Doesn’t 2019 feel especially nostalgic? If not for the predictable boredom of everyday life- wake up, go to work, come back, feed yourself, feed your fish, sleep, repeat- then definitely because we all don’t know when we can go back to live those blissfully ignorant lifestyles (don’t be offended, I live it too), cursing drivers that move too slow for our taste, complaining about the overpriced coffee we happily pay for instead of making it ourselves, yelling at the cloud when someone doesn’t share our worldview… You know, the little things. In other not so great news, it looks like we can all just throw 2020 planners straight into the trash bin, as reefing shows are being postponed left and right. Well, as I often say, or most likely repeat after somebody way smarter than I said, life is one long rollercoaster ride- ups and downs, never stop. We just happen to be on a major downhill ride into the tunnel with no end in sight.
I know how to cheer you up, don’t I? Hey, I didn’t mean to be fatalistic; not everything is messed up after all. There are some major advantages to the situation we are in, through no fault of our own, and there is a faint light at the end of this proverbial tunnel. Although some good fraction of us are still out there, fighting for people’s lives, making sure grocery shelves are full, and doing all the other things that make society function, the rest literally have all the time in the world at their hands. Time that can be spent with family, time to perform the obsolete burden of a phone call and talk to your friend using your mouth rather than your fingers, or time to read an online article written by a cynical hobbyist trying to show off his picture portfolio.
The initial idea was to make a couple of posts showcasing some of the images I took last year at various shows and coral swaps with little text to accompany them, but since it could be seen as both pompous and lazy on my part and I care dearly for my online image (no I don’t), I decided to talk about the things that happened in 2019 and through the first couple of months of 2020 WHILE showing off my photographs.
Photographs come first of course. OK, no, they are at the end of the article, but here’s a link to the whole gallery if someone is interested in seeing them in that form.
In this article, let’s talk about the products that defined 2019 and early 2020. Products that changed the way we do aquarium keeping, improved upon the proven methods, or were simply amazing pieces of technology that moved the hobby forward.
If I had to choose one product from last year that changed reefing, it’s neptune Sytems Trident. I’ll go further and say, if Trident wasn’t a part of your 2019 Top Ten list, you’re fooling yourself. There are memes going around about it. Memes about an aquarium product, can you imagine that? It’s been called the unicorn of reefing since people were waiting for its release with anticipation never seen before in the hobby. When it finally hit the shelves, both virtual and physical, it sold out immediately and to this day, Trident is very hard to get.
That’s mostly because it’s a fantastic machine. While being a topic of heated discussions that could rival political commentary, the truth is, most hate towards it comes from people who want one and can’t get it. Is it a flawless piece of gear that will end your reefing problems forever? No, but let me tell you, since I got it (and I got it early as one of the beta testers), it’s been nothing but a godsend to me. I mean, there is a freakin robot next to my tank doing testing chores that used to be my daily maintenance routine. Thanks to it, I’ve learned that alkalinity in a reef aquarium goes through a daily cycle just like pH and it made me understand the correlation between magnesium, calcium, and alkalinity better than ever before. neptune Systems Trident truly defines a new era in reefkeeping, there is no question about it.
ECOTECH RADION G5 & VERSA
Yes, Ecotech radion G5 came out in early 2020 and not 2019, but I make the rules here. No, seriously, if 2019 belongs to Trident, 2020 may as well be an Ecotech Marine year. Arguably the most popular reef light on the planet received a long-awaited update and what an update that is! An almost complete overhaul, both inside and out, with a new LED cluster, new lens, new look, an updated fan assembly, and two new versions offering different output light spectrum. I can’t comment on its performance as I don’t have one, but hopefully, I’ll get my hands on it soon to feature it in a Definitive Review. That being said, some initial reviews I’ve read point to what I already suspected- G5 is here and it’s bigger and better than everything before it.
Ecotech finished last year and entered the new with a bang, not only releasing radion G5, but also diving into new territory with the Versa dosing pump. It’s small, modular, and seems to be an excellent addition to the Ecotech product line. Also debuting alongside radion and Versa is the new Mobius mobile platform and app that virtually replaces the questionable Reeflink and Ecosmart Live, plus it will also work with numerous older Ecotech gear, as well as some AquaIllumination products made after the two companies merge. I’m looking forward to seeing more stuff from Ecotech Marine; it seems they are on the path to a bright future full of excellent gear.
MAXSPECT AEROAQUA DUO PROTEIN SKIMMER
Throughout the years that I have kept saltwater tanks, I’ve gained a fair share of experience with different protein skimmers and honestly, they rarely excite me very much anymore. Maxpect Aeroaqua did. It’s such a breath of fresh air in terms of skimmer build & functionality, starting with its unique dual intake pump and the ingenious modular design to its integrated silencer and distinctive flow gate. Everything about this skimmer is interesting and for that, it deserves to be included in this list. By the way, good news- there is one coming my way as I write this, so check back for a full-fledged review later this year.
AQUATICLIFE DX18 HYBRID T5 LIGHT
As a proud T5 and LED junkie I could not omit this fantastic new fixture from Aquaticlife. Not only is it a huge step up from their already excellent Hybrid light I reviewed last year, but it’s also a beautiful light in its own regard. Plus, the T5 dimming is dreamy, I’ve never seen my tank in such a beautiful, subdued light before. In my opinion, if you love the idea of combining T5 fluorescent light with LED to light your reef, you cannot go better than Aquaticlife DX18.
COBALT AQUATICS MICROVUE 3 AQUARIUM KIT
It may be a controversial pick for some, this being a nano aquarium kit in a sea of nano aquarium kits out there, but it’s my personal one as nothing brings me as much joy as glancing at the resident shrimp of this micro aquarium sitting on my desk. Cobalt Aquatics MicroVue is an affordable and fantastic looking little tank and everything about it just works as it should. I don’t even keep it as a saltwater tank, but it’s been constant fun since I set it up in my bedroom and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a new reefing or freshwater project on a budget.
MRC HYDROTEK PUMPS
Can you make a monster pump using high-quality materials here in the USA and sell it at half the price of other comparable water movers? Yes, you can and MRC proved it. The larger MP6100 model pushes a massive 6100 gph of water and costs just under $600 dollars. Add to it an excellent 60-month warranty and you got yourself a winner return pump for the large home aquaria.
XEPTA AUTOBALANCE & ABEX
GHL ION DIRECTOR
Two different products from two different manufacturers, both not out on the market yet and both equally exciting. Both on a path to further revolutionize reefing if they deliver on their promises. We’re talking about reagent-less aquarium testing based on user-replaceable Ion-specific probes. Xepta promises accurate Calcium, Magnesium, and Potassium testing (with potential Salinity and Nitrate testing capability coming in the future), affordable probes, and kH measurements with the base Autobalance unit.
GHL ION Director takes a different approach, with a single probe that can measure Ca, Mg, K, Na, NO3 and full integration with GHL controller infrastructure and especially with its highly regarded KH Director that measures alkalinity in a saltwater aquarium.
Ion-specific probes based testing is not a new idea per se, but it’s never been successfully adopted on the scale and at a price point both Xepta and GHL promise and I’m looking forward to both these products as they have a potential to be a huge step towards full tank automation.
AQUAILLUMINATION HYDRA 32 & 64
AquaIllumination’s next iteration of their flagship Hydra lights came with tons of upgrades to the proven and cherished idea. Not only are these new fixtures slimmer and smaller, the actual LED emitters shrank also, along with the cluster and lenses. All that while increasing the PAR output and maintaining the same power efficiency. Combined with an excellent myAI mobile app that I admire for its user-friendliness and trouble-free operation, the new AI Hydras is a step in the right direction and an excellent mid-level lighting solution for reef aquariums.
PHILIPS CORALCARE GEN2 LED
Another LED light on the list and one that only recently introduced to the US market. Why is it on the list then? Well, because on the other side of the Atlantic, Philips Coral Care is huge! Highly regarded as one of the best reef aquarium lights ever created and having a crowd of faithful followers in Europe, the LED panel from Philips is a welcome debut in the US. Using Philips proprietary Luxeon LED emitters, and a unique and reportedly highly effective diffuser, the new light may just end up being as popular here as it is overseas.
AUTOAQUA INLINE DIGITAL TDS METER
I am a big fan of AutoAqua, mainly for their willingness to fill the specific niche the company created for itself. Every product from this Taiwanese manufacturer I had the pleasure to test shared the same four characteristics: a great idea, clever design, on-point execution of that idea, and affordability. The new Inline Digital TDS meters line is no exception. A lot of RO/DI filters do not come with a crucial piece of equipment, an in-line TDS meter that effectively tells you when it’s time to change filters. Others, like mine, come with ones that are hard to read. AutoAqua’s solution is simple- an affordable (starting at just $24.99 for the One model) small TDS meter kit that comes with a backlit screen, single-button operation, titanium probes that will last years and a simple quick-connect adapter that fits standard RO/DI lines. All models except Titanium ONE come with a magnetic back so that they can be attached to RO/DI bracket or somewhere remotely and a 24” long cable with a probe at the end (or multiple probes in the case of Titanium S2 and Titanium S3) It may be a small thing to call one of the best products of 2019, but AutoAqua Inline TDS Meters is a big idea in a tiny package that just works.
That’s it for today, time for pictures as I promised. Part two coming up whenever I feel like writing it. Which should be soon given the fact I don’t do much else, being asked to stay home and all. Thanks for reading!