Back in mid-October 2016 I was thrilled to be supplied one of the first Red Sea Max Nano systems available here in the UK for the purpose of producing this month’s ‘Quick Look’ review. Having already set-up a Red Sea REEFER 170 last year, I have to say that I had high hopes for this latest addition to Red Sea’s product line. However, I am also acutely aware of my duty to produce a review that is unbiased and objective and as such, please rest assured I’m assessing this system entirely on its own merits. Now that the tank has been running for a couple of months and I have become fully accustomed to its workings, let’s see if this new system lives up to the benchmark set by previous models.
So, this aquarium system came in two parts… the aquarium itself and the cabinet. Each box is heavy but just about moveable by a reasonably fit and strong adult, (although note that Red Sea recommend 2 people for safety). The packaging of the cabinet is eminently suitable for the job in hand, as my flat-packed cabinet emerged in pristine condition. The cabinet quality is really good, particularly the marine spec weatherproof epoxy-painted door, which looks great. The rear panel has a large ventilation hole in case you wish to fit a chiller. There are no shelves. It took about 30-40 minutes to assemble the cabinet which uses wooden dowels and cam lock connectors (use of a cordless screwdriver really helped). Instructions are clear and the unit really fitted together very well (I’ve assembled a variety of flat-pack furniture over the years and this was certainly one of the best in terms of precision and sturdiness). It was a nice touch to have plastic covers for the cam bolts too, and take note that the units has small plastic feet attached.
Moving on to the tank itself, this aquarium comes in an attractive box and is superbly packaged with all components nestled within the tank which is in turn securely suspended within chunky polystyrene retainers. Getting it out of the box is a little tricky with one person but, once out, I managed to lift it into position fairly easily. At 45x45x45cm, and 75 litres total volume, this is a fairly large nano tank. Note however that this includes the rear compartment and the display section is therefore actually a little less than 45cm front to back (more like 40cm). The volumes are actually 62 litres and 13 litres for the display and rear compartments respectively. At a total of 132cm height (excluding the LED light), the overall dimensions of tank and cabinet are pleasing to the eye, and construction is impressively minimal with the bevelled 8mm ultra-clear, low iron glass conferring a crystal-clear view of your livestock from both the side and front panels. The rear display panel uses near opaque black glass for the lower part while the upper quarter (which includes the weir comb), is a black plastic material. Above this, the innovative hinged screen (which neatly hides the skimmer and top up reservoir), is once again almost completely opaque black glass. The tank sits on a 4mm thick sheet of dense black foam and, when placed correctly, aligns flush with the glossy cabinet for super clean lines. One final point to note is that the rear outer wall of the tank is also opaque so it is only possible to see into the rear compartment from above.
The key feature of this system is of course the built in ‘REEF-SPEC’ life-support systems which include everything you’ll need to get started (bar a heater). In operation, water exits the tank via the weir (approximately half the tank width, with removable grille) justified to the top left of the rear panel, then enters a channel which directs it into first, a coarse black sponge pre-filter, and next, down through a slim 225 micron filter sock (which has a built in handle for ease of removal). Take note that a 100 micron sock is also available for water polishing. With larger particulates removed by the sock, the water next moves right, across the lower part of the rear compartment (as viewed from the front of the tank) and here either enters the skimmer pump or is drawn back upwards through a grid in the rough centre, into the next section of the compartment. Before we move on though, take note that there is room in the chamber underneath the skimmer for a heater (we used a 100watt titanium heater attached to a controller). Overall, water is drawn through the rear compartment by the circulation pump which is located at the bottom of the chamber on the far right. It is this suction that draws water through the grid we previously mentioned, and on top of this grid is where Red Sea recommends one places the 100g activated carbon supplied with the aquarium. This carbon is usefully supplied already within a mesh bag so really all you need to do is give it a good rinse/soak and pop it in. Once water has transited passively through the carbon, the circulation pump provided draws it in and then expels water through a flexible pipe which is attached to a ball and socket type multidirectional nozzle on the right of the rear panel. The nozzle can be adjusted within reason but to give more flexibility you may wish to source and add an additional angled elbow. With a turnover of 950lph, the circulation pump cycles the system volume a theoretical 12.6 times while providing a display section circulation of around 15 times per hour. This means that, unless upgraded or complimented, this system is more suited to livestock which thrives in low to moderate rates of flow.
With the overall filtration ‘circuit’ complete, let’s go back and look at the skimmer in more detail. With a theoretical intake of 60l of air per hour, I think that this unit is reasonably sized for the system volume providing the aquarist is careful not to overstock. I found that controlling the unit through use of the adjustable ‘gate’ on the skimmer output proved easiest way of tuning the unit, while keeping the intake airline fully open. I did notice that my unit was notably audible and produced microbubbles for the first couple of days of operation. However once live rock had been added, these bubbles quickly disappeared. On the rear right, sitting above the circulation pump section, we also have a 1.5l top-up reservoir that works via a simple float valve and promises a few days of top-up water. Although useful, we found it a little tricky to determine where the default water level of the system should sit underneath his reservoir so that the float switch is just at the point of closure. One could always install an auto top-up with a reservoir underneath the tank itself given suitable safety precautions.
The final major component of this system is the lighting which is provided by an AI Prime HD. A mere 12 x 12 x 3cm in size (approx.), this truly tiny unit outputs 55watts across 7 colour channels and features a single, star-shaped cluster of 13 LEDs which include Cree XP-G2/E, Osrams, and SemiLEDs in the array. As a HD unit, redundant power from channels running at less than peak levels can be ‘scavenged’ and used to boost other channels (for example red/green/white channels being used to boost blue levels). With built-in WIFI, all that is needed to control the light is the myAI app and this was both easy to download and connect on my Android device. After playing around with colour channels a little, I settled on an automated schedule and then applied an acclimation affect so as not to shock any of the coral fragments introduced from my larger system. In operation, colour blending seems excellent and I personally can’t discern any notable ‘disco effect’. In terms of mounting, the bracket was simple to attach and the ball joint allows for lateral adjustment of the head. I did have to tighten the small screws on the plastic joint between the light and bracket a couple of times to stop the puck from sagging, but after the second time, it held steady. As said, the bracket can be swung left or right to facilitate access which is also useful. To finish of the system, I’d recommend adding a third party mesh/netting cover to stop fish from jumping and plan to be using around 4-6 electrical sockets for the system.
After several weeks of operation, I’ve now added live rock, sand, clean-up crew organisms, a few coral fragments from my larger tank (which I have recently broken down) and a small number of fish that I am hoping to keep through my house move. Overall I’m really impressed with this little tank. It’s just so well-thought out, neat and tidy, and the quality really shines through. I really can’t fault it and I’ll certainly be putting in the effort to find a prominent place and fill it up with corals after the move!