red sea reefers are not worth the cost

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dontbuyxenia

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I know this is controversial, but there is no way red sea tanks are worth the money at all in the slightest. I bought a red sea 250 after moving and needing to downsize from my 150(which was just a standard 150 from planet aquariums I purchased from my lfs). It was somewhat sudden and I didn't want to go through the hassle of designing, purchasing, and installing plumbing; I found a good deal so I decided to get it. I bought the system used for a price of $800. It had only been used for a year and everything worked fine. So I figured I would outline the things I don't like about the system to warn others but hopefully have some input from to improve these issues.

1. The "all in one"/"plug and play" lie: The red sea 250 system cost $1824. That includes the tank, stand, sump and plumbing. How is this plug and play? Theres nothing even to plug in as it doesn't come with a return pump. I think that most people would agree that to just get the tank started you would need to put in at least another $1000. You could easily spend over $3000 including the tank and not have any fish or coral. Thats insane for a tank with a system volume of 65 gallons. You could easily find a tank at least twice the volume including stand and probably a sump for the same price or less. Even other all in ones like IM give you a pump, media, and a top. Luckily I had a bunch of extra stuff from my 150 but for someone starting out it would be ridiculous.

2. The lack of space: One of Red sea's main selling points is that you wont have to spend time and money buying different pieces of plumbing and filtration equipment to put your system together. For a beginner who has no experience in what to look for in buying equipment this is a good reason to buy Red sea. But for more experienced reefers who are looking to run more sophisticated equipment such as gfo reactors, calcium reactors, auto dosers, or an ato(i will cover this more later) they will be greatly restricted by space. The sump takes up a considerable amount of space and leaves just a small area, about 14inx20in, to store EVERYTHING else. My stand looks like a bomb went off. Between auto doser pumps and containers, wires for the heater, refugium light, skimmer, and return pump there is almost no room to store anything else. This is because the opening for wires require that they be stretched across the sump from the left side. And the sump has to be installed on the left. This means wires get covered in salt creep and take up valuable space in the storage area.

3. The ATO: The ATO is famously hated among red sea owners. This should be no surprise since all it is is a cheap float valve system with no real fail safe in it except for the fact that the volume when filled is not enough to overflow the sump. That's fine if you don't mind losing sensitive species to a large salinity swing. Now granted, I have had no reliability issues with the ATO and the feature for adjusting the water level in the return pump compartment is very nice. My main issue is how it is positioned. Since the ATO sits on top of the sump, it is high above everything else so it is difficult to access. You can't pour the bottom half of a 5 gallon jug into it as you cant tip the jug over enough to get the water out. This means you need to empty the water and scoop it in with a cup or something. And forget trying to take the ATO out and filling it. The reservoir is a small glass tank with an open top so there would be no way to reinstall it without sloshing water all over the place. And that open top quality makes you lose lots of extra water due to evaporation. The design is so poor that it makes way more sense to just get another ATO, especially if your house is as dry as mine. The design could have been fixed so easily too. Just make the reservoir a closed top jug with a hole at the side and include a funnel to pour the water into. Almost like a gas tank or oil for your engine. But it is so obvious that red sea instead chose to forego functionality for aesthetic by keeping their minimalistic glass box instead of a custom plastic jug that would have made sense. Instead I have to keep a new ATO outside of the tank stand as there is no room inside the stand for one.

4. The quality issues: Red sea has a reputation of quality in general. That is until you start to have problems with your tank and find all the red sea owners with the same problem. From seam leaks to the incredibly annoying defect with the drain plumbing that causes the tank to sound like a toilet 24/7, red sea has its fair share of issues. Personally, my tank is way louder than my 150 ever was. If the dial on the drain line isn't tuned exactly right it is extremely loud. Many people replace this part with one from home depot. For a near $2000 tank kit, this is unacceptable.

Conclusion: Red sea systems are great if you like how they look. That's it. After owning one for the past 6 months I can tell you that it isn't worth it. The equipment is not better. It requires mods to make it function optimally and you will be spending hundreds of more dollars before ever putting a fish in. In my opinion, red sea takes advantage of people with the idea that they will provide you with everything you need to get you a tank that looks like the ones on their website or at fish stores(btw, red sea requires displays in stores that sell their tanks, the stores aren't necessarily choosing red sea because they want to). I understand that many people love red sea reefer tanks. And not all red sea products are bad either, just the tanks(and test kits lol). If you want to buy a red sea tank, just do your research and think about how your money is being spent and where else it could go. Cheers!
 
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A;exr54

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I have a good friend who used to manufacture and sell custom aquariums.
He basically abandoned his business. Not because it was doing bad, he actually was doing very good.
He told me he quit because he really got tired of all the bad reviews he would get on different forums and customers constantly being hyper critical. He just couldn’t keep up with it.

Now occasionally he will sell only to stores for large displays.

Not saying your wrong. But it’s really hard and maybe not even possible to have the perfect tank for all aquarium hobbyists.
When it comes to Red Sea Tanks idk. I never owned one. But they do market the heck out of them. And they are a premium cost.

If I were in the market again for a new larger aquarium I would look for someone local and custom. Not a large brand name that mass produces.
 

davidcalgary29

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Definitely an unpopular option, looking forward to seeing this thread
I have to say that I disagree with many of the points made by @dontbuyxenia, and I'm the farthest thing from a Red Sea apologist.

First, a complaint is made about the cost...but the OP didn't buy theirs for $1824. Why complain about the price of something that you didn't pay? And, as most of us know, going overboard on gear is something not exclusive to Red Sea owners. I can't speak to the situation in Greece (if OP's not in an American namesake city), but it's simply not going to cost you an extra grand to start up your RSR in North America. I bought a return pump off of Amazon for fifty bucks. And I'm not going to criticize Red Sea for not including lights, as that's standard industry practice. I'm using a couple of Primes that I bought used for $300 (for both). The total is still well under $500 CAD for extra equipment costs (lights and heater included).

Second, OP makes a number of complaints made about Red Sea's quality control issues that plague "all" owners. Well, theirs works fine and so does mine. We've all read the horror stories of the Parting of the Red Sea (seams), and it's a concern, but this happens to other tanks. It happened, as a matter of fact, to my first tank in 2005, and that was certainly not a Red Sea build.

Finally: ATO. Just get rid of the stupid small tank and use your own. It's a simple job. How is that a deal-breaker?

I have two Red Sea tanks now -- a RSM250, and the RSR350 -- and they both have irritating quirks, just like my other, non Red Sea tanks. I've ranted on here about my decaying RSM250, and have spent a lot of money getting it working, but that's what you get with a fifteen year-old AIO tank with a canopy when you buy it used. And Red Sea's customer service has been atrocious in helping me with issues with my RSM250 -- they don't even keep parts in stock! -- but none of the listed issues are novel or unknown. Red Sea tanks are fine for what they are -- and it's okay if you don't like what they have to offer.
 
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monkeyCmonkeyDo

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I agree with the op. They are a waste of $.
Smaller aio are ok at best.
If your gonna do a reef tank in your home. Do one. Do a custom. Do custom stand and skins and furniture. Make it modern. Make it retro. Make it to fit your home or your personality or lifestyle.
It's a freaking reef tank and your hobby and dream maybe. $ shouldn't be the issue. Your personal standards should come 1st imo.
-d
 

ReefRondo

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I agree they are expensive and 100% about the old drain valve but they are nice tanks. I like them so much I bought one and I don’t even use the sump, ATO or the plumbing and I did all my own. This makes it sound even more expensive but I love how it looks. All down to personal budget I guess. I know I could have ordered a custom tank in these sizes for a third of the price but it wouldn’t have armoured seals and many other benefits. That is based on the UK custom tank market which to be honest is way behind.
 

mmorriso

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I think Red Sea tanks are actually quite economical and I disagree with almost all of your points. The points you've raised could be said to equally apply to every "big-box" tank manufacturer, such as Waterbox and CADE.

1. The "all in one"/"plug and play" lie: They are "all in one" as far as glass and cabinet are concerned. They come with filter sock holders and media baskets, a modest ATO, a well thought out sump with good baffle options and decent plumbing / overflow setup. Red Sea also does sell "complete" systems as part of their MAX line which have skimmers / return pumps and lights included.

2. The lack of space: Ultimately, there's a limit to what can be fit under any given tank. Red Sea offers a reasonable wet / dry area for most of their tanks. Once you get below 3ft in tank size, it's obviously going to be challenging to fit everything you might want, but how is this specific to Red Sea? I've had a Waterbox and I've seen many CADE aquariums and all "big-box" aquariums are the same in this regard.

3. The ATO: The ATO is a cheap inclusion and is sufficient to get you started. When I was living in an apartment, I appreciated the included ATO and the way it stacks vertically on the sump as it saved me space, but as soon as I had more space I used an external ATO reservoir like 90% of reefers. Once again, this applies to all "big box" manufacturers, not just Red Sea.

4. The quality issues: I can't speak to all locations, but in my country, Red Sea outsells all other "big-box" manufacturers combined. I have had a combination of Red Sea and Waterbox tanks and I don't think there's any appreciable difference in quality between them, however you'll obviously find more documented issues when there are so many Red Sea tanks out there. One positive with Red Sea is that there is typically a much more robust distribution / logistics chain supporting them than other manufacturers and their support is what you'd expect from a global company. I had a cracked Waterbox return line and it took 5 weeks to get a replacement. Red Sea can replace a whole tank within a week. I guess in North America they're both probably great due to the large customer base but across the globe Red Sea has a much more substantial presence.

Conclusion: Red Sea systems, like Waterbox and CADE and Neptunian Cube, are great for first time reef keepers or those that want to just buy something and start keeping fish / coral. There are many thousands of "big-box" style tanks out there any many of them are absolutely world class. Subscribe to any reefing Instagram tag or Facebook group and I bet that at least 50% of the tanks will be Red Sea. Obviously, if you're an experienced reefer, who's very discerning or have custom requirements, a custom built tank may be best for you. Custom built tanks often use the same glass and silicon as the "big-box" manufacturers, however an individual craftsperson will ultimately inspect each tank and often install it for you as well, which is why you pay a premium.

Basically, you're post doesn't make much sense. "Big box" style tanks are exactly the same as "big box" computers, or furniture or houses even. They're commodity items that will get the job done for most consumers / users of the product. They are economical due to economies of scale and come with features that will be useful to the majority of users. They have advantages with regards to product support due to inventory management and supply chains. A tank manufacturer will provide warranty support as long as you're in the same country as purchase, whereas you may not get support from a custom tank maker if you move out of your city.
 

Duncan62

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I have a good friend who used to manufacture and sell custom aquariums.
He basically abandoned his business. Not because it was doing bad, he actually was doing very good.
He told me he quit because he really got tired of all the bad reviews he would get on different forums and customers constantly being hyper critical. He just couldn’t keep up with it.

Now occasionally he will sell only to stores for large displays.

Not saying your wrong. But it’s really hard and maybe not even possible to have the perfect tank for all aquarium hobbyists.
When it comes to Red Sea Tanks idk. I never owned one. But they do market the heck out of them. And they are a premium cost.

If I were in the market again for a new larger aquarium I would look for someone local and custom. Not a large brand name that mass produces.
People paying a pro for a coustom tank are the ones who want perfection. One tiny scratch or imperfection will get you a you a bad review. I've built tanks out of different things for 40 years. Perfection is evasive. Red Sea should cost much less. Most gadgets in our hobby are to expensive. If it works we like it anyway.. If it sucks it cost to much. Lol.
 
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dmsc2fs

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I just purchased a RedSea Reefer 525 so I don't have a worn in opinion yet but I do have some opinions. All of your points have merit to a degree and I don't plan to go point by point arguing one way or another. We can all have our own opinions. I will touch on one point you made. The sump taking up the entire space under the tank. Right! it does. But some people feel that is a feature not a problem. When I was shopping for my system I decided I wanted as large of a sump as I could fit allowing a bit left over for the electrical components. The Reefer does that in spades. I took a look at the model you have and I do see how it is more cramped. As @mmorriso stated, a smaller footprint will limit how much can fit under it.

I am glad I read about the sump drain adjustment issue. Not because I am glad you have that problem, but because it sounds like an issue I will run into shortly. I am glad to be aware of it now.

For me, I had a 90G with tank and hood torn down in my LFS and it was on dollies being moved out to my trailer when I decided to switch to the Reefer 525. The Reefer was $900 more than the 90 and with that I added the sump, 18G extra tank capacity, the ATO and the plumbing to the sump. was it a comparable value to the 90? For me yes it was. The final point to consider is inventory. I checked every LFS around my home and found a single 30G drilled tank. I had to drive 2 hours to find a store that had any decent inventory to select from. Even with that drive I had 4 decent options to choose from. Call it 5 if I want to include a Reefer 625 for another $150.

Good luck with your system, despite the issues you have identified I hope it brings you success.
 

flashsmith

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Overpriced compared to what? You think IMs are cheap if your talking AIO? Are you comparing the price to a 40g breeder you threw together? Waterbox? Cade? As a business owner I have customers gripe over a $20 price increase of monthly service or say they got a quote cheaper all the time. My answer is always good luck and have a nice day.I hope they are licensed/insured and reliable. Businesses have overhead if you don't like the prices they certainly aren't going to change because you complained.. This is an expensive hobby and I would be more than willing to listen if you know of a comparable brand that is a better value. I went through this not long ago. None of them are cost effective over another brand when you start buying everything you need to be successful.
 
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Duncan62

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Overpriced compared to what? You think IMs are cheap if your talking AIO? Are you comparing the price to a 40g breeder you threw together? Waterbox? Cade? As a business owner I have customers gripe over a $20 price increase of monthly service or say they got a quote cheaper all the time. My answer is always good luck and have a nice day.I hope they are licensed/insured and reliable. Businesses have overhead if you don't like the prices they certainly aren't going to change because you complained..
If the money you spend makes you happy it's not overpriced. Get the thing you like. I ran a business as well and I understand your position completely. Spend 2000 bucks on a plastic box and if you like it it's a good deal. Spend 10 bucks on a cheap gadget that fails and it is over priced.
 

flashsmith

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If the money you spend makes you happy it's not overpriced. Get the thing you like. I ran a business as well and I understand your position completely. Spend 2000 bucks on a plastic box and if you like it it's a good deal. Spend 10 bucks on a cheap gadget that fails and it is over priced.
I own a lawn/landscape company and sure I could go to HD and buy a fleet of zero turns for 3k each but I also know those are in no way built the handle hundreds of hours every year. So I spend 8 to 10k per machine because repairs and down time would sink me. You get what you pay for. Going cheap will always cost you more in the end.
 

A Young reefer

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I disagree with all your points. are they expensive yes they are, so is almost everything in this hobby. If you want to compare them to other top brands like water box and Cade you will find Red Sea is the cheapest, most economical, beginner friendly option out there. What plug and play brands are out there? You compared it to IM how can you compare an AIO with a stand, sump, display tank?! I would rather have an ATO on the top of my tank rather than a ATO chamber built in into my sump like many of the water box models and not being able to use that space if I choose not to use it as an ATO chamber. If it bothers you that much you don’t need to use the included reservoir…
Also regarding the quality issues; if Red Sea is dominating the industry and has a large number of tanks out there then the number of faulty units is gonna naturally increase.
I am not related to Red Sea in any shape or kind but I see that what they provide is a hassle free, beginner friendly, economical option.
 

ajm83

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3. The ATO...
My main issue is how it is positioned. Since the ATO sits on top of the sump, it is high above everything else so it is difficult to access. You can't pour the bottom half of a 5 gallon jug into it as you cant tip the jug over enough to get the water out. This means you need to empty the water and scoop it in with a cup or something.
I use a plastic 5L watering can for this. Fits perfectly.

Like the attached pic, but without the black attachment obv!
 

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PeterC99

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I know this is controversial, but there is no way red sea tanks are worth the money at all in the slightest. I bought a red sea 250 after moving and needing to downsize from my 150(which was just a standard 150 from planet aquariums I purchased from my lfs). It was somewhat sudden and I didn't want to go through the hassle of designing, purchasing, and installing plumbing; I found a good deal so I decided to get it. I bought the system used for a price of $800. It had only been used for a year and everything worked fine. So I figured I would outline the things I don't like about the system to warn others but hopefully have some input from to improve these issues.

1. The "all in one"/"plug and play" lie: The red sea 250 system cost $1824. That includes the tank, stand, sump and plumbing. How is this plug and play? Theres nothing even to plug in as it doesn't come with a return pump. I think that most people would agree that to just get the tank started you would need to put in at least another $1000. You could easily spend over $3000 including the tank and not have any fish or coral. Thats insane for a tank with a system volume of 65 gallons. You could easily find a tank at least twice the volume including stand and probably a sump for the same price or less. Even other all in ones like IM give you a pump, media, and a top. Luckily I had a bunch of extra stuff from my 150 but for someone starting out it would be ridiculous.

2. The lack of space: One of Red sea's main selling points is that you wont have to spend time and money buying different pieces of plumbing and filtration equipment to put your system together. For a beginner who has no experience in what to look for in buying equipment this is a good reason to buy Red sea. But for more experienced reefers who are looking to run more sophisticated equipment such as gfo reactors, calcium reactors, auto dosers, or an ato(i will cover this more later) they will be greatly restricted by space. The sump takes up a considerable amount of space and leaves just a small area, about 14inx20in, to store EVERYTHING else. My stand looks like a bomb went off. Between auto doser pumps and containers, wires for the heater, refugium light, skimmer, and return pump there is almost no room to store anything else. This is because the opening for wires require that they be stretched across the sump from the left side. And the sump has to be installed on the left. This means wires get covered in salt creep and take up valuable space in the storage area.

3. The ATO: The ATO is famously hated among red sea owners. This should be no surprise since all it is is a cheap float valve system with no real fail safe in it except for the fact that the volume when filled is not enough to overflow the sump. That's fine if you don't mind losing sensitive species to a large salinity swing. Now granted, I have had no reliability issues with the ATO and the feature for adjusting the water level in the return pump compartment is very nice. My main issue is how it is positioned. Since the ATO sits on top of the sump, it is high above everything else so it is difficult to access. You can't pour the bottom half of a 5 gallon jug into it as you cant tip the jug over enough to get the water out. This means you need to empty the water and scoop it in with a cup or something. And forget trying to take the ATO out and filling it. The reservoir is a small glass tank with an open top so there would be no way to reinstall it without sloshing water all over the place. And that open top quality makes you lose lots of extra water due to evaporation. The design is so poor that it makes way more sense to just get another ATO, especially if your house is as dry as mine. The design could have been fixed so easily too. Just make the reservoir a closed top jug with a hole at the side and include a funnel to pour the water into. Almost like a gas tank or oil for your engine. But it is so obvious that red sea instead chose to forego functionality for aesthetic by keeping their minimalistic glass box instead of a custom plastic jug that would have made sense. Instead I have to keep a new ATO outside of the tank stand as there is no room inside the stand for one.

4. The quality issues: Red sea has a reputation of quality in general. That is until you start to have problems with your tank and find all the red sea owners with the same problem. From seam leaks to the incredibly annoying defect with the drain plumbing that causes the tank to sound like a toilet 24/7, red sea has its fair share of issues. Personally, my tank is way louder than my 150 ever was. If the dial on the drain line isn't tuned exactly right it is extremely loud. Many people replace this part with one from home depot. For a near $2000 tank kit, this is unacceptable.

Conclusion: Red sea systems are great if you like how they look. That's it. After owning one for the past 6 months I can tell you that it isn't worth it. The equipment is not better. It requires mods to make it function optimally and you will be spending hundreds of more dollars before ever putting a fish in. In my opinion, red sea takes advantage of people with the idea that they will provide you with everything you need to get you a tank that looks like the ones on their website or at fish stores(btw, red sea requires displays in stores that sell their tanks, the stores aren't necessarily choosing red sea because they want to). I understand that many people love red sea reefer tanks. And not all red sea products are bad either, just the tanks(and test kits lol). If you want to buy a red sea tank, just do your research and think about how your money is being spent and where else it could go. Cheers!
So are you saying that the Red Sea Reefer 250 that costs over $1,800 new is not worth $800 used?
 
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