*EXCLUSIVE* Unboxed: Red Sea REEFER™ 170 Aquarium System

(light not included)

Breaking the news of their launch back in November 2014 we’ve been eagerly anticipating the commercial release of Red Sea’s new REEFER line of rimless braceless aquaria, as we suspect have many of you! In advance of the imminent arrival of the first run we’ve managed to get our hands on the very first unit and in this unboxing review (of sorts) we’ll be taking a preliminary look at the key aspects of the set-up both aesthetic and functional. Whether or not you’ve placed an order already, are considering doing so, or are just plain interested in such a system for the future, we hope this review will prove useful and entertaining! Coming in 5 models ranging from 117 to 450l in total volume, we’ve got our hands on the Reefer 170 which is one model up from the nano (incidentally, note that the model number refers to the total litre volume of the system including sump and top up tanks). Of course there are already a few ‘off the shelf’ systems along these lines and we’ve already seen a few of these systems at the major trade shows. In comparison, although slightly ‘late to the party’, the REEFER range seems extremely well thought-out, incorporating systems that sidestep the problems encountered by manufacturers of preceding systems. Indeed, first impressions of the REEFER, certainly in terms of build quality and features, are that this system is ‘the real deal’ in terms of a robust rimless-braceless system. Let’s not forget either that Red Sea are already well known for the quality of their plug and play systems… in short this is a company that knows what it is doing. So let’s get straight into it, and working from the top down, the first thing we’ll talk about is the fabulous minimalist display on this system. Using black silicone, the REEFER display tank is constructed with ultra-clear glass varying in thickness from 8mm-15mm depending on the REEFER model. The rear panel is black glass. Glass edges are bevelled and the silicone beading on our model really is very neat. Every single REEFER aquarium is water-tested in Red Sea’s factory prior to shipping. On the bottom of the tank we have a thin layer of grey padding material neatly pre-attached and this runs up to the front inch or so of the tank which is then left clear in keeping with the minimalist aesthetic. Perhaps the key feature of the REEFER range though is the robust plumbing system that comes as standard, and we are immediately impressed with the slim-line central weir. Built from black glass like the rear panel, the weir features removable combs on each side, and thus promises effective surface skimming (lack of effective surface skimming is often a failing in systems running bulkhead overflows). Running on a basic twin standpipe system, this should also be very quiet in operation, and offer for failsafe of course in the event of a blockage. The key to the whole system appears to be the ‘tundish’ component on the main downpipe and, opening this up, we can see the control dial is used to open or close a rubberised plate in order to control the flow. Red Sea informs us that this is the same system which provides silent operation of their flagship MAX-S aquariums. On the opposite side of the plate we have a contoured section of pipe which looks like it should break the fall of the incoming water and channel it smoothly through the system, depending on the compression setting of the plate, thus eliminating the gurgling noises associated with other similar systems. Time will tell anyway… the component itself is very impressive appearing both tough and precision-made. The same applies for the rest of the plumbing actually which uses the bombproof PVC and fittings many will already be familiar with hobbyists. In short, it all fits together tightly and with ease and its worth bearing in mind that, bought separately, these components would add substantial cost to the a system. Hats off to Red Sea for this… we just hope it ends up running as good as it looks! In terms of the system as a whole, both drain pipes output into a corner of the sump; the outlets of each pipe near the bottom of the chamber (we suspect this chamber could be filled with bioballs or coral gravel to good effect). This chamber overflows into the filter sock assembly which is part of the sumps main chamber. When the filter sock becomes blocked, water bypasses over the top and again it looks like this shouldn’t cause any noise. Of course the filter sock can be changed easily, simply by sliding it horizontally and then lifting it out. Apparently larger models have 2 filter socks. Relative to the display, the sump main chamber is adequately sized and could certainly accommodate an appropriate-sized skimmer, plus reactor, or for other uses. Running parallel to the rear of the cabinet, we have a bubble-trap (which comes complete with a fitted coarse foam baffle). Behind this trap lies the return chamber which is large enough to take our return pump. A short length of flexible pipe is needed to connect to the return pipework directly above (the outlet of the return is directional by the way, but only a little). Also in the return chamber we have the float switch for the integrated top-up system. The top up tank itself is the final component to be inserted and this goes above the filter sock section. How easy this is to fill remains to be seen and how long the reservoir lasts will of course depend on the system. The reservoir isn’t large enough to cause an overflow if the float switch sticks on, but this is certainly a component that will need to be check regularly. It’s basic, but frankly far better to have it included than have to fit a system yourself. The top up reservoir is fitted with a drain nipple at the rear corner by the way, and the pipe that connects it to the float switch operated outlet also has a valve, so the drain rate can be controlled. Construction of the sump looks fine… almost matching the display in quality of finish. The sump doesn’t actually fill the entire cabinet space, rather there is a gap of a few inches on the left hand side. On the one hand, it would have been nice to have a little more space to play with in the sump but we can see there’s a good case for leaving some ‘dry’ space, for dosing containers, ballasts etc… in short you won’t have to fit a shelf. Overall it’s a versatile design and should run as is, but certainly leaves scope for modification if that is desired.

While we are looking at the sump, we notice that the cabinet is pretty much sealed apart from an aperture near the rear-top which allows for cables to be routed through, and of course the pipework from the tank above to enter. Ventilation isn’t going to be wonderful but the addition of a fan in the sump shouldn’t be too tricky. Hinges are standard stainless steel and the door/s feature soft close, push-click mechanisms. Glossy white in finish, the cabinet is pretty basic (in line with the minimal theme) but feels rock steady and looks impervious to water ingress. The design lacks the horizontal plinth running across the front top evident in rival systems and, although we don’t have any levelling system, it is very stable and easy to assemble. Red Sea has advised us that the sump area is now being lined with a waterproof material as an extra precaution should anyone spill water during maintenance.

So that concludes are initial assessment, keep your eyes on the blog in the coming days as we’ll be taking the plunge with a wet-test to both evaluate short term and longer term operation, and of course we’ll be using it as a test bed for a few new products that should appeal to those with more modest sized reef systems. Henceforth, to compliment the Black Tank, we dub this system the Digital-Reefs White Tank! 😀

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