Advantages to using Wave Makers:

To ensure success with a coral reef aquarium, it will require the use of multiple water moving powerheads to create currents in the aquarium. By creating a turbulent flow in the saltwater aquarium, we will increase the oxygen levels and maintain a more even temperature gradient. Also, the back and forth motion of the water over the corals will eliminate any dead spots and remove any detritus that tries to settle out on the coral.

Natural Wave Wavemaker:

One of the first wave timers on the market was the Natural Wave Multi-Cycle Pump Timer from Aquarium Systems. This is a simple 6 plug power bar with three timed plugs, and three “always on” plugs. This allows the wavemaker to also provide power to other standard aquarium equipment like heaters, lights and filter systems. The three wavemaking plugs are arraigned so that the #1 and #3 plugs alternate; when one is on, the other is off. The timing cycle can be set from every 20 seconds up to every 3 minutes.  The #2 plug is set on a double time cycle to pumps #1 and #3, so if you have #1 and #3 set to alternate every one minute, plug #2 will stay on for 2 minutes, and then off for 2 minutes. This allows the system to have the #2 plug on half the time with the #1 plug and half the time with the #3 plug. Like most power bars, the Natural Wave has an on/off switch and a surge protector with reset button.

My Grade: A-

Plus:  very simple set up, offers additional always on plugs
Minus: somewhat limited set times

Ocean Pulse Wave Makers:

Ocean Pulse Wave Maker is available in two versions, with either two switched plugs (Duo), or four switched plugs (in two channels, Quadra). The unit with two plugs will alternate the plugs with a cycle time from 10 seconds to 6 minutes, with multiple settings between 10 seconds to 90 seconds. The four plug unit has two channels for switching, each with their own timer so it is possible to alternate plugs 1 and 2 every 90 seconds and plugs 3 and 4 every 3 minutes to allow you to customize the wave pattern.  Each plug will handle up to 77 watts of powerheads so it is possible to attach multiple powerheads to one of the plugs with an adapter.

My Grade A-

Plus: simple to set up, nice range of timer settings, Quadra offers great variability of patterns
Minus: Loses the “programming” if the power goes out

Hydor Koralia Smart Wave:

Hydor offers the SmartWave Circulation Pump Timer, a controller with two separate timing channels. Each outlet can handle up to 100W of water pumps. The timer allows cycles of 5 seconds to 6 hours, and you can have the pumps alternate or both work on the same timing cycle. There is also an on/off switch and a manual setting for feeding to stop the pumps while feeding. One unique feature is the ability to set a programmed feeding cycle, either once every 24 hours, or twice a day, with the second feeding 8 hours after the first feeding. The first feeding will be set at the time when you set the program. This way, you can synchronize the pump on/off cycles with an automatic feeder.

My Grade: A-

Plus: Very easy to set, feeding program can be a real plus.
Minus: They made it too “slick” for esthetic reasons, with my stubby fingers it was a bit difficult to grab the little knobs and turn them.

General Comments:

With the development of more wavemaker-friendly powerheads, the use of wavemakers will be a real bonus for the reef aquarium. Personally, I like to use about a 1 minute cycle with high volume pumps, as it is too much stress on the pumps to try to cycle them faster. Generally, I set my powerheads at opposite ends of the tank with one high, one low. In tanks with lots of Live Rock, I also like to set one powerhead behind the rock shooting out through the rock.  With the longer on/off cycle it is possible to develop a “wave” like back and forth motion in the water. If you were attempting to mimic a surge zone, it might be better to use multiple pumps on a shorter cycle to get crashing/counter current motion over the corals. It goes without saying that you will need to keep up the maintenance on the powerheads to ensure that they will always start up when wanted.

About The Author Don Roberts

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