Simplicity 120 vs Reef Octopus Essence S-130 (Part 2): Skimmers in Action

Simplicity 120 vs Reef Octopus Essence S-130 (Part 2): Skimmers in Action

In today’s article, we’ll be expanding on our Simplicity 120 vs Reef Octopus Essence S-130 review from a couple weeks ago to compare each skimmer’s performance. As you probably know, the goal for any skimmer is to remove as much waste as possible. Ideally, the skimmer will do this efficiently, quietly and without much fuss by the user.

Editor’s note: this article is a follow-up to our earlier review comparing the Specs and Features of the Simplicity 120 Protein Skimmer vs. Reef Octopus Essence S-130. If you haven’t already, give Part 1 of our comparison a read first: Simplicity 120 vs. Reef Octopus Essence S-130 (Part 1): An Out-of-the-Box Comparison.

We have broken up our comparison into two primary sections: (i) direct measurables, such as how much air the skimmer pulls in or how much noise it makes, and (ii) performance measurables, such as the quality of the skimmate / waste.


I. The Direct Measurables

1. Air Intake / Bubble Production

Air Intake

Assuming all other factors (like body shape and size, impeller design, and the pump) are the same, the more air a skimmer draws in, the more effective it will be. Although it is only one of many factors impacting skimmer performance, measuring the airflow provides an easy way to compare different skimmers.

Simplicity 120DCReef Octopus Essence S-130
Air Intake~480 liters / hour~480 liters / hour

Advantage: Toss Up

Both skimmers pull in about the same amount of air.

2. Volume of Body

In addition to the airflow,  the contact time between the air and water also significantly impacts performance. The larger the skimmer body, the more area for bubbles to contact the water, and why large skimmers’ diameter is typically bigger than smaller skimmers.

Simplicity 120DCReef Octopus Essence S-130
Volume of Body~160 cubic inches~205 cubic inches

Advantage: Reef Octopus Essence S-130

The larger body and innovative “Vortex Churn” bubble plate design of the Essence S-130 improves contact time between the air and water.

3. Decibels


The noise level has no impact on skimmer performance; however, it can impact product satisfaction.

Simplicity 120DCReef Octopus Essence S-130
Decibels63.3 Average63.3 Average

Advantage: Toss Up

There is not a significant difference in the noise level between the two skimmers.


II. The Performance Measurables

1. Tuning


Most skimmers have three adjustments: water depth, air intake, and the amount of water exiting the skimmer.

Water Depth

As the water depth increases, the water and bubbles inside a skimmer body will rise. Following the manufacturer’s recommendations for water level is essential for proper operation. If the sump’s water level is too high, raise the skimmer by building a platform out of egg crate.

Air Intake

Maximizing the amount of air intake is also essential to skimmer performance. While it may seem counterintuitive, the air intake increases as the airflow is restricted. The restricted airflow causes the pump motor to speed up, thereby pulling in more water and air.

Amount of Water Exiting Skimmer

Restricting the water flow exiting the skimmer forces the water higher in the skimmer’s body.  Without this adjustment point, a skimmer may make foam, but the bubbles may not make it up into the collection cup. The Simplicity 120DC uses a wedge pipe design, while the Reef Octopus Essence S-130 uses a gate valve to restrict water flow.

Tuning a skimmer can be done in a couple of ways:

  • Basic: Simply set the water depth and adjust the amount of water exiting the skimmer.
  • Advanced: Set the appropriate water depth, adjust the airflow, and adjust the amount of water exiting the skimmer.

The Reef Octopus skimmer only offers “basic” tuning as the air intake is preset for optimal performance. On the other hand, the Simplicity skimmer provides both basic and advanced tuning methods.

Simplicity 120DCReef Octopus Essence S-130
TuningBasic and Advanced Tuning OptionsBasic Tuning Option Only

Advantage: Toss Up

The Reef Octopus skimmer is likely the better choice for beginners as it only offers “basic” tuning and does not provide the ability to adjust the air intake. On the other hand, changing the Simplicity skimmer’s air intake provides more control over its performance.

2. Amount and Quality of Skimmate / Waste


Skimmate or skimmer waste contains a large percentage of water, so simply measuring the amount of waste in the collection cup won’t tell you which skimmer is removing more waste.

The better way to compare skimmer waste is to review both the amount of waste and the waste quality. As a general rule, the darker the skimmate, the more concentrated the waste. In contrast, the lighter the skimmate, the more water it contains. If two skimmers have similarly colored waste, then the skimmer removing more is generally considered the better performer.

For our comparison, we tuned both skimmers using the “basic” method leaving the air valve adjustment for the Simplicity skimmer completely open.

Simplicity 120DCReef Octopus Essence S-130
Water Comparison~3/4 Cup of tea-colored waste~1 Cup of tea-colored waste

Advantage: Toss Up

The Reef Octopus skimmer produces more waste. However, given its body size is about 20% larger, this is not unexpected.

In all honesty, both of these are solid skimmers. While we would love to have you purchase our Simplicity skimmer, (it does have a better warranty and costs less…) both skimmers are solid value purchases!

We hope you enjoyed our Simplicity 120 vs Reef Octopus Essence S-130 followup on each skimmer’s performance. While this is our own honest and professional assessment of these two products, we’re curious to hear what our readers think.  Please feel free to drop us a line and let us know your own experience using these two great products.

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