It’s fair to say that the first time we saw the Libra dosing pump system from Vertex Aquaristik, we were smitten. A beautiful design encloses the best stepping motors you can drive peristaltic pump heads with, and a smart controller system for the pumps, capable of doing basic stoichiometry. Better yet, all these smarts are accessed by a large, easy to read and program touch screen and very intuitive nesting menu options.
Vertex takes such great care in the design and packaging of their products, opening one of their swanky boxes always makes it feel like Christmas for the new proud owner. The Libra is no different and all the parts were neatly arranged in packaging so that it was easy to tell what was required for setup.
Physically setting up the Libra doser was also remarkably easy and the wall-mounting nature of this elite dosing package helps it stand out from the boxy dosing systems that simply sit on top of something. The one task which was quite tedious was the assembly of all the locking fittings for the feed line; you’d think that for the top shelf price the Libra commands it would come with quick disconnecting fittings a small amount of dosing line.
Minor grumbles aside, the real user experience of the Libra dosing system is in the programming. Every technical reef aquarium device that passes our review desk always gets the same test to see whether or not someone can program that device without pulling out the instructions. Being able to dive right in and get to using your reef device is not just for the first time your set it up, but also for subsequent tuning and tweaking that invariably goes with adjusting light levels and dosing amounts.
By this metric the Libra scores a big fat 10. Not only did we find the the Libra easy and fast to program the first time it was set up but adjusting the dosing amounts in 0.5 ml increments has really helped us find a sweet spot in dosing our 80 gallon SPS aquarium system. We must confess that we haven’t tested the stoichiometric feature of the Libra, but in that same vein we haven’t bothered to test the KH, Ca and Mg levels in over three months because the coral growth and color is absolutely off the hook.
The Acropora loisetteae pictured below was supposed to be a simple nice blue-tip thin branch staghorn that we hand picked in Bali this summer. We would have been happy if it remained with it’s nice blue tips but over a period of several months the entire coral has turned an exquisite teal blue. We strongly attribute the exceptional level of success in this SPS coral system to the very stable water chemistry provided by the Vertex Libra.
Sure this level of stability could have been achieved with any number of dosers, but the inviting user-friendly menu of the Libra software and the touch screen invited us to make careful adjustments much more regularly, since it was fast and easy. The one real drawback of the Libra is that despite all its smarts, it is only designed to integrate with the still-unavailable Vertex Cerebra controller. The sting of this closed-in system is compounded for us by the fact that the Libra sits mere inches from an Apex Controller.
Potential buyers of a new aquarium dosing pump system will undoubtedly be perplexed by the broad range of prices for different dosing systems. On the low end you have the Bubble Magus and Kamoer sitting at about $300 for three channel dosing and at the mid range you have the long-standing favorite, the GHL Dosing pump with four channels of dosing for about $420, and it integrates with the trusty Profilux controller.
Meanwhile, the new kid on the block, the Libra does three channels for just under $500 and although it delivers superb construction and design, the real stand out feature is the programming. Despite its sophisticated feature set, the Libra really is our favorite dosing pump for the uninitiated with dosing pump systems. Add in the smooth stoichiometric features, upgradeable firmware a potentially more-open access with future Android integration and you can see where the added value begins to become evident. In the end it will be up to the individual user to determine which dosing pump system is best for them but in our case, the Libra doser has really excelled at supporting the growth and color of demanding SPS corals and for us, that’s what counts the most.
FTC regulations require that we inform you that we were given this product for review, but our opinion of a product is never affected by how we acquire them