“Is there a way out of these regular water changes?”
Has this question ever struck your mind?
If it has, then you’re at the right place.
But wait, what’s the solution to this? Protein Skimmers!
And we’re here to discuss just that.
So if you’re still interested, let’s hop into it.
13 Best Protein Skimmers
What is A Protein Skimmer?
You might have heard about aquarists using protein skimmers time after time, but for some people, only the name of this device can start causing confusion.
And although understanding the purpose of a protein skimmer can be difficult for some, we have laid it all out in the easiest way for you to understand.
In simple terms, a protein skimmer is a type of filter that cleans out all the impurities from the water that a regular filter cannot.
Most of these impurities are organic waste such as food and feces that dissolve in the water and makes it harmful for your fish.
Now here’s where things start to take off:
If all of this organic waste lingers in the water for too long, it starts to turn into ammonia and then into nitrite, which is basically poison for your fish.
This is where protein skimmers come in and do the dirty work for you.
They eliminate the need for water changes required to rid the water of these harmful gases, saving you a lot of effort and allowing your fish to live a healthier life.
Best Protein Skimmer Detailed Product Reviews
1. Instant Ocean SeaClone Protein Skimmer, External Hang-On or In-Sump
- Brand: Instant Ocean
- Weight: 3.3 pounds
- Capacity: 100 gallons
- Dimensions: 6.25 x 20.75 x 4 in
Here’s the deal:
If you are either shopping on a really low-budget, or are a beginner who doesn’t wants to invest several hundred dollars at once, you have come to the right place.
Because the Instant Ocean SeaClone is the perfect protein skimmer for you.
It is a Turbo-Venturi skimmer that comes with a powerful MaxiJet 1200 Pro Powerhead pump to inject water at high speeds.
More so, skimmer comes in two sizes, for a 100-gallon and a 150-gallon tank.
But it gets better:
You also have the option to place this skimmer either in your sump or hang it on the back, whatever is more convenient for you.
All you need to do is tweak the air control valve according to your needs and you’ll start seeing the collection cup filling up with that nasty froth!
- Affordable yet effective
- Can filter huge volumes of water in little time
- Easy to setup either In-Sump or Hang-On the tank
- Has a transparent water column that forms a cool vortex
- Requires regular maintenance to run effectively
- Has to be tuned to perform at its best
- Might produce some noise
- Needs lots of space to be installed In-Sump
2. SCA-302 180 Gallon Protein Skimmer
- Brand: SC Aquariums
- Weight: 10.1 pounds
- Capacity: 180 gallons
- Dimensions: 9 x 18 x 9.5 inches
If you thought that buying an amazing protein skimmer for your humongous tank would cost you a fortune, you’re wrong!
Because the SCA-302 is a complete package that comes with everything you ever wanted with a mind-blowing price.
The SCA-302 that runs by with the help of the Atman 2000 Needle Impeller Pump produces some of the finest bubbles with excellent filtering abilities.
More importantly, the skimmer can handle volumes up to 180-gallons and can extract loads of gunk from your water.
The skimmer comes with a large collection cup with a unique silencer, in case you’re worried about your skimmer making a lot of noise.
All-in-all, the compact size of the SCA-302 allows you to place the skimmer as you like without having to worry about it taking too much space.
You may have to take into consideration that this skimmer is in fact, made up of plastic and might break due to mishandling.
Also, regular maintenance will probably be necessary to keep the protein skimmer running at its best.
Taking all of these factors into account, the SCA-302’s incredible capabilities combined with its amazingly low price makes it one of the best budget skimmer for larger tanks in the market.
- Easy to assemble
- Has a strong yet quieter pump than other skimmers
- Very Affordable
- Comes with a 1-year warranty
- Body may not be durable as it’s made of plastic
- Silencer integrated into collection cup makes it harder to disassemble
- Requires maintenance from time to time
3. Simplicity 240DC Protein Skimmer
- Brand: Simplicity
- Weight: 8.5 pounds
- Capacity: 240 gallons
- Dimensions: 8.3 x 7.9 x 19.5 inches
The Simplicity 240DC is the protein skimmer for people who want to get the performance of a high-end skimmer yet don’t want to pay the price of one.
Because you have to trust us:
This protein skimmer blows its competition out of the water when you compare what you get for the price you pay.
I mean even their motto is “Simple. Effective. Affordable”!
And the 240DC surely lives up to it.
One of the highlights of the 240DC lies at the heart of the skimmer.
That is it’s incredibly powerful and energy efficient DC motor.
The motor also powers a needle wheel impeller that produces some of the finest bubbles.
Not only this, the motor is controllable through a separate digital controller that can adjust the speed and displays the power consumption of the motor.
And to top it off, the motor is tranquil, so no more feeling like you’re sitting near a jet engine!
But what about its construction?
The 240DC is built with high-quality acrylic that ensures durability.
The skimmer also has an adjustable air intake along with a cone-shaped design that increases contact time for effective skimming.
More so, the twist lock cap and the thumbscrew assembly allow for easy cleaning and maintenance of the skimmer.
Other than that, the protein skimmer can handle skim tanks up to an impressive 240-gallons considering they have a lower bioload.
But in the end, it’s the price of this skimmer that makes it one of the best skimmers you can buy.
- Excellent build quality makes it durable and long-lasting
- Powerful, efficient and quiet DC motor
- Easy to disassemble and clean
- Comes with a 2 year warranty on skimmer (1 year for the motor)
- Great Value
- May not perform as expected for larger tank volumes
4. Reef Octopus Classic 110-INT Needle Wheel Protein Skimmer for Aquarium
- Brand: Reef Octopus
- Capacity: 100 gallons
- Dimensions: 10.6″ x 6.75″ x 19.75″
- Pump: Aquatrance 1000s Pinwheel Pump
- Wattage: 9watts
If you are even a little familiar with the world of protein skimmers, then you probably would have heard of Reef Octopus.
Being known for producing some of the highest quality skimmers, this Classic 110-INT is yet another example of combining ease of use with excellent performance in an affordable package.
Let’s start with the basics:
The Reef Octopus Classic 110-INT is a Venturi skimmer with a needle wheel impeller.
This is powered by the Aquatrance 1000 pump that produces some of the finest bubbles amongst other skimmers.
More than that, the Classic 110-INT allows for easy assembly right out of the box and with a little tuning, will soon be filtering your aquarium like a champ.
The overall body of the skimmer is built from durable acrylic and features a cone design that allows smooth transition from bubbles into the cup.
It also has a quick release function that allows you to empty the collection cup with any effort.
Furthermore, the flow valve allows you to adjust the bubbles level to achieve the best results easily.
The skimmer is rated for tanks up to a 100-gallon and is built for In-Sump use.
But that’s not all:
Reef Octopus has made this protein skimmer quite affordable for people who can spend some extra cash in exchange for long-term satisfaction.
Even though the price may not be ideal for a complete beginner shopping on a low-budget, extending your budget range for this skimmer will eventually benefit you in the long-run.
- Built from durable, high quality acrylic
- Features a powerful, needle wheel pump for finer bubbles
- Easy to assemble right out of the box
- Amazing value for the money
- Some people have complained about the pump being noisy
- Might require some tuning and time to start working at its best
5. Macro Aqua M-50 Mini Hang-on External Protein Skimmer, 60 Gallon
- Brand: Macro Aqua
- Weight: 2.2 pounds
- Capacity: 60 gallons
- Dimensions: 5.5 x 5.5 x 13.5 inches
The Marco Aqua M-50 is yet another one of our favorite low-budget skimmers.
But is being cheap all what it’s about?
Not at all.
Our real reason for recommending this skimmer is due to its simplicity and ease of use.
This skimmer is a hang-on-back unit that features a compact size for small aquariums and barely takes any effort to install.
The pump of the skimmer that also uses a needle-wheel impeller for finer bubble production makes it much more effective in removing waste material from the water.
More so, the collection cup of the skimmer has a design that allows you to easily empty it and also has an overflow box to avoid a possible spill.
Some people have complained that the skimmer bubbles overflow out of the top; however, the solution to that lies in using the adjustment knobs to fine-tune the skimmer.
Also, people have brought forth an issue of microbubbles.
This problem has been known to appear in the first few days of the skimmer and will probably disappear within a week.
In conclusion, the Macro Aqua M-50 is an efficient and compact skimmer that makes it worth it in the end due to its affordability.
- Compact hang-on-back design makes it perfect for small tanks
- Ease of use in setup and maintenance
- Needle wheel impeller and efficient bubble production
- Amazing affordability makes it ideal for beginners
- May overflow if not tuned properly
- Micro bubbles may form at the beginning of use
6. Bubble Magus BM-Curve 7 Protein Skimmer
- Brand: Bubble Magus
- Weight: 11 pounds
- Capacity: 240 gallons
- Dimensions: 28 x 10 x 12 inches
Amongst the range of the best mid-ranged protein skimmers, the Bubble Magus BM-Curve 7 is definitely one of the strongest competitors out there.
Why do we hold it in such high regards?
To put it simply, you’ll never have to worry about buying another skimmer for a long time once you get your hands on this.
Let’s start with perhaps the most crucial part, the pump.
The BM-Curve 7 has an SP1000 internal, needle wheel pump that goes along with a Venturi intake to produce the perfect amount and size of bubbles.
This leads us to the next part of the skimmer, which is the body.
Bubble Magus has created a curved body for the skimmer that not only looks beautiful but provides the bubbles ease in rising to the collection cup.
The collection cup features a quick-release function and a drain that allows you to empty the skimmate with great ease.
It can handle tanks with volumes up to 240-gallons.
You will also find that it has an air-silencer that makes the skimmer much quieter.
Finally, another great feature is the compact size of the skimmer, which makes it easy to place inside your sump.
For the price, the Bubble Magus BM-Curve 7 is definitely one of our favorites, and there’s no hesitating in saying that it’s an amazing value.
- Beautiful curved design that provides function as well
- Powerful internal needle-wheel pump
- Quick-release collection cup with drain
- Air silencer makes it incredibly quiet
- No instructions on how to setup the skimmer
7. Reef Octopus Classic 152-S Protein Skimmer
- Brand: Reef Octopus
- Weight: 16 pounds
- Capacity: 150 gallons
- Footprint: 10.4in x 8.1in
- Total Height: 20.7in
- Pump: Aquatrance 1800s Pinwheel Pump
- Wattage: 11watts
For people looking to spend a little extra cash in order to get a quality skimmer, you have landed at the right place.
Because with the Reef Octopus Classic 152-S, you won’t have to worry about getting into the trouble of buying a new skimmer every now and then.
Reef Octopus has a name in the industry for producing some of the finest and most reliable skimmers.
And the Reef Octopus Classic 152-S is no different.
To start, the skimmer runs an Aquatrance 1800s pump that also has a needle-wheel impeller and requires a low-wattage.
The main body of the skimmer is crafted from durable acrylic and has a curved shape to it to help bubbles rise smoothly to the collection cup.
More so, the body has a convenient design that allows you to disassemble the whole thing when it requires maintenance easily.
Although the skimmer is rated for up to a 150-gallons, that is the rating for a tank with a lower bioload.
Overall, the pump also operates silently and the whole skimmer is very compact and allows it to be easily placed in-sump.
- Solid build-quality from a reliable manufacturer
- Aquatrance 1800s is very efficient and long-lasting
- Worth the price in the long run
- Compact design allows easy installation in-sump
- Might not be affordable for everyone
8. Reef Octopus Classic 100-HOB Protein Skimmer
- Brand: Reef Octopus
- Weight: 8.6 pounds
- Capacity: 105 gallons
- Footprint: 8″ X 3.75″, 17″ tall
- Pump: Aquatrance 1000
If you’re short on space and are looking for a reliable hang-on-back protein skimmer, then look no further.
Because Reef Octopus has brought us this incredible skimmer that’s not only compact in terms of size but price as well.
The skimmer comes with an Aquatrance 1000 pinwheel pump, which is not only highly efficient but sturdy as well.
More so, it barely takes any effort to install the skimmer onto the tank.
The body of the skimmer is made from high-quality acrylic, and the skimmer has a large collection cup to store all the skimmate it pulls out of the water.
Another great feature of the skimmer is that the pump doesn’t make any sound or annoys anybody.
Also, the pump is rated for aquariums up to 105-gallons.
Finally, it’s the price of this skimmer that makes the skimmer worth every penny.
Reef Octopus has long been known for producing high-quality skimmers that are very reliable and long-lasting.
So for people looking for a budget skimmer, saving a little extra cash to spend on this skimmer will be worth it in the long-run.
- Compact, HOB design perfect for people with limited space
- Efficient Aquatrance pump built to last a long time
- Reliable brand known for making quality skimmer
- Excellent value considering the affordable price
- You may have to figure out how to install it as no instructions present
9. Coralife Super Protein Skimmer
- Brand: Coralife
- Weight: 5 pounds
- Capacity: 65 gallons
- Dimensions: 4.2 x 5.5 x 20.8 inches
If you’re into the latest innovation in skimmers, the Coralife Super Protein Skimmer is here just to do that.
This hang-on-back or in-sump skimmer combines some of the latest and greatest with affordability.
To start, the skimmer features a powerful needle wheel pump that is unique to Coralife which combined with a Venturi system, produces excellent bubble volumes.
It also has dual injection inlets to improve contact time and provide better filtration.
Why do we recommend it to beginners?
Because it is one of the easiest skimmers to setup.
Even though the skimmer lacks some instructions on how to piece it together, it is quite easy to do so.
You do have to take a little care in installing the skimmer properly to avoid any kind of problem.
The skimmer is available in 3 sizes and prices that can handle three different capacities.
Overall, for the little extra price over cheaper skimmer, this one is more efficient and is of a better quality.
- Efficient pump with excellent bubble production
- Easy to put together for beginners
- Better than other cheaper alternatives
- Filters water very effectively
- Overflow problems must be avoided by tuning the skimmer
- Some have complained the skimmer stops working after a few months
10. Aquatic Life 115 Mini Internal Protein Skimmer
- Brand: Aquatic Life
- Weight: 1.55 pounds
- Capacity: 30 gallons
- Dimensions: 3.2 x 3.5 x 10.6 inches
- Pump Wattage: 8 watts
- Collection cup volume: 3.4oz/100ml
Let’s suppose you don’t have a gigantic 250-gallon aquarium with a ton of fishes, so it wouldn’t make sense for you to spend hundreds of dollars on these large skimmers, would it?
That’s why we have reviewed the Aquatic Life 115 for people with smaller aquariums.
This mini protein skimmer comes in a smart, compact size that’s small enough to be mounted in smaller tanks and filtration compartments, measuring only 3.2 x 3.5 x 10.6 inches.
But small size is not what this skimmer is all about:
It runs an 8-watt needle wheel impeller pump that is not only highly efficient but also provides excellent filtration.
You further have the option to tweak the water flow through knobs.
Most people have done this since they faced the problem of micro-bubbles, but this usually goes away after the first few days.
The skimmer has a 30-gallon rating, which are Nano-tanks.
Some people noted that even though the skimmer was very compact, they had trouble fitting it in their aquarium.
So taking measurements before purchasing this skimmer would probably be in your best interest.
Overall, the Aquatic Life 115 comes at a very affordable price and provides excellent filtration for the money you pay.
- Very compact and easily fits into most Nano-tanks
- Efficient and silent pump
- Easy to install
- Comes at a very affordable price
- May overproduce micro-bubbles at the beginning
- The skimmer may not fit in some tanks
11. Marine Color RDC 150 Hanging On internal Needle Wheel Protein Skimmer
- Brand: Marine Color
- Weight: 2.6 pounds
- Capacity: 40 gallons
- Pump: Red Devil SP1
- Power: 7.8W
If you feel that smaller tank folks are often neglected, then here’s another review of an amazing skimmer.
And the Marine Color RDC 150 is one of our favorites.
Because the skimmer not only performs flawlessly but is also very aesthetically pleasing.
The body of the skimmer is made out of the durable acrylic material and follows a red and white theme which is visible through the pipes and fittings.
It uses a needle wheel pump like most other high-quality skimmer for excellent efficiency and air-to-water mixture.
The skimmer has an internal hang-on design and can easily fit most small tanks and with a little adjustment, will start filtering all the gunk out of your water.
Some people have had trouble with getting the aquarium to hang on the skimmer and have had luck with placing it in the sump.
In conclusion, this is a reliable and efficient skimmer for an affordable price, especially for people with smaller tanks.
- Great aesthetics and stylish body
- Small footprint allows easy installation in tank
- Efficient needle-wheel pump
- The skimmer may not hang correctly on some tanks
12. Coral Vue Technology AC20287 Octopus Needle Wheel Skimmer
- Brand: Coral Vue Technology
- Weight: 11.7 pounds
- Capacity: 210 gallons
- Pump: Reef Octopus 6-inch pinwheel pump
For people who have huge 200+ gallon tanks, the Coral Vue Technology AC20287 is truly one of the greatest skimmers out there.
And even though it’s not the cheapest one out there, it will definitely be worth the extra money in the long run.
The skimmer is driven by Reef Octopus 6-inch pinwheel pump that can process a ton of water very quickly.
It further features a high-quality acrylic body that’s made to last a long period.
More so, the cone shape of the body allows bubbles to smoothly rise up to the collection cup, which has a quick-release function for easy cleaning.
The whole body of the skimmer is easy to assemble or disassemble, making regular maintenance much easier.
You will also find a gate valve on the skimmer that will allow you to control the water levels according to your preferences.
The skimmer is made to be placed inside a sump, and its size will easily allow you to place it in.
Finally, the skimmer can handle tanks up to 210 gallons and is priced just like that as well.
But considering the reliability of the company and their skimmer and how long they last, we think it’s worth every penny.
- Powerful Reef Octopus Pinwheel pump
- Easy assembly of the body allows ease in maintenance as well
- Hailea OTP pumps allow even better foam production
- Reliable manufacturer and skimmer built to last a long time
- The price might be a little too much for some people
13. Comline DOC Protein Skimmer 9001
- Brand: Tunze
- Weight: 1.8 pounds
- Capacity: 37 gallons
- Footprint: 4.3 x 2.5 x 8.5 Inch
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.