In the early days of the reefing hobby, you could make just about any claim about the needs of aquariums and reef tanks and there’d hardly be anyone or anything to prove you otherwise. Long before the internet could come along and sort out most charlatans, smoke & mirror devices and snake oil products, you could hawk just about anything to gullible aquarists.
Before the world wide web connected reefers from every corner of the globe, the local fish store was our internet for learning and sharing information. This worked really well to spread great information and new tips for the most part, but with human nature involved and profits at stake, certain beliefs about aquariums became outsized in importance.
Over time virtually all of the useless aquarium products have faded from memory and from aquarium mail order catalogs. But for some reason many legacy products of questionable efficacy are still being sold to aquarists. Most of these are pretty harmless and they won’t hurt your tank, but they are also a waste of time and you’d be better off spending your money and energy nailing down aquarium fundamentals and reefing basics.
Coral Vital is the poster child for a vintage aquarium product which has managed to cling to life in the 21st century. When we started reefing in the mid 90s, Coral Vital was all the rage and this was one of the products that every first time reefer took home with their starter aquarium kits.
We all saw how much corals opened up and polyps extended when we used Coral Vital but did we really? Sure there is probably some argument to be made that Coral Vital represented the earliest forms of liquid carbon dosing, and the organics within it may have had some positive effects on our old school reef tanks, but not at the $30 per bottle that these used to cost. And don’t even get us started on the three dozen different derivative ‘Vital’ products that were also marketed to reefer.
In theory, it’s always a good idea to have an aquarium grounding probe in your tank to rid the water of any stray voltage. But in practice this is really a superfluous aquarium device that people pay way too much money for. We’d have much less criticism for grounding probes if we were being charged a simple $5 for what is essentially a wire and a small piece of titanium.
Twenty years ago when aquarium products like heaters and powerheads were poorly sealed, it was quite common to feel a slight amount of stray voltage when placing your hands in the water, especially in highly conductive seawater. Back when we kept more small sharks in our ‘mini reef’ tanks, it was a good idea to have a grounding probe suck off any potential stray voltage.
However it might actually be counterproductive to have a grounding probe in the aquarium water. When heaters and pumps start to fail, they may leak a small amount of current into the water and this can be an early warning sign to check your equipment before it fails catastrophically. If you are worried about electrical shock, it is a much safer practice to use a GFCI outlet to interrupt any potentially dangerous electrical leaks.
The SeaClone was a joke of a protein skimmer in the nineties but it’s no laughing matter to see them on store shelves today. Sure the box and product marketing may often show what appears to be a dense frothy cloud of air & water mixing inside the tube of the SeaClone but by and large it very rarely ever performs that way.
Not only is the SeaClone one of the least effective protein skimmers you can use, it is really loud. The hang-on design of the SeaClone forces users to have a big ugly pump hang inside the tank, and several external connections on the SeaClone outside the tank is a liability for leaking, however slowly and prone to creating a unsightly amount of salt creep.
There must have been a thousand models of protein skimmers introduced to the aquarium market in the 20 years that the SeaClone has been on the market, meanwhile the SeaClone is like a living fossil, a horseshoe crab skimmer, having remained completely unchanged despite the generations of reefers who have perfected the protein skimmer design over time.
These are just the most egregious products that reefers either don’t need, or could just do much better than. We could have made this list so much longer but decided to stick to the ones that we are surprised to still see being sold. Do you agree or disagree with our list? Let us know in the comments.