If there’s one thing that is inherently different about water pumps we’re using today compared to ten years ago, it’s the explosion of direct current and controllable water pumps. Propeller pumps from Tunze and Ecotech Marine have always been of this variety, so we’re really talking about the centrifugal pumps that power our protein skimmers and filtration sumps.
In this category the Tunze Silence pumps and Royal Exclusiv Red Dragons have been around for the longest but it can reasonably be argued that this category really kicked off with the Waveline pumps from Reef Life Support Systems. These water movers with variable speed of just a few increments served as the template upon which an army of Chinese made water pumps have been sold to aquarists under generic names as well as private label.
To be fair, there’s a ton of high performance and controllable pumps from many great brands such as Abyzz, Aqua Medic, Skimz, Sunpole, and even Rio and Aqua El are getting in on the action. But to further narrow the discussion of these pumps we really want to focus on the ‘Smart’ DC pumps which go beyond the 6 or 10 speed manual controller with advanced features that are often accessible through a standalone smartphone app. Sicce may have been the first to dub their pumps as ‘Smart DC’ but there’s definitely a new category of return pumps that do a lot more than the Mag Drives and Little Giants of old.
Ecotech Marine was far from the first company to deliver a controllable DC return pump but they were the first to make one that could be programmed. Using a Reeflink as the wireless hub and the Ecosmart Live platform, with the Vectra M1 and L1 you could make these pumps dance and flow however you like.
Whether it was a gentle pulse in a closed loop setup, or varying the water flow coming from your return pump throughout the day, the Vectra pumps were the hobby’s first taste at intelligent return pumps. The high performance Vectra M1 & L1 were mostly limited to large and extra large aquariums but with the release of the smaller S1 topping out at 1,500 gallons, we’re about to get smart water flow on many more and smaller aquariums.
Sicce is the company that is going all-in with smart controllable DC return pumps. Not only is Sicce making a centrifugal pump with intelligent controls, they’ve gone ahead and developed the uber popular PSK into a controllable version too!
The Sicce Sychra are the industry leader for their category, with the most efficient, quiet and reliable motors so we expect even greater benefits from their Smart DC centrifugal and needle wheel versions. These pumps are still very new with the SDC models just beginning to roll out to users but they will also have cloud connected features and we just can’t wait to put them through their paces.
Current USA has been dominating the affordable LED space in America and now they’re pushing more and more into other parts of the aquarium ecosystem. The Eflux return pump is available in three sizes that max out at 1000gph to 3000 gph which address the needs of very small to very large aquariums.
What we love about Current USA’s DC return pumps is that they work standalone with a simplified controlled, as well as in conjunction with the LOOP controller system. This kind of duality of function really is the best for consumers since it doesn’t force them into a sandboxed ecosystem and still offers a higher degree of functionality if there is a need for them.
If it wasn’t for Rossmont this entire article would be focused on solely DC pumps but this up-and-coming company from Italy is showing the aquarium world that innovation is possible with AC motors. On the surface the Riser is a good value, quiet and good performing AC return pump for a reasonable price.
But when you plug it into their Waver controller box you get all the controlling features of a typical DC pump. Couple this with their high value Mover propeller pumps and you’ve got the beginnings of a very attractive aquarium ecosystem, one which offers the kind of flexibility of plug and play that we’ve never seen before.
Finally, one of the most interesting new intelligent controllable pumps to be announced is the MaxSpect Turbine Duo. Much like the Gyre pump, the Turbine Duo has a centrally placed motor with a volute on both sides of the body.
These can be used separately to feed the main display as well as either a manifold or a chiller, a must in many tropical climates, or they can be combined for added flow into the aquarium. Some purists will prefer to stick with the classic single motor per outlet but this design really resonates with many as the idea of doing more with less power or money is always welcome in the aquarium hobby.
Surely we haven’t seen the last of controllable water pumps for our aquariums, and indeed the smart pumps have barely begun being implemented widely on reef tanks, and especially on protein skimmers. Moving forward wireless control and programming of water pumps will become almost standard for many aquariums, and the pumps & companies highlighted above are pushing the envelope of what is possible, and what we should expect from these types of devices in the future.