Anyone who’s had a reef tank for more than a couple of years will know that success brings its own challenges as a healthy, growing coral population steadily begins to exert an ever-increasing demand that must be maintained.
There are numerous ways to achieve mineral and/or trace element supplementation of course, and the use of dosing pumps has proven a very effective way to deliver a range of solutions for tanks of all types. Actually, their use isn’t just limited to this role, indeed dosing pumps can also be very useful in the automation of key duties ranging from water changes to automatic feeding.
Some of the key concerns in choosing a dosing pump are quality, accuracy, reliability, ease of use, physical size and price and there are lots of different options on the market that range from cheap and cheerful to ‘gold standard’. In this review we take a look at new multi-head and single head units from D-D; specifically, the P1 and P4 Pro.
First of all, it’s worth noting that both of these ‘smart’ pumps have been jointly developed by D-D and medical grade dosing equipment manufacturer Kamoer and this is a major score straight off the bat for the quality factor in our opinion. We’ve personally used Kamoer’s X4 unit on the test tank for several months and been very impressed and if anything, the P4 Pro boasts superior components. On this subject, it is extremely rugged in construction with a heavy, powder coated metal body and furthermore utilises patented colour coded direct drive geared DC motors to prevent slippage or rusting for exceptional reliability and precision. In addition, high quality PharMed® long life tubing is used in each pump head which provides heat, acid/alkali and ozone/UV radiation resistance, plus it has threaded connectors to ensure no leaks occur at connections to the pump head. The P1 is less heavy-duty but still feels more than capable of coping with typical hobby use. Although the motors are a step down in quality from the P4 Pro, the P1 (and the P4 standard model) are still ahead of the pack in terms of features which we will examine shortly. On the subject of build, these units stand out not only for their evident quality but also for their tiny size. Truly these are incredibly small dosing pumps at less than 25cm wide and 5cm deep for the multi head units, and 10cm by 6cm by 9.2cm (including dosing head) for the P1. This makes them a candidate for even small reef systems where cabinet space can become a real issue. Our favourite is definitely the P4 Pro which seems a shame to hide-away in a cabinet!
Moving on to accuracy, take note that the P4 Pro can deliver single doses of 0.1 to 9999ml with an accuracy of <+/-0.5% and these doses can be programmed to be delivered in almost every way conceivable. In short, it’s accurate enough for even the most demanding stony coral systems and this is underpinned by Flow Rate Calibration for each pump head too. The P1 and P4 standard offer 0.1 to 6000ml dosing with an accuracy of <+/-2% which again is more than acceptable for a variety of applications, and this is again underpinned by a calibration option.
In terms of ease of use, the P4 and P4 Pro offer WIFI control via iPhone/Android device specifically through a D-D H2Ocean mobile App (Android and IOS) which uses a 2.4Ghz connection. Through this App, is it possible to control the pump in a variety of ways such as initial pump selection, channel setting and dosing volumes, flow calibration, snapshot display of elements and dosing volumes, anti-interference settings and solution level monitoring. Software updates are also achieved via WIFI and take note that all units feature a battery back-up to keep your settings safe in the event of power loss. Both the P4 and P4 Pro also possess 2 CAN sockets so there is the potential to link units if you need to expand beyond the 4 head configuration. The P1 is again controlled by smart phone or tablet but uses Bluetooth to connect and uses a slightly different App. The control options are slightly less expansive here (the maximum number of doses in a 24-hour period is 12 rather than 24 for example) but it’s still a capable little unit. Particularly, the P1 would make for a great introduction to dosing pumps if you are considering it and we’d go as far to say that it would be entirely possibly to provide for the main demands in even a large system with just a couple of these linked together.
Packaging of these pumps is very smart with everything you need coming in the box, including instructions. Take note that there are also lots of supplementary materials online including set-up videos to back this up. As well as the pump unit, you get a generous 3m of tubing, an acrylic screw-clamp tube manifold, a multi-region power supply and a 10ml measuring cylinder for calibration (plus a link cable with the P1). Swapping-out our Kamoer X4 with the P4 Pro was easy, although getting the existing tubes onto the P4 nipples was a little tricky. The tight-fit backed up by the screw-on collars resulted in a leak proof fit first time though which was great. Following the included quick start guide, we quickly managed to connect directly on our Android phone although be careful to enter the password with the ‘a’ at the start as we missed that first time.
Connecting via our router was a little more complex and took a couple of tries during which the App closed unexpectedly more than once, but it ultimately proved successful and we then moved on to manually running each head to re-prime the dosing lines, renaming pump heads, renaming the device itself, and then setting the dosing schedule and anti-interference (which we left at 5 minutes). It’s even possible to chose the speed at which the head delivers a dose between medium or fast and the noise produced is very similar to the Kamoer, slightly quieter on medium. It’s worth noting that the P4 Pro can be attached using a bracket that hooks onto the back face of the unit, which in turn can be screwed to a cabinet wall for example. Installing the P1 was also easy and we found the X1 App an absolute doddle to use further affirming our belief in this as a great entry level unit.
Retailing for £299.99 the P4 Pro compares very favourable against competitor brands given the quality of the components and the extensive feature set. The P1 retails at £69.99, while the P4 standard provides another option at £244.99. The range is widely available at quality marine retailers.
For more detail visit: www.theaquariumsolution.com