Pump it Up: Mag 7 vs Sicce 2.0 Review

In my recent quest to set up a cuttlefish tank, I had to do my due diligence in researching good submersible pumps for my setup. Pumps are one of those few pieces of equipment that are really difficult to make yourself or save money on. I don’t like buying them used because they do have a lifespan and the last thing you want is to buy a used pump that’s just going to die on you. You can sometimes find deals on them online, but initially, I opted to compare and contrast models online but buy from my local fish shop. I’m running a 40 gallon breeder tank with a 20 gallon sump, and since cuttlefish produce a good deal more waste than comparable-sized fish, I want my turnover rate (the number of times all the water is pumped through the system in an hour.) to be quite high.

After comparing notes with a few people, I went with a magnet-driven pump called the Danner Supreme Aqua-Mag 7, or just “Mag 7” for short. This is a really powerful pump, which the manufacturer claims will do about 700 GPH (Gallons per hour). In most tanks you probably want a turnover rate of about 6 to 10 times per hour. Most 40 gallon tanks use something along the lines of a 300 GPH pump to achieve that, so this might seem like overkill, but other cephalopod keepers I’ve spoken to suggested this.

I got the pump, hooked it up, and…it is the noisiest thing I have ever heard. You can seriously hear the pump grinding away from any room in my (admittedly small) house. At first I suspected (and a quick web search confirmed) that the issue might be  the pump’s housing touching the glass of the sump tank and rattling. However, I tested this by running the pump suspended in a bucket, not touching anything, and it still made the grinding noise. I started to think maybe it was a defective model, so I brought it back to the shop. Unfortunately in a room full of pumps and aquaria, it’s surprisingly difficult to distinguish one weird noise from any other. We opened another Mag 7 for comparison, and even I had to admit, whatever difference there was, was pretty subtle. In any case, they let me try taking home the other pump, to see if it made any difference.

It didn’t.

I think the problem here is that while the Mag 7 is a powerful pump, and one that many people on the internet claim is fairly quiet, I was using it in an open sump environment, with no cabinet stand to muffle the noise. I eventually returned the pump. One of the guys at the shop recommended I take a look at an Italian pump manufacturer called Sicce. They have a “no noise” guarantee and while the $85 I had spent on the Mag 7 would only get me about 568 GPH, I decided based on the reviews to give this one a shot.

It really is quiet. It’s actually more quiet than the 2 powerheads I have in the tank. This thing is amazing. The pump itself is mostly plastic, and didn’t look particularly noteworthy or anything, but it’s powerful enough for what I need, and most importantly, is actually quiet. It comes with 4 suction cups to affix the pump to a surface so it doesn’t rattle and can be used submerged or out of the water. I have been using the Sicce Syncra 2.0 for about a month now with no issues to report and I heartily recommend them.

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A quick word about used aquariums

There are a lot of places one can get a used aquarium: Craigslist, eBay, local newspaper ads, or even at swap meets at your local aquarium club. This is a great way to save some real money on a new-to-you aquarium. You can even find people who are just giving away aquariums for free! But, since the aquarium is going to become the entire world to your future aquatic charges, there are a few things you should consider about your new tank.

Many people use fish tanks as housing for pet reptiles. As such, these tanks are often cleaned using soap and water, or other cleaning products. Make sure the used aquarium you are acquiring has never had any soap in it! Soap residue can and will remain in a tank for pretty much forever, and even trace amounts are deadly to fish and other aquatic animals.

Older tanks, especially the all-glass style of aquarium, can develop leaks in their silicone seals. The aquarium pictured below is a tank I got from the curator of fishes from the museum at which I volunteered when he retired. The tank was made in 1991, which means it rolled off the line when I started high school.

My new-to-me 30 gallon long.
My new-to-me 30 gallon long.

To test the tank for leaks, which are pretty likely in a 24-year old tank, I set it out on my porch and filled it with water.

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After it was completely filled, I let it sit for several hours. That way, if there was a slow leak somewhere in the silicone, the tank would eventually show it.

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Happily, the tank is leak-free. If you leak-test your tank and do find a leak, here’s a video showing how easy it is to reseal an all-glass tank. This tank is my native freshwater fish project tank, the construction and design of which will feature here on Parlour Oceans. Ethan, founder and coauthor of this blog, will be featuring his saltwater DIY cephalopod system, as well!