How to Read Results on Aquarium Test Strips

Every fish has its own unique living requirements.
Every fish has its own unique living requirements. (Image: John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

One of the most important aspects of keeping fish healthy and safe is ensuring the aquarium water has the correct pH balance. Additionally, water factors such as carbonate hardness, general hardness and nitrite levels can have an impact on the lives of your fish. Reading results on aquarium test strips helps you to understand what is happening in your aquarium’s water.

Differences Between Tests

There is not an industry standard for aquarium test strips. You will find all-in-one solutions designed to test for multiple factors at once and specialized strips intended to check one specific aspect of the tank water. Which strip you choose to use depends entirely on you; determine which elements are most important for the fish you are keeping and look for strips that give you the information you need.

Fish and Ideal Conditions

Different fish have different living conditions. Tropical freshwater fish, for example, need low pH water. Goldfish prefer water with a higher pH. Before attempting to measure conditions in your tank, make sure you know what the ideal environment for your fish will be. This makes it easier to cross-reference the strip’s result and to determine if your fish are living happy or if the tank needs a bit of balancing.

Follow the Instructions

Because tests vary by manufacturer, it is critical that you follow the directions provided. An incorrect testing procedure could lead to inaccurate results; adjustments made to a tank’s water based on inaccurate results may lead to health struggles for your fish. All aquarium test strips include detailed instructions on how to correctly assess water conditions.

Read the Included Documentation

Once you have successfully tested the water and results are displayed on your aquarium test strip, use the included documentation to determine what each value means. Most strips include a guide to their results either on the box or on a small paper insert inside. Each small space on the test strip is related to a particular element of the aquarium water; use the guide to determine which square covers which element.

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