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.