Disclaimer: I am not sponsored by Innovative Marine, nor did I receive a free version of this product or any other kind of compensation for a review. I paid for this item with my own money, and I am sharing my own unbiased experience.
Everyone has read about UV sterilizers; they’re definitely not a new piece of equipment in the hobby. They’re also not a mandatory piece of equipment unlike a return pump or a highly recommended piece of equipment like a skimmer or a powerhead. But, they definitely have their place, enough so, that people who can afford them usually get them.
I definitely didn’t intend on adding a UV sterilizer when I first planned my tank. But, it turned out to be a really good piece of equipment for my tank and I want to share my experience with it. I want to reiterate that a UV sterilizer is not required for a tank, but there are some definite benefits to having one.
Before purchasing, I did a lot of research into the types of UV sterilizers that were available for nano tanks before ordering the Innovative Marine AuqaShield 10w UV sterilizer. The most frequently mentioned ones I found were the Coralife BioCube Mini UltraViolet Sterilizer, JBJ NanoZapp 3W Inline UV Sterilizer, and the Aqua Ultraviolet 8W Advantage 2000 UV Sterilizer.
After a lot of thinking, I chose not to go with the Coralife and the JBJ because I didn’t want to cut my return plumbing line to fit in a UV sterilizer. It was just something I wanted to avoid even if it was a simple modification. I wanted a UV sterilizer that I could easily remove without having to make major changes or adjustments to my tank. With that, I also chose not to go with the Aqua Ultraviolet 8W because it was a HOB style. HOB is not a problem for some people, but it’s just an additional risk for a water leak for me. Many people probably don’t care about a little water on the floor, for someone such as myself with only carpet flooring, even a small leak would be a nightmare. Not to mention, the Aqua UV 8W would also require me to purchase an additional pump for intake which would raise the overall cost of it when it’s already the most expensive option at $168.00 whereas the JBJ is more economically priced at $46.00. The Coralife would be in the middle pricing wise at $89.99 retail, but currently listed at Amazon for $60.71 (as of 6/27).
So, with all things in consideration, I decided to go with the IM AuqaShield. I’ve attached the product photo from IM’s website because I forgot to take photos of my own box before my husband tossed it.
A little about the IM Auqashield, it is a 10 watt UV sterilizer. It is designed to sit in an AIO compartment, and therefore is fairly compact. Unlike the other Auqashield products (9 watt and 11 watt UV sterilizers) which were designed to sit in Innovative Marine’s own AIO style tanks in the overflow compartment relying on passive flow through, the 10 watt is a “universal” model designed to work in ANY tank. The 10 watt UV sterilizer has an acrylic screw on ring that can be used to hang the sterilizer to the edge of the tank or sump wall; or if your tank is short enough, it can just sit in the compartment without the use of holder at all.
The 10 watt version also has the additional advantage of an adjustable intake pump that attaches to the bottom of the UV sterilizer. By design, the pump forces water to flow up from the bottom into the inner UV lamp container and come out through the top into UV sleeve holder. It also has 2 ways to adjust the flow of water through the sterilizer: on the side of the intake pump there’s an adjustable slider for rate and the UV bulb container in the tube can be turned to adjust flow (clockwise -> more flow, counterclockwise -> less flow).
In fact the IM AuqaShield features and specs sheet of the 10 watt model states that minimum flow should be used for parasite eradication while maximum flow should be used for water clarification. This is a huge benefit over the passive overflow models which are dependent on the tank’s return pump rate for determining rate of flow through the UV lamp.
The only drawback is that this sterilizer requires two outlets, one for the UV lamp itself and a second for the intake pump unlike the passive flow through or inline models which only require one outlet.
The IM AuqaShield is extremely easy to set up. I was able to assemble it together in less than 10 seconds and have it running in my tank. But simplicity aside, you must be wondering how much does it cost and does it actually work?
Well, it retails at $99.99 and that’s definitely on the higher end of nano UV sterilizer options. Replacement UV bulbs retail for $29.99, but I haven’t found information on how frequently they should be replaced so I’m not sure how the long term costs of this sterilizer will run.
That said, I found this product to be extremely effective. And, I’ve attached photos of the UV sterilizer at work in my own tank for proof.
Here was my tank on the first day with water. You can see it at maximum clarity for comparison.
And here was my tank one month later with a horrible bacterial bloom that was ongoing for over a week and a half even with 3 large water changes.
It was so bad that you couldn’t see through the other side on a tank that was only 24 inches long.
Unfortunately, I don’t have as many timed progress photos as I would like since I worked during this period. But, I have some progress photos. You can tell that visibility has already improved greatly after some hours.
And, this was my tank as of Friday, completely clear.
It probably took closer to 72 hours for my water to clear up, I just did not get an opportunity to take a photo closer to that time. It probably could have cleared up faster if I had dialed the AuqaShield up to the fastest flow rate, but I wanted to go slow to avoid making any changes or mistakes in the tank that may make my situation worse than beyond just cloudy water. Since I have no prior experience with UV sterilizers, I figured better safe than sorry. If anything, my usage is proof that the UV sterilizer can be set to the lowest setting for parasite eradication and still prove to be just as good at clarification when the product is set to maximum flow. It just takes longer for the water to clear up.
Overall, I’m very pleased with this product. I’ll definitely keep it in and leave it dialed to the lowest rate for parasite protection going forward as I lack the physical space for a quarantine tank.
I would recommend this product to friends, and I think it deserves a solid four and a half stars. I docked half a point on availability; the product was completely sold out through online retailers and I had to reach out to a LFS in Florida to get one.
Innovative Marine did however respond to my email, and they plan to have regular stock of this product again in the fall. I believe Covid-19 shut downs heavily affected their production and supply.
If you’ve tried other UV sterilizers, please share your thoughts below! If you have any questions or other comments, definitely leave those below.