Choose the Right ICP Testing for Your Reefing Needs: a Comparison

Frequent and consistent testing is part of any successfully kept aquarium. Sometimes, however, basic at-home test kits don’t give you the complete picture of what is going on in your reef tank. That’s where ICP testing becomes a real asset to a reefers toolkit because of its detail and accuracy.

Why ICP Testing?

ICP-OES is the best way to test the concentrations of a large variety of essential parameters. ICP test kits have you send a sample of your aquarium water into a lab, where it is then tested for various elements using an ICP-OES machine. Then, the results are then uploaded to an online portal where you can view them.

ATI vs. ICP Analysis

While each test kit will allow you to take a much deeper dive into the current water quality of your tank, each ICP testing method has its benefits and drawbacks.

Samples Tested

Both ATI and ICP Analysis allow you to test your aquarium water and your RO/DI source water. Testing each water sample will tell you where to look if your elements are out of whack.

Advantage: Toss Up

Explanation: ATI & ICP Analysis test your aquarium and RO/DI water.

Shipping Process

The shipping process is more or less the same for both ICP kits. Both include a free return shipping label and a tracking number for you to monitor the progress of your samples as they make their way to the testing facility.

Advantage: Toss Up

Explanation: Both ATI & ICP Analysis include a prepaid return label to submit your water samples for testing.

ICP Testing Turnaround Times

Turnaround times are probably the most significant difference between ATI and ICP Analysis. Furthermore, ATI’s samples are tested in a lab in Germany, which means the turnaround time is between one to two weeks. On the other hand, ICP Analysis labs are in the United States and usually provide results in under a week.

Advantage: ICP Analysis

Explanation: ICP Analysis can get your results faster because their testing center is located within the United States.

ICP Testing Results Interface

Each brand uploads all results to an online portal and provides alerts for any elements that fall out of range. ATI delivers a current reading for each element, an optimal range, and a recommended dosage for any element out of range. ICP Analysis functions similarly.

Advantage: Toss-Up

Explanation: Everyone will have their own personal preference when it comes to which results interface they prefer.

Community Aspect of ICP Testing

One of the unique aspects of ATI ICP-OES is that the online portal allows you to view public tanks, which will allow you a glimpse into other reefers’ testing parameters. This can help you set goals for your system and project where you may be in the future if you remain consistent in your maintenance and water care.

Advantage: ATI

Explanation: The ability to view public tanks is a large advantage for ATI because it can give viewers the inspiration they need to take their own system to the next level.

ATI ICP-OES Testing Community
ATI ICP-OES Testing Community


The pricing for both of these testing systems is relatively similar, with ICP Analysis coming in at $39.95 and ATI retailing at $44.95. The previously discussed details will give you an inclination into your system’s needs.

Advantage: Toss-Up

Explanation: While ICP Analysis has a lower sticker price, depending on what you are looking for out of your testing, one of these may prove to be a better value for your needs.

Salinity Testing

Salinity is double-checked for your ATI results using a high-precision conductivity meter.

Advantage: ATI

Explanation: ATI uses a high-precision conductivity meter to ensure accurate salinity testing. On the other hand, ICP Analysis does not test Salinity.

ATI ICP-OES Testing Machine
ATI ICP-OES Testing Machine

Alkalinity Testing

ATI uses a titrator to provide users with the most accurate Alkalinity readings possible.

Advantage: ATI

Explanation: ATI includes Alkalinity testing with the ICP Lab package, whereas ICP Analysis does not offer this.

Nitrate Testing

ATI uses an Ion Chromatography Machine to get the most accurate Nitrate test results.

Advantage:  ATI

Explanation: ATI uses an Ion Chromatography Machine to test for Nitrate, whereas ICP Analysis does not test for Nitrate.

ATI ICP-OES Ion Chromatography Machine
ATI ICP-OES Ion Chromatography Machine

Total Elements Tested

ATI ICP Testing Trace Elements Tested

Salinity, Carbonate Hardness, Chloride, Sodium, Magnesium, Sulfur, Calcium, Potassium, Bromine, Strontium, Boron, Fluorine, Lithium, Silicon, Iodine, Barium, Molybdenum, Nickel, Manganese, Arsenic, Beryllium, Chrome, Cobalt, Iron, Copper, Selenium, Silver, Vanadium, Zinc, Tin, Nitrate, Phosphorus, Phosphate, Aluminum, Antimony, Bismuth, Lead, Cadmium, Lanthanum, Thallium, Titanium, Tungsten, Mercury

ICP Analysis Trace Elements Tested

Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Chlorine, Sodium, Sulfur, Phosphorus, Boron, Bromine, Cobalt, Chromium, Iron, Iodine, Lithium, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Strontium, Vanadium, Zinc, Silver, Aluminum, Arsenic, Gold, Barium, Beryllium, Cadmium, Cerium, Cesium, Copper, Dysprosium, Erbium, Europium, Gallium, Holmium, Iridium, Lanthanum, Niobium, Neodymium, Osmium, Lead, Palladium, Praseodium, Platinum, Rubidium, Rhenium, Ruthenium, Antimony, Selenium, Silicon, Samarium, Tin, Tantalum, Tellurium, Thorium, Titanium, Uranium, Tungsten, Zirconium

Advantage: ICP Analysis

Explanation: If your primary goal is to test for as many trace elements as possible then, ICP Analysis will best suit your needs.

Having an in-depth look at your aquarium testing parameters allows you to create reasonable goals for the future of your tank. Having this knowledge brings you closer to fully understanding your aquarium’s evolution. ICP will better position you to take the proper actions in your system because of its ability to provide you with advanced water chemistry details. To learn more about ATI ICP-OES head to the product page on our website.

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