Clear Acrylic Surface Skimmer DIY - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 08-15-2010, 08:12 PM Thread Starter
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Clear Acrylic Surface Skimmer DIY

On my big tank, I have a huge problem with surface scum, even if I lift my outflow pipes out of the water so it creates ripples. I was scooping it out with stainer, soaking it up with paper towels, but it just kept coming back.

I decided I needed a surface skimmer, but the ones that are available commercially are pretty ugly and very conspicuous, especially when all the equipment in the tank is glassware.

I decided I'd try to build my own.

This is the basic idea, there would be a acrylic tube attached to the intake of the canister filter. It would have slits cut into the top which would act like an over flow on a sump set up. Surface scum would flow down the tube and then get sucked up into the filter.

The blue lines is the path of water flow

Parts I got from tap plastics. 1 inch outer diameter tube, that little circle/half ball thing is to plug up the bottom of the tube, and a special acrylic double-sided tape to bond acrylic to glass. The tube and half ball thing cost about $2.50, the tape was the most expensive at $15 for 20 feet, I ended up using about 10 inches of it.

Used a dremel tool to cut slits into the top of the acrylic tube. I know it doesn't look too good, but it's clear, and it's at the back of my tank so it's not noticeable I taped the half ball to the bottom of the tube to seal it up.

Here it is in tank, it seems to be working as i can notice a small water fall into the tube. We'll see if my surface scum comes back. Sorry I didn't take a picture of it before I put it into the tank, I was too excited to try it out.

I used the tape to attach the tube to the intake pipe and let it set. I wish I took pictures of it but it's in the tank now.

another view.

It was really easy to build and if it works, I suggest you all try it out if you have problems with surface skimming.

The only issues I foresee is keeping it clean, since I'm sure it'll get the brown gunk, but I'll deal with that when the time comes.

Also, since the slits are only about 3-4 mm underwater, I'm going to have to be fairly diligent about keeping the water level up. My tank has a lot of evaporation being open top, so I can see that if I let the water level fall below that of the skimmer slits, I run the risk of burning out my filter.

I think the commercially available skimmers have a floating overflow that rises and falls with the water level.
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 09-03-2010, 04:27 PM
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Hi there,

Congratulations on your build! It looks great.

Some aquariums do develop a light film on the water surface. Typically, positioning the return a little higher is sufficient to disrupt it enough so that it isn't a problem. If that doesn't work, the next step is a skimmer such as the one you created.

The commercially available overflows are overkill, I think, for planted aquariums and may ruin the look of the aquascape because they are big. Your solution is ideal because it's inconspicuous but should do the job.

As you mentioned, the risk is that your skimmer runs dry due to evaporation thereby causing you filter to run dry. A solution may be to split your intake in two with one being skimmed and the other not. Provided there is enough flow through the skimmer portion, the surface scum may still be sufficiently removed.

Just a thought.


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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 09-03-2010, 05:04 PM Thread Starter
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I had it running and it did not work. The evaporation made it so that the skimmer stopped working after a few hours due to the drop in water level./ I was trying to think of how I would get the skimmer part to float like the commercially available ones, but I haven't figured out a feasible way to do this yet.

I was also thinking of drilling a few holes towards the bottom so that the filter always has access to water. I'll have to try it out this weekend.

Glad you looked at my thread! seems like no one ever looks at my stuff
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 09-03-2010, 05:50 PM
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Like already said... just drill some holes in the bottom. You should do this anyways. I would do it about mid way down.
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 09-03-2010, 11:44 PM
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I read this the first time, but had nothing to contribute, so I didn't comment. I thought it would work, so I'm disappointed that it didn't. One of my ripariums has a surface film problem right now, so bad that I have to use a net to skim it off every few weeks. It comes off as a white powder-like substance. When I get around to it I plan to just add a small powerhead to ripple the surface a lot more, hoping that will solve the problem.

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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 09-08-2010, 06:05 PM
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I had this problem of surface scum with my riparium as well. I wanted to add one of the commercially avilable AC/Tom's/Fluval surface skimmers but my water depth was too low. I added a Current Subcurrent filter and it cleared things up quickly. However, the suction cups on that thing are pretty bad and every couple of days it would detach and float to the top. Otherwise, it would work just fine as long as I made sure to top off every day.


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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 09-08-2010, 06:19 PM Thread Starter
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I put a koralia evo 425gph pump at the top to ripple the water, this has helped curb the surface scum but there is still a good amount.
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