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Old 03-13-2005, 11:32 AM   #1
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Overcoming test kit frustrations

I have been using the Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Freshwater Master Test Kit and have made the following observations.

One, the color chart can be very hard to gauge against test (tube) color, particularly I find with the darker reds on the Nitrate chart.

Two, test color in the tubes can look very different depending on the light source/situation (time/brightness of day light, bulbs/type).

Three, when holding the tubes against the white of the color chart the color changes dramatically darker if the tubes are flush against the chart.

So I've done the following. One, I recruit a second set of eyes to confirm my readings (thanks, spouse!). Two, I test only in the morning in good indirect day light, in the same room. Three, I think the best reading comes when I hold the tube a fingers width from the color chart while I make the color comparison.

I've love to go back to the beginning of my cycle and see how different the readings would be had I been consistent with my comparison method.
Of course, now that my cycle is well under way I wouldn't turn back the hands of time!

How this helps some others struggling with the same issues.

Cheers,
Ben
day 20, now into the nitrite spike
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Old 03-13-2005, 04:55 PM   #2
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you are sooo right! i have the same test kit and the same kinda problem...and like you...i also recruit a second set of eyes to confirm (or not...hehe) my readings...but like you i try to do it always at the same time of the day in the very same place...im on day 8 of my cycle and so far ammonia is stuck at 0.25ppm and nitrites and nitrates at 0ppm...fishies well so nothing to worry about...i have lots of patience....
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Old 03-13-2005, 05:01 PM   #3
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Amen...two eyes are better than one. If it weren't, my nitrate readings would be over 80ppm

I have found that reading the results are better if done in a room with little sunlight. By the way, has anyone had the problem of bottle#2 drops coming out extremely fast? I've had to dump a few tests in the past because of this. Oh yeah and "Shake shake shake...shake shake shake...shake your bottle...shake your bottle..."
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Old 03-13-2005, 05:20 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Jchillin
By the way, has anyone had the problem of bottle#2 drops coming out extremely fast?
AP's Nitrate test bottle #2? Yes, I remember that well.
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Old 03-13-2005, 05:46 PM   #5
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i guess im not the only one huh? i feel so much better now....
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Old 03-13-2005, 05:55 PM   #6
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I think they are a bit hard to read too, but the longer you read them, the easier it gets too. Those are some good tips, fambrough!

I also notice the that the ammonia test, bottle #2, comes out very fast. The #1 bottle has to be squeezed a bit to coax the drops out! The drops in the #2 bottle come out as soon as you invert the bottle.

I know that for the ammonia test, I would wonder: "Is that yellow? Oh no, maybe there's a hint of green! " and I'd drive myself crazy! I had a few extra test tubes, so I made up a test tube of tap water as a reference, since it was bright yellow. At first I would compare the tank result against the tap water tube until I got a little more used to reading the tubes and the charts.
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Old 03-13-2005, 07:21 PM   #7
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I agree, but you get used to it. The color charts are spot on for ammonia. I took a known ammonia solution, added it to a known tank volume (calculated by measuring) and got exactly the predicted color. Real life happens inbetween the card values, causing frustration. I find the high range pH a little difficult for between 7.4 and 7.8. Guess I must be at 7.6 then. fortunately, I've never had a positive nitrite, or a nitrate over 5. Nitrate 5ppm is very easy to read.

I take my card and read it directly under twin 40w florescent light bulbs, at about a 45 degree angle with the tube held against the blank white area to the right of the colors. I beleive that is what the blank white area is for, and I believe you are supposed to hold the test tube against it. I do it the same each time, and can instantly tell the pH hasn't changed because I can't tell which one it is more like.
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Old 03-13-2005, 07:56 PM   #8
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I have the same problem The tubes are usually so close to the next color scale that it's very difficult to tell. If you tilt the tube one way or the other then it can read totally different.

I find that not only are a second set of eyes a works lot better (Many thanks to my wife who can tell the difference between opti-white and bone white from across the room). I also find that by putting my light source behind me and tilting slightly so it's not directly behind me, I can tell a lot better. It's a lot easier to do it during the day not in direct sunlight.
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Old 03-15-2005, 09:12 AM   #9
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For what its worth, the Hagen Master Test Kit has the same issue. I'd like to see variance other than 0, 5, 10, 20, 100 on the scales as well.
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Old 03-15-2005, 11:44 AM   #10
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I think it is important to aim for consistency in the way you read those. For me, I find the best place is in my bathroom--I have some pretty bright lights along my mirror over the sink, so I can stand with my back to the mirror and I get a nice amount of light on the card & tube. And since I can do this any time of day, I don't have to worry about taking a reading one day using sunlight and the next day (after dark) and relyign on artificial light and then wondering if the difference I am seeing is due to the actual ammonia levels, or due to the different light sources.

So especially early on (i.e. cycling), when you are doing tests often and trying to look for patterns of changes, I would say the most important thing is to be sure you are using the same light source everytime.
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Old 03-20-2005, 10:34 AM   #11
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Quick question that belongs in this thread: what do you use to pull water from the tank for these tests? Do you have an eye dropper or some other easily attainable thing as a suggestion?
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Old 03-20-2005, 10:43 AM   #12
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Sorry for not mentioning this cJw. The eye/medicine dropper is the best way to do it. When I first started, I was dipping a cup (fish only...LOL) and delicately pouring the water into the tube and all over everything else...fill with too much, pour some out....
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Old 03-20-2005, 10:53 AM   #13
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i also use a "fish only" cup to get some water out of the tank and then i use a plastic cheap pipette i borrowed (hmmm...kinda took it) from the hospital i work at...
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Old 03-20-2005, 11:08 AM   #14
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Cool, I though as much - now, to find a dropper I can 'borrow'. . .

my wife's a nurse, there's a possibliity - we also have a couple around for infant meds we're not using anymore. Nice! Almost time to test again - let's hope for less nitrates!
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Old 03-20-2005, 11:08 AM   #15
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gee. I just dip the test tube into the tank. They are, of course, well rinsed after each test so there is nothing harmful left inside them. Only problem I ever had was an overzealous zebra danio swimming into one.
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Old 03-20-2005, 11:15 AM   #16
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i never dipped the test tube straight into the tank since it says all over the place do not let any of this become in contact with the aquarium water...i guess if u rinse them well and never had a problem then its ok?
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Old 03-20-2005, 11:22 AM   #17
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I tend to go for the full "mad scientist" effect. Lab coat...test tube holders...a small sterno going...you need the dropper to achieve this. LOL!
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Old 03-20-2005, 11:32 AM   #18
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I'm trying to keep the tubes as dry as possible so I can keep the box/holder the kit came in in one piece for as long as possible; wet tubes won't help with that. . . plus, there's the whole mad scientist thing like J said.

I am about ready to bust out a spade bit and made myself a wooden tube holder, though.


:edit:

Tomk's post reminded me of this question : is 'well rinsed' filled, shaken, emptied two or three times sufficient?

:/edit:
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Old 03-20-2005, 11:49 AM   #19
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Tomk's post reminded me of this question : is 'well rinsed' filled, shaken, emptied two or three times sufficient?
I gave up on the cardboard test kit box a while ago. You've got the right idea witha spade bit. check this out: http://home.comcast.net/~tomstank/to...s/page0013.htm

After use, I take the tubes and caps to the sink, and run them under water. I fill them up, empty them each multiple times. probably more like 10 times in rapid succession. Takes only a few minutes. Then I put them upside down in my DIY test tube holder in the DIY case, put it away and its ready to go tomorrow. As far as never letting the test tube come into contact with water, I once read an instruction that said to rinse the already cleaned test tube in tank water once before running the test. Guess this was supposed to take any interfering residue from the tap water out. I don't bother with that step, just dip the well cleaned tube in the tank to fill it to the line.
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Old 03-20-2005, 01:53 PM   #20
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I wasn't sure if I'd seen that on your site or not, Tom, but thanks for the link!
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