The reef and saltwater aquarium hobby has reached such a state of maturity and sophistication that every year we are bestowed with a dizzying number of new and exciting products. There is an increasing number of new releases from the reef aquarium industry every year and when so many companies are trying to cash in on the growing hobbyist market for reef tanks, it can get quite confusing to make sense of it all.
With the Reef Builders Studio in full swing we have even more opportunities to put all these new offerings from various companies across the saltwater aquarium hobby through their paces. A dozen display tanks and counting makes it so much easier to both test these new aquarium products, and especially to find the sweet spot of sizes and applications where these products truly shine.
It is a distinct honor and privilege that we get to see, use and test many of these groundbreaking new devices, additives, and equipment, sometimes even well before they are released. 2019 was a year of great new product releases, most of them being in the iterative category, but these raised the bar nonetheless, and we are pleased to share with you our top picks for Best Products of 2019!
We’ve actually been using the hanna Salinity Checker since around December of 2018; but since it didn’t really start shipping until the following January, this is one great aquarium device that had to wait a whole year before getting its proper recognition. This handy, waterproof salinity measuring device has all but replaced our traditional and digital refractometers, and as long as users regularly calibrate this salinity tool, it should become your go-to as well.
From the moment we saw the Kamoer X1, as long as it lived up to its spec sheet we knew that this would be one of the best new small dosers in the aquarium hobby. At sixty bucks for wireless, controllable, programmable dosing of small liquid volumes, as long as you keep it well serviced and calibrated there’s no other doser we can recommend for aquarists on a budget.
The Purple Helix/Pink Fusion ‘Coralline in a Bottle’ is such a useful and effective product that it’s a wonder why the live food companies didn’t think of it first. We used to concoct what we called a ‘Coralline Soup’ for our customers when we worked retail by gathering scraped CCA from the glass of our display tanks. If you’re wanting coralline algae to grow, you need the right conditions but most of all you need live Coralline to seed your tank with, and this product is helping lots of reefers do just that.
Cycling an aquarium with a bottle of bio-juice has been one the holy grail products of the broader aquarium hobby for generations. There’s actually countless options to do just that available from LFS all over the world, but these are all delicate bacterial strains which have a limited shelf life, hence the need to keep them refrigerated. MicroBacter Start XLM breaks this cycle by having a very long shelf life and is also resistant to environmental extremes.
It was very impressive to see how quickly and directly MBS XLM eliminated our very high ammonia levels in a new fish tank. Visualizing this trend using the sensitive Seneye monitor and the detailed data plot really demonstrated what this product can do, saltwater aquarium cycling will never be the same.
The HydroTek pumps introduced by My Reef Creations are part of a special class of water movers that are reserved for the very largest aquariums. Before the aquarium hobby became flush with powerful, high volume, & controllable DC pumps, external options similar to the HydroTek were quite common.
MRC really pushed the envelope with their HydroTek pumps which are made in the USA, quiet, efficient, with durable seals, and are supported by a five year warranty. Even if you or no one you know uses a HydroTek-class water pump, they are discretely powering the fish stores, coral farms, wholesalers and the jumbo aquarium displays.
Although Red Sea played it really safe with their Reefer Skimmer, the three models of this crucial aquarium device deliver on features. performance and especially value. The collection cup is one of the biggest for a skimmer this size, and together with the built-in manual neck cleaner you can go a month or two between having to actually clean this thing of skimmate. At just $549 for the largest model which can comfortable handle hundreds of gallons, the value proposition of the Reefer Skimmer is really hard to beat, although we would really love to see a souped-up DC powered model with an external pump to take advantage of the Reefer tanks’ capacious sumps!
Without question, the MaxSpect Aeraqua Duo protein skimmer is one of the most ambitious aquarium filtration devices releases not only this year, but in our aquarium career. The protein skimming function of the Aeraqua may be familiar to all reefer, but how MaxSpect went about this is beyond revolutionary.
Everything about the way a protein skimmer works was reimagine in the Aeraqua Duo and it could take the title for the most effective protein skimmer by size that we’ve ever seen or used. If you like reef aquarium equipment and gadgetry, do yourself a favor by going back and reading the original review, and watching the review video – we can only hope that more reef aquarium companies are as courageous in designing future reef gear as MaxSpect was with the Aeraqua Duo.
Two thousand nineteen was a big year for Red Sea, and the ReefLED certainly was an outsize part of that. Outside the lights Red Sea included with their Max line of tanks, we can’t think of a single stand-alone light that they’ve ever made, LED or otherwise.
Red Sea took their sweet time joining the LED reef lighting party but it was worth it because they got the ReefLED almost perfect. The ultraviolet ‘moonlight’ is an odd choice, but the Red Sea ReefLED sits at a highly desirable intersection of value, performance and features.
We don’t believe that we’ve ever recognized an entire product line as one of the best of the year, but that’s exactly what we are doing with the entire line of new LED lights from AquaIllumination. The Hydras and the Primes live at every price point and application, covering the widest range of tanks than they ever have.
Now that the smallest to the largest of AI’s LED lights all use the same core design as a foundation, picking between one Hydra 32 and two Prime 16s is a matter of the application and personal taste. No matter what you choose you’ll get the same great light, color rendition and controls that we come to expect from the pioneers of aquarium lighting.
Literally for years we’ve been lamenting the fact that we don’t have any real, heavy duty, reliable heater solutions for our aquariums. European aquarists have long had access to the fabled Schego heaters to use with their preferred thermostat. Not only did Bulk Reef Supply commission Scego to make their titanium heaters in a 110v version, but they also co-developed a special version of the InkBird temperature controller. If your aquarium demands reliability, durability, and precision, there’s basically no other option for aquarium heating than the BRS/Schego/Inkbird combination.