RSS Neptune WAV pump review: a shakeup of the way things have been

MASA Admin

8 May 2007
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The WAV pump from Neptune Systems is the first big shakeup in powerful, controllable aquarium propeller pumps in way too many years. The last decade has seen a huge surge in the availability of water movers for the aquarium market. However the vast majority of these have been targeted at the smaller home aquariums, and too few of them have offered much more than manual control of the pump’s flow speed.

With the WAV Neptune Systems really breaks the propeller pump out of the paradigm which has locked the flow-scape into a two party, or two company system. Until now if you wanted a powerful, controllable propeller pump for a home sized aquarium, you had one of two choices, a Vortech pump from Ecotech Marine or a Turbelle Stream from Tunze.

Both of these manufacturers offer great products with many options for varying the flow in the aquarium, but they also have their limitations. Until the Vortech came along, reefers were accustomed to placing their pumps within the rockwork, and liked to create special zones of water flow for their reef creatures. Mass water motion is truly the best for the whole health of the aquarium, but we’ve lost some flexibility in aquarium design by only being able to place pumps flat on the glass.

Of course, you can still do this with Tunze’s powerful and diverse Turbelle Stream pumps, but their level of control and being able to remotely dial in the flow rate through a modern interface is severely lacking, especially compared to EcoSmart Vortech pumps. After years of supporting control for these third party pumps Neptune Systems decided to develop their own product with the best of both worlds, the WAV pump.

Right out of the box it is abundantly clear that the WAV pumps are well designed and meticulously built. The interesting mounting system gives the pump both a low profile and the ability to angle the pump up to 40 degrees in any direction from the wall. This is especially nice for placing the pump in discrete parts of the tank and pointing them at the ‘face’ of the aquascape, one of the key benefits of the WAV pumps.

The magnet holder of the WAV pump has a vibration absorption system, it can grip on glass up to one inch thick, and it does all this while preserving the low-profile design of the entire assembly. Best of all the great build quality and premium bearing surfaces come together to make a pump that is pretty quiet. It’s not as silent as QuietDrive Vortech pumps in real world tests but it gets impressively close, and you’re not likely to hear the hum of a WAV pump over the sound of water moving through the aquarium system anyway.

The WAV pump is small, powerful, efficient, quiet, and it truly bridges the gap between what has been available to date. Moreover, since the WAV pump was developed by Neptune Systems it includes a whole host of ‘control freak’ features that may not impact users day to day, but which may appeal to those who revel in the minutiae of aquarium technology.

WAV pumps are equipped with an auto-shut off feature if they are removed from the water, and if they fall off the glass, and they can even notify users of these changes with a text message. The other neat feature that Neptune introduced with the WAV pumps is the concept of FLO, a kind of measurement for water movement which helps users understand and compare how much water the WAV is actually moving in the aquarium. Of course this controllable pump has all kinds of pre-programmed flow types and movement patterns which can be selected in Apex Fusion.

As a concept FLO is an interesting idea but the majority of buyers will concern themselves more with the actual hard specifications of the pump. The WAV can push a maximum of 4,000 gallons per hour with a peak power draw of 35 watts. It’s no secret that the WAV pump shares a pedigree with the Sicce Voyager HP 10, a pump which pushes 4,000 gallons per hour at 25 watts. So it’s actually a surprise that the DC WAV pump actually uses more power than the AC Sicce Voyager, it’s usually the other way around.

The WAV pump is priced at $200 per pump, $349 for a pump a 1Link, and $500 for a pair of WAV pumps with the required 1Link module. The challenge in comparing the WAV to other pumps is that at those price points, neither bundle gives you a working pump out of the box until it is connected to an Apex controller, and the 1Link ‘sub-controller’.

Where the WAV pump truly shines is when you look at the ecosystem as a whole, with the 1Link and the Apex controller. The 1Link module can power up to three of Neptune’s pumps, either three WAV pumps or two WAV pumps and one of the forthcoming COR centrifugal pump. However, we just can’t get past the fact that even once you plunk down $500 for a pair of WAVs and a 1Link power module it won’t do a thing until you connect it to an Apex.

Neptune’s line is that you can get a pair of WAVs, 1Link and Apex Junior for $740, which is a bit more than you’d pay for a pair of QuietDrive Vortech MP40s. With the WAV pump package you may also get a full-on aquarium controller system, but if you’re a first time user of Apex you’ll be investing a solid 30 minutes to an hour getting all signed up, registered and programmed before you see a single turn of the WAV’s propeller.

This approach to ‘ecosystem lockout’ was more palatable with the DOS fluid metering system, which definitely needs some sort of programming to really perform as it should. But there is simply no good technical reason that WAV pumps couldn’t at least turn on at some speed and operate as powerful ‘dumb’ powerheads on their own before being plugged into an Apex.

Since the dawn of time all aquarium pumps except for the WAV have been plug and play

The discrepancy between Vortechs and WAV pumps underscores a fundamental difference in each companies’ philosophy of aquarium products. Ecotech Marine believes in smart devices connected to a basic hub which can work on their own, while Neptune System is developing dumb devices connected to a smart controller hub which won’t work without it.

Up until now all aquarium pumps have been plug and play, but this is one paradigm that we wished the WAV hadn’t broken. Apex fans and self-described Control Freaks will absolutely love the flexibility and performance of adding the WAV to their Apex ecosystem. However the WAV pump is not so simple for the majority of reef hobbyists who’d rather be aquascaping and fragging corals than fussing around with the aquarium equipment. But if you’re ‘all in’ with the Apex controller system, a couple of WAV pumps and a 1Link is a really good value, and it’ll fit right in with your style of aquarium management. [Neptune Systems]
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