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$5ish DIY AC70 Surface Skimmer - Now in Black!

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Happy Friday everyone!  


I wanted to shared a piece of DIY equipment I have been tinkering with and tweaking over the past few months.  While by no means the most "polished/professional" build out there, I am quite please with the results of my roughly $5 (in parts) PVC surface skimmer that fits on my AC70. 


Like so many reefers out there who got their start when cash was short on hand (I was in grad school on student loans), I was always looking for a cheap/alternative to the at the time (early-mid 00s) high priced equipment.  Fast forward to today when, while gainful employed, I still have a hard time shelling out the big bills for something I "feel" like I could make on my own, given enough time, patience, and thought.  I have purchased a few different "skimming" products, some good (Eheim surface skimmer 350) and some bad ($8 Chinese totally failed skimmer on Amazon) skimmers, the simple design of them all kept nagging at me to try my hand.  


After several hours (no exaggeration) in the plumbing isle of Home Depot and during runs with my dog (when I pondered how to make it work), I think I have come up with an item which is quite good considering the price!  Every part of the skimmer is plumbing grade PVC (all 3/4 inch marketed dimension) and comes to a total price of about $3.65 without the "intake" portion which was about $1.60 if I recall.  


My design is modeled after the Tom's, Hagen, Fluval, a number of cheap knock-offs design that are all designed to attach to the AC70.  The idea is to have an elbow, T-piece, etc. off the intake pipe of the AC70, draw in water/skimming from the surface, and send that water up into the filter.  


While this is not complex, the change is to allow enough water into the filter.  Too much pull/skim off the surface and you draw in air.  This makes noise, sends too many air bubbles into the display, and strains the motor which will lead to a shorter life span in the long run.  Too little pull and obviously, you do not skim/clean the surface effectively.  Most skimmers have an adjustment, which I finally perfected.  As the AC70 pulls (at max) over 300 gph, you cannot (at least in my experience) draw in all the water through the skimmer as the elbow, T-piece, etc. will simply not allow enough water into the filter.  While not a mechanical engineer, I do know enough to understand turns decrease speed.  This is while most designs, including mine, have a constant opening to allow water into the filter which is not skimmed.  The plug on the bottom of mine has a 1/2 inch hole drilled in it that faces bottom of the tank.  I also drilled four holes in the sides of the plug.  This would allow me to increase flow into bottom of skimmer body to counter act any air being pulled in from the top.  


I have an auto-top off, so my water level does not fluctuate that much.  I added a decent "depth" of intake teeth so as to accommodate the level of drop I have in water level before the top-off pump kick on.  I might toy with multiple intake top designs, but found that the filter needs a strong flow of water, so two simple cuts seemed best and easiest to achieve.  


I also did not use any sealant or PVC cement.  It seemed best to avoid these products so keep the risk of chemical being introduced.  This allows the skimmer to be fully dissembled for easy cleaning.  It also is “sized” to fit the intake pipes of the Aquaclear filter.  I also included a pic of ACintake pipe on the "bottom" end to show an extended piece of pipe could be added to "pull" from lower in the tank.  I did not want this, as I found I needed the plug on bottom to direct more intake from skimmer portion.  


I did need to cut the intake pipe of the AC70.  While replacements are not expensive (around $8 on Amazon if I recall), it did require some thought.  Depending on how much intake you removed, you have to add more vertical skimmer intake piece.  I have currently about an inch (1) left on my AC70 intake so as to minimize the footprint. 

I will add my additional motivation for creating this was that I felt the overflow box designs simply too up too much space to my liking.  Arguably, mine is not too far off in terms of equipment in the display.  For me however, the combined slight reduction in equipment as well as the crazy cheap price was a win.  


I used a power drill, a drimel type tool, as well as metal files as needed.  


Obviously, this is not beyond most people on this forum but I should someone be interested in one, I would be willing to make one for you.  I know some folks do not have access, or want to invest in powertools, so shoot me a message and we can talk price. 


I would be willing to send the first couple out at near cost so I can get some feedback and word of mouth recommendation as I know that is highly valued on the forum.  Keep in mind I did all of the “cutting” free hand with a high revolution tool so it is far from machined quality.  My hand is getting steadier I will add though.. 🙂 


Without further ado, here at the pics and video evidence of it working.  My water surface is pristine and flawless and I could not be happier with how the skimmer has turned out! 











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Thank you for the idea! My husband had all those tools, so if I decide to go that route then we can make that happen 🙂

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33 minutes ago, Wendy said:

Thank you for the idea! My husband had all those tools, so if I decide to go that route then we can make that happen 🙂


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Complete my tank transfer (5.5 AGA to 9.6 Lifeguard Aquatics) and wanted to add the paint job I did on the surface skimmer I made.  


Decided to use Plasti-Dip as I liked the idea of "paint" (it is actually a rubber coating) being removable.  Though I cannot prove this, it seems logically to me that a rubber coating feels a bit more reef safe than regular paint.  Krylon Fusion seems to be another popular/often used option and I considered it but ultimately decided to go with Plasti-Dip.  


Heavily sanded all the pieces and did several light coats.  I let the pieces dry in the sun and fully dry for 24 hours before I put it in the tank.  I did have to cut/peel off paint where the various pieces fit together as a solid black coat was think enough to prevent them from fitting together easily.  I wanted to be able to take it apart for cleaning so I did not want a super tight fit.  Running a pocket knife over the painted parts allowed me to perfectly "cut" and peel back the portions I wanted to remove.  


I included a similar picture of the skimmer before it was painted.  Blends in nicely with the black back, which was also done with Plasti-Dip.  


I will need to go back and paint the 1-2 inch section of the intake pipe that came with the AC70 filter.  I shortened/cut the intake pipe significantly as I wanted a minimal of a "footprint" in terms of equipment in the tank.  




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Hawt damn,that is nice !!!! 

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