Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ecoxotic EcoPico: Unboxing + LED Upgrade

It's been about 2 years since I've had an aquarium of my own.

One of the perks of working at is that I see aquariums every day. Monday through Friday, at least. But still, it's not the same.

I've been plotting my return to the hobby since I got married last May. Since we're saving money to start our family, buy a family-friendly car—you know, things young couples do—the aquarium had to meet certain criteria.

Namely, it had to be small (I live in an apartment), easy-to-maintain (I'm lazy) and energy-efficient (my obsession with gadgetry is already running up my electric bill).

Then, I saw her: 5.1 gallons of all-in-one simplicity. Her minimalism and affordability ($109.99) made my heart skip a beat. Her name? EcoPico. I like to whisper it: EcoPico. Now you try.

Oh yeah.

I first bared witness to her elegance on the Ecoxotic website. I admit it was love at first sight. I immediately knew we were made for each other.

The only problem was the tank wasn't available yet. So I waited. I passed time by watching YouTube videos and fantasizing about my future aquascape.

Then, on a recent rainswept morning, she arrived... with her twin sister in tow. I've documented the unboxing for your viewing pleasure.

Many hobbyists set up their EcoPico tanks as saltwater systems. I've been thinking about starting up a freshwater planted tank for a few years now, so that's the direction I decided to go for this setup.

First things first: I needed to upgrade the standard light fixture.

To make that happen, you first have to buy a a 4-way splitter ($12.95) and some additional LED strips ($22.99 each). Although the splitter allows up to four strips, the alcove in the included light fixture fits three. You could probably fit another two strips on the light, though, if you want to go crazy.

The EcoPico already includes one 12K white/453nm blue strip, so I opted for two additional 12K white strips.

Here is a picture of the new tank with the upgraded light fixture.

Here she is posing with her twin sister (aka my boss's tank).

If you want to go super crazy with the LEDs, mount two fixtures!

My boss thinks he'll have a better aquascape inside his EcoPico. I'm up for the challenge!

I'll be documenting my tank setup for the next couple of months so stay tuned for future posts!

Read more about my EcoPico:

New this Week, 4/20/11

JBJ Oceanstream Circulation Pumps/Powerheads
JBJ's new Oceanstream circulation pumps are equipped with magnetic holders and an articulating pivot ball. These innovative pumps utilize a unique PaddleDisc impeller that diverts water to the perimeter of the housing unlike traditonal propeller-based pumps. This ensures maximum "random flow" in wide circular currents that provide gentle water movement without harming corals placed directly within their path. You can choose between the super compact Nano Oceanstream (500 GPH) for smaller aquariums and the original Oceanstream (1600 GPH) for tanks up to 100 gallons. These pumps are ideal for fresh or saltwater aquarium systems. Both models can be affixed to your tank wall using a powerful magnetic holder instead of an unreliable suction cup. Both Oceanstream models are compatible with the affordable, easy-to-use Ocean Pulse Wavemakers so you can configure alternating 10 second to 6 minute wave cycles. You can buy an JBJ Oceanstream Powerhead today for $29.99 to $42.99 each. Ocean Pulse Wavemakers sold separately.

JBJ Trinity T5HO Light Fixtures
JBJ's new Trinity T5 High Output illumination systems provide 24-hour light cycles for your aquarium system. The lights are available in 24" (4x24 watt), 36" (4x39 watt) and 48" (4x54 watt) variations. All models include 10K daylights, 420nm acticnic, 460nm actinic, and 1 watt Nite-Vu LED moonlights housed inside a sleek powdercoated finish. The 24-hour light cycles combines day light, dawn/dusk and moon lighting in one space-saving fixture. The moonlights also cast a beautiful nighttime shimmering effect. Each cycle is individually controlled via timers on the power cords. All fixtures boast Fulham Workhorse Electronic Ballasts. Flip-top leg stands, individual polished German reflectors and dual 2,300 RPM cooling fans are also included. In addition to our own 60-day return period, JBJ back up this product with an impressive 2-year warranty. Pick up a Trinity today for only $224.99 to $299.99 (includes free shipping).

AlgaGen Aquarium Foods
We just received 13 new varieties of AlgaGen aquarium foods including Coral Smoothie, ReefPods Acartia Live Aquacultured Copepods and AlgaGen ReefPods Moina Salina Live Aquacultured Microalgae. Most are available in 8 and 16 ounce sizes (buy more, save more). The see-through bottles make it easy to watch the Copepods move about. AlgaGen foods are available for $14.99 to $43.99 each. Since these foods are alive, they must be shipped via 2Day service and thus have an additional shipping surcharge.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Product Review: ATI SunPower 36 Inch 6x39W T5HO Fixture

Item Code: UZ3007
  • Size: 36" (Actual Dimensions: 35" x 13.4" x 2.1")
  • Bulbs: Six 39w T5HO (234 total watts)
  • Reflectors: Individual Parabolic silver coated 98% reflective German-made aluminum
  • Cooling: Dual 3" x 3" Fans
  • Lamp Shield: 1/8" Thick Acrylic
  • Suspension Cable: 5ft long adjustable grip-lock hanging kit
  • Mounting Screws (Not Included): 6.0mm x 1.0; 8-32" Thread Size
  • Installed Bulbs (Bulbs Sold Seperately): 4x ATI Blue Plus, 1x ATI Aquablue Special, 1x ATI Purple Plus (20,000K+ look)
  • Weight: Approximately 18lbs
  • One year manufacturer's limited warranty
Common Sizing Guideline from the Manufacturer: "Soft coral tanks up to 115 gallons, mixed reef tanks up to 95 gallons and SPS dominated tanks up to 80 gallons. Recommended Tank Depth: up to 30" with carefully planned placement of corals."
ATI logo on the right of the fixture on both sides. Depending which way you mount the fixture. My current setup I have the power cord on the right side so the heat will be exhausted on the left side.
ATI SunPower mounted on a 75g 36x24x20 aquarium with bent electrical conduit painted white. Power cord hanging down on the right side.
The grip-lock adjustable hanging kit allows you to easily adjust the height of the fixture. Keep in mind that this fixture is 18 lbs so while it may be easy to adjust with one hand, I advise to use both hands.
The fixture can be tilted forward or backwards which makes mounting and positioning very flexible depending on your tank setup. This allows you to tilt the fixture so it doesn't shine in your face when standing next to the aquarium.
The tilted position can be locked with the threaded screw at the bottom of the grip-lock adapter.
ATI includes the female threaded retainer that can be screwed into a stud or anchor. Running the cable through the male adapter, and then screwing it into the female threaded retainer makes it very simple to hang the fixture. I mounted mine through bent electrical with the male threaded adapter as my anchor.
Male threaded adapter has a small hole at the bottom. The 5ft cable with the nut is inserted through the male adapter, and then the male adapter can be screwed into the female threaded retainer. I have it mounted differently as the male adapter is used as my anchor.
Grip-lock adjustable hardware. The 5ft cable is threaded from the top to the bottom. The quick release lever is located at the top of this picture. By pressing the quick release lever, you can easily lower the fixture. When lifting the fixture, the hardware automatically locks itself into place.
The bottom screw allows you to lock the fixture in a tilted position.
Dual 3" x 3" fans help extend the life of the bulbs.
1/8" thick acrylic shield protects the bulbs from splashes and allows the fans to draw air in from one end and out the other.
Heat is exhausted at this opening. The lamps produce a good amount of heat so keep in mind which side you want the heat exhausted when mounting your fixture.
One plug controls two bulbs: Sockets 2 and 5
The other plug controls two bulbs: Sockets 1, 3, 4, and 6
All six lamps fired. ATI Blue Plus for sockets 1, 2, 5, and 6. ATI Purple Plus for socket 3, and ATI Aquablue Special for socket 4.
The manufacturer recommends positioning the label end of the bulb where the fan holes are located. The label end is where the bulbs are sealed and is generally hotter than the other end.
High quality parabolic individual reflectors wraps around the bulbs bulbs providing greater light at lower depths.
The center of the power adapter is where the fan plug is connected. On the other end of this box is the grey power cord that hangs down from the fixture.
I use this label to help remind me which plug fire which sockets. This label has less text (looks brighter), and its on the same side as my daylights plug that controls 4 sockets.
This label has the black icon which is on the same side as my actinic lighting which fires two sockets.
This fan plug and adapter is probably the worst part of this fixture. A slight bump may cause the connection to get loose and the fans lose power even when it looks plugged in. Double check to make sure the fans are working properly when working near the power supply.
European power adapter with a multi-voltage setting. Set it to 9V and you are good to go.
European to American plug adapter
Attached American plug, awkward, but it works
Two 3 prong plugs. One controls 2 sockets, and the other controls 4 sockets.
Silver colored bent aluminum that is rust proof and extremely sexy!
The ATI SunPower is a high quality fixture for being the economy model from ATI. The main differences between the SunPower and Powermodule is the housing, and the number of cooling fans. The SunPower housing is made from bent aluminum, whereas the Powermodule is a curved stainless steel housing. The SunPower also has less cooling fans per bulbs than the Powermodule, but as far as performance goes, it is not far behind the Powermodule.

The fixture itself is well constructed and feels very sturdy. The included mounting hardware is excellent for being very adjustable and easy to install.

My only gripe is the fan plug and the European power adapter. However, once its working just leave it alone and it will be fine.

The lamps are not included, which is not necessarily a bad thing. This allows the hobbyist to pick and choose different bulb combinations for their aquarium. The bulbs used in this review gave a crisp 20,000K blue look, whereas swapping out one ATI Blue Plus bulb for another ATI Aquablue Special or ATI Purple Plus would give more of a 50/50 look.

The amount of light this fixture produces is phenomenal. My entire living room brightened twice as much compared to my old metal halide setup. What sets this fixture apart from its competition is the minimal amount of light wasted since the parabolic reflectors shoots light straight down into the aquarium.

The ATI SunPower fixture is available in 4, 6 or 8 bulb setups and in the following sizes:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Product Installation: Kent Marine Float Valve

Kent Marine Float Valve
Marine Depot Item Code: KM1675

Package Contents Include:
  • Float valve
  • Food grade white neoprene gasket
  • Black nut
  • Jaco fittings
  • Instructions
Construction: All ABS black high density plastic
Tools required: Drill, drill bit up to 5/8", adjustable wrench and teflon tape
Installation time: <5 minutes
Water container: Brute trash can with wheels used in this installation, or any food grade safe water container. Do not use recycled containers as they leach chemicals into the water.
What I added: JG Speedfit valve so I could disconnect, roll away and store my Brute container when not in use.

Kent Marine Float Valve (KM1675)
Drilling the 5/8" hole with a smaller drill bit
White gasket goes on the inside of the container
Installed float valve from the inside
Jaco fitting for 1/4" RO tubing. I cut the RO tubing to fit a JG 1/4" Speedfit to 1/4" Speedfit valve. Your RO unit must have a auto-shut off valve in order for the float valve to work. You can purchase the Kent Marine Float Valve with Shut off Solenoid kit here: KM1651. Alternatively, you can run the RO tubing directly from the Jaco fitting to your RO unit. Also be sure to use teflon tape for the fittings.
A JG 1/4" male thread to 1/4" Speedfit valve (Item Code: RO5353) would have been the ideal choice here, but with a spare valve on hand, this setup worked fine for me. The JG valve allows me to close the valve, disconnect the RO line and roll my Brute container to storage when not in use.
The Kent Marine Float Valve is available with the float only or as a kit with the shut off valve. The float valve is well constructed in black ABS plastic, and is rated at city water pressure. The fittings included are food-grade safe and fit 1/4" standard RO tubing. The installation process took less than 5 minutes, and required minimal tools. After flooding my floors a couple of times, this item has saved me the hassle of setting timers or having to worry about forgetting to shut off my RO/DI unit.

You may visit the Kent Marine Float Valves here: