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You’re Using The Wrong Test Kit: Why Aqua Medic’s Marine Lab Is Better Than ICP For Many Hobbyists

Mail-in water testing is becoming the future of monitoring both major, minor and trace elements in our reef tanks alongside some of the critical parameters we utilize to gauge the health of our aquariums.

Aqua Medic Water Testing is actually the oldest service in the United States and is a little different than what you would experience with the ICP Water testing services such as ATI Labs, ICP Analysis, and Triton. Check out the video below to learn a bit more about which service would be right for your tank.

During our production of the video above I learned quite a bit about the different services and realized that each of the services was tailored to best suite their particular customer’s needs. Aqua Medic Water Testing is the only service not using ICP machines and so comparing this service and what it offers was of course going to provide the most interesting insights and I found what they had to say in response to our inquiry to be quite eye-opening.

“What is the difference between AWT and the other ICP testing services available in the US?”

I’m glad you asked. There are some real defining differences which set our testing ahead of the marine water testing industry, especially compared to all the ICP machines out there. ICP is not bad, in fact they are quite accurate, but do not complete all required testing parameters.

Price

Included in our price is shipping, both from and to our lab. Other companies often advertise a competing price but do not include shipping. This may not be the case with Triton in particular but is the case with others. Compared to ICP, we put many more “man” hours into our testing which ultimately leads to a smaller margin for us, but we stay competitive in regards to industry standard pricing. We re-test and cross check results which are “out of range” to ensure accuracy, ensuring people get what they paid for.

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Type of Testing

Here is where we really excel and focus on the the marine aquarium hobbyist needs. We chose the most common problem areas, along with what we believe are the most important parameters to watch to help our customers watch, maintain, and resolve those parameters. For example, we test for “organics” which ICP machines do not. This includes ammonia, nitrite, nitrate. We test for both bonded as well as free/ionic (free is the usable element at that moment in time) Calcium and ionic Potassium, none of which can be tested with ICP machines. To achieve our results we use auto-titration (reagents never more than a few days old) using high end laboratory spectrophotometry, ion-sensitive electrode analysis, and always retested results which are out of the optimal ranges. As a hobbyist, I’m sure you can look at the parameters which we test for here and know that they all can be adjusted as needed and strongly reflect the health of ones aquarium.

  • Salinity (specific gravity)
  • Ammonia
  • Nitrate
  • Nitrite
  • Phosphate
  • Calcium
  • Alkalinity
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Potassium
  • Iodine
  • Silica
  • Copper
  • Strontium
  • Molybdenum
  • Boron

If you take a look at competing marine water testing facilities only a select few of the very important parameters listed above are being tested for, along with a whole lot of other elements that many hobbyist would question not only how to fix the issue, but also what effect it may or may not be having on the aquarium.

Turnaround time 

We also lead the industry on turnaround time. Not only are we local which means mail gets too and from our facility quicker but in most cases our water testing technicians are literally waiting for the mail to get here to starting testing that very moment. From the time a customer purchases a test from you, they receive it quite quickly being in the USA and for those people with aquarium issues and or emergencies, this is vital! In most cases, people are testing their water with us to confirm or identify a problem with their water. Now the best part about our testing, next to accuracy, is the speed at which the customers get their results after the water sample is put in the mail. In most cases, we have results available the same day we receive them, and only a few hours from when we receive them (but we advertise 24-48 hours of testing time to be safe). Also being in the USA, in most cases we get the samples in 1-3 business days from when the customer drops them in the mail. We do not guarantee this but we will work with our customer if it takes longer than 7 days at which time we offer a new fresh test kit, on that very rare occasion it might get lost in the mail. Triton requires 2 weeks from the time samples are dropped in the mail. A whole lot changes in water chemistry in that half month, plus the time it takes to purchase and receive the containers. So with AWT, from day of purchase, about three days or less to the customer and three days or less from the customer.

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We did some of our own extensive testing on the length of time aquarium water can sit before we see small or significant change in results. Water which sat for 5 days or less showed almost no change. Water which sat for 7 days or more had the biggest increase in variability from the first day of results (although still somewhat minute). 7 days is the point where we believe the results could have strayed enough to where we like to re-test a fresh sample. We do not advertise this as people can quite easily claim their results were sent much sooner then they actually sent them to get more free testing. In most cases, people will contact us if they have not seen results within a few days of sending it and that is when we work with them on a one on one basis.

Online portal experience

We rarely have question in regards to ordering or viewing results and history. If we do, we are always willing to walk our customer through anything they may be confused about. We did just get a new platform for our website late last week. This allows the website to be mobile friendly as well us offer the eventual expansion of rewords programs, coupon codes and other great features. Also now that the platform is in place we plan to upgrade the look and view-ability of the results within the graphs and history. This part is pretty exciting to us!

Lastly, AWT comes with our support

We quickly help anyone who is having issue of confusion with the website either through email or more likely a quick phone call. Also, we regularly have customers question their results and need to know how it got that way and how to resolve it. We do our best to help find the source of any water related issues they are having and offer our expert advise on how to resolve those issues. Of course the website offers simple and broad solutions but sometimes the customer needs a little more.

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