This page contains affiliate links.  All that means for you is that if you click on one of my links and make a purchase, I receive a small commission.  This helps me keep this content 100% free!  But rest assured, I only recommend products I know and trust! Happy Reefing!

The Best Saltwater Ammonia Test Kits

Updated 2024

Table of Contents

Introduction

In our endeavor to explore various ammonia test kits for aquariums, we considered the possibility of testing more than four kits. However, certain companies don’t offer ammonia tests, while others have limited availability and higher costs. As a result, we focused on the four most widely used ammonia test kits, conveniently accessible through reputable retailers like Bulk Reef Supply, Amazon, and other online stores.

Our assessment encompassed several key categories:

  1. Price per test
  2. Quantity of tests per kit
  3. Waiting time for results
  4. Ease of use
  5. Clarity and readability of results
  6. Quality and durability of each test kit
  7. Highlighting the best features of each kit
  8. Identifying any drawbacks associated with each kit

At the conclusion of our evaluation, we will provide insights into the following aspects:

  1. The most cost-effective option
  2. The highest-quality kit
  3. The easiest-to-read results
  4. The overall most user-friendly kit

We hope you find our review informative and helpful. If you have a particular test kit in mind, you can easily access more information by following the provided links. Thank you for joining us on this exploration of ammonia test kits for aquariums. Happy reefing! 🐟

Ammonia Test Kits

API

  • Price per test– $0.12
  • # of tests– 130
  • Wait time– 5 minutes
  • Ease of use– Moderate
  • Readability– Moderately difficult
  • Quality and durability– Moderately durable
  • Best characteristic– Price & volume of tests included
  • Worst Characteristic– Leaky vials

Price– If you’re on a budget, API is the way to go, no doubt! Their ammonia test kit is crazy affordable, and hey, why not just snag the Saltwater Master Test Kit while you’re at it? It’s a steal, comes with tons of tests and four vials, and surprisingly, the plastic packaging is tough and sturdy, especially considering the low price. Honestly, I think it’s even better than the pricier Red Sea Marine Care kit (just my humble opinion, though).

Ease of Use– Now, onto the usability. I have the Master Test Kit, and here’s the scoop – 2 out of 4 vials leak. It’s super frustrating because no matter how hard I clamp those tops down and shake those vials, colored liquid decides to do a little flying dance. Not cool! And, y’know, besides the fact that it could be toxic, it’s just plain annoying. But here’s the twist – I’ve chatted with some other hobbyists, and about half of them didn’t have any leaky issues. So, it’s like playing vial roulette, I guess!

Readability– As for readability, I’d say this kit lands somewhere in the middle. It’s a nice change from having to squint at different shades of yellow ’cause the kit goes from yellow to red. That’s slightly easier, in my book. But there are two things that mess with the reading. Firstly, since you gotta read through the curved vial, the light bends all over the place. Secondly, if you hold the vial touching the color scale, the color looks darker compared to holding it just a hair away. So, which way is right? Beats me!

Best Characteristic– Now, the best part – this kit gives you a whopping 130 tests! For most of us hobbyists, that’s practically a lifetime supply. You only really bust out the ammonia test kits during the cycle, when you add new buddies to your tank, or when sudden changes happen. Otherwise, if your tank is stable, ammonia isn’t something you test all the time. So, chances are the test kit might expire before you even get close to using it all up!

Worst Characteristic– But gotta keep it real, right? The worst thing about this kit is those darn vials being so tippy. Like, c’mon API, can’t you make shorter and wider vials that stand steady? I get that it might mess up the reading thing, but hey, stability overrules, man!

Red Sea

  • Price per test– $0.24
  • # of tests– 100
  • Wait time– 15 minutes
  • Ease of use– Easy
  • Readability– Easy
  • Quality and durability– Moderately durable
  • Best characteristic– Easy to read
  • Worst Characteristic– Tiny scoop

Ease of Use– The Red Sea Marine Care Test Kit happened to be the first test kit I ever purchased, which might have led to a natural testing bias towards Red Sea products. While the specific reason for choosing Red Sea escapes my memory, it could be attributed to my initial aquarium, which was a Red Sea Reefer 170. This test kit involves a lengthier process with several steps and waiting times, but it remains manageable. The first step requires using a small scooper, which can be a bit cumbersome, while the subsequent steps involve the use of droppers. One positive aspect is the tip-proof design of the wide-base vial, reducing the chances of accidental spills, except for instances of user error, which I have encountered during my years of experience.

Readability– All ammonia test kits rely on the user’s ability to differentiate various colors or shades of the same color. Individuals with color blindness may require assistance to interpret their results accurately. Despite personal familiarity with this kit, I find it relatively easy to decipher the readings. While it does not provide exact numerical values, I usually feel confident within a reading margin of plus/minus 0.15ppm, which generally suffices for most practical scenarios.

Quality and Durability– The test kit is packaged in a simple cardboard container, which, compared to other options in this blog, boasts relatively thicker material. However, it remains a cardboard-based solution. On the other hand, the contents of the package, such as the sturdy vial and three robust reagent bottles, demonstrate higher quality. For individuals seeking a more resilient container, the Marine Care Test Kit may be worth considering, as it comes with a plastic case and includes additional tests suitable for beginners.

Best Characteristic– While personal bias might influence this opinion due to my extensive usage of this kit, I find it easy to read. The design allows for placing the vial on a stable surface and looking down through the bottom, eliminating challenges posed by shaky hands and light refraction.

Worst Characteristic– The first reagent necessitates precise measurement using a 0.15 mL scoop, which can prove challenging without the aid of additional tools like a knife or paper to achieve accurate leveling. Practice and attention to detail are crucial to obtaining precise measurements in this regard.

Salifert

  • Price per test– $0.30
  • # of tests– 50
  • Wait time– 3 minutes
  • Ease of use– Easy
  • Readability– Moderately difficult
  • Quality and durability– Flimsy
  • Best characteristic– Wide base vial
  • Worst Characteristic– Not easy to read

Ease of Use– The most user-friendly aspect of this kit is that it only requires one reagent. Adding it involves a couple of steps, but hey, at least it’s just one thing to deal with. And get this – you don’t even have to put the top on the vial when shaking it! A gentle twirl does the job of mixing the reagent just fine.

Readability– Now, this is where things got a bit tricky for me. Reading this one was a bit of a challenge. You gotta hold it up like you do with the API kit, but the bottom has a square shape, which sort of matches the top-down view of the Red Sea kit. But honestly, I don’t think it does either of those aspects too well. For some reason, I found it harder to read the color in this test kit. Plus, my water was a bit murky (not clear), which made distinguishing the colors even tougher.

Quality and Durability– Okay, gotta be real with you here – this one feels kinda cheap. The vial itself is super thin, and I swear I could crush it with just two fingers pretending to be Superman! As for the packaging, it’s made of cardboard with a slightly waxy feel, but it’s also thin. Keep that packaging dry, or you’ll be in the market for a new box.

Best Characteristic– One positive thing, though, is that like the Red Sea kit, the vial is shorter and wider, which makes it more stable. At least there’s that!

Worst Characteristic– As I mentioned earlier, I found it hard to read. Maybe you’ll have a different experience, but for me, it felt like what I was seeing was plus/minus 0.5 ppm, and that’s not exactly ideal.

Hanna Instruments

  • Price per test–  $65 plus $0.84/test
  • # of tests– 10 with kit plus 25 in extra kits
  • Wait time– 15 minutes
  • Ease of use– Moderately difficult
  • Readability– Moderately difficult
  • Quality and durability– High quality
  • Best characteristic– Accurate
  • Worst Characteristic– Price

Ease of Use– This is a great kit, especially if you are a fan-person of Hanna Checkers.  I own almost all of them, and this Ammonia checker absolutely works great.  I just almost never use it because it is more complicated and pricey than others, and I just don’t need this level of accuracy.

Readability– I mean, digital display, so zero readability issues here.

Quality and Durability– Hanna makes a good product, one that will last for years.  You will need to replace the cuvettes from time to time, but a two pack doesn’t cost that much.

Best Characteristic– Easy answer…. accuracy.

Worst Characteristic– Too many steps and way to pricey.  The vast majority of the time we just don’t need this level of accuracy in the hobby.  If we know a general ball park, that works well enough for our needs.

Winner by Category

Least Expensive

  • Price per test– $0.04 to $0.08
  • # of tests– 130
  • Wait time– 5 minutes
  • Ease of use– Moderate
  • Readability– Moderately difficult
  • Quality and durability– Moderately durable
  • Best characteristic– Price & volume to tests included
  • Worst Characteristic– Leaky vials

Highest Quality

  • Price per test– $0.19
  • # of tests– 100
  • Wait time– 15 minutes
  • Ease of use– Easy
  • Readability– Easy
  • Quality and durability– Moderately durable
  • Best characteristic– Easy to read
  • Worst Characteristic– Tiny scoop

Easiest to Read

  • Price per test–  $65 plus $0.84/test
  • # of tests– 10 with kit plus 25 in extra kits
  • Wait time– 15 minutes
  • Ease of use– Moderately difficult
  • Readability– Moderately difficult
  • Quality and durability– High quality
  • Best characteristic– Accurate
  • Worst Characteristic– Price

Easiest to Use

  • Price per test– $0.28
  • # of tests– 50
  • Wait time– 3 minutes
  • Ease of use– Easy
  • Readability– Moderately difficult
  • Quality and durability– Flimsy
  • Best characteristic– Wide base vial
  • Worst Characteristic– Not easy to read

My Overall Choice

Red Sea

  • Price per test– $0.12
  • # of tests– 130
  • Wait time– 5 minutes
  • Ease of use– Moderate
  • Readability– Moderately difficult
  • Quality and durability– Moderately durable
  • Best characteristic– Price & volume of tests included
  • Worst Characteristic– Leaky vials

Links to Other Reviews

Just in case you want to get a few other opinions, check out these articles/videos about ammonia test kits!