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How to make a High Performance Skimmer
A high performance protein skimmer can easily cost you >$600 or more and I had one and not satisfied so I did what I have to do: to make one myself. I'd done a few more before (trickle filter and UV sterilizer), they are not just SAVED you a bundle, it performs exactly to your specification. To start you need:
1. A clear acrylic tube (4"ODx 3ft). Get it from eBay (<$20). Do not attempt to do with drain pipe.
2. A 6" wide plastic funnel (<$3 from your LHS)
3. A powerful air pump (Tetra AP150 ~$40, the most expensive part)
4. Two 4" ID PVC end caps ( a few bucks from your LHS)
5. An 1/10 acrylic sheet ( a few bucks from your LHS)
6. Drill and bits up to 1"
7. PVC(1")or CPVC (3/4") tube with 90degree elbows and couplers.
8. CPVC(1/2") 90degree elbows and tube
9. 9mm PVC tube (use for window blind adjusting rod, from your LHS) or 3/16" rigid airline tube.
10. 3/16" PVC airline
11. A 3" limewood air diffuser (Lee's, $4)
12. Two tubes of crazy glue (cyanoacrylate glue) and a pair of two-part epoxy glue ($10)
13. Ύ PVC gate valve (~$7)
14. Your labor ($priceless)
(A) Water Inlet tube. Drill a tangential hole on the edge of the acrylic tube (AT) is the most important step to have a successful project. You may need to practice your drilling skill by exercising on a piece of drain pipe or the remaining portion of the acrylic tube, which you actually can make two skimmers with one 8 piece from eBay. Mark the spot (8.5 below the top of skimmer, 3/4 to the edge of AT), hold the tube in position, go vertical with your drill will make it. If you happen to have a drill press, then its a piece of cake. Just clamp AT (making sure you protect AT with a cloth/towel to avoid scratching the surface), point the drill to the mark and press, done! Use a Ύ wood boring bit if you are good at drilling, otherwise use smaller bits to start then grind open the hole to snug fit the tube. You may need a template to mark the oval-shape opening such that you dont over-ground the hole. A little bit tight is good and the Ύ CPVC tube has to be as perpendicular as possible to the edge of the acrylic tube, if not you may have to grind more to the AT to make it straight. Once you feel it is OK (CPVC tube is tangential AND vertical to AT), you then cut the CPVC tube to the length you desire to fit your water inlet port. This length of this inlet should be no more than 3 long, otherwise it may develop stress-cracking if somehow the skimmer unfortunately got dropped before installation. Use tape to fix the CPVC tube in vertical position (to AT), apply crazy glue to fill the gap between CPVC and AT, wait for 30min before removing the tape. Do not use epoxy glue. Itll fail. You may use epoxy after priming by crazy glue, as a reinforcement for the joint.
(B)Funnel Foam Collector. Invert the funnel, put it on top of the AT, use a marker to trace the AT opening on the funnel and cut it 1/12 larger than the diameter of AT with a scissor. Polish cut-side of the funnel by rubbing it on a sheet of sand paper to level the cut surface. A properly sanded funnel ends will make a water-tight seal when installed. Use a piece of masking tape to mark a circle on AT 2 (6.5 from the top) above the CPVC inlet. This is where the funnel going to rest inside the AT. Slide (slightly tilted) the funnel inside the AT to near the tape position and then adjust the funnel in leveled position by compressing the funnel to snug-fit inside the AT. A wood stick (bloom stick) of ~1-diameter, ~1-long or PVC tube can help you finish this step. The funnel should be tightly fit inside AT and is water tight when straight in position but allow you to adjust positions when tilted.
(C)Waste drain. Drill a ½ hole 1/10 above the funnel stop on AT, in a direction to where you want to keep your waste bottle (a milk jar). Install the 1/2 CPVC line and elbows to the collection bottle. Place bottle somewhere inside the sump to avoid flooding your floor!
(D)Water oulet. Drill a Ύ hole 2.5 above the bottom of AT. Where exactly the hole located is not critical. Use crazy glue to glue the tube with 90degree elbow inside AT. Optionally you may add a piece of 45-degree end-cut tube to the bottom to reduce air bubbles being sucked into filter.
(E)Skimmer bottom. of Cut a piece of 1/10-thick acrylic sheet to match the OD your AT. Glue a 1-diameter, Ύ tall PVC ring (cut from 1 PVC coupler) in the center of this bottom plate. This ring is to keep the limewood diffuser in center position. Crazy glue the piece to the bottom of AT. Reinforce the bottom by putting the bottom inside a 4ID drain pipe cap. Seal the cap to AT with silicone caulking. Do water leak test before continuing.
(F)Skimmer top. You may use a 4 drain pipe cap for this or make a transparent one that you can see thru. Cut a 1 ring from your AT. Slice a 2mm slot off the ring and rejoin the edge with crazy glue to make a ring that can fit inside AT. Cut a piece of 1/10-thick acrylic sheet 3mm larger than the OD of AT then glue it up with the ring to form a see-thru top cap.
(G) Air diffuser rod.Two ways to make this one. Cut a 3/16 rigid polycarbonate tube to the length of the funnels top end. Bent 90 degree of the last inch of the tube under hair dryer to shape an elbow. Attach the 3 diffuser to the tube with a 0.5-long 3/16 flexible PVC airline. Now the total diffuser rod should be ~3 taller than the funnels end. Mark the elbow position on AT and drill a 3/16 hole to allow PVC airline to connect to the rod elbow and air pump. Done!!! Unfortunately its a sourcing problem to buy this PC tube locally and your option is to replace it with 9mm OD rigid PVC tube with flexible airline inside the tube. The 9mm tube is a replacement part for window blind adjuster, which is available at your LHS.
You also need to attach a by-pass gate valve in the skimmer outlet to control your skimmer water level. By adjusting this valve you will be able to control water level and efficiency. The tangential cyclone action combined with counter current design make this skimmer a real green solution to keep your tank clean and silent.
Check my photo gallery for images.
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