Reef Octopus Varios DC Pumps

VarioS DC Pumps

DC pumps in the aquariums market have been very hit and miss, and when it comes to making a silent, efficient, and most importantly reliable DC pump, the Reef Octopus VarioS pumps hit the nail right on the head. With its easy to use and intuitive controller that doesn’t require a ton of instructions to operate; 4 different size options which are very silent with varying flow rates that cover pretty much all the most popular tank sizes; as well as unique features like an included float switch for built-in pump protection or two choices for feed or maintenance modes, it’s easy to see why the Reef Octopus VarioS pumps get awesome customer reviews and why they are some of the most commonly selected DC return pumps used by the BRS Team.

On top of that, the Reef Octopus VarioS pumps have onboard 0-10 volt control capability and is Apex Ready, meaning that Neptune has certified them to be fully compatible and optimized for control through their Apex Controller and cloud-based Apex Fusion interface. Finally, the super small footprint of the VarioS-2 makes it an ideal choice for those who are space limited or choose to use multiple return pumps on their systems for lower maintenance and additional layers of protection and redundancy.

These DC powered VarioS pumps are designed specifically for standard installs, where the pump is directly below or next to the tank, like in a sump inside the stand. If you’re thinking of installing your pump in the basement or with longer than normal plumbing runs, you may want to give a quick glance at the flow chart to see if it will fit your needs.

Varios DC Pumps Varios DC Pumps

When sizing a pump for your tank, typically reefers aim for pumps that will provide around 10x the total water volume for turnover through the entire system, knowing that the actual pump output could be anywhere between 25-50% less due to things like head pressure loss from vertical plumbing runs as well as from multiple plumbing fittings; meaning actual turnover is often between 5x to 7x after the head pressure loss is calculated. With that in mind it’s a good rule of thumb to select a pump rated slightly higher than the 10x turnover calculation, meaning that for a 100-gallon tank a pump capable of a minimum of 1000 GPH may work, but ideally a pump that’s 20% higher around 1200gph would be a better fit.

That means the VarioS-2 is a good choice for tanks up to 65-gallons, the VarioS-4 should support tanks up to 90gallons, the VarioS-6 for tanks upwards of 125-gallons, while the largest of the four the VarioS-8 should have you covered on tanks up to 220-gallons. Past that, it’s best to run a dual pump configuration, one for each return line. If you find yourself somewhere in the middle or are unsure of which one to get, we strongly suggest saving yourself some frustration by choosing the larger option which proportionately isn’t much more, keeping in mind that you can always tune the larger pump down but it’s not possible to tune the smaller pump up.


Mounting the controller should only take a few minutes, and then you will need to plumb the pump to your aquarium with either PVC or soft tubing. If you opt to hard plumb the pump to your tank with PVC, it’s easiest to utilize the included unions, which can make it very quick to remove it later if needed for things like pump maintenance. Whether hard plumbing internally or externally, you will want to install the included o-rings into the unions to create a leak-free seal. With that, if you choose the soft plumbing option, there’s also a flat rubber gasket included with the pump that you’ll want to install between the barbed fitting and pump output, then secure it with the collar.

With the pump plumbed in and ready to go, let’s walk through the included VarioS controller as well as briefly touch on using the pump with the Neptune Apex Controller. When you first power on the controller you’ll see the blue speed indicator LEDs light up, which you can change with the plus and minus buttons until the flow rate matches your desired speed.

In addition to the plus and minus speed control buttons, you’ll also see the pause button that will turn the pump off for either 15-minutes or 60-minutes. You can toggle between the 15 or 60-minute option by pressing the pause button again, as well as cancel the pause mode by pressing the power button and turn the pump back on. Either way, whether you cancel the mode or let the timer run, the pump will automatically resume its last set speed meaning that you can walk away from the pump and know that it will resume pumping on its own.

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The last button you’ll see is labeled “FS” which stands for float switch and tells your controller whether to respond to the float switch or not when it’s turned ON or OFF. If float switch mode is turned on and float is installed, you’ll see the green LED light up and as you toggle the float switch up or down you’ll see the status light change. When the status light is ON, for example when the water has dropped below your desired level, the pump will shut down preventing potential damage from the pump running dry and then resume normal operation when the water level rises.

A couple of notes here about the float switch modes, you do have to keep the FS mode OFF when the float switch isn’t installed, in order for your pump to work. Conversely, if you opt to use the float but you don’t want the pump to shut down while messing with the tank; you can simply toggle the FS mode OFF until you’re done.

Lastly, if you’re connecting you’re pump to the variable speed ports on the Neptune Apex, you will need a separate 0-10 volt cable from IceCap to connect them together. Once connected you can find correct variable speed outlet, typically labeled VARSPD 1, 2, 3 or 4; drag it down to your dashboard and verify it’s the right one by toggling it ON and OFF which should, in turn, toggle your pump ON and OFF. With that done I like to rename the outlet to something like VarioS underscore Pump and I’m ready to program it.

There are a few options to program the VarioS like using the Tasks function or configuration page but most will use the programming wizard that allows you to drag and drop various speed points throughout the day. One thing to note here, as with most gear with 0-10volt control, there is a minimum percentage where the pump will power ON that’s not always from 0% to 1%, so with the VarioS pumps its recommended to start any programming at 15% or higher.


Maintaining our reef gear is always the best practice to get the longest life and best performance overall and since the return pump is one of the most important parts to the life support of our tanks, there are some steps we can take to keep them running in top shape as well. With that in mind, it’s not likely that you’ll need to service your VarioS pump more than a couple of times a year which is super easy with some citric acid solution or vinegar and water.

Dropping the pump in a bucket of citric acid and letting it run for a few minutes should easily take care of most buildup, however for deeper cleaning you can remove the pump’s volute and impeller to clean with a soft brush. Removing the volute requires no tools at all and all you have to do is remove the base and rotate the volute counterclockwise and pull it off. With the volute off you can pull out the magnetic impeller allowing you to clean even further.