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Last update: April 7, 2021

How To Perfectly Measure Anything You Add to Your Aquarium!

A wise man once told me…

If you don’t measure it, then I can guarantee you are not adding the correct amount…

This was in response to adding liquid fertilizer in my aquarium using just the cap.

He was right.

I was soon rewarded with an algae bloom – one that took weeks to clear.

And since that day, I have always measured everything that I add to my aquarium.

Measuring tools are the unsung hero of maintaining an aquarium. When you have them, you won’t appreciate just how useful they are until one goes missing.

But don’t run off and grab that measuring cup from your kitchen just yet. What you really need is a dedicated set of aquarium measuring tools.

Today, I am going to share my favorite measuring tools – the ones I don’t let leave my side.

Measuring tools for liquids

It doesn’t matter whether you have a freshwater or saltwater tank. Measuring liquids is soon going to become part of your weekly routine.

What kind of liquids exactly?

  • Water conditioner
  • Medication
  • Liquid plant fertilizer
  • Coral food

And, that’s just to name a few.

But you don’t just need to measure liquids that go into your aquarium…

You know those test tubes that come with the test kits? Yeah, the ones that you need to fill to a precise line with water from your aquarium…

Have you ever tried dipping the tube into your tank to fill it? It’s nearly impossible to accurately fill!

Well, these three tools are going to make your life so much easier!

1. Disposable pipette

Plastic pipette for measuring medicine, water conditioner and other liquid for your aquarium

Also known as a bulb syringe, a pipette is essentially a small version of a turkey baster. I would have to say that it is also one of the most commonly used tools in my aquarium.

Want to measure medicine or water conditioner? If it’s a liquid, this is one of the most accurate and easiest tools to do it.

Simply squeeze the bulb and slowly release until the pipette fills to the measurement line that you want.

Affordable and sold by the hundred, you simply toss them in the trash once they begin to gunk up – less cleaning!

That said, they are long lasting. I reuse each one multiple times and am still on the same packet that I purchased over three years ago.

The thin design and long neck allows you to reach the bottom of most bottles – something that a syringe often has difficulty with.

Just check the size before you buy. I use the 5-ml size, which is the maximum amount that the pipette can hold. Remember, the pipette can always suck up less than its maximum rating.

Don’t like disposable products? You will be pleased that you can also buy a reusable glass version like this.

Me personally, I’m not a fan. Not only are glass pipettes easy to break, but the removable bulb is difficult to properly clean and even trickier to get back on – hands down these do not compete with plastic pipettes.

Just be mindful that when using a pipette underwater, the moment you release the bulb, it will draw in aquarium water…

Fortunately, this isn’t a problem for our next measuring tool.

2. Syringe

An oral syringe used for aquariums

Because syringes do not draw water back inside, they are often used to administer liquids underwater. Whether you are spot treating black beard algae with a targeted dose of Seachem Flourish Excel or directly feeding your corals, a syringe precisely delivers liquid where you need it most.

When most people think of a syringe, they think of something that the doctor jabs them with. Well, these are very similar – except for the tip.

Instead of the needle being sharp, aquarium syringes have a blunt tip needle. Some syringes allow the tip to be swapped out with another (sold separately). These tips not only come in varying lengths but also hole sizes – if you need to administer a thicker liquid, you want a wider tip.

Have a tall aquarium and need to spot dose in tight spaces? Try one of these syringes with super long tips.

However, chances are that you don’t need all that length. I personally use oral syringes like this one.

While they might not allow you to swap out the tips, I find that oral syringes have two benefits for aquarium use. First, they also allow you to measure by the teaspoon, and second because they include a bottle adapter…

Aquarium syringe with bottle adapter

A bottle adapter allows you to turn your bottle of water conditioner upside down, without spills, allowing you to get every last drop from the bottle.

And best of all, you can find these everywhere! Grab one the next time you are at Walmart!

One advantage that syringes have over a pipette is accuracy…

Why are these more accurate? The measuring lines are in smaller increments. Some syringes even let you measure to 0.1 ml!

3. Measuring beakers

Aquarium measuring beaker set by OXO

Want a less fiddly method for measuring liquids? If you just want a quick measurement to pour into your aquarium, then these beakers are perfect.

Coming in a set of seven, simply fill each beaker to the top to accurately measure the following:

  • 1 teaspoon
  • 1 tablespoon
  • 1 ounce
  • 2 ounces
  • 1/2 cup
  • 2/3 cup
  • 1 cup

The weighted base allows the beakers to easily stand on their own. But if you bump them while gravel vacuuming, don’t worry – they are made from plastic and quite difficult to break.

I have had my set for two years now, and the measurement lines have not begun to fade. In fact, my wife was so impressed with these that she grabbed a set to use in the kitchen.

Measuring tools for solids

It may surprise you to learn that there are solid aquarium products that also need to be measured.

Well, this shouldn’t surprise those of you with a saltwater tank. I’ll bet you are all too familiar with measuring out salt mix.

And, those of you with planted tanks will have likely seen powdered fertilizers that you add to your aquarium.

When it comes to measuring solids, there are only two tools that you need…

1. Measuring spoons

Plastic measuring spoons for aquarium

Nothing fancy here. Just functional measuring spoons – perfect for measuring small amounts of additives in nano aquariums.

But they have their use in larger aquariums too. I use them to measure out the ideal amount of fish food.

2. Measuring cups

OXO good grips plastic measuring cups for aquariums

For larger amounts, you can’t do better than a measuring cup.

Simply dunk the measuring cup into your salt mix, level it to the top of the cup – just like that, you have a perfect measurement in seconds.

My favorite are the OXO measuring cups. Admittedly, I stole these from our kitchen and refuse to give them back!</p.

They stack together nicely and come with a built-in scraper to remove the overflow. This allows you to get a measurement that is perfectly accurate.

Conclusion

Measuring tools are both cheap and helpful – every aquarium owner should have a set on hand.

And, the above products are by far my favorite!

You may have noticed that my recommendations followed a common trend. Did you see what it was?

That’s right…

The best measuring tools for aquariums are plastic!

Glass breaks too easily. And metal, well, give it enough time, and it’s rust city.

Plastic measuring tools are the best!

Obviously, you don’t need to buy every measuring tool on this list, only the ones that are relevant to your setup.

What do you use as a measuring tool for your aquarium? Let me know in the comments below!

Ian Sterling

I've been keeping fish for over 30 years and currently have 4 different aquariums – it's an addiction. I'm here to teach you everything there is to know about fishkeeping.

I also use this site as an excuse to spend lots of money on testing and reviewing different aquarium products! You can find my reviews here.

Comments (2)

Hi Ian.
I am attempting to medicate my Betta for columnaris with the combo Furan-2 and KanaPlex as recommended in another of your posts. I have the Betta in a 2 gallon hospital tank and find it extremely challenging to measure the right amount of either of these meds for a 2 gallon tank. I’ve searched the web over for answers and small measuring tools. Furan-2 requires one packet per 10 gallons and KanaPlex requires 1 level measure from supplied spoon per 5 gallons. Neither medication identifies exactly how much medicated powder is in these recommended dosing amounts nor can I locate a per-gallon amount to add per the instructions for each. Do you have any recommendations for measuring tools that may be helpful? Or maybe there’s another more logical way to dose a 2-gallon tank? The Furan-2 appears to be just under 1/2 tsp.
Thank you in advance for any advice you can provide.

Hi Christie,

Small tanks make it difficult. My only suggestion would be to weigh a full dose of each using a kitchen scale and divide that by the gallons in your small tank.

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