When it comes to controlling nutrients, the use of chemical media is generally accepted to be one of the easiest, most flexible, and most cost-effective methods available. However, to make the most of the media chosen, careful thought should be given to exactly how it is used. While a potentially invaluable tool in your quest to control nutrients, media that is poorly implemented can actually cause problems, wasting money in the process.
Overall, chemical media can generally be used in two ways, either passively (such as in a netting bag or filter sock) or actively, such as in a reactor. While both methods have pros and cons, investing in a reactor is a sensible decision if you have a large amount of time and money invested in your reef tank, as the ability to rapidly engage certain medias offers a useful emergency back-up. Think if something dies or releases toxins into the tank, or even a non-organic pollutant enters the system, which must be removed quickly. Thankfully there are a large number of reactors to choose from, but each has its own attributes that should be considered carefully to ensure it meets your needs. Some of these key features, which we will investigate in turn in this review, are: size (footprint, height etc), build-quality and ergonomics, method of water flow, power consumption, method of adding and removing media, flexibility and controllability, and finally, customer support, pricing and availability.
In terms of size, the TMC REEF-filter 1000 has overall dimensions of 37x10x12.8cm. The footprint is 10x12cm and the actual reactor tube size is approximately 22x8cm (which gives it the 1 litre capacity). While this does accurately reflect the claimed capacity, take note that using a full 1 litre of media would rely on it being packed together between the two sponges. If you wanted to have media tumbling, then a little less media would be required. The reactor is rated to provide for a tank of up to 1000l which we will broadly agree with although there are many variables involved here. We’d suggest that the reactor is ideally suited to tanks of all sizes up to 1000 litres, assuming the tanks toward the larger end of the scale are fairly lightly stocked and have additional nutrient control systems. Looking at this in relation to the size of the unit, it’s an amazingly compact device in this respect.
Given its compact size, the REEF-filter is easy to fit in while remaining inobtrusive, indeed it easily fitted into one of the sump chambers in our 250-litre test tank. On the subject of ergonomics, the reactor was very simple to assemble. Literally all we needed to do was attach the pump on the bottom, add the supplied tubing to the outlet, add media, and that was it. The unit comes with the white rigid and flexible pipework fittings (exact components pictured) which are enough to direct the water back into your sump. The unit itself is designed to stand in a sump rather than hang on the side, or be attached to a manifold. The lid is secured by 5 thumbscrews which are easy to manipulate, requiring only a couple of turns to tighten or loosen, even with wet fingers; a definite bonus for when it comes to servicing the unit. Two fairly coarse sponges supplied keep the media in place and the CNC precision parts confer an acceptable build quality. To be fair, this isn’t a crazy expensive item that boasts titanium screws and weighs a ton, but it looks perfectly adequate for the job in hand. We seriously can’t envisage any issue with the construction based on our test model, and take note that it does come with a 12-month guarantee also.
Moving on to the feed method, an Italian-made Sicce Syncra ‘Silent’ 0.5 pump is included and this pumps a claimed 700lph at 8 watts consumption. If Sicce’s other pumps are anything to go by then this should give you no issues indeed it’s one of the most frugal pumps available in terms of power consumption, and is very quiet while running too. Coming with a standard UK plug fitted and a 1 metre cable, this AC pump can be controlled to some extent by restricting the intake, but that’s all. Although quite limited in terms of controllability, in reality we found that the maximum flow rate was a good match for a range of medias anyway so didn’t need adjusting. The diffuser plate also provides a nice even flow, ideal for lightly fluidising small loose PO4 medias, or providing flow through larger granule static GAC media. We would say that, as with most reactors, if using small medias, even with the sponges provided, it’s better to use that in a mesh bag. On that subject, the reactor is an ideal match for use with Tropic Marin Elimi Phos Longlife which comes in a bag ready to pop in. It really couldn’t get a lot simpler than this. TMC even include 250g of Elimi-Phos media with the reactor and when you take into account this would cost around £15 to buy separately, it makes the price even more attractive. Take note that this free media doesn’t include a bag though.
With an RRP of £109.98 at the time of reviewing, the TMC REEF-filter is, in our opinion, a simple, compact and effective reactor that is also easy to operate and maintain. It doesn’t offer a high degree of controllability but instead incorporates a good quality pump which is both quiet and low in power consumption. The unit is available now from a wide variety of suppliers and you’ll get all the support you need from TMC if required.