DC pumps: Everything you wanted to know (but were afraid to ask)

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DC pumps: Everything you wanted to know (but were afraid to ask)

Post  saltz on 21st October 2013, 3:13 pm

DC pumps are becoming more popular in the marine aquarium, especially in the last couple of years with the emergence of several brands that made them much more affordable to aquarist who don't own a bank.

There are many different DC water pumps on the market — Waveline, Speedline, Diablo, Jebao, Boyu, and of course Royal Exclusiv are just the few of the ones on the market today. With so many companies producing pumps, some companies selling identical pumps and yet other companies selling visually similar rebadged pumps it can be difficult to distinguish them all. So what is what and which one is which? Hopefully, this guide will help you navigate the world of DC pumps.

Royal Exclusiv was really the first company to release controllable DC pumps for aquarium use and was the first to put them to use on its premium skimmers. The Red Dragon DC pumps have come a long way since their first release, going through several transformations along the way. Currently all the Royal Exclusiv DC pumps are named Red Dragon 3, while the non-DC pumps go under the Bubble King category.  The Red Dragon 3 DC pump line comes in three controllable DC models, a 50W model which pushes around 1,200 gallons per hour (5,0m³), a 65W model which pushes around 1,850 gallons per hour (7,0m³), and a 75W model which pushes around 2,100 gallons per hour (8,0m³).
Depending on whether the pump is to be used on a skimmer or as return and depending on the skimmer configuration the pumps come with different models and prices. The Red Dragon 3 return pumps retails for between $675 to $890 for the 75W model.

Waveline was the first company to offer mass market DC pumps at an affordable price, forgoing some of the premium aspects alienating the average reef hobbyist from DC pumps. The titanium screws, titanium rotor, titanium stator and shriveled bearings seen on the Red Dragon 3 pumps cannot be found. These pumps are also manufactured in China rather than in Germany. That is not to say these are low quality pumps, as beside the Red Dragon 3 DC pumps the Waveline DC pumps are still one of the more premium DC pumps of this list.
The manufacturer RLSS recently upgraded its Waveline pumps completely overhauling the pump’s design for greater efficiency, a smaller footprint, improved electrical connections, along with a new and more upgradable controller which allows third party control and master/slave configuration. The upgraded Waveline pump come in two models — the DC6000 which pushes 6000 liters per hour (1,585 gallons per hour) at 50W and the DC1200 which pushes 12,000 liters per hour (3,170 gallons per hour) at 180W.  The DC6000 and DC1200 retail for between $222 to $272 and $299 to 360 respectively.

The Speedline, Diablo and Jebao DC pumps are controllable DC pumps that look oddly familiar identical to the previous generation of RLSS Waveline pumps, and appeared right when the upgrade of the waveline was announced. Perhaps RLSS is licensing its previous generation DC pumps to these companies, or perhaps the manufacturer for RLSS decided they might as well sell their old pumps to someone else when exclusive distribution rights changed, or perhaps it is something entirely else. What exactly is happening we’re not exactly sure, but it is clear the Speedline, Diablo, and Jebao DC pumps are the same as the first generation Waveline pumps. As such they are appropriately priced, but they obviously lack all the upgrades seen in the new Waveline pumps such as a smaller body, higher efficiency, plug-and-play third party controller options, and master slave configuration.
In the end it really comes down to if you want the latest and greater or are willing to sacrifice some benefits for a better price.  The 1st generation pumps come in several models, the 3000 liters per hour, 5000 liters per hour, 6500 liters per hour, 8000 liters per hour, and 10000 liters per hour models. These retails for approximately $40, $60, $65, $70, & $80 respectively.

Boyu is a company well known for their knock-off products and their DC pumps are no different. Build to highly resemble the original Waveline pumps and advertising DC control. None of the models offer the fine control seen in all the other models above. The Boyu pumps come in two flavors, the GXB which is just a DC pump with no control whatsoever, although in theory the user could rewire the pump to integrate some kind of flow control, not exactly something the average hobbyist would do. This GXB pump comes in five models ranging from 25W and an advertised flow of 3500 liters per hour up to 85W and advertised flow of 10,000 liters per hour. They  retail on Fish Street, its most popular retailer, from between $65 and $85 although that doesn’t include hefty shipping.
Boyu also sells a GX4P DC pump which offer three different flow modes controllable through a dial on the back. Mode one puts the pump on 50% power drawing 40W and pushing 5000 liters per hour (1,320 gph); mode 2 puts the pump on 75% power, drawing 65W and pushing 7,500 liters per hour (1,980 gph); and mode 3 puts the pump on 100% power drawing 80W and pushing 10,000 liters per hour (2,650 gph).The Boyu GX4P is $130 advertised, although the above mentioned retailer seems to have a sale offering the pump for $110 (again not including hefty shipping).

Pros & Cons of DC pumps
So what are the pros and cons of the DC pumps, and why should we be bothered about finding out more about these.

1. Cost, DC pumps are generally more expensive than your average AC pumps;
2. New, these are relatively new and only until recently, were really expensive and as such, not many people uses them and subsequently, not much data/info is available;

1. Energy Efficiency, these consumes much less than AC pumps;
2. Controllable, most DC pumps comes with a seperate controller that allows you to set the output of the pump, less current to the pump equal lesss flow. This makes setting the output of the pumps much easier than having a ball valve between the pump and the return pipes. There are several skimmers available that comes with DC pumps and uses the controller to limit the amount of water/air that goes into the actual skimmer.
3. Heat Generation, DC pumps produces less heat than AC pumps, also, being able to control the output means that the heat generated is variated as well, while the AC pumps will always generate the same amount of heat (more in fact, if flow is limited by means of a valve rather than a divert).
4. Direct Current, the fact that it's DC means that you can simply hook it up to a solar panel or car battery directly. In the event of a power outage, if there's no generator available, you can simply connect it to a car battery to keep the water running in the tank.

So which DC pump should I buy?
Just as buying an AC pump, there are many things to consider and everyone has different preferance/limitations, be it brand name, cost, availability, size, etc.

My recommendations:
1. If you own one or several banks and don't give a damn about $$$, by all means go for the top of the line, the Royal Exclusiv DC pumps. Why? They've been around the longest, take no shortcuts in terms of quality, constant R & D that keeps up with latest technology, and last but not least and perhaps most important of all, provides excellent after sales support.

2. If however, you are a tight arse like me and always looking for a bargain and a balanced compromise between price and quality, then go for the Jebao's range of DC pumps. We've already experienced 1st hand the quality of the DC wave makers by them and have made a combined purchase of 25 units of their wave makers. Jebao have recently came out with a 2nd generation DC pumps that comes in 6000 liters per hour and 12000 liters per hour model. These have smaller footprint than the 1st generation pumps, and are claimed to be more energy efficient and also comes with a IC Electronic Detection, that automatially power-off upon no water, as well as a Motor Protection feature that save guards it if the rotor is blocked.


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Re: DC pumps: Everything you wanted to know (but were afraid to ask)

Post  finfan on 24th October 2013, 3:03 pm

Awesome report and info Dendro - thank you!

Very relevant for my current search for an efficient and cost effective new tank.


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