Review: Fluval Fresh 85 litre set-up from Hagen

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Nathan Hill checks out this new Fluval aquarium offering from Hagen.

It’s good…

Fluval’s recent aquarium launches have been appearing in stores all over the land, and playing with one myself, I can see exactly why.

The open-topped concept seems slow to be embraced in the UK by a wary public, but Fluval’s clever approach to frosting the top couple of inches of glass creates a pretty convincing illusion that it’s not ‘naked’ on top.

Combine that with the way that this lighting unit can be straddled across the top with flaps attached, a 'faux' lid effect can be had for those wary of suicidal, sky-bound fish.

The tank has enough height to give it presence (45cm/18" to be exact) and for a 60cm/24" long tank, it comes across as an imposing chunk of water.

In the cabinet, there’s plenty of space inside for the filter one side, and a shelf in the left partition makes chattel storage feasible.

The lights are outstanding! I’ve reviewed the Fresh nano lighting before, with glorious praise, and this strip is worthy of equal, if not better genuflection. Running at 6,700K, it provides crisp, intense plant-friendly beams without creating that unusual ‘colour shadowing’ that some other multicoloured clusters do. Hooked up on the supplied holders, I’m only using mine for simple Vallis growth, but have every confidence that it’d perform impeccably on a fully ‘scaped set-up, as my nano model did.

Filtration is the trusty 206 external canister, hooked up beneath the tank and linked to the standpipes that sit through the drilled base, and that’s excellent for convenience.

Heating is one of Fluval’s 100w submersible heaters, which is accurate and reliable enough, if a little physically imposing in the tank.

But…

Some might find that the cabinet sits a little too high for them, and even when I’ve positioned mine, it has a towering, monolithic feel about it. The cabinet stands at 85cm/33" tall, and to my knowledge there’s no squat alternative in production. The height had the disturbing effect of creating some instability in my own model, and it took some personal tweaks and wedging, involving cramming supports under the front edges, in order to get it to sit comfortably. I concede that my own tank was sat on carpet and not the most level of floors, so other users might find my reservations unfounded.

The back pane of glass has two brackets stuck directly to it, into which two arms can be placed to suspend the light. These brackets have the annoying trait of being right in the way of putting a backing sheet onto the tank, so expect to have to do some trimming. For what it’s worth, that’s a small concession for being able to hang the lights.

The light has both day and night settings, but being activated with a switch between the two, it’s impossible to arrange a transition of daily/nightly cycle using plug in timers.

I can’t help but think that I’d have appreciated the option to cap off the holes — alas, no plugs are provided — if wanting to run my own alternative filtration or use the tank for competition aquascaping.

The hosing supplied is a little longer than needed, so be advised that you’ll end up with a small spaghetti bundle of plastic underneath the tank when it’s rigged up.

Oh, for Fluval to start producing its own in-line heater — hint, hint.

The verdict

Get it on a wood floor with the appropriate surroundings and furniture and it’s absolutely mint. It might struggle to fit in with more traditional homes, but it definitely has a place in most.

Is it worth £500? The entire package is pretty good going, considering the jump from classic T8 or T5 tubes to a fitted LED rig. Throw in the option of caps for the drilled base and it will be even better.

Good:

  • The frosting on the top and the way that it catches the LED lighting, making it glow when the illumination is on.
  • How simple it is to attach the suspended lighting to the rails or flit between that option and the extended arm method.
  • How the filter pipes are pre-positioned, as when it comes to day-to-day tanks, it riles me when hoses run up and down the back.
  • The extra height. There’s a time and a place for shallow tanks, but if you’re after big, bold and punchy, then you’ll adore this.

Bad:

  • The return flow standpipe is just that tad too high, and unless I’m prepared to have the water fractionally below the rim, all I can hear is that return flow glooping and splashing.
  • Long hoses without the option to trim them (they have fixtures connected at both ends).
  • I desperately want the option of capping off the drilled base if I want to.
  • Unless the water level is at the bottom of the frosting, there’s an odd, eye-distracting shadow that bugs me.
  • The whole thing is very top heavy if you have to put it on carpets. Of all the tanks I’ve owned, this is the one I’ve been most nervous about toppling.
  • The heater is ugly, but I’ve yet to see one that isn’t.

Price: £516 MRP.

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