Fritz SeaChill ‘Chiller’ Product Review

All aquarists understand the need for temperature control, as without it, too low or too high temps can cause severe animals problems. Being someone who has lived in both frigid and sweltering portions of this country, I know from past experience the need for precise temperature control in my aquariums. And the more I had invested in my aquariums, the more I wanted this aspect properly controlled.

Since we now live in Tucson Arizona, the heat factor is more troublesome than the cold factor. In fact, when we moved here many years ago we found summer daytime temps can and did reach 117 degrees! It was simply impossible to air-condition the entire home and maintain it low enough to keep my aquarium within its proper temperature range when the lighting system was lit for more than an hour or two! I did try low home temps, but it got to the point where I was afraid to look at the electric bill when it arrived! And in those days, the early nineties, a chiller was more something for a store that sold lobsters for human consumption. Yet I did try one of the first hobbyist models, a Baytech model, but it had its problems, besides being pricy! But over the last 15 years, with an assortment of powerheads, system pumps, metal halides and fluorescents adding heat to many of my systems; a chiller became a necessary equipment item. And the same is true for the majority of my local clients who have aquariums ranging in size up to 600 gallons.

When I received an email from Mike Noce with Fritz Industries, Inc., he wanted to know if I would be interested in testing a unit in their new line of TECO chillers, which were just beginning to be imported from Italy. He also noted the units can be equipped with optional heaters and UV sterilizers. Of course I was, and when writing back made him aware that when I test products, it’s their choice if I return it. And if they don’t want it back, I may use it or give it to a local client or aquarium store for their use. If the company wants it back, they pay for return shipping by providing a pick-up at my home. Furthermore, I’ll need everything, e.g., pump, hoses, and fittings to accomplish the test for whatever size unit is sent. And I would like to have any optional equipment installed so it could be included in the test. As to results, I’ll ‘never’ print a review of a defective device! But will tell the sending company of those defects and until remedied to my satisfaction, hold off doing anything further. And if that’s agreeable, lets discuss it further. Well, with that agreed to, Mike wanted to know what size tank I would like to put it on, which was my old 180 gallon system. Mike sent the TECO SeaChill Model TR-15, which was rated for a system up to 210 gallons.

There are three models: the TR-10, – 1/8 HP unit consuming approximately 200 watts/hour and rated for systems up to 130 gallons. The TR-15, – 1/5 HP unit consuming approximately 350 watts/hour and rated for systems up to 210 gallons. And, the TR-20, – 1/3 HP unit consuming approximately 480 watts/hour and rated for systems up to 525 gallons. All units have a footprint of 17″ (Side) x 10 5/8″ (Front) x 17 3/4″ (High). And all units contain the ecological friendly refrigerant R134a.

Within a couple of days the chiller was at my doorstep and when I unpacked it, found everything I needed but the instruction manual. Apparently the units are so new the manual had not yet been printed. Nevertheless, Mike emailed a pdf file of it and simply made a hard copy of it.

Even though there are three installation possibilities mentioned in the instructions, i.e., submersible pump with closed loop, external pump inline, or the canister filter method, I already had the supplied PondMaster 500 GPH pump, so decided to use the closed loop method and drop the pump into the sump tank. And since there was sufficient space under the cabinet right next to the aquarium’s sump, decided to place the chiller there.

Before moving it into that space, I removed the screw on caps that cover its inflow and outflow ports. Inserted into each port is a white plastic plug, which are of course removed, but recommended in the instructions they be saved just incase you ever want to disconnect the unit and move it any distance, as they might help to keep any internal chiller water from spilling if the unit is laid on its side. An o-ring is found under each cap, which is then slid onto the insertion portion of each of two shutoff valves that come packed in the foam that surrounds the unit in its shipping box. Each shutoff is then inserted into a port and its screw-down compression nut snuggly tightened over those o-rings making for two watertight connections.

Even though its possible to hard plumb the units with PVC pipe, flexible tubing is a much easier way to go. A nice thing about the unit’s shutoffs is they accept either 5/8-inch or 3/4 ID inch tubing. It simply depends on how far you push the tubing into the shutoff valve nipple. Once the 3/4-inch ID tubing was pushed onto the nipples, (The 5/8 inch compression nuts are simply slid off, which makes way for the larger tubing to slide past this area.), its leak proof compression nuts were tightened over the lip of each individual length of tubing. With all the fittings facing in the right directions and tightened, the chiller was moved into place. Its outflow tubing was placed in the sump and where it went over the upper lip of the sump, was secured with some duct tape to prevent it from popping out and watering the floor. The end of the input tube was secured to the supplied PondMaster pump, which was then lowered into the sump. Couldn’t be any simpler; in fact, just as easy as hooking up a canister filter!

It was now time to open the shutoff valves and start the PondMaster pump and leak-check all the connections. Everything was A-OK! Appropriate flow to this model chiller is anything between 135 to 790 gallons, which means a large number of simple pumps will work well with this unit. With water now flowing through the chiller, it was time to plug the chiller in, push its start switch and adjust its settings.

The factory setting is set at 77 degrees, but that was a little below the desired 79 degrees. To adjust, simply press the units LCD touch-sensitive screen ‘set’ button and then touch the up or down arrow buttons next to it to set desired temperature. I first set it at 85 degrees to see if the heater would function. Its operating light quickly came on indicating that the heater was operating. I then set the temperature for 75 and the heater light went out and the cooling light came on indicating the unit was now cooling the flowing water. I then set it to 79. After not touching the screen for five seconds, the unit accepts that last change and that’s all there is to setting temperature or other settings. The temperature setting affects both the chilling temperature and the optional heater that was installed in this unit. The heater will automatically go on when water temperature drops about 1.5 degree below the present setting. And there are two indicator lights just above temp window so you know which is operating. This unit was also equipped with an optional UV Sterilizer, which can be turned on or off by simply pressing its touch button on the face of the control panel. An indicator light shows whether or not it’s operating. That a nice feature, as it can be operated as needed, which might be infrequent in some systems, but nice if really needed! I left it on for the test. You can also change Fahrenheit to Centigrade if so desired. There’s even a silent function, just in case you want to take a nap next to your aquarium and don’t want to hear its ventilation fan rotating! It puts it into a slow mode, however, does cut down on the chillers ability to function normally, so it’s recommended it not be used continuously. However, the unit is so quiet while operating that I see little or no need for it.

Maintenance-wise, there’s none, or practically none! There’s a simple pullout air filter under the unit that prevents dust from clogging its heat exchanger coils. It’s recommended it be cleaned monthly, and in fact, if it ever becomes clogged, the flashing word “ALARM” will appear on the control panel. This is a great feature, as my old chiller needs its cover un-bolted to be removed. There’s even a spare fuse located on the backside just incase its ever needed, which is another thoughtful item.

Having a sleek design/compact footprint is great, but the TECO SeaChill units have many other features. They include a titanium heat exchanger, fast disconnect valves, quick clean air filter, a touch-sensitive digital control panel, environmental friendly refrigerant, a super quite mode, and a two-year limited warranty. There’s also integrated diagnostic software and a memory chip that resets the unit to the last set temp just incase the user experiences a power failure. Additionally, there’s electrical surge protection built right in and all components are UL listed, which is a real plus as it insures the buyer that its not some cheap piece of junk from an out of the way place in the world that has no electrical safety regulations! And if the cover ever needs to be removed, maybe for replacing the heater or UV sterilizer somewhere down the line, gently pull on the lower front cover and simply lift it off! No bolts or screws to removed. Add to this an optional heater and UV sterilizer, along with its extremely easy installation, and you have an excellent product that should be checked out if you’re in the market for a chiller.

Fritz Industries is the sole US importer and distributor of the product, and I want to thank them for allowing me to test their new, and very impressive TECO SeaChill units. To close, all I can say is – Wow; things have changed for the better since I bought my last chiller! For more information on TECO SeaChill units, visit their US website at or in the U.K., Tropical Marine Centre Ltd., at

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Product Review – IceProbe

Recently I was going through a pet supply catalog and came across an interesting device that needed some exploration. It appeared like it would greatly benefit those having problems cooling small aquaria. And, it looked like a device that was fairly inexpensive and may not involve a major effort in plumbing.

The device is called IceProbe, and is manufactured by Coolworks, Inc.(1) and was first seen in the Pet Warehouse Summer 2001 catalog. The folks at Pet Warehouse were kind enough to give me the phone number of the manufacturing company. I called and introduced myself and explained the reason for my call. I was then given the opportunity to discuss IceProbe with the president of Coolworks, Ulf Moren, who explained the history of the device and it’s many uses.

IceProbe is actually a small thermoelectric chiller that is about 4 inches square, has 1.5 inch thick main body, with a muffin fan attached to its top surface and a probe extending three inches from its lower body. Overall height of the unit is about 7 inches. The upper portion of the probe is threaded and contains a nylon nut and silicon washer so it can be mounted as you would any bulkhead fitting. If mounting it through the wall of any aquarium or sump, a 1.25 inch hole is needed to accommodate the probe.

He noted that the device has been used in a wide variety of cooling applications ranging from residential drinking water systems to scientific equipment and even home beer brewing systems. Other present uses include salmon and trout egg hatching systems, insulated bait boxes and specimen holding tanks, and now small reef aquaria.

Ulf was kind enough to send me a unit to checkout along with their Proportional Thermoelectric Controller and 12 VDC Power Station. Keep in mind this device is for small aquaria, generally under 55 gallons, not large systems such as my 180 gallon reef system. Since I wanted to test it on my system without making any holes, I built an eggcrate holder that would span the width of the aquarium’s rear vertical sump. A hole in that bracket allowed the probe to pass through and sit into the water stream interring the sump. The Controllers temperature sensor was attached and placed into the aquarium water. The Controller and IceProbe power leads were connected to the Power Station and its power lead plugged into a wall outlet.

I should note the Proportional Thermoelectric Controller is an optional piece of equipment. It controls the amount of electricity being used to chill the probe in relation to the temperature of the water passing by the submergible temperature sensor. If little cooling is needed, wattage is reduced and this reduction in power usage can be visually seen as the speed of the muffin fan slows considerably. If the Controller is not used, the probe works continuously at its highest degree of cooling. Considering IceProbe only consumes about 50 watts, electrical usage is little, but the convenience of not having to monitor the device is well worth the cost of the Controller in my opinion. There is also an adjustable temperature setting on the Controller that allows for the majority of its cooling activity to fall within the temperature range needed. In fact, the range of the setting is from 65°F to 85°F. Actually, IceProbe never shuts off completely even with the Controller, yet at its low range of cooling, rotation of the muffin fan is very slow, indicating little electrical draw.

With the unit up and running at its highest degree of cooling there is no sound or vibration. The only way to know the unit is operating is by viewing the rotation of the muffin fan or actually feeling the probe itself. Ulf notes that one IceProbe will cool 10 gallons of water about 6°F, 20 gallons about 3°F, and 40 gallons about 1.5°F in a standard glass aquarium. Insulation can dramatically improve cooling differentials. In a fully insulated aquarium, one IceProbe can actually cool 10 gallons of water about 20°F below ambient. In many specimen tanks, they insulate the sides and back of the aquarium. For aquariums larger than 10 gallons, one or more units can be mounted in either a sump or through the aquarium wall. The cost of IceProbe is $99, with the Proportional Thermoelectric Controller costing $49. Details are available by contacting their website at or calling (415) 485-5552.

All in all, small reef systems that experience dangerously high temperatures during the hottest months of the year may now have a fairly simple approach to providing a way to gain a few degrees of cooling without great expense or cumbersome equipment. If drilling a hole to mount the bulkhead fitting would be too awkward, the eggcrate mounting bracket such as I concocted, might just be a more convenient way to utilize the product during peak needs. I repackaged IceProbe and sent it back to Coolworks with my ‘thanks.’ Coolworks” and “IceProbe” are registered trademarks of Coolworks Inc.

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Organic Aquatic Products

When I look back into aquatic history, I see many inventions and new processes, e.g., undergravel filters, trickle filters, protein skimmers, powerheads, freeze-dried foods, and specialized additives to name but a few that has benefited our wet pets. And as an animal lover, I also follow happenings in the dog and cat industries where I have noticed an increasing amount of articles and advertisements focused on the benefits of ‘organic’ products and how they benefit the health of these animals. But I do not see the same level of attention in this area of foodstuffs or associated products being given to our wet pets!

Even though the awareness of organic foodstuffs exists throughout most of the educated world, there still remains a certain level of indifference towards the value of ‘organic’ products. And this presently appears true in the aquaculture, pond, and aquarium industry, where very few companies have sought to join the organic revolution and provide its benefits to those that purchase their products. This concerns me, so I’ve researched some of the history and present status of organic products, both for human and animal consumption.

One of the on-going issues that I’ve found when it comes to organic farming is that there are two sides, – as there are with most environmental and health related issues! Those that favor organic foodstuffs say they are more healthful because there are no pesticides involved in the production of the food and that not only benefits the consumer, it also benefits Mother Nature. Furthermore, there will not be any toxic pesticides finding their way into the local aquifer, streams, rivers, and/or coastal waters. And that it also preserves and enhances local topsoil, thereby ensuring the long-term quality of the soil for future farming generations. Those that disagree say that this type farming is more labor intensive, thereby reducing farming profitability and costing the end user more money.

Yet, with all the gnashing of teeth and ambiguous remarks, the sale of organic products is now a multi-billion dollar per year business in the United States and is also seeing fast growth rates in Japan and Europe. So there must be some good reasons for this growth and interest in organic foodstuffs/products! In fact, if there were no profit, I can assure everyone the organic farming issue would be dead in the water so to speak. Therefore, besides apparent profitability and a more healthful approach for us humans, Mother Nature will also be served. And in doing so, help preserve the quality of the environment for our children and grandchildren. And that alone makes it less expensive in the long haul as there should be far less toxic cleanup funds needed to rectify damaged areas in the wild! And in my opinion, a clean environment is the most precious gift we can give our children and grandchildren.

As for a little history, the move towards organic farming probably began in 1940 when British agriculturist Sir Albert Howard advocated farming without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in his book titled “An Agricultural Testament.” His and the work of others led to the establishment of a magazine in 1942, now called “Organic Gardening,” which was produced by researcher and publisher J. I. Rodale. It centered on educating the public about the values of organic farming. For about the next five decades state and private certification programs focused on how to label organically grown products coming from farmers.

In 1990, the United States Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act. It mandated the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) establish national standards on the methods used to grow, process, and market organic agricultured products. In 2002 the USDA fully implemented organic labeling requirements. Those to be labeled 100% Organic must contain ‘only’ organic ingredients. Those to be labeled Organic must contain at least 95% organic ingredients, while those having at least 70% should be labeled as Made with Organic Ingredients. And only those containing ‘at least 95% organic ingredients’ can carry the USDA Organic Seal on their label or in their ads.

Another major player in this area has been a group of organic producers and handlers who in 1985 established the Organic Foods Production Association of North America. It changed its name to the Organic Trade Association (OTA) in 1994 to reflect an expanded mission to include non-food sectors and personal care products. It is an instrumental player in the organic industry and is a member based business association in North America. Its mission is to encourage global sustainability through promoting and protecting the growth of a diverse organic trade and supported the passing of the Organic Foods Production Act mentioned above.

As for OTA, it sees the present day reference to organic as being how ‘agricultural’ products, such as food and fiber products are being grown and processed. And that organic food production is based on a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers. And, that those produced organic foods are minimally processed without artificial ingredients, preservatives, or irradiation, so as to maintain the integrity of the food product. And when a product is labeled “Certified Organic,” it means that independent state or private organizations have verified it to be grown according to these strict standards. In fact, the certification process involves actual hand-on inspections of farm fields and processing facilities, checking their record keeping, and periodic testing of their soil and water to insure that growers are meeting all the standards.

Bottom line, organic foods are becoming available in an impressive variety, e.g., pasta, prepared sauces, frozen juices, frozen meals, milk, ice cream and frozen novelties, cereals, meat, poultry, breads, soups, chocolate, cookies, beer, wine, vodka and more. And as for other organic products, they now include bed and bath linens, tablecloths, napkins, cosmetics puffs, feminine hygiene products, and men’s, women’s and children’s clothing in a wide variety of styles.

Hooray for organic foodstuffs/products for human consumption and other human and some pet animal uses, but both the USDA and OTA are asking, “where are the organic aquatic products?” That’s a good question, especially since organic foodstuffs for cats and dogs have had an increasing presence on the pet market in the past few years. Could it be aquarists are simply not aware of any benefits that can be derived from organic products, therefore there is no demand for such products? Maybe the difference between organic and inorganic is not fully understood?

As for the difference between organic and inorganic; Organic is a substance containing carbon derived from living organisms; and, Inorganic matter is that which is not animal or vegetable, and comes from mineral sources. Now that I’ve got the scientific description out of the way, why should we want to use organically produced aquatic products? That’s a good question and probably one that would be better answered if Mother Nature could speak our language. But she is only capable of environmentally responding to our actions, some of which are not well thought out. Nevertheless, if she does not have to deal with being overly saturated with unneeded inorganic products, she can spend more time controlling her natural pathways, as all life is carbon based. Provide her ‘natural organic’ products and she will favorably and more quickly respond, as these products ‘fit’ right into her natural pathways. And this holds true for our aquarium environments!

Okay, that may seem pretty simplistic, but it’s true! And if we aquarists press aquatic companies for innovative organic products designed to enhance the natural biological processes in our aquaria, they will become more active in the research and production of these products. In fact, another ‘result’ of this action will be that these organically produced products ‘must’ be correctly labeled as noted above. Hooray for that, as labeling of some products can be quite misleading. A case in point is products that may be labeled as ‘Natural Products,’ which can be of a synthetically processed nature. But a Certified Organic Product ‘cannot’ be artificially processed. It must be blended and packaged in such a manner as to maintain itself for as long as genetically capable before use. And no artificial preservatives can be used to accomplish this. However, artificial preservatives can be used in so-called natural products. Since this difference may be somewhat confusing to the general public, nevertheless a most significant point to understand, the USDA has made it a point to clarify their definitions in their manuals.

Unfortunately, there remain many attacks on the labeling process, and in October 2005, Congress somewhat weakened the organic-labeling law despite protests from more than 325,000 consumers and 250 organic-food companies. It overturned the law ruling that barred synthetic ingredients in organic foods, however, it mostly affected only canned soups and frozen pizza. Nevertheless, requests and lobbying continue for more changes, especially in the human food consumption arena. But the path should remain clear for our wet pets, if ‘aquarists’ demand it!

In closing, as the selection of organic aquatic products hopefully broaden (yes there are a few) our dependence upon some inorganic products and additives will be reduced. Then our environment and that in our aquaria will be better served. Please make an effort to find companies moving towards providing organic aquatic products. And be sure these products are correctly labeled as noted above, and then spread the word to other aquarists.

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Aqua Medic Aquarium Lighting

Many aquarium hobbyists and professionals use Aqua Media aquarium products in their tanks. Aqua Medic has been provding quality aquarium products for a few decades now. They also have a wonderful website where you can find out information about products you already own or are thinking about purchasing.

When it comes to aquarium lighting, Aqua Medic certainly understands the importance of lighting. It is very important that you have the right amount of light for either your planted freshwater aquarium, or your reef aquarium. It is also essential that the specific colors given off in the lights are going to be beneficial to the species of plants and/or reef that reside in your tank.

Aquarium lighting is one of the most confusing and often misunderstood aspects of a whole aquarium system. For this reason, companies light Aqua Medic have gone that extra step to help find the configurations that work ell together, as well as provide the customer with different options for further customizing their aquarium environment.

Whether you’re just building your first aquarium, or are working on a larger project, there are all kinds of lights and lighting kits to choose from. If you are just starting out or want to keep things simple, check out the compact lighting systems that are available online.

Compact aquarium lighting systems are great because they contain every single part that you need for an entire lighting set up. Whole aquarium lighting kits from Aqua Medic come with individual lamp(s), with lamp reflectors and clips, eight foot socket cords with quick connecting attachments and water resistant end caps, aqel ballasts that have an on-off switch as well as a power cord.

When you visit the Aqua Medic website, there are many helpful glossary pages and other information that help you to make informed decisions along the way. There are even handy guides about how to configure lighting or build your own custom aquarium.

Pretty much everything you’d ever need to build and maintain an aquarium (except the live reef, plants and fish!) can be found at Aqua Medic, including top of the line aquarium lighting supplies. These include quality bulbs of every type and size, halides and fluorescents, as well as ballasts, timers and mounting kits.

And when it comes to lighting separates, like lighting canopies, Aqua Medic’s selection simply can’t be beat! They’ve got pre-fabricated hoods and canopies for several different dimensions, as well as all kinds of retrofit systems and parts and pieces for building your own custom mounted lighting system.

There are a lot of parts and processes that go along with maintaining a large aquarium system. You can find our about each of the various processes and equipment used to carry out the work, at the Aqua Medic website. Everything from additives ad algae cleaners, to RO filters, food, UV sterilizers and protein skimmers are covered.

And if you’re still not sure exactly where to start, there are several recommended books on the topics of aquarium building and lighting for aquariums that are mentioned on the Aqua Medic website, along side the relevant products and information found there. With a little bit of research and experimentation, you’ll have a breathtaking underwater haven of your very own.

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Ammo Lock 2 Water Conditioner

This product handles a lot of tasks at once, which is nice, but the container leaves a little to be desired. This product is mainly marketed to remove excess ammonia from current fish tanks, however, and there are times this will come in handy.

Ammo Lock 2 works well to eliminate BOTH chlorine and chloramine from tap water – a nice feature if you have chloramines in your municipal supply. The product does not add electrolytes or assist in slime coat production, but it does bind up ammonia to help reduce gill stress.

The product, by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals, is helpful for removing ammonia toxins between water changes. The product information indicates that ammonia is not eliminated so much as converted to a non-toxic form that nitrifying bacteria will still use. Ammonia converts to nitrites and nitrates via the helpful bacteria that feed on those chemicals. I would caution people not to soley rely on this product to keep fish safe from ammonia! You still need to do water changes. It is far more important to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your tank, than it is to try to “cheat” the system via ammonia-converting chemicals.

That said, you can certainly use Ammo-Lock to help keep ammonia levels under control between regular water changes, when you need to extend a day or two between water changes, you have accidently overfed your fish, or when new fish are added to the bio-load. For really ammonia-sensitive fish, this product is a must-have for those ammonia-spike emergencies.

Just remember that this product is not a panacea and you still have to watch your cycle levels. 🙂

The Ammo-Lock bottle itself does not come with any way to measure how much liquid you are using. You can not squeeze out drops or measure out ML, as with some nice, easier bottles on the market. For larger tanks, you might want to eyeball your pouring methods, as many experienced aquarists do. For people just learning about keeping fish healthy, you will need to keep a teaspoon measure handy. One teaspoon treats 10 gallons.

Overall, I would recommend having a bottle of this product on hand for its rather handy, emergency applications, and to use a different water conditioner (one that helps promote slime coat) for regular dechlorinating use.

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AquaC Protein Skimmers – Second Generation Models

This is my third test of different AquaC (1) skimmer models and both prior units were of excellent leading edge designs. The same is true of this ‘second generation’ model, the EV 240, which contains ‘significant’ improvements.

I met the owner of AquaC, Jason Kim, at his product booth a few years ago at a MACNA event. I was especially intrigued with his new and unique spray nozzle technology (U.S. Patent #6,156,209). Testing of first generation EV models (there were three models ­ EV-90; EV-150; and, EV 200) proved its technology was extremely efficient and overall design was more than capable of performing as advertised. About a year later the spray nozzle technology was incorporated into a hang-on-the-side skimmer called the Remora. I tested the larger of the two models, the Remora Pro, and found it to be the best of all Hang-On-Tank (HOT) skimmers at that time frame. I say that time frame only because there are some new brands of HOT skimmers on the market at this time and I don’t have any information/feedback on their performance. But I doubt they can compare efficiency-wise with the Remora units.

When Jason recently contacted me and asked if I was interested in testing a second generation EV, of course the answer was ‘yes.’ I wanted to see what improvements could be made to an already very efficient product! He sent me an EV-240, which is one of six new models – an EV-120 that stands 18 inches high. Its footprint is 4.5 x 8.5 inches and is priced at $299. The EV-180 stands 20 inches high and its footprint is 5.5 x 9 inches and is priced at $339. The EV-240 stands 26 inches high and its footprint is 6.75 x 10.75 inches and is priced at $399. The EV-400 stands 32 inches high and its footprint is 6.75 x 10.75 inches and is priced at $479. The EV-1000 stands 32 inches high and its footprint is 9 x 12 inches and is priced at $649. The EV-2000 stands 42 inches high and its footprint is 9 x 12 inches and is priced at $799. It would behoove those interested to visit the AquaC website and review the various brand and model optional pumps recommended for these models, along with their wide range of operating parameters.

The well-packaged EV-240 unit arrived safe and sound and included an extensive user’s manual. It was removed from its shipping container and is constructed of high quality cell-cast acrylic with high quality fittings. All edges were smooth and appear flame polished. At the time of arrival I had a friend wanting to try a more efficient skimmer on his system and ‘volunteered’ to test the unit. I couldn’t agree more that his system needed a larger skimmer, so agreed to set it up at his home.

The User Manual fully explains how these skimmers can either be used in a sump or as a stand-alone unit. For the purpose of this test the unit was placed outside the sump and one pump, a SEN 90 (2), placed in the sump. The spray nozzle was connected with a short piece of clear flexible tubing to the outlet fitting of the pump. Another piece of tubing connected the unit’s 1.5 inch gate valve to the sump. When that was finished, the gate valve, which came already connected to the skimmer body, was fully opened. (I should note the two smaller models have a 1 inch gate valve, the middle two contain a 1.5 inch gate valve, and the two larger units come with 2 inch gate valves.) The pumps electrical cord was plugged in and water flowed into the skimmer. The gate valve was slowly closed until the skimmers internal water level reached its recommended level. This was just below the air-mixing chamber at the top of the main skimmer body. The supplied automatic waste container was then hooked up to the drain fitting in the collection cup and the unit was completely set up and running! That took less than fifteen minutes.

As with all AquaC’s skimmers, gravity returns the unit’s processed water to the sump. Therefore the unit’s internal water level needs to be above the water level to which its flowing into. If it’s the sump, its water level needs to be below that of the skimmer’s outflow gate valve. This is fully explained in the User’s Manual. One of the new 2002 model improvements was to elevate the gate valve on the side of the main body so that it can sit in sumps as deep as nine inches without being elevated. The addition of a precision made ball valve for airflow is another improvement over that of the older models and allows for precise air adjustments. Older models had no airflow control and it simply entered through a space between the foam collection cylinder and main body. That led to salt creep in that area which required cleaning from time to time. Now, that’s a thing of the past! And the injector spray nozzle is more easily removed than on first generation models should servicing ever be needed. And its cleaning is something I doubt will ever be required. This injection nozzle is internally shaped quite differently than normal venturi or Beckett fittings. It has more openness for water to flow through, therefore small limpet snails/other type crustaceans would rarely, if ever clog it, as they do on Beckett and other type venturi fittings. AquaC’s air injection nozzle is extremely efficient and quiet, and can easily be considered more maintenance free than anything else on the market.

Another striking improvement is the ‘Twist-Lock’ flange connections that separate the collection cup from the main foam collection cylinder and/or its cover. No more nylon thumb screws to fuss with! Simply twist the collection cup or its cover and it easily separates. Between each surface is a gasket that assures a leak proof connection. I should note that only foam extends into the main cylinder, as the unit’s water level does not need to extend into the main cylinder as with other type skimmers. So the Twist-Lock feature remain a very functional improvement.

One of the more interesting improvements is the addition of a John Guest fitting near the air control valve. This fitting is standard on 240 and above models. An optional item costing only five dollars on the 120 and 180 models. This is a small fitting that allows a plastic tube, like that of an airline, to be inserted and firmly held. In fact, that’s exactly the purpose of the fitting, to allow a calcium reactor effluent drip tube to be connected to the skimmer. This would allow for the low pH of its effluent to be raised by blowing off excess carbon dioxide before the effluent enters the aquarium. An ideal situation! The John Guest fitting could also be used for connecting ozone if needed, as the entire skimmer is ozone safe. To release the tube, simply press down on the fitting’s small ring that holds the tube. Could not be easier and AquaC is the first to utilize such a useful fitting in their skimmers. I should also note the Guest fitting is removable, simply unscrew if it ever needs cleaning. While making different water and airflow adjustments during the test I became aware the even if water level rose into the foam collecting cylinder, which is higher than the Guest fitting, it would not run out of an open Guest fitting! The air pressure/space in the top of the main body unit simply remains while the unit is running and prevents any water from coming out of an open John Guest fitting.

Purchasing an optional Auto-Waste Container is highly recommended. It is equipped with an anti-siphon assembly that uses a Ping-Pong ball. Should the container fill with wastewater the ball floats to the top of the assembly and blocks airflow out of the container thereby effectively creating a blockage that stops any flow of water into or out of the skimmer. The ‘Twist-Lock’ top of the waste container, also fitted with an EPDM gasket, is a snap to remove. It has a small cylinder-shaped chamber on its top surface that can hold a bag of activated carbon that will prevent any objectionable odors from escaping. All incoming skimmer air exits though the container’s air filter. The Auto-Waste Container cover can be removed while the skimmer 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. There are two sizes, 2.5 and 5 liter.

As for flow design, the pump forces water through the injection spray nozzle. It strikes the water surface just below air mixing chamber creating a less than atmospheric pressure gradient. The fresh air supply is controlled with the ball valve. The spray effect from the nozzle mixes a huge quality of air with the incoming water and produces ‘extremely’ fine bubbles.

Flow of the water and its bubbles is carried downward into the lower portion of the main skimmer body where angular deflection panels separate bubbles from water. These second-generation models have redesigned baffle plates that greatly reduce any possibly of fine bubbles reaching the aquarium. In fact, there were no bubbles, not one entering the sump! Another very good improvement. These baffle plates cause a rotation 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 bottom portion of the clear acrylic cylinder-shaped foam-collecting tower that is attached to the top of the main skimmer body. The foam eventually rises and empties into the unit’s removable collection cup. Of course, the water drains out of the main skimmer body through the gate valve back into the sump.

The amount of air and water these protein skimmers process is extremely impressive. For something so small their performance equals other brand skimmers that are much bigger and more expensive. Also worth noting is the size of their air bubbles, which equal or better those produced in many skimmers using needle impellers or Beckett fittings.

The dark gray, yet transparent main body of AquaC skimmers is another feature worth discussing. All other brands of skimmers that have a box-like main body are made from clear plastic or opaque material. Clear material can encourage algae growth, which can be a maintenance chore if placed in a lighted area. Of course, opaque material does not allow the hobbyist to view its interior and results in guesswork should something unforeseen occur. That won’t happen with AquaC protein skimmers. However, inner walls and baffle plates are difficult to reach, yet they would rarely, if ever need cleaning.

After two weeks of operation it was time to evaluate its performance. Overall, we both were highly impressed with its performance. The Twist-Off features reduced cleaning time, the slightly larger main bodies of these second-generation models process more water than older models, and the John Guest fitting is a superb addition. The controllable air flow ball valve is also a major improvement and totally eliminates salt creep. So is the addition of automatic waste containers, an optional piece of equipment but well worth having.

There may be a couple of areas that could use some improvement. The first would be a cap or plug that could be used to prevent air from entering the skimmer through the John Guest fitting if not being used. If the hobbyist chooses not to use it, air enters and seems to make the initial adjusting of the air control ball valve somewhat more sensitive. However, once set, it did not affect the gate valve setting thereafter and water height remained very steady. Simply placing a piece of tape over it took that sensitivity out of the set up equation. But a cap or soft material plug might be a nice addition to the base unit. A second possible improvement would be a removable handle on the collection cup cover. Griping the narrow thickness of the cover and twisting to remove is somewhat awkward.

All in all the AquaC protein skimmers rank among the best I’ve ever tested and all AquaC skimmers come with a 90 day warranty. Visit their website, as there is a growing array of products and contact them with questions.

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