Last year was about as exciting a time to be a reefer as it was to be a reporter in this unique hobby and industry. Of course we saw the regular crop of water pumps, lights, additives and much more, but we also got a sneak peek at some devices we could never have conceived even five years ago.
Things like alkalinity monitors and controllers, movable LED lights, automatic filter rolls and many more really helped to keep the reef aquarium hobby on the cutting edge of technology and progress. It was incredibly difficult to narrow down the field to only ten products that helped raise the bar in this wide world of reef aquariums.
For the second year in a row Rossmont surprised the reefing world with something we’d never seen before. The Rossmont Riser is the world’s first AC pump which is controllable using their own Waver device. For just $99 you get a very decent, quiet and reliable return pump but when you plug it into Rossmont’s Waver all of a sudden you get the convenience of a flow-adjustable water pump. We’d be surprised if Rossmont didn’t introduce a needle wheel version of the Riser for protein skimmers sometime this year so they can continue their winning streak.
Pax Bellum’s ARID reactors for growing macroalgae in an enclosed chamber are not new but they deserve to be a product of the year in 2017 for two reasons. First of all, 2017 saw the widespread adoption of the ARID in a wide range of sizes from California to Australia. Furthermore, this device single handedly kicked off a whole cottage industry of copy cats and knock off, none of which have the feature set and especially that radical centrally mounted LED light bar. Sure it’s expensive, overbuilt, but gosh darn this thing really grows the heck out of macroalgae and everyone who’s used them swears by them.
To be perfectly honest, when I first saw Stax rocks in real life a lot of things came to mind but ‘awesome’ was not one of them. My initial impression was that this was some kind of ploy to turn scrap rock into a sellable product but I quickly changed my mind when I saw how easily anyone could arrange these rocks to produce interesting and stable aquascapes. These aquarium rock ‘legos’ are far and away the best ‘scaping material for small to medium sized tanks. I’ve also come to absolutely love the abundant opportunities for flat spaces and holes that Stax provides for placement of a wide range of corals and coral frags.
It’s quite rare for a product to be selected as one of the best of an entire year when we’ve never tried it ourselves. I have my personal reasons and own methods for not relying on a computer to keep tabs on my aquarium alkalinity but for those who do, the KH Guardian will be remembered as the first of its kind. Despite the high price tag everyone who’s used one raves about the machine for one simple reason, it simply works. There might be somewhat of a learning curve to set it up, a little bit of unconventional maintenance to keep it humming, but if pegging alkalinity at a particular level is very important to you, you still can’t do much better than the original KH Guardian.
Biota Palau has for the second year in a row made the list for the year’s best aquarium ‘products’ with another important first in captive breeding. In 2016 the bristle tail filefish quite literally transformed the way to eradicate aiptasia and majano anemones in a reef tank. In 2017 it was the introduction of the world’s first captive bred Borbonius anthias, one of the classic holy grails of anthias. Having been bred in Palau these fish have all the colors and bodacious fins of their wild counterparts but being bred in captivity, they have a much better chance to thrive in home aquariums since they are already adapted to a captive diet, warmer temperatures and generally having been treated with TLC for their entire lives.
Matt Wittenrich made his mark on captive breeding aquarium fish long ago but he returned to the spotlight at MACNA 2017 with Poma Labs, a new company focused on captive breeding exotic aquarium fish. Just so no one would ever doubt his aquarium fish breeding skills, Dr. Wittenrich wowed everyone in attendance with not just one new cultured fish, but a whole catalog of them representing most of the Chaetodontoplus genus. Of course the crowning achievement was a handful of captive bred conspicuous angelfish, one of the most coveted and beautiful aquarium fish which is very rarely seen at a small size. We’ll never forget how our jaw dropped when we saw a tank full of tiny cultured singapore, blueline and conspic angelfish and we cannot wait to see what breakthroughs Poma Labs will stun the world with next.
From the moment I first saw the Aqamai KPS I knew that if this pump could do what was promised at that hundred dollar price point I knew that it would be a front-runner for this year’s list of best reef aquarium products. By comparison the Vortech MP10 is pricey and way more powerful than a nano tank needs, the Tunze NanoStream which won in 2016 is a behemoth next to the KPS. $99, tiny size, wireless control and pretty much flawless operation makes the Aqamai KPS one of the best controllable nano aquarium pumps ever made. No telling how the new larger Aqamai KPM will fare when it is released but for now, the KPS is likely to be our pump of choice for all nano reef tanks under twenty gallons.
There’s no denying that the Red Sea Reefer range of tanks are some of the most coveted for building reef tanks not just in America and Europe but around the world. I’ve always loved the extra dimension and viewing area of Peninsula style reef tanks so when Red Sea announced the Reefer Peninsula line, it was almost a given that they would make the year’s top 10 list once again. In person the Reefer Peninsula are everything you’d expect from Red Sea with excellent build quality, high clarity glass, great modern stands and a very complimentary lighting solution. A lot of manufacturers are trying to do what Red Sea has done for the All in One aquarium space but so far there isn’t really a close second when it comes to this segment of the aquarium market.
I know what you’re thinking, the Seachem Tidal is just a power filter but what a power filter it is! Reef and saltwater tanks don’t have to all be reef-ready, overflow boxes with sumps, skimmers, reactors and a whole suite of gadgets. Sometimes you just want to have a simple tank and the Seachem Tidal has been perfect for my prized black phantom angelfish. It’s quiet and efficient, self-priming with a heater holder, a dial to adjust flow and another to adjust the ratio of surface to subsurface intake and the outflow really pushes water across the tank. It’s a pity that the ball was dropped on the available medias and filter pads/foams but with that removable basket the Seachem Tidal really improves everything that aquarists love about the decades old AquaClear power filters.
The Maxspect Recurve really is like getting three lights in one. Its row of powerful LED clusters are supplemented by controllable LED strips which can be angled to achieve a desired lighting intensity. The Recurve is a solution to a problem that some aquarists don’t yet know that they have, with mostly point source lighting and a highly variable field of light.
When reefers spend big bucks on one or more LED lighting fixtures they expect these lights to be the alpha and omega their lighting needs. But what many have found out is that there’s a big gap between the super uniform light field of T5 fluorescent and the mostly-point source of LED spotlights and LED clusters. Having very broad spread and counting on light bouncing off the glass helps a little bit with hard shadowing but RealTalk, there’s no substitute for having light originating from more points and Maxspect really nailed it with the Recurve.
Selecting the year’s best reef aquarium products is somewhat personal from my own experiences, and highly subjective depending on what you value most in aquarium devices and products. If you agreed with these selections go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments below and if you feel there were some other stand out products last year that really helped your reefing experience, go ahead and make yourself heard down below!