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          Reeflo Orca 250 Pro Skimmer(s)






The fact that the system I was planning would have a total water volume of over 550 gallons meant that I was going to have to get a very capable skimmer - or maybe even two. I had to decide to either go the Cadillac route, a Bubble King for instance, or try to come up with an acceptable alternative at a more reasonable price.

I have always considered aggressive skimming to be one of the most important factors in maintaining a successful reef tank, especially when SPS corals will be kept. After spending a considerable amount of time and effort looking for the right solution, I happened to talk to Mike Leonard at Reef Specialty. He mentioned he'd just gotten a new skimmer in from Reeflo, the company that markets the Reeflo line of water pumps. The Orca 250 skimmer was actually named after the pump used to produce the air for the unit - the Orca Dart.

Here's a pic of the Orca as it was originally offered:




And the specifications given, at the time:


  • Watt Draw: 120 watts
  • System Capability (gallons): 200 - 800
  • Air Flow: 1,950 liters per hour
  • Recommended Water Flow: 400-600 gph
  • Footprint: 16" x 20"
  • Diameter: 11.8"
  • Height: 32"

The first Orca 250s were supplied with standard Reeflo Orca Dart pumps (made by Sequence). The pumps were fitted with a specially designed needle wheel. The combination of pump technology and refined needle wheel design resulted in an extremely fine bubble/water mix - and with a total power consumption of less than 120 watts! The body is made of 1/4" cast acrylic. All fittings are sch. 80.

For me, the clincher came when Mike said Reef Specialty was going to be offering a "Pro" version of the skimmer with:

  •  a considerably longer riser tube and collection cup - the longer riser tube would make tuning the skimmer a breeze
  • a refined version of the needle wheel which would inject up to 25% more air
  • the improved Reeflo Dart "Gold" pump with Baldor motor

I was convinced this was the skimmer I wanted, so I ordered two of the Pro models! My thinking was that running two skimmers simultaneously would allow me to run one wet and one dry. The best of both worlds, so to speak.

The next pic shows the pair just after I got them assembled. If you compare them with the pic of the original model (above), you can see the huge difference in the height of the riser tube. This makes adjusting the skimmers, for wet or dry performance, much easier. The difference in the pumps is also easy to see. The Dart Gold pumps include an finned extruded aluminum body sleeve that serves as a heat sink, effectively reducing the pump's running temperature:


 

Here they are more from the front. This pic was taken before the skimmers were hooked up and placed on their stand:

 

 

This is what the skimmer installation looks like now - except for the feed hoses, which hadn't yet been hooked up when this pic was taken. Below the stand you can see one of the two Eheim 1262 pumps that feed water  from the return section of the pump to the skimmers:

 

 

The stand, BTW, was made using milled and glued 2"X4"s, 3/4" plywood, and covered in white Formica. The dark mat the skimmers are sitting on is the 1/2" thick rubber floor matting you can buy at the big box hardware stores. It's the stuff that comes in a package of four 2 foot squares that interlock together to make one large mat. These mats are great wherever a soft or vibration absorbent surface is needed. If you look closely, you can see that the Eheim pumps are also sitting on the same matting. The mat even manages to make quiet pumps quieter.

Here you can see the Orcas doing their thing. Within the hobby, there are those that maintain that you can't efficiently run more than one skimmer at a time. They say that if you run two, one of them will out perform the other to the point that it shuts the other down. Well, I can tell you from experience, 'taint so. These guys just keep pumpin' the crud out - as long as there's crud to pump. There are times when these two monsters have eliminated all the dissolved organics in the the system. Then they'll shut down for a while.

 

 

All in all, these Orcas have worked out very well. The motors don't heat up - at max, they're warm to the touch, but that's it. The riser tubes and collection cups are easy to clean.


I've found that it's better not to clean a skimmer too thoroughly. I go over the inside of the risers every couple of days with a soft bristled toilet brush. Cleaned this way, there is no post-cleaning break in period.


Once every six months, I give one of the units a complete cleaning - including the pump's volute, needle-wheel, etc. I stagger these cleaning sessions by about a month so that the just cleaned skimmer has a chance to break in and come to  peak performance before I clean the other one.


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