Akula uks-180 Skimmer by Ultra Reef In depth review
At the beginning of august, we began testing a pre-production version of the new skimmer by Ultra Reef, the uks-180 and we did it in a marine aquarium yet unreleased to the general public but that soon we will publish on our own pages. Today we are here to tell you how it went.
Ultra Reef is a relatively young italian company with great background built over industrial pumps, now it builds skimmers, fluidized beds, calcium reactors and many other accessories for marine aquarium. Actually it’s sold only in Italy but, in a couple of month, it will be possible to found its products in USA and Europe as well. We know some distributions are just started..
The skimmer Ultra Reef uks-180 is part of a range of 4 new skimmers and is the third-largest after the uks-140, the uks-160 and before the uks-200, where the number indicates the diameter of the contact chamber. We tested this skimmer in 300 liters marine aquarium with SPS and LPS, where the nutrients needed to keep as low as possible, and where they are extremely low in fact.
The first thing that strikes into this skimmer, just extracted from its packaging, it is definitely the high level of construction. Nothing is left to chance as we shall see. But let us look at the technical features in detail:
Length: 19 cm
Width: 25 cm
Height: 55 cm
Power Consumption: 25 watts
Water flow rate: 1.400 l/h
Air flow: 800 l/h
Price: 550 €
The construction of the Ultra Reef Akula uks-180 skimmer is excellent. There are no burrs and the coupling between the plastic is absolutely perfect.
The skimmer body has a diameter of about 19 cm and a height of 55 cm comprised of glass, for an approximate total volume, excluding the glass, equal to about 9 liters.
The glass has a diameter always equal to 19 cm, with the inner cylinder of 10 cm. The usable height is equal to 14.5 cm, so the glass has a payload capacity of 2.9 liters, which is certainly a good volume. Obviously fill it up to that level is almost impossible, because before you get sediment in the inner glass that slows down too much skimming making it no efficient.
The assembly of the Ultra Reef Akula uks-180 skimmer, although it may appear complex, it is extremely easy and allows you to completely dismantle the skimmer as you can see above. The cylinder engages over the base where the pump is inserted. Then there is only the output adjustable pipe. The glass is mounted on the body through a spectacular seal that guarantees a perfect water tightness.
The glass is a very generous size, it is extremely heavy and solid, very well done.
The pump supplied with the Ultra Reef Akula uks-180 is a Sicce PSK 1000, extremely reliable and used in a large number of skimmers nowadays, such as the LGMAquari LGs 850 recently reviewed.
Being a single-pump configuration we do not have to worry about managing the amount of water entering the skimmer and the ratio of water-to-air that have already been decided for us. Recommended level to keep in sump should be around 20 cm, tolerate heights between 18 and 22 cm.
The working principle is very simple. Water and air are mixed and released from below directly into the body and spreads them in the cylinder of contact. As always, simplicity is a virtue, not a fault. The skimmer it works really well and is very linear in its operation.
As seen in the photos the silencer is fixed and is connected to the cylindrical body in a symmetrical manner to the output pipe. In this way, we should not stop to think where to put the small air-inlet pipe.
The only way to intervene on the calibration of the Ultra Reef Akula uks-180 skimmer is to rotate the output pipe, helped by the fact of being able to control the amount of water via a practical scale. Our test model, being pre-series, had engraved numbers directly in white PVC, while the new model now on sale has a practical color wheel, as you can see from the picture below taken at the PetsFestival during the presentation of new models.
While Below you can see the different incision in our tested skimmer.
The setting is extremely simple, because you can not choose anything, so you remove it from the box and lean it into the sump. Finished. Ready to go. The output pipe has the space obliged, as the input one. The only problem with positioning may result from bottom output pipe, which could be a problem for those who had the sump divided between the loading and unloading of the skimmer.
The output is at the bottom and this makes the skimmer extremely quiet.
To obtain a skimming wetter or drier is necessary to act on the outlet pipe, turning it.
The skimmer is ready to foam when added to the sump and the foam completely fills its body from the diffusion plate to the glass. The foam, as you can see from the video, it is incredibly soapy, with tiny bubbles. Obviously, when you put the glass, bubbles rise in the neck and tend to increase in size, as it is normal. From a visual standpoint, skimming looks really good.
The recommended water level in sump is, as always, about 20 cm, the position in which the pressure of the water and the air suction are perfectly in balance. Obviously it is because the skimmer was built in this way, not for other strange reasons. So I think therefore to be very close to 20 cm.
The skimmer was placed in a great marine aquarium with values very close to zero. The aquarium is an Elos 120 120x57x50h illuminated with a pair of Ecotech Marine Radion Pro with 4 tube T5 54 watt. The movement is left to two Vortech MP40w.
To give you an idea of how the Ultra Reef Akula uks-180 skimmer works we have created the following video showing the skimmate inside the glass after the cleaning, and after five days of operation
As you can see, and as we have already said, it is very soapy foam, the foam is great as color and texture, pretty wet, either by choice, both for the intrinsic characteristics of the skimmer. We note as the foam rises in the glass with much ease even immediately after cleaning, obviously in this case the bubbles are larger because of the cleaning itself just occurred.
Above we can see the aquarium of Joseph, photographed when the lights were still at the beginning… nearly dark … but at least you have an idea of how nice it could be this marine aquarium.
After two months of use we can say that the Ultra Reef Akula uks-180 skimmer has worked flawlessly, without any problem, and the values have not only remained close to zero but even declined. An excellent result.
We then asked to Joseph about his impressions: “I immediately liked this skimmer. At the first look I have understand that it was built with extreme care and I immediately had the feeling that it would have gone very well, even before setting in sump. Before starting I put it in a small tank apart where I left it in action for a week at the end of this time I put it in the aquarium, where I was amazed by his silence and by the quality of the bubbles, very small, and by his foam, liquid but quite dark . How my friends know, I’m a meticulous man and I measured the values in the aquarium all the time, and I discovered that the values, already good that I had previously, was been improved yet. Currently phosphates and nitrate are not detectable. I can only conclude by recommending this skimmer hands down. In my aquarium it has worked flawlessly so I think there is no reason it should not do so in that of others, I’m considering to buy it after having removed and returned to the manufacturer, and this is the greatest compliment that I could give to him.”
Performance and measurements
The manufacturer claims this skimmer for a water flow rate of 1,400 l/h and an air flow rate of 800 l/h. Obviously the numbers depend in large part on many factors, ie the height of the water in the sump and the changing of the column height of the skimmer. The relationship between air and water is then equal to 0.57.
For the particular conformation of the skimmer was not possible to measure the water flow. While we used our Sander flowmeter to measure the air flow, it measures the air from a minimum of 100 l/h to a maximum of 1000 l/h, the measured values must then be increased by 10% to account for losses induced from the device itself.
We then obtained this air flow: 660 l/h ( measured 600 + 10% ) , with the air completely open. The value was quite stable even if the value cyclically oscillated between 400 and 800 (which is necessary in any case always add another 10 %), probably thanks to the water hammer hydraulic phenomenon that originates inside the pump. We performed measurement directly over the pump, then after the silencer and finally to about 1.5 meters away from the aquarium, following the air inlet pipe that Joseph has placed outside his home walls. The measured value was identical in all these situations. Indeed, away from the pump, it is also improved the overall linearity by getting smaller oscillations.
The air intake has decreased from 800 l/h to 660 l/h measured, a difference of about 17% , while noting this difference, one can not but note how the settings of the skimmer can weigh heavily on the performance as we have already mentioned, but we believe however that the 660 l/h is an excellent value, even in relation to the behavior of the skimmer . The density of water was 35 per thousand.
The water then air ratio fell from 0.57 to 0.47.
We noted then, following the findings when testing the Tunze DOC Skimmer 9415, that closing the air just a little bit, the oscillation triggered by water hammer fell and we got a constant suction around the threshold of 400 l/h of air. Obviously it is not necessary to bring the aspiration to these low levels, but probably slightly closing the air could get even better results.
But we must emphasize that this setting very much depends by your marine aquarium and its density. So not all marine aquariums slightly closing the air can be achieved even better results. The thing must be evaluated carefully, maybe just helping with a flow meter.
The skimmer is extremely quiet, we performed three measurements, all at one meter distance from the aquarium and then from the sump and got the following results:
Sound pressure level at 1 meter with all equipments turned on and doors closed: 44,7 dB
Sound pressure level at 1 meter with the only return pump on and doors open: 43,3 dB
Sound pressure level at 1 meter with retunr pump and skimmer running: 43,7 dB
The difference in sound pressure measured with skimmer on or off shows 0.4 dB, a very negligible difference. A very low value that brings the Ultra Reef Akula uks-180 Skimmer to considerable values of acoustic comfort, especially when we think we didn’t do anything to achieve such incredible results.
The sound level meter used to measure was been the usual VOLTCRAFT 320, digital sound level meter to IEC 651 Type II that for the effect of the measure is sufficiently reliable. Given the nature of the noise to be measured all measurements were performed with the attenuation curve dBA
Sicce PSK 1000 pump, by default, has a notable consumption of 57 watt with normal impeller but, with brush impeller and on a monopump skimmer, the estimated consumption is 25 watt, 219 kwh/year, with an estimated manteinance cost of 57 euro based on the price of 0,26 euro/kwh, we currently have in Italy. A very acceptable maintenance cost of less than 5 euro/month.
The Ultra Reef Akula uks-180 skimmer is an extremely valuable skimmer, built in a perfect manner, offered at a very aggressive sale price, given the technical characteristics and performance, of 550 Euros, and so you can recommend it with your eyes closed.
In use, it proved smooth and efficient, with a very simple calibration, extremely quiet, easy to open and clean. The attention to details is at his highest level. This skimmer has run without flinching a complex marine aquarium, which is perhaps it is not huge, around 300 liter, but with extremely low nutrients values, really hard to obtain and maintain. Yet not only the values are never increased , compared to the previous skimmer, but rather have been lowered further coming to be undetectable. We must emphasize, however, that the performance of air are slightly less than stated, while little or nothing we can say the water treated because there has been impossible to measure due to the particular shape of the skimmer itself.
We think it is therefore appropriate for an aquarium populated with SPS corals and fishes around 500 liters, of course when you talk instead of aquariums sparsely populated, only populated with fish or soft corals, you may push, in my opinion, well beyond the threshold of 1000 liters .
We thank Ultra Reef for the supply of the skimmer tested.