Review: Coral Box Cloud 9 DC Skimmer

It’s been a little while since we featured a skimmer review on the site but when we spied details of this new offering from Chinese supplier Fish-Street, advertised on their website for a Summer 2015 release, we were immediately curious to see if such a competitively-priced skimmer could deliver performance to match some of the more expensive options out there. We were also curious to experience the ‘direct sale’ acquisition of a skimmer via the ‘factory to end user’ pathway used by this supplier. Arriving in what seemed like and impossibly short time all the way from China, the unit came to us extremely well-packaged. Assembling the unit was very easy but take note that it’s a good idea to assemble it without the cup in place to stop the lid from falling off. Similarly, be aware that the rubber feet come-off when the 4 screws connecting the base plate to the unit are removed… just something to be wary of… not really a problem. Once the screws are in place, the rubber feet just push onto the protruding ends. The screws themselves require around 20 turns to fasten them tightly and they are quite easy to handle, even without a screwdriver, which should really help when it comes time to dismantle the unit for periodic cleaning. All the components seemed to be of suitable quality and machined to a good standard. All of the base plate screws went in straight, aligning well. All pieces were present, and this includes a basic instruction sheet parts of which could be translated a little better, but there were no significant issues to note here. Fully-assembled, the unit is 60cm tall with a footprint of 27x30cm, and weighs a few kilos. It is certainly fairly easy to handle by one reasonably fit adult and of course, if you remove the cup until the unit is in place, it becomes even easier. As well as taking height into account, note that the unit is designed to perform best in 20 – 24cm of water (as denoted by a water level mark on the riser tube at about 22cm). Actually, we have ours in water a little deeper than that, around 26cm, and it still skims very well. The neck is approx. 12cm in diameter by the way, and the reaction chamber maxes at 22cm diameter.

In terms of features, let’s start from the top, and take note that the cup is a standard design with a grooved lid that sits on top. It is possible to get to every part of the cup for cleaning. As said, the lid isn’t secured onto the cup, but of course this means it is easy to lift it to do a simple check on the foam-head occasionally. The cup itself certainly seems robust, with a neck that pushes down into the main skimmer collar. The seal is achieved with an O ring in the collar of the skimmer and this simple arrangement is very effective, ensuring no leakage. There’s no twisting or locking mechanism on the cup but it can require a little leverage to remove it when it comes to cleaning times particularly if you can’t access the unit directly from above. This removal may require that the cup is emptied first to avoid slopping skimmate around. Thankfully, the unit comes complete with a long drain tube (with tap) to facilitate this draining (and to extend times between draining) although the rate at which it drains is quite slow (although this would not be an issue if it was permanently attached to a skimmate reservoir). We couldn’t see a standard drain valve cap in with our unit which would have been nice if you didn’t want the long drain tube attached. It probably wouldn’t be too hard to find something to fit anyway. The only other thing we’d say is that the logo sticker doesn’t look like it will last long which seems a shame as we quite like the branding. An etched logo would be nice if it didn’t increase cost much.

Stocky in appearance, with a straight, tapered cone design, we really like the functional, no-fuss look of this unit. This is obviously a proven design although perhaps not really a cutting-edge one. The inclusion of an 6-point etched numeric scale on the riser tube bracket, to assist with consistently adjusting the water level in the unit, is really useful. The scale allows for the tube to be twisted either way too, so the unit can be used with the tube on the left or right of the main body. Take note that this riser tube outputs directly downwards. Moving on, the engine of this unit is a JECOD DCT4000 which we’ve already reviewed in detail in its own right here. Of course this version features a different impeller than the return pump version, specifically a pinwheel which mashes-up the incoming air and water mix into a fine foam. Fitted with a newly-designed intake silencer, the claimed air draw of the unit is 1450lph and when we measured it we got a reading even higher than this. On pump setting 9, the air draw stayed steady at just under the 25 litre/minute maximum mark on our air flow metre, and then on setting 10, the draw maxed out at the top suggesting to us a maximum draw of around 1600lph. Compare that to the 900lph air draw we measured on the brilliant Vertex Omega 150 and you can really get an idea of the power of this unit. Furthermore, the reading we got on our flow meter seemed much more stable suggesting possibly a more even air draw from the DC pump unit (and we’d suggest this stability could well enhance the skimming performance of the unit). Electricity consumption ranges from 20 – 38w (as claimed) so the pump is moderately efficient. As said, this DC pumps output can be adjusted in 10 steps from around 2000 to 4000lph turnover by pressing buttons on the compact control panel. The controller also features a useful ‘feed mode’ button which stops then restarts the pump on the same setting after 10 minutes. This really does allow for precise adjustment and it is easy to tweak the settings to modify not just the level of the foam head, but also its consistency. In the event of a power outage, the pump will also come back on at the last setting. Also ,the pump will automatically turn off after 2 minutes of dry-running (at which point it would need to be unplugged from the socket before it could run again).  Our only slight niggle is that the control panel hasn’t got holes for screw-fixing on the back, instead relying on an adhesive pad. Connected to the controller we have a compact transformer which generates a little heat, but nothing significant. The lead that came with our unit thankfully had a UK plug attached. It is also worth considering that it is entirely possible to interface the pump with a Neptune Apex control system using a Jecod controller linkage adapter. Clearly this opens up a whole new world of control options for the unit. Of course noise level is also a major consideration with any skimmer and we are very happy to say that this unit is extremely quiet… actually it is the quietest skimmer we’ve owned to-date by quite a large margin. Our unit certainly doesn’t produce the typical ‘coffee percolator’ type ‘rumble’ at all, and on top of this the pump is also extremely quiet with just a faint whine audible up-close to the unit when it is on full power. With the cabinet doors closed the unit is silent to our ear. Our particular unit also broke-in immediately, literally skimming from the moment it was turned on (and that was just with a quick tap-water rinse).

In conclusion, you can probably tell that we are mighty-impressed with both Fish-Street and the Cloud 9. This skimmer is easy to handle, easy to control, very powerful and reasonably efficient. We can’t comment on reliability as we have only has the skimmer running for a short period. The skimmer design may not be anything particularly special but the unit really does achieve what it has been designed to do. The control available through the DC pump, and particularly the ability to interface this with an aquarium controller are also major advantages. Couple this with the extremely quiet operation and low pricing (£270 RRP) and this is a unit worth serious consideration in our opinion. Rated for a 750 – 1000 litre aquarium, the Cloud 9 is available direct from fish-street HERE. Take note that there are 2 other units in the range also… a Cloud 4 with a 400lph airflow and 18x17cm footprint, and a Cloud 6 with a 700lph air-draw and 23×21 footprint.

Leave a Reply