bahamunt285 I thought my testing days where way over (been in your shoes), but seems like the fish have put me back to testing and I've never liked trying to match up colors to those charts.
I have heard about those expensive probs I wish I could afford, but guess my water that sat about 18 hours and tested by Petsmart only registered as being hard as a problem which is the same even 90 miles from my home. No local fish stores anymore, one that was here closed down.
I bought the API master test kit, but due to cycling a 2.5 gallon aquarium for guppies I bought Jungle strips (30pk) for quick tests. I found out pretty fast the ammonia strips where not working, called the company and they said they would send me some Tetra ones to replace it after I faxed them the receipt. Well this morning they came in. Yes they sent me 100 of the ammonia test strips and a 100 of the 6 in 1 test strips. I wanted to buy Tetra ones, but they didn't have them at Wally World so I ended up in the Jungle 30pks. Pretty nice and hopefully they will tip me out if I need to crack open the API master test kit which was my reason for getting them while cycling a tank for guppies.
Later testing several other water sources against the kit & strips I found the 5 in 1 test strips said the pH was higher than the kit, matched all the 0 readings of nitrite/nitrate but if some existed they came up with different numbers than the kit. The strips are the only source I have for testing KH/GH now but most of those readings on betta water where all maxed out, guppie tank read below max in the end of it's cycle. Yep I'll buy another kit for just KH/GH. Thus I conclude the Jungle 5n1 strips are not reliable enough to base things on, but are a good warning to use your test kit if you pick up any nitrite/nitrate readings on them. Just for the betta's in a unfiltered heated tank that gets regular changes the 5n1 are worthless for since it's always been 0 nitrite/nitrates, but the tank I have cycled does registered it so for a quick check they will come in handy on it. I agree long run the kits are the cheapest to use, but a few strips around when having a cycled tank will help for quick test in-between regular testing with the kit.
I do all my kit testing in the kitchen and then empty them down the drain. The ammonia and nitrate testing solutions are a bio-hazards which require saftey measures. After I do the last test I fill the sink up with a bunch of cold water to run what didn't make it out of the U trap on out and then with a sink of warm water. Come to find out under the sink one of the drain pipes had come loose and water was in my catch bowls/pans. Think the bowl had some Mr. Clean in it for odor purposes. So if you have PVC drain pipes make sure they are connected good before you play with bio-hazard chemicals :). I had gotten most of the chemicals down the U pipe and it was only the tubs of water that backed up. Last thing I would want to do is empty them into a toilet and have that back up, so I'll stick with a sink.
Seachem site has the link to a pdf about ammonia on the Ammonia Alert pad page:
Total Ammonia=NH4=Non-Harmful Ion + NH3=ToxicGas
....NH3 & NH4 get converted back and forth to each other depending on the pH/temperature
....High pH most of the total ammonia will be converted to the toxic NH3 gas type
....Low pH most of the total ammonia will be converted to the NH4 ion type which is not harmful.
LittleBettaFish is right the API test only reveals total ammonia and not the toxic NH3 gaseous type. Seachem makes a kit that will test and give info on both NH3 toxic type and total ammonia thus you can know exactly the amount of both NH3 and NH4 present. All I have is their Ammonia Alert pad that registers the NH3 toxic ammonia at Safe being <0.02ppm, Alert being 0.05ppm, Alarm 0.2ppm and toxic 0.5ppm.
7.0pH/0 ammonia_Water from the water well right out of the tap warm or cold
8.4pH/4.0>8.0 total ammonia & at Alarm 0.2 NH3 harmful ammonia
_same water above 2 days later with no fish in it/untreated or heated.
8.0pH/2.0>4.0 total ammonia & at Alarm 0.2 NH3 harmful ammonia
_water drawn same time/set same time and treated with Tetra BettaSafe (suppose to neutralize the Ammonia)
Since my well water has ammonia in it if the water sets any amount of time and I must use heated water for the betta's my only choice to use this water is to try to bring down the pH (naturally with tannins) to make it a little longer before needing to change the water. I'm sure the drought plus a large amount of cattle below where my well water comes from all doing their business next to a fence line instead of spread out all over the pasture has had an effect on this. On the other side of the road that field of coastal was watered 24 hours a day through the drought until the weather made growing coastal end it. Guess he sold of a lot of the cattle also after that time or moved them elsewhere.
This article explains the effect of pH and temperature on toxic ammonia pretty good LittleBettaFish:
bahamunt285 above answers most of your questions also on readings with the test kit.
For now all 4 betta's are in 2 gallon tanks heated to 78*. 2 are glass aquariums so I can see the fish and use them to treat them in if need be. 2 are sterlite plastic containers that can hold up to 5 gallons when I get this ammonia problem corrected so I don't have to change the water as often, but for now they are in only 2 gallons.
2 glass aq have a less than 1" moss ball in each of them.
Have some anarcharis that have adjust to the water change in a 2 gallon glass jar (warm or cold not known) in a bathroom with 24 hour CFL (9w=40watt 550 lumens) light on for the past 2 weeks. I now need to cover them with a towel to adjust them to lower light since they are not shedding leaves as much which will be used to float in each tanks when they get there.
Tank water treated with Tetra's BettaSafe 4th day had pH8.0 & 8.0 total ammonia (longest they have gone without a change or ever will go until I get my water fixed).
I used Betta Bowl Plus when they where in smaller bowls during the summer which neutralizes ammonia, but ran out of it and it's not economical to use treating large quantities of water. When I got the Seachem Ammonia Alert telling me harmful ammonia was existing in my water I bought some Jungle Ammonia Clear tabs. Some of the water I had treated and let sit a couple of days had 1 tab (double dose as suggested which treats 10 gallons used for 5 gallons) put into it with a filter 2-10 gallons runing for aireation for over about 2-3 hours had the Ammonia Alert still telling me there was free ammonia still in the water so I trashed the water. Week later I used half a tab on the same type water and got the same result so that was trashed since I knew freshly drawn water had 0 ammonia from the test kit.
From the above site I have noted:
78* tank, 4 days=8.0pH and 8.0+Total ammonia with their 77* temp showing 5.38% total ammonia would be gaseous toxic ammonia then mine was about 0.43 toxic ammonia-close to killing stage.
If the above was the same except I had a 7.0 pH their 77* shows .57% TA would be gaseous so if I have 8.0 TA then only about 0.0456 would be the toxic amount. Not good, but far better than close to the killing stage.
From the above you can tell I can't get by with the twice a week water change of 50% then 100% since their water is near toxic at 4 days. BTW the water change before the 4 days reading was also 100% and not 50% and if I recall right the water was drawn right before the change since the water that set was the water treated with Jungle's Ammonia Clear that got trashed for not clearing.
I will order some Prime as soon as I get my shopping list together since I have to order it on the net and see what results I get along with using tannins. The tank I cycled has gone from a higher pH down to 7.0 now (matches fresh drawn water).