Review: UFO UCO-180 Protein Skimmer

Let’s face it, there are quite a few low cost cone skimmers on the market at the moment. The Bubble Magus NAC7 is of course well known, and we reviewed the similar Marine Sources RDC850 ourselves not too long ago. Even so, we found our interest most definitely ‘piqued’ when we came across this offering from UKReef. It certainly looks the part, but how does it compare against the other major players in this competitive sector?

Well on paper, this skimmer is very similar to the NAC7 and the RDC850 being rated for a maximum tank volume of 750 litres. Physically, it has a footprint of 25.5cm x 22.5cm which is just slightly larger than the other two, and a height of 52.5cm which is very similar. Unlike the other models, the base-plate has cut-off corners and fittings allow the cone to be lowered and twisted onto the plate removing the need to unscrew the plastic screws completely. Packed-well (once you’ve got rid of all the polystyrene fragments) this skimmer is exceptionally easy to assemble and the instructions are fine. The cone, which tapers right down to the base-plate, is constructed of acrylic which looks comparable in quality to the other two models. The shape of the cone is perhaps marginally different but nothing that would affect performance significantly either way in our opinion. One thing we liked especially about this unit was the fine adjustment wheel. Rather than twisting the entire riser-tube as in other models (which is usually a two hand operation once the skimmer is in-sump), a simple tap on the top of the riser allowed for very precise and almost effortless adjustment of the bubble level in the cone. We like the air intake/silencer too as this is removable and also slightly adjustable which comes in very handy in tight space… when removing the unit for cleaning for example. We did manage to drop this part in the water though and couldn’t get all the water back out due to the design (this doesn’t seem to affect performance though). As with the others, the collection cup threads on securely with a twist and no water seeped out from this connection. To conclude, we really like the design and think the unit looks great too. As with the other units, as long as you don’t bash it about, you shouldn’t have a problem.

On to the power-plant, and at the heart of this skimmer is a Hailea HX-6530 needle-wheel pump. Something of a beast, this certainly isn’t the smallest pump physically, but it sure feels solid and we have to say runs very quietly (we actually found this the quietest skimmer we’ve used so far but take note that there are numerous variables that can change this). On the downside, this pump does appear to be rather more energy hungry than the SP3 in the RDC850, consuming at least 25watts, and seems to lag behind the Atman PH2500 in the NAC7 in terms of turnover (1750lph against 2500lph). Of course lph rating is only part of the story. Take note that the unit is fitted with a UK plug.

At a shade under £125 this skimmer is the least expensive of the 3 by a large margin (based on research performed at the time of writing) and based on our test performed perfectly well. It took a few days to bed in but after this produced a thick dark skimmate. We’d suggest that the maximum tank size recommendation is slightly optimistic, especially if the system is stocked heavily with high demand livestock. In such a case one should perhaps investigate the units larger counterpart, the UOC-255, which is rated for tanks up to 1500 litres.

For more detailed info, visit UKReefs website by clicking HERE.

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