It’s no secret that the keeping saltwater fish and live corals in aquariums can be a very expensive hobby. Like any other hobby or purchase in general, the old adage “you get what you pay for” is generally true.
Whether you are being thrifty by buying the cheapest product available, or whether you are investing in a premium product that will hopefully last a good long time, value is a relative term and generally in the eye of the beholder or buyer. However, due to the huge pool of money that reefers invest in their reef tanks, some companies think that we’ll just buy up whatever they are putting out.
Virtually all of the products listed here are marketed by venerable aquarium companies and we respect them all. However sometimes, these companies lean too much on their name brand to sell us overpriced or low-value products, and we know they can do better. In this week’s Top 10 story post we pin up our badge as the “value police” and introduce the most overpriced products in the aquarium, with a special emphasis on reef aquariums of course.
This list of the top 10 pricing offenders is purely subjective, and thoroughly in the realm of opinion. There is no question that the products listed here are “high quality” but when you consider their cost compared to other brand name alternatives, your money will almost certainly be better spent elsewhere.
Tropic Marin Bio Actif Sea Salt – $99 per 200 gallon bucket. Tropic Marin has been making high quality salt mixes for years and we’ll gladly pay the small premium for their basic and Pro-Reef salt mixes. However, a 200-gallon bucket of Tropic Marin Bio-Actif is about 50% more expensive than most other premium salt mixes.
Royal Exclusiv Media filters – $260 and up. Royal Exclusiv makes some of the priciest marine aquarium products and you know we had to pick out at least one product from their very expensive catalog. We truly appreciate the attention to detail and the quality of craftsmanship that goes into making all of their products, especially the protein skimmers and high performance water pumps.
However, do you really need precision lathe-machined parts to create a chamber just to hold media and pass water through it? The smallest Royal Exclusiv media filter is around $260, not including a feed pump or any hoses and if you want to react biopellets, that’ll be another $30 to $40. Yikes!
Almost every model of Deltec protein skimmer ever – Deltec once ruled the high end of marine aquarium protein skimmers with excellent craftsmanship, and the best needle wheel pumps on the market. Deltec products have always been expensive, but when Deltec went to all white construction and started using average pumps to drive their skimmers, quality control and performance both suffered while still maintaining sky-high pricing. Deltec has dabbled in making protein skimmer models that are more affordable, but by and large Deltec skimmers are still priced like it’s 1999 even though there’s tons of competition making comparable products with a much better value.
Dastaco Calcium Reactor media – $168(U.S.) or 105€ (EU) per 20Kg bucket. We love DaStaCo and we love the mere existence of a Triton-tested calcium reactor media to ensure purity. But come on, DaStaCo calcium reactor media is essentially white marble stones the likes of which can be picked up at most home improvement shops for ten cents a pound.
White marble is actually formed by the metamorphosis of high purity limestone in the first place. When you buy DaStaCo calcium reactor media you are just paying for the fact that this very common marble-stone has been lab tested, and then shipped half way across the world.
Teco E-Chill Aquarium Fans – $169 to $279. Teco makes some of the finest aquarium chillers without a doubt, but they definitely went astray with the Teco E-Chill. We appreciate the out of the box thinking that went into the E-Chills but at nearly $300 for the larger models, you’re getting close to introductory aquarium chiller prices. We don’t have to tell you how cheap fans are, and for the cost of the E-Chills you’re better off just timing the fans to come on during the hottest parts of the day.
Vivid Coral Film – $169 and up. You want us to pay how much for a thin film of yellow plastic? To do what exactly? We’re not sure what Vivid Coral Technologies is smoking, but we want some.
Dual Dosing Reservoir $199. There is no question that the Dual Dosing Reservoir is a very sexy piece of reefing kit. But $200 is a lot to pay for a one liter dosing containers with a built in
float switch level sensor to alert users to low reservoir levels. The ironic part of the DDR is that it is designed to be used with the ultra precise DOS dosing pumps. The DOS can dose fluids with such precision that the Apex Systems already knows how much volume should be left in your additive reservoirs.
Coral Propagation Kit $99. Ecotech Marine makes of lot of the reefing hobby’s best and most popular marine aquarium products but the Coral Propagation Kit is not one of them. The glue, coral cutters and unusual frag plugs are the most useful part of this kit but they surely don’t add up to $100 worth of stuff. Whoever thought that a machined Bamboo case was a good idea for a coral fragging kit must think cutting up corals is like delicate surgery when in fact, its more like really messy deconstruction.
Elos PowerSkimmer – $996/€890 and up. Elos has earned its reputation as a luxury brand and there is no question that the Elos PowerSkimmer line is incredibly beautiful to look at. However since the $250 Eshopps PSK200 uses the same Sicce PSK 600 needle wheel pump in a nearly identical design and form factor, what are you really getting in the Elos PowerSkimmer at four times the price?
Zeovit Iodide Complex. $49.99. Like royal Exclusiv, Korallen Zucht and their line of Zeovit additives are an easy target for this list of overpriced items. It can be argued that many of their additives are “unique” but Iodine is . . . elemental. Iodine is a very important element for basic biological processes, and our corals really need a steady dose to thrive and grow in our aquariums.
Iodine is also a very important antiseptic in the medical field which is why high concentration Lugol’s Solution is widely available for human use. Sure Korallen Zucht sprinkles a little magic fairy dust in their Iodide Complex additive to help corals better absorb it but corals do fine absorbing iodine in the wild without special help, and even Lugol’s Solution marketed for the aquarium hobby is a quarter the price of Zeovit’s.
Do you agree or disagree with our list? What do you think are the most egregiously overprice aquarium products? Let us know in the comments below.