The turning over of a new calendar year might be an arbitrary milestone but we do appreciate this time to reflect on our reef tanks and the aquarium world, in the previous twelve months and those to come. With the massive growth of the aquarium hobby we’ve had more products to review and evaluate than ever before and it’s quite exciting to have some great new categories represented in our annual roundup of the best reef aquarium gear of 2021.
With two very big entries into the aquarium dosing market we certainly had more than enough peristaltic action to test out at the studio. Although the dosing pumps currently available to aquarists are fairly mature products, Seachem and Red Sea both managed to design and produce some of the most compelling offerings in the aquarium world. Red Sea saw fit to release a 2-channel and a 4-channel version of their ReefDose dosing pump systems with great wireless control, sensible programs and presets, and the kind of synergy with the Reef Care dosing program that you’d expect from an additive manufacturer.
Meanwhile Seachem launched their Sentia dosers under the Aquavitro brand with primary and secondary dosing units making it simple and streamlined to start with a few dosing channels and expand as user’s needs grow. The Sentia and ReefDose aren’t offering any revolutionary features or groundbreaking design but without a doubt these dosing pump systems will be some of the most popular for years to come, and they will certainly be some of the first dosing pump systems that many aquarists ever use.
The Jump L165 LED light from Maxspect is an unassuming light with a reasonable price and fairly modern features but it nails a certain kind of blue spectrum which we’ve grown to really appreciate over our orange-heavy LPS corals. The all metal construction is a refreshingly nice build quality and in a time when many fixtures are aiming to have very dispersed light spread, we have put the Jump light to good use mounted high over a medium sized tank thanks to its multiple clusters of well focused LED lenses.
Cool Mysis and Cool Green are not new products at all but they are new to us, and the large chunky flakes have become a staple food for our diverse population of marine fish. The large hearty flakes are readily enjoyed by all manner of reef fish and when bought in bulk sizes of one to three pounds the cost is a fraction of more widely available flake foods – the value of Cool Mysis and Cool Green is simply unmatched.
Some new aquarium products take time to grab our attention but others like the Kessil A500X are love at first sight. As we’ve said many times the concentration of light of Kessil’s 185 watt spotlight is the closest we’ve ever seen to venerable metal halide technology and we stand by our comments describing this high tech LED light machine as a true metal halide killer.
Before the ‘high range’ Hanna Nitrate checker we had to rely on a very nebulous color scale to try and determine the nitrate concentration in our reef and saltwater aquariums. The release of the Hanna Nitrate Checker transformed our understanding of the nutrient availability in our own reef tanks and we’ve seen great improvements in the growth and coloration once we managed to sustain a non-zero concentration of nitrate in our reef tanks. Understanding nutrients is just as important as knowing the mineral parameters in a reef aquarium and there is currently no comparison to the digital evaluation of NO3 afforded by Hanna’s electronic colorimeter.
The reef aquarium hobby has been manufacturing live rock substitutes for decades and while some companies have experimented with different shapes and sizes, this year we enjoyed naturalistic offerings from not one but two different companies. Cornerstone went all in with wide thick branches that are highly analogous to old school Tonga branch rock and Tropic Eden practically cloned Fiji Pukani rock which itself is composed of multiple small branches fused together into very natural shapes. These two new live rocks are strong, lightweight, and made up of very dynamic shapes which will be hard to distinguish from real wild live rock for even the most experienced reefers, especially once they’ve had some time to become colonized by encrusting reef life.
Good information about coral taxonomy is very hard to find, and even harder to wade through but the newest edition of BYOGuide’s Coral Finder is an absolute jewel of valuable knowledge regarding coral identification. We’ve been among the loudest advocates of hobbyists getting away from ephemeral conjured coral names in favor of scientifically accepted coral taxonomy because there’s a lot you can learn from knowing your coral is an Acanthastrea and not a Micromussa. As a personal friend of Coral Finder author Russel Kelley we can vouch for the amount of work that’s gone into the 2021 edition, not the least of which are the companion videos to illustrate stony corals like you’ve never seen before.
With our annual roundup of the best reef aquarium ‘products’ now in its thirteenth year, we’ve recognized well over 100 products made and provided by companies all over the world but we’re reserving one spot this year for a ‘product’ of our own. This year we launched our very own podcast called Reef Therapy and you don’t have to take our word for it as it’s quickly become an instant classic for providing in depth and experienced discussions covering the whole gamut of reef aquarium topics. There are thousands of listeners tuning into every session of reef aquarium therapy, it’s free, and we hear that it pairs very well with undertaking weekly reef aquarium maintenance.