One of the most important parts to any modern reef aquarium is an aquarium protein skimmer. An aquarium protein skimmer performs all the maintenance of traditional hang on the back filters, canister filters and even a refugium.

Although there are many disagreements about how to filter a saltwater aquarium, more and more hobbyists are agreeing that having an aquarium protein skimmer makes aquarium maintenance much easier. This is because a quality aquarium skimmer removes organic waste from the aquarium, while others rely on bacteria or filter pads to break down the waste until the cartridge is rinsed or replaced.

How Does an Aquarium Protein Skimmer Work?

An aquarium protein skimmer works by mixing air with water to create tiny bubbles. Waste or proteins attach to these bubbles and rise to the surface of the protein skimmer body. When the bubble pops the waste is released in the collection cup and is no long contaminating the water. Popular methods of producing bubbles are needle wheel, venturi, counter current and air stone. A refugium can be effective for reducing nitrates, but most aquarists don’t have enough room to keep a refugium large enough to mirror the effectiveness a protein skimmer can provide. That doesn’t mean you can’t run both an aquarium protein skimmer and a refugium. A Protein Skimmer requires a certain amount of surface tension to function and will not work in freshwater tanks, only saltwater.

Aquarium Protein Skimmer Tips

Protein Skimmer

Generally you should buy the best protein skimmer your budget can afford, so that you don’t have to upgrade to a large aquarium protein skimmer later. Other than lighting and a good reverse osmosis unit, this probably one of the most important parts of a saltwater aquarium. Needle wheel aquarium skimmers have proven to be very effective at removing waste. In fact, they have really pushed the saltwater aquarium industry forward because they allowed hobbyists to keep more difficult creatures that required cleaner water. The best protein skimmer brands are the Octopus Protein Skimmer and ASM Protein Skimmer lines. These skimmers are really the best bang for the buck. You’ll find them in a few fish specialty stores, but the best place to start your search for an aquarium protein skimmer is online. Purchase the best Protein Skimmer your budget can afford. Typically a Protein Skimmer under $100 will be difficult to adjust, is likely to break and will provide minimal filtration power. It is better to spend more money once and get a great Protein Skimmer, rather than buying a poor skimmer and then having to upgrade.

Selecting a Protein Skimmer

When selecting a Protein Skimmer consider whether it will be used in sump or will Hang on the Back of the aquarium. Hang on the back skimmers are typically suitable for aquariums up to 55 gallons, whereas some in sump skimmers are made for aquariums over 1000 gallons! When researching your skimmer, a general rule of thumb is to take the manufactures suggested rating and divide by two. For example, a protein skimmer rated for 220 gallons, would be best suited for an aquarium up to 110 gallons. Most aquarists will agree it is better to have more filtration than less, so take into consideration the number of fish you plan to keep and the ideal water quality needed by any corals in the system. Please note, some aquarists believe that you can remove too many nutrients from the water by overskimming, these hobbyists have their protein skimmers on a timer to run during specific times of the day or do not use a Protein Skimmer at all.

A Protein Skimmer is not necessary for a saltwater reef aquarium, but many hobbyists discover that it makes the hobby much easier. This subject is often a topic of intense debate and whether you choose to use a Protein Skimmer or another method of filtration is your choice. The purpose of filtration is to maintain a particular level of water quality, so always buy the best protein skimmer you can afford.