Review of Vertex Vectra automatic skimmer cleaner
Unboxing and Design Details
The Vectra is sold in two parts. The left box contains the Vectra Lid. Vertex offers six lid diameters to accommodate a wide range of protein skimmers: 150mm, 160mm, 180mm, 200mm, 250mm, and 300mm. Lid prices range from $19.99 to $49.99. The right box contains the universal Vectra Engine ($169.99). This is the motor unit used in conjunction with any lid.
I gotta say ... loving the slick, minimalistic graphics.
The back side of the Vectra Engine box.
The lid (200mm version) sits securely in its fitted box thanks to a cardboard insert. The lid is constructed using very substantial/heavy white acrylic.
Here is the underside of the Vectra lid. The Engine's wiper extension stem slides through the center hole. Once the stem is inserted, three titanium screws with rubber gaskets (provided) hold the Engine to the lid via the three smaller holes flanking the center hole. Three additional titanium screws are located on the edge of the lid to secure the lid to the skimmer cup.
Here is the Vectra Engine in its box. The box contains the sealed motor unit with wiper extension stem, (detached) wiper blade, AC wall plug, and a bag containing three titanium screws and rubber washers (to attach the motor to the lid).
And here is the Vectra Engine and Lid fully assembled. The wiper blade slides into a square hole located at the end of the Engine's extension stem. Users can adjust the blade in and out for optimal wiping distance. Another titanium screw locks down the blade into place.
A look-down view of the Vertex Engine over the Lid shows the motor assembly is completely encased in acrylic. Additionally, an O-ring between the Engine and Lid along with rubber gaskets used to secure the two components together results in a motor that is isolated from water/skimmate.
Since the motor assembly is so tightly sealed, it is susceptible to overheating if operated continuously for extended periods. Vertex recommends setting the Engine on a timer to operate a few minutes per day. Blue LED lights flash when the motor is activated.
The design is clearly drop-dead gorgeous, but how well does the automatic skimmer neck cleaner work? In two words: As advertised. Fit and finish was top notch as one would expect from a company such as Vertex. Assembly was a cinch. The motor is whisper quiet and reliable.
Most importantly, the Vectra effectively cleaned the skimmer neck. I observed both darker and more consistent skimmate production after using the Vectra for a month. Without the Vectra, my Vertex Alpha 200 protein skimmer would experience periods of lull in between skimming; This has been my experience with all skimmers I've ever owned. With the Vectra, skimmate production was more regular, with shorter production lulls. I was not all that surprised by the darker skimmate; Waste which had previously built up on the neck is now wiped and skimmed out.
The only criticism I have about the Vectra is its power cable. The cable is technically detachable by unscrewing the nut on the gland and pulling on the cable to detach the 2 pin connector from the circuit board. However, it's pretty clear this design was not meant for regular detachment (reattachment is an unpleasant chore and possibly impossible depending on how your skimmer is situated in your cabinet). I would like to see Vertex redesign the power cable with a detachable water-tight union. It is a major hassle - and accident prone - having to unplug the AC wall adapter to remove the collection cup (with AC adapter in tow) for servicing.
$200+ is a significant investment for a skimmer accessory. However, automatic skimmer cleaners like the Vertex Vectra significantly prolong service intervals. If you're like me, cleaning skimmer cups is one of the least desirable chores we do in our hobby.
I leave you with a parting shot of the Vectra Engine and Vectra lid on a Vertex Alpha 200 collection cup.
This unit was provided to Advanced Aquarist for this review.