When I first started off with my saltwater aquarium I had no idea what a Protein Skimmer even was. I came form a freshwater aquarium so I knew the basic need for filtration but never heard of a skimmer. The ‘not knowing’ was a huge set back for me. I didn’t know what one was so avoided getting one. Its one reason why it took me so long to get into the hobby.
Later in the hobby I ended up getting a small nano skimmer that was cheap, just to see what they did and if it would benefit my system. Safe to say the cheap one was rubbish. It was so much more hassle that it was worth. In a fit of rage I binned it and ordered a more expensive one. Small waste of time and money. Obviously I sulked like a baby until the new one turned up…
…and it was the best thing I did.
What it is? What it does?
A Protein Skimmer is a piece of equipment that is used within the marine aquarium to remove waste from the water column.
There are many types of Protein skimmers that come in a range of shapes and sizes but they all do the same job in virtually the same way.
A Protein Skimmer (also referred to as a foam fractionator) is a piece of equipment used in a saltwater aquarium in order to remove dissolved organic compounds and other harmful substances that need to be removed from the aquarium water column. If these organics are not removed they can breakdown in the aquarium or filter and add to the biological load.
They remove these dissolved organic compounds (lets use DOC for short as typing this over and over will get a tad frustrating) from the water using air bubbles that are collected in a collection cup. As the air and water are mixed in the skimmers chamber the bubbles rise and take with them the DOC that are attracted to the bubbles surface. When the bubbles with the proteins, DOC and other nasty stuff bubble up to the skimmer they are collected in the skimmers collection cup where they can be removed from the aquarium.
Think about the ocean, when the waves crash on the shore you sometimes see a lot of foam nearby. This is the ocean water mixing with the air as the waves hit the land. The foam is the waste that has been removed from the water and often ends up been washed up the beach. This is one way nature removes waste from the ocean.
Seen as we don’t have waves, crashing or shores in the aquarium we will have to settle with the Protein skimmer.
TIP – If you still don’t know how one works and still feel confused simply go on YouTube and type in protein skimmers in action. You will soon see what they do and the stuff that they remove from the water. This alone will make you want to get one.
Why its Useful?
Some of the advantages of getting a Protein Skimmer are;
- Skimmers can act like the lungs of the aquarium. As they mix the water with the air they help increase the dissolved oxygen levels in an aquarium.
- As stated above they remove DOC before they get a chance to breakdown.
- They can help lead to a more stable pH since less DOC are in the system.
- They help to keep the overall health and vigor to the tanks inhabitants as waste is getting removed via the skimmers collection cup.
There are a few drawbacks to skimmers such as noise and cost, but I personally would not go without having one on my system.
Which one to get?
TIP – Don’t buy a cheap skimmer, it is worth saving up and getting a recommended make such as a tunze or bubble mag. as you get what you pay for with skimmers.
There are two main types of skimmers. Air Stone and Pump skimmers, Below are a few of the skimmers I have used and had great success with. Simply click on the link to view the skimmer.
# Air Stone
A simple skimmer design that uses an air stone to produce the bubbles. These days they are less common that the pump kind but still effective. These tend to be cheaper than other skimmers but you normally have to buy the air stone and skimmer separately.
This is a basic pump that pushes air through the air stone producing the bubbles.
This is one model I have used in the past and it worked really well. The only issue I had was how tall it was, but if you have the room and want an air stone skimmer, this is a good choice.
The fact the skimmer is so tall is actually an advantage and makes the skimmer really efficient as the bubbles are in contact with the water for a longer period of time. Longer time in contact = more waste they can potentially remove.
# Pump Skimmers
These use a pump to supply the water movement and drag the bubbles form the air mechanically. They are more commonly found within the home aquarium as they are readily available. I personally prefer these skimmers.
The Tunze skimmers are compact and ideal for the nano aquarium. I currently run a Tunze 9001 and it works great. Small, easy on the eyes and compact they are an effective design. They are easy to set and the waste I get off mine is amazing. As far as skimmers go these are reasonably quiet.
The Bubble Magus Skimmer is one of the most commonly used skimmer in the trade as they are effective and durable. I am getting one of these for my upgrade. They come in a range of sizes, the bigger the number (5, 7, 9) the bigger the skimmer is (bigger skimmer = larger water volume). I have heard a lot of good things from this type of skimmer as they aren’t to expensive and work extremely well.
TIP – if you are struggling to install/ set your chosen skimmer, type the name of the skimmer in YouTube as there is most likely a tutorial on how to properly install them and often reviews of the skimmers performance as well.
Overall I think a skimmer is a great addition to any home aquarium and I would not run a saltwater tank without one. Although I have only mentioned a few skimmers there are many more available. I only mention these specific ones as they are the ones I have personally used.
I Hope you found this helpful, if not please let us know what else we can do to help. Remember, Just ask! There is no such thing as a stupid question.