For some of us, planning an aquarium system is a joy. It’s a process that allows us to makes list and complete tasks and people love making lists and checking off those tasks. For the rest of us planing an aquarium system is about as painful as car shopping.
I for one am completely burned out on researching the countless options when it comes to aquarium assembly and how many ways something can be overly complicated by following the advice of the internet. So this is where my internet advice starts.
Being an industry “professional” and one that doesn’t manufacture anything tangible or sell livestock puts me in an odd position, but a good one too. My current aquarium situation wasn’t cutting it as my corals were growing too close to the glass for cleaning comfort and the over all look wasn’t what I was wanting. The search was on yet again, I had to piece meal something from scratch and pull my hair out in the process as I knew nothing would have the fit and finish or polish I expected. Not the case though.
Early on in 2014 I was told that Red Sea would be producing a new line of system with enough wiggle room to allow customization but be complete enough that I wouldn’t need to source the components that typically break the aesthetic. So getting in the front of the line to receive a system became priority number one. Having known the guys at Red Sea long enough I wasn’t the least bit concerned with them not delivering what they were promising in an out of the box system.
Let me first say that I’m not redundantly covering specs or marketing material that Red Sea has already provided. I’d like to give an honest narrative to my experience with the system. If I can shed light on anything objectively I will, but the intended goal is to simply show and allow you to make the assumptions based on what I’ve encountered. This is an introduction to a long term evaluation of the system and the components that can be utilized in and around this system.
Enter the Red Sea REEFER 250 Aquarium System. The white variant of the REEFER 250 was selected over the black counterpart due to it fitting in with my home and I’m glad Red Sea offers the systems in two flavors and multiple size. The 36” 250 was chosen as it was something I could comfortably maintain at home while still having enough presence to fill the room it would live in. This was all based on my two decades of marine aquarium keeping experience. Now I’d like to talk a little bit more about why the system is a great fit for me and might not be for you but only you’ll know the answer to that.
The Aquarium – The REEFER 250 System comes out of the box with a trimless aquarium constructed of ridiculously clear glass and beautifully crafted seams. This is something you’d expect from the likes of ADA or a custom glass builder, not a boxed aquarium system. Every detail down to the bulkhead fitting found in the the well designed overflow seems as if someone put hours into making sure it was just right.
The experience was more like inspecting a new Triumph or Ducati motorcycle rather than an aquarium. I was actually so taken back by the planning of the system and how its components appeared to integrate that I forgot to take pictures on assembly. The dimension of this particle trim are prime for a creative aquascape layout as it isn’t too tall or deep.
Modern classic in a sense without playing into gimmicky shapes. The overflow itself is silent with a single return and a custom dual outlet drain. I even attempted to block one to see if I could make it fail, no water on the ground in my house. The easily removable grates and top will help keep maintenance in the future to a minimum. Big thumbs up at this point.
The Sump – The system also includes an equally well built sump, auto top off reservoir, and all the necessary plumbing to get you rolling. The sump itself is rather self explanatory with it being exactly what it’s supposed to be and nothing you don’t want it to.
The sizing is appropriate for the over all system and has more than enough room to place an appropriately sized skimmer and other equipment you’d find necessary for a modern reef. More on that in a moment. The spacing between each section and the constant level in the skimmer compartment seem to be just right at this time and again, it seems as if someone tried every possibly combination in R&D to come up with something that would just work.
The Auto Top Off Reservoir is actually a pretty novel design keeping things working with a simple float valve and a gravity fed glass reservoir. Even the included gray tubing provides a premium connection between the valve and the 2.1 gallon container. Connecting the tubing to my Sicce 1.5 return pump and plumbing to the bottom of the aquarium was a breeze and required no tools whatsoever.
The sump runs silently with no splashing, I assume that can change if you let your filter socks go too long, and allows no bubbles back into the display. Micro bubbles in the display and salt creep anywhere in the system are huge pet peeves of mine and I’m glad that someone at Red Sea feels that same way. More about that in a moment.
This is where I’ll get off topic slightly and talk about the importance of keeping things within balance. The common mentality of American reef keepers is bigger and more is always better. I think this is totally wrong and I couldn’t agree less. Having an over sized sump does nothing for you in the likes of stability if you are already responsible and know what you’re doing.
Being mindful of your system and having less complication leaves less room for error. The less errors the more stable the environment will be and the less likely hood for a catastrophic failure. In my practices I find that the more appropriately sized a system and it’s components are the more likely you are to be able to handle the system and view it as a whole.
So with all that said, sure you could slap a larger sump in the stand, but why? It just isn’t needed when the included one is so well laid out for most peoples needs. But I digress, it isn’t ideal for everyone. I run a Triton method based system and the lack of dedicated refugium for me is going to prove to be interesting.
Options that could provide a solution: Either a drop-in refugium will be constructed to sit next to the skimmer, a different sump will replace this one, or the auto top off reservoir might get replaced with an acrylic refugium and the reservoir relocated out of the sump as the 2.1 gallons is big enough to help but not completely stop multiple weekly top ups.
The Stand – Let’s not forget the included unconstructed stand that exceeded my expectations even though I’d already seen one assembled at ReefStock 2015. You really can’t understand the forethought that Red Sea put into this system until you start to assemble the stand yourself. When popping the box open for the stand you’re greeted with that new car smell, I have no idea if this is healthy, but it smells amazingly premium.
Savor the moment and possibly crack open a cold one at this point. Please mind that this isn’t fanboy speak, but this stand is without a doubt better than anything you could have made custom at twice the cost. It is that good.
The marine grade coating and padding lined interior are hugely convenient for cleaning up and providing some mind easing qualities. All the parts included are top quality and I see no room for possible improvement at this time. They even made sure to leave room between the sump and door hinge so you can remove the front panels if needed after sump installation. Thank you Red Sea!
The Main Complaint: Now this has been honest so far and I don’t have much to gripe about and I wasn’t exactly sure where this would fit in.
But, the center overflow… Why? I’d love to have had a corner like the other systems in this series. I’ll be removing the black back as I’m not a fan of them at all. They close off the aquascape and just look bleh IMHO. So we will see how this part pans out down the road but for now this in the introduction to the system.
I’ll be following up with “Lighting”, “Filtration” “dosing” and “Flow” suggestions in the very near future. So stay tuned.
This is a guest contribution from John Ciotti, a commercial photographer based in Los Angeles with an eye on aquarium design and aquascaping.