gadg-et-oid [gaj-it-oid]


1. having the characteristics or form of a gadget;
resembling a mechanical contrivance or device.

Baby biOrb Review

To distract from the heavily involved desire to set up a marine aquarium we decided to try the Baby biOrb and set it up in our daughters bedroom.

The biOrb range of aquariums are well known for looking good, they’re the Apple of the fish world and, like the gadget manufacturer, they make questionable compromises in the name of good looks. Furthermore, they lock their users into a range of compatible accessories from which one cannot escape and do not, as standard, offer a tank that comes with a sensible minimum of such accessories.

From the outset, the completely custom filtration system used within the baby biOrb, and all other biOrb products, relies on expensive replacement filter kits which, in turn, rely on much larger, porous media to cover the bottom of the tank. You can’t use gravel, and thus you can’t keep bottom feeders in the tank. Reef One do provide some quite decorative, large stones at a not too premium price to cover this media, but the filter itself is not supposed to be covered. The lensing effect of the spherical tank magnifies this uncovered filter resulting, at least in the small biOrbs, in a fairly unsightly plastic case full of gunge being clearly visible.

This spherical shape has other drawbacks, putting aside the massive decrease in available surface area and the difficulty in fitting anything but official heating units you will find that tasks such as replacing the filter, maintaining plants, adding fish, or anything that requires putting your hand inside the tank are rendered extremely difficult. This, combined with the lensing effect again, make it a feat of hand-eye co-ordination that will quickly frustrate you and leave you longing for a traditional tank to which you’ll have easy, unhindered access.

The spherical design also results in a low surface area at the bottom of the tank. It’s difficult to bed natural plants and nigh-on impossible to place bog wood at least in the baby biOrb and, I imagine, difficult to do so in the normal biOrbs without obstructing the filter.

Again the filter, a questionable work of fish tank expertise, leaves a vast chasm below its plastic casing into which curious fish will dart when you attempt to replace it. The bubble tube also comes with no guard as standard, it’s an accessory that costs extra, and one we should have picked up because it wasn’t long before a Neon Tetra found its way down, into the filter, and sealed its fate.

A simple look at the biOrb website reveals that their only advertised strength and benefit is their “five stage” filtration system. Their video is fairly impressive, showing the filter effectively vacuuming a tank clean of debris but fails to show just how much crap gets stuck in the gravel and behind the stones at the edge of the tank. Another feature I’ve seen touted by other “reviews” is the biOrb’s supposed “flexibility”. Any tank is flexible. A tank is just a box of water to which you can add any fish related paraphernalia you desire. The biOrb, due to its unique shape is perhaps one of the least flexible available tanks next to the all-in-one Fluval Edge. You can’t pick and choose heaters, filters, media, plants, decorations, or anything much when it comes to the Baby biOrb and many attempts at marine conversion have resulted in failure. If you’re wondering about the decorations shown in the biOrb product photography, those are all very garish, ugly plastic affairs which are also manufactured and sold by Reef-One.

The day-and-night light required for the baby biOrb cost us £25 for nothing more complex than an LED, normal light, and light sensor combination which isn’t terribly sensitive to dim daylight and often fails to turn the day light on. The tropical heater was another £30 and comes with nothing more complex than a curved bit of plastic with two suction cups to mount it inside the tank. The heater and the light both have cables which then need to, quite awkwardly, run down the outside of the tank. The switch to manually turn on the bright day light can also only be accessed by prying apart the whole assembly.

So our attraction to all things shiny has lead to a certain tolerance of compromises. I can stomach a hefty price tag and a few inconveniences in order to get something that looks pretty. But the biOrb doesn’t really look pretty. It’s lensing effect completely messes up any view you would otherwise have into the aquarium, the heater and plants have to be placed around the edges and further obstruct this view as they grow and, should you be bold enough to place the biOrb in direct sunlight it can quite possibly focus said light and burn down your house (there’s even a warning against this!). Of course, this is as unlikely to happen as I sincerely hope you don’t repeat our mistake and pick up a biOrb.

Stick with a traditional tank and it will be better lit, more flexible, afford a better view of the fish, and have the floor area to fit a much more diverse array of ornamental nonsense, bog wood, plants. Sure, it may not have the best filtration system in the universe but it will ultimately be better for you and, more importantly, your fish.

Update: As if to validate my strong complaint against the baby biOrb this morning it claimed a second neon tetra. I don’t know how they get into the filter system but clearly at the very least the optional bubble tube guard should be supplied with every tank. To provide a filter that eats fish, no matter how good it might be, is unconscionable. Particularly in a tank such as the Baby biOrb which is designed to take either a small number of fish, or very small ones. On the bright side, you’ll be pleased to know that a hurried and careful rescue operation this morning freed the second little guy from his plastic prison, and the damage to his tail was far less severe than the previous victim, though still quite evident.

Sunday, October 11th, 2009, Gadgets.