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Saturday, 27 October 2012

Review: Seachem MultiTest Iron Test Kit

A quick review on the Seachem Iron Test Kit i purchased to monitor the iron (Fe) content of the aquarium.

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A look at what's in the box.

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Two cuvettes, reference solution, test powder regent, pipette, measuring spoon, comparison slide, instructions and the test plate.

First of all, i am not keen on the cheap pipettes that are supplied, i find they are inconsistent and deform quite quickly. I assume they are supplied due to exceptionally low cost, but a good graduated syringe is not exactly an expensive option.

I tested the pipette and worked out one fill “to the base of the bulb” was pretty much 1mm. So to start with i swapped it out for a better item.

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I appreciate hobby test kits are not lab grade accuracy, but I've always felt it helps to be as accurate and consistent as possible when carrying out water tests. Syringes like the one above can be purchased on the likes of eBay for very little compared to the improved control.

So i started by carrying out the reference test using the solution, to see if the kit is accurate and easy enough to use.

This is done by using 1l of RO water…

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And adding 1 “drop” of the test solution. Here i did use the supplied pipette, although i also don't care much for using “drops” when measuring again. A very inconsistent and essentially undefined measure. Despite it being normally recognized as 0.05ml.

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But i persevered, and allowed the solution to mix in with the RO for a while, string it with a plastic spoon.

I then carried out 3 tests of the reference solution to check the repeatability side by side. A nice touch that can be done easily with the multi cavity plate.

First a measure of the regent powder using the level spoon trick. I always achieve this by taking a heaped spoon full and then grade it level with a stiff piece of paper or an old credit card.

A measure of the powder is added to each test cavity…

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Next, 1ml (2 draws of the pipette) of test solution is added to each cavity, and stirred thoroughly with the flat end of the spoon…

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Then we wait 2-5 minutes before reading off against the scale.

The test solution is supposed to be 0.4mg/l

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I think its close enough, perhaps a little lighter, although i should have put the test tray against a dark background in case any light was shining through.

I felt it was perhaps slightly lighter than 0.4, maybe my test solution was slightly over diluted.

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Either way I'm happy its close enough and all 3 look pretty much the same.

Alternatively a Low Range test can be carried out, which involves using the cuvettes, one with test solution the other with plain test water for comparative purposes. The same amount of regent is used, but fluid is added to “fill within 1cm of the top” another slightly poor and inaccurate method. Again, a bit of working out and it would appear 3ml from the syringe is pretty much the same amount of fluid.

Again… why don't Seachem provide an easy to use syringe!

Also the lids on the cuvettes are just loose fitting caps, and with the instruction of “invert to mix” will quite likely have it dripping everywhere. Test tubes/vials with tight fitting lids like the API test kits would be a welcome addition.

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So i tested the tank water…

Surprised i wasn't… it was a big fat zero!

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I followed this by adding 3ml of Seachems Flourish Iron (calculated from their dosing recommendations) and tested the water approximately 6 hours later.

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Excellent! In the ball park range of 0.1-0.2mg/l. I personally interpret the result as 0.14mg/l.

I followed this up with a second test 24 hours later.

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Back to a dead zero! So the uptake is very quick of the iron supplement, which is no bad thing.

What i need to do now is work out approximately how long it does take to be completely absorbed. As the 3ml dose brings it into the 0.1-0.2mg/l range, it seems unwise to add more, to last longer, as this would essentially overdose the system. It seems more sensible if not less practical to do several small doses through the day, for example two 3ml doses 12hours apart.

This could get a little time consuming and awkward to keep on top of with other daily activities i have to carry out, so i will be looking in future at adding a full dosing system to the the planned GHL Profilux control system i will be installing for my aquariums. With that in place i will be able to add the several smaller doses at whatever periods i need too.

Final Verdict on the Seachem MultiTest Iron Test Kit

This is the first time I've actually used a Seachem test kit, and it was a toss up between this and the similar priced JBL Iron test kit (which i may compare with in future) however the success and ease of use of the other Seachem products drew me to it.

I'm happy with the results the kit showed. The reference repeated fine and the result of my post dosing even proved Seachems recommendations to be accurate. Its also nice quick and easy to use, literally a 30second job to measure out and add the test water, followed by the developing period. This period can also be extended to 45minutes and the kit claims to show up the chelated iron content, although I've not tested this so far.

The sliding scale is also a nice touch compared to a colour chart, when looking against the test solution, taking your eyes out of focus as you slide the scale makes it quite an easy thing to read off.

The instructions are well worded and easy to follow with plenty of images to help you along the way. An example can be found on Seachems website, using the following link…

Seachem MultiTest Iron Test Kit Instructions

My continued criticism of the kit is the budget quality supplied measuring equipment. Again, tight sealing cuvettes and a proper syringe would be very welcome in this kit.

Above this though i do recommend the kit should you need to be testing the iron content of your aquarium water.

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