What do we REALLY know about protein skimmers? We’re testing to find out! | BRStv Investigates

What do we REALLY know about protein skimmers? We’re testing to find out! | BRStv Investigates


– Today on BRS TV Investigates,
what do we really know about protein skimmers
beyond them being a mechanism to create bubbles in order
to remove organic waste and fish poop from our reef tanks? Can we begin to learn about skimmers in order to make smarter
decisions as to which one is better for our reef
tank or how to optimize our current protein skimmer for the best performance possible? Well today we’re diving
deeper one video at a time into answering those questions for good. (upbeat music) Hi, I’m Randy with this
Friday’s BRS TV Investigates where we put popular reefing
gear theories and methods to the test by experimenting
on our own tanks so you don’t have to experiment on yours and in today’s experiment we
open the Pandora’s skimmer box a little wider with the
second round of testing skimmer air draw
performance, only this time, we’re switching it up a bit. While always keeping in
mind that we’re looking for better ways of not
just tuning performance, but also selecting the right
tool for the right job. I’d be willing to bet that
many, if not most reefers probably share similar
experiences when choosing a protein skimmer for their
tanks and that skimmer choices are usually whittled down
by a handful of criteria such as one, the skimmer
has to fit my budget. Two, I rely on the
manufacturer’s rated capacity and tank size and bioload. Three, it has to fit within the dimensions of my sump and skimmer chamber, and four, hopefully somebody
else has used the skimmer on their tank and shared
either their positive or negative reviews to
help me make my decision. Looking at those criteria
again, really only one is being driven by data,
meaning that there has to be more we can learn about
skimmer performance beyond tank size rating
alone that can help us make more informed decisions
not only on which one to buy initially, but also
how to get better performance from the protein skimmer
we may already own. So I’ll admit that last
week when we tested air draw from the six
most popular skimmers, in that 150 to 250 dollar price range, we were called out by one
of our favorite reefers and sometimes sharpest
critics from the YouTube reefing community, Glenn
Rudolph, who mentioned that measuring skimmer
air draw may have been a bit boring and I can mostly agree, but I assured him that
there is a rhyme and reason for the testing. This is exactly why
today and over the course of maybe a half dozen other experiments, we plan to collect some baseline data, share our findings with the community, learn from that data to refine and evolve new tests and performance experiments in order to ultimately
find a path to optimal skimmer performance and the
best tools to achieve it. Meaning coming up with the
right tools for the right job. So today’s testing is an
evolution to our last test which was based on each skimmer
manufacturer’s recommended operating depth, however, this
week we’re going to ignore those recommended depths
to test the air draw from six of the most
popular skimmers in the next price bracket up of 250 to 450 dollars and operating levels
of five up to 11 inches in order to determine their optimal depth and which options have the
largest installation sweet spot to learn more about the question, does skimmer operating
depth really matter? Here’s how this experiment
went down as I mentioned we tested six of the most
popular standard protein skimmers as voted by you guys
in terms of units sold. So starting alphabetically
with the NYOS Quantum 120, Reef Octopus Classic 150SSS,
Reef Octopus Classic 202S, the Reef Octopus eSsence
S-130, Red Sea RSK 300, Skimz SM167 Monster DC Skimmer, all from that price range
bracket of 250 to 450 dollars. Using our new toy from Kelly Pneumatics, which measures volumetric air flow, we tested each skimmers
air draw and saw the depths of five, six, seven, and up to 11 inches in order to see how the
water level impacted the air draw as we move deeper and deeper. From the data we gathered today, we not only hope to chip
away some of the layers of mystery surrounding
protein skimmer performance and operation but better yet, if you already own one of these skimmers or are in the market for
one, this data may help to optimize that performance
or help you with a selection. So with that, lets get to the numbers. To make today’s data easier to digest, we’re going to show you a
graph of how each skimmer performed at each operating
depth from five inches and beyond with some notable
call-outs to what we’re seeing. Lets get started with the
Red Sea RSK300 skimmer at 300 bucks which utilizes
the Sicce PSK600 pump, which we tested at an
average wattage of 29 watts with an air rated draw
of 600 liters per hour, and a recommend operating
depth of six to eight inches. Right away we see pretty
stable performance from five inches up to nine
inches where the overall change in average air draw
ranges from 582 liters per hour at the low end, to 680 at
the high end where the most air draw is right in between
that recommended sweet spot of seven inches of water. At ten to 11 inches of operating depth, which is pretty deep and not
very common in most installs, we weren’t able to
collect the air draw data due to the skimmer overflowing into the skimmer collection
cup which made it unusable for any reefer attempting to utilize it effectively at that depth. I’d also note that the best performance came right in that six
to eight inch sweet spot recommended by Red Sea
where it dropped off on either end and is exactly
where I would operate this skimmer on my own system. The Reef Octopus eSsence S-130 is next at around 310 dollars
which has a little over a one inch recommended
operating depth sweet spot from seven point one inches
to eight point seven inches and comes outfitted with
an Aquatrance 1800 pump that we tested at 18 watts
and is manufacture rated for 480 liters per hour air draw. As we can see from all
points of five inches to nine inches, there’s
really not much of a change to the air draw where the
lowest comes in at 365 liters per hour at seven inches
deep, to the highest air draw of 395 liters per hour
just one inch higher in eight inches of water. This small difference
of 30 liters per hour from the lowest to the
highest seems to show little concern for operating
depth on this skimmer, however, at ten to 11
inches, it did overflow the skimmer cup to a point that made it unusable at those depths. Moving on to the $450 Reef
Octopus 202-S skimmer, which runs the Aquatrance
3000 pump which we tested at 23 watts and is rated
at 880 liters per hour with an operating recommended
depth of less than one inch between seven point nine inches
to eight point seven inches. Looking at the data from a
five inch operating depth to 11 inches, we see the
largest change overall from the lowest to highest
air draw happened in between seven and eight inches where there’s only a marginal 38 liters per hour difference from 312 at seven inches
to 350 at eight inches. Again, the highest air draw performance is right in that recommended
eight to nine inch operating depth yet overall the max of around 350 liters
per hour that we tested, was pretty far away from Aquatrance 3000’s rated 880 liters per hour. I have a feeling we’ll
find out in future tests how much of a rule a difference
of over 500 liters per hour air draw effects skimmer
production performance, but for now it looks like
this skimmer is pretty unaffected by operating depth. Up next is the Reef Octopus Classic 150SSS which is the most affordable
in our group of skimmers today coming in right at about 275 bucks. The Aquatrance 2000 pump in this skimmer was tested at 17 watts and is
rated for 720 liters per hour with a small operating
window of less than an inch by the manufacturer, from seven point nine to eight point seven inches. When we look at the performance
from five to 11 inches, we see a very even air
draw rating regardless of operating depth where
there’s only a difference of 36 liters per hour from
425 at 11 inches deep, versus 461 at seven inches. From the looks of it,
in this case it seems as though the optimal
range for this skimmer is somewhere in that
six to eight inch depth where we see the highest
amount of air draw which is slightly lower than that recommended operating depth. Our only DC powered skimmer
is the Skimz SM167 Monster that’s currently listed
for just under $400 and utilizes Skimz’s own QPS 4.0 pump which we measured at 15 watts
on the highest power setting. This DC pump is rated
by Skimz at 900 to 1200 liters per hour of air
draw and has a recommended operating depth of seven
to nine and a half inches. Looking at the data across
all operating depths from five to 11 inches,
this one is by far the most surprising results we’ve
seen with an overall change of 1,038 liters per hour
from 55 at five inches, to 1,093 at 11 inches. At the highest pump setting, we can see that the air draw just
continues to increase as the skimmer gets deeper
and deeper in the water. So with Skimz we see
the highest performance in terms of air draw, however,
it is absolutely effected by operating depth, yet it
does come with a feature of being able to adjust
the amount of air draw due to the adjustable
speed of the DC pump. I would say that even though the air draw is greater at the 11 inch
depth, I would still install it within that recommended range
of seven to nine and a half inches from Skimz, although if
necessary to install deeper, you could potentially
turn down the pump speed. The next skimmer is the NYOS Quantum 120 in that same $400 price
range utilizes an eight watt Quantum 1.0 pump rated 500 liters per hour and it has a recommended operating depth of just eight inches. Looking at the data for this skimmer, we see a pretty stable air
draw from five to eight inches with surprisingly the
highest amount of air draw in that lower five inch operating depth at 220 liters per hour. From the five inch depth to
that recommended eight inch sweet spot, we see majority
of the highest air draw, and then it starts to
drop off in the higher operating depths until 11
inches where we couldn’t keep the cup from overflowing. From the looks of it,
I’d say that this skimmer has a wider sweet spot
than what’s listed in the instructions with a more usable range of around four inches. So much like we saw in the
last skimmer air draw test, some skimmers absolutely have
more air draw than others. However, it looks as
though these larger models with the higher wattage
pumps are less susceptible to drastic changes at
various operating depths versus last weeks look
at some smaller models with the exception of the Skimz DC pump. One thing I’d also note here is that each of these skimmers we tested are commonly referred to
as space saving models with their respective pumps
housed inside the body. The Skimz DC pump did end up drawing the most air out of the bunch today with deeper operating
depths seeming better, yet it was a pretty drastic swing from the low end to the high
which may be accounted for when you start to factor
in the added ability to adjust the pump speeds,
perhaps the effect to changing that pump speed at various
depths might be something we could explore further in future tests. To continue on that thought
path of today’s question, does skimmer operating
depth really matter? Last week I rated this
one a five out of ten using a handful of smaller size skimmers where instillation depth
was absolutely a factor for some more so than
others, so for this week, I think I’ll bring this one
up to a seven out of ten for the main reason that for a majority of the larger skimmers we tested today, we saw some of the best performance right in that operating range
that manufacturers recommend, so in almost all cases I’d
say that it’s best practice to follow those recommendations
as closely as possible. But what about skimmer designs, such as recirculating
skimmers that are not as dependent on water operating
depth, in the next evolution of our skimmer testing we’re
going to take a closer look at how performance is affected with those recirculating skimmers that
utilize a dedicated pump for the sole purpose of drawing in air and a second pump to feed
water through the skimmer versus more traditional protein skimmers much like we’ve already tested
that utilize a single pump to serve the dual purpose of
controlling the water level as well as the air draw together. Looking back on a lot of the testing we’ve done over the years
at BRS TV Investigates, many of our experiments in
some way, shape or form, have revolved around the question, is more actually better? When it comes to the amount
of flow in our tanks, it’s been commonly thought
that for some tank types, particularly those SPS dominate systems, in fact, yes more is better. However, the data we
found in this experiment where we tested exactly that, showed seemingly
otherwise and you might be surprised how we came to that conclusion, so check it out while you’re here.