Category Archives: Store & Product Reviews

Looking for more than the manufacturers information on a certain product? use our search engine to find your product and see how it performs in a real life situation with our honest, hobbyist orientated review features

(please note: in certain instances manufacturers may provide goods free of charge to us for testing purposes. Even if this is the case, we will always give an honest assessment of the product in question).

Testing, Testing 1, 2, 3

It’s always interesting to see new products being made available to UK reefers and we are therefore extremely chuffed that some of the UK aquatics industry’s most innovative suppliers and manufacturers have made their latest offerings available to Digital-Reefs for testing purposes.

Once we’ve had time to evaluate each in details we’ll be bringing reports out on the folllowing products.

  • ReefPhyto.co.uk – ‘Reef Juice’ live phytoplankton
  • Red Sea – from the Reef Care Programme, ‘Coral Colors’ and ‘Reef Energy’
  • NT Labs – following our recent SuperCarb review, we’ll be taking a look at their MarineLab master test kit.

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REVIEW: SuperCarb Activated Carbon From NT Labs

Whether or not your reef aquarium has perfect water parameters or not, the use of Activated Carbon can really help with managing not just nitrogenous wastes, but also the accumulation of all kinds of other toxins such as phenols, organic acids, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and hormones. Not all removed by filtration or skimming, these substances can build up quickly in a closed reef system, so periodic use of Carbon can really provide a safety useful net.

As there are already a few different brands of Carbon on offer for reef aquarium use, we were happy to oblige when NT Labs offered us a pack of SuperCarb to review.

This product is physically activated (high temperature steam), rather than chemically, so leaching of Phosphates is not a concern. It comes in an attractive pouch that is durable and resealable, and is an extruded, pellet form (this makes it ideal for use in reactors as it won’t break down rapidly if tumbled). As a pellet, rather than a granular form, there was also minimal dust and one quick rinse with RO water was enough to get it ready for use.

With the general abilities of Carbon already proven by decades of use in aquaria, our test focussed on the practical application of this product and general observations made from this use. With already excellent water quality, including a zero Nitrate reading, we didn’t expect to see much change, however, we noticed that:

> even using the product in a mesh bag, water clarity improved within 24hrs – as well as generally noticing this in the test tank, when we compared glasses of water taken from the tank before and after the application of the product we noticed the water in the post treatment glass was very slightly less tinted when held against a white background.

> we also noticed that a slight surface film present in the tank dissipated after a few days. This happened without any change in flow pattern or feeding regime so we suspect that this may have been a result of the addition of the Carbon.

> dust on tank walls and sides growth slowed so that rather than needing to use the algae magnet every 2 0r 3 days, we only needed to use it roughly once a week to keep the tank walls looking spotless.

> lifespan of other chemical media increased and this not only led to savings on these products, it also reduced the need to replace them so frequently.

> coral polyp extension appeared to improve noticeably several days after use. As there were no other significant changes at this time we suggest that the Carbon may have removed substances that were otherwise inhibiting the extension of these corals.

With one gram providing around nearly one square metre of surface area, a 250gram pouch is enough to treat an estimated 800 litres. At a cost of £14.99 we think this is really good value, particularly bearing in mind the other positive attributes of this product.

REVIEW: Coral Sea Dreaming: Awaken (Blu-ray)

image: Plankton Productions

Whether you are just creating a reef aquarium or looking to develop an existing one, inspiration can be found in many different places. Photographs in books, magazines or the internet, diving experiences, or even pure imagination are just a few that can all play a part. If you are seeking such inspiration, the unbridled splendor of pristine wild reefs presented in Coral Sea Dreaming: Awaken is not just visually stunning, it is also an invaluable resource for reefkeepers.

As a sequel to the original Coral Sea Dreaming DVD (released in 1992), the capture of this all-new footage has clearly been a labour of love, painstakingly recorded and edited with the latest HD equipment. The multilayered Blu-ray also now runs with an upgraded menu system which offers a range of options and extras including music only or music with narration, creature identification and loop playback. In our opinion, all elements are beautfully crafted, from footage, to script, to music score (the music is similar to the first version). Image quality is excellent, rising to’ jaw-dropping’ in places. The high definition is particularly stunning on wide shots and the surround sound is also a delight even on our own modest system. It’s no surprise that this was an award-winner at the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival. The extra features are extensive too, indeed we particularly liked the ‘visual decor’ section and think this would be great as an ambient display in a nightclub-type environment. Interviews with David Hannan and Tania Rose are also very interesting.

With a main feature running time of nearly an hour and a half, all the extras included, and the pure level of detail on display, this package should provide hours of entertainment. Perhaps our only slight disappontment was that there was no ‘pure fluorescence’ night-dive footage included, which we felt could have provided for some stunning imagery given the diversity of the locations (we emphasize this is a not a complaint).

If you are as serious about reefkeeping and conservation as we are, you’ll want to have this in your collection!

REVIEW: Tanktests.co.uk

Water tests are one of those aspects of reefkeeping that you either love or hate. Sometimes, if you don’t have a lot of time, fiddling around with bottles of solutions, vials and syringes can prove to be a real pain.. and then there’s always the worry if you are getting the right results. Test kits aren’t cheap either… and they don’t last indefinitely.

That’s why we really like the service offered by tanktests.co.uk – the UK’s only mail order water testing service. If you’ve never used this service before, basically, you just order and pay for your test and then a small bottle is sent to you along with a return envelope. All you do is fill up the bottle, put it in the return envelope and then send it back to tanktests recorded delivery (which you pay for). That’s it… you can then just sit back and enjoy your tank! A few days later, you’ll receive your results back by email. With several levels of test available, we particularly like the Advanced Test which, for £15 plus postage, gives you 12 key parameter readings- pH, Salinity, Alkalinity, Calcium, Magnesium, Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, Phosphate, Iodine, Strontium, Potassium and Silica.

But how is the testing done specifically you may ask? Well, rather than using just one brand, it’s reassuring to know that tanktests have chosen from a range of different brands of tests kits with a view providing the most consistent and accurate results. At present, Coral Shop test kits are used for the Calcium, Magnesium and Alkalinity, and they also use the Coral Shop standards (reference solutions) and the lab set. This means they use glass phials and latex free gloves to ensure any skin contact does not effect any results. Tricky Phosphate testing is done with a D&D high sensitivity test kit, although at the time of our review they are parallel testing with a Hanna phosphorous checker. For general good practice, all phials and syringes are rinsed several times with RO water and then allowed to dry naturally (some dry cloths/kitchen roll may have contaminants). Finally, although time consuming, only one water sample is tested at a time. This enhances the accuracy of results as some tests can be very time specific for adding reagents or comparing results. The other advantage is that cross contamination of samples or even results is avoided.

In conclusion, it’s great to see this operation offering such a useful service under new ownership. We wish them all the best and look forward to having the Digital-Reefs tank tested by them again in the near future!

 

REVIEW: CoralCulture Mail Order

In light of some stunning stock on offer through this supplier recently, we decided it was time to add a few new bits to the Digital-Reefs tank. We were also keen to take advantage of a short term discount offer running at the time and as such snapped up a lovely solid blue Acro frag and a mini Scolymia for a very good price.

Communication from this supplier was excellent with a tracking number popping into our inbox the day after ordering. The day after this, the package was duly delivered and feverishly opened later that day. I have to say that the packaging was absolutely excellent, indeed I hope this quality comes across in the images. Basically, my two frags were safely double bagged together within a larger bag. Each bag was “clipped” using an Aqua-Clipper (a method that exporters and wholesalers use), and as such, the bag was topped off with pure Oxygen before sealing (this is the first time we have ever seen this expensive kit used by a retailer). Surrounded in bubble wrap and with a heat pack in the bottom, they were also encased on all sides with approx 1 inch thick styrofoam. All of this was within a sturdy cardboard box.

Once out of the box, the bag water was tested for temperature and using the same thermometer as used for the tank, we ascertained it had only dropped by a few degrees Farenheit – to 73f. As such, the bags were opened up and floated for about 20 minutes after which time they had equalised. The frags themselves were just as shown on the website, decent sizes for the price. Over the next 3 hours, small amounts of water were added to the bags to bring other parameters into line. During this process, a couple of coral barnacles in the acro frag could be seen raking the water with their feet, obviously unperturbed by the changes occuring. The frags were then carefully lifted out of the bags and placed on the substrate to acclimatise for a couple of weeks.

A month on and I’m happy to say that both pieces are as perfect as the day they arrived. The shipping process clearly hasn’t had any negative affects and I’m sure this is down to Coralcultures vast experience and expertise in this area… and also the quality of their stock. We highly recommend this supplier if you are in looking for top quality stock delivered to your door.

REVIEW: Liverpool Reef Centre

As if being the European Capital of Culture, the city that produced the Beatles and the home of two of the Worlds greatest football teams wasn’t enough, Liverpool now boasts it’s own dedicated reef outlet – the Liverpool Reef Centre!

Located just off Smithdown Road this store is pretty new, having only been running a few months. Despite this, there was already a good selection of corals generally on our visit, with an excellent selection of healthy looking LPS.

The shop itself isn’t massive, but it is very clean and uncluttered which makes viewing the corals in the large central sytem a joy. Running Ozone and lit by T5s this is clearly a well maintained sytem and the condition of the livestock showed this. Dry goods are quite limited at the moment but most of the essentials are on offer. The fish sytem was fairly small at the time of our visit with some of it dedicated to freshwater. However, plans are afoot to convert this 1000ltr freshwater system for marine use which should see an extended range of inverts and larger fish species on offer. Despite the limited number of fish, there was a good spread of species with some lovely Fairy Wrasses in on our visit. All looked in very good health and it was good to hear that this stock had been sourced from TMC. Supplemental dips had also been performed before adding these fish to the shop system and Copper is also present in that systems water. This all means that fish health should be excellent and this was certainly confirmed by what we saw.

Going back to the corals, as said, the overall selection was generally good with an excellent LPS selection including Australian Acans and some huge Euphyllia colonies. SPS corals are due to be available very soon. A coral delivery service is also due to be launched imminently.

Customers should know that there is only limited parking available outside the shop, but there were spaces in the surrounding streets just a few minutes walk away and a 200 space car park 100 yards up the road. There’s no chip and pin in the shop at the moment but there’s a cash machine across the road if you come up short.

In conclusion, we think that the Liverpool Reef Centre is off to an excellent start. For the size of shop, the stock was excellent quality and the outlet was generally well thought-out. There also a good atmosphere in the shop… Jon and Keith are friendy chaps! Well worth a visit!

REVIEW: Osmotics Ultra-Pure 75gpd RO-Unit

Ask the vast majority of reefkeepers (or any advanced aquarist for that matter) and you’ll get the same answer – a good RO Unit is perhaps your most important tool in the quest for perfect parameters. Even if you’ve got good tapwater, chances are it still contains levels of contaminants and nutrients that will be enough to cause problems… particularly if introduced into a tank containing delicate livestock.

At just under £100, the Osmotics Ultra-Pure 4 stage 75 Gallon Per Day RO-Unit is not only inexpensive, it’s also clearly well-designed and built to provide you with a reliable source of pure water. Compared to its competitors, this unit also offered some nice extra touches.

Firstly, communication with this manufacturer was excellent and delivery was exceptionally fast. Packaging was also very impressive with the unit arriving safe and sound in a flashy-looking box. Unpacking the unit revealed it to be superbly built and attractive in appearance. The incorporation of the DI stage into its own cannister not only kept the physical height of the assembly down (useful for under the sink!) but also promised ease of resin replacement in the future. Putting the unit together was pretty straightforward thanks to a detailed instruction manual. The inclusion of a drain saddle valve (along with all the other key pieces such as tubing, piercing valve and wrenches) was something I’ve not had included with an RO as standard before, which was nice. The inclusion of DI resin in a resealable packet was also useful.

Compared to the old 50 gallon unit to be replaced, production was noticably improved, even without a booster pump.

Conclusion: for the price, a sturdy and attractive unit that does exactly what it’s designed to do, and from a company that clearly values its customers. Make sure you read the manual… and consider buying the connectors and taps required to ‘T-off’ between the RO and DI stage if you plan to use intermittently (this will extend your DI resin lifespan).

View this product HERE