Hang on Back Protein Skimmers: 5 High-Rated Units Shortlisted

Anyone keeping a reef aquarium knows a protein skimmer is important for maintaining good water quality. No serious reef keeper would be without a protein skimmer.

But what if you don’t have a sump or room under your tank for a protein skimmer? The good news is that there are Hang On Back (HOB) protein skimmers that are easy to install and don’t require a sump or to be positioned under the aquarium.

My recommended HOB skimmer is the CPR Bak-Pak 2, keep reading for more options!

We’ll review the top HOB protein skimmers you should consider for your reef aquarium. But first, let’s look at what a protein skimmer does and why you need one.

Dissolved organics in the reef aquarium

How Do Protein Skimmers Work?

Do I really need a protein skimmer?

We’ve evaluated the top Hang On Back (HOB) protein skimmers so you can make an informed decision when selecting a skimmer for your tank.

High-rated HOB Protein Skimmer Reviews

CPR Bak-Pak 2

CPR Aquatics is a well-established aquarium equipment manufacturer.

CPR was one of the first companies to design and manufacture a hang on back protein skimmer.

The CPR Bak-Pak 2 is a second generation HOB protein skimmer.

It provides protein skimming and biological filtration in one unit. Water is pumped from the aquarium into the skimming chamber.

The water flows downward in the skimming chamber while the venture system injects air at the bottom. This increases contact time with the air bubbles and makes the protein skimmer very efficient.

The smoke-colored skimmer collection cup height is adjustable. This allows you to slide it up or down depending how wet the foam is. Some aquarists find this method to be an easier adjustment process than having to regulate water valves and pump flow rate.

The water leaves the skimmer and passes through a second chamber containing CPR’s Bio-Bale biological filtration media before returning to the aquarium.

Like the original model, the Bak-Pak 2 is rated for aquariums up to 60 gallons.

The new design features an easier to clean intake system and an enclosed outflow tube. The new outflow tube creates less salt spray and helps to eliminate fine bubbles from entering the aquarium.

The Bak-Pak 2 measures 7.5 inches wide, 3 inches deep and 17 inches tall.

Set-up is easy. Just hang the Bak-Pak 2 on your aquarium, level it by turning the adjustment screws and plug it in!

Pros

  • High-quality craftsmanship.
  • Low defect rate.
  • Proven to last many trouble-free years.
  • Plug and play simplicity.
  • Very effective protein skimming.

Cons

  • The air intake is noisier than other brands.

CoralVue Reef Octopus Classic 1000 HOB

CoralVue’s Reef Octopus line of protein skimmers are well-known by reef enthusiasts worldwide.

CoralVue took their big skimmer know-how and built a powerful hang-on-back protein skimmer for aquarists who can’t have a sump or stand-alone skimmer.

The Reef Octopus design places the water pump under the skimmer, outside of the aquarium.

This design takes up less room in the aquarium because there is no bulky water pump hanging in your tank. Instead of transferring pump heat to the aquarium, the Reef Octopus external pump design allows heat to transfer to the air.

This will reduce the chances of overheating in the aquarium and make it easier to keep water temperature under control.

This protein skimmer is rated for tanks up to 130 gallons (light bio-load) but typically used on aquariums up to 75 gallons. Dimensions are 8 inches wide, 3.5 inches deep and 17” tall.

Pros

  • Low profile design.
  • Comes with an Aquatrance 1000s water pump.
  • Uses a surface skimmer.
  • Reduces noise with an air silencer.
  • External water pump for heat transfer.
  • Produces a good quantity of skimmate.

Cons

  • Installation instructions could be better.
  • Attention must be paid to proper O-ring seating to avoid leaks.

Coralife Super Skimmer

The Coralife Super Skimmer is an HOB-type protein skimmer that can also be used in a sump.

Three models are available for tanks up to 65, 125 and 220 gallons.

Coralife Super Skimmers feature a patented needle-wheel water pump system.

The aspirating venturi injects micro-bubbles that rise, dragging dissolved organics with them to the collection cup.

The Super Skimmer design has angled dual injection outlets intended to increase contact time inside the reaction chamber. Water height and foam production are adjustable by using the water-level dial.

The integrated bubble diffuser prevents microbubbles from flowing into the aquarium. The collection cup twists off for cleaning.

Models 125 and 220 have a collection cup drain option for quick and easy cleaning. High-grade acrylic construction. Includes everything for convenient hang-on or in-sump setup.

Pros

  • Inexpensive.

Cons

  • Poor set-up and use instructions.
  • Product manual does not match the skimmer.
  • The skimmer requires extensive adjustment every time it is restarted.
  • Has a reputation for overflowing and flooding.
  • Bulking design takes up more room than other brands.

Eshopps Hang On PSK-75H

Eshopps is another well-respected aquarium equipment manufacturer.

The PSK-75H model is made for marine aquariums up to 75 gallons.

The acrylic construction will give years of trouble-free operation. The cylinder body is three inches in diameter.

The skimmer footprint measures 7 inches by 6 inches.

The water pump is positioned under the skimmer, outside of the aquarium. This takes up less space inside the aquarium and reduces heat transfer into the water.

Eshopps uses a high-quality Italian water pump manufactured by Sicce. The water pump uses a needle-wheel impeller and venturi system to inject microbubbles into the water.

The collection cup is removable for easy cleaning. You have the option of using cup drain option.

Pros

  • Quiet operation.
  • Known for reliability.
  • Simple installation.
  • External water pump does not heat the aquarium water.
  • Has a bubble plate to reduce microbubbles in the aquarium.

Cons

  • Older models had a problem with an unreliable water pump.

AquaMaxx HOB-1

The AquaMaxx HOB protein skimmer has undergone a recent design upgrade.

A larger collection cup has been added along with a silicone drain elbow.

Management of the skimmate production requires raising or lowering the skimmer cup. The collection cup is easily removed for cleaning.

The HOB-1 uses an Italian Sicce Syncra 1 pump for quiet, reliable service.

The water pump is located inside the skimmer. The water pump draws in air and mixes it with the water. AquaMaxx has a unique bubble plate that fires the air/water mix into the skimmer body.

The AquaMaxx HOB-1 is rated for tanks up to 70 gallons with a light bioload.

Tanks in the range of 40-50 gallons with a heavy bioload are probably the largest size this skimmer can handle. The dimensions are 7.5 wide, 3.5 inches deep and 17 inches tall.

The maximum rim thickness the hanger can accommodate is ¾ inches.

Pros

  • Simple plug and play operation.
  • Improved stronger hanger bracket.
  • Larger skimmer cup.
  • One-year manufacturer’s warranty.

Cons

  • Somewhat weak construction (recently upgraded hanger).
  • Uses common plumbing fittings.

My Pick

We’re pleased to report that you have several high-quality HOB protein skimmers to choose from in our evaluation. One of the important observations we want to pass on to you is that you should make sure any fittings are hand-tightened before you fill the skimmer with water. Plastic fitting can become loose during shipping so please check before putting the skimmer in operation. You only need to hand-tighten, don’t use a wrench. If you see a drip, disassemble the fitting and make sure the O-ring is seated properly.

Also, note that new protein skimmers do not immediately make foam and skimmate. The plastic material needs to develop a thin coating of “slime” so the foam does not collapse on itself on the way up to the collection cup.

It normally takes a couple of days for the skimmer to “break in” and start making foam.

Our favorite is the CPR Bak-Pak 2. CPR has been designing and building hang on back protein skimmers since 1987. That’s 30 years of protein skimmer design and manufacturing experience. CPR quality and reliability is legendary. The Bak-Pak 2 is effective and works exactly as intended. Unlike the Coralife Super Skimmer, which is difficult to set up and keep running consistently, the Bak-Pak 2 performs flawlessly.

A close second is the Eshopps Hang-On. Like CPR, Eshopps has been making protein skimmers for a long time. The original Hang On skimmer had a problem with the water pump but has been corrected on the updated model. The Eshopps design has been proven to work well over many years it has been on the market.

Aquarists can have confidence that an Eshopps protein skimmer will work as intended and keep their tanks clean and healthy.

Still not found your new skimmer? ​Have a look at my selection of nano skimmer for small tanks or nine of the quietest protein skimmers compared.

Share your ideas in the comment section just below, thank you!

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