Another year has come and gone, and that means that it’s time for one of everyone’s favorite posts, the annual Reef Builders Editor’s Choice Awards. It’s crazy to think that what was once a novel exercise on our part has become a reef aquarium tradition.
2016 was a truly great year for new reef gear, and the insane part is that some of the best products announced this year have not yet been released, or were released too late to be considered. One thing is clear, if 2016 is a sign of what we can expect to see in 2017, this is going to be a very fun year for the reef aquarium gearheads this year, and we can’t wait to tell you all about it!
We hope you enjoy this new video addition to our year in reviews. Let us know in the comments what you liked best, what you think should have made the list, and what YOU are looking forward to the most in 2017.
The ZooMed Low Boy aquarium is a tank design we’ve seen countless times over the years, but they were always custom made, and usually in acrylic. If you’re just into ‘reef tanks’ you probably don’t get how useful the Low Boy is with its peculiar dimensions.
However if you’re a diehard ‘frag hobbyist’, and you love to frag, love to work with and propagating corals, then the benefits of the Low Boy as a working Coral Table is immediately clear. This is the first frag tank of tis kind to be made for the mass market, and especially one out of glass, that you’ll be able to find at all the chain pet stores, as well as your local LFS.
There’s some clear benefits to using fluorescent lighting, and what the E5 retro tubes from Euroquatics did was make it commonplace to get the best of both fluorescent and LED lighting. Now you don’t even need to buy a whole new fixture to enjoy the benefits of LED lighting. Any pedestrian aquarists can easily go into a fish store, pick up some E5 tubes and swap some or all of their fluorescent lamps.
The E5 LED replacements for T5 HO tubes was announced in late 2015, but didn’t really start making the rounds until early 2016. The E5 HO didn’t break any records, didn’t push the envelope of what LEDs could do, but instead they did something better.
The choice of being able to meter your investment in E5 lamps is part of their appeal, and we’ve seen many european reef aquarists really take to this new technology. You know a product is a great one when it invents a new product category and companies start copying the concept before the year is out, but that’s ok because Euroquatics has new and improved E5X tubes on the way!
Piscine Energetics has built an unquestionably iconic brand in the aquarium hobby with their frozen PE Mysis. We can’t even imagine how many tons are fed to aquarium fish around the world on a weekly basis, from home aquariums to public institutions.
With the development of their own ‘slow-batch’ process for creating pellets and flake food, Piscine Energetics is further cementing their brand as the only one to consider when treating your fish to mysis shrimp. There’s no doubt that aquarists are going to get hooked on PE Flakes & PE Pellets the way they have with the frozen stuff, and we expect to see these products at virtually all better aquarium stores around the country.
With the introduction of their bristeltail filefish, Biota Aquariums might be kickstarting a new trend that no one had foreseen. Of course we love captive bred fish for their ease of care in captivity – after all, they’ve known aquarium foods all their lives, they’re already diseased free, and perfectly conditioned for aquarium life.
However, by “creating” a fish that is tasked with a purpose, Biota has opened our eyes to new possibilities from captive bred fish. Captive bred dottybacks are already known to be more docile than wild specimens, and the limited number of CB pygmy angelfish have reduced interest in grazing our aquarium corals. But just imagine if we could train some new fish species to eat undesirable pests, or raise yellow tangs to really mow down nuisance algaes?
There is no doubt that one side of the aquarium hobby is obsessed with the perfection of the glass boxes we call aquariums. Perfect seams, high clarity glass, and an overall flawless design is what we cherish in an aquarium, and the new tanks from Ultum Nature Systems completely embody this ideal.
The crowning feature of UNS aquariums is their mitered corners which creates a higher surface area for silicone to bond the two panes. The resulting tanks from UNS are just perfect foundations for aquariums where aesthetic is important, and they’re quite affordable compared to similar tanks from Europe.
When Aqua Illumination first released the tricolor AI Sol, we knew from then on that all great reef lights would use a combination of blue LEDS. When we first used the Mame Bean light and the multicolor spectrum, we knew that LED lights in the future would have full color control, and all of todays best lights do.
LupyLED certainly had one big long run up to actual reveal, but once we saw how it paints with light, we knew that great reef aquarium lights of the future would also have this feature. The first generation of LupyLED lights called The One, are clearly aimed at the upscale market, with single fixtures costing as much as complete reef tanks.
The technology has to start somewhere and LupyLED is just getting started. Much as Tesla kicked off their company with the Roadster sportscar to finance development of more affordable cars, TheOne from LupyLED is also just the opening salvo from this company and we expect to see more great lights from this company in the future.
The Loop System is one of the most advanced reef aquarium systems we’ve ever seen for the masses. Instead of developing an ecosystem the fraction of aquarists that are ‘Control Freaks’, the Loop system just puts together the best of what you need, without a deluge of features to overwhelm you.
The trinity of aquarium devices, pump, powerhead and lights are hard wired together in a very straightforward way, while all the setting and features are available with included remote. You can dive deeper into some of the functions with the Loop App, but really the dedicated remote gives you easy access to everything you could want to program.
With the Loop System Current USA is barely scratching the surface with what is possible when you use practical and essential aquarium gear, and make it affordable.
The aforementioned products are all very great, and clearly some of the best new reef gear we saw over the last year. However, the following three reef aquarium devices are a cut above; they’re not just some of the best of the year, but some of the best devices we’ve ever had the pleasure of using on our aquariums, and likely to remain our top picks in their categories for several years.
The small size of the Tunze 9410DC Doc skimmer masks its abilities but it really skims like one of the big boys.One of the “Best Skimmers Ever” we proclaimed only a couple months into using it, and we stand by that statement. We would comfortably recommend the 9410DC for up to a 100 gallon reef tank with a light fish load.
The experience of using the Tunze 9410DC is hard to convey, but simply put, this is one silent skimmer that requires very little room, very little maintenance, and you can dial it up or down with the simple twist of the controller dial. The Tunze 9410DC Doc skimmer is going to be one of our favorites for a long time to come!
From the humble introduction of their basic Mover powerheads, we never could have imagined that this company would grow to become one of the best in the aquarium hobby. The Mover was a nice pump, but it’s the higher capacity Mover MX that really put this company on the map.
Quiet, efficient, low profile, affordable and a great flow spread are noth qualityies we’d expect to find all in a single pump but Rossmont has done this with the Mover MX pumps, and more. Not only are these pumps some of the most efficient at moving water per dollar, with the introduction of the Waver they are also the most affordable controllable pumps too!
This is the kind of perfection that can be achieved when you do one thing, and do it well, but we can’t wait to see what other products Rossmont is working on in the near future.
Likewise, it’s no surprise that Aqua Illumination scoops another annual Editor’s Choice award, this time with the Prime HD. This light might be small, but it is definitely no slouch, and it is THE light for other manufacturers to beat moving forwards.
Small package, built in wireless, a killer app, great colors, power redistribution, and very useful accessories make the AI Prime HD one of the best LED lights ever made, period! But what makes the Prime HD standout is it’s very affordable price.
At just $225 for 55 watts of all this high tech LED power, we’d rather use two of the Primes than one Hydra 26 HD, and you might get away with using three Prime HDs instead of one Hydra 52 HD. With the perfect blend of spotlight and regular fixture form factors, the Prime HD from Aqua Illumination is one of the most versatile lights the aquarium hobby has ever seen, and the only question remaining is where does AI go from here?