You can find plenty of mini-skimmers in the market, but there none that really comes as close to the Comline DOC 9001 by Tunze.
Why is it probably the best mini-skimmer out there?
One of the critical features of this skimmer is its ease of installation.
The skimmer comes to a sturdy magnet holder that can hold the skimmer through the glass as thick as 3/8″.
No need to fight with your skimmer to accurately mount it on the tank, all you have to do is just attach it making sure it’s on the water line and plug it in.
The skimmer is made for Nano-tanks and is rated for tanks up to 37 gallons, and its compact size certainly makes it easier to make room for it inside the tank.
Another feature of this skimmer is the silencer that allows the skimmer to operate quietly without causing any disturbance.
Sure this skimmer is a lot of things, compact, efficient, easy to install, but cheap isn’t really one of them.
If you want to all of these features, it’s going to cost you much more than other alternative skimmer.
Simple and easy to install
Very quiet operation
Compact size allows it to settle inside most tanks
Not cheap as compared to other skimmers
The problem of micro-bubbles may need to be tuned out
How Does A Protein Skimmer Work?
Have you ever gone to the seashore and noticed the foam that comes along with the waves?
That is nature’s way of stripping off the organic waste from the ocean.
Now you may wonder:
What does a protein skimmer has to do with any of this?
Protein skimmers work by mixing tiny, charged bubbles with water extracted from the aquarium.
These charged bubbles attract all the organic waste or dissolved organic compounds (DOC), merge together into foam (known as Skimmate), and then travel to a collection cup from where it can be discarded.
While this process is going on, some oxygen is simultaneously being combined with the water that is returning to the aquarium. And we all know that the more oxygen water has, then it is for the invertebrates and coral.
If you’ve recognize it, this is actually the same process as the foaming in the sea.
Benefits of Using A Protein Skimmer
A protein skimmer can have several benefits to aquarium owners. Here are some:
They Improve The Health of Your Fish
Water with lots of waste and protein compounds welcome the growth of bacteria.
This bacteria causes outbreaks of diseases and can sometimes be detrimental to their health.
A protein skimmer removes this organic waste before it has time to become food for the bacteria and as a result, dramatically improves the overall health of both your fish and coral.
They Hinder The Growth of Algae
Everyone knows that algae growth in your tank can be a massive headache.
It can completely destroy the overall look of your tank and can be challenging to clean again and again.
Protein skimmer reduces the protein content of your water before it becomes food for algae and encourages its growth.
They Help Keep Your Water Clear
Dissolved organic compounds in your water can make it yellowish and cause it to take a murky appearance with time.
This dirty water can be harmful to both the plant life and fish in your tank. Cloudy water does not allow light to pass through, which is essential for your plants to survive.
A protein skimmer rids the water off of this waste compounds which allows your water to maintain its clarity for much duration.
They Stabilize The pH and Oxygen Levels of The Water
Protein skimmers help by discouraging the buildup of carbon dioxide and allows the water in maintaining a stable pH level.
Some species of fish require the pH level to be within a particular range to survive, so leaving these organic compounds in the water might threaten their health.
The use of a protein skimmer also increases the oxygen levels in the water, contributing to better living conditions for both the invertebrates and the plants.
Should You Buy A Protein Skimmer?
This is an essential question for everyone buying these machines, are protein skimmer really that necessary for an aquarist?
First, you need to realize that water change is a crucial aspect of maintaining a healthy and clean aquarium.
Many aquarists prefer to do this manually; however, this has to be done quite frequently to ensure that your water does not harm your fish. A protein skimmer, on the other hand, does this whole process for you.
You won’t be needing to make frequent water changes once you get your hands on a protein skimmer.
All the organic waste will be filtered out automatically, and all you’ll have to do would be to clean the collection container.
Hence, the water will stay cleaner and clearer for a more extended period.
But you might be wondering:
Is it really necessary to spend so much money on a protein skimmer?
Right now you may think that it’s irrational to spend so much money on a protein skimmer, but it will definitely be worth it in the long run and will save you lots of time and effort doing manual water changes.
So although buying a protein skimmer is not absolutely necessary, it does makes the job a whole lot easier.
Factors Affecting Protein Skimmers
For anyone who’s looking to buy a protein skimmer, it would obviously be hugely beneficial to know what to look for and what to avoid.
Unfortunately, here’s where things can begin to get even more complicated for some people.
Here, it gets worse:
Because protein skimmers are such complex machines with lots of different parts, to find one which is a perfect fit for your needs may seem to be impossible. But that’s not always the case.
Just like any other machine or product, there are some key factors which one must carefully study to get as close as possible to buy the perfect protein skimmer for their needs.
Here is a list of all of those factors explained in detail:
If by now, you have figured out how protein skimmers work, you would agree that bubbles play a crucial role in how well a protein skimmer performs.
There are two main things to look out for; the size of the bubbles and the number of bubbles that the skimmer produces.
So here’s the deal:
Bubbles are the medium which attract all the organic impurities from the water. Considering this, smaller bubbles are favored over larger ones as they provide a larger surface area.
So the point here is that the smaller the bubbles your protein skimmer produces, the better filtration it provides.
Needle Wheel Skimmers are one type of protein skimmers that have the potential to produce some of the finest bubbles as the impeller within the skimmer cuts small bubbles into even smaller ones.
The second most important factor is the follow-up of the first one.
We established that bubbles are in-charge of carrying the protein compounds out of the water, so it would only make sense to buy a protein skimmer that produces as many bubbles as possible.
Because more bubbles mean a larger combined surface area that attracts even more impurities from the water, hence removing even more contaminants than skimmers that can produce only small volumes of bubbles.
Bubbles in the water need time to react with the protein compounds within. And the more time the bubbles get with the water, the more impurities they can draw.
Contact time plays a vital role as to how much protein compounds can the bubbles pull and filter out of the water.
And since contact time is related to the flow-thru rate of the skimmer, we will head to the next factor.
The flow-thru rate is the pace at which a skimmer cycles the water to allow it to come in contact with the bubbles and leaves the skimmer filtered.
We have learned that longer contact time is better as it allows the bubbles to attract more impurities.
Therefore, it would only make sense to have a slow flow-thru rate and provide the bubbles with as much time as possible, right?
Although providing the bubbles with a longer contact time will make them draw more organic waste, this can become very inefficient for someone with, suppose a 100-gallon tank or more.
It would take forever for the skimmer to filter only a small portion of the water, while the rest will remain polluted.
However, this lower flow-thru rate with more contact time would be optimal for someone with a much smaller tank.
So here’s the deal:
What you need is a skimmer that has neither too high nor too low of a flow-thru rate. This would be an excellent fit for people with medium-sized tanks.
Hence, if you have a larger tank, you should be looking for a skimmer that has a slightly faster flow-thru rate to filter the entire water at the cost of a little less contact time.
Similarly, for someone with a smaller tank, the volume of water within their tank will also be less, and so a slower flow-thru rate would be ideal as filtering large quantities of water would be the least of their concerns.
Types of Protein Skimmers
There are myriads of protein skimmers available in the market with different parts and capabilities.
This can cause quite a lot of confusion, especially for beginners who are not that familiar with the needs of their aquarium.
So we have created a list of the most common types of protein skimmers used today and how they work.
These air driven skimmers are perhaps one of the most common and efficient types of skimmers you can purchase.
How do they work?
Countercurrent skimmers use airstones, sometimes along with an air pump, to produce bubbles from the bottom of the water column. On the top, a water inlet launches the water into the column from above, and this creates a kind of vortex that mixes the water with the bubbles.
Once the water is cleansed, the skimmate then travels to the collection cup from where it can be discarded.
Pros: The reason for the popularity of countercurrent skimmers is their ability to maintain the consistency with which they produce foam.
They are also well-known for making the best volume of bubbles to filter water.
Cons: The downside of buying a countercurrent skimmers is that they require a longer contact time between the bubbles and the water to filter it better.
This means a more extended water column is preferred, which takes up much more space than other types of skimmers.
More so, countercurrent skimmers have a terrible reputation for requiring frequent maintenance and tuning to work at their best, which makes them costlier to operate.
The Venturi skimmers are highly effective protein skimmers that rely on the ‘Venturi Effect’ to create bubbles in the skimmer.
One of the main components of the Venturi skimmer is the Venturi valve, through which a powerful water pump injects water and fine bubbles are ejected towards the water column for filtration.
Here’s where thing get a little complex:
Inside the Venturi valve is a conical tube into which a pump pushes water with power. As the tube gets narrower and water is forced through a small section, a sudden decrease in pressure results which draws in air and hence thousands of tiny bubbles are created.
In the case of Venturi skimmers, the quality of the water pump that injects the water into the valve is highly essential.
There are a variety of pumps available in the market, thus investing in a right pump that’s reliable and produces a high pressure is crucial.
Pros: These skimmers tend to be smaller than countercurrent skimmers and thus are a better choice for smaller aquariums or spaces.
More so, they still produce large amounts of bubbles and filter water just as good as other skimmers despite their smaller size.
Cons: A reason why some people are hesitant when buying a Venturi skimmer is that they can get very noisy.
Also, the Venturi valve which produces bubbles can get clogged from time to time, which worsens the skimmers performance.
As the name suggests, impeller skimmers use a unique impeller to convert the air bubbles into an even finer foam basically.
Because the most effective protein skimmers are the ones that produce the finest bubbles, impeller skimmers are among the best of their kind.
They work by initially using the same mechanism as a Venturi skimmers, using a valve into which water is injected, and the air is sucked in.
Here comes the best part:
The air then travels into a water pump where the impeller comes into action. The impeller then turns this air into thousands of tiny bubbles and mixes them with water.
And as we know, smaller bubbles equals better filtration.
These skimmers are also more commonly known as ‘Needle Wheel Skimmers’ due to the shape of the impeller.
Pros: Impellor skimmers are some of the most efficient and cost-effective skimmers available in the market.
They are capable of producing loads of foam with excellent density while still being compact in size.
Cons: An impellor skimmer might require the replacing of the impellor after some time, but other than that, they do not face any other pressing issues.
Can you use protein skimmers in freshwater aquariums?
You can use protein skimmers in freshwater aquariums, but they don’t work as well as they do in saltwater aquariums.
This is because a protein skimmer relies on the production of bubbles to attract the organic compounds, and freshwater doesn’t seem to bubble as good as salt water does.
Do you need a filter if you have a protein skimmer?
A protein skimmer basically serves the same function as a filter in addition to removing the organic waste before it turns into toxic gases for the fish.
So there may no longer be a need for a filter if you already have a protein skimmer.
What size skimmer should you buy?
Although there is a common belief that you should always buy a skimmer that’s rated for more gallons than you actually have, this is actually just a myth.
Another factor that plays a role in this decision is the bioload of your tank. Obviously, the more fish you have, the more waste they produce.
Considering all of this, our general recommendation would be to match the rating of your choice of the skimmer as close to the tank capacity as possible, as this will provide the best results.