DC pumps: Everything you wanted to know (but were afraid to ask)

By on Jun 10, 2013

There are many different DC water pumps on the market — Waveline, Speedline, Diablo, Jebao, Boyu, and of course Royal Exclusiv are just the few of the ones on the market today. With so many companies producing pumps, some companies selling identical pumps and yet other companies selling visually similar rebadged pumps it can be difficult to distinguish them all. So what is what and which one is which? This guide will help you navigate the world of DC pumps.

Royal Exclusiv Red Dragon Controllable DC pumps

Red Dragon III DC pump

Royal Exclusiv was really the first company to release controllable DC pumps for aquarium use and was the first to put them to use on its premium skimmers. The Red Dragon DC pumps have come a long way since their first release, going through several transformations along the way. Currently all the Royal Exclusiv DC pumps are named Red Dragon 3, while the non-DC pumps go under the Bubble King category.  The Red Dragon 3 DC pump line comes in three controllable DC models, a 50W model which pushes around 1,200 gallons per hour (5,0m³), a 65W model which pushes around 1,850 gallons per hour (7,0m³), and a 75W model which pushes around 2,100 gallons per hour (8,0m³).

Depending on whether the pump is to be used on a skimmer or as return and depending on the skimmer configuration the pumps come with different models and prices. The Red Dragon 3 return pumps sell for €550 (~$725) for the 50W model, 579 € (~$765) for the 65W model, and 599 € (~$790) for the 75W model. The Red Dragon skimmer pumps are only available in the 50W model and retail from 499 € ($) up to 472 € ($). Royal Exclusiv also sells an extra silent non-controllable DC pump, drawing 50W with flow rates of approximately 1,188 gallons per hour (4.5m³), for 450 € (~$595)

RLSS Waveline Controllable DC pumps

Waveline was the first company to offer mass market DC pumps at an affordable price, forgoing some of the premium aspects alienating the average reef hobbyist from DC pumps. The titanium screws, titanium rotor, titanium stator and shriveled bearings seen on the Red Dragon 3 pumps cannot be found. These pumps are also manufactured in China rather than in Germany. That is not to say these are low quality pumps, as beside the Red Dragon 3 DC pumps the Waveline DC pumps are still one of the more premium DC pumps of this list.

The manufacturer RLSS recently upgraded its Waveline pumps completely overhauling the pump’s design for greater efficiency, a smaller footprint, improved electrical connections, along with a new and more upgradable controller which allows third party control and master/slave configuration. The upgraded Waveline pump come in two models — the DC6000 which pushes 6000 liters per hour (1,585 gallons per hour) at 50W and the DC1200 which pushes 12,000 liters per hour (3,170 gallons per hour) at 180W.  The DC6000 and DC1200 retail for $239 and $349 respectively.

Speedline, Diablo, and Jebao controllable DC pumps

The Speedline, Diablo, and Jebao DC pumps are controllable DC pumps that look oddly familiar identical to the previous generation of RLSS Waveline pumps, and appeared right when the upgrade of the waveline was announced. Perhaps RLSS is licensing its previous generation DC pumps to these companies, or perhaps the manufacturer for RLSS decided they might as well sell their old pumps to someone else when exclusive distribution rights changed, or perhaps it is something entirely else. What exactly is happening we’re not exactly sure, but it is clear the Speedline, Diablo and Jebao DC pumps are the same as the first generation Waveline pumps. As such they are appropriately priced, but they obviously lack all the upgrades seen in the new Waveline pumps such as a smaller body, higher efficiency, plug-and-play third party controller options, and master slave configuration.
In the end it really comes down to if you want the latest and greater or are willing to sacrifice some benefits for a better price.  The pumps come in three models, a 30W model which pushes 3500 liters per hour (925 gallons per hour), a 50W model which pushes 5500 liters per hour (1,450 gallons per hour) and a 80W model which pushes 10500 liters per hour (2,775 gallons per hour). We couldn’t find the pricing for the Speedline and Jebao pumps, but the Diablo DC pumps which should soon be widely available within the US retail for $159.99, $219.99, and $269.99 for the  DC3500, DC5500, and DC10500 respectively.

Boyu DC pumps

Boyu GX4P DC pump

Boyu is a company well known for their knock-off products and their DC pumps are no different. Build to highly resemble the original Waveline pumps and advertising DC control. None of the models offer the fine control seen in all the other models above. The Boyu pumps come in two flavors, the GXB which is just a DC pump with no control whatsoever, although in theory the user could rewire the pump to integrate some kind of flow control, not exactly something the average hobbyist would do. This GXB pump comes in five models ranging from 25W and an advertised flow of 3500 liters per hour up to 85W and advertised flow of 10,000 liters per hour. They  retail on Fish Street, its most popular retailer, from between $65 and $85 although that doesn’t include hefty shipping.

Boyu also sells a GX4P DC pump which offer three different flow modes controllable through a dial on the back. Mode one puts the pump on 50% power drawing 40W and pushing 5000 liters per hour (1,320 gph); mode 2 puts the pump on 75% power, drawing 65W and pushing 7,500 liters per hour (1,980 gph); and mode 3 puts the pump on 100% power drawing 80W and pushing 10,000 liters per hour (2,650 gph).The Boyu GX4P is $130 advertised, although the above mentioned retailer seems to have a sale offering the pump for $110 (again not including hefty shipping).

Although these pumps might seem like a good deal, ordering pumps from a non-reputable manufacturer that has not been UL certified always brings concerns about questionable wiring, which could lead to electrocution your livestock, not to mention you or anyone putting their hands in the tank. We’re not trying to scare anyone from buying these pumps and these pumps are getting some decent reviews online but safety is always something you need to keep in mind when trying to safe a buck.

As you can see, the world of DC pumps is growing and in the future, we expect more players to enter the market from first generation products to cheap copycats.

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