Greatness comes in many packages, many forms. In sports, hockey legend Wayne Gretzky earned the title, “The Great One” during his long and storied NHL career. One of my personal sports heroes, Gretzky holds 61 records for his amazing accomplishments, and easily earned his nickname. In the aquarium hobby, it’s tough to earn the rating of “good”, let alone, “great”. However, I think that I own a product that has safely earned the title of “The Greatest One”.
The year was 1981, and this teenage fish geek needed to make what was then a major purchase for my hobby- a strong, reliable air pump to power my Necktonics undergravel filter in my 20 gallon marine tank, complete with two Blue Damselfish, a Percula Clown, and an H. crispa anemone, which “thrived” under my DIY triple Vita Lite fluorescent fixture. (Actually, I think it did thrive- had it for over 7 years before I gave it to a friend.). I was sick of unreliable, cheap pumps, so in scanning my well-worn copies of FAMA magazine, I saw an ad for mail order firm Aqua Engineers (Remember them? They were the Marine Depot of their day.). They had a lot of air pumps-but they also had THE pump. The one every fish geek at the time loved
After much research, and a lot of saving, I decided to make a big investment (I think it was like $19.95) in a Tetra “Luft” pump. This was a huge move for the time- the Luft was the Tunze Stream of its day, the European high-tech answer to the American “Silent Giant” air pump (remember that one?). The little brown Teutonic wunderkind delivered large quantities of air in near silence- a huge plus when your aquarium was in your bedroom! With a simple twist of a rheostat, the mighty Luft could be cranked up to deliver precise volumes of air effortlessly up to 7 psi. I had the Porsche of air pumps- and I was still in high school!
The little German workhorse powered tank after tank, delivering air to everything from my killifish breeding setup to brine shrimp hatcheries, even going to work on my quarantine tank (thanks to fancy air management with sexy plastic gang valves). And yes- I had a QT even back then!
The dawn of MTV, “Reaganomics”, Max Headroom, college, the fall of the Berlin Wall, The Gulf War, the “Grunge” movement, the “dot.com” boom and bust, two major earthquakes, several relationships, 4 different houses, the new millennium, 9/11, 5 U.S. Presidents, and literally thousands upon thousands of hours of operation. My little brown Luft has seen all of these things, faithfully and silently cranking out air.
Right now, it’s working on a small tank full of Halocaridina rubra, the “Hawaiian Red Volcano Shrimp”, where it’s been in operation for over 5 years. In fact, this small wonder has worked continuously in one capacity or another for 28 years, a longevity/reliability record few products in any industry could match! Short of rinsing the little air filter that slips on to the bottom of the pump every so many years (or when I remember to do it), I have not had to do any maintenance.
Unfortunately, the pump is no longer marketed under the Tetra name, but the design has apparently been repackaged by Coralife-but it’s still called the “Luft” pump- still brown, and still amazing. It operates under a wide variety of conditions, and represents-to me- the pinnacle of air pump design and engineering. I swear, this thing will outlive me. Talk about value for the dollar! It’s been worth every cent- although the price tag, when I Iast checked- was a dizzying $52.99! Greatness has always come at a price, I suppose. And then again, I haven’t had to purchase an air pump for 28 years, so what do I know?
We all have our favorite product, be it a protein skimmer, high-tech powerhead, light bulb, etc. Mine is just a humble air pump. Well, not just an air pump. It’s a noble and reliable little device that has powered my aquatic hopes and dreams for almost three decades. A family heirloom. It’s not just a piece of aquarium equipment- it’s a part of my family! Live long and prosper, my little brown friend. To me, you are truly the Greatest one!
Till next time….