Product Review Aerofoamer Protein Skimmer
(Written in 2006)
There's no doubt protein skimmers have become one of the necessary tools if aquarists are to experience long term success. I've tested many different brands and models, and have never tested a skimmer that compares with the Aerofoamer, manufactured and distributed by Reef Concepts (1), when it comes to efficiency for its physical size and ease of maintenance.
Most aquarists probably realize power skimmers utilize counter-current flow dynamics. And, they mostly use a venturi and differ mainly from other type skimmers because they apply additional methods to enhance bubble volume and dwell time. Some power skimmers pass a water-to-air mixture through a powerful water pump and then inject it into the reaction cylinder in a swirling vortex pattern. Some do not use a venturi or what is technically called a venturi, such as aspirator driven and the forced water downward flow models.
Aspirator driven skimmers draw outside air directly into the water inlet side of the skimmer pump. The pump's impeller then cuts the airflow into very fine bubbles. The water and bubble mixture is then delivered to the bottom of the skimmer's reaction cylinder. This process is simple and efficient. It can be applied to different size water pumps to fit a wide range of flow rates, however, where aquarium usage is concerned they may be better suited for small aquariums.
Skimmers with forced water downward flow are considered by many as top-of-the-line models. They are comprised of what is commonly referred to as "downdraft" or "high speed aeration" processes. Downdraft skimmers need a very strong water pump to force water down a narrow column filled with plastic bio-media. The crashing of water against the media is similar to waves crashing over the fringing reef. It creates a saturated fine bubble-to-water mixture that then enters a standard skimmer body.
Another downward flow model referred to as "high speed aeration" forces water downward through a bulbous-shaped, air-sucking device. A very large amount of air can be sucked in through this device resulting in a massive amount of tiny bubbles. The flow/bubbles are simply released at the bottom of its reaction cylinder. Both downward flow units produce extremely stable and efficient foam. I consider them the most efficient protein skimmers on today's market.
Now, another forced downward flow skimmer has come to market that incorporates similar technology in a small package and has an efficient design that allows for internal cleaning of every component including the bulbous-shaped aeration device. It's called the "Aerofoamer."
When Reef Concepts heard that I was designing a new plenum-equipped 180 gallon solar powered reef system for my new office they asked if I was interested in reviewing a skimmer that should easily handle that size system and at the same time be quite energy efficient. I'm always interested in reviewing products! But having to efficiently use electrical power from solar panels and a wind generator, the offer really peaked my interest.
There are various sizes of Aerofoamer protein skimmers with the smallest of the units sent to me because it could be operated by a SEN 900 powerhead pump. More about that pump later in this article. There are two series of column-shaped skimmers, the 600 Series contains three models: the 624 (Model tested) stands 24 inches high and requires a pump that can deliver 900 GPH. Model 630 stands 30 inches high and requires a pump flow rate of 1000 GPH. The 648 stand 48 inches high and needs a pump that can deliver 1200 GPH. Their 800 Series models have wider reaction cylinders and bases, yet are the three heights mentioned in the 600 Series. Their pump flow rates are 1000, 1200, and 2000 GPH.
Model 624 consists of a base unit, which is an acrylic box with a footprint of 8 x 8 inches and stands 4.5 inches high. A supplied 1.5 inch gate valve is already installed in the side of the base unit and controls exiting water, which of course controls water height in the skimmer column. The lower portion of the reaction cylinder is cemented to the base unit. Its upper portion, equipped with a very large collection cup, is flanged to the lower reaction cylinder and can easily be removed if ever necessary by loosing 8 nylon thumbscrews around its perimeter. I should note that Reef Concepts has done away with those troublesome gaskets between major parting surfaces and has installed O-rings. No more salt creep! The top cover of the collection cup has a handy small center nylon screw for easy lifting. It's also somewhat oval-shaped making it easy to remove should the top screw not be reachable. The collection cup is fitted with a drain that can connect to separate optional Auto Waste Collector if desired.
One of the design features of this skimmer is the units bulbous-shaped aeration device/venturi is located in a small acrylic chamber that sits next to the main reaction cylinder. This entire chamber is removable as it has a threaded disconnect above and below it. It also has a removable cover so the unit's aeration device can be cleaned when necessary. In addition the chamber is somewhat oval-shaped allowing for it to be rotated so its top mounted water inlet elbow can easily be positioned in the direction needed to accommodate the flow from the pump. A high quality air inlet valve is also installed on its removable top.
Water flow from the pump enters the top of this small chamber and is forced downward through the aeration device. The forced downward flow of water through this device sucks in a 'huge' amount of air. The then highly oxygenated water flows downward through interconnecting PVC piping and makes a 90° turn into the base unit where it makes another 90° turn at the center of the base and flows upward to an elbow in the lower portion of the reaction cylinder. If any fine bubbles are entering the base unit its deflection angle can easily be adjusted and remedy the situation. Take note to how many times I've used the word easily, as this is something that sets this skimmer apart from others on the market. Anyway, the swirling action of the highly oxygenated water greatly lengthens its dwell time in the reaction cylinder resulting in an excellent dry foam at the top of the unit. Of course this equates to more nutrients being absorbed and better water quality.
Column water drains into the base unit where it flows through the gate valve and via gravity back to the aquarium/sump. The amount of foam produced is in relation to the amount of air that enters through an adjustable air intake fitting located on the small acrylic chamber that houses the aeration device. These skimmers can draw so much air that an audible sucking sound can be heard when the valve is wide-open.
Purchasing the optional Auto Waste Collector is highly recommended. It is equipped with an anti-siphon assembly that uses a ping-pong-like ball. Should the collector fill with wastewater the ball will float to the top of the assembly and block any airflow out of the collector thereby effectively creating a blockage that stops any flow of water into or out of the skimmer. The removable top of the waste collector has a small cylinder-shaped chamber that connects to the anti-siphon device and can be filled with activated carbon to prevent any objectionable odors from escaping. All incoming skimmer air exits though the Collector's air filter. The Auto Waste Collector cover can be removed while the skimmer pump is operating so the container can be emptied as needed. Even the top of the collection cup can be removed while the skimmer is operating for easy cleaning.
What really sets this skimmer apart from many others is its ability to be totally cleaned as needed. Keep in mind that anything difficult or not easy to clean gets cleaned less often then it should. Where Reef Concepts skimmers are concerned there is no longer any excuse to put off needed cleaning. Every inside surface, including the aeration device is easy to clean.
The WON Brothers (2) supplied the SEN 900 Powerhead pump for this test. Not only is it very quiet, it does not leak (its externally plumbed on my setup, not submerged), and I'm sure it is using a little less than 90 watts and supplying 900 GPH at its present head of two feet. Of course SEN pumps are useable as either submersible or inline pumps. They are thermally protected, contain a ceramic shaft, run extremely cool and quite, and come in two different models one for pond use (GP models) and one for aquarium use (GA models). The aquarium pump has a ten foot power cord and the pond pump a twenty foot power cord. Presently there are two pump sizes, a SEN 700 and 900 models, that consume 70 and 90 watts respectfully. Both develop head pressures that are almost unbelievable. The 90 watt pumps can delivery a little over 1000 gallons at one or two feet of head and still deliver about 500 gallons at ten feet of head! The 70 watt pumps can flow about 760 gallons at two feet of head and about 270 gallons at ten feet of head. For the energy consumed and the feet of head developed, these pumps may be unbeatable! And with ceramic shafts, stoppage from calcium deposits may be a thing of the past! There's also a new SEN 300 model, which consumes 20
watts. You'll want to definitely check out these trouble free and powerful products before you make your next pump purchase.
In closing, Reef Concepts is known for heavy-duty quality constructed products. Their customer service has always been outstanding; their products are reasonably priced; and, come with a written one-year warranty. If you're in the market for a highly efficient and easy to maintain protein skimmer be sure to check out Reef Concepts.
1) Reef Concepts, 722 O'Bryant Road, Reidsville, NC 27127, (336) 349-3730, http://www.reefconcepts.com/.
2) Won Brothers, Inc., 11050 F Livingston Road, Fort Washington, MD 20744, (888) 417-6969, fax (888) 749-6750, http://www.wonbrothers.com/.