Review: AquaSun 36x3w LED CREE marine aquarium light


Powerful and programmable LED lighting has been available for a few years now but at prices many of us would only consider spending on an entire set-up, not just lights, writes Bob Mehen. Fortunately, as LEDs become more and more commonplace, their price is dropping and All Pond Solutions is leading the way with this unit.

The AquaSun holds 18x 3w CREE XP-E royal blue and 18x 3w CREE XP-G 8,000-10,000K white LEDs all with 90° lens spread evenly to blend the two colours together. It gives a crisp, distinctly blue-tinged light with both colours running at 100% output.

The unit has a chunky, solid feel at first glance looking rather like a DVD player complete with blue, back-lit display. Where some LEDs on the market are basically part of a kit, requiring you to buy additional controllers, mounting brackets etc. this is the complete package.

It comes with brackets for mounting to the side of your tank (max width 80.5cm/31.7") as well as hanging fixings if you’d prefer to suspend it above — but with a weight of 5.3kg you need to be sure what you’re hanging it from!

The built-in controller allows you to adjust the output of both light colours independently, from one to 100%, and this can be done directly or via the remote control provided. It also has a built-in fan to keep the operating temperature at a maximum of 32°C/89.5°F — an important consideration for marine tanks. All this gives a power consumption at full tilt of 130w.

The kit also includes a screwdriver as well as a few spare screws. The chunky aesthetic is somewhat spoiled by a large, house brick like transformer that is designed to be strapped to the top of the unit in some applications. Using the tank-mounted brackets allowed me to hide this away under the tank, but those choosing to suspend it from the ceiling may not find this as easy to achieve.

While primarily aimed at the marine market, I tested this on my freshwater tank where the blue needed to be turned down to around 25% maximum to give the effect I wanted. Plant growth was excellent and while some 'warmth' is absent due to the intensity and colour of the LEDs, the overall effect is very natural.

Compared to my old twin T5s that ran at a similar wattage, these lights are bright and crisp with none of the 'flatness' that can be evident in fluorescents. I think the 50/50 white/blue mix needs changing to increase the balance in favour of the whites, even on marine aquaria.

The instructions are a little sketchy in places, suffering from the now all too common poor translation from Chinese to English. There are also some minor differences between the brackets in the photographs and the ones in the actual box, but it was straightforward to assemble and set-up. If you get really stuck the APS website has several useful videos to help. 

The fan is a fairly noisy thing, sounding somewhat like the early stages of a kettle boiling. If you’re one of those fishkeepers who demands silent running kit then you won’t like it. If you’re adept at ignoring annoying noises then it may not be an issue.

My only other gripe is that despite the clock on the unit allowing you to set it to the exact second, the controller for the light only allows you to set it in hour-long chunks, which removes the flexibility for more subtle lighting changes.

Verdict

This is a solidly built, easily programmable, powerful LED unit complete with all the fittings.

If you’re considering a first step into programmable LEDs, this unit is worth serious consideration. I’d love to see a dedicated freshwater version with a mix of warmer colours instead of the blues.

Price: £349.99; more info allpondsolutions.co.uk

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Review: Mosura Eros shrimp moulter and pregnancy inducer


I stumbled across Eros a while back when visiting a large-scale shrimp breeder and was wowed by the effect it had, enthuses Nathan Hill.

The breeder added a dozen drops to an aquarium heaving with Crystal reds, and within seconds the tank had more movement than a zombie apocalypse.

The point of Eros is to encourage moulting that in turn encourages breeding, with the shell-shedding stage being essential in the process of female shrimp fertilisation. It also promotes berrying. Eros also claims to come with other benefits such as inhibiting fungus growths and preventing enteritis.

What was much harder was finding out exactly what is in it, especially when some users report no shrimp activity, while others swear that Eros drives their spineless inhabitants into a frenzy. The bottle claims a 'special blend of ingredients', which instantly got my investigative heckles up.

My first instinct was that it might contain Ecdysone or 20-hydroxyecdysone, which are known moulting sex hormones in arthropods and insects. However, pursuing this line of enquiry drew a blank. Nobody seems to use this stuff for shrimp breeding anywhere.

Hauling out some shrimp contacts and pulling in a few favours from those in the commercial shrimp rearing industry in the Far East, I made a few more enquiries and eventually got the low down — a mixture of chitin and acetone. Acetone is neither acid nor basic in property so shouldn’t affect the pH of the water. However, when I added some to a sample of water the acid level did increase with pH moving from 8.1 to 7.8, though only for a short time.

That all figures seeing as when shrimps moult their shell the chitin starts to degrade and release into the water, acting as a trigger for other shrimps to follow suit. So in effect, the chemical simply simulates the chitin release of a mass moult, encouraging others to do the same.

Verdict
It works, and it works well. I am on the fence regarding the acetone, as putting what is basically nail varnish remover to a tank has never seemed a good idea to me. But although the product contains acetone, it is in trace levels so is totally safe, and shrimp even produce low levels of acetone naturally, as part of their life cycle.

Price: £24.99 for 31ml. More info from sharnbrookshrimp.co.uk

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Review: Tropical Ketapang tea bags


Want the benefits of Catappa leaves but don't fancy having decomposing foliage in your tank? Nathan Hill checks out a clever alternative...

Anyone who fancies their hand at shrimp breeding is running about with Catappa leaves these days, as well as those with soft and acidic biotopes.

Catappa is excellent for lowering pH and releasing tannins, but then we all know this already. What you might not know is that Polish company Tropical has had the sense to take the leaves, chop them up and slip them into sealed mesh bags.

What’s the benefit of that? Well, you don’t have leaves rotting on the bottom of the tank, for one. Lots of tanks look lovely and natural with a leaf or two degrading away, but the keepers of pristine, carpeted aquascapes, or owners of traditional layout, formal aquaria are being left out because they have no place for such decomposing foliage.

Each bag comes with about as much leaf matter as if you were buying a standard, cut leaf though here it’s shredded up, increasing the surface area and speeding up the tannin release time.

Dosage is somewhat arbitrary, depending what you want out of it. The instructions imply using one sachet (which contains 5g of shredded leaf) for 150-200 l/33-44 gal, but as every tank is different you’ll need to explore your own dosage. The bags will slip inside a lot of internal canisters and any of the external filters.

Lifespan is just as unregimented as dosage because warmer, more alkaline tanks will exhaust the leaf faster than a cooler, soft, acidic one.

Verdict
Yeah, a smart enough idea. If you’ve got a pretty shrimp layout and don’t want the base smothered in leaf, or if you’ve got a breeding set-up and you don’t fancy endless siphoning of the bottom, then these tea bags will be for you.

Price: £9.99 per pack.

More info: Nottingham Aquatic Centre, tel. 01159 312986

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Review: Hugo Kamishi range of décor


Everywhere I go of late I bump into a stand displaying artificial plants, gravel and ornaments by a guy called Hugo Kamishi, so I thought it high time to try them out, says Jeremy Gay.

I obtained a broad sample of plastic plants from the Zen Garden range that come in stylish packaging with a picture of an elderly Buddhist monk on the back along with some words of wisdom on each product including: 'Hugo say experience the beauties of nature, and in doing so learn about yourself' and 'Hugo say the sound of flowing water soothes the soul'.

If Hugo Kamishi is the elderly Buddhist monk pictured, then I want to meet him — the cynical journalist in me suspects not. Also Hugo Kamishi states on his website that his products are not available via third party websites and that only bonafide retailers can stock them. So if he is the monk pictured, he shouldn’t be controlling funds as part of his religion — but that’s just me being cheeky!

The live plant aquascaper may also address the Asian product styling and quotes as a kind of poor man’s Takashi Amano and Aqua Design Amano (ADA) too — but enough of my childish games, let’s talk about the plants!

 

The range is wide and varied, containing everything from the traditional style multi-stemmed aquarium plant replicas in a variety of heights, through to more modern moss balls, carpeting plants and brightly-coloured contemporary creations.

The benchmark in plastic plants for me is Sydeco, and although they aren’t quite there in production quality or in terms of that large resin base, they are still good quality, good value and I would definitely use them.

In fact I will say that when comparing prices, most models are a fraction of the price of Sydeco, so filling a tank with these will be considerably cheaper without compromising too much on aesthetics. I threw together a basic aquascape in our photographic studio in less than 30 seconds, so the ease of use and long-lasting display qualities will be of obvious benefit to many a fishkeeper.

As it says above, you won’t find these on ebay or Amazon so instead look to your local bricks and mortar retailer.

Verdict
Good plastic plants and on sale at your local aquatic retailer for good prices. I like the range, I like the ease of creating a striking design, and I would use them.

Plastic plants with high visual, lasting appeal, yet with zero maintenance. Give them a go!  

Price: Ask in-store.

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Review: Gyractor G400 bio reactor from Arcadia


The Gyractor G400 in-sump bio reactor manufactured by Bio Aquatek Ltd provides a new twist in the bio-pellet reactor market, writes Levi Major.

Powered by an 8w SICCE Silent 0.5 synchronous pump, water is forced through a unique fluidising plate on the bottom of the reactor, keeping the Bio Pearls media in suspension whilst turning it over to allow even water dispersal.

A clever little baffle plate has been included in the top to keep the bio pellets inside without having to resort to using easily clogged sponges.

The Gyractor G400 requires much less maintenance than some other reactors.

The dual action of this reactor agitates the media at the bottom, tumbling dead bacteria off and allowing growth of fresh biofilm.  

At 37cm/14.5” tall and with a footprint of 11cm x 14cm/4.3 x 5.5” it’s capable of fluidising up to 400ml of bio-pellet media.

The cylinder itself is constructed from Class A acrylic and ABS for rugged durability.

The Gyractor G400 comes complete with the extremely quiet Sicce pump, tubing and a 250ml sample of Marine Bio-Pearls and is quite conceivably all you need to grow those nutrient-stripping bacteria.

There’s little to be negative about, but I take issue with the supposed "specially designed key lock head for easy removal." The locking mechanism is preferable to having multiple nylon nuts and bolts, but trying to marry the main reactor body to the base can be tricky due to the ‘O’ ring.

When you put the media into the reactor you need to upend the unit and the ring inevitably falls from its recess. It’s tricky keeping this in place while engaging the base into a locked position.

The supplied tubing is too small to fit on the 1.3cm/0.5” hose tail at the top of the reactor and either requires patience and hot water to stretch it to fit or replacing with an appropriate diameter tubing.

Verdict
Of all the reactors I have used this unit comes very close to the top of my list. It’s affordable and more or less ready to go straight from the box — with the exception of the supplied tubing.  

Eight watts of power consumption won’t break the bank to run, or add any noticeable heat to the system, and once operating it requires minimal maintenance until the bio-pellets need topping up.

Price: £139.99. More info from bioaquatek.com.

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Review: Kessil A350w Tuna Blue LED light


Jeremy Gay gets to try out the marine version of this new light on his reef tank.

It’s good
Fresh off the back of Nathan Hill’s glowing review of the freshwater Amazon Sun A150w, I got to try out two of the larger marine versions — the A350w Tuna Blue — on my 120 x 70cm/ 48 x 28” wide reef tank.

Small, compact and beautifully engineered, all Kessil lights are great looking, great working bits of kit and the 350w is no exception. Although I describe it as larger, as LEDs go these are physically quite tiny at just 10cm/4” wide and 9.5cm/3.8” high.

They produce a single-point source light from a dense matrix LED yet can be colour tweaked via two knobs on the top, giving you white only, blue only or your blend and brightness mix of the two.

Each unit uses up to 90 watts of power, although I reckon you’d only need two on a 120 x 60cm/4 x 2’ reef tank and can raise or lower them to provide different light spread. The 350w provides light over a 140° angle, but if you want something with even more punch and more point source opt for the A350, which illuminates a tighter 62° area.

An inbuilt fan keeps the light cool. It’s almost silent and some reckon it’s quieter on the 350 than that on the smaller A150W.

You can either suspend the lights from the ceiling over open-topped tanks or Kessil produces a fabulous, heavy-duty yet very flexible "goose neck" which enables mounting onto the rim of open topped tanks.

Both Nathan and I love the goose necks and we highly recommend them as lighting solutions for a myriad of tank situations.

In terms of colour, the A350w is all you’ll ever need for both LPS and SPS corals and will really make those fluorescent specimens’ colours pop.

We think they’re great lights and since aquatic wholesaler J and K took on their distribution they’ve been selling in bucket loads, so we’re not alone in liking them.

But…
That single point source may provide awesome glitter lines and shimmer, but use them on their own and with loads of water flow and surface movement and that shimmer may be too much for some people.

I used two on their own on a 120 x 70cm wide tank with two VorTech MP40esw pumps and the effect was so dramatic it was quite strobe-like and likely not to everyone’s tastes.

Due to their design, Kessil lights provide cones of light, bright in their centres then dropping off as they radiate out.

I lit two live rock bommies with our test lights and, because of the pyramid shape of the rockwork and the cone shape of the light spread, I got intense light at the top of the bommie, dropping rapidly as it went down.

This is natural light and would have looked great!

The problem is that your corals then shade each other as the light spreads down and out.

It’s an interesting spread, very natural looking and dramatic, but these would actually work best on a valley-shaped aquascape if you want even lighting to all your corals and all levels.

If changing from say a bank of eight T5s to two of these your corals will experience a very different lighting pattern.

I also like programmable dimming on my LEDs and think Kessil is missing a trick here. The 350 and 350w have manual dimming so you’ll never get that gradual fade in and out (dawn and dusk) without physically twiddling the knobs.
 
Verdict
The number of aquarium LEDs PFK has tested grows daily and we were beginning to get quite complacent about the whole “he says she says” debate as every manufacturer claims theirs is different or the best.

These Kessils really did make us sit up though, as they are so different to everyone else’s and we like them. Lots of UK marine shops are installing them on their coral displays, so go and visit one and a have a play.  

Price: £345. J and K is the UK distributor.

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SeaChill TR15 aquarium chiller review


It's summer (or it's supposed to be) so Nathan Hill checks out this new aquarium chiller for serious fishkeepers, which is available from TradeMark Aquatics.

Summer is bad news for many UK marine keepers. Fanning your tanks can help, but the downside is the resultant rise in evaporation.

Instead — or ideally as a complement to fanning — TradeMark Aquatics offers a range of Teco chillers for the more serious aquarist.

So what, you might ask? Chillers have been around for ages, but too much of the market has come to accept rubbishy imports with small compressors as the norm. TradeMark offers something desirable instead.

Taking the cover off the first thing you notice is that the compressor is huge, and it needs to be as the unit is rated to keep tanks of up to 800 litres in check, although obviously the amount of water that it can cool relies on multiple factors.

Calculating tool

That said, the TradeMark website includes an invaluable calculating tool to allow you to choose exactly the correct chiller for your needs.

Instead of just working on a volume of water, as anyone buying a heater will be familiar with, the formulae for sizing requires numerous variables, including wattages of pumps used, and whether they run internally or externally, ambient room temperatures, volumes and temperatures of water changes, UV lighting additions and volume of water in filters.

It is incredibly comprehensive and instantly instills in you a sense of confidence for the buying process.

Understanding the power consumption of the unit is tricky if not technically minded, but the upshot is that the Teco compressor and condenser are remarkably efficient. At an energy draw of 380w, the unit is able to remove some 500w of heat energy from the water.

The thing to remember is that unlike the way a heater works, a chiller isn’t 'inserting cold' into the water that passes through it. Rather it is removing heat.

So it’s not simply a formulae of saying that one watt of chiller induces one watt of cold. The wattage draw is facilitating a process of heat removal in other parts of the chiller rather than having an immediate and direct influence.

Also note that the TR15 isn’t on all the time. For the price you’re paying you expect, and get, a fine degree of thermostatic control. This is a contrast to fan-type chillers on almost continuously. As such, the running costs of a chiller are cheaper over the same period — and involves less evaporation too!

One optional upgrade is an added heater, which is included for an extra £32.50. The installation of this 400w device is a doddle, involving opening up one of the blanked ports on the water circuit, slipping into place and sealing with the cap that’s provided.

Once in place, an available connector is already in situ inside the chiller to which the heater connects, and then, with the movement of a 'jumper' to notify to the controller that the heater is now in line, the unit is ready.

Unlike some designs that now see a thermostatically controlled heater fighting with the chiller, the module will leave the heater inactive until needed. This may seem common sense, but overlooked in some cheap imports.

Setting the device is easy enough and with minimal buttons to play with it’s hard to get confused.

A pleasant feature is the ability to set the hysteresis range — the window of temperature where the chiller and/or heater do nothing. If set at a hysteresis level of 1.5°C, the unit triggers itself into life at around 1°C either side of the set temperature. So at a temperature setting of 25°C/77°F on the unit, the chiller will activate at 26°C/79°F, and switch off at 24°C/75°F.

Preferred choice
Another nice feature is the facility to add a UV in the same way as the heater is installed. Again, it’s a doddle to do, although it involves some installation work to put in place the ballast. Obviously, this facility would appeal more to the fish-only aquarist than a reef keeper who would find a UV more detrimental.

The chiller uses R134a as its refrigerant gas and, seeing as this is the preferred choice for air conditioners in cars, it’s not hard to acquire.

When investigating the inner workings of the TR15, you quickly note that, unlike some inferior models, there’s a service/refill valve already in place should the gas need replacing — being a cheaper alternative to a new chiller.

Many cheaper units lack this feature, crimping pipes instead, so that when gassing needs to be done hardware butchery sees pipes being cut and re-crimped.

Take care when using this device with a sump system and think about where to position the unit. it would be wrong to run the unit into and out of a sump, which would chill that part of the system nicely but have insufficient impact on the main tank.

Ventilation is also an issue. As a heat exchanger, the device needs room to vent off all that excess warmth. Put it in too confined a space and it’ll experience difficulties.

As is inherent in all chillers, it’s wise to occasionally flush the units for waste build-ups. However, at a snug 18kg when empty, this isn’t something you pick up with one hand and tip out. Consider this when positioning it.

Thankfully, the TR15 doesn’t rely on hard plumbing, and so, with easyish-to-remove connectors rigged up to existing 16mm or 20mm hoses, it’s not calamitous to take the unit off line for maintenance.

A final reason to allow yourself access to the chiller is so that you can clean the air filter screen, which sits in the base of the unit. Although there are two fans pumping air out of the back, a through flow is required, and if that screen gets blocked then the chiller will lose efficiency fast.

Price: £837.60, optional 400w heater £32.40, UVC upgrade £114.

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All Pond Solutions 90cm T5 aquarium light review


Nathan Hill checks out a light that the reefkeeper on a budget might well want to investigate.

I continue to be impressed with the contents of the APS catalogue, and this bit of kit is no exception. With six tubes and a token gesture of four LEDs built in, the unit also comes with an overtank hanging bracket with frame and wires, and even built-in reflectors.

It also has two power cables, and four switches. One cable supplies power to the LEDs and outer (blue) tubes, while the other feeds two pairs of 10,000K white lights. With the addition of two timed plugs, not included, the light can be left to come on blue/white in stages as required.

Output is praiseworthy, with PAR readings in the mid-100s at 60cm/24” (dry) and the mid 300s at 30cm/12”.

Unlike LED lights, there are few ‘hot spots’ where light focuses down, and the spread is good, as you’d expect from fluorescence. The reflectors seem to be doing well in punching any of that stray light back down into the tank.

Running costs may be a sticking point and the combined quaffing of 238w from the six 39w tubes, plus the four 1w LEDs costs around £3.50 a week — assuming ten hours with all the lights on, with the remainder running only the blue elements.

The frame that supports the unit detracts from the canopy itself. Brackets sit either end of the tank, with a bar bridging two smaller upright bars. From this, four cables suspend the light in place. It’s a little bulky, but does the job.

Cables are worth checking before suspending the light, as I found one of mine not blanked off properly and managed to snap it when applying pressure.

User instructions could be clearer and the diagrammatic guide represents a set-up slightly different to the one you get, although it’s not too hard to fill in the gaps.

At 90 x 34 x 4.5cm/3’ x 13” x 1.7” this light has a much thinner profile than a halide (and some LED’s) for the same purpose and the finish is smart enough.

Access to the tubes is straightforward, involving removing a retaining clip from one end and sliding out the Perspex cover. You’ll need to do this on receipt of the lights to remove a scratch resisting sheet, as well as get at the protective packaging inside the light itself.

The price is a winner. At under £200 for this much light, marine aquarists feeling the pinch needn’t compromise if wanting more demanding corals.

Freshwater keepers can replace the two blue tubes with something more plant friendly, and are given the option to do so at the point of purchase, so this is by no means a purely marine product.

I’m keen to see how the finish holds out against splashing, and I may have been wiser to opt for the black finish unit over the silver.

Price: £199.99

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JBL specific disease treatments review


Nathan Hill takes a look at some new medications to treat specific diseases in the aquarium.

JBL, always the innovator, has released new medications for specific diseases.

Gyrodol 2 is designed to counter gill worms and tapeworms. Given its active ingredient of praziquantel, it will be useful against Dactylogyrus and Gyrodactylus, as well as cestode tapeworms – all target pathogens that praziquantel is known to combat well.

However, it will also blight any other invertebrate life in the tank, so using it with snails or shrimps is a no-no.

There’s also anecdotal evidence hinting that scale-less loaches and catfish are overly sensitive to the ingredient, yet this is the pay-off for a fluke treatment that genuinely works.

Aradol is a medicine directed toward surface parasites, such as Argulus, anchor worms and Trichodina. Having diflubenzuron as its active ingredient this will blight anything with a chitin shell and the ingredient is used commercially to control moths and weevils.

Aradol is good for both freshwater and marine use, but of little use with temperate fish, as the ingredient loses lethality below 18°C/64°F. Like gyrodol, it will blight anything without a spine, so shrimps, corals, crabs — you name it — will need to be kept well away when treating with this.

Nedol is a worming treatment with the active ingredient benzimidazol — a derivation of which is fenbendazol, which many who have had worms in fish may already be familiar with. This ingredient has a pretty good track record against hair worms, pin worms and Camallanus, and should represent a treatment that importers of wild fish and Discus keepers will appreciate.

As with the other treatments, forget using this in tanks with inverts. That may seem a hindrance, but half the time the effect a medicine has on other inverts is something of a litmus test, telling whether it’s going to have an effect on pathogens or be up there with homeopathic nonsense.

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TMC AquaRay Flexi LED light review


Seeing a lot of media coverage about LED lighting? Worried that you’re being left behind with ageing T8 bulbs and tired illumination? Concerned about the costs of taking the LED plunge? Here’s the chance to find out what the fuss is all about, says Nathan Hill.

The Aqua Blue strip isn’t going to revolutionise what we know about lighting, but it’s got a role. The model I have is blue, and blue alone, and as a standalone light is pretty redundant.

However, this light isn’t designed to be something that runs all on its own. It’s designed as a supplement to other lighting, and here is where it really comes into its own.

At a total consumption of three watts this isn’t going to cripple you with energy bills, but then it’s not going to burn people’s shadows into the wall either. Running it gives a really pleasing soft light and, combined with fluorescents, it gives the first tease of the rippling effect that LEDers often rave about.

To see it at its best, you need to turn off the main tank lights and have it running as a night-time, moonlight affair. The familiar layout of your aquarium takes on a mellow, haunting tone and you enter a world of relaxation as you peer into the almost electric glow.

The major strength of the light is ease of use. There are no rails or braces to rig up, no wires to hang from ceilings, and no cumbersome end caps. The light comes in strip form, 45cm/18” long, and is as flexible along one axis as a piece of stiff string.

'Go anywhere'
How does it attach? Well, it has a self-adhesive backing, just like a  strip of plaster. This makes it the 'go anywhere' light that can be rigged up inside hoods or strategically placed behind tank trim, or even inside the kitchen sink, if you so wished.

I’ve seen these put to excellent use in Fluval Edge aquaria, where they’re placed inside the lid for the most remarkable effect, but nano owners in general are being resourceful and putting them to all sorts of uses.

On the downside, it does mean that once in position it’s there for life, although as a tweak why not consider buying some Velcro-style strips and making your own adhesive mounting? That way you can use it over and over in a variety of tanks.

The light itself is waterproof, although the power supply is not, therefore you’ll want to stick a drip loop somewhere along the power supply, as with other aquatic electricals.

Being LED format, lifespan should be tens of thousands of hours, but at worst the unit comes with a two-year warranty.

This is a product that doesn’t claim to be anything it’s not. It’s an attractive light that helps to bring out the colours of corals and other inverts nicely, creates a superb mood effect in your tank, and doesn’t break the bank in the process.

...And it stands to reason that the first thing you need to do when taking it out of the box is plug it in and spend several minutes doing 'Tron' impressions. That much is obligatory…

Price: RRP £29.99

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Review: New Era mini marine grazer


Nathan Hill checks out this new offering for marine fish from New Era.

I’m cynical when it comes to foods, but the marine grazer has me fawning like a lovestruck child.

This is a product with unbeatable grounding. Developed by Mark Wilson, of near legendary clownfish breeding status, this is the culmination of collusions with some of the world’s finest public aquaria.

The domestic aquarium variant has exactly the same make-up as the gigantic, public aquarium-dedicated grazing blocks. These were developed to bring about a balanced food devoid of all non necessaries and, with customers like the Sea Life chains as well as the public aquaria in Dubai, New Era is on the right track.

Ingredients are superb — as I can vouch, having tasted them all first hand! High-grade meals are used alongside algae that goes beyond the usual Spirulina additives. No bulking agents are used and what you get is a condensed food source with everything your marine fish need.

It comes in the form of a solid ring, through which a close fitting sucker is placed. This sticks at any point on the inside glass of the tank and the fish can simply help themselves.

Grazing can be monitored, as with some foods left in the tank you can find fish that gorge themselves, and this in part accounts for the realistic protein of 33% as opposed to those foods containing more protein than sense.

Tangs and angels will get on well with these blocks, as their public aquaria kin will testify, but most fish should be prepared to give them a try.

Price: Pots start at £9.95.

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Easy Aqua CO2 Atomiser from Aqua Essentials


Nathan Hill checks out a sturdy piece of kit for the planted tank enthusiast.

For the plant fan who wants the best delivery from CO2 injection, these fine atomisers are the way forward. It’s all well and good spending several thousand on various computers, regulators and exotic glassware, but if what comes out in the tank is a big, gloopy bubble that races to the top and clears off then it’s all been for nothing.

Basically, the diffuser is a fine ceramic chunk connected to a sucker and a threaded airline connector to ensure a secure fit. The pressure behind the CO2 delivery needs to be big, so forget any canister that relies on slow release CO2 from booze, yeast or dangerous mixes of bases and acids. You’ll need a good source from a pressurised canister, and then it’ll work.

These atomisers do what they say, and they produce incredibly fine bubbles. This obviously increases the contact time of the bubble, allowing the gas to diffuse into the water, making gas injection more efficient. In fact, since using this item on a 30 l/6.5 gal nano set up that I have, I’ve had to drastically reduce the amount of CO2 going in from three bubbles every two seconds to one bubble every two seconds, such is the amount of gas constantly in suspension around the tank.

For me, the big benefit is the sturdiness. Having now broken my way through a few types of CO2 glassware, it’s nice to have something that I know isn’t going to suddenly blast off at the connection and shatter. As we all know, there’s nothing more enjoyable that trying to find broken glass in a densely planted aquarium.

There are two sizes available, both for the same price. The small is rated for 125 l./28 gal. and the large for up to 250 l./55 gal. I’d probably shave 20% off of those estimates.

Price: £12.99 for either size. Available from Aqua Essentials.

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First Bite live phytoplankton is a novel way to feed


Nathan Hill takes a look at a new food that could be of great benefit to the reef aquarium.

This is an interesting concept from food4fish.co.uk. Rather than offering a food directly to the livestock, you add a food that feeds the food for your livestock.

Phytoplankton is the most basic plankton, made up of plant organisms feeding directly on micro and macronutrients in the water. They photosynthesise like plants, in turn providing a food source for larger zooplankton.

Phytoplankton is usually invisible, but enough will turn water slightly green.

This product feeds the zooplankton in your tank, such as the copepods and Mysids that roam the substrate and live rock, sometimes drifting in the water. These kinds of zooplankton are just what some stony corals and certain finicky fish like mandarins feed on. So, you’re indirectly feeding the fish by fattening the plankton your animals can feed on.

This concept isn’t new, as phytoplankton is an essential step in culturing organisms such as rotifers, but the effects can be very beneficial. The strains of algae used – Nannochloropsis, Phaeodactylum and Chlorella — are all good for rotifer cultivation, and this supplement is a lot easier than trying to culture your own.

The product boasts the content of live plankton — a claim that always raises my eyebrows. However, given the green content of the pouch, I suspect that fish4food has managed to crack it with this supplement.

The pouch – 50ml in our sample case – needs to be refrigerated between 0-4°C/32-39°F when not in use and the vague dosage direction of ‘one teaspoon every two days’ makes me wonder if we might have to adjust as we see fit.

At two to 20 microns, this product should be small enough to pass through most filters, although I’m concerned at how it would get on with a hefty protein skimmer. Stop any UV sterilising during use as it would spell a rapid demise for these living micro-organisms.

If overdosed to a great degree, phytoplankton types can play havoc with pH. Don’t pour in bags of the stuff, as this can cause imbalances.

Prices: around £4.99 for 50ml.

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