Remember when an affordable skimmer meant an ugly piece of extruded acrylic paired with a pump that acted as both a heater and unsoothing noise machine? We remember. It used to be that the only way to retire the droning hum of a cheap skimmer was to spend a small fortune on some “Euro” skimmer like an ATB, Bubble King, Deltec, or H&S. I myself remember pulling the trigger on a beautiful ATB cone skimmer. Watching the bubbles rise up the narrowing cone was mesmerizing. I truly became a believer of the cone-shaped design. The price barrier of entry was painful, but all was forgiven after experiencing such a well balanced skimmer. I ran the skimmer for many years. Unfortunately, my experiences with the askoll-based pump were not sublime. Twice, the pump has been out commission. Once again, I’m going to have to rebuild it. In the meantime, I was curious how the affordable skimmer market was evolving. Several brands offered Cone shapes, and your pick DC pumps, Askoll, Sicce’s. Eventually, I set my eyes on the AquaMaxx line.
AquaMaxx has a deserved reputation for bringing affordable yet quality reef aquarium equipment to market. Their skimmer line is essentially rebranded JNS built skimmers. Being a Cone-head, I opted for the ConeS CO-3. The skimmer will be challenged with skimming around 225 gallons of water.
Initial impressions are “wow”, for $450 this is a lot of skimmer for the buck. The skimmer body is cell-cast acrylic with a graceful curved design. The bubble plate is a nice light blue with tiny cones to disperse the bubbles and reduce turbulence. Time will tell if this really makes a noticable difference, but it’s a nice touch. The water level adjustment acts as a gate valve, raising a white pipe up and down over a square outlet. Four thumbscrews hold the base plate on, which make cleaning a breeze. You’re not getting pvc welds or anything heavy duty at this price. But the build quality is really impressive.
The ConeS are powered by Sicce pumps, which have a strong reputation for being quiet and reliable. Even so, noise is addressed further by a pump “stand” with rubber feet and a yellow hose to isolate vibration from the skimmer body. A standard fare air intake diffuser should take care of any hissing noises. Advertised wattage on the ConeS CO-3 is 27-watts, which will need to be verified with a Kill-a-Watt. If this is true, that makes for a very efficient skimmer capable of handling quite a large tank load.
I think my favorite feature is that the collection cup has a handle! This makes carrying your nasty skimmate over to the sink a little less unpleasant. The cup appears easy to remove, only requiring 1/2″ of clearance. Specs indicate optimal operating depth around 9-10 inches. That negates the need for raising the skimmer in most sump applications.
The only criticism is the packaging. For such a nicely designed skimmer, the parts were bouncing inside the box like candy in a pinata. I was worried about shipping damage when I first opened the box. Luckily, the skimmer arrived in one piece.
There’s a lot of decent affordable skimmers available today. And this is a great thing. This hobby is expensive as it is. If you’re on a budget but want a decent skimmer, be sure to check out the AquaMaxx ConeS.