Aqua2013 – The Digital-Reefs Report

Taking place at the Telford International Centre on October 9th and 10th, Aqua2013 attracted around 70 top companies involved in the water gardening, aquatics and reptiles trade this year. Having reported on the last event back in 2011 our overall impression was that this event was very similar in terms of the number of exhibitors and size of exhibits, although then new layout and our own time constraints made this a challenge to judge. Visitor numbers looked great indeed we believe numbers were up 10% overall on the 2011 figure. Actually, we had a hard time squeezing ourselves in to talk to certain suppliers amidst the frenetic networking activity. We did succeed in most cases though and it was nice to see some faces, both new and old, from various different ‘branches’ of the trade.

Anyway, without further ado, let’s talk about new developments that will be of specific interest to reef enthusiasts, and yes, there were plenty of new products on show! We were particularly pleased to grab some ‘exclusives’ too, so look out for those. Take a look at our supplier specific summaries below for a general feel for what’s coming through to the market right now.

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Amblard S.A – having already been impressed with the Amblard stock filtering through to some of our local retailers (particularly some huge, A-grade Tridacnid clams) we were keen to find out more about this leading French import operation which prides itself on high quality standards and professionalism. Set-up in 1994 by Frédéric Amblard, and now employing a multidisciplinary team around the world (including renowned marine biologist, aquaculture expert and underwater photographer Vincent Chalias), Amblard offers extensive species lists which feature a multitude of sustainable, maricultured species including numerous rare and desirable coral varieties. With their pedigree in marine aquaculture it was also interesting to note that numerous reef fish species are also now being farmed and we’ll certainly be keeping our eyes open for these coming through to the UK market. For more info, we suggest you check out their regularly updated Youtube channel for a taster of what’s on offer and consider asking if your local retailer sources, or can source, Amblard stock.

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AquaMedic – as well as new packaging evident across AquaMedics extensive range of nutrition, supplements and treatments, we were shown two new reef systems that extend the existing range. Billed as ‘energy saving complete seawater aquaria in stylish design’ the first of these is a 140 litre system dubbed the ‘Cubicus’. Measuring in at 50x60x50cm, this aquarium features optiwhite glass and an acrylic rear compartment that neatly conceals a single nanoprop 5000 flow pump and a Turboflotor Blue 500 skimmer. Lighting is included in the form of an AquareefLED that boasts 18 high performance Cree LEDs (7 x 3watt blue and 11 x 3watt 12K whites) with a total operating performance of 50watts. These lights have been available to the European market since early 2013 incidentally. With an RRP of around £850 a stand is also available for the Cubicus for an additonal £250 approx. (currently we see only white on offer but suggest other colours may be available). The secondly system, the ‘Magnifica 100’, is larger at 320 litres and the display measures 100x65x60cm. Again featuring ‘optiwhite’ glass the Magnifica is equipped with a Turboflotor Blue 1000 skimmer and 2x nanoprop 5000 pumps for flow. Lighting is again included in the form of 2 of the new Ocean Light LEDs (this new fixture outputs 54watts, features blue and white LEDs, an adjustable stand system, and is controllable). Also fitted to the Magnifica are 2x IP55 rated adjustable fans which can be switched on to provide active cooling if required. The Magnifica should be available to UK buyers very soon for an RRP of around £2300 which includes a gorgeous silver or white powder-coated stand. Overall each system looks great and has a relatively low power consumption. Also on show was a new Blenny ‘Advanced’ system featuring upgraded lighting (a 50 watt Aquareef LED) on top of the built-in skimmer and flow pump. This optiwhite, 80l cube looks to be available right now for around £800RRP. The highly-regarded DC pump-powered Acone skimmers and AquaSun LED fixture also looked good.

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Arcadia – with an Arcadia OT2 LED providing the illumination for our test tank at the moment we were really interested to see that Arcadia have revamped their T5 tube line-up adding both pink and purple tubes, plus a new blue tube. Although perhaps a little overdue, this new provision makes Arcadia tubes a really interesting proposition if you are looking to provide a specific spectrum, or look, for your system. The OTL LED fixture that we reported on recently was also on show and by all accounts is doing so well that it is becoming short in supply. Feather-light in weight this slimline luminaire features an attractive 4 channel controller with a set sunrise and sunset sequence. The controller also displays both air and water temperature. Combining multiple 1.5watt (blue and RGB) and 10watt (14k) LEDs this unit was blindingly bright to look at on 100% power and we’ve no doubt that it will cater for even the most light-hungry reef species. Take note that the fixture is also IP67 rated and features removable and cleanable lens covers so you can keep it at maximum efficiency. Adjustable legs are also provided so it should fit most applications with ease. Available in 2 – 6 foot lengths this really seems to be the fixture to beat at the moment. That said, the super-slim Stretch LEDs also looked interesting. Flexibilty is key here and these units feature, alongside a mix of 12k, RGB and actinic blue LED, an extendable arm to allow the unit to be fitted in almost any situation. At just 14mm high they’ll sneak under most canopies. With a low energy consumption and 2 year guarantee these units come in lengths ranging from 180mm right up to 1200mm, and in outputs of 7 up to 52 watts. Moving away from lighting for a moment, we were really interested to see a demo of the Aquarium Systems ‘Sea Test’ aquarium test kits. Blending ‘old school’ testing with the modern technology these kits really do seem to give the best of both worlds. Along with the kits, the SeaTest Control System (basically a colorimeter), allows for the accurate measurement of pH, Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate and Phosphate for both fresh and saltwater. With Calcium and Alkalinity readings also in the pipeline this systems certainly looks like one to watch. It’s even possible to log results of multiple tanks via USB and bundled software. Finally, take note that Arcadia are now distributing Polyfilter in the UK. We love Polyfilter and have used it on systems in the past, infact we’ll be incorporating it into our test system shortly too. As users of Biophos 80, the presence of a new Biophos reactor also piqued our interest and we’ll see what we can do to get hold of one for a review in the near future. The display unit certainly looked to be fluidising this media nicely.

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BCUK – as established users of BCUK products we are already fans of this Lincolnshire-based operation’s extensive dried and frozen food ranges. The Calanus Reefgrazer in particular caught our attention and we hope to obtain a sample of this in the near future. Also ‘in the freezer’ was an impressive array of irradiated piscine cuisine – most notably several different enriched brine shrimp products and new 250 and 500g ‘slabs’ of Mysis RS (available in the next 4 – 6 weeks as they are just being harvested). Not to forget that BCUK is also UK and Ireland distributor for Maxspect lighting fixtures too of course, and due soon is a new 300watt R420R for 4-5 foot tanks. This new fixture is basically a longer version of the 160w model but, measuring 110cm, it’ll be using 6 LED pads and can cover 120-150cm aquariums. This model behaves exactly like its 120w/160w counterparts and we hope to bring you more as it becomes available. Maxspect are also due to release their ‘celestial LED’ 30watt spotlight with 4 channel manual control plus clip-on attachment to the UK market shortly (December we believe). This unit certainly offers some interesting potential, being able to link into various different controllers for automated operation.

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_MG_2389webHydor – We really like Hydor products and, although not really a brand new offering (we originally reported on it mid 2012), we were keen to see the Smart Level controller in action. Relying on temperature differences to keep an accurate water level a demo showed this mechanism worked really well and it’s certainly different to the optical or float methods used in other devices. It’s also got to be one of the neatest and simplest auto top-ups to install. The unit of course features safety systems such as an audible alarm, safety cut-out and magnet mounts to keep it in position. Take note though that you’ll need to obtain a pump; the Hydor Pico line is ideal actually and the combined price is still very competitive. Finally, having already reviewed the similar SmartWave controller we’d suggest this unit’s rugged construction should prove durable in cabinet environment. Available shortly, the RRP on this unit is expected to be around £99.99. In terms of new developments, also on show was a new professional canister filter range which comes with ceramic media… actually on the subject, Hydor are now offering their own range of media which features Zeolite, Carbon and Sintered glass products. Turkish in origin, we believe the Zeolite should offer excellent absorbency and the sintered glass, although made in China, is said to be from a very good source. The price is better than other premium manufacturers too. Finally, take note that Hydor is now distributing Prodibio products in the UK. We had a really interesting chat with Prodibio Export Sales Manager, Romain Lentremy, about the product line and came away with a few samples from the reef aquarium range that we are aiming to deploy on the test tank in the coming months. We’ve got to say we love the presentation of Prodibios aquarium care programme generally and it’s great that these products have such a long shelf life at room temperature. On the face is it these products look like an amazingly simple approach to ULNS… we’ll certainly report back on how we get on. In the meantime, take a look at their website for further information.

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ITC Aquatics – compared to Aqua2011, ITCs display was a low key affair but still impressive nonetheless. It was also an ideal platform to showcase an EcoTech Radion running off the ReefLink controller which is currently in a phase of beta testing. Available in early November, this device allows you to wirelessly control your tank lighting via EcoSmart Live software on your smartphone. Although not an option just yet, Vortech control through the interface is also distinct possibility in the not too distant future. Although we didn’t have too much time to play with the reeflink software ourselves, it certainly looked impressive, with swiped commands taking instantaneous effect. Talking of Vortech control, also fitted to the display tank was a Neptune Apex controller which is of course compatible with EcoTech hardware. Take note that ITC are sole UK distributors for Neptune Systems products. Seeing some of the other items on display here it’s clear that ITC really know how to choose innovative products. As well as the EcoTech lighting and pumps, we loved the fragging kit on display that packs down into its own ‘chopping board’ style wooden case which can itself be used as a fragging surface (see gallery below). Included in the pack, we’ve already used some samples of EcoTechs coral glue, and our initial impressions are very good. We’ll be bringing a more detailed review of this in the near future. Another really interesting product was ITCs ‘Real Reef Rock’ live rock. Essentially an artificial rock, this product is created from mined aragonite and formed into some really realistic and interesting, individually-shaped pieces. As well as having a dye added to give the rock a nice dark purple colouration, the rock is then ‘seeded’ before being shipped, so it offers all the benefits of normal live rock, yet comes without the risk of introducing pest organisms. We are also told it is much more environmentally friendly. Retailing for a similar price to real live rock we think this will be in big demand.

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NT Labs – With their new marine range launched 3 years ago now, NT Labs are still investing heavily in R&D. Now, moving from bags to boxes for products they are offering twice the volume on their extensive range of aquatic products but interesting RRPs have not followed suit. Actually, prices have remained static in some cases which clearly means excellent benefits for hobbyists. In terms of new products, we were interested to see two new Marine Flake Foods on the menu. Firstly we have Ocean Flake with Garlic which is a blend of nutritional oceanic crustaceans expertly mixed with a number of key species of marine algae to closely match food sources found on the reef. Providing the optimum nutritional elements required by omnivorous marine reef fish species, the addition of Garlic supports fish to prevent and aid recovering from parasitic infections and acts as an appetite stimulant for species that can be difficult to entice to feed. Algae Flake with Garlic, as the name suggests, has been formulated to suit the dietary requirements of the herbivorous marine reef fish species and this flake is a blend of rich phytoplanktons, including spirulina and chlorella, mixed with a number of key species of highly nutritious seaweed. Again this feed benefits from the inclusion of Garlic, and both flakes also contain natural colour enhancing carotenoids and Nutri-lock to significantly minimise waste. We are hoping to obtain some samples of each in the near future and of course we’ll provide some feedback as soon as we can.

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Red Sea – the highlight of the show for us, we are thrilled to be able to bring you a WORLD EXCLUSIVE with images and information of the all-new Red Sea Max-C® range of Plug & Play™ Reef aquariums, and yes, they look stunning! Featuring REEF-SPEC® lighting, filtration and circulation, these systems replace the renowned Max® 130 and 250 and include many new features and upgrades. Both the MAX® C-130 and C-250 have an all-new, self-levelling turbo protein skimmer with build-in silencer, new quieter cooling fans, and x12-x16 turnover supplied by new eco-pumps. A media rack and all-new surface skimmer results in considerable improvements to the filtration system. The Max® C-130 has 110watts of PC lighting, while the MAX® C-250, boasts a total of 234w of Red Sea’s T5 Reef-Spec® tubes (6x39w tubes), which we featured recently. The all-new protein skimmers run quietly and are not affected by aquarium water levels. It is clear to see that Red Sea has not compromised on their performance and they quote a 3:1 water to air ratio, and a 3x circulation of the entire system through the skimmers. Given all these stats, both systems appear capable of maintaining even the most demanding stony (sps) corals, and the appearance and build quality is fantastic. Also new is Red Sea’s Reef Base substrate line. These substrates are sustainably harvested, high quality oolitic aragonite, and available in dry or ‘live’ versions, in 2 different grain sizes. We understand the substrate is quite dense, resulting in it being less prone to being blown around the aquarium. Indeed, despite the flow level in the MAX®-C displays we could see it wasn’t shifting around. Hopefully we’ll be getting hands on with this substrate in the near future and we can bring you more on it then.

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Seachem – presenting their premium Aquavitro line, particularly their rather interesting ‘Salinity’ salt blend, we were most impressed with the approach taken by Seachem. This American, family-owned company has a unique ethos and is clearly backed by some strong chemical and biological research capabilities. Despite being aimed at advanced reef-keepers, their innovative products rely on simplicity and ease of use and it perhaps comes as no surprise that this operation is owned and operated by practicing reef aquarists! Take the afore mentioned Salinity salt for example. Through the uncompromising use of high quality, 100% anhydrous constituents in this mix, Seachem have made a highly concentrated salt that suits the narrow tolerances required by advanced reef-keepers yet offers both greater reliability and consistency. It’s the only salt to offer ‘batch specific guaranteed analysis’ too, so you can check the actual lab results for your specific batch of salt online. This analysis is undertaken by an independent registered lab (the University of Georgia for example) giving you a certified testing result. The incorporation of a rubber o-ring seal in the bucket is another nice touch and tells you that this product isn’t just aimed at your everyday hobbyist. Salinity is competitively priced compared to other salt blends and don’t forget it should yield a greater volume of prepared salt water per bucket of course. This focus on quality and rigorous optimisation is maintained through the rest of the extensive product line, some of which we’ll hope to take a closer look at here on digital-reefs in the near future.

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Seneye – breaking cover recently on some of the other blogs, we’d been biding our time to get a close look at the new Seneye Web Server (SWS) and indeed it looks a promising device in this prelaunch peek. This device will enable users to run a Seneye without the need for an active PC connection and also opens up the product to MAC and LINUX users. Due to enter a phase of beta testing imminently we are hoping to incorporate this onto the Seneye Reef we obtained at the show which, incidentally, we’ll be adding onto our test system and running a review in the coming months. Also on show was a useful-looking IP55 rated connection box called the Seneye Dri which seems ideal for pond applications or for in-cabinet/fishroom use. Capable of housing 4 gang extension with timers this receptacle is sure to keep your electrics safe and dry. It’s also UV stable so it will not become brittle if used outdoors. The recent appointment of Andy Lister as Sales Manager for the company also shows their commitment to drive the business forward. Andy is a Marine Biologist has worked within the Aquatics Industry for over 15 years now and having him on board can only be a good thing!

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TMC – with a huge display dominated by a central tower like structure, and a small army of representatives, TMC was making a real show of force with a diverse array of new products such as the V2 Skim Pro range of conical protein skimmers. Fitted with bespoke Sicce Syncra SK needlewheel pumps these skimmers certainly looked the part in gloss black and will be available in 3 sizes with model numbers matching pump intake – that is a 450, 900 and 1350 (lph). With the option of being used traditionally, or as a hang-on device, an effluent drain is fitted to the collection cup of these skimmers as standard and they are also ozone compliant. Although perhaps there aren’t too many reef-keepers using external filters, the V2 Powerfilter range did also catch our attention with its unique priming method and range of interesting looking media. Curiously named ‘V2 Krotons’, these small cubes of media are infused with a variety of additives/treatments and colour coded to denote exactly what they do (carbon removal, PO4 removal, trace element addition for example). If you don’t want to use them in a filter this media can even be used in a filter bag. We’ll be watching with interest how reef-keepers apply this media in the real world. Similarly we are interested to see how the new line of V2 Powerflow circulation pumps perform. Incorporating Sicce’s “Eco Technology”(high power and flow rates with low energy consumption), these circulation pumps come in sizes ranging from 1000 to 6000lph and consume just 2.8 – 14watts respectively. With magnet mounts and adjustable brackets they are also highly flexible and can be aimed easily. Let’s not forget that they can also be hooked up to a Wavesurfer controller too. Generating quite a buzz (not literally though!) the new V2 iLumenAir LED Luminaire was perhaps the most interesting product of the show. With a raft of interesting features, including built-in sunrise, sunset, storm and moonlight sequences, remote control, power consumption readout and active, easily serviceable cooling this fixture is available in 2 models. The 600 (80watts, length 400mm) and 900 (170watts, length 690mm) both offer futuristic looks and feature either a mix of royal blue and white (6500k), or blue, white, red, green and amber which puts them right at the cutting edge of reef tank lighting technology. We’ll certainly be keeping our eye on this luminaire in the future and bringing you more detail as we get it. Finally, the Signature range of rimless, braceless aquaria was also on show and up close we were impressed with the high quality of these units.

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Tunze – fronted by a really nice display tank, Tunze’s stall was again packed with products and first to attract our interest was the range of Turbelle stream pumps which were presented ‘dry’ this year. Running a 6105 in our test tank we are already big fans of these stream pumps and yes, we were smitten with the new 6255 which looks simply beautiful in the hand. Released last year, this unit will output up to 18,000lph and features a good level of controllability while offering that fantastic wide flow. If we can raise the cash we’ll certainly be trying to bring you a hands-on with this unit in the future! We were also pleased to see one of Tunze’s monstrous 80,000 lph ‘masterstream’ flow pumps which looked just awesome! Although there wasn’t too much to talk about in terms of brand new developments, we were interested to see first-hand their new IP68 rated LED light fixtures. Featuring 3 different versions (marine blue, mixed blue/white and white) we particularly like the ability to magnet mount these strips. They are so compact it’s untrue, indeed they can even be mounted below the water surface if desired. With 62 LEDs each in total these units draw just 13/14watts and we believe they can be controlled with the new Tunze Multicontroller 7097 (due for release at Interzoo next year). There’s even a battery back-up option. As mentioned, the display was excellent, featuring a Silence 1073.020 circulation pump, the Reef Pack 250.000 and the 5 LEDs. That’s a reef running on grand total of just 107.5 watts plus the heater, even with the incredibly popular 9004.000 skimmer slipped-in!

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So that concludes our summary. We did hope to talk to Brightwell Aquatics and DD but unfortunately we didn’t get chance to steal a few minutes before time ran out on the day. We’ve contacted both companies though and hope to receive  some information in the next few days which we will add into this piece.

All in all, we had a fantastic time at Aqua2013 although it did prove to be pretty exhausting! We continue to be very impressed by the apparent excellent organisation of the event and the turnout of both exhibitors and visitors. There was a distinct ‘buzz’ about the show this year and it certainly seemed like plenty of deals were being done that should ultimately affect us mere hobbyists somewhere down the line! So that’s all… we hope you enjoyed our review. Roll on 2015!

Disclaimer: Although we have done our upmost to ensure all information presented here is accurate, please note that we do not take responsibility for any errors or omissions. If you spot any issues please contact us through the website. This article is intended as a launching point for further research on products so we suggest you follow the links and double check manufacturer stats before committing to buy any item. Obviously we haven’t physically tested many of these items ourselves so our comments here are not official endorsements as such.

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