates which I would have thought most people would prefer.
    The NT Labs kit has 3 Ammonia reagents but one runs out well before the other 2 which is frustrating and stupid as the other 2 are rendered useless.

    You will get a maximum of 40 tests out of each NT Lab reagent.
    You will get less than 40 tests out of each Colombo reagent
    You will get at least 180 tests out of each API reagent.

    Despite only having 4 different tests, you will get at least 720 tests out of the API kit, a maximum of 240 tests out of the NT Labs kit and probably only a handful more tests out of the Colombo kit.

    You are therefore paying approximately 11p per test on the Colombo kit, 9p per test on the NT Labs kit and 3p per test for the API kit.

    Overall Winner: API kit by a long shot.



    Using the Kits:
    I'm going to try and keep this as short as I can, otherwise this could go on forever, so if you have any questions please ask.

    Firstly, there is one problem that exists with all the kits. When you shake the vials they leak, thats all of them without exception including the NT Lab one which has screw top lids compared to the other 2 that have push on lids. You virtually always end up getting the colour cards wet and stained and in fact I damaged my kitchen work surface after shaking the NT Labs GH kit which leaked down the side of the bottle and has permanently stained the worktop.

    The Colombo kit is more hassle than the others because there are multiple bottles for most tests and a couple of tests require you to measure out some powder which needs adding and dissolving into the vial. If doing regular (daily) tests this gets a bit annoying and having a choice of products to use I find myself using the other 2 products which are quicker.
    The Colombo tests are different to the other 2 because you put the vial on the colour card and view from above and this definitely makes it easier to conclude the results, however you have to be aware that the increments on the Colombo test cards are larger than on the other 2 kits so you rarely get a result that perfectly matches the colour card, but you can confidently ascertain between which levels the colour falls.

    The Colombo kit does supply you with a syringe which neither of the others provide. This is great and I think all kits should include this, but syringes are so cheap to buy I can't say this can be used as a major selling point.

    The Colombo kit only goes up to 5 mg/l for Ammonia, Nitrite and Phosphate.


    The NT Labs kit is easy to use and offers the largest range of readings going all the way up to 10 mg/l for Ammonia, 8 mg/l for Nitrite and 10 for PH. Overall the test results are easy to read except for Nitrite which is a total nightmare. You have to leave the vial for 2 minutes to obtain the results, but after 2 minutes the reading continues to get higher and higher at a rapid pace so you are never really sure if the reading is precise. I've had a nitrite reading of 1 mg/l after exactly 2 minutes, but by 2 mins and 20 seconds the reading has doubled to 2mg/l and you are left wondering if the initial 1 mg/l was totally accurate because between adding the 1st drop of reagent and the final drop and then shaking it 15 seconds has passed you by before you've started the stopwatch!

    Also once you put water in the vial it is incredibly difficult to see the 5ml line, so difficult in fact that I've had to mark it with permanent marker.


    The API kit is much the same as the NT Labs kit and easy to use. The API kit goes up to 8 mg/l Ammonia, 5 mg/l nitrite, 10 mg/l phosphate and PH of 9.
    The increments between the colours are small and on most tests the colours are quite different from one increment to the next which allows you to ascertain an accurate result with ease, except for Nitrite!. Nitrite on the API kit is by far the hardest to read of all the tests if you have readings over 0.25 ppm.

    Here's some examples that demonstrate this perfectly:

    Colombo Nitrite Test clearly shows a level of 1 mg/l

    MVIMG_20180925_170755.jpg


    Exactly the same water in the API Nitrite test appears to show a nitrite level of 1 mg/l:

    MVIMG_20180925_171425.jpg



    But move into a different light and suddenly that exact same API reading looks more like 2 mg/l, or is it 5 mg/l ????
    MVIMG_20180925_171347.jpg


    The API kit is fine when nitrite is zero or 0.25 mg/l, but anything higher than 0.25 mg/l is impossible to differentiate from and I have tested this myself using water that I know to have 0.5 mg/l nitrite and water with 2 mg/l nitrite. Initially the 0.5 water starts off blue and gradually changes over a couple of minutes whereas the 2 mg/l nitrite immediately goes purple, but after the instructed 5 minute wait they are indistinguishable from each other.


    Again I found the API kit challenging for ammonia as you can see in these 2 examples shown in different lights. Is the reading 0 mg/l or is it 0.25 mg/l ???
    MVIMG_20180925_171640.jpgMVIMG_20180925_171608.jpg


    However it must be said that the Colombo test kit goes up in 0.5 mg/l increments so you can't even attempt to measure 0.25 mg/l ammonia on that one. The NT Labs kit is the easiest one to distinguish ammonia levels.

    Because of the weaknesses each test kit has for distinguishing the colours against the chart, an overall conclusion is difficult due to the variables.

    The Colombo kit is easiest to ascertain the nearest colour overall across all tests, but each mg/l level goes up in larger increments than the other two kits so the result is less accurate.

    The NT Labs kit and API kits are easiest to establish the most accurate readings on all tests due to the tiny increments between colours that offers you more room for error than the Colombo kit.
    However, Nitrites are a total nightmare on the NT Labs kit due to the timing issue, and the API kit due to the colours of the nitrite test being almost indistinguishable beyond 1 mg/l after the 5 minute wait.

    Overall Conclusion:

    Each kit has its own major advantages and major disadvantages so no single conclusion will please everyone.

    As someone with a nitrite problem the NT Labs and API nitrite issues really lets the kits down if testing beyond 0.5mg/l, but as any reading beyond 0.5 mg/l indicates a serious problem the relevance of the exact reading isn't likely to be great for most people.

    The lack of a Nitrate test in this API kit I think is also a downside as to me that is more important than Phosphates. Again, the API kit doesn't include KH but for most people I don't think this is a serious issue as the PH test will alert you to a possible problem in the making.

    The Colombo kit is the most comprehensive package and the easiest to read, but comes at a ridiculous price and is harder to get accurate readings due to the large increments between levels. Unfortunately this kit seems to run out very fast and would become very expensive for someone who tests parameters daily.

    Overall the API kit is the easiest to use, has glass vials and is by far the best value for money covering over 720 tests. However, you will need to buy a 2nd kit that includes a Nitrate test. This isn't actually a bad thing because the kits with Nitrate reagents also include Ammonia and Nitrite reagents so you'll be doubling up on these 2 which considering you probably test ammonia and nitrites twice as often will mean you get through both kits over the same period of time.

    Therefore the winner for me is the API kit.



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  3. #2
    Brilliant write up, thanks for taking the time and trouble to do this Product Comparisons - Water Test Kits


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  5. #3
    Moderator Rank = Grand Champion Feline's Avatar
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    I think you've probably got the wrong API kit really- I always buy the freshwater one that has both low and high range pH and has nitrate not phosphate in it.

    I would choose API for the glass vials alone. They seem to last forever and can even be put through the dishwasher on the little prongs of the top rack

    Have you read Manky's test kit comparison? Test Kit Review

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  7. #4
    Hi Feline,

    Not read Manky's comparison yet but guessing it's more technical than mine!

    I do have the API freshwater kit as well but didn't include it in this comparison because the nitrite reagent I have in that one is now obsolete and uses a different colour scale, but it is much much easier to pinpoint the exact level compared to this new one with the horrible purple scale. I wish they hadn't changed it.


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  9. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by RS2OOO View Post
    Hi Feline,

    Not read Manky's comparison yet but guessing it's more technical than mine!

    I do have the API freshwater kit as well but didn't include it in this comparison because the nitrite reagent I have in that one is now obsolete and uses a different colour scale, but it is much much easier to pinpoint the exact level compared to this new one with the horrible purple scale. I wish they hadn't changed it.


    Sent from my Pixel 2 using Tapatalk
    The kit I've always bought is this one https://www.apifishcare.com/product....0#.W6tj3C-ZOCQ (plus the separate KH and GH kit, and occasionally phosphate kit also).

    Is the nitrite test different then in the Pond master kit? If so probably a good reason to buy the freshwater master aquarium kit instead

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  11. #6
    I have the old version of that one Feline. They all now have the purple nitrite scale.

    The old one went from sky blue through to violet, then pink, then purple which was so much easier to read.

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  13. #7
    Good write up and some interesting comments on their results.

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  15. #8
    Senior Member Rank = Hassai hippo's Avatar
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    Thanks for the write up !

    Ive tried a few of the test kits , but bought a Hanna pocket checker for Nitrite - as this is the thing that causes me issues .

    It gives a very accurate reading and takes away any guesswork - especially as my eyes aren't as good as they used to be . They cost around £70 plus the price of the re-agents . Well worth it - in my opinion !
    Colin

    2500 Gallon Fibreglass Pond
    Eazypod , Bio-Max 4 Bead , 18 Basket Anoxic

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  17. #9
    Agree. I also use one of these for nitrite. I'm going to get the ammonia one too.

  18. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by hippo View Post
    Thanks for the write up !

    Ive tried a few of the test kits , but bought a Hanna pocket checker for Nitrite - as this is the thing that causes me issues .

    It gives a very accurate reading and takes away any guesswork - especially as my eyes aren't as good as they used to be . They cost around £70 plus the price of the re-agents . Well worth it - in my opinion !
    Yeah I have the Hanna pocket meter for nitrite, plus one for ammonia and KH. They do allow a more accurate measure. I still use the API liquid drop kit though in between times.

 

 

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