One of the hottest trends in aquariums is nano tanks. Nano aquariums range in size from about five to forty gallons. The small footprint and ease of care make nano tanks perfect for any room in the house.
Big saltwater tanks are cool but they can take up a lot of room. Just because nano tanks are small doesn’t mean they deserve less care than large aquariums. This is especially true when it comes to water quality.
All saltwater aquariums benefit from a protein skimmer and nano tanks are no exception. Just because your aquarium is small doesn’t mean you can’t have all the benefits of a protein skimmer.
We’ll review the best nano protein skimmers, but first, let’s explore what a protein skimmer does and why you need one.
What does a protein skimmer really do?
Protein skimmers are designed to remove dissolved organic carbon (DOC) pollutants from the aquarium water. Fish, invertebrates, algae and natural biological process release organics into the aquarium water.
All fish and invertebrate foods add organics to your aquarium too. If these organics remain in your aquarium, they will eventually decompose and be recycled into nitrate, ammonia, phosphate and other undesirable substances.
Skimmers operate 24/7, stripping out dissolved and particulate organics. Protein skimmers remove organic substances as they are produced in the aquarium before they decompose.
So what’s the big deal about removing these organic substances from your aquarium?
Why do you need a skimmer?
Aquatic research has proven that there is a direct correlation between the level of organic waste in the aquarium and disease problems. Many disease-causing organisms thrive in organic-rich environments.
A dirty aquarium is a breeding ground for harmful microbes that will eventually attack your fish and invertebrates. Stripping out dissolved organics lowers the organic load in the aquarium which results in fewer disease problems for your corals and fish.
Dissolved organics also cause a yellow tint to form in the aquarium water.
When you turn off the aquarium light and look through the aquarium lengthwise, you may be able to see the yellow coloration in the water.
Blue light wavelengths, which are especially important to large and small polyp stony corals, is absorbed by the dissolved organics. A protein skimmer will help reduce dissolved organics and allow for better light penetration through the aquarium water. Another benefit of running a protein skimmer is longer filter media life.
Dissolved and particulate organics coat and clog the surface and pores of filtration media. Activated carbon, adsorption resins, phosphate removers and nitrate-removing filter media will have a longer lifespan and require less-frequent replacement when you use a protein skimmer on your tank.
Protein skimmers indirectly reduce algae growth too! By removing the organics before they break down into algae-promoting nutrients, you’ll make it harder for algae to grow on the aquarium glass, live rock, on the filter and other surfaces in your tank.
That means your aquarium will look great and you’ll spend less time on maintenance.
There are many benefits to using a protein skimmer on your nano aquarium!
- Less algae growth on the aquarium glass.
- Lower phosphate levels.
- Reduced algae growth on live rock.
- Sparkling clear aquarium water.
- Lower nitrate levels.
- Longer filter media life.
- Better light penetration.
- Improved coral growth.
- Spend less time cleaning the tank.
Top Nano Protein Skimmers Reviews
Finding a protein skimmer that fits into your nano tank can be tough.
Tiny tanks are meant to be packed with colorful corals and other invertebrates, not a space-hogging protein skimmer.
The Mame Skimmer III is an ultra-thin in-tank protein skimmer designed for nano reef tanks up to about thirty gallons in size.
Made in Japan, the glass-bodied skimmer body is designed to be as unobtrusive as possible.
The slender glass tube mounts to the side of the tank with a clear plastic clip. It can also be positioned inside an all-in-one filter, further reducing its presence in the aquarium.
The skimmer is air-powered, using a limewood air stone to create microbubbles inside the glass tube. The rising bubbles draw aquarium water into the skimmer tube. The bubbles froth-up the skimmate at the top of the tube.
There is no collection cup on top of the Mame. Air pressure from the bubbles forces the skimmate through an airline tube that drains into an external collection container. You can hide the collection container out of sight behind the aquarium.
The kit does not come with an air pump. You’ll need a quiet yet powerful air pump to drive the skimmer.
- Ultra-slim design.
- Fits in places other skimmers can't.
- Can be hung on the side of the tank or in an AIO filter.
- Exterior skimmate collection cup.
- No water pump needed.
- High-quality materials.
- Easy to set up and run.
- Relatively expensive.
- Does not include an air pump.
- Limewood air stones need monthly replacement.
- Air pump may be noisy.
2. IceCap K2-50
The IceCap K2-50 is a sump-mounted protein skimmer rated for reef aquariums from 40 to 80 gallons depending on the bioload.
For most reef tanks, the recommended skimming capacity would be about 60 gallons for a medium to heavily stocked coral tank.
The skimmer is constructed from solid PVC and acrylic components.
The K2-50 uses a “beer bottle” shaped skimmer body, designed to reduce random bubble turbulence inside the skimmer. This increases efficient contact time between the water and microbubbles as it rises into the reaction chamber.
The skimming process is driven by an internally mounted DCAIR-700 DC skimmer pump that creates the microbubbles and pumps water into the K2-50.
The internal water pump and slender skimmer body keep the footprint small, measuring only 4.75” x 3.5”, making it easy to position the skimmer inside the sump.
The K2-50 also uses a pipeless side-mount outlet that eliminates the bubbling, gurgling and inconsistent water height associated with other skimmer designs. The skimmer cup is on the smaller side but it is ready to be fitted with a drain line to extend the service intervals.
- Small footprint.
- Internal water pump with needle wheel impeller.
- Relatively quiet operation.
- Easy adjustment.
- Bracket for mounting securely to the sump.
- Small collection cup needs frequent service or installing a drain line.
- Tall, narrow design can tip if not secured with the bracket.
The Eshopps Nano Protein Skimmer is designed with a compact footprint measuring 2.25" x 4.5" and 11.5" tall.
This skimmer is intended to fit in the filter chamber of most all-in-one style aquariums.
It can also be installed inside the aquarium or in the sump.
The Eshopps Nano Protein Skimmer has an adjustable magnet mount for easily positioning.
The body of the skimmer is made of acrylic.
The skimmer uses a high-quality, Italian-made, Sicce pump. A venturi creates the tiny air bubbles required for an effective skimming operation. The needle-wheel impeller blends the air bubbles into the water for efficient skimming. The Eshopps Nano Protein Skimmer also features a removable collection cup for easy cleaning. The Eshopps is rated for marine and reef aquariums between 10 and 35 gallons.
- High-quality Italian Sicce venturi pump.
- Needle-wheel impeller.
- Magnetic mount for easy placement.
- Removable collection cup.
- Made in the USA.
- Rated for 10-35g tanks.
- Small Footprint of 4 ½” x 2 1/4“x 11 ½”.
- Easy to clean skim mate cup.
- Small size fits in tiny spaces.
- Removes a lot of skimmate.
- Collection cup does not have a drain.
The Slim Skim Nano protein skimmer is designed specifically for internal installation for nano and all-in-one marine aquariums.
The Hydor Slim Skim draws in water from the tank’s surface to reduce surface bio-slicks.
These oily films inhibit oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange at the water’s surface.
The energy-efficient venturi air pump creates millions of small, uniform bubbles, perfect for capturing aquarium waste and carrying it to the adjustable collection cup. You can dial-in the production of skim mate by raising or lowering the height of the skimmer’s collection cup. The air control valve allows fine-tuning.
- Designed for tanks up to 35 gal.
- Has surface skimming abilities.
- Energy efficient, only uses 4 watts of energy.
- Includes Patented Magnet-Suction Cup mounting system.
- Adjustable air control and foaming level.
- 3 1/8 x 3 1/8" x 12"".
- Quiet operation.
- Efficient 5-watt pump.
- Easy to assemble.
- Plug-and-play operation.
- Reliable operation.
- A larger cup would be a nice feature.
- The corners of the collection cup are a little difficult to clean.
The German-engineered Comline DOC Skimmer 9004 is rated for marine and reef aquariums between 10 and 65 gallons.
The skimmer is designed to provide surface skimming. The 9004 uses the Tunze Flash Skimming principle.
Water enters the skimmer through the surface intake system.
This removes the oily bacteria film that inhibits
Protein-rich surface water is mixed with water thoroughly in the Tunze Foamer. The uniform bubble size ensures quiet operation and very efficient skimming.
Pollutants like protein, cellulose, dead cells, etc. are adsorbed onto the bubble surface and carried away in the foam.
The Tunze 9004 has a patented over-foaming protection system which prevents the skimmer from making too
- Surface intake for bacteria and oil slick film removal.
- Large skimmer cup (0.2l volume) also contains the foam reactor for easy cleaning.
- Reliable attachment due to the patented magnet holder for a glass thickness of up to 3/8".
- Intermediate chamber with patented over-foaming protection system.
- Tunze Foamer produces high air output and low energy consumption (4W).
- Bubble-free outgoing water.
- New Comline design creates a low profile for internal placement in the aquarium.
- Air flow regulation has a silencer for an exceptionally quiet operation.
- Made in Germany.
- 2-year manufacturer's warranty.
- Quiet operation.
- Good skimming efficiency.
- Effective surface skimmer design.
- Made of high-quality materials.
- Excellent fit and finish.
- Strong magnet mounts work on aquarium glass up to 3/8" thick.
- Two-year warranty.
- Requires delicate air adjustment to prevent microbubbles.
Innovative Marine’s latest skimmer is a simple and effective all-in-one skimmer made for nano reef tanks.
It drops right into Coralife BioCube 16 and 32 nano reef system. But this skimmer is also designed to fit into just about any all-in-one reef aquarium.
The BioSkim protein skimmer uses a miniature DC pump to bring water into the reaction chamber and generate millions of microbubbles through a needle wheel impeller. The bubble plate diffuser sends the stream of perfectly-sized bubbles into the reaction chamber.
Skimmate is collected in the removable cup. The cup height is adjustable, allowing you to easily dial-in the right amount of foam production. An external silencer keeps the BioSkim skimmer quiet. The adjustable hanger makes it easy to install in a wide variety of aquarium sizes and designs.
- Rated for up to 34 gallons.
- Simple design.
- Quiet operation.
- Fast break-in period.
The Aquatic Life 115 skimmer mounts inside the aquarium and is small enough to fit in most rear overflow and internal filtration compartments.
The 115 Mini Internal Protein Skimmer has a very small footprint that measures only 3" x 3-1/4" x 10-5/8" high. It is ideal for small saltwater and reef aquariums up to 30 gallons.
The Aquatic Life 115 is powered by an 8-watt needle-wheel impeller pump that maximizes air-to-water contact and delivers very effective organic waste removal. Water flow is adjusted with a knob.
A mounting bracket and suction cups make for easy placement inside your aquarium or sump. The adjustable mounting bracket fits all standard aquarium frames. The Aquatic Life 115 Mini Internal Skimmer has a clear collection cup that holds 3.4 ounces.
- Compact size makes this skimmer ideal for small aquariums.
- Efficient needle-wheel impeller increases air-to-water contact.
- 4.5-foot Power cord.
- Low wattage pump uses only 8 Watts.
- Collection cup holds 3.4oz/100ml.
- One of the smallest protein skimmers available.
- Compact design suited for smaller aquariums.
- Produces good skimmate.
- Easy to take apart to clean.
- Adjustable mounting bracket fits over framed aquariums.
- Suction cups could be stronger.
- Requires modification with a longer air intake tube for quieter operation.
The Fluval Sea PS1 Protein skimmer is a hang-on-the-back design.
The difference is the skimmer also hangs inside the aquarium.
The water pump uses a multi-fin turbine impeller fitted with a venturi system.
Air is pulled into the impeller and injected into the skimmer body.
The Fluval Sea PS1 is fine-tuned by adjusting the height of the collection cup. An O-ring holds the collection cup in place. The collection cup lifts off the protein skimmer for easy cleaning.
Air injection is controlled with a small adjustment valve on top of the skimmer. The Fluval Sea PS1 Is rated for tanks up to 45 gallons.
- Easy drop in installation.
- Simple design requires no extensive adjustments.
- Very quiet operation.
- Uses on 4 watts of electricity.
- Easy installation.
- Simple adjustments to get it up and running.
- Over-rated, won’t handle a 45-gallon aquarium.
- Produces a lot of tiny micro-bubbles in the aquarium.
- Poorly made, inconsistent quality issues.
- Will not fit standard aquariums that have a plastic frame around the top.
- Poorly written instruction booklet.
There are many good-quality protein skimmers suitable for nano saltwater and reef aquariums. You’ll first have to compare the dimensions of the available space to the size of the protein skimmer to make sure it will fit in your tank.
The Eshopps Nano Protein Skimmer has proven to be a well-made reliable protein skimmer for aquariums up to 35 gallons. The small footprint makes it perfect for internal or
For a larger tank up to 65 gallons, consider the Tunze DOC Skimmer 9004. This German-made protein skimmer can be placed in the aquarium or sump. The strong mounting magnets hold the skimmer securely in place. The surface skimmer feature removes oily surface slicks from the water. The larger skimmer collection cup is a nice feature too. The tight control over microbubble size means the Tunze DOC skimmer will produce consistent skim mate. It even has a two-year warranty!