It’s that time of year again, that time when we get to share with you the finest new products that greatly improved our reefkeeping experience over the last orbit of the earth around the Sun. Compared to last year’s Editor’s Choice awards for 2012, there’s a lot more substance to the devices in this year’s list.
Some notable runners-up to this year’s 10 best products of 2013 include the Ecotech ReefLink and AI Director, but those devices don’t inherently do anything unless you’re invested in those companies ecosystem of devices. Innovative Marine’s Aqua Gadget MiniMax reactor and Cobalt Aquatics EXT Canister were also shortlisted for consideration but at the end of the day, those are both tubes of water with water flowing through them. Reef Pest Solutions “All Out” was also considered but this product doesn’t make the aquarium better, it just makes things “less bad”, and although it really works we would only advise its use to experienced coral reefers.
There were so many great products that we wanted to acknowledge for kicking reef aquarium butt in 2013 but we were compelled to limit the list to the 10 best products that could appeal to anyone with a reef tank, regardless of their aquarium experience or where their aquarium is at. More than any other year, the ten best products of 2013 are not esoteric in their nature, and more mainstream than ever. We feel very strongly, and very good, about the ten best products of the year; we’ve very much enjoyed almost all of them on our personal tanks and we know you will too, if you haven’t already.
Without further delay, here are our favorite new products for 2013 and be sure to make yourself heard in the comments if you agreed, disagreed or have another favorite to which you want to direct our attention.
AcroPower – If you are not using AcroPower on your coral aquarium or reef tank, we don’t even know why you bother keeping corals. We kid, but the effects of AcroPower are so pronounced there’s nothing else we know of that can crank your corals up to eleven. If you’ve never used an Amino Acid supplement for corals you’ll be amazed at what this clear liquid can do for your tank and if you are using some form of coral aminos, the effect of AcroPower is substantially more effective. Seriously, get yourself a bottle, you won’t regret it.
Neptune Automatic Feeding System – We are “this close” to installing our own AFS at home, but a product this groundbreaking and accessible can claim the Editor’s Choice based on potential alone. Last year featured an automatic feeder as well, the Coral Shop’s Channel One doser but it’s 10x the price and 5x the complexity of the Neptune Systems AFS.
Automatic feeding controlled by a device as reliable as the Apex could be the missing link in feeding and keeping certain fish and coral species in aquarium for a long term. That and the use of Crossover Diet food for both fish and corals has the capability to change the game for how we keep certain fish and coral species and we can’t wait to see what the hobby will do to make the AFS work for them.
AzureLite – As much time as we spend looking and peaking and poking around our tanks, it’s amazing to think that a special reef aquarium flashlight has never really been made available just for reefers. Sure the Coral Fluorescent Protein (CFP) flashlights are neat, but their split spectrum is cool mostly for the coral pigment geeks and same with the NightSea flashers.
The AzureLite is plenty bright, with an adjustable beam that can light up a foot wide swath of reef or it can be narrowed to focus in on a coral you want to inspect, even in bright lighting. The color of the AzureLight is spot-on and its the first flashlight we keep handy for more frequent night time visual aquarium raids than ever before.
Innovative Marine Nuvo Shallow Reef – For a while there, it seemed like Innovative Marine seemed to be content to release nothing but “me too” products to fill up shelf space at the LFS but they came out of the gate real hot this year. A whole suite of hot releases culminated in the innovative Nuvo Shallo Reef series of all-in-one aquariums.
The broad footprint of the Nuvo SR aquariums include a substantial filtration area in the rear and a lot of real estate for keeping and growing corals. With nothing to plumb and some really stylish design cues, the Nuvo SR aquariums is the kit we’d recommend to our parents and grandparents, but we wouldn’t mind setting up and using one ourselves.
Hydor Smart Level Control – There was a slew of new Auto Top Off (ATO) devices launched this year, with lots of different features and price points, but the Hydor Smart Level stands out the most. And since Hydor’s been working on it for more than two years, it’s no surprise that the Smart Level came out solid and polished.
A single probe from the Hydor Smart Level measures both high and low water level, simple switch and obvious indicators make the Hydor ATO the easiest to use and install. At $89 the Hydor is the most affordable ATO in the pack and while it doesn’t come with a top off pump, most of us have an extra one around.
Current USA Satellite + LED striplight – Like the Marineland Double Bright LED before it, the Current USA Satellite + LED striplight paves the way for a new generation of controllable, programmable LED strip lights. The Satellite + LED is not a reef light, and very few of you will be getting one for the polyps and fuzzy coral sticks but its effect will be felt.
With four channels of built-in control for individually setting the intensity of white, blue, red and green colors, with all kinds of moon, storm, lighting and color settings, the remote controlled Satellite + LED is going to shape of things to come in entry level and high end LED lights for a long time to come. But for now, the Satellite + LED is a really nice light for the freshwater tank, for fish tanks or for adding a little extra photons on any kind of aquarium.
Vertex Libra Dosing Pump – While most aquarium product manufacturers are in a “race to the bottom” to build the cheapest, lowest cost dosing pumps, Vertex headed the other direction with their top shelf doser, the Libra. No other dosing pump system for aquarium even comes close to the level of programmability of the Vertex Libra. A touchscreen interface accesses a simple, easy navigation menu and robotic stepper motors for the peristaltic pump heads gives the Vertex Libra an unmatched level of precision in dosing aquarium additives.
Vertex Omega 150 protein skimmer – There are a lot of three to four hundred dollar skimmers on the market, and lots of decent Chinese protein skimmer in that price range. But when it comes to the $379 Vertex Omega 150 protein skimmer, this is one of the few aquarium products that we feel really comfortable saying you get more than you pay for.
By and large, the Omega 150 is the skimmer of 2013 with scores of commercial facilities investing in armies of the Vertex Omega Cone instead one large protein skimmer. Don’t let its small size fool ya, it may have a small footprint and a modest height, but the custom volute on the Sicce pump produces and injects a massive amount of air into this battle-tested protein skimmer design.
NanoBox Reef Flare and Tide LED fixtures – After years of being a sort-of polished small batch LED lighting manufacturer, 2013 saw NanoBox Reef finally blossom into the high end, small-batch LED light maker we always knew they could be. The NanoBox Reef Flare and Tide LEDs are now being built in LED clusters of diverse, high quality diodes and in custom colors that are the first aquarium devices of any kind which can be personalized upon ordering in a cornucopia of professional paint jobs.
BuildMyLed striplights – There is something inherently liberating about ordering up an LED striplight, and getting to pick exactly the LEDs I want and in their placement. We’re not talking about a few piddling choices of LED colors, but a complete catalog of LED colors in just about any spectrum you can imagine.
This is the magic that BuildMyLED delivered in their striplights last year. It was enough that BML built some fantastic striplights with good components, angling tank mounts and a built-in 90 degree diffuser-lens. But by being able to select your own colors in the BuildMyLED striplight, BML is giving us a window into a future where one size doesn’t fit all, where an LED striplight can be exactly what you want in terms of color and power.