With all the hype surrounding the new Vertex Omega 130 protein skimmer we thought it would be good to do a more in depth write-up on the line. The skimmer used here was the Omega 130, but the basic principles and features are the same between all the models.
First off, the specifications (important details!)
Tank Rating: Tanks less than 100g
Foot Print: 8.5” x 11”
Skimmer Height: 20”
Air Draw: Up to 600 liters per hour (adjustable)
Recommended Water Level: 6.5”-9”
Power Consumption: ~20 watts
Room recommended for removing skimmer cup: >1”
Skimmer Cup Connection Type: Threaded connection
First Impressions: As soon as you see the box you know that this one is a Vertex product. The sleek white packaging slides open to reveal the new skimmer and all of its parts. You can instantly tell the quality of materials used on these skimmers. If you have ever used/seen/touched a Vertex Alpha skimmer you will know exactly what I am talking about. You could simply pick up the lid to the collection cup and instantly know. It screams high quality materials. It is machined out of Acrylic and PVC using CNC mills, utilizes titanium screws and is surprisingly heavy compared to the skimmers I am used to. At the end of the day its an all around solid skimmer.
This skimmer actually comes with a decent set of instructions. There isn’t too much to assemble yourself on the skimmer as it comes 90% done already and the instructions give details on how to best break down the skimmer for cleaning. There is a full section on maintenance, as well as a section on how to best tune your skimmer in. There are some spots that could use a little love but these instructions are a far cry from most skimmers where all you get is a blown out diagram, and if you’re lucky, some really poorly translated sentences (I have even seen a bad set of skimmer instructions telling you to taste the skim mate!).
Total assembly time was less than 10 minutes and likely over 5 of that was just reading the manual once over. The actual installation process is basically to install the custom volute (bayonet style connection, just put on and twist a ¼ turn), attach the pump bracket to the pump via the 4 titanium screws, screw the pump output tube into the pumps threads, slide the silencer over the wedge pipe, and then connect the airline tubes. The only tool required for the whole process is a flathead screw driver.
Once assembled it’s simply a matter of putting it in your sump and adjusting the water level. The footprint of the skimmer is only 8.5” x 11” so it’s not too hard to fit it into most sump configurations. The skimmer has a recommended water level of 6.5”-9”, though in my experience I found it easiest to tune in on the lower end of that. Having some flexibility in water level is nice though. These days a lot of skimmers have recommended water levels as low as 5” and I typically keep my own sumps a bit deeper than that. If your sump is too deep you end up having to build a table to set the skimmer on to reduce the depth. Aside from being a pain, the taller the shelf gets, or needs to be, the closer you get to the bottom of your aquarium/top of your stand.
Body: There is a lot going on here so it’s hard to find somewhere to start! The wine bottle shape is the newest design coming out of Europe and being replicated by manufactures around the world. The body’s smooth cone shaped transition is highly efficient and the bubble plate design allows for a nice even distribution. Better yet, the entire bubble plate can be removed for cleaning by taking out a single titanium screw.
The body itself is made from a combination of blown cast acrylic and PVC.
Pump: The skimmer utilizes a new custom Sicce Syncra motor block with Vertex’s own custom designed impeller and volute.
The volute for the skimmer has the adjustable nozzle that adjusts the amount of air and water. I was actually pretty surprised by the difference this can make. It’s not necessarily obvious looking at a running skimmer but there is often a lot of surging going on where the pump sucks a lot of water/little air, then sucks a lot of air/little water and so on. It’s like a teeter-totter constantly swinging back and forth. If you hook up an air meter this is what you see:
Tuning the pump in to the right ratio of air to water makes for a much more consistent performance. When you hook up an air flow meter and you adjust the skimmer, you can instantly see the difference in front of your eyes. It’s less obvious but you can see this indicated in the water level in your skimmer as well. When a skimmer isn’t adjusted and tuned in, the water level will bounce up and down which can make it a pain to really get your skimmer tuned in.
The volute also includes a separate ozone injection port. It comes plugged and for most folks will likely stay that way, but it’s nice to have a separate ozone port on the top of the skimmer that is easy to access and hook your ozone generator up to should you want to use it.
Collection Cup: I know at first this is going to sound silly but hear me out, one of the most common things you run into with skimmers is hassles removing the collection cup. Collection cups usually mount in one of two ways, either a friction fit with an o-ring or a threaded cup. With friction fit cups you press them down to form a seal and pop them out to remove them. Usually you pull, pull, pull until POP the cup comes loose and usually spilling skimmer goo all over yourself in the process, doubly so if it is a full collection cup.
The Vertex Omega skimmers utilize a threaded mount for the collection cup. This allows you to simply twist the collection cup a few rotations and it comes free from the body. No jarring movements or spilled skimmer juice, just twist and lift!
The little details: A lot of the things that set a quality product apart from the rest are the little details. The things you would never even think to look for or to ask for, but already included or addressed. This is a summary of the features most wouldn’t even know they were missing.
For example, rusting metal is a factor in any saltwater aquarium so most skimmer manufacturers assemble their equipment using plastic screws for everything. It would kill me to have a nice well-built piece of hardware and then assemble it with plastic screws. Vertex takes it to the next level and uses titanium screws and nuts just like on the Alpha models. Even the utmost care has been taken to the design of the nuts used to hold the pump mounting bracket to the pump. You can see how the body of the pump is curved and then meets with a flat bottom where the mounting plate is attached. Vertex actually has nuts with a beveled edge so that they fit firmly and flush against the flat side of the pump as well as fitting along the curved side of the pump. Most manufacturers would simply skip this.
As most folks already know, the majority of the noise you get from a skimmer is the sound of the skimmer or pump vibrating against something else, whether it is the pump against the skimmer body, or both against the sump, etc. Both the skimmer body and the pump bracket also have rubber feet mounted to the bottom of them. The rubber feet help to reduce the noise and the shape of the bracket is created so that the pump sits at the right height to connect directly to the skimmer. On a lot of skimmers in the input for the pump is slightly higher than the height of the pump so the pump either sits at an angle or is suspended of the bottom. This isn’t necessarily a problem but this certainly looks nicer.
Along the same thoughts about noise, they use a silicone tube as a coupling mechanism to connect the skimmer pump to the skimmer body (like they do on the Alpha models). The use of a soft hose between the pump and the body reduces the transmission of vibration and sound from the skimmer pump to the body.
At the end of the day it seems clear that the Vertex Omega line of protein skimmers offer the best current blend of value, performance, form, and function. If you are looking for a premium level of protein skimmer but want a mid level price tag, the Omega series is the route to go. It has the great performance but also comes complete with all the little details figured out for you. Unlike some models, this isn’t a skimmer that you are going to buy with the assumption that you are going to have to modify or fix.