Review: Hydor Smartwave Controller

As well as enhancing the aesthetic realism of a reef aquarium, the randomized currents generated by wavemaking devices have the added benefit of being able to keep detritus in suspension. They may therefore directly assist in the maintenance of improved water quality and, beyond this, will also stimulate the living organisms in your aquarium and improve gaseous exchange.

Although not exactly a brand new product, we were keen to test the Smartwave controller from Hydor as this piece of kit is rumoured to make the production of such water movement really easy. We’d already read positive reviews of it, and seen it in action briefly at Aqua2011.

First things first, this device won’t create a standing wave as it won’t turn on/off quick enough. It’s minimum time is 5 seconds and this simply isn’t short enough to develop the ‘see-saw’ wave effect produced by certain other pumps. Instead, this unit is designed to replicate other forms of natural water motion (like incoming and outgoing tides) and frankly, we feel this kind of flow is potentially the more beneficial of the two in an aquarium setting. Although it’s not as dramatic visually, a tank containing lots of soft corals certainly has the potential to look particularly stunning when subject to the water motion created by this unit and suitable pumps.

Whatever your preferences and requirements for a wavemaking unit, there’s no denying that the Hydor Smartwave does what it was designed to do extremely well. For a start, each of the two outlets can handle up to 100 watts. When we take into account that a typical Hydor pump unit may consume 5 watts of electricity this means that technically you could run 20 such pumps off each outlet. This really does make it a versatile controller capable of providing a flow management solution for a range of tank sizes and pump configurations, at an extremely modest price. Build quality is excellent too, and it’s really easy to install it using the hanging bracket. We believe it’s capable of running any ‘instant switching’ pumps by the way (Hydor do also provide a control option for ‘soft start’ pumps with their Wavemaker 2 and 4 models incidentally).

Getting back to the operation of the unit, it offers both simultaneous or alternating switching over a range spanning from 5 seconds to 6 hours. Selection is simple and achieved by simply turning one or two dials. On top of this, a feeding mode can also be selected which is really useful if you are target feeding LPS corals for example. A water resistant on-off switch is built into the unit and although this is also useful, we would like to have seen this providing an option to override the switching of the unit by turning it ON completely (rather than OFF completely which, lets face it, can usually be done at the socket anyway). Attractive green and blue LEDs indicate the operating mode of the unit. One thing we’d like to mention is that if you are using older Hydor pumps like the 900 or 1600 these may ‘click’ on start-up as they don’t have the advanced propeller shaft design of the newer models.

To surmise, at around just £60, this unit offers a really low cost way of achieving random flow patterns and natural looking water motion in your reef tank. The more pumps you attach, the more this benefit increases. Design-wise, although it doesn’t achieve total perfection (in our humble opinion), it certain warrants an ‘excellent’ rating from us.


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