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API Freshwater Master Test Kit Review: Best Value for Water Tests?

Testing your water parameters is crucial if you want to keep the fish in your aquarium healthy. One of the best selling test kits for freshwater fish tanks is the API Freshwater Master Test Kit. You can find our comprehensive review for this product below.

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Pricing

You can check the currently price of the API Freshwater Master Test Kit, and purchase if you are interested, with this link on Amazon.

What’s In the Box

The package of the API Freshwater Master Test Kit comes with an instruction manual, color chart, 4 glass vials as well as the following 7 testing solutions:

  • Ammonia Test Solution Bottle #1
  • Ammonia Test Solution Bottle #2
  • High Range pH Test Solution Bottle
  • Nitrate Test Solution Bottle #1
  • Nitrate Test Solution Bottle #2
  • Nitrite Test Solution Bottle
  • pH Test Solution Bottle

API Freshwater Master Test Kit Expiration Date

The expiry date can be found on each individual bottle. While you can try to use the test solutions after the printed date, there is no guarantee that the results will be accurate.

How often should you use the API Master Test Kit?

So how often should you be testing your tank waters with the API Freshwater Master Test Kit? The answer depends on your circumstances.

If you are cycling a new tank, we recommend waiting a few days after adding ammonia so that the beneficial bacteria can be established. You can then test your water daily to see where you are at in the cycling process. To learn more about how to cycle your tank, you can check out our guide.

You should also test your tank if you notice any sick and/or dead fish in your aquarium. The changes in ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and pH may have been the cause of the sickness. If you notice any spikes to the nitrogen compounds and/or dramatic shift in pH, then you should do small daily water changes (no more than 25% over a 24 hour period) and then test you waters afterwards to check your progress.

We also recommend doing daily tests if you are adding new fish, rather if they are the first inhabitants or they are moving in to an already established community. This is because, when you are adding new fish to your aquarium, you are also adding more ammonia. If your beneficial bacteria colonies aren’t big enough to absorb the added ammonia, then you have to do daily water changes until the tank can go through a mini-cycle. We recommend testing daily for at least a week after adding in your new fish.

If you already have a fully cycled aquarium and don’t plan on adding any new fish, then we suggest weekly water tests, preferably before you do a water change. By testing the water parameters beforehand, you will be able to know how much water volume you need to swap out in order to bring down the concentrations of ammonia, nitrite and nitrates to safe levels. You don’t have to test for pH as often unless you are keeping a tank with a pH that is dramatically different from your tap water or whatever source you are getting new water from. You can find out more about water changes in our guide.

Pros

What we liked most about the Freshwater Master Test Kit is the value it provides. API advertises on the packaging that you will be able to perform more than 800 tests with one kit. In our experience, we actually have plenty of solutions left once the expiration date has passed even though we have been testing on a weekly basis (and sometimes more frequently).

The instructions also provide a nice little touch at including extra information. Even before providing a step-by-step guide, the manual will first give a brief overview on the elements (ammonia, nitrate, nitrite and pH) you are trying to test. It also include the next steps you need to take if the results from the tests showed undesirable levels.

If you have kids, then you should be relieved to know that the test solution bottles come with childproof safety caps. The Ammonia Test Solution Bottle #1, Ammonia Test Solution Bottle #2, Nitrate Test Solution Bottle #1 and Nitrate Test Solution Bottle #2 can cause health problems in one way or another (you can read more on the dangers, as well as the necessary steps to take in case something happens, later on in this guide).

Cons

One minor issue we have with the API Freshwater Master Test Kit is that the instruction manual could do a better job at separating the directions of the different tests. The texts are in black and white while the wording of the steps are the same with the exception of the bottle type and drop requirements. Therefore, you can easily confuse yourself and end up looking at the wrong test. So, you really have to read the instructions carefully, especially if you are doing multiple tests at the same time.

Another problem we have with this testing kit is that some of the tests can take some time to be completed. The longest test is Nitrate, which requires you to first fill the test tube up to the white marked line (this could take several tries). You then have to add drops from the first test bottle, cap the test tube and invert the tube a few times to mix the solution.

Afterwards, you are instructed to shake the second test bottle vigorously for at least 30 seconds before adding drops to the same tube. After adding the drops from bottle #2 you are then asked to vigorously shake the tube for 1 minute. Once that is done, you have to wait 5 minutes for the color to develop in order to compare the test result with the color coded chart. Add in the fact that you also have to clean the test tube afterwards, you are easily looking at around 10 minutes just to test nitrate.

One last complaint we have is not just limited to API, but also all aquarium test kits in general, in that the color coded chart is hard to read. With the API Freshwater Master Test Kit, you are instructed to compare your test results with different shades of colors under a bright light using the white background of the chart. The problem is that some of the shades of colors look nearly identical to us. In particular, we have a hard time telling the differences between 7.0 and 7.2 pH, 2.0 ppm and 5.0 ppm nitrite, 10 ppm to 20 ppm nitrate and 40 ppm to 80 ppm nitrate.

The API Freshwater Master Test Kit Color Chart.

Fortunately, when it comes to nitrite and nitrate, you don’t need entirely accurate readings. This is because any amount of nitrites will be toxic while high amounts of nitrates can also harm your fish. For nitrites, you have to make sure that the tests show that you have 0 ppm. For nitrates, you have to keep the level to below 40 ppm. So you should be fine as long as your nitrite test result looks light blue and your nitrate test result looks orange.

About Seachem Prime/Safe and API Master Test Kit

It is also important to note that water conditioners, such as Seachem Prime or Seachem Safe, can result in a false positive if you are testing for ammonia with the API Freshwater Master Test Kit. To prevent inaccurate readings, you should wait at least 48 hours after adding the water conditioner before testing your waters using the test kit. During that time, the water conditioner will dissipate completely from your fish tank.

API Freshwater Master Test Kit Dangers and Warnings

As we stated above, the Ammonia Test Solution Bottle #1, Ammonia Test Solution Bottle #2, Nitrate Test Solution Bottle #1 and Nitrate Test Solution Bottle #2 come with several health warnings. We compiled a list, via the instruction manual (which you can find on Chewy with this link) of the dangers and appropriate subsequent actions that need to be taken below:

Ammonia Test Solution Bottle #1 Dangers and Warnings:

  • Harmful if swallowed
  • Harmful in contact with skin
  • Harmful if inhaled
  • Causes serious eye irritation
  • Use only in outdoors or in a well-ventilated area
  • Avoid breathing dust /fume/ gas/mist/vapors/spray
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke when using this product
  • Wear protective gloves/protective clothes/eye protection/face protection
  • Specific treatment (see advice on this label)
  • IF IN EYES: Rinse cautiously with water for several minutes. Remove contact lenses, if present and easy to do. Continue rinsing. If eye irritation persists: Get medical advice/attention
  • IF SWALLOWED: Call a POISON CENTER / Doctor / Physician / first aider / if you feel unwell
  • IF ON SKIN: Wash with plenty of water and soap
  • IF INHALED: Remove person to fresh air and keep comfortable for breathing
  • Rinse mouth
  • Take off contaminated clothing and wash before reuse
  • Dispose of contents/container to authorized chemical landfill or if organic to high temperature incineration

Ammonia Test Solution Bottle #2 Dangers and Warnings:

  • May be corrosive to metals
  • Causes severe skin burns and eye damage
  • Causes serious eye damage
  • Harmful to aquatic life
  • Do not breathe dust / fume / gas / mist / vapors / spray
  • Wear protective gloves/ protective clothes/ eye protection/face protection
  • Keep only in original container
  • Avoid release to environment
  • IF SWALLOWED: Rinse mouth. DO NOT induce vomiting
  • IF ON SKIN (or hair): Take off immediately all contaminated clothing. Rinse skin with water/shower
  • IF IN EYES: Rinse cautiously with water for several minutes. Remove contact lenses, if present and easy to do. Continue rinsing
  • Immediately call a POISON CENTER/Doctor/Physician/first aider
  • Specific treatment (see advice on this label)
  • Wash contaminated clothing before reuse
  • Absorb spillage to prevent material damage
  • IF INHALED: Remove person to fresh air and keep comfortable for breathing
  • Store locked up
  • Dispose of contents/container to authorized chemical landfill or if organic to high temperature incineration

Ammonia Test Solution Bottle #1 Dangers and Warnings:

  • May be corrosive to metals
  • Harmful if inhaled
  • Causes severe skin and eye damage.
  • Causes serious eye irritation
  • May cause respiratory irritation
  • Do not breathe dust / fume / gas / mist / vapors / spray
  • Use only in outdoors or in a well-ventilated area. Wear protective gloves / protective clothes / eye protection / face protection
  • Keep only in original container
  • IF SWALLOWED: Rinse mouth. DO NOT induce vomiting
  • IF ON SKIN (or hair): Take off immediately all contaminated clothing. Rinse skin with water/shower
  • IF IN EYES: Rinse cautiously with water for several minutes. Remove contact lenses, if present and easy to do. Continue rinsing
  • Immediately call a POISON CENTER / Doctor / physician / first aider
  • Specific treatment (see advice on this label)
  • If eye irritation persists: Get medical advice/attention
  • Wash contaminated clothing before use
  • Absorb spillage to prevent material damage
  • IF INHALED: Remove person to fresh air and keep comfortable for breathing
  • Store locked up
  • Store in a well-ventilated place
  • Keep container tightly closed
  • Dispose of contents/container to authorized chemical landfill or if organic to high temperature incineration

Ammonia Test Solution Bottle #2 Dangers and Warnings:

  • Suspected of causing genetic defects
    Wear protective gloves/protective clothes/eye protection / face protection
  • If exposed or concerned: Get medical advice / attention
  • Store locked up
  • Dispose of contents/container to authorized chemical landfill or if organic to high temperature incineration

Recap

Even with some minor issues, we find that the API Freshwater Master Test Kit provides the best value over the long run, especially if you have multiple tanks as you can do hundreds of tests. The only major problem we have specific to this product is that some of the tests, namely Nitrate, can take quite a bit of time to get results. So make sure you allocate enough free time to perform tests. If you already have a fully cycled aquarium, we recommend testing your waters weekly before doing a water change so that you know how much of the water will need to be removed and replaced.

If you are interested, you can buy API’s Freshwater Master Test Kit with this link on Amazon.

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