Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sea Swirl: Q&A with Ed Schleinkofer

We recently posted 6 Ways to Improve Aquarium Water Flow in our Knowledgebase to give you some ideas how of how you can enhance the water circulation in your current or future fish tank.

One of the tips we suggested was to maximize your return pump’s flow. The Sea Swirl, developed by Aquarium Currents, can help you do just that.

We sat down with company president Ed Schleinkofer for a short Q&A to learn more about these unique wavemaking devices.

For aquarium hobbyists who may not be familiar with the Sea Swirl, can you explain how it works and what the benefits are?
The Sea Swirl is an oscillating device that mounts externally and uses your existing return pump from a sump or closed loop water supply source. It oscillates 90 degrees from its starting position in 30 seconds and returns back 90 degrees to its original starting position in 30 seconds. Oscillating currents are better for coral growth and polyp extension than linear currents. As corals grow into high current areas of the aquarium, if the current is linear or in a straight line—pulsed or not—the coral will tend to grow around the linear or pulsed current. The worse case scenario is your coral will stop growing altogether, shed its tissue and perish. With an oscillating current, corals are hit with a blast of water, like a wave crashing on them, followed by a very calm current as the oscillating outlet moves away from the coral. This creates greater polyp extension which helps in the feeding process and benefits overall health. Another benefit, especially in today’s economy, is that the Sea Swirl consumes a mere 3 watts of electricity while in operation.

What inspired your company to create the Sea Swirl? What kinds of tests were conducted before you brought the product to market?
We started fooling around with an oscillating device back in the early 90s when we had a retail store with a 300 gallon show tank. We felt there was a serious need for a ''wave simulation'' device since, at that time, more and more SPS coral were being imported into the United States. Back then, if you wanted to try and create circular water patterns, you would put Hagen powerheads on timers that would turn them on and off. Many well-known writers and speakers in the aquarium industry were our beta testers. Dr. Sanjay Joshi was one of the first to use our product back in the mid-90s along with the show tank in our retail store. We sold the store in 1997 and, after years in development, we introduced the Sea Swirl in September 1998 at MACNA in Los Angeles.

What type and size aquariums can a Sea Swirl be used with?
Sea Swirls can be used on saltwater reef aquariums, saltwater fish only systems and even freshwater tanks to help keep detritus stirred up so your filters can pick it up more efficiently. There are presently four sizes of Sea Swirl available. The ½” model handles up to 600 gallons per hour, perfect for small tanks ranging from 20 to 50 gallons. The ¾” model accommodates a flow rate up to 900 gallons per hour for mid-range size tanks from 55 to 90 gallons. The 1” model is designed for larger aquariums, 100 to 180 gallons, with a flow rate up to 2,000 gallons per hour. Finally, we have the 1½” model, capable of handling a flow rate up to 6,000 gallons per hour for big tanks 225 gallons or larger.

What is included in the box when a hobbyist purchases a Sea Swirl? Are additional parts or equipment required to get one up and running?
The Sea Swirl comes with a complete set of instructions for easy installation. It can be installed on the incoming water line to your tank or canister filter, if you are running a freshwater tank. All inlet and outlet connection fittings are included for both hard plumbing and hose applications. Optional nozzles are available for different flow patterns. The Sea Swirl comes with a bracket to install on standard glass aquariums, like Perfecto or AGA. You can also request a bracket for perimeter/Euro bracing that also fits the cut-out area of an acrylic tank.

What sort of maintenance is required to keep a Sea Swirl operating through the years?
One of the many benefits of the Sea Swirl is that it is virtually maintenance free. Install it on your tank, plug it in and leave it alone to get 90 degree rotation 24/7/365. It will last you a very long time! There is nothing to clean, nothing to soak in vinegar and no sponges, washers or shafts to replace. If your Sea Swirl needs a tune-up after years of operation in a harsh saltwater environment, we offer a repair service this is less expensive than purchasing a new unit. We’ll update your unit so you’ll get all the benefits of a brand-new unit at about half the cost. The ½”, ¾”, and 1” models are backed by a 1-year warranty and the 1½” model has a 2-year warranty. We’ve been in business for more than 12 years providing hobbyists with high-quality products and excellent customer support. We also build Sea Swirls right here in the U.S.A.

What is your company working on now? Can you give us any hint of what’s to come?
We just released our 1½” model in December which is an all-new design. In the future, we plan to incorporate this design into a “one size fits all” model that will be manufactured to fit into our smallest ½” model Sea Swirl outer box. This new model will be ready out of the box to be ½” through 1” at the inlet and outlet with the use of reducer bushings. They will feature the improved seal now in use on our 1½” model and will come with an acrylic bracket to install on standard glass aquariums, Euro/perimeter-braced and acrylic tank cut-out areas. We’ve been asked by many hobbyists to develop a “Tunze Turner” model that will turn Tunze controllable and non-controllable models along with the popular Hydor Koralia powerheads, too. The biggest challenges in creating this model is to get the cords to go up through the middle and out the top instead of the DIY units that many people seem to build with the cord cable-tied to the solid pipe. Another feature will be adjustability up and down with threaded extensions. This model will also have the same footprint as our ½” box. We’re looking at release in late 2011.