Creative Plastic Research (CPR) Product Reviews
(The following combination of product reviews were written for Marine Fish Monthly many years ago. The Cyclone BakPak Bio-Filter and In-Sump Protein Skimmer was written for the October 1995 issue. The Micro-Reef Tank review was written for the February 1998 issue.)
Cyclone BakPak Bio-Filter
The Cyclone BakPak Bio-Filter is an external hang-on-the-side, combination Protein Skimmer and Biological Filtration Unit. CPR was the first, a few years back, to engineer their trickle filter systems with aquarium water first flowing through a built-in protein skimmer, then flowing to the units trickle section. This made so much sense that many other companies quickly copied the idea. The same flow pattern is basically used in this model, except that there is no trickle section, just a wet, flow through area filled with Bio-Bale filtration media.
A small, but highly efficient RIO pump with an ingenious set of connections called the "Rejuvenation System," mixes water and air in front of the pumps impeller where it is then drawn through the impeller and broken-up into millions of extremely tiny air bubbles. The flow of bubbles fills the entire skimmer column so well that you can not see through the width of the skimmer column. Bubble dwell time is increased by the counter-current flow in the skimmer column. This downward flow of water exits at the bottom side of the skimmer unit, where it then flows up through the biological filtration side of the unit. Water exiting this side of the unit flows, via a U-shaped spillway, back into the aquarium. The unit comes complete with everything to get it running. You simply hang it on the side of your aquarium, plug it in and adjust the height of the skimmer's collection cup. The unit is 7.5 x 3.0 x 16.5 inches and workmanship is excellent.
In-Sump Protein Skimmer
The In-Sump Protein Skimmer is simply that. It is basically the same unit as mentioned above, but is made to sit on the bottom of a trickle filter sump, not hang-on-the-side of the aquarium. Water flow through the unit is the same as the above unit, except it's return water flow simply spills back into the sump. It is slightly smaller then the above unit and will only take a five square inch space on the floor of the sump.
For those hobbyists who are on a tight budget and want to start a small, non technical system, these plug-in and ready to use units might be just the answer to their skimmer and filtration requirements.
Quarantine/Micro-Reef Tank (MRT)
There are not any more excuses not to have a quarantine aquarium. If you do not know what those excuses are, ask me because I have used them all! I'm one of those that have voiced the importance of a quarantine tank, yet never seemed to get around to having one. Well, that's over now because Creative Plastic Research is offering a 13 gallon Quarantine/Micro-Reef Tank (MRT) that comes complete with a biological filter and protein skimmer.
Last year, while attending the Western Marine Conference in Las Vegas, I again met the owner of the company and we discussed the products on his display table. I have known Mr. Suk Choo Kim for many years and have reviewed some of his fine products in this column and/or have often mentioned them in the course of writing for Marine Fish Monthly. As long time readers know, I do not mention products unless reader feedback is positive or I have personal experience with the product and believe it will benefit the hobbyist. In other words, if it's a product that is poorly designed, or has no positive value for the animals or valuable processes in our aquariums, the product name will not appear in this column. Also, since I have never been an employee of an aquarium product company, nor have I ever received money for saying a product is good, I can say what I please within reason. My mother has always said, "if you don't have anything good to say about something or someone, don't say anything." I believe that is excellent advise, especially so when you publicly discuss products in your endeavors.
As for this Product Review, there was a small reef aquarium on the display table. The workmanship on the unit, e.g., bonding of the edges and corners, appeared not to be up to their normal high standards. I found that strange and thought it may be simply a small show tank to draw attention of the passing crowds. I asked the purpose of the unit, which housed some live rock, Caulerpa, live sand, and a few small Clownfish. It was explained it was actually a prototype of a quarantine tank that could also be used as a miniature reef aquarium, or a hospital tank. This was the first one and was manufactured in haste with some scrape acrylic for the show. That by the time MACNA IX arrives (in a couple of months from that date), the polished finished product would be ready for sale and on display at MACNA IX. Well, when I attended MACNA IX in Chicago, there it was, again drawing a lot of interest from people who had made the same excuses for not having a quarantine tank that I have made for many years!
At the MACNA conference I heard an interested hobbyist say to Tom Mitchell, CPR Technical Support Manager:
"Oh, what a nice small reef tank."
"Well, it could be used for that, but its main purpose is a quarantine tank or hospital tank and it comes complete and ready for use as it has its own water pump, filtering system and protein skimmer built into the side of the aquarium."
"Gosh," commented the customer, "what a neat idea."
Yes, what a neat idea! A complete little system, totally powered by only six watts of electricity. Maybe aquarium stores can now afford a bunch of these little systems and used them to quarantine much of their newly arrived animals. Or, imagine an aquarium store that had a dozen or so of these units setup as small reef systems. They could then be used to hold the fishes the customer selected for ten days prior to them taking it home! Think about that a moment, the dealer quarantines the fish you pick out by placing them in some of these MRT's for ten days allowing other potential customers an opportunity to see the process. Great press for the dealer and a good deal for the customer in knowing the selected fish are ready for their home aquarium. With the MRT being so cost effective to own and operate, I would find it difficult to believe that many aquarium stores would not want to take advantage of such a good practice.
Also, hobbyists now don't have an excuse not to have one or two, maybe three or four. One could be setup as a small reef system and be used to house newly purchased fish for a week or two before they are placed in the main system. A second system could solely be used as a hospital tank when and if needed. A third and forth system could be used on your desk at work as a miniature reef aquarium and another one in the kids room. There's just no limit to its use's because it is a small, self-contained system complete and ready to go. Well, almost ready to go. You still need seawater, and inhabitants. You may even need a light hood if you are setting it up as a true miniature reef aquarium.
The MRT has a 18 x 12 inch footprint and stands 15 inches high, plus 3 inches for the protein skimmer collection cup. Tank capacity is 11 gallons plus 2 gallons in the attached filter compartment. Water flows into the RIO powerhead compartment via the water surface overflow opening in the top, inside corner of the unit. Water in this compartment is then mixed with air drawn into the RIO pump. The pump is mounted so the out flow is pointed towards the bottom portion of the protein skimmer section. The protein skimmer makes up the central portion of the side mounted filter compartment. There is a central vertical divider in the protein skimmer section that allows the very fine bubbles produced by the RIO powerhead to rise towards the collection cup. Water, free of most of its bubbles is drawn over the top of this vertical divider and down the other side of the divider and flows to the bottom of the biological filtration section. The remaining bubbles in the downward flow of water rise towards the protein skimmer. The bubble free water then flows upward into the biological section through Bio-Bale and exits through two openings into the aquarium. Very simple, yet very efficient use of the water flow through the unit. The MRT also comes with a heavy duty acrylic cover just in case you have something that may like to go airborne.
For lighting, the MRT has an optional light hood. It is a full, black acrylic hood that covers the entire top of the aquarium, including the top of the skimmer. It gives the aquarium a very nice, polished/finished look! The hood comes either equipped with a CustomSeaLife SL37/67K fixture, or without a lighting fixture. The choice is yours just in case you already have a small lighting fixture that could be self-mounted in the hood. As of this time, I do not have prices for the hood.
An early production model was sent to me just before MACNA IX for review and the workmanship was excellent. I plan on setting it up on a bookshelf with a Peacock Mantis Shrimp, a few small live rocks, some Caulerpa, and a half inch of sand on the bottom. I'll probably add another small Rio inside the unit for some additional water movement. There's just about no limit to what these small systems can be used for or where they can be placed. I think the hobbyist should also discuss their use with their favorite aquarium store. Stores just may want to setup some of these MRT's, each with a specific coral, invertebrate, and/or fish in its own environment. Electricity consumption is so small, they can make good miniature show tanks throughout their store. Even the idea of the store using the MRT to quarantine your selected fish, as discussed above, would be a welcome change in the hobby.
As for MRT price, they are currently $225. If demand is there, which I hope it will be, the price may come down a little bit. Yet, where else can you get such a complete system for that price? In closing, try not to let your children read this months column, as they may each want a MRT in their room.