To make accurate decisions in your grow room or garden, you need to use the best pH testers for soil or hydroponics.
If your pH is not dialed into the ideal range, your plants will not reach their full potential. You’ll run the risk of developing nutrient deficiencies, leading to dismal harvests.
If you are new to growing in general, a good starting point is our blog post on how to actually test your nutrient solution and soil pH, along with TDS/EC, and more.
If you’re just here to find the best soil & hydroponic pH tester, we’ll get to that in a minute. We’ll share some picks for hobby growers and commercial cultivars alike. First, we want to spread some basic information on these devices.
Why Is Testing pH Important?
A lot of growers don’t bother testing their soil pH. It’s a hassle, and maybe you just don’t have the time for it. But, testing your pH is actually incredibly important.
If you aren’t already aware, there is a relationship between plant nutrients and pH. Your plants will only be able to uptake certain nutrients if pH is in the ideal growing range - between 6-7 for most plants.
If your pH is too low or too high, crucial nutrients get locked out. This leads to toxicity of some and deficiency of others, and abnormal plant growth.
This leads many growers to assume they have a nutrient issue, and they start messing with their feedings and add more nutrients. This just further exacerbates the issue.
For more information on the link between nutrients & pH, read our complete guide in our blog. But let’s move on to what a soil pH tester actually is.
What Is A Soil pH Tester?
A soil pH tester is exactly what it sounds like - it’s the best way to test your soil pH. It has prong(s) you insert directly into the media, and a reading will display your pH level.
These are an instrumental tool in any garden or grow room, but depending on how you grow, you may need to use a hydroponic or nutrient pH tester.
Are Soil pH Testers Accurate?
Constantly testing your pH is a hassle. It leads many growers to question, are soil pH testers accurate or am I wasting my time?
To really answer this, we have to explain the different types of pH testers out there. Some of these are far more accurate than others.
For example, the tests that are simply a chemical colored dye mixed with the soil water are actually not very accurate. You take the color that your sample turns, and compare it to a chart for an estimation on your pH. These are way cheaper than digital pH testers with probes, and you can see why.
The digital testers - sometimes referred to as pH pens - are very accurate and give you a good indication of what your pH truly is.
If you are going to take the time to test your pH, you might as well ensure you are using one of the best soil pH tester devices out there. By the end of this article, you’ll know exactly which ones are worth the money.
What Is A Hydroponics or Nutrient pH Tester?
A hydroponics or nutrient pH tester is the same thing as a soil device - except you test your nutrient solution or hydroponic reservoir with it.
These are very important, and should be used prior to every watering or feeding - unless you know for certain what your water pH is and you aren’t adding nutrients.
Do I Need Both A Soil & Hydroponics pH Tester?
You can definitely make use for both if your budget allows, but you can probably get away with just using a hydroponics or nutrient solution tester.
If you need. to test your soil pH, you are still able to very easily if you grow in containers. Simply pH your water, and drench your pots and collect the run off, and test that with your device.
What Makes The Best pH Tester - Our Criteria
Before we get into our picks for the best soil & hydroponic pH tester, we need to lay out the criteria we used.
There are tons of options out there, and they all claim to do the same thing, which makes it tough to choose one. But, there are a few key features that make the best pH testers truly the best!
Probe Length Matters In A Soil pH Tester
All soil pH meters have a probe, and the length of this probe really does play a role in how effective the meter will be.
This will allow you to get deeper in your media, and test conditions right in the root zone. We also want to mention that material matters a bit, too.
Soil pH testers with a metal probe will be far more effective than those with a plastic probe. Part of this is because if you’re digging into soil, you need a strong probe that you know isn’t going to break on you.
Multi-Function pH Testers - Moisture, EC, Temperature, & Dual-Use
Lot’s of meters can test pH. But, the ones that really stand out from the crowd can also test moisture content of your soil, or EC/TDS. A few can even measure sunlight!
But, some of these, like the Bluelab Multimedia pH Meter, can test pH in both soil/coco grows and your nutrient solution - making it way more versatile than the competition.
Durability, Portability, Power Source, Lifespan
A few final things we looked at when selecting the best soil & hydroponic pH tester are the quality of the device itself - how durable it is, the materials used, etc. If it’s portable and easy to bring anywhere you need, even better.
We also took a hard look at the power source and battery life of these meters. The last thing you want is your pH pen to die on you prematurely, and not be able to test your soil or nutrient solution.
What Is The Best Soil pH Tester?
We are going to share some of the best soil pH tester options currently on the market, starting with some options for hobbyists and then moving into some for the commercial crowd.
The latter will be more expensive, but ultimately allow you to completely automate this aspect of your grow.
Active Air Soil pH Testers
If you are a hobby grower or gardener just looking for a basic soil meter, Active Air has two great options for you - their 2 way meter and their 3 way meter.
The Active Air 2-Way Meter tests both pH and moisture content - knocking out two birds with one stone. You can determine whether your soil is acidic, basic, or right in the sweet spot while also determining whether you’re due for another watering or not.
If you want to take things a bit further, you should check out the Active Air 3-Way Meter. This version not only measures pH and moisture, but also light!
This is really beneficial to those debating where to put their potted plants or install a raised garden bed, finding the spot that gets your plants the most light throughout the day.
These are both right around $15, making either option an absolute steal. There is no reason to not have one of these in your arsenal.
Bluelab Multimedia pH Meter
Perhaps the best soil meter currently on the market is the Bluelab Multimedia pH Meter. It’s geared more towards serious growers who want more accurate results, and more capabilities than the aforementioned Active Air testers.
The best feature of this pH meter is that it tests not just soil, coco, or any other substrate, but also your nutrient solution. You can grab this one meter and test any grow method you implement.
Calibration is straightforward, and only needs to be done once every 30 days or so. There’s no guessing either, the device will notify you when calibration is required! A huge plus, so you know you’re always getting accurate data.
The meter itself comes with a 5-year guarantee, and it includes 2 AAA batteries to help you get started. Other cool features include a backlit, easy to read LCD display, a low battery indicator, and auto on/off function.
When it comes to the best soil pH tester right now - this is it. If you’re on a budget, you’ll probably be able to get by with the Active Air testers. If you want to do the job right, give Bluelab a try.
Or, rather than testing your soil directly, you can feed or water your plants, and test the run off with a hydroponic pH tester to get an idea of what the pH around your root zone truly is. Let’s discuss the best pH testers for nutrient solution/hydroponics.
What Is The Best pH Tester For Nutrient Solution or Hydroponics Testing?
Testing your soil’s pH is very important. But, testing your nutrient solution or water is something you’ll need to do far more often.
So it makes sense to invest in the best pH tester for nutrient solution testing too.
These are a bit different, as the probe is not pronged. This is because a hydroponic pH tester doesn’t need to penetrate soil, you simply dip it in your nutrient solution or hydroponics reservoir to get a reading.
With these pH testers, you have far more automation at your fingertips too. We’ll share some autodoing options for the commercial growers, but let’s start with some simple, cost-effective pH testers.
HM Digital PH/Temperature Meter
At under $50, the best pH tester for hobbyists on a budget is the HM Digital PH/Temperature Meter.
It doesn’t have a ton of frills, but it does test temperature simultaneously - something not every pH meter is capable of. This helps you not only ensure your pH is dialed in, but your nutrient solution is at a temperature that your plants can thrive in.
Calibration is simple, and can be done in seconds. The device features a large LCD screen for the readings, and automatic temperature compensation. Other noteworthy features include:
- Auto on/off functionality
- Data-hold function
- Low-battery indicator
- Includes storage solution to prolong meter life
- Factory calibrated for accurate readings
- Easily stored in grow tent tool pouch
If you just want a tool that will get the job done, this is the best pH tester for you. But, there are some more sophisticated options you might be interested in learning about.
Bluelab pH Pen
The best pH pen for most growers is the Bluelab pH Pen. The 5-star reviews on our site speak for themselves, and nothing gets you more bang for your buck when it comes to meters and testing.
It’s one of the most simple, user-friendly devices for testing pH and temperature. You won’t find a better pH tester for around $100. It has an ultra long life, further improved by the auto on/off function.
If you want access to all the data in the world, pair this device with the Bluelab ppm / EC Pen. This will give you access to the nutrient content in your reservoir or feeding bucket. You can follow up by testing pH & temp with this device, and ensure your plants get the best feeding possible!
The reason we consider this to be the best pH tester of the year comes down to the reputable nature of the Bluelab brand. These guys are known as the industry standard in terms of accuracy, reliability, and longevity. Here are some additional features of this pH pen:
- Quick, accurate testing - hassle free
- Readings in either Celsius OR Fahrenheit
- Easy to read backlit LCD
- Double junction probe has an ultra-long life
- pH reading confirmation
- Hold reading function
- Low battery warning
- Fully waterproof
- Easy to calibrate and store with solutions
No doubt, this is one of the best pH testers for hydroponics or traditional growing. But, some commercial growers don’t want to waste their time or energy testing the pH of their entire grow. So, let’s discuss some devices that can automate this entire aspect of growing!
Bluelab Guardian Monitor
The Bluelab Guardian Monitor is a multi-function device that stays in your reservoir to provide constant monitoring of your pH, along with temperature and conductivity.
It allows you or one of your employees to simply walk in and glance at the monitor - if any issues in any of those three areas arise, the monitor will begin flashing. You’ll quickly be alerted that your reservoir needs adjusting.
The way it works is by setting low and high alarms for the metrics. For example, this can be temperature below 50 degrees or above 80 degrees. When the device senses a problem, it will alert you immediately.
It’s ultra accurate, and has tons of awesome features such as:
- Large, easy to read LED readings
- Temperature and conductivity are automatically calibrated, and pH calibration is easy
- Greater tolerance to RF interference
- Water resistant
- Replaceable probe allows for an ultra long lifespan
- Non-volatile memory
This guardian monitor comes with a 2 year warranty. If you want to automate not just the monitoring, but also the adjusting, of your pH, you need to check out this next option.
Bluelab pH Controller & Auto Doser
One of the most sophisticated pH meters on the market right now is the Bluelab pH Controller & Auto Doser.
This device allows for complete automation of not just the monitoring, but also the dosing of your reservoir pH. If you are a commercial grower, this is a wise investment that will save you tons of time and money in the long run, while reducing the chance of human error.
All you need to do is install this system and set your pH parameters, and Bluelab takes care of the rest, adjusting your reservoir as needed. Set it, forget it, and get back to doing things you actually enjoy.
Here are some additional features that make this one of the best pH testers currently available:
- Automatic control and monitoring of pH in reservoirs up to 200 US gallons
- Easy to program and calibrate
- Flashing high/low alarms with set points
- Dosing lockouts to protect from over dosing
- Auto resume dosing in case of power loss
- Water resistant, wall mount design
- 13' dosing tube allows you to install this wherever is convenient
- Replaceable peristaltic pumps/tubes and probes to keep your doser running long term
If you want to learn more about how to automate your grow room, check out our complete guide, as pH is just one area you can allow technology to control for you!
Caring For Your pH Tester
Getting the best pH tester on the market is a good investment for any grower. But it's only worth the investment if you care for it properly.
If you don't store your meter properly, the probes will dry up and lose effectiveness the next time you try and use it. For example, the Bluelab pH Pen needs to be stored using the Bluelab pH Probe KCI Storage Solution to keep the probes hydrated.
Furthermore, you need to constantly be calibrating your pH device to ensure you're getting accurate readings. Otherwise, what's the point in even testing pH? Our guide on calibrating a pH pen will help you with this step. Or, simply watch this video below:
We carry all the calibration and care supplies you need to keep your device running as intended. While you're shopping, stock up on these supplies and you'll be good to go for years to come!
Final Thoughts On The Best Soil & Hydroponics pH Tester
Now that you know all the best soil & hydroponic pH testers, you can pick the one that suits you and your grow.
No matter which you go with, you’ll be able to dial in your soil or nutrient pH and ensure your plants can uptake nutrients. They’ll reward you with a potent, healthy harvest.
Once your meter arrives, be sure to read our guide on how to test pH for a refresher course and you’ll be all set!