Red Sea Max 250 review

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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.

It’s good...

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.

But...

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.  

The verdict

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

Heater: 200w

Filter: Mechanical, Biological and Chemical

Power centre: Five outlets

Water cooling: Dual fan unitProduct: Red Sea Max 250

Price: £1,500

Rating: 4/5

Good

  • Overall a great looker.
  • Can be a ‘plug and play’ or tinkered with.
  • Easy to assemble, but heavy.
  • High quality of equipment and parts.

Bad

  • 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.

Follow-up progress

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.