Thought I’d share this one with the group. I’ve mentioned it before in threads, but though it worthy of a bit more visibility. The aim here isn’t to product-bash per se – it’s to try to encourage people to QUESTION the products they are using, and just not to accept they behave in accordance with manufacturer’s claims.
For years I’ve used API test kits . . . and recommended them to others as readily available, affordable kits. It’s only in recent times that I had some questionable results from my own tanks, and a niggling doubt formed. Then I started seeing a string of interesting posts on Facebook groups that just didn’t make sense – people battling “high nitrates” which continual, massive water changes in scrupulously clean tanks couldn’t combat. It didn’t make sense. The one common factor – API test kits.
So I did some tests for myself. I tested a water sample with two API nitrate kits from my collection, and one JBL kit. All kits were within use by dates and had been stored properly since purchase. The water came from a large moderately stocked tank running a large Marine Pure block in the sump for nitrate reduction. With my maintenance regime I would expect nitrate levels to be low. Results were as follows:
Older API kit - 40 ppm (3 months before expiry, bottles well used but shaken well before every use)
Newer API kit - 160 ppm (2+ years to expiry, bottles used for one or two tests only)
JBL kit - between 5 & 10 ppm
I have since made a comparison using JBL and ELOS kits on other samples from the same tank and they gave identical, low results.
While the API nitrate kits appear to be particularly problematic, I no longer trust the API nitrite kits either. I had a situation with dead fry in a tank. API kits indicated water was fine, while JBL showed elevated nitrite. Without the JBL kit I wouldn’t have known how to deal with the problem.
I keep hearing of similar stories – a couple of weeks ago a guy had unexplained deaths in his tank. Took water samples to two shops and their testing using API kits indicated there were no issues. He took a sample to another shop who tested with another brand and identified elevated levels of nitrite and sky-high nitrate. Problem identified . . . . . eventually. If the guy hadn’t been persistent, he would still be in the dark as to how to proceed to solve his very real problem.
I hear the cries already. “API kits are fine – you just need to use them properly!” Sorry – I am fully aware of the issues of API nitrate kit reagent 2 settling out of solution and the need for shaking the @*&% out of the bottle before use. I’m well aware of the pitfalls of unclean test tubes, inaccurate sample sizes etc, etc. I’m a degree qualified engineer with 25+ years’ experience in Test and Evaluation. I suggest if I can’t get reliable, repeatable results from a test kit, then they aren’t suitable for the general hobbyist.
A hunt on the internet quickly reveals that my experiences aren’t uncommon. We are now seeing a number of well-respected LFS refusing to sell these kits, based on customer’s and in-shop experiences.
The response I’ve had from a technical representative of API on this subject is to say . . . . . interesting. Let’s just say it didn’t do anything to improve my confidence in the products.
I used to recommend API kits to others as a relatively affordable, readily available option. I no longer do so. False negative test results mean problems can’t be identified. Excessive readings lead people to take drastic, unwarranted interventions on their tanks.
Problem is – we buy a product, particularly one from a major well-known company, and we just expect it will do what it says it should . . . . . .
Please – rather than accept those results with blind faith, retain a healthy degree of scepticism. If results don’t seem to make sense, try to find a LFS who use an alternative brand who can validate or otherwise your parameters. You owe it to your fish!
Edited by humbug, 05 June 2017 - 05:10 PM.