The Omega range from Vertex has been around for a while now and even the two most recent, large additions to the range, the 180i and 200i, have been out in the ‘real world’ for long enough to prove themselves as reliable workhorses. Despite being released a couple of years ago and featuring AC rather than ‘in vogue’ controllable DC pumps, these skimmers are definitely still worthy of consideration, particularly if you’ve had issues with reliability or poor performance from cheaper manufacturers and are now maybe looking for something that isn’t just a necessity but also a beautifully engineered piece of equipment in its own right. On the latter point, the Omega is certainly a cut-above the usually fayre, standing out in a world of cheap generic cone skimmers not just for the distinctive and elegant ‘wine glass’ design but also for thoughtful, high-quality construction. So, let’s take a close look at the 200i ‘out of the box’.
First of all, we’ve been impressed with Vertex’s packaging on numerous occasions before and the presentation of the Omega certainly lives up to our high expectations. As ever the sturdy box is perfectly sized and the generous internal padding is both neat and more than adequate to keep the contents safe and sound (however inept your delivery driver!). Instructions are all fine; simplicity is the overriding theme here and this carries through to the product itself.
On removing the skimmer from the box we can immediately feel that this is a high quality product with the hot-welded PVC and cast acrylic components mating beautifully. The assembled unit feels solid, stable and reassuringly heavy! The Omega boasts numerous high-end design features too, such as corrosion resistant Titanium screws, separate vibration-absorbing rubber feet, an adjustable venturi, swivelling skimmate drain and a dedicated ozone injection port. Furthermore, the custom volute and needle-wheel equipped Askoll pump engine in the 200i (replaced with a Sicce SK-1000 pump in in the 180i) is located internally (as denoted by the ‘i’ in the product name) and has also cleverly been lain on its side to maximize head height in the reaction chamber, thus increasing bubble contact time. Renowned for durability and reliability, this pump promises years of trouble free operation while consuming just 38 watts and drawing an impressive 2000lph max of air. As said, this isn’t a controllable DC pump engine but this does have advantages… for a start control becomes simpler with just a twist of the riser tube controlling the water/air mix in the chamber and there’s no control box to mount (and correspondingly less cabling and/or hot transformers to deal with).
On the subject of dimensions, we measured the footprint as 10.75” x 11.25”and the bubble chamber has an 8″ diameter at the widest point, tapering to 5″ at the neck. The large collection cup screws on/off smoothly and remains water tight with a rubber O-ring (so no irritating dripping and splashing from the neck joint). Given the body size and pump stats, this is clearly one powerful skimmer that is capable of handling a large bioload (indeed be aware that systems that don’t have a sufficient bioload may be subject to inconsistent skimming). Vertex rate the 200i for systems of 400 – 800l volume but we’d suggest the upper limit is fairly conservative if anything and it should be fine for even larger systems if stocking density is taken into account. Also, bear in mind that this skimmer works best sat in a water depth of 7 – 8.5 inches. You’ll also need to keep an eye on how much headroom you have if you are running it underneath a tank as this beast is a full 2 feet tall!
With the Omega 200i currently going for around £650 from a small number of selected outlets in the UK, this certainly isn’t a ‘make-do’ option. Given the strong feature set, superb build quality, unique design and exemplary presentation we’d nevertheless thoroughly recommend it based on our initial impressions. Whether you decide that investing in such an item has the potential to save money in the long term is your choice… whatever the case look out for our follow-up review in a future issue in which we’ll be installing this skimmer on a large reef tank.