Is lifereef really the best skimmer?

Discussion in 'General Equipment, Hardware, Filtration' started by ChrisQ0904, Aug 28, 2017.

  1. Servillius

    Servillius Active Member R2R Supporter Reef Tank 365 Build Thread Contributor

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    This is not a recommendation, suggestion, opinion, or guidance. I just want to say I agoniEd over this question 11 years ago. Bought a Royal Exclusiv 180 mini. 11 years later it works like the day I got it, cleans easily, and has never so much as blinked. The one time I thought it was broken it had sucked a rock in. Once removed, it was back to flawless.
     
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  2. jeffrey holloway

    jeffrey holloway Active Member

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    I run the LIfereef 24" on my 150g. Plug and play. Nothing fancy about this skimmer, just works as advertised. I also own a Vertex 130, Skimz sm 203, and a TUNZE all good skimmers. The Tunze and Lifereef requires no fuss after water changes always goes back to the skimming quicker than the others.
     
  3. Bpb

    Bpb Valuable Member

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    Like others said "best" is such an unquantifiable term. Best will really be what you like the most. What you like the most will be what fits your needs and preferences the most. In those terms, for me, a Lifereef is indeed the best (I expect I'd be every bit as happy with an MTC, but those aren't as common, same design philosophy). The two things that are so attractive to me about the Lifereef are the same things that have been mentioned before.

    Pump and cleaning.

    You can use any impeller pump that moves water in the venturi's appropriate range. You can use as cheap or as expensive of a pump as you desire. You can even put said pump anywhere you want as well. My skimmer pump is several feet away from the skimmer. On the opposite end of the sump. It wouldn't fit in my skimmer chamber, so it's next to the return pump. I like how modular the pieces are which allow you to configure it to whatever best suits your needs. It's not a reasonable assumption that pinwheel pumps from reputable skimmers will all break in short order, leaving you with a costly replacement. But...the fact that you can upsize your skimmer, or downsize it, change its footprint, and even keep it running for decades with minimal cost involved in any of those scenarios makes it an attractive option.

    Secondly. Cleaning. Some of you may not mind. Some of you may have certain measures in place to keep a skimmer clean on its own. But...The past three needlewheel skimmers ive owned have required me to remove them entirely, disassemble, vinegar soak (ideally), take apart everythting and scrub clean, and reassemble and install. I havent had problems with skimmer adjustment or pump breaks, but the frequency of cleaning became tiresome. I hated having to remove and disassemble my entire skimmer every 2-3 months to keep it functioning. The needlewheels would get clogged with bubble algae and molts. Sediment would begin to build up inside the skimmer body and clog the bubble plate, ect. It would take me an hour or more at a time to clean it. Generally a very unpleasant task.

    The lifereef doesnt really have that problem. If you want to clean your pumps impeller you dont necessarily even need to remove it from the tank to do so. A quick unscrew, and scrub with a toothbrush and back in it goes. The flow is so turbulent in the body you dont have anything to clog, or sediment to build up, and as others have mentioned, due to the nature of the foam head and how it is produced, you dont experince that stall in skimming when the neck gets dirty, it just keeps running same as it would when clean. If you happen to notice a dip in flow/air, simply unscrewing the venturi cap and running a pipe cleaner brush through it for a couple scrubs does the trick to disloge any buildup. The maintenance involved is so little that is a massive plus for me.

    Does the skimmate look or smell any different than my eshopps or bubble magus produced? No, not really. I do get more out of it since it doesnt stall when the neck gets dirty, but otherwise I feel like it produces comparable skimmate. It isn't as energy efficient. My bubble magus used something like 16 watts grand total, whereas the lifereef uses about 100 watts, and adds some heat to the system, requiring me to run my cooling fans 24/7. So yes...there are SOME setbacks to them. No product on the market will be without some flaws as compared to another. But the things that matter most to me in a skimmer have been addressed which is why I am a lifetime customer of theirs at this point. For skimmers anyway....Yeah their sumps and calcium reactors are beautiful, but at their price point, they're not out-doing cheaper options nearly enough to take that plunge
     
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  4. MarsRover

    MarsRover Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Build Thread Contributor

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    Can't say I'm knowledgable about Lifereef, and there is something to be said for how popular it is, but perhaps you might consider this from an engineers perspective:

    How exactly do you design the idealized-most efficient skimmer for use with any/all pumps?

    Seems to me it is very unlikely that the theoretical "best" skimmer out there, whatever it may be, would be a skimmer that you can tack on any pump and have it still be that "best". Even more so is true for a modular design. If I learned anything from engineering school, and designing and flying spacecraft, its that modular generally will be less efficient than integrated, specialized, and purposeful. If it was designed for one purpose, one regime, for one pump, then it seems to me more likely the designers did something to optimize that design under that regime.

    In my humble opinion, I spent a lot of time and research on skimmer design and function. I ended up with a reef octopus Elite 220 INT for several design reasons. It looked engineered. You can see their other skimmers and tell they didn't have sleek conics in the design etc.. etc.. I also liked the fact that the pump was designed for the skimmer, and the skimmer was designed for their pump.

    In my mind, thats your best bet at getting something the **might** be considered the best.

    Now on to add my share of anecdotal conjecture regarding my skimmer:

    I have had it running for a month now. I have used many different skimmers over the years between personal tanks and professional tanks (worked at a coral store that built and serviced tanks for commercial places). The directions were garbage. Literally I considered not putting them in the recycling bin because they were that bad (recycled anyway...planet shouldn't suffer for someone else's crappy translations...). I got in touch with coralvue and after some back and forth I sorted out the one detail I couldn't find in any of the info I looked at online. I suspected what needed to happen but I wanted to be sure I was using it as designed.

    Once I got confirmation, I made the adjustment and it has been producing the foulest, thickest, nastiest skimmate I have ever encountered. Actually made my girlfriend throw up hahaha and I only have about 25 snails and one star in my 270gallon system finishing my cycle.

    Also I designed my sump around it but it's foot print is very small (15" x 11.2"). You probably don't need this big of one for your tank but just consider it.

    I think the moral of the story is here that there are tons of good skimmers out there (and even more mounds of POS's some of which probably cost more than the better ones).

    Find one that suits your budget, suits your space constraints, and physically looks good to you. You'd be amazed at how something that has natural ascetics is excellent for efficiency in fluid dynamics.
     
  5. SlvrZ

    SlvrZ Active Member

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    sometimes there are over engineered skimmers lol.
     
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  6. Bpb

    Bpb Valuable Member

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    As far as a pump being designed FOR a skimmer, you're really considering two things. Air flow and water flow. Different pumps can provide identical air and water flow. It's not about designing a pump to meet a specific mixture of the two, but the fact that with a proprietary pump, they're more expensive to replace if need be, and even in some cases, on a short timeline, impossible to replace. They do this by creating special housing sizes and mounting molds to where even if needlewheel skimmer X works best by proprietary pump A which gives 300 gph and 300 lph (fluid/air, just pulled those numbers out of a hat), but has it built to where only that pump fits the skimmer, then if it fails, you cannot replace it with pump B which also provides 300 gph and 300 lph.

    This is over engineering for the purpose of profit. Flow is flow. Air volume is air volume. You can only engineer those numbers so far. Anything beyond that is just pigeon holing your customers into only using a pump purchased from you.

    The standard Venturi on the lifereef skimmer pulls the ideal amount of air, at the ideal bubble size for the skimmer to work its best when it receives 1600 gph. Yes you can use less just like you could with any skimmer but they're designed to work best with that (from what I understand). Difference is, your pump connects externally with a standard 3/4" male threaded connection. So any pump that provides that flow level can be used. It's not under engineered. Just not unnecessarily proprietary
     
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  7. 2Wheelsonly

    2Wheelsonly Well-Known Member R2R Supporter

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    This is just my opinion but in my mind, Lifereef is the ONLY skimmer to buy. It's the only skimmer i'll ever have in my system. For the price you can get a massive skimmer body and like others have said it's not centered around some fancy pinwheel pump that may or may not break or be hard to replace. I want my skimmer to be simple and I don't want to mess with it constantly. I always looked at skimmers as pieces of garbage us reefers had to constantly deal with. I have had low end reef octo skimmers, high end vertex and am so glad I took someones advice and got a life reef. It's easy to maintain, easy to clean and really wont ever become obsolete or replaced due to the fact that I can always throw another pump on it.

    We can talk about all these new "fancy" features all we want but at the end of the day, a skimmer is pulling fish #(@! out of our systems and I just want it to work and forget it's there when i'm not emptying the cup.

    Another plus: Jeff at lifereef is passionate and you can tell by speaking to him that he cares about his product and believes in it. There is a level of confidence in the way he speaks to you that he truly wants you to have the best product. People who are highly passionate about their product are getting my money.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2017
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  8. jeffrey holloway

    jeffrey holloway Active Member

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    I Must agree with the two above comments. I own a couple of the high end skimmers. I purchased a Vertex Omega 130 at a heck of a discount, Just couldn't pass on it. Built like a Peterbilt but runs like a KIA. Over priced, over built, overated! As stated above, Lifereef won't win any beauty contests, but i'll put it up against any of so called high end skimmers on the market. I get all my skimmers to skim good skimate its just the Lifereef takes the least amount of effort to do it. As far as the best skimmer goes, I was once told by the owner of my LFS who started out with the old wooden airstones skimmers in the 70s, that the best skimmer "is the one you're willing to pay for".
     
  9. 2Wheelsonly

    2Wheelsonly Well-Known Member R2R Supporter

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    I never understood the appeal of having a "nice looking" skimmer. My old Vertex was like that, they went through loops and bounds to make that thing look nice but in reality all it's doing is collecting poop. I could understand if the sump is part of the look of a system but I am a big fan of hiding that stuff anyway.
     
  10. yachtman

    yachtman New Member

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    In 2002 I bought a LifeReef for our 220 reef. Amazing product, worked all the time and Jeff was amazing to deal with. Unfortunately, our tank died after Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004. (If you follow the paths, you'll see that as they came in out inlet, they ran right over our house. And being in the eye of a hurricane is the best place to be.) We haven't had a tank since, but are considering another larger tank this winter. (We live in Stuart, Fl)
    There is not any possibility I would buy any other skimmer, no matter the discount, even if it was free!! I'd sell it and use the money for a LifeReef. One less thing for me to have to shop for. Just pick my size and style!!
    It's so simple and easy to use. Change pump at any time. Easy to clean. Most of all. IT WORKS AS STATED. Period. Buy one and you'll be happy.
    The picture is from April 21, 2002 shortly after a cleaning. I can't find a better pic since many at that time were uploaded to another computer.
    Also, I 'never' did water changes. Just added when necessary. Thanks to the skimmer for that.

    P1010039.JPG
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2017
  11. rocknut

    rocknut Active Member

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    I have used Deltec, ATB, Bubble King and a few others, and now have had a Lifereef for the past 18 months. I think the best summary for the Lifereef is: boring. You just set it up and it works. Not sexy. Don't want to post photos of it on the internet to brag about it. It just sits there, and produces the most consistent skim mate I have ever seen...
     
  12. Broadwave

    Broadwave Active Member

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    Although the various needle wheel skimmers do work, for some reason they are all changing their design year after year adding things like bubble plates, making them the shape of wine bottles, oval, placing the pump INSIDE the skimmer to save space in the sump and on and on. If needle wheels worked so well, why do they keep changing the design?

    As others have stated on this thread, the design has been the same for over 20 years and these skimmers just plain work. Literally just set and forget. Plus the ability to add the pump of YOUR choice is a huge plus along with being modular should you get a larger tank.

    I've had ETSS (Downdraft) skimmers, EuroReef, Reef Octopuss, and Vertex. None of them produced consistent skimmate and bubble density. If you get a small snail, tube worm or lose one of the needles on the impeller... the performance goes down. With the Lifereef... it doesn't matter... it just keeps on trucking along and producing some of the nastiest skimmate I've smelled in over 15 years of reef keeping. Are they the prettiest or most "advanced" skimmer technology on the market today... nope... but sure do work and work well. I'll never use anything other than a Lifereef skimmer.
     
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  13. RobertP

    RobertP Active Member

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    My tank is only about 10 months old now so my Lifereef SVS3-24 was my first skimmer and I can say it just works. I was seriously thinking about getting an Aquamax at the time because I saw some youtube comparisons. Man, am I glad I went with Lifereef. It is just no hassle at all and dialing in was simple. I hate maintenance that I have to do often and this skimmer fits me well. I don't bother pulling off the cup, just drop the drain hose into a large cup turn the valve and drain it. Oh and only do this after the wife goes to bed and pour it into the toilet, NOT THE SINK!!!! You cannot get that smell to go away quickly. I pull the cup once a month or so or when I cant look through the filth. Run water over the cup in the sink and wet paper towels to wipe it down and it looks brand new again. Also wipe down the inside of the neck while I have it off just to make it pretty again. No brushes, no vinegar! For the first time tonight I had to clear the venturi because it was not making bubbles. You could tell the venturi was clogged because it wasn't sucking air. Cleared the venturi with a toothpick and it is pumping just like every day! Went ahead and cleaned the mag9.5, other than dirty it was flawless.

    I am not thrilled about how much power Mag9.5 (97 watts based on what apex says) uses but really tough to argue the price and how quiet it is. Yeah planning to replace it one day just not in any hurry because just like the skimmer it is no fuss!
     
  14. Jongalt26

    Jongalt26 Active Member R2R Supporter

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    I've had reef octopus, nyos, aquamaxx and an RK2 X-flo 2.5 (venturi with mazzei injector). The Rk2 is by far my favorite and it rivals the lifereef. The Rk2 is less expensive and there isnt a waiting list. The same model can be plumbed internal or external of the sump and is compatible with a variety of pumps.
     
  15. MarsRover

    MarsRover Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Build Thread Contributor

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    I disagree on principal. When considering a flow, you are considering more than just its constituent mass. There's a reason why reynolds number exists. For example, You are considering the Quality of the flow: turbulent vs laminar or whatever mixture of the two. There is also pressure drop over the oraface that is intimately tied to the quality of the flow.

    Fluid dynamics matters. Generation, transportation, and collection of phospho-lipid bilayers is not just so simple as "have good flow and have good air injection" hence why we have a billion different skimmers out there...
     
  16. jason2459

    jason2459 Not a paid scientist R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award

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    I'll throw in another similar contender and another Jeff. Marine Technical Concepts MTC.

    I was between an MTC MVX and a Lifereef and decided on a MTC MVX. The Lifereef is great but there were several features I prefered in the MVX and I could not be happier with my decision.

    My continual review thread. Still more I want to do with it
    https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/mtc-mvx-skimmer-review.252436/page-10
     
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  17. Bpb

    Bpb Valuable Member

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    I would be quicker to pin frequent design changes on an attempt to stay ahead and competitive in the market through making their products look more attractive, much more so than breakthrough discoveries in the properties of fluid dynamics in foam fractioning.

    Why don't you see municipal water treatment facilities using low laminar flow foam generation? Or do you. Serious question. I don't know. I've always seen that most use massive Venturi injectors for both chemicals and air.
     
  18. MarsRover

    MarsRover Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Build Thread Contributor

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    Fair point.

    I don't disagree that some, hell maybe even the majority, of skimmers are overpriced for the tech that is in them. I also don't disagree that for some skimmers, the additional cost of engineering for a fractional increase in performance is passed on to the end user with huge markup and isn't worth it. If that's what you refer to as "over engineered" then yeah I'm right there with you.

    Looking at a lot of the skimmers on the market with fancy names and big price tags, you can tell some are just some person who tried to emulate some other type of skimmer, and it skims some. So they sell it. But there was no engineering behind it and it is not optimized in any way.

    I need to look more closely at lifereefs products. It is possible that they found a way to control whatever quality of flow output by a pump and manipulate it into a generally unanimous quality within the body of skimmer regardless of the supply pump. Maybe that's why they're products are great and are one of the top dollar skimmers, because it's worth it.
     
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  19. S-t-r-e-t-c-h

    S-t-r-e-t-c-h Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Reef Squad R2R Excellence Award

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    MTC skimmers are amazing. My only beef with them is that they don't offer a lot of options; especially if you are trying to fit under a stand.

    That said; if they work, why throw a bunch of frivilous variations out there? I'd buy another MTC skimmer in a heartbeat...
     
  20. jason2459

    jason2459 Not a paid scientist R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award

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    Jeff will customize the height shorter or taller. Just like lifereef. He's already custom cut me an extension making my skimmer 42" now.

    MTC also can make a much larger dual venturi external models which are amazing. It's not listed on his site.
     
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