Review: Vertex Omega 150 skimmer

Following on from our unboxing review slightly earlier this year, we decided now would be a great time to take a closer look at our Vertex Omega in operation as we’ve now had it installed and running on our test system for several weeks. OK, so this skimmer has already received plenty of good reviews around the web, but how would it work out in practice on our SPS dominated test system?

Well, going back slightly, we had the small issue of swapping-out our sump for a new design before we could use this skimmer. This isn’t a fault of the Omega we hasten to add, but it’s worth knowing that  this skimmer and many others like it, are optimised to work in water that is around 10” deep at the most. As our own sump had a water level of 15” in the skimmer chamber, we would have had to raise the Omega at least 5 inches off the bottom for it to work efficiently and this ultimately meant that we simply didn’t have enough headroom in our cabinet for the skimmer to fit. Now, with a new sump in place with a water level of 10” exactly, we can have the skimmer on the sump floor, or we have a nice acrylic stand to raise it a couple of inches if necessary. This allows for plenty of room to view, access and remove the collection cup.

One of the nice things about this skimmer is that it is a simple design, using just one pump to both pull and aspirate water inside the reaction chamber. Unlike other cone skimmers we’ve reviewed to date though, the Omega has its pump on the outside of the chamber, connected via short push-fit tube. Although this increases the footprint of the skimmer (to approx. 11×8 inches), this does make the unit far easier to dismantle and clean, and of course maximises the internal volume of the skimmer body. Powering this skimmer we have a custom-built IPX-8 rated Sicce/Vertex V150 pinwheel pump. We tested the air intake on this pump with the same flow-meter we’ve used for other skimmer reviews and it pulls a steady 15l/min air (see image). This equates to 900l/hour which actually exceeds the claimed intake of 850l/hour. Note however that we did have to measure intake after the silencer, so this may well reduce the final figure slightly. Whatever the case, its an impressive air draw for a skimmer this size. This is achieved with an equally impressive power consumption of just 22 watts (approx.) and a water flow of around 900lph (manufacturers info). We were very impressed with the quantity and size of bubbles this pump produced and it easily beats anything we’ve used previously. It’s clearly a great pump and the only slight negative was that our ‘early production’ unit needed a 2-3 pin plug adapter (note however that Vertex tell us that this unit is now available with a UK plug fitted as standard). The configuration of the fitted 2-pin plug allowed the adapter to easily fit on our plug bar without blocking off adjacent sockets anyway. Inside the chamber, the mixture swirls and then, moving upwards, the beautifully curved ‘wine glass’ body channels these tiny bubbles in an orderly fashion which leads to exceptional efficiency. Despite just having a quick rinse in RO, we had out unit producing a stable foam head with a few hours of installation and since then it’s been extremely reliable. We haven’t had to readjust it once actually, although if we feel the need this isn’t hard to achieve. The one thing we will say is that, unless the skimmer output is facing the front of your sump, it’s hard to know exactly how you have it set. Some kind of scale on the riser tube would be useful but frankly you shouldn’t need to adjust it much anyway. The pump also has an air intake adjustment on the customised volute similar to the higher priced Alpha range, but we haven’t touched this yet as the skimmer worked straight ‘out of the box’.

One of the major considerations of a skimmer which is often overlooked is how noisy is it. Well, this skimmer isn’t the quietest we’ve used which surprises us as the rubber feet on both the skimmer body and the pump bracket promise excellent vibration reduction. In our experience most of the noise comes from the bubbling of the unit and it does make the traditional ‘rumble’ that we’ve had with other cone skimmers. It certainly isn’t the loudest of those we’ve had though. In order to measure the specific noise output of this skimmer, we downloaded the Smart Tools Sound Meter app (ver 1.5.6) onto our Android smartphone. We then held the phone around 12 inches away from the skimmer cup, with the microphone facing the cup. We then took measurements with both the skimmer on and off and, by calculating the difference, we deduced that the skimmer produced a noise level of approximately 2dB (you can see from the line graph below the reading that the measurement remained stable for at least 30 seconds). If you have a smartphone you can use this app yourself of course. Providing you locate the microphone in the same way, use the deduction method and don’t have any unpredictable ambient noise affecting the reading, we don’t see any reason why this couldn’t be used to compare. (NOTE: Vertex tell us that they have made some slight modifications to the pump connection tube and pump bracket recently that should see the unit run even more quietly).

So… after a few weeks using the Omega, we’ve really fallen for this skimmer. Let’s face it, it looks beautiful with the elegantly curved chamber. The quality of the hot-welded cast acrylic and PVC also continues to impress, indeed removing the cup for cleaning has become something of a joy due to the smooth action of the screw-in lid. The lid is nice and solid too – about twice as heavy as budget cone skimmers we’ve used. We’ve also noted that the unit should be easy to clean too, with the titanium screws allowing removal of the base for complete access to the cone. Performance-wise, this skimmer is a comparable physical size to some of the other cone skimmers we’ve used, but the Omega wins ‘hands down’ with its excellent air draw and bubble size. This makes it suitable for tanks up to 650litres in volume (depending on bioload of course). Take note too that the slightly smaller Omega 130 is also now an the market, and the Omega 180, rated for tanks of up to 800litres is currently in testing. So finally, OK this isn’t the cheapest cone skimmer out there (RRP of £320 at time of review) but for that you’ve got a 2 year warranty and a superbly-designed and extremely well-built bit of kit that you just know is really going to get the job done…. and done with style!

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