Jeremy Gay finds peace of mind in a name synonymous with quality when he samples the latest German techno-thoroughbred aquarium filter.
There’s something reassuring about Eheim filtration that enables you to sit back sure in the knowledge that you are doing at least part of your hobby right.
My fascination started as a boy, when the nearest I got to Eheim products was staring at them through locked glass cabinets in my local aquatic centre.
Since then I’ve owned and ran many, from the early external power filters to powerheads, internal filters and even hang-ons. Expensive they may be, but they simply run and run.
This is the company that still produces and sells one of its earliest external filter series — the 22s — which is at least 20 years old now, and this can still lock horns with all manner of technological gadgets from rival manufacturers.
However, alongside the tried and tested models has emerged newer technology. These include the Thermofilter, the “Wet and Dry” and now the 3e — the world’s first external filter with a brain.
That feature, a microchip, enables output control, increased flow as the filter starts to block, stream function, and a 12-hour biofunction (a timed night flow reduction) service indicator which shows when the filter needs cleaning and the ability to purge its own system of air build-up.
All this can be controlled on the filter’s head unit, although it’s better to fork out for the USB connection and disc and get full displays, control and monitoring on your PC.
I drooled over the 3e when it was launched, yet after more than a year of thorough testing I can’t help feeling that some features just aren’t necessary. Why would you want to reduce flow at night? Do rivers reduce at night? What about the excess of CO2 after hours in a planted tank?
The stream function (alternating water flow) seems superfluous in a freshwater system too.
The only feature I genuinely use is the manual flow control if I move the mature filter to an aquarium with fish of different flow requirements
This is my only gripe for, as you would expect, the inner workings have behaved impeccably and I am sure this filter would run for another trouble-free 20 years.
Enter the new 600T. It’s a hybrid of microchip technology with Thermofilter technology, resulting in a clever thermofilter. It is recommended for freshwater aquariums to 600 l/132 gal in volume, with a controllable output of up to 1,850 lph for an energy consumption between 10-35w.
The wattage of the built-in heating element is on top of that of course, at 210w, and it sits in the bottom of the canister looking not unlike the element in a kettle.
On the front is the Thermocontrol 3, a digital temperature readout which can be controlled at the push of a button. It can be preset between 18-34°C/64-93°F and also display water temperature.
The benefits of a built-in heater are obvious. There’s no heater or thermostat in the main tank, so is aesthetically better and safer with fish and rocks, and, being built in to the filter, you get all-round even heat distribution. Note the heater comes with its own power cable so this combo will need two sockets close together.
Other features include 8 l/1.8 gal of filter volume and a canister height of 54cm/21”, not including any pipework.
This filter will appeal to planted tank owners, Discus keepers, cichlid keepers and anyone else who likes to combine technology with reliability and crave just a little bit of the pose factor. Like me, though, I’m not sure that anyone will use all of its features and benefits…
So is this better than the Fluval G6? Well, it’s bigger and comes with the all-important heating element. However, despite its price tag, it still doesn’t come with any biological media, which is sold separately.
The G6 has the world’s first conductivity reader and displays the filter’s vital signs on the unit itself, which is handy as, despite Eheim’s PC control option, I happen to work on a Mac.
Just as I thought that Eheim would counter Hagen’s Fluval G6 with a total reinvention of the filter “wheel” the convenience of media cleaning on the G6 has changed my view for ever, and for the better.
Despite all its other bells and whistles, you still need to turn off the Eheim’s filter, shut off the pipes, unlock the head unit and remove the filter baskets to get to the blue sponge and while polypad mechanical media.
All in all there’s something undeniably German about Eheim’s new offering. It’s good, very good, and, like BMW or Mercedes, the company justifies its higher than average price tags with higher than average quality.
Yet, as with those cars, everything is sold on top as an extra. The media pack will set you back about £35, and more flexible modular inlet and outlet pipes are extra too. This one just comes with a basic inlet and outlet, and short spray bar. You really do that need that PC control — and a PC!
However, when I open that understated packaging and peer in at the dark grey and glossy green filter, that brand loyalty takes me back to childhood — as does the feeling that it’s probably never going to go wrong.
Product: Eheim Professionel 3e 600T, product number 2178010
PC control: £38.70
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For a couple of months weâ€™ve been testing a new tank thatâ€™s said to include everything you need for a reef set-up. Jeremy Gay reports on its performance so far...
This is a good size for a nano tank, at 60 x 40 x 45cm/24 x 16 x 18” with a display volume of 80l/18 gal. The filtration and treatment centre is hidden behind the background and increases volume to 105 l/23 gal. The black plastic background can be removed or left to cover the filtration section in the back.
There’s said to be full marine filtration, consisting of a protein skimmer with comb filter (surface skimmer), and biological trickling filter with bio filter baskets. The Dense combs are also said to protect the intake, guaranteeing creature safety. Sponge is also supplied.
Biological media means you don’t have to use live rock, though I recommend that you do.
The filter baskets are filled with bioballs and protein skimmer equipped with an “efficiency regulation system,” allowing you to increase or decrease the speed of generating foam.
It also has a capacious skimmer cup that needs emptying only every few days, say the supplier.
I like small marine tanks that come with everything that a large one does, so the skimmer is welcomed.
A 100w Easy Heater is also included. This small, ultra-slim product is my current favourite, so a welcome addition. It’s just 9mm/0.4” deep and indicates set temperature and water temperature with LEDs.
Lighting is bright and adequate for a reef that size. In the hood are three 24W linear T5 fluorescent lamps with reflector and a blue LED moonlight for night lighting.
Hood temperature is controlled by an integrated cooling fan system and a removable cover glass which further isolates the water surface from direct heat of the lights.
I don’t usually like cover glasses with any marine set-ups as they get covered in salt, although this hinged example is easy to move and clean.
Independent timers control the three T5 fluorescent lamps built in to the hood. What a great feature!
The five-hood cooling fans are measured by a sensor and, with all five of them blowing, this closed top nano is unlikely to overheat. You can also determine your preferred operating temperature.
I didn’t have much luck with the skimmer in the first few weeks of operation, as it appeared to just skim water droplets fizzed up from the narrow chamber below.
Only recently did I see foam production or skimmate, despite a large organic build-up in the tank.
The whole system runs on one pump, the skimmer, and although water does flow through all the media and pass through the skimmer, circulation alone in the main tank is hardly noticeable — and an additional pump will definitely be needed.
I ‘pimped’ our test model straight away, adding an 2000 lph circulation pump, and this boosted circulation in the main display right up to 25 times per hour.
And, like many all-in-one systems, evaporation, aided by the fans, causes the skimmer pump to run dry and gurgle.
Topping up needs to be done daily for stability and to stop noise. Better still, an auto top-up could be fitted, although these will set you back about £100.
We’ve seen many marine nano launches over recent years, most being carbon copies of each other and many less than perfect for marines. This is one of the better ones, with a decent volume and marine specific kit.
It’s a better size for clownfish and company, though ignore the aquarium’s packaging as it features a Yellow tang, which we don’t recommend for a tank of this size.
Aimed at the Red Sea Max market it advertises similar ‘plug and play’ features. I prefer the linear lighting on the Reef Max to the PCT5 on the Red Sea Max 130, though the Red Sea Max has a better skimmer and better in-tank circulation. The Red Sea Max is a bigger tank too, though more expensive.
Is this as good as a Red Sea Max 130? No. Although I think it’s a good product, if I had to choose I'd go for the Red Sea Max 130D as it is a better overall package.
Product: AquaEl Reef Max
Price: £477.99, cabinet £99.99
Dimensions: 60 x 45 x 40cm/24 x 16 x 18”
Volume: 105 l/23 gal total volume, 80 l/18 gal display volume.
Lighting: Three 24w linear T5 and one blue LED. All can be individually programmed by a digital controller built into the hood.
Filtration: Protein skimmer, mechanical and biological filtration.
Heating: 100w heater supplied and five fans in hood for built-in cooling.
Colour: Matt black
Cabinet: Dark grey
Reviewer: Jeremy Gay
- Five-fan cooling in hood
- Three 24w linear
- T5 lighting
- Looks good
- Digitally-controlled lighting and temperature display
- Not enough circulation, so needs an extra pump fitted
- Skimmer isn’t very good.
This article was first published in the January 2010 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. It may not be reproduced without written permission.
Live marine foods by post. Jeremy Gay sees what's on the menu at Reef Phyto.
Feeding marine livestock is more interesting than ever. As we better understand what makes up the food web on a reef, and then offer those foods to our captive organisms, our reef tanks will become more successful.
While searching the Internet the other day for all things reef I came across Reef Phyto, a company which had some very interesting food listed, including phytoplankton, zooplankton, copepods and even rotifers.
As an enthusiastic amateur breeder I always seem to find literature that lists rotifers as the best first fry food. But could I get any? Could I heck! I resigned the whole process of culturing and feeding rotifers to the labs and public aquariums.
However, now you can buy it mail order from Reef Phyto with no mess and no fuss, and feed it straight away. They even tell you how you can culture it yourself and provide all the necessary bits in a rotifer culture pack! I love modern reefkeeping…
If this is all going over your head, and you currently feed two types of food to your marines — flake and frozen — read on.
In the oceans there is a food chain. Nutrients plus sunlight feed floating green algae known as phytoplankton. This marine, green water is then fed upon by tiny animals known as zooplankton, as well as directly by much larger animals such as corals. Tiny zooplankton are then fed upon by larger zooplankton and fish, and invertebrate larvae — and the food chain continues.
Both phyto and zooplankton are eaten by fish and corals in the wild, so you could have the best flow, light and water, yet if you aren’t adding phytoplankton and zooplankton to your reef tank, the whole system could be starving.
"We provide a reliable source of quality live phytoplankton, rotifers, copepods, zooplankton and brineshrimp all cultured and grown on our premises in the UK," say Reef Phyto. "Place your order before 4pm and we will dispatch your live food the same day."
Mail order marine food is here!
I like the range of foods and the in-depth, yet simple to understand instructions that accompany them. They arrived quickly and in great condition.
Just one day after adding the copepods I had copepods on my glass, so immediately the diversity was richer. As they reproduce and multiply they will in turn feed fish and corals.
The Mandarin food packs are a great idea and, being live copepods, will benefit any fish finding it tough to get enough natural foods in the reef aquarium. You can even receive a package of copepods every week, but they do work out quite expensive to feed if you do.
This company is helping hobbyists to make reefkeeping easier and more successful, so they get my vote.
Products/service: MarIne livestock from Reef Phyto.
Prices: From 40p per portion of Daphnia or brineshrimp, to £95.44 for a three-month subscription of Mandarin combination food packs.
Reviewer: Jeremy Gay
More info: 0800 0337 537
- Hassle-free live foods.
- They show you how to culture your own.
- Great range for finicky feeders and corals of all types, from light-loving SPS to full-on planktivores. They do brineshrimp and Daphnia too, if you want mail order live foods for freshwater fish.
- Nano-size bottles available
- Live foods have a finite life, so buy the correct amount to avoid wastage. and keep refrigerated.
- Expensive. As good as the Mandarin combination packs are, a year’s worth would cost you £381.76.
This item was first published in the December 2009 issue of Practical Fishkeeping. It may not be reproduced without written permission.
Tropical Marine Centre have launched a high brightness, square LED lighting unit, the HD in the title standing for Ultra High Density.
HD lighting is a feature, say TMC, that by using custom optics and the brightest generation of power LEDs, makes them an alternative to metal halide and for hard coral aquaria.
At 20cm x 20cm/8 x 8" the units are compact and suitable for the nano market, and come fitted with 10 CREE XR-E power LEDS delivering high LUX and PAR values. Yet they have 50,000 hours of lamp life and consume 30w — a fifth of a 150w metal halide.
Three AquaBeam 1000 models are available: Marine White with ten 14,000K LEDS, Reef White with seven 14,000K and three 50,000K LEDs and a freshwater version for planted tanks called the GroBeam 1000, which comes with ten 6,500K LEDs. All are safety rated to withstand water at 1m/3.3' depth for up to half an hour.
With many claiming lighting is all about PAR, and TMC going up against the metal halide market, we were keen to find out more…
"PAR is important, but so is how they use that light, how light is delivered and its spectral quality," said TMC’s Gyles Westcott and Michael Barrett. "There are many assumptions about light based on existing technology, and a lot of them had not been challenged. We are looking to deliver a technology that has its own set of inherent benefits.
"We think that there’s now an opportunity to provide new technology that delivers a different set of benefits and when it comes to this the hobbyist needs an open mind. The existing school of thought seems to want to wash the entire tank with light, but different animals on the reef live at different depths and receive different levels of light, so varying light may be beneficial.
"We still see AquaRay providing overall lighting for an aquarium. We don’t see ourselves as providing ambient or moonlighting. Some people get into hobby niches that perhaps you can’t cater for, but if you look at the general marine hobbyist their tank is a maximum 0.6m/2' deep, there is rockwork and invertebrates are at varying levels.
"Given that most people are like that, we say our product is absolutely appropriate.
"We know PAR drops off quickly with depth. At the surface it is very different to 300-400mm/12-16" depth so there is always that trade-off. Our solution has been proven and so far we have sold 15,000 AquaBeam units and now sell over 1,000 units per month.
"There is a distinction between light viewable by humans and light that is readily available to the animals,” explained Michael.
"When you look at PAR values in particular it may well be that halides are more efficient at delivering higher values to greater depth, but there is always a price to be paid and with halides it comes with temperature and energy consumption. It comes down to being the best you can deliver with a new technology.
"There will always be people who maintain that halides are the best for lighting a reef, but you have to pump in massive amounts of energy to do so,” Gyles added.
"Halide is the brightest, but given the other trade-offs this new LED technology brings, isn’t it a worthwhile trade off?
"We believe our lights provide a positive contribution to the hobby as a whole.
"We are plugged into the supply chain and fitting our products to suit that market.”
"LED lights are point source by definition,” said Michael, “so optics can be used in front to spread light. Current AquaBeams have lenses to provide punch down to depths. Now the 1000 HD is penetrating depth we are looking at relaunching the AquaBeam 500 without the lensing so it is more of a spread, and can be used alongside the 1000HD to create a lighting scheme.
"You can use these in a closed hood system instead of having to remove it to raise them high enough to get the spread."
Gyles added: "The hobbyist will also get more of what they imagine aquarium lighting to look like, instead of the five light points seen with existing units."
"Even with the new lens-less AquaBeams you still don’t get lateral light spillage, and subsequent wastage, as you would with fluorescents. Light shimmer has been improved, so new AquaBeam 500s have more light spread but also more shimmer. You still need water movement to accentuate shimmer, but now you don’t need the height."
How many units?
"The new 1000 HD units will light cube aquariums up to 650 x 650mm/26 x 26". As soon as you go larger you can look at adding single or twin 500s just to fill the light out," said Gyles.
Supplied literature for the new units recommends one unit per 2.5-3' square, or one unit per 0.2-0.3m square. This equates to two 1000 HDs necessary for our 100 x 50cm/39 x 20” PFK reef tank, for example, with 0.5m square of surface area.
If you have an SPS only tank dominated with Acropora, PFK recommends more than two HD units to replicate the brighter light offered by 250w metal halides, or multiple T5. More conservatively, we also recommend one 1000 HD light for a tank of 45 x 45cm/18 x18". on its own. Any larger and you need to raise the marine 1000 HDs unusually high.
For reef tanks of average requirements, TMC say one 120x 60cm/ 47 x 24" wide will need eight AquaBeam 500s, or a combination of 1000 HDs and 500s. However, more units can be added to suit.
At the launch of the AquaBeam 500 we had reservations about fittings, though since the launch of the Aquaray Modular Mounting System (MMS) TMC could possibly have created the most flexible mounting system available. The rail can be fitted with AquaBeam 500s, 1000 HDs, or a combination of both, and can also be cut to length and has width adjustment.
Rails and lights can be fitted in parallel or you could even create a figure-eight with seven units and, for the best possible set-up, put two 1000 HDs in the gaps.
Rails can be revolved within their axis so horizontal, directional light could be tilted towards the back of the tank, and there are even retro fittings to enable AquaBeams on an MMS to be fitted into standard T8 and T5 linear housings.
These systems have height and length-adjustable wire ceiling fittings. and you can even build your own luminaire. Use as many hanging wires as you like too. Use four in a rectangle instead of two in a row and the lights will hang better.
Cost of ownership
TMC say that over their five-year guarantee period, HD units will cost 1.5 times their purchase price to run. Then compare it to a 150w metal halide which, TMC claim, will cost six times more. The cost of a chiller, necessary for most reefs with halides, has not been factored in either.
AquaBeam 1000 HDs are also said to use 10% of the carbon footprint of halide.
TMC are also launching their AquaRay Control unit which is compatible with all AquaBeam products to dim, time and control, recreating the sunrise, sunset, daylight and moonlight phases. Retailing at £79.99 per controller, each can independently control two channels — so two AquaBeam 500s or two separate circuits within the 1000 HD and dimming can range from off to 100% and any percentage between. The shortest full fade on/off is a minute and longest 4.5 hours.
TMC are proving that LED is a viable alternative. Hats off to them for listening to us and you, and providing a versatile range of fittings and solutions for the vast majority of tanks and situations. They’ve even changed the freshwater spectrums as a result of feedback, making it more white and less yellow — and increased the light spread.
LED does look very different but be open minded. If you don’t want to jump straight in, add one to your existing lighting and benefit from a more natural, daylight appearance.
Directional light can be weird to get used to as you get more shadows than with fluorescent, though less algae on your glass — and less light spread means my living room doesn’t look like a UFO is landing at night now.
I still like T5 and metal halide, especially when I saw the results achieved by a combination of both on David Saxby’s mega reef. However, I really like these HD units too.
Two 1000 HDs will do the PFK tank for a mix of soft corals, LPS hard corals and SPS directly under the beams, though if we go to SPS only and wanted them at all levels we would prefer more HD units or with AquaBeam 500s in combination, as the two HDs are very directional vertically down.
For traditional aquascaping with corals all over the place, you’ll need LED lighting placed to illuminate them.
I have been compiling a tank and review equipment for a potential ‘modern reef’ aquarium for some time, seeing just how low energy a modern reef can be. See our Tunze Kit 15 review as this company are also going down the low energy route.
Seventy watts of quality skimmer and pumps, plus 60w of bright AquaBeam lighting equals 130w. A few years ago you would be lucky to assemble the same spec for much under 1kw!
For the first time in ages my problem might not be cooling and I’m going to enjoy paying less to power my hobby.
I don’t think you can get better lighting than these HD units for nano tanks either. Imagine their power! No coral or plant would be beyond reach in terms of lighting requirements.
Heat and power consumption will not be limiting factors with small tanks and closed hoods, and even on big tanks.
Product: AquaBeam 1000 HD
Prices: AquaBeam 1000 HD Ultra Marine White and Reef White are £224.99 each or £299.99 with AquaRay control unit. GroBeam 1000 ND is £189.99 or £264.99 with controller. New AquaBeam 500 is £94.99 for a single or £179.99 for a twin unit. GroBeam 500 is £84.99 for a single and £159.99 for a twin unit. AquaRay controller is £79.99.
Reviewer: Jeremy Gay
- Bright enough for SPS
- Low power consumption
- Very flexible fittings
- More directional than halide so must be raised up or added to, to deliver bright light along the length of the tank.
This item was first published in the October 2009 issue of Practical Fishkeeping. It may not be reproduced without written permission.
Levi Major experiences the latest incarnation of the Max aquarium to see if it really does live up to all that pre-arrival hype.
While the original Max had issues, there was no doubting its initial success. Red Sea took on board the user recommendations, released the Max 130D and have now stepped up a gear with the long-awaited Max 250.
This aquarium measures 96 x 55 x 66cm/38 x 22 x 26” and glass is 10mm/0. 4” thick. Traditional media and carbon are supplied in the package.
The Max 250 comes with its own matching cabinet/stand supplied in flat-pack form.
Assembly is relatively simple and the stand is sturdy enough to provide more than enough support for the fully stocked aquarium. It has a central divide and the rear of the cabinet has cut-outs in both compartments to allow for a chiller where required.
A fair bit of plastic does not detract from overall appearance. The glass has the curved edges we came to love in the Orca TL450s and the original Max aquariums — just on a grander scale.
The rear 10cm/4” is given over to an in-tank sump which is separated from the display by a black glass partition.
The electronics are hidden in a concealed box allowing the leads to be hidden from view.
Splashproof switches for each appliance are then accessed via a hinged flap at the bottom.
Unlike the original Max, the single power lead exits from the rear of the aquarium via a notch in the glass. On the opposite side a viewing window enables easy checks of water levels in the sump.
Red Sea have been sensible and provided six 39w T5 tubes, three 10,000K and three actinic.
Cooling is via two fans on the left of the hood that draw in air and there’s a further two exhaust fans on the right. Given that the vents are larger than the fan ports this arrangement looks to work quite efficiently as neither set of fans are being forced to work against each other.
Auxiliary cooling fans at the rear left of the hood are, for me, an excellent addition.
The aquarium has an enclosed hood and I have yet to see any significant rise in water temperature as a result of the lighting.
Even with T5 lighting the Max 250 packs serious light which, given displacement, is some one watt per litre. This puts even SPS corals within reach.
All the main lighting is controlled via one quality manual timer. Moonlighting is via eight blue LEDs which can be switched off via the lighting panel.
The hood is great! It’s hinged at the back with lockable support arms at either side which allow it to be secured either fully opened or at 45°. The back includes a flap to access the protein skimmer and another to access the lighting timer and controls.
The front of the hood can be opened independently to quickly and easily gain access for feeding, water testing and maintenance. The underside of this section of lid contains mouldings to hold a supplied hydrometer and test tubes for water testing.
The filtration and circulation is controlled by two pumps, one at each side of the sump. These feed water back through two adjustable nozzles on the rear wall and are designated Pumps one and two.
Pump one is rated at 2,400l/h and Pump two 1,200l/h, giving a total of 3,600l/h and some 14 times tank volume per hour. Surprisingly the pumps just dangle in the sump section from the return nozzles. This works well, creates little noise and makes pump removal easy.
Flow to the sump section is via a large grille at the centre rear of the tank that has an adjustable shutter which can be slid up or down to suit your surface skimming and water level needs.
Also housed here is a 200w heater and foam filter block. Post-skimming water then passes left and right of the central section. To the right it enters another compartment that contains Pump two which expels it back into the tank.
Red Sea have cleverly provided sufficient space here to accommodate a secondary pump to feed a chiller and further added a clip-in attachment that allows you to plumb your equipment through the hood section without having to fiddle with your own clumsy fittings.
The extras do not stop there! A cable management system runs the length of the aquarium, keeping all wires from various components neatly tucked away.
The skimmer features a large removable collection cup and is powered by a 1200l/h pump. The venturi air line connects to an adjustable air valve fixed to the side of the cup.
Another clever feature is the adjustable skimmer neck which is part of the skimmer cup. Simple rotation adjusts the height of the neck and allows for fine tuning. The only real noise is the sound of the bubbles rather than the pump. It is a remarkably efficient skimmer when tweaked.
Given the large volume of air intake the bubble-stop sponges do a great job as micro-bubbles are kept at bay.
There were several holes in the stand that didn’t align perfectly and several of the holes in my model were not recessed enough to fully accommodate the supplied cam fittings.
The tank does not lend itself to a corner location if you want access to either a viewing window or power centre. I have my tank in an alcove, so cannot use the viewing window as I need extra space to get to the switches. This has clearly been designed to be free standing on a long wall…
There was an initial heating issue with the tank at 31°C/87.8°F. This was not because of the enclosed lighting but a result of the stock 50w Hydor skimmer pump.
Red Sea have replaced this with a 20w Sicce pump which adds only 0.20°C to overall aquarium temperature which now sits at +2/+3°C above ambient room temperature.
The only other real design flaw is the silencer for the skimmer moulded into the skimmer cup.
To remove the cup you disconnect the air lines, inadvertently adjusting the air valve and knocking your tuning out of whack.
The air valve is also very poor for setting and you are left with a choice. You either bypass the in-built silencer and add your own valve and silencer or put up with it and use the adjustable skimmer neck as your primary means of dialling in the skimmer.
Red Sea skimmers also use incredible amounts of air and have been known for frothing over if oily foods are fed. This one seems prone to over-frothing, too.
Red Sea have created yet another remarkable aquarium. It is a little pricey, given some slight failings, and I would have liked a little more for my money.
This is one easy aquarium to set up and maintain. It is a pleasure to look at and you will be proud if able to see beyond a few weaknesses. However, the price tag may put off the average hobbyist.
The tank seems much bigger than its dimensions portray and for those who like to tinker with your reef there is scope for subtle modification, which will make it a superb aquarium.
Model: Red Sea Max 250 l/55 gal ‘plug and play’ aquarium
Dimensions: 96 x 55 x 66cm (38 x 21 x 26.2”)
Cabinet: 96 x 55 x 80cm (38 x 21 x 32”)
Lighting: Six 39w T5 linear; 10,000k 117w; actinic 117w; blue LED 8; analogue lighting timer
Hood: Three-position opener
Circulation: Pumps at 1,200 lph and 2,400 lph
Skimmer: Water throughput 1,000 lph/240 gph; maximum air flow 300 lph/80 gph
Filter: Mechanical, Biological and Chemical
Power centre: Five outlets
Water cooling: Dual fan unitProduct: Red Sea Max 250
- Overall a great looker.
- Can be a ‘plug and play’ or tinkered with.
- Easy to assemble, but heavy.
- High quality of equipment and parts.
- Expensive considering custom- build options.
- Pump outlets not as controllable as they could be.
- Skimmer can be awkward to access and can over-froth.
- Design limits options for site location.
Levi Major has run his Red Sea Max 250 for several months now and declares that he’s still very impressed with it.
He says: "During my initial review for Practical Fishkeeping I encountered a problem with the skimmer — but the fault cannot lie solely at the feet of Red Sea as I was tasked to test this tank to its limits — and this I did.
"We have all forgotten to switch off our skimmers when feeding our systems with phytoplankton, or an enriched fatty food, and found the skimmer went crazy as a result. With a hang-on skimmer this could lead to a wet carpet if the cup overflows, but I did not expect this to happen with an internal skimmer.
"Inevitably, the skimmer cup filled up and overflowed, but rather than water trickling back into the tank, it found its way inside the hood at the join, soaked the electrics inside, then overflowed onto the carpet."
PFK contacted Red Sea who quickly sent a replacement hood.
The company claim the tank we tested was an early model and design modifications have since been made.
A Red Sea spokesman said: "The Max 250 reviewed does not feature the modified collection cup which prevents the occurrence described. This cup has been supplied with more recent Max 250s and has been available for some time. A sample has been supplied for the review aquarium."
Levi also had another issue with overheating. He reported: "I cannot keep temperature down without the front flap open, even using a fan for cooling. I believe I’d need to use a chiller."
Red Sea said a small percentage of pumps had run at higher temperatures than expected. It replaced these in later models with a more powerful, lower wattage alternative.
Levi fitted a replacement pump, but still found that temperatures were difficult to keep down.
This item was first published in the April and May 2010 issues of Practical Fishkeeping. It may not be reproduced without written permission.
Rimless OptiWhite glass aquariums are starting to make significant breakthroughs into the marine market. We sent Dan Crawford, founder of the UK Aquatic Plant Society, to Aquariums Ltd., in Lancashire to see one made.
“People like me will be well aware of the rimless, braceless OptiWhite tanks made famous by planted aquascaping god Takashi Amano and a lot of emphasis is now placed on what’s actually in the tank as you would expect.
“However, many aquascapers take aesthetics as a whole to another level now and insist on minimal design for their tank, cabinet and lighting. Pendant-style lighting is generally suspended above the tank by wires, or there’s a luminaire fitted above the tank.
“The cabinet is generally minimalist, with few lines to detract from the aquascape.
These factors allow the aquascape to take centre stage, which is how it should be.
“Another benefit of open-top tanks is the ability to view it from a different angle. This can still be achieved on an open-top tank with rims and braces, but the effect is ruined by large, obtrusive braces running across it. The rims or edging strips also affect above and front-on viewing.
“Eliminating these allows for viewing without distraction.
Is OptiWhite better?
“These tanks offer only one constructional benefit over a normal float glass aquarium — aesthetics. Having said that, almost every planted tank fan I’ve spoken to recently feels that for this benefit, it’s certainly worth paying a premium.
“So what makes it better? In essence, it’s clearer glass! Most enthusiasts will think ‘my glass is clear enough’ and this is of course true, but to truly appreciate OptiWhite‚ for the first time, then it’s best viewed next to a normal float glass aquarium. The difference is astonishing.
“So how is it clearer? In short, less iron is used in the making of the glass. Iron gives glass its green coloration and this is particularly noticeable when you are looking straight down the edge of the aquarium’s glass.
“OptiWhite has less iron and is therefore less green. Minimal iron content creates more of a neutral blue colour and in certain light appears almost completely clear. The discrete use of clear silicone improves the sleek look of these tanks and again offers no distraction from what’s inside.
“While planted tank fans have been using these methods for a few years, these new ideas are slowly also making their way into marine fishkeeping.
“PFK challenged aquarium manufacturers Aquariums Ltd., to design and build a modern, functional reef tank which could work in harmony with and further enhance a range of marine equipment and practices also at the cutting edge of the hobby.
“Many talks ensued over issues with sumps, weirs and overflows, the tank was designed in principle and I was invited to visit and document its construction.
“When planning a custom-built tank, the first factor to consider is size. If wanting a rimless tank it can be no taller than 70cm/28” and a maximum of 180cm/71” long. Front to back it can be up to 90cm/36” wide, but as the size of the tank increases so does the thickness of the glass and price. If planning a large tank ask a professional builder if your floor will be suitable for such a weight.
“PFK opted for a 100 x 50 x 50cm/40 x 20 x 20” tank for their reef. The 50cm/20” width front to back being important for better aquascaping — especially with corals concerned.
“Also decide if the tank is to be drilled. If so, ensure it’s drilled in the perfect place, as once holed, there’s no going back.
“Since, by design, rimless tanks have no hood to house lighting, alternatives need investigating and there are many alternatives and variables. Pendant-style lighting needs to be suspended above the tank and the most effective way is from the ceiling.
“Luminaires do a similar job and can be hung from the ceiling or mounted to the tank’s edges, This does, however, eliminate bird’s eye viewing and can detract from the tank’s contents.
“The cabinet, if sticking with a modern theme and contents remaining the focal point, should blend in with the rest of the room as seamlessly as possible. Aquariums Ltd., have 59 options of cabinet finish and there’s a colour for every taste and combination of home furnishing.
“PFK requested this cabinet be made without handles to keep it as minimalistic as possible and the company’s response was to supply push-fit doors with magnetic catches to allow easy opening.
“Each cabinet is computer designed and then CNC routered to millimetre precision. All the cabinets are made from18-22mm/0.7-0.9” chipboard, sealed with a waterproofing varnish then machine laminated.
Getting it built
“The glass was cut to size and polished before I arrived, so it was a case of watching while the craftsman got to work. I observed that one piece of glass was thicker than the rest and asked why. It was the back panel and the one to be drilled, being 12mm, while the rest were due to be drilled 10mm.
“I was shown the process behind the drilling and we needed a 50mm/2” equidistant hole drilling for the pipe, starting 40mm/1.6” down from the tank, so a 50mm/2” diamond core drill bit was added to the pillar drill.
“This has a constant water feed to keep the bit lubricated and cool while the bit spins at a quite slow 250 rpm, but this created a perfect, almost polished hole.
“The glass was thoroughly cleaned and taken to a workbench for assembly. Each panel edge to be joined to another has tape applied to the joining edge, then 10 or 12mm is removed with a razor blade to reveal a clean glass edge for the silicone to be applied.
“Silicone is then applied to the glass and the first panel dropped into place. Many glass clamps and brackets were used, each with its own specific purpose.
“The most important tools are the right-angle brackets which hold the two end panels in place and allow the front and back panels to be fitted. They ensure the tank is completely square. More brackets are added and the tank is left to set.
“Before the tank can be filled it has to be left to cure. As a general rule, it should be left for one day for every millimetre of thickness of glass, so this tank had to be left for 12 days before being put to the test.
“Every aquarium is tested once cured and this tank had no leaks, and was fit for an eagerly-awaited delivery to the PFK office.”
Building stage by stage
Cabinets are CNC routered by computer.
Computer design allows mm precision.
Machine laminated in 59 finishes.
The pillar drill with 50mm diamond bit.
PFK requested a 50mm hole for pipework.
Glass panels are taped before joining.
Clamps hold the glass in place, for curing.
I’ve watched almost the whole process of construction and to see it in situ now brings a whole new dimension to the way I look at this tank. It is fantastic! Now it’s up to PFK to make what’s inside look as fantastic as the outside.
Rimless OptiWhite tanks are here to stay, and will become ever more popular. Once you make the switch to the minimal but elegant look of an OptiWhite tank, you’ll never want to go back…
Product: Aquariums Ltd., OptiWhite aquarium
Price: The bespoke model we had built cost £230.41 for the tank and £206.86 for the cabinet. Non-OptiWhite glass models are also available.
Reviewer: Dan Crawford
More info: Aquariums Ltd., 0870 850 7029
- Modern, bespoke design
- Deal with the people who actually build the tank.
- Clearer glass, better viewing.
- OptiWhite is more expensive - but its worth it!
- Fish may jump from open topped tanks.
This article was first published in the October 2009 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. It may not be reproduced without written permission.
Jeremy Gay takes a look at the Superfish Aqua Qube 15 nano tank from Dutch supplier Aqua Distri.
Dutch supplier Aquadistri have subtly revamped their Aqua Qube range of aquariums, and added a new, smaller 15 l/3.3 gal size too.
The Superfish Aqua Qube aquarium is a good looking nano tank that has proved incredibly popular in the UK. Over the few years they have been available, we have got to know them very well, and like them.
We have reviewed the tank several times in buyer guides, set them up, ran them ourselves, and watched readers transform them into various guises, including high-tech planted tanks and even reef tanks.
The ‘old’ Aqua Qube was so popular I think because of its looks, its compact shape, the ease with which it could be converted and upgraded, and its price.
This small nano has led where many other manufacturers have followed, and you will be forgiven for thinking that tanks from other competing manufacturers look quite similar.
When we received the new Aqua Qube I was delighted to see that the tank has changed very little. It’s had a slight facelift, with the silver top and bottom trim now looking more rounded and more modern, but, apart from that is pretty similar which is good.
The 15, 25 and 40 l / 3.3, 5.5 and 8.8 gal sets come complete with clip-on light, cover glass and internal filter. The light is adjustable from side to side and tilts, and, better still, there is room to add more if you so wish.
The internal filter is nice and small with sponge and carbon insert, and also comes with a venturi attachment and mini spraybar. Flow is adjustable and, with the Aqua Qube 15 we looked at, the tiny Aqua-Flow 50 internal filter produces up to 100 lph for only 2w of energy.
That means that you canset up and run the Aqua Qube 15, unheated, for a total of 11w consumption, and just 2w consumption when the light is not switched on.
Extra lights are available for £22.50, with replacement bulbs costing £7.95 at full RRP. You could use the 11 or 18 watt lights if you wanted to, and both are available in blue/white marine versions.
Product: Superfish Aqua Qube Set 15
Price: From £49.95
Reviewer: Jeremy Gay
Combine its small footprint with its tiny running costs and full RRP of £49.99, this small aquarium is sure to be a hit. It doesn’t come with the shrimp extras as offered with Dan Crawford’s Dennerle tank, but for half the price I would certainly take this one over the Dennerle.
It even holds five litres more than Dennerle’s smallest, the 10 l/2.2 gal tank costing upwards of £100, depending on model and supplied extras.
In a nutshell this is a great little tank, which holds many possibilities in terms of décor and livestock.
I won’t patronise the many readers of PFK by advising fish stocking caution however, as 15 l/3.3 gal is a very small long-term home for any fish, so any communties must be microscopic - or have no fish at all! However, the 25 and 40 l models do have greater fish stocking opportunities.
This item was first published in the August 2009 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. It may not be reproduced without written permission.
Matt Clarke looks at the fruits of Fluval's development programme to create their new range of filters with this exclusive world first review.
After three years and spending £2 million in development costs, Hagen have announced their new Fluval G range of external filters.
Undeniably the most talked-about aquarium product launch of 2009, Hagen reckon the G3 and G6 are so sleek and sexy that customers won’t be able to resist showing them off. They are even planning to produce special display cabinets for them.
Like any other external filter, the Fluval G range is designed to sit beneath the tank. Each model has a motor unit mounted in the lid, several capacious removable media baskets for biological media and, uniquely, removable fast-access cartridges for both mechanical and chemical filter media.
They also incorporate monitors with LCD displays which record current and historical data on flow rate, temperature and conductivity, and allows alarms to be set when values fall outside a set range.
Their squat, square footprint means that they can be installed easily in most cabinets and they are very easy to set up. Insert the red gasket into the groove in the rim of the filter, rinse the biological media and fill the baskets in the main body of the filter.
Put the mechanical and chemical filter media cartridges into the filter, lock down the lid using the metal handles and place beneath the tank.
The filters are supplied with new silver-look hoses which match the filter design and don’t show unsightly bacterial or algal deposits.
These are quite firm so should not kink easily and the re-designed hose connectors make connecting/ disconnecting straightforward. More versatile inlet and outlet connectors are also supplied.
To get the filter started (or primed) initially fill the canister with water by getting it to syphon out of the tank and into the filter. A simple push-button priming mechanism handles this job and after rapidly pushing the button up and down for a short while you should eventually hear the filter fill up. It can then be switched on.
A mechanism on the filter cleverly prevents the impeller from spinning when air is detected, so it’s impossible for the filter to run dry. A warning flashes on the LCD screen when air is detected inside and it eventually starts up, gurgling while expelling trapped air and then starting to run smoothly.
The integrated Hydrotech Performance Monitor provides several useful features and we found it easy to use, even without reading the instructions.
The displays give readings for temperature and conductivity (EC), as well as a visual indication of the flow rate and a count of when the mechanical, chemical and biological media needs to be cleaned.
A desired maximum and minimum level for temperature and conductivity can be programmed and the unit will alert the owner if levels move outside the set range.
It also provides alerts for when air is detected in the filter, when the impeller has jammed, when the temperature or conductivity are out of range and when the flow rate has become dangerously low.
Unlike any other filter on the market, the Fluval-G’s Hydrotech Performance Monitor incorporates a conductivity meter with titanium probe.
Hagen claim this requires no cleaning or calibration and that it automatically senses whether the water is fresh or saltwater and changes the reading accordingly.
It takes 48 hours for this to calibrate itself properly, but it’s also clever enough to change the output reading depending on the water in your tank, so it will display salinity for marine systems and conductivity for freshwater.
Hagen reckon you can use this not only for indicating whether your water is suitable for certain types of fish, but also to help you identify if there is any deterioration in its quality.
As water evaporates or maintenance slows, conductivity can rise and this can be an early warning that remedial action is required to restore the balance.
Probably the most useful aspect of the Hydrotech Performance Monitor is the flow rate indicator which allows you to clearly see if the filter is running at full whack. If it isn’t, you simply clean the media and it should quickly return to optimum performance.
Changing mechanical and chemical media couldn’t be easier and can be done with the unit on — but it recommends turning off first.
The flow to the cartridges is shut off by lifting the metal Aquastop lever on the top of the canister. They can then be unlocked and removed for cleaning or replacement. A stiff brush, which is provided, cleans the mechanical media cartridge and the chemical media cartridge can even be filled with media of your choice.
The cleaned or replaced cartridge can then be re-inserted, locked back in place, lever lowered and filter re-started. There’s no need to re-prime the filter and the air trapped inside is released after a few minutes of gurgling.
We managed to remove, wash and replace the media cartridge in about three minutes. There’s no external filter on the market with such easy access to the filter media and we think this is the Fluval G’s killer feature.
Since you should not need to take apart the entire filter to clean the biological media, you can safely leave your bacterial population undisturbed. This is also one of the few filters on the market with which it would be fine to clean the mechanical media thoroughly under the tap - providing it’s done on a regular basis.
Bear in mind that this technology doesn’t come cheap. Hagen hope to sell the Fluval G3 for £299.99 and G6 for £349.99, making them among the most expensive on the market.
This is a really outstanding product, but there are a few features and functions we’d have preferred to see done differently.
Overall, the filters feel quite robust and of good quality. However, the shiny plastic outer skin surrounding the canister flexes very slightly in places, marks show up and it’s fairly easy to scratch, so may not look pristine for long.
Although priming is straightforward and worked well, it takes quite a few vigorous pushes to encourage the water to flow into the filter. It would also be useful if the inlet and outlet pipes were labelled with an arrow as we initially inadvertently connected the pipes the wrong way round.
The pipes are also opaque, so it’s hard to see when they need cleaning, although the flow rate monitor may indicate an issue. The attachments that connect the hoses to the tank are greatly improved, but may not work on every tank.
Alerts and monitoring
The Hydrotech Performance Monitor is very handy, particularly for monitoring flow rate. However, the display is not permanently illuminated and you have to press a button to read the figures. A constantly-lit panel might be more user friendly.
The filters have an alert system to indicate when the temperature, conductivity or flow rate fall outside their set range. However, this consists only of a flashing display, not anaudible alarm as you might expect. If the filter is hidden in your cabinet, you’ll miss this warning.
Disappointingly, there’s no heater built in and for these prices we’d like one included. However, we did find a socket on the back, which Hagen confirmed is for a special G-series heater that can be linked to the Fluval-G. They are due to launch this add-on at a later date.
We have our doubts about the importance of including the conductivity meter. Hagen say it is important to measure conductivity and that it can be used to predict when the fishkeeper needs to conduct a water change. It can also provide some useful information on water suitability for your fish.
However, while this may be true, few people in the UK use conductivity, few again are aware of desired conductivity ranges for specific fish groups and the uses of the conductivity meter for predicting when to change water are poorly understood by most fishkeepers.
We spoke to one retailer highly experienced in aquarium equipment who admitted to knowing little about conductivity. Indeed, he said that in 20 years of trading he’d never been asked for either a meter or received a question on the subject. If the importance of the conductivity meter goes over the head of an experienced retailer, is the average person going to get it?
At the time of writing — before the Fluval G has officially gone on sale — there is little information on conductivity in either the supplied literature or on Hagen’s website. [Update: This information has now been added to Hagen's website.] There’s due to be a DVD supplied with the filters, so perhaps this complex issue will be addressed there.
Ultimately, we feel that the conductivity meter is an expensive addition that’s going to be largely ignored by the bulk of users.
Arguably many people would have preferred a Fluval-G with a heater instead of this feature — or a price tag that was lower…
It’s still good...
One really positive aspect is that the flow rates, which many initially believed too low, are actually not bad at all.
At the product launch Hagen chose to quote flow rates in a different way to their other models and those of their competitors. That led many to believe that the flow rates of these filters were too low. Hagen have since confirmed that this is not the case and instead have adopted a different form of measure which quotes the filter flow rate.
Of course, this is all splitting very fine hairs. The Fluval G is a splendid product and probably the easiest external filter on the market in terms of maintenance.
When most other manufacturers are feeling the global economic downturn Hagen are brave enough to spend massive amounts on developing such an innovative piece of kit. The end result is superb and, unusually for aquarium equipment, looks very desirable.
The Fluval G is a well-designed and stylish product that incorporates some innovative features and is also incredibly easy to maintain. The flow meter and the ease of access to media are exceptional. The filters worked very well on our test aquariums and were very, very easy to maintain.
However, ground-breaking innovation and design comes with a high price tag.
To us, the conductivity meter wasn’t a huge draw and we would prefer to see an integrated heater and the automatic priming mechanism of the FX5 instead. However, the quick-change media cartridges really are worth spending the extra cash on and there really is no other external filter on the market that is so easy to keep clean.
Minor criticisms aside, it’s still a brilliant filter and if you’ve got the money for one you’re unlikely to be disappointed.
Product: Fluval G series external filters.
Prices: Fluval G3 £299.00, Fluval G6 £349.00.
Vital statistics: Fluval G3 for aquariums up to 300 l/66 gal, 17w, 700lph filter flow rate, 1,285lph pump performance. Fluval G6 for aquariums up to 600 l/132 gal, 28w, 1000lph filter flow rate, 2460 lph pump performance.
Reviewer: Matt Clarke.
- Innovative design and classy appearance.
- Easy to keep clean and maintain.
- Built-in monitoring system.
- Integrated conductivity meter.
- Alarms inaudible.
- Conductivity poorly explained.
- Do looks really matter?
This review was first published in the Christmas 2009 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. It may not be reproduced without written permission.
Jeremy Gay explains what features you should look for when purchasing a protein skimmer and highlights some of the most popular models on the market.
This supplies the skimmer with tank water and will also double up as the air supply on some models by way of a venturi. Pump strength is calculated so that the skimmer gets enough water flow through in relation to tank volume.
Not enough and it may not cleanse the water quickly enough. Too much and the proteins won’t get time to stick to the tiny air bubbles and rise up the skimmer body to the collection cup.
If the pump uses a venturi feedto draw in the air, some will be sold with a special impeller with small blades to mash the air and mix it thoroughly with the water.
As good as any protein skimmer may be, it must be flexible enough to fit your tank. Choose one versatile as regards fitting and one that will fit several types if you have to move tanks. Check that stress bars and tank rims will be sufficiently cleared and you have room behind and above the tank for the skimmer body.
A protein skimmer often needs fine tuning for best performance. By controlling the flow of water through the unit, and sometimes the air as well, a perfect balance between air and water can be achieved so that the foam and skimmate will rise to the correct level to be collected.
This collects the skimmate, made by mixing the air and water. Skimmate should be dark brown, thick and smelly, so most collection cups are clear to enable you to see when they get dirty and need attention.
Empty and clean the cup regularly to get maximum performance from your skimmer. The larger the tank, or larger the load, the larger the skimmer you will need — and larger the collection cup.
Paramount to any protein skimmer, the inlet allows air to be mixed with the water, so starting the skimming process. Air intake is adjustable on some skimmers, allowing for some fine adjustment.
A good skimmer will create maximum contact time between bubbles and water, so all the proteins can stick to the bubbles before being collected.
Bubbles naturally rise, so skimmer designers use the water flow and design of the body to drive the bubbles down, making them stay in the water as long as possible before floating to the collection cup. The smaller the bubbles the better — and that also aids contact time as they rise more slowly.
The model of choice for many marine keepers, the V2 skim offers versatility with affordability and function. Great for freshwater/marine conversions, this skimmer can be fitted to virtually any off-the-shelf or custom aquarium and, as a result, the range is very popular.
The smallest model, the V2 skim 400 is suitable for tanks of up to 400 litres, while the largest, the V2 skim 1500, will do tanks up to 1500 litres. Each model comes with a pump to provide the optimum flow rate, is ozone compatible and carries a one-year guarantee. Prices range from £88.07 to £195.73.
Deltec MCE 600
Few skimmer manufacturers are held in as high esteem as Deltec. The MCE 600 was the original, premium hang-on box-shaped skimmer, delivering a lot of performance even on large tanks.
This model has stood the test of time and is hailed by hobbyists and professionals alike as a great piece of kit.
The MCE 300 is a newer addition, though we still prefer the MCE 600. For serious applications go for a Deltec sump model. The MCE 600 sells for £312.95 (20% off for a short period) while the MCE 300 costs £179.95.
Comline DOC skimmers won’t win awards for looks but are another well-made, German range of skimmers worthy of mention. Ranging from the petite nano DOC skimmer, choose either the modular Comline DOC, Classic DOC or Master DOC and get years of trouble-free service from a brand synonymous with quality and longevity.
The new DOC 9410 is part of the energy-saving Eco-energetic range and delivers 600 lph of air with a water flow of 900 lph — and for 16w. Prices start at £256.70 for the 9410.
Aqua Medic Turboflotor
The Turboflotor range is one of the most famous names in skimming and has proved effective in many sizes and situations for many years.
Be it internal, hang-on or sump mount, the Turboflotor really delivers.
The model pictured is one of the Blue range from Aqua Medic, and is now our preferred model to the rather dated Turboflotor Multi SL.
The Blue skimmers can be fitted either as hang on skimmers to the aquarium, or in a sump, and are made to perfectly suit the interesting looking Blue Reef Acrylic sump system. Prices start at £134.99.
The item was first published in the May 2009 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. It may not be reproduced without written permission.