As you are already aware, due to the Coronavirus that’s running rampant, many of the industry’s top shows have been pushed back to protect the vendors and the people in our hobby. For example, the Greater Niagra Falls Show got moved from March to July, the Aquashella shows were postponed to August and October, and MACNA is still far out, but I’m sure Kevin and the MASNA crew are watching this situation very carefully to act accordingly to ensure the health and safety of both vendors and attendees.
A sobering image of our Reef-A-Palooza NY venue being used as a pop-up hospital to make room for COVID-19 patients. You can read the article about it here.
Wait! What about Reef-A-Palooza ? Yes, here’s the update! This popular show was announced as postponed as well, and I just got the news that it’s looking to be rescheduled to September at Caribe Royale hotel where it all began for the annual Orlando show, and December for the NY show. As a professional videographer for these shows, I am very excited that things are not completely ruled out and moving along. It is my hope that the virus will be completely eradicated either by successful quarantine measures or by the development of a vaccine or medication.
With this said, I was sitting in front of my tank, wondering what was coming this year and what we have to look forward to. With the advancement of technology and the innovating minds of our amazing manufacturers, it’s getting harder and harder to beat the previous year’s ‘Best Products’.
In 2019, without a doubt in my mind (as well as the minds of many), neptune System’s Trident was the reigning king. The fabled unicorn that still is in hot demand after one year from its release really needs no introduction. What was an underrated and surprising move (a move that really made sense) from Neptune Systems was the introduction of the EL version of apex.
apex controller is, without exaggeration, the single most popular controller in our aquarium world, for its abilities to control and monitor our equipment and basic parameters. Having simple, dummy proof instructions by utilizing tasks functions, readily available helpful video tutorials, and dressed in fancy and buttery smooth graphic user interface, there really isn’t any reason for you to not like this controller.
But if I really had to nitpick and choose, its only downside was this: since 2016’s big upgrade, the price point of the main unit was a complaint to some, while having no alternative light or junior unit with the 2016 head unit was a disappointment to others. With the launch of Trident, it made sense for Neptune Systems to come up with a little brother version that was much more affordable in price without some of the bells and whistles so that people who didn’t want to spend the money for a full apex unit could still enjoy Trident. They can take advantage of the software upgrades and whatever neptune Systems brings out in the distant future and the years to come. Yes, Trident was the product of 2019, whereas EL gets the honorable nod of recognition.
neptune Systems won the Reefs.com/Afishionado award of 2017 during NOLA MACNA for their unveiling of Trident.
Here is the video with Terence of neptune Systems, a month after Trident’s successful release.
The second product that came to mind was Maxspect’s Aeraqua Duo protein skimmer.
Not many skimmers really impress me these days. The same style pump, the same style body and mechanics. It’s all the same, right? Boy, was I ever WRONG. Maxspect got their engineers on overdrive and really changed everything from the skimmer that we know. First, the collection cup is held more securely. With this unit, I don’t have to worry about spilling any skimmate back into my sump. Intelligently designed, it really has the user’s interest at heart. Secondly, while not new, having a float switch connected to the power was a smart move. Reef Octopus utilized this in their Regal series and other premium versions, and it has personally saved me from spilling some nasty skimmate back into my aquarium–more than once. This was an excellent move from Maxspect, and it’s something that every protein skimmer should have.
The last, but most important matter, is the heart of the skimmer. Using functioning duo turbine shaped pumps, it is designed so that one draws in the water from one gate, while the other pump draws from the other gate and recirculates the water for more contact time, which can be also be tweaked to have the water drawn to the ratio best suited for the bioload of the aquarium. This was a truly revolutionary engineering design from Maxspect. I honestly did not expect to have as much to say or be as impressed by a protein skimmer, of all things.
Here is my video with Howard of Maxspect.
The third product that caught my attention from 2019 was Carbo-Calcium and All-For-Reef by Tropic Marin. Yes, I know many of you would be shocked that it wasn’t a piece of tech, like I always report, but it was revolutionary in its own way. Why is this a big deal?
If you keep corals, you should be well aware of the fact that corals need calcium, alkalinity, and other trace elements to grow. You can read all about it here, if you need to refresh your memory. All of us use various methods to keep these parameters at ideal levels. Many of us do it through water changes. Some utilize different methods of dosing 2-part calcium and alkalinity. Others use a calcium reactor to supplement and replenish the calcium that is consumed by corals or used by coralline algae.
Carbo-Calcium’s formula is Calcium formate Ca(HCOO)2. It works by replenishing calcium and dkH levels together. There’s no need to dose individually, which eliminates the need to worry about precipitation of either parameter. It also offers pH stability and even contains a carbon byproduct which can act as a minor source of carbon dosing to help eliminate some amount of nitrate in your system. I have been using this exclusively on my system since it was introduced during Orlando Reef-A-Palooza 2019, and I haven’t looked back due to its ease of use, lack of adverse side effects, and efficiency. It is a little more expensive then the conventional calcium and alkalinity dosing. However, not having to dose two things is a more simple and convenient method for me. After reading the comments on forums and popular reef groups, it’s clear that many people feel the same way about this. This is absolutely is one of the best products of 2019.
Here is the video that I did with Lou of Tropic Marin on the features of this product.
Now enough of 2019. What of 2020? What can we anticipate? Well, there are plenty of things to look forward to. Some have already come out, and some are expected to come out this year. Let’s go down the list!
1. Ecotech Marine’s radion Gen 5.
Possibly the most well-known, respected and widely used LEDs in the aquarium market today just got an upgrade. Like their predecessor, this was completely remade from the ground up, which sadly means no upgrade was possible from the previous version. However, if you see what has changed, you would understand why it simply wasn’t possible. Visibly, you can notice the changes right away. The shape of the lights have changed; there are many more diodes of LEDs present compared to the older versions, and they moved away from their puck style LED setup to a more uniform style of embedded diodes on the board. Also, instead of the regular version of their radion line up, they opted to go with the Blue version.
Visually the Blue version has an anodized blue spacer in between the heat sync and the plate that holds the traditional 3 buttons, which controls the manual power, ramp up and down. Besides this obvious visual difference, Blue will have significantly less white diodes inside and will run the AB+ settings of the CoralLab program. This is perfect for people who like to run their tank on the blue spectrum most of the day.
First implemented on Gen 4, Hemispherical Edge Illumination (HEI) optics is mounted on the G5 to blend the color diodes evenly and erase the disco effects of the diodes and to diffuse the light evenly to reduce the possible hot spots that is present in LED fixtures. With the success of G4, it’s not a surprise that AI and the new G5 stuck with this optics which mimics the spread of T5s.
Another thing that caught my eye was the placement of the fan. From the top view, it looks pretty much the same right? But no. Look closely and the bottom slot for the open intake is no longer there. This will delight many of the radion users as it helps to get rid of the pesky salt creep that tends to gather around that area. With a much beefier heat sink, this fan is passively controlled and turns on when it reaches a certain temperature to protect the longevity of diodes on the board.
Proven coral grower, attractive and effective LED king now has a predecessor. I haven’t gotten my hands on it for field testing to offer PAR differences, but I am absolutely positive that this unit will be one of the units to beat in 2020.
2. Phillips Coral Care Gen 2 LED light fixture.
Two LED lights in a row? Good reason for it too. Here is the highly anticipated U.S. launch of Phillips’ Coral Care Gen 2 LED lights. For those of you who are not aware, Phillips has been a huge manufacturer and authority in the light industry for very long period of time and as big as they are, it was a surprise to me that they decided to throw their hat in the ring.
From the basic look at the brochure that was available, this unit is “LED-based aquarium lighting system with reduced color shadows and enhanced natural caustics inside the aquarium.”
Let’s talk about the light!
Gen 1. – I will be brutally honest with you. I have heard amazing praises about this light when the Gen 1 was first introduced to me around Interzoo time. Quality of the LEDs, diffuser that mimicked the spread of T5 lights perfectly, how well corals reacted with the fixture, and of course the Philips name that went with the product. You can read about the hands on review from my peer Dani Reef on Reefs.com here. My only turn off was how big and heavy the unit was. As a person that values aesthetics, even on the outside of the tank which includes the exposed equipment in our rimless tanks, I wasn’t sure that I would use these even though I knew that it was like that due to having a big plate of heat sync for passive cooling. To put it in perspective, the first generation light was 24 whopping pounds! Even with my skepticism, I knew for a fact that it still had purpose and place in our hobby and it would take off for commercial settings for its efficiency and abilities, and for people with nice trims to house them.
A few years went by and to my surprise, the 2nd version of this unit was coming out and I was pleasantly surprised at how this unit looked; significantly slimmer and much lighter. For those of you that demand numbers, it’s 14 pounds lighter. To me, this unit now looks like it’s market ready. It had the build quality, looks, efficiency, technology, 2 year warranty, big brand name for it to stand on. This unit is ready for prime time.
Slim but still extremely sturdy, CoralCare G2 was able to put 68 diodes inside which is 36 less then the previous version but we are told that PAR and the spread is more than efficient for all applications for this light.
One another important detail that I should mention is that this light uses no fans whatsoever. As with the first unit, this unit relies on a big heat sync which passively cools the fixture.
What that means to you is that you will never have to open up your light to clean or maintain the fan inside and you will never have to replace the fan should it ever go bad from saltwater corrosion or dust burning it out. To top it off, I was told that with their new patent which is pending, this light will be showcased with one of the most unique homogeneous light distribution and color mixing solutions. I am definitely intrigued and I would love to test some PAR levels in a real aquarium with rocks and waves to see how it performs and how the app as well as the light itself will look and feel in real life.
This is an exciting development coming from Europe. I can’t wait to see how this light performs against the best LED fixtures in the market and how it is received stateside. Amazing ingenuity and exciting times are ahead indeed!
3. Focustronic’s Mastertronics. (Most of these information, photos, videos are exclusive to Reefs.com)
As I have been mentioning in a lot of my talks and posts, automation is the future of our hobby and I am happy to see more and more innovations coming out to make our reefing easier and give us less opportunities for crashing our tanks. With that said, one other thing that caught my eye was this year was Mastertronic from Focustronic.
First preview to the world on the CAD rendered design of the case.
This is what I found out about this new machine after speaking with the owner of the company.
This unit will be testing for Phosphate, Nitrate, Calcium, Magnesium and lastly OLI.
OLI? What is that? Something that I haven’t heard of before and I pressed to find out more about it.
OLI is their own parameter which will help users to define water quality. From what I heard, they have come up with a formula which will tell you when you are due for a water change or in need to change out or insert carbon into your water. I am really curious about it but they are keeping us in suspense for now; they promise to give us more information in regards to what it is and how it works as we get closer to the machine’s release date.
Is this reagent based or one of the new things that are popping up, i.e. ionic probes?
This unit will be reagent based. Mastertronic is an automated tester using existing test kits from the market but they will limit the brands to the ones that they have determined works with their software/hardware. I’m sure that this list of providers will grow in time and they say that this will allow users to be able to get readings with high consistency and accuracy.
From the video that was sent to us, it looks like it will be rotating vials with magnetic stirrers in place to automate the titration.
Accuracy and consistency.
For any test kits/ units, accuracy and consistencies are extremely important and this is what the owner of the company has said about it:
Based on the development we have had, we are getting very promising results with accuracy and consistency. For accuracy, it does depends on a few factors like calibration of pumps and age of the reagents. On the other hand, the consistency is something we can speak highly of and one of our main goals with Alkatronic is to offer high consistency readings for our test equipment. In terms of official figures, we will release those with product specs and pricing in the near future.
Now, is this unit just a tester?
No, apparently they are making this unit adaptive, having the units to dose said parameters or hold the dosing according to the parameters provided by the unit by working together with their other products in the Focustronic ecosystem. For example, it can work alongside Alkatronic to dose with Dosetronic which will pair up with a smart power bar (not yet released yet) called Powertronic (which will be with 4-6 power socks).
Ok, so we get how it can dose calcium and alkalinity and it’s not new to the hobby. What got my attention was when the Phosphate or Nitrate is too high, they can extend the running time of the fuge light or the start the pump to the nutrient export media accordingly. In addition, when a nutrient is lowered or too low, they can reduce the light intensity. Sounds pretty basic, but I am thrilled to see this implemented finally in our systems.
Release date has been pushed back slightly due to the COVID-19. However, Q2 looks very promising for release. Pricing and the actual release date will come very soon!
There were many things that really caught my eye but didn’t make the top 4 of 2020 list.
1.) Coralvue’s Hydros Line up.
I think it’s revolutionary out of the box thinking to reduce all the clutter which is the bane and nemesis of all reefers regardless of who they are.
Check out the video that I did with Carlos that talks about Wave Engine.
Also click here to see the in-depth coverage that I did on their lineup during MACNA last year.
2.) GHL’s Ion Director.
Another big contender that threw their hat in the ring of the world of auto testing.
We are expecting German controller powerhouse GHL to drop their highly anticipated Ion Director. Check out this video that I did with Vinny during Reef A Palooza Chicago last year to find out more about their product.
3.) Ecotech Marine’s Versa Dosers.
Ecotech showcased their dosers to industry professionals during Reef A Palooza Chicago last year and it came to us as a surprise that it came out without much of any notice this year.
Check out this unboxing/set up video that my friend Devin Rich of Reef Dudes did.
4.) neptune Systems SKY
My colleague Marcin Smok from Reefs.com surprised us two months ago when he found out about neptune Systems’ trademarked LED light fixture called SKY. With Terence’s insight and neptune System’s abilities, I am extremely excited to see what they can do.
You can read Marcin’s article of SKY project here.
Long article I know. Thanks for reading it and let me know which item is your favorite. If I missed your favorite item, feel free to comment below!