Initial Unboxing Awesome Sauce – Radion and Vortech

Art PennomBlog, GeneralLeave a Comment

Like the Mac fans out there, unboxing an awesome piece of hardware is special. That’s what this post is about. No, it’s not my latest Apple gadget although it’s just as cool for planted tank hobbysts. Heck, for aquarists in general. It’s the latest EcoTech Marine Radion LED pendant. I throw in my thoughts on unboxing the MP10 Vortech wavemaker pump at the end. Let’s start to geek out and drool.

Radion box

I was surprised at how small and light the box is. I’m used to having a huge heavy metal halide ballast so at first I thought I was missing a box. How could they fit the light fixture and the ballast in this box that measures 11.8 by 7 by 1.5? As I found out, it was all in there but things are just a lot smaller these days especially with state-of-the-art LED fixtures.

Anyway, the box shows you one of the reasons EcoTech Marine’s Radion is the state-of-the-art- they won the 2011 Reef Builders LED Showdown. I took a look at the competitors that they were up against and they were all big boys. It’s impressive how they came out on top.

Winner 2011 Reef Builder LED Showdown

On the back of the box, EcoTech Marine chose to put a lot of information that’s very helpful to see what this powerhouse can do. For example, they tell you that one of the Radion fixtures is about as powerful as a 250w metal halide fixture! They also suggest that 1 fixture should be used per 40 gallons of water and cover approximately a 24 by 24 inch area. However, I think they may have been thinking about our reef friends when they came up with these guidelines. What this series is about is determining whether this will be correct for us on the planted tank side.


Also of great interest to us is the LED specifications that they list in the back. The fixture has five channels that you can set. Each channel has a different color, wattage and number of LEDs. So, as you can see below, the colors go from cool white to Royal Blue to Blue to Green and to Hyper Red. LEDs used range from 4 to 10 and wattage from 10 to 40.

LED spec

Here’s what you find as you open the box.

Radion out

Man! Doesn’t it look like a black laptop? The fixture is a glossy black with the EcoTech Marine logo etched on it’s top. The ballast is white and surprisingly small and light.

Open radion

Thankfully, the EcoTech guys include a Quick Start Manual to get you going quickly. As you’ll see in another post, this was very helpful to me and it was easy to follow.

The LED fixture has the LEDs on either side of a built in fan. Immediately, I started to think about fan noise. I have a little case of anal retentivity about noise coming from my aquarium. I want (need) it to be quite so one of the things I’m going to be critical about is how loud this fan is going to be. Also, what happens when it fails, as they all do. How easy will it be to replace? Stay tuned on that. So, first impression on looks, this thing is awesome.

As my tastes have changed over the years, I’ve become more of a minimalist with my planted aquariums- both in and outside of the aquarium. It may be the Takashi Amano influence. The Radion is perfect for that. The fixture is thin. Check out the picture below where I use a quarter to give you some perspective on how thing the unit is.

Radion quarter

The ballast

Call me an old timer but I remember ballast as these huge ugly boxes that I tried to hide, typically unsuccessfully. This is certainly not what EcoTech Marine has done with the Radion. The ballast is white, relatively small and light. As you can see from the images below, the ballast is about as tall as a “tall” (small) cup of a Starbuck’s coffee.

Ballast back

On one side are the connections. The front as the typical heat reducing sink and the other side has a nice sticker for the unit. While the unit I received has a few bubbles underneath the sticker, I can easily take care of that myself. I did initially feel that this is an expensive unit and these details matter so someone at EcoTech should have fixed it before sending it out to customers. However, my anal retentivity may be showing so I decided to relax about it. You know, don’t sweat the small stuff and all that.

Ballast front

Oh, and talking about details, how about EcoTech include a cool cloth to wipe off any smudges your fingers make on that glossy black? Props to you EcoTech.



More and more we are beginning to understand that flow is critical in planted aquariums. It’s necessary to make sure CO2 gets to all corners of the aquarium. It also removes the water boundary that surrounds leaves to make it easier for them to exchange gases from their leaves. Finally, flow helps to remove waste by keeping it in the water column where the filter will get it sooner or later.


The EcoTech Marine Vortech ware pump is awesome for creating flow in the aquarium. Flow is water movement enmasse. It is not a current stream. The Vortech’s propeller technology does that and it’s been doing it extremely well in the reef hobby.

What’s cool about this pump is that it’s half in your aquarium and half outside. A strong magnet keeps the tow pieces together. Check out the picture below.

Vortech open

The technology of the pump itself is made that much better because of the EcoSmart driver that lets you do all sorts of cool things with the pump. I’ll be writing about what you can do with the driver, this post is about unboxing so stay tuned for how I’ve put this pump to work and how you can too.

The EcoSmart Driver comes with velcro strips so that you can put it anywhere you want. I think it’s cool so I’m putting it out where it’s easy for me to see.

It’s thin as you can see below. That’s a quarter showing how thin this thing is. It’s size makes it feel great in the hand so I find myself unripping it from the stand and hold it when I’m making changes.

Ecosmart quarter

To control the driver there are three button and a knob. The buttons are Mode, Set and Option/Power. The knob is very smooth as it turns. The lights that visually show you what you’re doing do a great job and, hey, they look very cool. I like.

Ecosmart driver

Ecosmart buttons

Concluding thoughts on unboxing and initial handling

At the end of the day, what matters is how a product works. I haven’t put the Radion and the Vortech through a real life test yet. The install happens this week and then we’re going to get our hands wet.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Ecotech Marine provided me with a review model of the Radion and the Vortech. In fairness to them, they didn’t have to do that but they truly wanted to see how these two products would work in a planted aquarium environment. I thank them for caring enough about our side of the hobby to do that.

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