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FAQs about Skimmer Operation/Maintenance 5

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Related Articles: Skimmers by Steven Pro, Protein Skimmer Impressions By Steven Pro, Marine Filtration, Mechanical, Physical & Chemical, and FAQs

Microbubbles, ammonia, etc. Hello All: <Greetings!> I have a two part issue: <Okay> 1. I am having a problem with micro bubbles in my tank. I have a 55 gal with a sump, an external (Little Giant) pump, and a Rainbow UV. The sump's bulkhead is fitted with an elbow looking down to avoid  siphoning any air from the surface. The whole setup is plumbed in PVC.  I have a cyclone skimmer in the sump. My feeling is that the skimmer is dumping the bubbles in the sump. <Before proceeding any further, I would shut the skimmer off for a few hours and see if it helps. Then you will know conclusively that the skimmer IS or is not the problem.> I have searched for DIY bubble traps, but no luck. This information is detailed on WetWebMedia. Do a word search with micro bubbles. Can you explain the dynamics/concept behind a bubble trap? <There are several ways to "trap" the bubbles. Some people like to make the water travel down a smooth surface before entering the sump. Personally, I built a tower out of eggcrate and plastic cable ties, made a bed of filter floss (about 3") in the bottom of the tower, and let the skimmer empty into the tower. The bubbles all but totally disappeared and this gave an additional layer of mechanical filtration. There are many other suggestions in the WWM facts.> Can the bubbles harm anything? <Possible...bubble embolism...does happen...> Chemistry? <No> Biology? <?> 2. I tested ammonia at .25 ppm <Mayday! Mayday! This is a major problem! You need to have zero ammonia. Nearly all marine critters, fish and inverts, have zero tolerance for ammonia. I would find the source and fix it. My best guess? You're overfeeding the tank, your tank is overstocked, or something has died. Could be all of these, none of these, or one of these. I would do a large water change immediately and not feed the tank until the ammonia is completely gone.> nitrite at 0, <Ammonia turns to nitrite. This level won't stay zero for very long.> and nitrate at 20 ppm. <Ammonia and nitrite are much bigger problems.> I have bioballs in my sump. The cycle <I'm not sure what you mean but your tank cycling should have been over months ago. Please consider not adding anything new to this tank until you have found the source of the ammonia.> has been ongoing with different critters for over 6 months. <You mean critters are dieing and being replaced? Something smells fishy around here...> What can cause this high nitrate? <It's really not very high. Not a concern> Is this high? <No> I have one coral, the name? Orange-tubis-coral-thingy? It looks like little orange tubes, shorts and hollow (sometimes)...What is that? <Sounds like it may be a Tubastrea> I would like to have a 0,0,0 tank. What are my options? <You need a water change now and possibly more in the near future to get rid of the ammonia.> Dilution? <Yes> I just made a 10 gal change 2 weeks ago. Do I remove the bioballs? My LFS said that it would *weaken* the tank... I doubt it. <It's hard to say. If you have lots of live rock and not many fish I don't think it would hurt...You do need some source of filtration. However, in your case, I don't think you need to remove them. But you desperately need to stop the ammonia and find out where it's coming from. Is your tank overstocked? Lots of big fish in a small tank is a recipe for disaster.>   Any and all help is appreciated within the small constraints of your vast knowledge... <HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! Thanks for the compliment!> In other words, thanks! <You're welcome! David Dowless> Hugo S. San Juan, PR

Fitting a Skimmer in the Stand/Sump Hey guys, I am hoping you can give me some good advice. I am wanting to upgrade my Red Sea Berlin type [protein skimmer in my 90 gallon reef tank and have been learning a great deal from your website/FAQ's. I am very interested in the Euroreef and the Aqua-C EV's based on the FAQ's. I'm leaning towards the Euroreef right now. My question is whether or not those of you who have hands on experience with the Euroreef CS6-1 have seen it used in a 20 gallon long sump (30 X 12). I know I have the room to fit it in my sump based on the manufacturer's posted footprint (10.5 X 11.5), but actually getting it between the top of the sump and the stand is my concern. I have 26 inches total clearance under the stand, but only 13 inches between the top of the 20 gallon aquarium sump and the stand. The unit itself is 20 inches high and I'm assuming with the collection cup removed I can fit in into my sump. <I think you should be ok. Remove the collection cup and turn the unit side ways. That way it is 11 1/2" tall and about 20" wide. It should fit through the stand doors side ways and then stood up correctly.> I would hate to purchase it only to have to send it back. Hope this makes sense and hope someone out there who reads this can say, "yeah I tried this and it fits or I tried this and it won't fit." <I have not tried it, but I think you should be fine.> Thanks very much again for your wealth of knowledge. <You are welcome. -Steven Pro> Production from a Big Counter Current Skimmer I have a 4" x 5' CC skimmer with 4 - 2" Lee's air stones powered by a Tetra Luft air pump. I have a very good bubble head formed at the top of the neck, but it isn't pulling as much gunk from the water as I would like. Don't get me wrong it does remove gunk, but not in the quantities you recommend. Is it the bubble size from my Lee's air stones? <I would image there is not much difference between wood airstones.> Is there a better air stone for improved skimmer performance? <I actually get them from a guy locally who makes them. They are just a block of wood with a hole drilled in them and a piece of rigid airline.> I have another CC skimmer that is doing the same thing. The bubble head on both skimmers is usually white with mixed with some green gunk. <I would do two things. Turn the air all the way up and leave it there. Then slow down the water flow and use that to make adjustments. It is easier to concentrate on one variable at a time. That is why I would just crank the air up all the way and fine the water flow.> Thank you for all the free information. This is a great site. <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Poor Skimmer performance Dear Anthony - I currently have a CPR Bak Pak protein skimmer on my 58 Gallon tank.   <not a bad skimmer at all... affordable and can work well with slight daily adjustments> The tank is being converted from FOWLR to  Reef.   <hmmm... indeed a skimmer upgrade may be a worthwhile consideration. Beyond time-saving/maintenance... a better skimmer will perform more consistently in the lower nutrient reef system (corals compete for nutrients but fishes do not... hence the reason why even poorly designed skimmers can work well/better in high DOC fish only displays)> I do not get a cup of dark skimmate from this tank every day, and I didn't even achieve that when I had a heavy load of fish.   <Yowsa... it should be very easy to do in a FO tank (and that's an understatement). Some common flaws include drawing water from more than 1/2 below the surface of the water (if fed from the display) ... OR... prefiltering water (big no-no... like a filter bag, foam block, prefilter, trickle filter, etc inline between the raw water and the skimmer)... and lastly, for all models: feeding the skimmer from a well (the display or sump) that isn't perfectly static (like a display with an overflow or a proper skimmer box in the sump to catch and overflow all raw water from above). Fluctuating water levels of even 1/2 inch daily (evaporation) can be crippling to a skimmer.. especially the mid and low shelf models. Although the feed pump is engineered to be constant, they are all influenced by head> I have cleaned it, I have added the pre-skimmer, and I still do not achieve this level of skimming.   <could be the installation as per above> I am considering  replacing the CPR with the AquaC Remora Pro.  Do you believe that this is a good investment, <it is a sound upgrade indeed> or is the CPR unit as efficient and my water is just really clean HA HA?   <now that's funny! :) Since I have had the pleasure of owning or working with some wicked skimmers (commercial Tunze and Euroreef, RK2, etc) I am completely awestruck at how much skimmate can still be produced in a seemingly pristine reef display (little or no fishes, no feeding, etc... and still getting daily collection!). I am furthermore ashamed for the manufacturers that sell completely inferior skimmers for as much as $200! I'm not saying that the CPR is one.. again, with some daily adjustments it can be made to work well. However, once you see a Euroreef or Tunze produce daily skimmate like clockwork without little or no adjustments, you'll never want to go back!> BTW I have adjusted and played with the skimmer continuously, <yes... this is the trade-off with even good mid shelf units ($100-$200) IYO does the AquaC require less tinkering.   <far less but still some. Most all brands do> The only additives to the tank are top off water ESV 2 part solution and non oily food.  I do not believe these should affect the performance of the skimmer.   <agreed... not much. But anything that breaks the proteinaceous sheen at the surface (unseen) impedes skimmer performance. If you hand goes into the tank once a day, your skimmate collection will suffer. Another reason to minimize fussing with the tank> If you had to decide between changing the Skimmer or adding the CPR Aquafuge refugium which would you do, or at least do first? <I wouldn't take the CPR fuge for free. Upgrade the skimmer. Refugiums are awesome, but easy to build bigger, better and light years cheaper than the aforementioned. Just my opinion though> Thanks for your time.  James <my great pleasure. Kindly, Anthony>

Skimmer Saga Guys, <Scott F. here tonight> As you already are aware, I have been battling a huge hair algae problem in my 300 gallon reef tank.  I have been doing water changes, vacuuming out the algae, dosing Kalk, turned off calcium reactor CO2, and finally I replaced the bio-balls in my ETSS 1400 Protein Skimmer......This helped the skimmer to skim better but there was still something wrong:  Bubbles were too big, non-stable foam, foam rising and falling without continuous skimmate production. <A common complaint with this brand of skimmer> Then I thought....I will remove the bioballs and retro fit Beckett 1408 foam nozzles and a new manifold to house them.....or I will spend $800.00 for a Beckett skimmer.   <Yikes!> While I was staring at my protein skimmer, thinking about my next skimmer, and thinking of how I will die at the hands of my wife , HEE HEE !!!!, I covered up one of the air intakes of my skimmer with my hand.  I was shocked, surprised, excited and puzzled.  All of the big bubbles turned into tiny fine bubbles....so fine that the whole skimmer looked like it was painted white !!!!!!!!  Then, since I was restricting the air, the foam column fell below the skimmer sump so I took my hand away and the big bubbles were back with the non-stable foam. <You've discovered the good and bad about ETSS skimmers...tend to be fussy to adjust initially...> Then I thought that maybe the skimmer was not designed correctly and it was sucking too much air thus de-stabilizing the foam column.  I then ran to my PVC pipe/valve collection found a 1/2 inch tee, screwed in two hose barbs in either end and a 1/2 inch ball valve in the center of the tee.  I then connected the two air intakes to the ends of the Tee and now I had >a way to controllably restrict air flow.  Also, since I upgraded my pump from an MD70 to an MD100 >I had previously added a gate valve to the input of the skimmer.  Now I have both water and air input controllability !!! After playing around for awhile I realized I could open the gate valve completely and control the foam column's height via the air valve only !!!  I then began closing the air valve until very very little air was being aspirated by the skimmer......and my expectations were realized....I had a stable foam column from the bottom of the bottom riser tube to the bottom of the collection cup !!!  I noticed that the bubbles were so small that I could not distinguish them until I looked at the top of the foam column where the bubbles were bigger.  Also, the skimmer is now producing skimmate continuously.....something I could never achieve with this skimmer previously. <You were right on target with your modification to this fussy skimmer...I use one myself, and they can be tricky...> My suspicion is that this skimmer is now working as good as a needle wheel or a Beckett, since it is continuously skimming.  I believe that the only reason to go to a Beckett is to cut down on maintenance...i.e. no bioballs to replace.  But I believe that the performance of the other type of skimmers is not so much the "foam generation technique" but the ability to adjust input air flow. Better yet, I think I have  a way to make the input airflow controlled adaptively and passively without intervention from the user.  Maybe a patent is in order....I am so excited !!!!!! If nothing else, I saved the cost of a new skimmer or expensive mod to my existing skimmer. <And quite possibly-death at the hands of your wife?> Regards, Chuck Spyropulos <You're a madman, Chuck! I think that your modification may be of interest to other ETSS users; thanks for the info.>

Kordon Mist Airstones  ( fused glass beads, long lasting, operational if you know what to do)  Dear Crew, I am mailing you from good old England, I have a 65gall reef with a internal counter current skimmer. In the past I have always used sander no2 limewood stones, which I change about once every 3 weeks so that I keep the bubble concentration at its strongest, but I have just bought some of the Kordon mist fine stones on the internet.  Have any of you guys used these or do you know of them, <As likely the "oldest salt" here... and very familiar with the Kordon lines I'll step up to the plate> I just can't get them to produce a bubble anything like enough to perform any kind of fractionation, on the packet is says that they outperform limewood considerably. <They do... when clean and... please do check here... the "ballast" is removed from the middle. The last first. Gingerly take a pliers and remove (pull out) the clear 3/16" (sorry re the lack of metric equivalent) stem... and tap out (not on a hard surface or you may break the "stone" (fused glass beads) ballast (if any)... and discard (not to worry re its lack). Now, treat these glass/stones as if they were limewood... that is, get a couple of sets and get in the habit of trading them out about every other week, rinsing (and slightly bleaching) them for a day or two, allowing to air-dry in-between... It may well be that your air pump/s are not capable of powering these (try blowing through the line yourself. If you can't w/o danger of exploding, your pumps cannot either...). Your application might be better off with the "medium" size bead/bubble in this case...> My air pump is rated at 450litres of air per hour, so there's no problem there I don't think, <The volume and pressure are different affairs... many such pumps produce large volume, but little pressure... The Schego and Luft pump lines are my favorites in these higher pressure, moderate volume settings> Anyway if you do have any information I'd be grateful to read it, your site is fantastic, I visit all the time, very informative and a damned good read. Thanks again chaps and keep up the good work. <A pleasure Sir. Thank you for your kind, encouraging words. Bob Fenner> Paul Matthews, Manchester, England

Skimmer Placement For some reason, I am VERY hesitant to put my skimmer inside of my 17 gallon sump. I'm going with the Aqua-C ev-180, and for some reason just seem adamant about putting it on the outflow side of the sump, where it will then flow back into the sump. If I keep the skimmer outside, I can't fit a 20 gallon refugium. In your professional opinion, are there any problems associated with putting the skimmer in the sump. <The biggest problem associated with keeping the skimmer in the sump seems to keeping a level flow of water, which will result in more efficient skimmer operation. Some people use dedicated level flow boxes attached to the main sump to accomplish this. This is outlined in Anthony's excellent "Book of Coral Propagation", a must have for all reef enthusiasts!> It may stem from the fact that a piece of electrical equipment is in the water, which bothers me greatly, even if they are designed to be there. Am I being over sensitive? I will have a ton of cash invested in this when I'm up and running, and just want to be sure! <I certainly won't criticize you for the healthy respect you have for the dangerous mix of water and electricity! If done according to manufacturer's instructions, and if good equipment is used, and safety measures taken, such as GFI technology, there is little concern, in most cases. It is no problem to mount the skimmer adjacent to the sump, either, fed by a dedicated pump. Do contact Jason Kim at Aqua C., or consult their web site, for more instructions on installation and use of their skimmers. Good luck!  Scott F.>  

Optimal Skimming? Hello all, Wonderful website! I'm an addicted daily visitor! A couple quick questions for you. I've had a Berlin Classic skimmer for a couple months now (I know, not the best, but a good price, and for a small tank). It seems to be working well, but perhaps it could be working better? <We shall see.> The skimmer has its own Mag 7 powering it (both external of the sump). The pump is about 5 inches from the skimmer, in a straight line (so I'm assuming around the max of 700 gph is initially feeding the skimmer). My question is this: How full of bubbles should the second (middle) tube of the skimmer be? Red Sea writes about their skimmer having this "triple pass" bubble feature: Once up the smallest (center) tube with the water after first entering the skimmer. Second, down with the water in the second (middle) tube. Third, back up, against the water flow of the second (middle tube). I've included a pic of my running skimmer. <Unfortunately, the picture did not come through.> Currently, as you can see, the bubbles become rather sparse in the second tube, with few, if any, making it to the bottom "skirt", thereby giving what seems to me little more than a "single + some pass" for the bubbles. Is this a function of water flow, air flow (the air screw is fully opened on the skimmer), or just a function of this being a rather small tank, and just not that much protein in the water to skim? <Your pump seems like the right size. I would worry less about how much air is where and adjust the air depending on the skimmate.> Currently it's pulling out a little less than a quarter cup of dark skimmate a day from a 20 gallon tank (with 10 gallon sump) with 42 pounds of live rock (some fresh and still curing). <A quarter cup per day of dark skimmate sounds good to me.> I'm planning on getting a new pump (old one too small) to return water to the tank from the sump. Should I use the Mag 7 for the water return and get a new pump for the skimmer? <I wouldn't.> Would a Mag 9.5 help put more bubbles in the skimmer, or just increase the water flow? <It could do both. A larger pump will be able to draw in more air by creating a greater venturi effect. But, it will also raise the water level in the skimmer, probably forcing you to restrict the air flow or overflow the skimmer sup with clear product. I would stick to the manufacturer's recommendations in this case, which I believe is the Mag-Drive 7.> Or is the Mag 7 fine for the skimmer? <Correct> I guess I'm just used to seeing protein skimmers as these solid looking white columns of bubbles, and mine certainly doesn't look like that right now. <Now you understand why we do not recommend these units.> I'd like to be skimming as efficiently (maybe the wrong word, how about as much) as possible since I'd like to keep the algae, which is beginning to grow, to a minimum while my rock finishes curing. Thank you in advance for your help. Again, you should all be commended on your excellent work on this site. <Thank you!> Sincerely, Peter Martis <Have a nice day! -Steven Pro>

Re: Optimal skimming? Hello Steven, Thanks for the quick reply. <You are welcome.> OK, so I guess I won't worry too much about it as long as the skimmate looks good...er, I mean, bad :-) Just for completeness, here's the pic as an attachment. Peter <Your picture came through just fine this time and I must agree with you, the skimmer barely has any bubbles in it. It actually looks kind of pathetic, but as long as it is producing dark skimmate daily, I would not worry too much. You may still want to play around with the air adjustment screw to attempt to maximize performance, but be sure to keep your concern focused on product versus appearance. -Steven Pro>

Recycling the gunk in the protein skimmer Dear Guys: I was just wondering if any of you have heard of using the icky smelly stuff that collects in the protein skimmer as a fertilizer for plants... <hmmm... sounds interesting... some concern for various salts in the skimmate though> I've used Alaskan Fish Emulsion before, and was thinking this stuff may work, as well. Any gardeners out there? (You don't need to tell me what you're growing). <good question... I don't have the answer... but good question :) We'll post on the dailies and see if anyone replies :) > Also, Anthony: Have you heard from your contact regarding Anemone prop.? <Daniel (Knop) may have sent it just before he left for Indonesia, but I haven't received it or word yet. If he didn't get a chance to mail it, it will be a little while longer. He's in Indo for 2 months> After several hundred trips to Home Depot, Ace Hardware, and Farm and Fleet, not to mention daily deliveries from UPS and Fed EX, our tanks are up and running in the basement.  <awesome!> I'm sure the neighbors think we're up to something strange...which we are! <be sure to document and take pictures as you go along!> Had a good visit with Dr. Shimek out in Montana a few weeks ago... <excellent to hear, my friend> Thanks, Melinda. <with kind regards, Anthony>

Nautilus TE Protein Skimmer Robert Fenner, <Steven Pro in today.> I just recently purchased a Kent Marine Nautilus TE Protein Skimmer with a RIO 2500 pump for my 180 gallon tank. Listed below are all of the tank's inhabitants. In your most honest opinion, is the Nautilus an acceptable enough skimmer for this setup? <If it collects dark skimmate daily, I would be happy with it.> From what I noticed in 3 days, this skimmer has produced a substantial amount of skimmate! <Is it dark, though? That is the key question. Almost any skimmer can fill it cup with water. I have a Seaclone I was given for free. I placed it on a ten gallon quarantine tank I have and I swear the thing has yet to collect anything other than condensation.> But, I have read through some of the FAQ's and noticed one person giving this skimmer a bad rap. <I bet I can guess who you are talking about.> The Remora, Aqua-C EV line, ETSS, Euro-Reef, etc all starting at about $300 and going way up in cost operate no differently that the Nautilus. <Well actually, that is incorrect. The Nautilus is an aspirating skimmer. Similar in function to the Euro-Reef, but without (I believe) the needle wheel. You use a standard pump for the nautilus versus the Euro-Reef's modified Sedra. The Aqua-C Remora and EV lines use a patented spray injection technology while the A. E. Tech ETSS skimmers are downdraft units. All very different means of mixing air with water. Can you tell I am writing a piece on protein skimmers as we speak?> The Nautilus TE has a large Reaction Chamber of 295 cubic inches, where very fine bubbles are injected from the Turbo Eductor fitting. What is so different in the design or functionality of these higher priced skimmers which would make them more efficient? <The size of the bubbles, the ease of maintenance, setup, adjustment, cleaning, turbulence inside contact chamber, contact time, ratio of air to water, shear number of bubbles, volume of water processed, etc.> When I look at the design and methods used for skimming they appear to be very much alike. <They are all means of mixing tiny bubbles with air, but differ significantly from there.> Thanks. Tank Inhabitants... 8" Blue Hippo Tang (large) - Returned because he eats too much and produces too much waste! 6" Purple Tang (large) 4" Kole Tang (med.) 5" Christmas Wrasse (small) 5" Threadfin Butterfly (med.) 1" Percula Clown (small) 1 1/2" Clown Trigger (I know, but he's harmless now. Seems to be very docile now.) 1" Velvet Damsel (small) 3/4" Blue Damsel (small) 2" Bi-color Pseudo (small) 4" Bi-color Angel (med.) 3" Checkered Blenny (small) 1" Green Chromis (small) 3/4" Gold Neon Gobies (tiny and very helpful) Chris G. <The easiest and safest way for me to say this is, all the other companies you mentioned make primarily skimmers. Euro-Reef and Aqua-C make nothing else, A. E. Tech (ETSS) also make sumps and a few other things. Kent markets all kinds of products. Have you ever heard the saying "a jack of all trades, a master of none"? As long as it works for you, that is the bottom line, but we urge/recommend that people purchase wisely. Buying long proven, time tested, and excellent equipment is the best way to go. -Steven Pro>

Re: Nautilus TE Protein Skimmer Steven, Great feedback! In answer to your questions, yes, the Nautilus has produced very dark foam and in liquid form. <And daily?> I suppose if I drop the water output valve about a 1/2 inch or so I might get a little less water and more dry foam & mud. You mentioned that the Euro-Reef uses a needle wheel pump and if that's better I have one! <That would not be the only difference, IMO. That me say it this way, both a Mercedes and a Daewoo will get you around, but the Mercedes is going to outperform the Daewoo hands down.> I have an old Box DAZ BX-1 Skimmer which has it's own patented needle wheel pump. I am pretty sure I get about 650 gph in flow on this pump. If I use this pump with my Nautilus do you think I might get better results in water to air contact through producing finer bubbles from the needle wheel? <It is worth a try.> Thanks again for the knowledge! <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

2 part calcium I just ordered a two part calcium buffer supplement is made by E.S.V. called B-ionic. . .64 ounces for $14.99. . .it was a steal!! 1) What do you think of this stuff? <I like this brand specifically better than any other of its kind. Potent and effective> 2) Any suggestions for using this stuff? <it is critical that all of these 2-part products be shaken well before EVERY use to ensure homogenous doses (they stratify else and skew your levels)> I have used C-balance ($9.99 16 ounces) in the past and it couldn't be overdosed. . .neither did I have to test daily.  <heehee... there has been a lot of controversy over this product about QC, dilution and false claims. Some persuasive tests have indicated that some of it perhaps was true.> Apparently this isn't the case with B-ionic.  <it has enjoyed a good reputation for efficacy> I'm just trying to pep up my corallines and give a little calcium to a Halimeda bush and some soft corals. <you will be pleased then> Also, I have a Turboflotor skimmer and I have never been able to get it to work right. I contacted Aqua medic and took their suggestions of putting it in a skimmer box so the water would be at a constant level (10-15 cm; mine is steady at 12.5 cm).  <yes... good suggestions> I've thoroughly cleaned it and I have two returns: one is filtered through Boyd's Chemi-pure and the other is emptying raw water into the skimmer box. . . 3) Any suggestions on improving this performance? I am reaeaeaeaeaeaeaeally frustrated with this skimmer. <how is the water delivered? Siphon or gravity overflow? the surface water being skimmed thin enough (less than 1/2 inch thick overflowing water or is it faster?> By the way, I would never recommend this skimmer to anyone. Even when it does work somewhat efficiently, it has to be tweaked every day!!! <Ha! most skimmers are that way... the shame of it is that includes $200 skimmers like yours. It takes a crowbar in the wallet and an extra couple hundred bucks extra to get to a Tunze or Euro-reef that require very little adjustments. They are worth it IMO for aquarists willing to pay for the convenience> Thanks for the help. Keep up the good work boyz! David D. <thanks kindly, Anthony>

Re: Protein Skimmer and Bubbles Dear Anthony, <cheers, mate> Thanks for the instant reply.  <my pleasure> That was the second time I contacted the website. I did not get a reply from Bob or his team of advisors on the first time.  <a mistake/glitch for certain> If I don't get a reply by mail, do I go into your site to look for the reply on the Daily FAQs or do I normally get a reply through e-mail? <not at all, my friend. Without exception all e-mail is answered and most within 24 hours. Many within hours, some take a day or two... but again, all get answered. The first query unanswered most assuredly as a technology glitch. Not all mail is posted on the FAQ pages though... but rest assured you will at least get a direct reply> I realized that the juvenile Sweetlips I bought will turn into a much bigger animal when it grows up. I will return it to the shop when it gets out of hand, at present it is still OK.  <gee bud, that is truly an inappropriate plan. If everyone did that with fish, cats and dogs there would be a lot of euthanized animals. Please reconsider this strategy in the future. I certainly understand that you have to make due for now... I only ask/advise that you try to find a private aquarist with a large tank if at all possible. Do check regional aquarium societies and the message boards> I should have done more research on it before I made the purchase. Impatience is the right word for this mistake. By the way, Bob's book "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist" does not have a topic on Sweetlips.  <some less popular species could not make it in for space... others were so patently inappropriate for aquaria that they were not discussed> I came across your website which lead me to purchase the book and treat your website as the bible, the best ever I have come across. Currently the Sweetlips feeds on fresh prawns mashed with Spirulina and multi-vitamins (part of Bob's recipe except I haven't put in mollusks and gelatin yet).  <sounds like a pretty good staple> Other than flake and granules, the only frozen food available in the local fish shop here (Malaysia) is brine shrimp, small shrimps and worms. Looks like I will stick to Bob's favourite recipe! <do see if you can secure any live prey too... guppies can be gut loaded with flake food and vitamins, small live Gammarus, Mysid and grass shrimp are naturally nutritious. With regard to the non skimming where there is a balance, you can refer to "FAQ about Skimmer for Marine Systems 1" under the heading "Protein Skimmer" and also under FAQ about Skimmer Operations/Maintenance" under the heading "Skimmer Operation" about a quarter page down.> My Remora Pro skimmer is running, bubbles are created in the foam tower but not enough to float through the foam tower into the cup. The foam tower attached to the cup is about 6", the foam travels up to 2 to 3". The water returns ledge form the skimmer is submerged in the water. The pump is about 6" below the water surface.  <can you mount the pump closer to the surface? The very best water for skimming is right at the very surface> The bubbles are very small and slimy (doesn't break easily). The amount of bubbles are tremendous, if I look from below the tank with the lights on, the bubbles looks like chalk dust floating on the water. Although I scooped up about half a gallon the day before yesterday, the bubbles filled up the tank last night! As I said, all this happened after I installed the chiller which at the same time I topped up the water to submerge the skimmer water return ledge. Prior to this everything was fine. The fishes are fine and normal. I am at a loss, please help. <it is a challenging question. I truly wish that I could offer some useful insight. I feel instead that I must suggest that you contact the Aqua C founder Jason Kim. He is generally available and quite helpful for diagnostics with his product.> Many thanks. Look forward to hearing from you soon. Daniel <best regards>

Skimmer Modifications Hi Anthony, you mentioned that the Kent Venturi on my Berlin skimmer would help. I just realized in trying to figure out which input 1/2" or 3/4" that I have the Red Sea Berlin XL not the classic. I know the XL I have is larger and therefore should be more effective. Will the Kent Venturi still provide better skimmate?  <this is a tough one to answer... my biased personal opinion is not recommend that you don't spend any money or time modifying a unit that needs modified. Heehee... as they say, you can't polish a turd. Ha! How's that for sage advice. And while your skimmer is not failing miserably, it is still not worth spending the money on a good venturi when so many better skimmer designs exist. Kent venturis are popular because they are cheap and heavily marketed... not because they are the best. There are some great precision Italian and German venturis out there but will cost you half as much as a new and better skimmer altogether. All of this to make a weak design stronger. My biased advice: cut your losses, deal with it until you can another and better skimmer (running two and cleaned alternately is usually a great idea... keep the Red Sea after all). in the meantime... clean the Red Sea neck faithfully every other day and do frequent water changes to compensate.> BTW I like you suggestion of the salt water pond in my basement....maybe I should flood 1/2 and go for professional aquarium sizes .....if I had money...could get really carried away.....it would be fun! <way cool... I have seen several done and worked on some great ones> Thanks Larry <best regards, Anthony>

Skimmer and fish questions Hi Anthony, I have two questions, one skimmer and one fish. <not bad... I have two answers: unfortunately, one of them has to with imitation cheese products and gastric discomfort> Fish first. You might remember that I have a 125 g reef it is doing just great after my massive water change and my chemistry is very stable!  <excellent> I also have a FOWLR 90 g with 25g sump. Due to my relationship with my LFS I sometimes get fish I want to add to my tank, not necessarily in the order I should add them. Luckily so far things have worked out. Here is my dilemma. I have a Koran Angel 3 3/4" head to tail, a Purple Tang 3 1/2", a Coris Gaimard 5". I now want to add a Clown trigger that I've had in quarantine for three weeks.  <a reasonable combination of fishes except for the trigger, however that point is moot: your tank is not even remotely large enough to house all in the 2-3 year picture. There will be stressed aggression from the unnaturally close quarters or there will be health issues (higher incidence of disease... "stunting" and premature death, etc. My friend... the cumulative adult size of these four fishes is easily over 48" total! This adult size is attained easily in less than 5 years on a reef. Keeping them for a couple years in 125 for a couple years is still less than ideal. Please tell your family that Anthony says you have to set up another tank <VBG>... and that its not your fault ;)> Here is the problem, the clown is fairly small (I know I should leave the small ones alone) he is about 2 to 2 1/4 " long. Will he be O.K. with the other fish that are larger? <hell no... in so many ways. If not for aggression, then by intimidation by virtue of its size. This fish can approach 18" (!!!)... if you keep it healthy enough to even see 12" it will have had several sushi dinners by then and the family cat will be nervous. Even if there are no aggression issues... the "baby" fish "baby" tank rationalization does not sit comfortably with me> Skimmer. On my 125 I have a Berlin classic for 5 plus years.  <my condolences> On my 90 g I purchased an Aqua C Urchin Pro.  <excellent> I have had advise that says the Red Sea is a poor skimmer, but the Urchin Pro pulls out the same amount of skimmate about 1/3 to 1/2 cup per week. Now I know that the bio load on my 90 is less with 3 fish, I would guess that my 125 has 40 plus corals and 9 (2-6" Tangs) fish. Is this amount O.K. for the Aqua C?  <hmmm...many variables here: feeding frequency, water change schedule, tuning of the skimmers, etc. All said I could live with a half cup daily on the 90 gallon fish tank while these fishes are small> I have read on your site that adding the Kent Venturi valve helps the Red Sea skim better. <definitely.... you'll be amazed. And there are even much better venturis out there (albeit some expensive models)> Thanks as always, Larry <kindly, Anthony>

Turboflotor 1000 Hello again, I had a question for one of you many helpful guys. At what height should the water level in the reaction chamber be set for the T-1000? <I would follow the manufacturer's recommendation.> I currently have mine set right at the collection cup's bottom, where it starts to take the cone shape. <That seems about right.> The reason I ask this is because I set my skimmer up about a week ago and it's only been producing a watery yellow type of scum in the collection cup. I have read that this COULD be because of the water level in the reaction chamber is too high. <Too much water or air flow.> Is this true? <It is one of the possibilities.> So what I did was lower the level down and now it still produces the same type of watery colored gunk, only it doesn't produce much quantity of it. It was producing about an inch of waste in one day. Now it only produces about a 1/4 inch in one day. Do you think it is because I don't have much (GUNK) to pull out of my water? <No> I have a 125 gallon with 6 medium sized aggressive fish, including a 7 inch stingray in there. I also feed them generously. <There should be more than enough stuff for you to remove. I would continue to play around with the setting until you get some good dark collection. You may also want to read through the Turboflotor FAQ file on www.WetWebMedia.com for additional clues.> I hope you guys can help me out with this. Thanks, Hamilton, Riverside, CA <Keep plugging along and I am sure you will get your unit to work. -Steven Pro>

Bubbles after feeding Could you answer a question for me. I never have bubbles on my return from the sump. However, after feeding, small bubbles come from the returns and 'clouds' the tank. It clears up after an hour so. Any idea why this happens after feeding? <I have a guess, but it is just that. Does your food interfere with your skimmer? I think perhaps the food is driving your skimmer a little crazy for a while and creating excess bubbles in the sump which the return pump picks up and injects into the tank.> Thanks, Jim <Not sure if I was helpful. -Steven Pro>

Protein Skimmer and Bubbles Dear Bob, <Anthony in his stead> I have recently purchased an Aqua C Remora Pro skimmer for my 50 gal FOWLR. There are 11 fishes, 2 blennies, 2 damsels, 2 clowns, a long nose hawkfish, a juvenile sweet lip, a Banggai cardinal (to add another one later), yellow okinawae goby and a yellow tang. All of them get along so far, The tank is 5 months old. I have installed the skimmer which skimmed for a couple of days to produce about an inch of gunk. Since I installed the chiller (Teco), the skimming stopped and small bubbles are produced. The temperature is set at 82F (previously 84-86F). <some adjustment are necessary will all skimmers for the first days to months until you find the "sweet spot"> I have read your FAQs which said that it is normal for the skimmer to stop skimming/production of gunk when the water condition is balanced <this sounds contrary my friend... could you direct me to this passage on the site. It is a typo or you have misunderstood my friend. Skimmer production doesn't wane as a tank ages... organics build and concentrate and skimming is an uphill battle. Especially with the fish load that you have (including that Sweetlips which is a VERY challenging fish that requires daily live food to survive (guppies and ghost shrimp... please don't feed any brine shrimp at all... a hollow food)> and also that the bubbles produces  as a result of stress coat ( I use Tetra's Aqua Safe for my water or shall I use Sera's Aquamarin in future) or high organic waste.  <to be specific... bubbles are simply produced by natural dissolved organics... they are greatly enhanced by colloidal products (stress coats) and very high levels of DOC> I have no nitrites or ammonia, PH is about 8.5. I am asking this question because the skimmer stopped skimming after I add on the chiller.  <unrelated> If it is normal, shall I remove the bubbles (top layer of the water) as they are basically covering the whole water surface. Please advise me as I have contacted Jason Kim of Aqua C and I have not got any reply since last Friday. <is the skimmer being fed by a pump drawing water from very near the surface (0-2") or is it lower down? This is a common flaw. There should not be bubbles at the surface of the aquarium (if I understand correctly). Do provide more info if I have misunderstood> I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you. <please also research that sweet lips more... it is truly an inappropriate fish for captivity... especially a mixed species tank! Without daily live fishes and shrimps it will die of a dietary deficiency within the year... mere weeks or months most likely. A very challenging fish> Daniel Kong <best regards, Anthony>

Skimmer performance It's me again about my venturi skimmer. Is it true that your skimmer won't skim if you have two types of chemical media in.  I have nitrate sponge (Kent) and ROWAphos. <chemical media does reduce but not stop skimmate production. Regardless, it might be better to use less chemical media and rely on skimmer performance for the health of the aquarium. Contaminants trapped by chemical media degrade in the system while skimmate is taken out of the loop and does not continue to harm water quality. Don't stop using chemical media, just avoid heavy use when skimmer performance is not up to par. A well adjusted skimmer yields a full cup of dark skimmate daily or more in most systems. Best regards, Anthony>

Venturi Skimmer Its me again about my venturi skimmer. Is it true that your skimmer won't skim if you have two types of chemical media in the tank? I have nitrate sponge (Kent) and ROWAphos <These two products will compete with the skimmer somewhat, but you should be able to still remove skimmate. -Steven Pro>

Scumsucker Skimmer I have a Scumsucker protein skimmer made by Dandd Marine Enterprises in my month old with fish and invert tank.  The reason why it is already stocked is because I stripped it down but kept the filter running in another tank but the skimmer is producing no foam @all could this be because there is not enough waste.  <no my friend... new tanks easily produce a lot of skimmate... the skimmer needs tweaked or may have a design flaw. No tank with livestock should go even 5-7 days without at least one big cup of dark skimmate. Daily product is more typical. Something is wrong here> Also when I purchased a leather toadstool I was unaware that it was supposed to have polyps it only has little stems all over it but no polyps <leathers don't always extend their polyps because they are mostly photosynthetic... they rarely feed organismally or need polyps to do so. No worries. best regards, Anthony>

Low pH Bob, <Anthony Calfo here again :)> I tried your test and saw a significant rise in the pH of the sample water when aerated.  <very fine... an easy solution. Sometimes a second or better skimmer alone can correct this problem for you. Any vigorous aeration in the tank will work, of course, but venturis on powerheads, for example, lead to snapping bubbles and a lot of salt creep sometimes. See what suits you best> I did this in a small tub (4" X 8") with a Minijet 404 and made a turbulent flow. I did this for 12 hours and then moved the whole kit outside for 12 hours. It appears that aeration alone was able to do the job.  <interesting... good sleuthing too> I understand your idea of the "closed-up house"; though I don't think that is the problem as I have 6 kids running in and out all the time.  <Yowsa! and I thought reefkeeping was expensive :)> I can only dream of them actually keeping the doors closed (and A/C in). Now the problem is that to produce the results in the little tub I had to spray water into the air and make quite a bit of a mess. That would not be acceptable in the display tank. I had always assumed that the water going through the trickle plate and falling over the area that used to have bioballs was (in conjunction with the protein skimmer) how the majority of the gas exchange took place. Please advise how to proceed from here. <the crash in the trickle is helpful, but the aerobic (oxygen loving) bacteria consume oxygen. One common trick with trickle filters to raise O2 and Redox is to infect a lot of air at the bottom of the filter but just above the water (low sump level). This dramatically improves the above plus trickle filter performance. As far as the skimmer: true... much O2 from there. Most folks however don't have a skimmer that works as well as it could/should. A good skimmer produces dark skimmate every day (a good cup full). Too many Prizms, Berlins and SeaClones out there as primary skimmers IMO.> As far as animal health goes, I did a 100 gallon water change. I was able to save 3 fish, several stars, a few snails and hermits, and the anemones, and corals. The shrimp, a few oysters, and most of the snails didn't make it though. <kudos for your efforts, and sorry for the losses> Just as a point of reference, I am using a Hanna pHep 4 pH meter that I calibrate with their cal solutions 4 and 7. <Nice piece of hardware> Thanks again, Tom <best regards, Anthony>

Red Sea Berlin H.O. skimmer Hi! I just joined the site a week ago. I have a Berlin HO skimmer that I just purchased. I am running a Rio 2500 on it from the sump. My questions is this, can somebody please tell me what size the output elbows are? Red Sea told me that they are 3/4" but 3/4" standard PVC pipe doesn't fit in the elbow. <I believe the are 3/4" Schedule 80 fittings. These maybe different than your standard 3/4" Schedule 40 pipe.> I would like to extend the elbows using rigid pipe to reduce the splash in my sump. <Good idea!> Any suggestions or size of pipe to fit it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Brian <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Skimmer operation seeking Dear Steve, Thanks for the quick response. In response to your comments, I took a few measurement to help with your diagnosis. When I turn the skimmer on the bubble problems become much worse in the tank and the sump at the same time. When I shut off all the pumps the sump does fill all the way to the top. In order to work on the sump, I drain it using the U.V. pump. This always fills the entire capacity of a 5 gallon bucket with maybe an inch of water left above the bulkhead fittings in the sump. My sump measures 17 1/2 inches by 7 3/4 inches by 12 1/2 inches (LWH). <That is small, just over 7 gallons. It did not look that small in the picture.> When the pumps are running the water level drops to approximately 4 1/2 - 5 inches in height which I'm calculating is about 2 gallons of water or less in the sump when running. You mentioned you like 1/3 of your main tank volume to equate to your sump volume. Is this with the system running or shut down? <Shut down> With my system running I'm at 75 gallon to 2 gallon, with it off I'm at 75 gallon to 5 gallon (either way I seem way off your recommendation). <This is not your problem though. The thing with a small sump will be you need to constantly refill due to evaporation. With a larger sump, you have more water to play with.> Again, this leads me to think my sump is WAY!!!!!! to small. In regards to your suggestion of leaving the main pump "throttle open", this usually results in my sump being drained to quickly and the pump drawing air from the sump as you had suggested. I usually have to leave it only 2/3 open to prevent this from happening. Is this also a clue that my sump is to small? <That and not being filled up to the maximum water line. I discussed how to mark this in the previous email.> You mention three possible causes of my bubble problem; "the return pump is drawing in air from the sump, the return pump plumbing has a pin hole leak in it acting as a venturi, or photosynthetic is causing bubbles to form on the surfaces in your tank. If you can see the bubbles emerging from the return pump discharge, you can rule out the third possibility" I am a little confused by what you mean by "return pump discharge." <Where the water comes back into the display from the sump.> If you are talking about where the water reenters the tank, <Yep> it is shooting at a 45 degree angle towards the right lower corner of the tank, in the water stream, at exactly the same angle that I have the return nozzle pointed at. Without question, the bubbles are coming from the return pump. <Ok> One thing that puzzles me is that you did not seem to think the small sump may be the issue, or are you just ruling out "all other possible problems" before coming to that conclusion, as I have? <One of two likely problems. I would try filling the sump up more, like I described previously.> I don't want to rush to a quick decision, but it seems like 2 gallons of water is not an awful lot in my sump to help dissipate the bubble issue (although I'm no "bubble scientist"). What do you think? <I agree, but am not advocating you buy a new sump/trickle filter at this point. If you progress from a fish tank to a reef, than yes, a new sump with skimmer box and refugium would be my recommendation.> Assuming my/our diagnosis is accurate, I have done some research into sump designing on the web. I found a few designs that do intrigue me. 1. http://www.cyberreefguru.com/diy/sump/sump.html 2. http://www.marine-monsters.com/front/articles.html#sump 3. http://www.lifereef.com/frame.html 4. http://www.superskimmer.com/evosump.htm Obviously they all promise the world, but the Lifereef design (#3) or the ETSS (#4) designs seems to interest me the most since they seem to be specifically designed for the ETSS skimmer. Do you agree? <They seem fine.> or are there any other designs/sites you recommend for a similar sump that I may research further? <I just build my own. There are a few people on the www.WetWebMedia.com message board that have posted drawing and pictures of their sumps. Take a look here http://wetwebfotos.com/talk/> You mentioned in your original reply that a sump without a bio tower is as effective with the addition of "live rock and sand". I'm a little confused, because there doesn't seem like there is any more room or a designated area for the live rock or sand in these designs? <The live rock and sand I was speaking about is in the tank.> Can you elaborate? <There are also many design possibilities that would include a refugium.> I think I would be more inclined to add a bio-tower to these designs to compensate if some sort of "Bio Area" is necessary? <Depends on your tank, its liverock, your bioload, your stocking intentions, etc.> Is it? <As you add more live rock you may find less and less need for the bio tower.> or do I need to use the live rock and sand? <It is a matter of preference. If you want big, messy fish, I would use the bio tower, skimmer, and water changes to eliminate nitrates. If you want reef fishes, live rock and sand will do the trick. Please take a look at our extensive writings on marine filtration methodologies on WWM.> Sorry for the "novel" of a reply. Just hoping to fix the problem the right way, the first time. <I understand.> With regards, John from Cape Cod P.S. With all my research into the ETSS skimmer, I keep running into this "Berlin Upgrade" for my skimmer. From what I can read, it appears to be a vast improvement and doesn't seem to difficult or expensive (but will probably add to my bubble issue). I don't want to get to ahead myself, but would like to explore this concept once I cure my bubble issue. So far all the sites I have encountered haven't given a detailed explanation of how it is better, or how to retro-fit my skimmer in this manner? Any sites/readings/books you can recommend? <I have never heard of it, sorry.> Thanks <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

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