Richard Aspinall takes a quick look at this new range.
The REEF-Flow 4 from TMC is the smallest in their new range of circulation pumps and retails at £64.99. The 8, 15 and 20 models range from £84.99 to £124.99 with outputs of 8,000, 15,000 and 20,000lph respectively.
I’ve had the Reef Flow 4 on test for a while and whilst it is notoriously difficult to accurately measure the number of litres of water per hour it is certainly holding its head up in the highly subjective ‘price versus water movement stakes’, which is after all one of the major considerations here. There are, after all, far more expensive devices on the market and there are some that experience shows actually shift far more water, but if you have a small nano sized system and you’re on a budget then this 4,000lph pump could well be for you.
The REEF-Flow range utilises the tried and tested magnetic attachment method and uses some flexible synthetic rubber material to dampen down any vibrations that would be transferred from the pump to the glass. Each magnet has a silicone cover that sits between it and the glass and then the unit is isolated from the clamp by four flexible fittings. I could not hear any problems caused by this relatively small unit, though more powerful units that are in need of replacement impellors or a good clean may generate noise, but that’s something I can only guess at.
The pump appears well enough put together and should last well enough in the chemically aggressive waters of the average reef tank. Time will tell as to whether the plastics become brittle and end up snapping, but initially the unit comes apart easily enough to facilitate cleaning, though the circular ‘bushes’ that sit over the mounting lugs are easily lost when cleaning, though this may be more to do with me being clumsy than anything else.
The controller does the job, but it is obviously a piece of electronics made to a budget and lacks the bells and whistles of many, far more expensively bespoke devices. This is undoubtedly a good thing, customers need kit from across the budget range and newcomers to the hobby will especially want equipment that gets them going and works.
The controller offers an easy-to-use speed control and ability to select between various modes and is reminiscent of controllers available with other similar products. In fact, users of Jebao pumps may well recognise it as a rebranded Jebao unit and a close look at the box shows a small sticker from Jebao saying the product is “supplied exclusively for Tropical Marine Centre in the UK by Jebao Co Ltd.”
The controller’s feature set is quite rich. A light sensor can be used to activate a night mode though this will require placing the controller within ‘sight’ of the aquarium, but you can also select night mode manually.
The controller also has a feed mode; the pump will power down for ten minutes (unless manually cancelled) and then return to its previous setting. The various circulation modes are straight forward: wave, surge, random, constant and alternating and offer many hours of tinkering for the committed hobbyist. But don’t assume this is a simple device, it can be used wirelessly with up to eight other pumps (you have to set one as the ‘master’ and the others as ‘slaves’). It’s worth pausing right here: a pump for less than seventy quid with wireless control! This shows us just how far technology has advanced and how easy it is to do something that a decade ago would have been considered a luxury far off in the future: now its common place. Sadly, I only have one REEF-Flow to play with so I’m taking TMC’s literature at face value and assuming it works, there’s no reason to doubt it, but apologise I cannot independently verify it.
So, to summarise. This is an ideal range of products for the newcomer or the aquarist working to a budget. It has all that you absolutely need with the possibility of creating some interesting circulation patterns in your tank though the addition of more units.