Personal Aquariums,  REVIEWS

The Elos Experience

Automobiles, Cigars, Fashion, Food, Wine… One thing these all have in common is they all have a product that seems to be the pinnacle in their category. Your daily driver may be a Honda Accord but you dream about owning a classic 60’s Ferrari GTO Spyder. Your faux leather purse gets the job done but you drool over your best friend’s Coach handbag. In the aquarium world, there are a couple of brands of aquariums that are regarded as best in class. Some just appreciate them from afar, some strive to create the look of them, but what is it like to actually own one? Read on for my personal Elos Aquariums review.

After selling off all the equipment and live stock from my old 200g build due to moving across town and needing to downsize significantly in the new house, I was able to scrape together enough funds to finally find out for myself. If I had to downsize, I was going to go for the best. This was finally my chance to see what all the fuss was about and own one of these “dream tanks”.

There are two aquarium manufacturers that are commonly known as being heads and tails above the rest. On the custom made side of thing, Reef Savvy. These are gorgeous tanks. Anyone who has seen a Reef Savvy aquarium pretty much puts them at the top of their list right then and there. The craftsmanship and ingenuity are as good as it gets. So once I decided I was going to go for the best, I figured I’d be contacting them to get a quote on a custom tank.

Now here’s the problem… They may offer a top notch product, but I soon found out that this comes with long wait times. From what I’ve heard, the owner of the company is still building each and every tank himself, which I understand. This is the best way to guarantee the same consistent quality and attention to detail. Unfortunately for me, I was seeing wait times of up to a year! As much as I’d love to own one, I was not willing to wait that long for an aquarium. I could be dead by the time it showed up!

Elos Aquariums

I was researching further and was reminded of Elos Aquariums out of Italy. I knew Elos was also regarded as the absolute top tier of glass aquariums, but there is one big difference that separates Elos from Reef Savvy. They are a larger company that produces a line of standard size aquariums. They also have a few Elos branded boutique stores across the United States and some online presence. Elos is also one of the few companies that offers tanks with a more “deep dimension”.

I was space-limited on tank length in the new home so having that larger dimension front to back was exactly what was needed. After a little more research I found that Aquarium Specialty was carrying the full Elos line. A quick conversation with A.S. owner Scott Groseclose confirmed that not only did they offer all Elos Aquariums, but they were also just then adding the brand new Diamond Line to their website with orders now being shipped directly from the factory in Italy to the end customer in the USA using Fedex Freight. I confirmed what I wanted, placed the order through the Aquarium Specialty website and within the week my order was shipped. Once it left Italy, it only took a few days to arrive at my doorstep via FedEx Freight.

The tank was properly packaged for it’s overseas journey from Italy to Memphis, TN, and then a few states away to Texas.

The Stand

I opted to also get the Elos stand. There are two grades available and I went with the less expensive option which is their own marine grade combination of a compressed board and laminate. Don’t let the thought of the materials scare you… I’ve seen the inside and had to drill through it, and this is some sturdy, heavy duty material. Water is NOT penetrating. To say the stand quality is night and day compared to what you may see at your LFS is the understatement of the century. Along with the quality exterior laminate, this stand should “stand” the test of time.

As of this writing, it has only been over two years since the tank has gotten wet. In that time I’ve had my share of spills and drips and the stand looks brand new with zero sign of saltwater exposure.

There is also a premium line of stands constructed from powder coated steel frame and magnetic panels. Very nice, but out of my budget.

Stand Design

There are some interesting design choices I want to show you, which I questioned at first. The first thing you will notice in the photo below is there is no floor. Yep, that’s my wood floor you can see inside the stand. I found this a bit alarming. And I did notice this in some photos I saw before placing my order. We asked Elos why they chose to do this and they had an interesting answer… There is no floor because any vibration from the sump (pumps) would be transferred through the floor of the stand and create noise or hum.

Gloss White Elos Stand
Gloss White Elos Stand

This is an interesting point. And it’s something I hadn’t really thought of before. But that doesn’t change the fact that my wood floors are now exposed to moisture with the sump sitting directly on top. Wood flooring and saltwater is not a good combination. To my surprise, Elos was sympathetic to my concerns and actually built me a false floor and sent it along with the tank! This was not something they had to do and I really appreciated this act of goodwill.

When they arrived with the tank, I found that it was a two-piece floor, made out of the same material as the stand with large rubber feet at each corner. Very nice. There was just one more thing I was concerned with. If there was anything more than a few drops spilled, where was that water going to go? Over the edge and down to the floor. With a heavy water-filled sump sitting on top, I wouldn’t be able to access underneath to wipe up the mess.

So I turned to the folks at Building An Obsession. They were going to be building my sump, so I asked them to build an acrylic tray. I handed over the measurements, and when I picked it up it fit perfectly! Now I could spill a couple gallons worth of water and it would be contained.

The custom made tray sitting inside the stand
The custom made tray sitting inside the stand

There are a few other things to note about the design of the stand. The back wall doesn’t go all the way to the floor so there is room for some ventilation and power cord passage. Looking at the view from above, you can see that there is a wide space that spans across the entire back. This allows for all your plumbing and more electrical, as well as more air movement. When the tank is sitting on the stand, there is space between the bottom glass and this part of the stand.

Speaking of, this was another bit of concern for me. The tank rests mostly on just the two side edge of the stand, and a crosssupport that runs across, about two thirds of the way back. Most of the weight of the stand seems to be transferred down the side panels. Then, there is also some support on the front corners. You can see that the back wall that doesn’t go all the way to the floor, also doesn’t go all the way to the top.

Top view of the stand
Top view of the stand

This was very interesting to say the least, especially compared to how we tend to overbuild our DIY stands with 2×4’s. I was pretty nervous filling it for the first time. But I’ve found the Elos stand to be very well designed and sturdy. It’s not going anywhere!

Quiet Drain Overflow

This was one of the things that both attracted me to the Elos and also had me feeling a little apprehensive at the same time. I’m used to running my tanks with a large overflow, no teeth, and BeanAnimal plumbing which all results in great surface skimming and a lot of flow. The new Elos “Quiet Drain” Overflow was promising silent operation and high flow in a tiny package. What?! This just did not compute for me. But between one or two reviews that I was able to find online, along with the Elos marketing materials, I was intrigued and decided to give them the benefit of the doubt. Now that I’ve run it long term, I have to say… they did it!

The Elos Aquariums "QuietDrain" Overflow
The Elos Aquariums “QuietDrain” Overflow
Front view shows all the slotted water inputs and the two outputs
Front view shows all the slotted water inputs and the two outputs

As you can see in the photos above, the water enters the overflow from all levels of the aquarium. It goes through the slots, up a channel to the top, where it overflows into the rest of the overflow. There is a cap that sits on top. Notice that there is also an optional return spout at the bottom. It was still capped off in these photos. Before filling the tank, I ran a pvc extension to about halfway across the tank and capped it off with an elbow to direct the water up a little and towards the front glass.

Once again, an alarm went off inside my head. Won’t this create a back siphon if the main return pump is turned off? Well, of course, Elos thought of this and implemented a safety that allows air into the system to break the siphon and prevents that from happening. In practice, the water that is returned to the sump is mainly just what was inside the overflow and a little from the display until it drops low enough to clear the air hole that is in the elbow of the upper return.

Top view of the QuietDrain Overflow
Top view of the QuietDrain Overflow

Underneath the overflow’s cap you can see the adjustment dials for the Quiet Drain. The large gray one in front is the main drain pipe. An included adjustment key fits into the circular holes around the edges. As you rotate it one way or the other it adjusts how much water is flowing through it. The smaller adjustment dial in the back is for adjusting the return flow. Between the two, you have quite a bit of control right there on the overflow itself, making fine tuning very easy. The slotted front panel is removable for easy cleaning. It just slides right out the top.

Cap removed from the overflow
Cap removed from the overflow

Now, how much flow is possible with this overflow? Elos says it is capable of flowing up to 11,000 liters (2,900 gallons) per hour, quietly. That is an insane amount of flow. I have a Vectra L1 return pump on this tank and according to my GHL Flow Meter and I’m getting close to 4,000 liters (1,000 gallons) per hour. There is a valve on the drain line closed probably around half way. So I don’t think Elos’s numbers are far off, if at all. Not that you would want to have that strong of a flow in this size tank, but if you had a strong enough pump, no restriction in your plumbing and everything wide open, it does seem that their numbers are possible.

So, does the overflow live up to it’s name?

My answer would have to be a huge, shout it from the rooftops, YES!
Considering the amount of water flowing down that single drain pipe, through my sump and back to the display, it’s pretty remarkable how SILENT this setup is. It’s one of the first comments people make about the tank when they come to visit. “It’s so quiet!”  

The recommended water level height is marked on the side of the overflow on all Elos Aquariums
The recommended water level height is marked on the side of the overflow on all Elos AquariumsK

It does take a little time to dial it in. You’ve got your return pump and the two adjustment dials on the overflow. And as seen here in the photo above, there is a fill line on the exterior side of the overflow with a window. Keep the water level in this general area to avoid noise.

The only thing that took me a little bit of adjusting back and forth to get right was finding the right amount of flow down the return pipe. This will be different from tank to tank due to the variables in your plumbing/sump setup, but I found there was a max amount of water I could allow down the pipe before it would start making some gurgling noises. So just play with it and you’ll find the sweet spot of max flow and silent operation.

PRO TIP: If you are getting noise from the overflow, add a gate valve to your drain plumbing to regulate the flow. Leave the Elos adjustment dial on the overflow itself wide open.

This is a video that attempts to show just how quiet it is. I left my skimmer running, so as you get close that is what you can hear. Note the amount of water movement being created by the returns. Pretty outstanding in my opinion.

DiamondVision Glass

Finally, I just want to talk about the Elos glass. Elos calls this new line of aquariums the “Diamond Line”. This is their own proprietary version of a low-iron glass, similar to the “Starphire” brand here in the USA. 92% light transmission and color rendering of 99%. It’s supposed to be very strong and scratch resistant for a low iron glass with excellent color rendition, or lack of color tinting. Any glass can be scratched, so always be careful, but I have found that it does seem to be fairly resistant to scratching so far and the clarity is just superb.

DiamondVision glass is used in Elos Aquariums
DiamondVision glass is used in Elos Aquariums
Clear with no color shift
Clear with no color shift

The construction is superb. Perfect silicone work. Perfectly beveled and polished edges. Elos says they also use a proprietary bi-component high-bonding silicone.

Beveled glass and perfect silicone work
Beveled glass and perfect silicone work

Final Thoughts

Color me impressed. Yes, it’s a luxury item, but at least you can appreciate where your money is going. And figure in the fact that these are available at any time through Aquarium Specialty or one of the Elos Aqua Studios with little to no wait, they are a fantastic option in the realm of higher end aquariums if one of their standard sizes fit your needs. In the words of Ferris Bueller, “If you have the means, I highly recommend it.”

My Elos Aquariums 120XL
My Elos Aquariums 120XL

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