Back in January of this year I reviewed the newest type protein skimmer to come upon the market. I noted that while attending MACNA the previous September I had met Jason Kim, owner of AquaC (1) at his product booth. I was especially interested in his new and unique spray nozzle technology and wondered whether it was something truly beneficial or just product hype.
I came away from that meeting with some impressive handout material. It actually contained real test data, more than I've ever seen accompany other brand protein skimmers. I was positive the industry was actually seeing something truly useful when it came to protein skimmers.There were three models at that time: an EV-90 that stands 18 inches high. The recommended pump, optional on all these models, was a Rio 1700. This skimmer's footprint is 4.5 x 6 inches and with the recommended pump has an approximate effluent rate of 225 gallons. It's priced at $319. The EV-150 skimmer stands 20 inches high. The recommended pump is a Rio 2500. Its footprint is 5.5 x 7.5 inches and with the recommended pump has an approximate effluent rate of 275 gallons. It's priced at $349. The EV-200 stands 24 inches high. The recommended pump is two Rio 2500's or one 3MDQ. Its footprint is 6 x 9 inches and with the recommended pump(s) has an approximate effluent rate of 550 gallons. It's priced at $449.
Jason contacted me a few days after returning home and asked if I was interested in actually testing one of his skimmers. I explained my position as to product tests and a few days later an AquaC Model EV-150 with a Rio 2500 pump arrived. It was well packaged and arrived safe and sound. The unit was professionally made and was accompanied with an extensive user's manual. A technical specification sheet that noted water and air flow rates; model heights; footprint size; recommended pumps sizes; what size aquarium they would accommodate; and, their actual bubble size and volume of foam they could be expected to deliver also accompanied the unit. I do not know of any other protein skimmer manufacturer that provides the extent of useful data that does AquaC.
What transpired was an extremely successful product test and I was more than satisfied with the product's efficiency and its accompanying literature. While discussing various aspects of that test Jason alluded to the development of a hang-on-tank (HOT) model. He noted its completion was about six months away, and would keep me abreast of its development. Well, that time has now come and there are two HOT models available: the Remora, and the Remora Pro.The Remora stands 17.5 inches high, 6 inches wide, and 2.75 inches deep. Its pump, which comes with these skimmer models, is a Rio 800 and has a flow-through rate of 85 gallons per hour. It is priced at $169. The Remora Pro stands 21.5 inches high, is 7.5 inches wide, and is 3.25 deep. It comes with a Rio 1400 and has a flow-through rate of 110 gallons per hour. It's priced at $229.
Jason was kind enough to send a Remora Pro to checkout. I convinced a local friend, who uses an undergravel filter and a very common brand name skimmer in the sump of his trickle filter, to test it for me. His 55 gallon reef system had been set up for two years and, in his opinion, was doing fairly good. In my opinion, he needed a much better skimmer, but he thought his was just doing fine.
The Remora Pro was placed on the back of his tank and the supplied pump was connected with some plastic tubing. Two black leveling screws at the bottom of the skimmer were adjusted to make sure the unit was level. The pump was plugged in and the skimmer was up and running. In other words, the skimmer from the box to a running condition was accomplished within a few minutes!
One of the unit's nice features is that there are no internal/external water level adjustments or pump adjustments! Actually, no fuse with anything! Simply connect the pump to the unit and hang the Remora on the side of the aquarium. How simple can it be? I didn't have time to stay and asked my friend to call me with his thoughts the following day. He called the following day and the first thing he said was "You'll have to fight me if you want this skimmer back!" He went on to explain that he had this dark brown gunk filling the collection cup a couple of times a day.
His old skimmer rarely ever needed any service. He could not believe what was coming out of his tank! A few days later he called again and said he has to empty the collection cup at least once a day and that the Remora Pro is absolutely quite and just super efficient. A week later I got to his house and found the collection cup again slowly filling with dark brown foam. He now emptied the cup once every morning. I took a digital photo of it and sent it to Jason. My friend is now a true believer in the value of protein skimming and what constitutes a quality skimmer.
For those not familiar with why AquaC skimmers are so efficient, I'll repeat a portion of what was written in the January article about their operation and tune parts of it to the Remora model.
As the pump forces water through the injection spray nozzle it strikes the water surface just below the air-mixing chamber just below it creating a less than atmospheric pressure gradient. This draws in a constant supply of fresh air. The spray effect from the nozzle then mixes a huge quality of this fresh air with the incoming water and produces 'extremely' fine bubbles.
Flow of this water and its bubbles is then carried downward into the lower portion of the skimmer body where an angular deflection panel, actually two deflection plates in Remora models, separates the bubbles from water. The plates also causes a rotational movement of the water and bubbles, adding to bubble dwell time and their ability to pick up additional dissolved organic compounds. The collecting foam then rises into the neck of the waste collection cup where it finds its way into the unit's removable waste collection cup. On Remora models, water drains out of the main skimmer body through an open port in the side of the skimmer that faces the aquarium, similar to some hang-on filter units. The skimmer effluent then spills back into the aquarium.I did not see any bubbles coming back into the aquarium with the unit I tested. However, AquaC makes what they call a "Surface Organic Skimmer and Bubble Eliminator" that can be mounted inside the aquarium and in front of the Remora. It's simply a dark gray, yet transparent box that allows surface water to flow over its left, slightly lower edge and into this chamber holding the pump. This insures that only surface water is sent to the skimmer, which is the preferred way to protein skim aquarium water. The water returning from the skimmer then spills into the right side of this optional box. It drains through a foam pad, minus any possible bubbles, at its bottom opening and back into the aquarium. This chamber is also large enough to accept a carbon bag or similar chemical media. What's also interesting about its design is the Remora's pump is held tightly inside this box by two black plastic thumbscrews that come through its side. Therefore the entire box and pump is positioned perfectly for proper skimming. The cost of the optional "Surface Organic Skimmer and Bubble Eliminator" is $29.95, and well worth it!
Another interesting feature is the supplied Rio pump comes with several fittings. One such attachment contains a venturi fitting where ozone could be connected if so desired. All AquaC skimmers are ozone proof. The amount of air and water all these small protein skimmers process is extremely impressive.With such electrically efficient pumps their performance far exceeds all other hang-on-tank brands that I know of!Also worth mentioning is the tiny size of their air bubbles, which equal or better those produced in many skimmers equipped with needle impellers and do so with a much greater water flow.
The dark gray, yet transparent main body of AquaC skimmers is another feature worth discussing. All other brands of skimmers are made from clear plastic or opaque material. Clear material can encourage algae growth, which can be a maintenance chore if the unit is placed in or near a lighted area. Of course, opaque material does not allow the hobbyist to view its interior and results in guesswork should something unforeseen occur. Those type problems are greatly minimized with AquaC protein skimmers. For the questions asked and associated comments on AquaC's stand-alone units, see the January issue of Marine Fish Monthly.
As with any type skimmer, long-term efficiency is tied to its cleanliness. Since the spray nozzle is non-removable and the air-mixing chamber is not accessible, it worth repeating Jason's comments that appeared in the January review. "I've been running a few of the skimmers for about two years now and this chamber does not get clogged at all since there is constant water flow there. The special design of the spray injector, which has large holes, has never experienced a clogging problem either." As for the lower internal portion of all AquaC skimmer bodies, they are reachable by hand and/or brush. The Remora's removable waste collection cup is adjustable heightwise and can be secured at any needed height with a small side mounted thumbscrew. Its cover is vented, however, the cup does not have a drain. Because of its efficiency, the cup might have to be initially emptied quite often on some systems!
As with all good protein skimmers, all AquaC skimmers come with a warranty. Even though it's only good for 90 days, the product is so sturdy that anything longer is probably not needed. You can also visit their website if you want to see their various products or have any questions. After two weeks of testing the Remora on a friend's aquarium, I sent it to a local aquarium store for some more testing as the owner wanted to see it firsthand so to speak. Everyone that saw it was well satisfied with its production/consistency of foam and its quiet and efficient operation. With their compact size; quick and easy cleaning accessibility to its more important internal areas; and, a non-clogging spray nozzle their maintenance is a snap. There's probably no doubt they are the "most" efficient hang-on-tank protein skimmers on the market. In fact, if you need something larger than the standard models, they can be custom ordered. Various stores and public aquariums are already using custom-made units!
That's got to tell you something!
© Marine Fish Monthly Magazine/Bob Goemans, Ph.D.