THE CURRENT TECHNOLOGY OF NEEDLE-WHEEL PROTEIN SKIMMERS (which is about 18 years old) IS LESS EFFICIENT THAN WHAT EVERYONE USED TO MAKE: VENTURI PROTEIN SKIMMERS, where the venturi is placed after the pump, not before the pump. And that change also led to the cone-shapes and bubble-plates you see in many needle-wheel protein skimmers. And now they're starting to put in more moving parts complicating the maintenance even more.
They no longer tout how great a skimmer can be at lowering nitrates, rarely mention anything about contact time which is the very essence of making a protein skimmer more efficient at protein and dissolved organics and solids removal. They no longer can make tall protein skimmers because their needle-wheel pumps are very weak handling head pressure and moving water. But their products are excellent for being different every year, better at selling you replacement needle-wheels, better at selling you an expensive pump when it fails in a year or two, great for selling you carbon and nitrate removing chemicals and the media reactors to hold it, and great at putting more gimmicky things like gear mechanisms and paddle-wheel water flow inerrupters, great at increasing your maintenance time, and more fancy marketing terminology than ever.
Look at the cheapest needle-wheel protein skimmer design, now look at a more costly design. See any differences? A needle-wheel pump a bubble-plate, and a cone shape. Why would you think that a $2500.00 needle-wheel protein skimmer is going to be more efficient than the cheap one? Bubbles are bubbles no matter how costly the pump was that made them. The rest is poor design for efficient foam fractionation, solids removal, and nitrate reduction.
Notice how many hobbyists are using bio-pellet reactors or some other method of nitrate reduction? This was not the norm when all protein skimmers were venturi meaning that the needle-wheel protein skimmers are less efficient at nitrate reduction.
WHY NEEDLE-WHEEL PROTEIN SKIMMERS ARE POOR AT PROTEIN AND SOLIDS REMOVAL AND NITRATE REDUCTION:
1. Bubble Plate. Nothing magic here, it is just a "muffler" to stop turbulence. Turbulence is good as it keeps the bubbles in the skimmer for a longer period of time. The bubble plate is also put right in the center of the skimmer, directly below the neck at the top so the bubbles rise more-or-less in a straight line to the top, absolutely the least efficient way to have good skimming. The bubbles need to stay in the skimmer for as long as possible so they can collect protein and solids as they move up the water column.
2. Cone, hourglass, wineglass, squashed cylinder, melted oval, whatever they call it is nothing magic and does not enhance the efficiency. They do this so that they can hold the large bubble plate (and sometimes the pump too) but then they have to transition to a neck at the top for the collection cup. And due to the sloped sides of the skimmer body any solid matter that sticks will cause a "traffic jam" of solids building up behind this sludge which is why these skimmers need frequent and complete disassembly to clean, put back together, adjust, break-in period, and maybe "skim" some wet stuff for a few days or a week, and then it's repeat the process again, and again, and again.
3. Neck diameter is too large and as such does not allow the foam to properly dry out and collect the nice dark skimmate and solids that the Lifereef skimmers can. Think of the foam layer as a cake or a pie. Very thin and flat because the bubbles are held within this thin wet foam layer. So to get this into the cup you have to raise this thin layer so the very top is just squeaking over the edge of the cup riser and you get a wet skimmate with less solids. The wet foam layer allows any solids and proteins that are on the bubbles to fall back into the skimmer where the solids collect all over the inside and the proteins go back into your system. Now, lets take this pie-layer of wet foam and condense it into a narrow neck with a taller foam layer, kind of like a layered cake. Now the bubbles have more distance to rise, allows the top layer to become more "dry" which causes the solids to stick better as well as the proteins, you have a longer adjustment range with this taller foam column and more solids and protein removal.
4. Bubble Diameter, extremely important! Now, the needle-wheel folk have been creative in how they tell you how efficient a consistent and tiny bubble size is, false. Consider that wet layer of wet bubbles at the top kind of like a pie, a wet pie. All bubbles being of equal size and buoyancy so all just kind of lay around in a calm layer. More bubbles arrive underneath this layer and kind of push up the wet foam a tiny bit, very little interaction of bubbles in this thin layer. Now, consider in a true venturi skimmer that makes bubbles of various sizes and any bubble larger than another is more buoyant than that smaller bubble. So you get these different bubble diameters up top in the neck, which has a taller foam column, so these larger bubbles rise all the way to the top and pick up all the solids and proteins off the bubbles from the lower layer, and the bubbles also have a drying out effect or are less wet than the lower layers so yur solids stay stuck, and put into the cup.
5. And finally the pump. Needle-wheel pumps are so maintenance intense too clogging up with debris, wearing out the internal parts because of the unbalanced wheel, require frequent disassembly to clean, but they don't tell you this. Plus, the pump will be obsolete in a year, cost upwards of $200 to $600 to replace. Another problem with these pumps is that they produce a bubble diameter that is too consistent and too small, not good for efficient foam transportation into the cup. Bubbles of consistent size rise to the surface and have more of a "meet and greet" party and just mull around, and they are too wet. But bubbles of various diameter have the larger bubbles bust through the "meeters and greeters" and get them moving upwards through the column and transported into the cup. Also, these needle-wheel pumps are weak. They are good at making bubbles but poor at moving water at greater backpressures, as in they can't make a tall needle-wheel skimmer. When was the last time you saw a needle-wheel skimmer taller than 30"? Everyone used to make tall protein skimmers, I make them up to six feet tall! Taller skimmers are required for larger aquariums. You cannot make a short skimmer efficient for a large aquarium becuase the contact time is not there.
Every hobbyist that has replaced their needle-wheel protein skimmer with a Lifereef venturi protein skimmer knows they have been sold an inefficient product, sees an increased skimmate production, a darker skimmate with more solids, lower maintenance, and won't have to keep dumping money and time into a gimmicky protein skimmer.
Your aquarium, your knees, your pocketbook, will love the Lifereef Protein Skimmer! Your last protein skimmer you will ever need, unless you need more for more aquariums!
FOR 34 YEARS LIFEREEF HAS BEEN PROVIDING QUALITY PRODUCTS THAT HAVE PROVEN THEIR PERFORMANCE AND HOBBYIST SATISFACTION. WE DO NOT CHANGE OUR PRODUCTS EVERY YEAR AS DO OUR COMPETITORS. WHEN A PRODUCT WORKS AS DESIGNED, AND WORKS WELL, AND OUTPERFORMS THE COMPETITORS, WHAT ELSE NEED BE DONE?