There’s no doubt that this has been an unusual year for the aquarium hobby as well as the rest of the world. With so many of us stuck in our homes we’ve been able to give our tanks more attention than ever before but thankfully, we still had an abundance of new aquarium products to enjoy on our reef tanks.
There certainly was fewer new product releases in 2020 than in previous years however we kept quite busy testing and reviewing lots of new gear around the Reef Builders Studio. Aquarium product manufacturers delivered many different new releases that demonstrated an impressive level of innovation, a high degree of polish, and really raised the bar for what reef builders come to expect from the best companies in the reefing world.
In various ways, all of these products increased our expectations of performance, efficiency, and value, and there’s a good reason we are using every single one of them throughout the dozen marine aquariums we maintain. Moreso than previous years we’re very confident that our picks for the top 10 new products of 2020 are going to be enjoyed and celebrated for many years to come.
Avast Plank Auto Feeder – This new auto feeder from Avast Marine uses an innovative feeding mechanism with an screw-type auger to slowly dispense foods of all kinds. This completely 3-D printed auto feeder offloads the timing and duration of the feeding schedule to controllable outlets giving users flexibility and maximum control, continuing Avast Marine’s history of creating highly innovative aquarium solutions.
AquaIllumination Nero 3 – It was easy to choose AI’s first Nero 5 water pump as one of our top picks of the year and for all the same reasons the Nero 3 is highly deserving of the same recognition. No other water pump offers as much controllability and power in such a small form factor for a very reasonable price. The thin flexible power cable is an understated bonus that makes it easier to place the pump where you want and route the cable out of sight. It might be a ‘nano’ pump but you can easily enjoy the Nero 3 on medium-sized reef tanks
Versa VX1 Doser – Ecotech Marine worked on the engineering and development of their first peristaltic dosing pump literally for years, going so far as to design their own specially designed motor. As impressive as the hardware is, what makes the Versa such a versatile fluid pumping tool is the integration with the Mobius control platform. The Versa VX-1 can do it all, from miniscule drop-by-drop dosing to high volume water changes but our favorite feature is the pumps reliable continuous dosing mode which we consider crucial to ideal dosing of kalkwasser or feeding a calcium reactor.
Reef Energy Plus – More so than electrical devices, we find it very hard to select additives as a top new product of the year. Most additives in the reef aquarium hobby and their formulas are very mature, leaving very little room for improvement. However Red Sea has historically had a very unique approach to feeding coral – it would be so easy for them to sell a powdered food in markets all over the world, but they’ve fully committed to the Reef Energy liquid food.
Ref Energy was previously available in separate A and a B formulas, both of which needed to be refrigerated, but with Reef Energy B Plus Red Sea has both combined and improved on their formula and made it ‘15% more effective’. When corals are bleached, sick, or otherwise not expanding their tentacles they can’t catch particulate foods, but Reef Energy Plus is a unique form of nutrition they can absorb directly from the water.
Maxspect Jump Skimmer – The Maxspect Jump Skimmer is a very unusual part of this new product roundup because it’s a ‘concentrated’ version of last year’s Aeraqua Duo. The Maxspect Jump Skimmer not just a smaller model, but more of a pared-down budget version of the original which shaves $300 from the total price. Maxspect achieved this by foregoing advanced features such as wireless control but uses a smaller DC controllable pump that keeps the dual impeller, dual needle wheel design to produce a respectable cloud of air and water.
UltraReef Akula Skimmer– UltraReef has been making some version of the Akula protein skimmer for over a decade with incremental improvements every year. This year happens to be the first year that we got to try out and use UltraReef’s midrange protein skimmer and we couldn’t be any more impressed. Before you even turn it on, the craftsmanship absolutely screams quality when handling the parts and pieces of the Akula skimmer.
A pretty face is enough to get our attention but once we got it fired up and running, we were beyond impressed with how much skimmate the Akula skimmer produces. UltraReef uses a slightly modified version of the Sicce PSK 900 pump called the PSK 1000+ and we don’t know how it all comes together, but this foam fractionator punches well above its weight class, and it doesn’t break the bank either.
Aquavitro Division Skimmer– Seachem’s first piece of equipment made specifically for the saltwater aquarium certainly took a lot of reefers by surprise. Seachem made the Division skimmer unique by eschewing the modern trends of massive air and big pump which makes them both space-saving, low energy, and quiet.
But what we appreciate most about the Division skimmer is that much like LED lights, the war for pure performance has leveled off and Seachem fell back on proven attributes like contact time. The Aquavitro Division skimmer may not fly out the gate with a cup full of watery skimmate, but once it breaks in it will definitely hold its own with some of the stinkiest dark sludge you could ever hope to pull from reef aquarium water.
CADE Reef S2 – The CADE Reef S2 is one of the most exciting new products to hit American shores after being first enjoyed by our Australian reefing family. We’d seen this piece of kit around the block and at events but it wasn’t until we got one in our own hands that we truly understood what this all in one aquarium is really about. The Cade Reef S2 900 is the model that we selected to build a specifically Australian themed aquarium and we were incredibly impressed with everything it came with.
All the hard plumbing was precut and fit together with quick-disconnect fittings, the continuous siphon overflow completely silences the drain, and an expansive controller board and power center helps users make quick work of cable management. But the signature of this tank is that it’s one of the first to include a metal frame stand, with suicide doors on the side, and of course the glass itself is of the highest clarity and the build quality is as top notch as it gets.
Kessil AP9X – Kessil LED spotlights have an enthusiastic following and their fans weren’t disappointed by the company’s second aquarium light fixture. Kessil made their new light not only impossibly small but also incredibly bright. The small and lightweight form factor makes the fixture highly flexible in mounting so you can get the most from the light and of course their signature deep purple spectrum is one of the best at bringing out the fluorescent colors of our beloved corals.
Radion Gen 5 Blue and Pro – Almost every generation of Ecotech Marine’s flagship aquarium light have been recognized as a top product of the year but the fifth generation is one of the most deserving. The Radion Gen 5 now comes in a standard Pro and a Blue version so users can tune the spectrum according to their personal taste.
But without question the newest Radion lights are the brightest and most versatile LED lights ever offered to the aquarium hobby. By almost doubling the LEDs Ecotech increased the light output to a ludicrous degree and the fixture has more colors and more control channels than ever before. The optics spread out all that light well beyond anything we’ve ever seen which means you need even fewer fixtures to cover a a reef tank and having two separate moonlight colors and control channels is an added bonus for stimulating sexual coral reproduction.