(Written in 2003 - they now, 2009, have larger models - check them out)
Product Review - Switching Current Water Director (SCWD)
Over the past ten to fifteen years I've used many different types of equipment for altering current flow in my aquariums. One of the earliest and still clearly in my mind was a 'Y' shaped electrically controlled valve that would alternate the direction of the outflow. It worked fairly good, but I had a 'shocking' experience with it one day and decided there must be a better way if I were to go on living! Then come powerheads located in different aquarium areas connected to appliance timers. That also worked fairly well, but mechanical timers did not. Next came electronic timers and they were excellent, however, powerheads were not environmentally pretty, nor were they easy to maintain. Then came 'wavemakers' and they did a fine job of controlling different size powerheads. Some wavemakers even provided for less water flow during evening hours, and/or were easily turned off at feeding times. But, their cost was much more than appliance timers. Within the last couple of years, powerheads with internal gearing allowed for water to be distributed in a sweeping motion. I tried them and they were quite good, except the littlest thing clogged them. Larger capacity powerheads with similar sweeping motion have also come to market recently. Yet, just another powerhead and anything nearing its intake was sucked in and caused the unit to cease operation. I even tried a dump bucket thing once! Far too messy and involved for home use unless salt creep and maintenance is something to be enjoyed.
Honestly, I've probably tried the whole array of ways to alternate water flow or create gentle waves in the aquarium. One thing for sure, all the control devices themselves depended upon electric power for their operation. When Paul Muscarella, one of the owners of 3iQ Ventures contacted me and described their new water switching device called 'Switching Current Water Director (SCWD)' or simply pronounced 'Squid,' he mentioned it required no electrical current to operate. I was intrigued! He went on to say this inexpensive device (I liked hearing that also!) was not only small, about the size of an electric razor, it directed its incoming water supply in two alternating 180 degree opposing directions. And that speed of the incoming water controlled the time it took the device to change direction. Flows from small pumps would take longer to accomplish direction change, and faster incoming flows from larger pumps would cause direction change more quickly. He also mentioned there is never any backpressure on the pump as its patent pending design does not allow one of its ports to fully close before the other opens. This insures smooth operation, which is totally quiet. The device has been tested with course objects such as sand grains in the incoming water and has not clogged. In fact, it has over 53,000 hours of trouble free testing and can be used with pumps delivering up to 1400 GPH with a maximum of 5 psi. If powerheads may be the supplier of the water, they can deliver as little as 50 GPH and SCWD will continue to function.
As with all equipment the proof of the pudding is in giving it a test run. For that I asked one of my clients if I could use her tank since it might be helpful to have some additional water movement. With her approval, I installed a 'Tee' in the tubing from a sump located SEN 90 pump that fed its return fitting at the top of the 90 gallon aquarium. I also installed two small adjustable in-line valves, one in the tubing going to SCWD and the other in the tubing going to the pump's outflow. They were necessary to balance the volume of flow between SCWD and the other outlet.
For this 'test' run, SCWD was located at the opposite end of the aquarium from the SEN's outflow with its incoming water supply tubing anchored between two pieces of live rock. The SEN pump was then turned on and the in-line valves adjusted as needed. SCWD worked perfectly with its water changing direction about every twenty seconds. The aquarium now had water entering on one end and at its opposite end, water flow was alternating between front and back aquarium panels. A much better condition then previously existed. SCWD now replaced a nuisance powerhead that only flowed in one direction!
Of course, it's not necessary to mount SCWD inside the aquarium as it is totally waterproof. It can be mounted in any convenient location outside the aquarium and its flow simply piped to any area inside the aquarium, making it an elegant way to distribute water to different locations throughout the aquarium. There are many mounting possibilities, as the main system pump can directly feed one SCWD, and additional units can 'Tee' off a centrally located unit. Any combination of outlets can be arranged with either flexible or rigid tubing. That would be so much better than placing powerheads at different locations in the aquarium! I have since gone back and removed SCWD from inside the tank and located it to the back outside of the aquarium. From there, the two flows are simply piped to the same font and rear corner areas making for a more natural looking environment.
Okay, so 'Switching Current Water Director' is not an 'exquisite' name for a wavemaker! Personally, I don't care as the darn thing is not only inexpensive ($59.95), it needs no electricity to operate. And, with it being totally quiet and quite small, it's an innovative way to resolve water movement in most aquariums. I should note that presently some major public aquariums are using the device and all are well satisfied with the product.
I understand SCWD, which comes with a 90 day warranty, will soon be available from many different sources, however, its so new that presently it's only available through 3iQ Ventures, Aquarium Products Division, 1601 N. Sepulveda Blvd, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266, Phone: 310.535.7003, fax: 310.545.6119, Email: email@example.com. For more information, visit their website at: www.3iqventures.com.
Addendum - 2011
Ask yourself if ‘size matters’ and you’ll no doubt say in some aspects it most certainly does! And we aquarists often want bigger and better aquarium systems and increases in their bioload. That quite frequently comes with digging deeply into one’s pocketbook as certain aspects with bigger systems and/or increases to bioload require expensive equipment to keep the system well maintained.
One of the aspects often encountered when moving up in aquarium size is there is usually a need for increased water movement. And that will require larger water pumps, possibly increased water temperature from submerged pumps, and/or additional devices that will send incoming water flow in different directions, e.g., wavemakers. As noted above, 'Switching Current Water Director (SCWD)' – pronounced ‘squid,’ is not an exquisite name for a wavemaker. Nevertheless, there is now a one-inch model available, which offers hobbyists further latitude in designing water flow in larger aquariums.
Again, Paul was very kind to send this new larger model for review, and this time it was given to a local hobbyist who just set up a 180 gallon system. Unfortunately, the Squid arrived a couple of months after the system was setup and I found the system’s plumbing to have far too many twists and turns in the existing piping to functionally operate the review one-inch Squid with the systems 800 gallon GPH submergible water pump. Furthermore, this pump was in a sump ‘next’ to the aquarium, which was also servicing another somewhat smaller aquarium. But fear not, as I wanted a result that I could go away with, and found some lengths of flex tubing and clamps in his garage and connected his pump directly to the one-inch Squid, which in this cramped situation was secured onto the left upper outer side of the aquarium with its two outlets piped over the side and into the aquarium. Did not look pretty, but its served the purpose. Even though the distance between pump and Squid was about 5 feet, and water was raised several feet, the Squid operated nicely, but somewhat slowly. A higher output pump would have no doubt had better results. At that point, thankfully, my cell phone rang and left leaving the aquarist to re-establish all the disconnected piping and to contact me as to its final usage. Must say, the hobbyist was amazed that such a simple and low cost item could supply such water movement and do it without other connected pumps or electrical wiring/electrical consumption!
Please re-read this review in its entirety as I’m sure you’ll come away impressed on how ‘SQUID’ can not only save money when compared to other devices that move water, but also deliver water currents that mirror flows in the wild, and do so without added electrical costs!