First and foremost, if you have submersible Gen-x pumps IMMEDIATELY inspect the back of the pump for rust. There is a plastic cover on the back that is easily removable.
Recently I've been having some issues in my farm. Well, not so recently, more like over the past 6 or so months. Even impeccable paramters and vodka dosing, I was having some issues in the tank. Algae was growing out of control, there were mysterious LPS deaths, all of my millis browned out completely. One day while the floor was wet I put my hand into my tank, and zapped myself pretty good. Hmmm, probably should have checked that first. I bought a voltimeter from Home Depot (best $10 I ever spent by the way), and found a stray 5v shooting through that tank. Interesting. I traced it down to a Gen-x 6800 series submersible pump, and while pulling the pump out of the water for inspection it dumped about 2 gallons of pure brown water into my tank and onto the floor.
I was not enthused.
I pulled off the back pump cover and found what the picture on the left shows. I checked my other farm system for stray current, and it all traced back to submersible Gen-x pumps. 4 out of the 6 Gen-x pumps in that farm system were corroded beyond belief. The stray current was gone, and over the next week the corals improved dramatically while algae growth stopped. Within two weeks most of the algae was dead, and I was seeing polyp extension on some Acroporas that I hadn't seen in nearly a half of a year. All of this got me thinking about the things that we settle for as hobbyists.
Three Separate Pumps, One Problem
I’ve seen more emotion over the bare bottom tank debates, which are pretty much pure conjecture, than I have over products that actually are below any standards that we should have come to expect. There are tons of known snake oil additives that no one seems to care are ripping off aquarists. “You get what you pay for” is a baseless excuse for inexpensive products that fall well under industry and possible legal standards. Something failing in a year is “you get what you pay for”. Something rusting in your tank, or additives that don’t do anything at all, those are “you got screwed”. There’s a huge difference between substandard and unacceptable, and it’s up to us as consumers to draw that line.
Take the submersible gen-x pumps for instance, a good portion of which have exposed steel plates in the back that create huge pools of rust in the back of the pump that leach into your system. Their email response to my query was the same copy and pasted response that they posted in threads like this one back in 2005, when they claimed “the issues with exposed steel in these pumps has been fixed”. With a delicated layer of go fudge yourself they said that the rust was actually “metal ions in my system being attracted to the steel plate in the back of the pump, due to a large concentration of them in the water column and most likely due to additives in my tank”. Apparently they’ve decided to congregate there and throw themselves a fiesta, and it’s the fault of my system that they exist in the first place. The stray 5 volt current must have wanted to join the festivities as well, and most likely came from ionic disturbances in the horsehead nebula, or possibly from my clownfish. The reason the replies from this company are copy and pasted since 2005 is that this hobby has the lowest level of accountability in any consumer products that I have ever seen. Should you want your own copy and pasted metal ions bs feel free to email these fine gents at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Everything that I’ve read while researching the issues with these pumps ranges from “those are known rust buckets and you should have avoided them” to “it’s only ferric oxide which is phosban, so why are you complaining”. The only people that I’ve seen type “there’s a freaking uninvited steel plate in my reef tank” are the ones that initially bring up the issue, and there’s this blame the victim mentality that follows. The idea seems to be that the consumer is to blame for buying an extremely substandard product in the first place; that they should have researched it more; that they should have taken it apart before putting it into their systems. I'm fairly certain that there are dozens of other products in our hobby with stories remarkably similar to this one (and if you know of any more feel free to email me so that I can add it onto this article).
We don't need to research a car to find out if it randomly catches fire, that’s an intuitive issue due to regulatory standards. Those standards came about because cars caught fire and there was a lot of outcry, followed by no one buying those cars. Government regulations followed, but regardless the market would have self-corrected because consumer outrage would have pushed industry standards to an acceptable level.
Where are the market standards in our hobby, and the consumer demands?