If you’ve read some of the reviews on this site, you’ll probably notice a lot of attention paid to filtration systems. That’s because one of the most important factors in setting up an aquarium is to maintain good water quality.
Not only do you want clear water to make the view nice, but you actually want your marine animal and plant life inside the tank to survive. And that’s why for many aquarists, a simple filtration system just won’t do. You also need the best protein skimmer you can find for your tank.
What is a Protein Skimmer?
A protein skimmer is a type of mechanical filter, and it removes organic materials from the water in your aquarium. That includes excess bacteria and toxins from corals, waste products from animals, and even uneaten food. It’s a vain hope to think that fish and other marine wildlife in your aquarium would have a “see food” diet (when they see food, they eat it). Unfortunately, that’s not exactly the case.
On the other hand, with a protein skimmer, you can remove the organic compounds before they break down and compromise the clarity and cleanliness of your tank water. A device like this keeps algae from growing too quickly, it reduces the nitrate buildup that can threaten certain marine species like corals, and it also lets the light shine more brightly through the clear water.
It’s called a protein skimmer because it uses the polarity of the proteins to remove the various organic compounds. It has a reaction chamber in which it creates lots of tiny bubbles. Because of the properties of the protein in the organic compounds, the organic waste materials stick to the bubbles. The bubbles then bring these materials up to the surface of the chamber, where the contaminants can be manually removed from the water column through the collection cup.
In some models, you also get pinwheel or needle wheel impellers in the skimmer pump, which then chops the incoming bubbles into even smaller micro bubbles.
Types of Protein Skimmer
There are several types of protein skimmers. In general, you can group them into four different categories:
- HOB: this is also called hang on back protein skimmer. As you may have guessed, it hangs on the back of the aquarium. It’s ideal for tanks that don’t run a sump. It hangs on the rim of an aquarium in much the same way a power filter can hang on a tank. This type is usually meant for small aquariums that don’t go past 100 gallons in capacity.
- In tank: these tend to be mini versions meant for nano tanks, so they don’t take up a lot of space inside the aquarium. Even though they’re usually small, the best nano protein skimmer models will do a very effective job of removing the organic compounds in the water.
sump: this one is designed to fit within the sump of the aquarium system. This is the category that has a wide range of options in terms of size and cost. Some are so affordable you can get them for cheap, but others may go for as much as $3/4,000. The price depends on the size and on the features.
- External: this one runs externally from the aquarium sump. The
sumpfeeds water into the skimmer, and the skimmer then returns the “clean” water back to the sump.
Who Is It For?
Basically, if you’re running a saltwater tank then you absolutely need a protein skimmer. This is especially true if your setup involves a reef aquarium or you’re stocking your tank with large or carnivorous fish.
Keep in mind that normally, your main problem is to reduce levels of ammonia and nitrites, which all come from the waste products and other pollutants. The nitrogen cycle naturally turns these compounds into nitrates, which aren’t toxic to most fish and invertebrates at low levels. But corals and other marine species may still be sensitive to the nitrates, and you need the skimmer to really keep the nitrate level down.
And even if your tank holds freshwater fish, a skimmer can still help. If you have a filter system that’s working too hard, then a skimmer can be the answer to your problem.
Essentially, the protein skimmer really helps in keeping the water clean and toxin-free. This is absolutely necessary equipment when you have a reef aquarium or large fish in the tank, as these types of marine life can be very sensitive to even low nitrate levels.
It really helps with the filter system, and you won’t have to worry so much when you keep on putting in food that your fish are determined to ignore. They minimize your maintenance requirements as they keep down algae growth, and they can make your tank truly shine when they keep the water crystal clear.
Best Rated Protein Skimmer Reviews
To buy the right protein skimmer, you’ll certainly need to read up on a lot of protein skimmer reviews. If your tank doesn’t have a sump, then you’ll have to stick to the HOB models. For those with a sump, then any type may do depending on the size of your tank. Most people choose either an in tank or an external type.
If you’re getting an in sump type, you have to first measure the space available in your sump so you can accommodate the footprint of the skimmer you’re planning to get. Then you need to measure the height you have for your skimmer, taking into account the space you need to remove the collection cup.
1. Simplicity 240DC
The Simplicity 240DC skimmer is an affordable way to get advanced protein skimming on your reef aquarium.
The 240DC uses the Simplicity 2000DC water pump with a needle wheel impeller.
Needle wheel impellers are an efficient way of bringing water into the skimmer and whipping up a constant stream of microbubbles for skimmate formation.
Simplicity protein skimmers are designed with the water pump mounted inside the skimmer body. This reduces the skimmer footprint, which is especially important for an in-sump unit like the 240DC.
A bubble plate disperses the bubble-water mixture into the cone-shaped contact chamber for reaction with the dissolved organic pollutants. The water pump uses DC current for smooth speed control. A wired touch-pad has simple controls, allowing fine adjustments for water level control.
An air silencer keeps things quiet even with the water pump running full speed. An air intake adjuster can also be used to maximize skimming action.
The skimmer cup is held onto the contact chamber with an O-ring and bayonet lock. The cup is easy to remove and includes a plugged drain hole in case you want to run an external collection cup.
The Simplicity 240DC skimmer is rated for 180 gallons with a medium bioload and up to 120 gallons with a heavy reef bioload. The skimmer dimensions are 8.3” x 7.9” x 19.5” tall.
- Economical DC protein skimmer.
- Simple set-up.
- Easy to use controller.
- Makes consistent foam one broken-in.
- Internal water pump.
- Skimmer cup has a drain line.
- Support and parts come from the US.
- 2-year skimmer body, 1-year pump warranty.
- No wireless control.
- Not compatible with automation systems.
2. Bubble Magus Curve 5
This one can be used for up to 140 gallons of water.
It features a nice 8-watt pump that’s very effective in doing its job.
There’s a break in period of about 2 to 3 days, during which time you may have to place it above the recommended water level.
In general, when a protein skimmer says that it’s rated for a certain volume (like 140 gallons, for example), what that means is that it can handle only about half of that load (70 to 80 gallons) very comfortably. But the Curve 5 really seems to handle even a 140-gallon load quite well.
It also comes with a very small footprint, as it measures just 7.28 by 7.08 by 18.5 inches.
- Though it only comes with an 8-watt pump, the amount of gunk you skim out will be very impressive. So if you have a 70 to 90-galon tank, this should be more than sufficient.
- The pump works almost silently. That makes it very suitable for a library or an office. After all, gazing at the fish or reef is quite relaxing, and the silence should help you study or work on your desk.
- The small footprint is also very versatile, as it can fit into a lot of tanks.
- It’s also very durable, as it’s made from thick acrylic. It will still probably work if you drop it (although I don’t really recommend that you drop it on purpose just to check).
- So what’s the catch? While there may be nothing wrong with the unit in general, in a few cases you may get a defective part or you may need to modify it to suit your tank. If that’s the case, you might be on your own. There seems to be no customer support at all for this.
3. Coral Vue Technology AC20287 Octopus
This is one of the most highly regarded of all protein skimmers, and hardly anyone has given it poor marks.
In fact, on Amazon it has accumulated astonishing average, with almost none low rating received.
This is a skimmer designed for in sump use only.
It’s rated for 210-gallon tanks, but that’s a bit hazy.
On the Coralvue site, I think this is the Classic 150SSS Protein Skimmer (rated for 210 gallons too). So to see if it fits your sump, take note that it has a 7.3 by 9.45-inch footprint, a 6-inch diameter, and a height of 20.9 inches.
The foam production is courtesy of the Hailea OTP pumps. It also comes with a new design for its pinwheel impellers. The bubbles transition to the collection cup through the 4-inch cone neck, which can be released easily for convenient maintenance. The water level adjustments can be done through the gate valve.
So what accounts for this universal acclaim? That’s easy to answer when you use it for smaller tanks. Get this for your 90-gallon tank and you’ll understand just how effective it can really be. Remember, there’s no such thing as over skimming. An aquarium can’t be too clean, just like you can’t really be too rich.
- It produces a lot of foam, and consequently, it attracts a lot of organic goop that you’ll be taking out of the water column.
- That new design for the needle wheel impeller really works wonders, especially at this price point. Most of the time, you have to spend more to get something this good.
- It comes with a silicone hose, which comes in handy when you’re out of the house. Just remove the rubber plug in the collection cup, and then pace the hose into a container to get the gunk.
- The build is of high quality, as it uses durable plastic for its construction. You won’t cause a crack just because you bump it.
- It comes with a baffle that lets you control the airflow to the impeller. As a bonus, it also muffles the noise made by the skimmer, so it runs virtually silent. The motor is quiet enough, to begin with, but the baffle really makes it undetectable.
- There are only a few days needed for the break in period. Some even find it pulling nasty gunk from the tank after just an hour or so.
- With the gate valve, it’s not hard to control the water level inside the skimmer.
- It’s great, but only if it fits inside your sump.
4. AquaMaxx HOB-1.5 Hang-On-Back
It’s possible to use this skimmer for nano aquariums, as it features a thin and light design.
The base measures 7.5 by 3.5 inches, with a height of 17 inches. But it’s more apt for regular midsize tanks ranging from 50 to 75 gallons in capacity. The outlet size measures ¾ of an inch.
It comes with the AquaMaxx SHARK 1.0 pump, with 11-watt power consumption.
It also comes with the AquaMaxx needle wheel impeller. To use it, you just move the collection cup up or down, so you can adjust the foam level to wet or dry.
As the collection cup is removable, the maintenance is really simple. There’s even a drain fitting that lets you set up a separate reservoir for the
All these come with a super price tag if you find the right seller. The shipping may even be free.
- It’s very simple to use, and the maintenance is simple as well. It’s virtually a plug and pay model, especially when you go online and watch some YouTube videos showing how to set it up. You don’t get those inconvenient problems that bedevil other models.
- The pump is inside the skimmer, and that saves space, minimizes the noise made by the pump, and boosts efficiency.
- You won’t have to worry about breakdowns. The build quality is exceptional, so everything should work just fine.
- It’s truly effective, and you won’t believe the amount of dirty malodorous water this device takes out.
- The blue material even makes look cool. Since aesthetics is one of the reasons we buy an aquarium in the first place, it’s nice that this aspect wasn’t ignored.
- The directions aren’t all that great which is why we recommend you go online for instructional videos.
NYOS designs their protein skimmers with several special features that have given NYOS skimmers a good reputation among reef enthusiasts.
The Quantum 160 is designed for in-sump use and comes with a matched water pump.
The German-designed water pump features their Hybrid Wheel impeller.
Combining the benefits of needle and lattice wheel impellers into a super-light hybrid impeller design.
The benefits are less energy consumption, smoother operation while creating a steady supply of ultra-fine micro bubbles.
Silicone rubber feet keep the skimmer slightly above the sump base and further eliminate vibration and pump resonation noise.
The Quantum 160 is constructed of high-quality acrylic. Even the impeller housing is clear so you can watch the Hybrid Wheel in action! Water is pushed into the skimmer chamber through a unique bubble plate called the NYOS Twister.
The Twister spins the water – bubble mixture into a high-velocity vortex which increases contact time and improves skimmate formation. The Quantum 160 has separate adjustments for air and water volume.
Recommended for salt water aquariums up to 250 US gallons. Dimensions are 7.29" x 9.85" x 20.87" (LxWxH)
- Super-quiet operation.
- Easily disassembled for cleaning.
- Very effective skimmer.
- Water pump is located inside the skimmer – takes up less room.
- Titanium fasteners won’t corrode.
- Skimmer cup can be tricky to twist off.
- Too large for tight for small cabinets.
- Sends some micro-bubbles into the aquarium during break-in.
- Requires some fine-tuning.
6. CoralVue Technology BH-1000 Octopus
This protein skimmer is designed for tanks of up to 100 gallons.
It’s an HOB (hang on back) unit, but the design is somewhat unique.
The pump is externally mounted, and it’s under the actual skimmer body. That means there’s no heat exchange with the water, since the pump is outside the aquarium and the skimmer.
This design also makes it much easier to clean the pump. Just make sure that you have at least 6 inches between the tank and the wall, and this skimmer should fit in just fine.
The build is also outstanding, and it does seem like it’s going to last for a long while. It’s made from high-grade acrylic, and the parts all work seamlessly.
There’s an ongoing discussion about putting some type of media in the return chamber by disassembling the bulkhead. It is possible to do this, and you can find YouTube videos demonstrating how. Even the Coral Vue site offers some videos too.
However, it must be said that this skimmer wasn’t designed for that, and you can easily make a mistake that can restrict the flow.
- It works very well, and it can really pull out the gunk from your tank. It even skims the top where everyone knows that a lot of icky stuff gathers. Not every skimmer can do this.
- Adjustments are easy to make, and there’s really not much of a break in period required.
- It’s also very quiet, and that’s great for many of us who place their aquariums on the bedroom. For those who put their tanks in the living room, rest assured that it won’t bother you while you’re watching TV.
- The price is also very attractive.
- Some people may have trouble with the setup, especially newbies who aren’t yet familiar with how skimmers work. The main reason for this is the inadequate directions in the manual. It’s incomplete and virtually useless.
- You will need to keep the water level a bit lower than usual. If not, then this may not skim from the surface.
Tunze is famous for manufacturing reliable and effective protein skimmers.
The 9410 DOC skimmer is no exception.
Designed for use inside a sump, the 9410 skims, filters and aerates aquarium water at the same time.
The skimmer comes with a matched Tunze Hydrofoamer Silence water pump designed specifically for protein skimming.
The Tunze Hydrofoamer creates millions of tiny air bubbles with a diameter between 0.1 and 0.3mm.
The uniform bubble size ensures quiet operation and very efficient skimming. Protein-rich surface water is thoroughly aerated and exposed to the tiny bubbles.
Pollutants including proteins, cellulose, dead algae cells and coral slime are adsorbed onto the rising bubble surfaces. Foam is collected in the large skimmer collection cup. Clean water then passes through a special nylon post-filter. The post-filter captures fine debris down to 300 microns.
The filter bag can also be used to hold filter media like activated carbon or phosphate remover.
Recommended for salt water aquariums up to 265 US gallons. Water flow rate is 237 gallons per hour.
- Compact size fits in small sumps – 16.5“ tall.
- Comes with matched Hydrofoamer Silence water pump.
- Uses only 15 watts of electricity.
- Requires little or no fine-tuning.
- Very effective skimmer.
- A little noisy until it gets broken in.
- Cost more for German engineering.
8. Tunze Comline DOC 9001
This is another skimmer designed for nano aquariums. It’s good for nano reef aquariums that contain up to 37 gallons. For high nutrient tanks, you’ll want to confine it to 15-gallon tanks.
It’s quite a compact skimmer, as its measurements are only 4.3 x 2.5 x 8.5 inches. It comes with the needle wheel pump, and you also have a magnet holder which is effective for glass or acrylic plastic aquariums that measure ⅜ of an inch.
One feature you may like is the adjustable air intake. This compensates when the water level doesn’t quite stay within the sweet spot for the skimmer.
- It usually works as advertised, as long as you keep it to nano aquariums.
- The adjustable air inlet is very convenient.
- It’s very quiet.
- Cleaning the cup is easy. All you need to do is to lift the cup up, remove the skim mate, and then put the cup back in.
- The price is reasonable considering its effectiveness.
- It takes about 2 weeks to break in so it can get rid of the micro bubbles.
- The magnet is a bit weak.
9. SC Aquariums SCA-301
Again, this one is okay for nano and regular-sized aquariums, as it’s rated for up to 65 gallons of saltwater.
It measures 4.25 inches long, 7 inches wide, and 17 inches tall. Its ideal water level is about 6 to 7 inches.
It also comes with a 28-watt pump, with a flow power of 1380 liters (or 365 gallons) per hour. The water flow can be adjusted to suit your needs.
The cup has a drain tube, and it is also removable for easy maintenance, and there’s also an air silencer that helps keep the noise of the pump down.
It even has a 1-year limited warranty.
- The build is truly superb. Again, this is a rarity for very affordable protein skimmers. Often, with this price tag, it’s a gamble whether it will work right out of the box, or if there’s a defective unit included. While that’s still true to some extent, it’s no longer a 50-50 chance.
- It truly works well, as you’ll find really terrible gunk when you clean it every few days.
- It only needs a few days to break in.
- The price is fantastic, as you don’t often find skimmers of this quality for such amount.
- The instructions aren’t really all that clear, which accounts for a few of those “it doesn’t work” reviews. Just go online, watch a video of the setup, and you’re good to go.
10. Reef Octopus NS-80 Nano
This is ideal for nano aquariums, with capacity ranging from 8 to 15 gallons.
It’s quite affordable, but it’s also one of the top rated skimmers in the market today. That’s because even though it’s small it comes with some of the features that you normally only find in the larger models.
It measures 11 inches tall, and it comes with a 4 x 2.4-inch footprint.
You can use this as an in-tank or in sump skimmer. It can be used with small wet or dry sumps and in nano tank overflows.
- It’s affordable. The price varies depending on the seller, but it usually comes with a low price.
- The build quality is excellent. You can depend on it to work reliably for quite a while, and that’s a relief compared to so many unreliable filtration systems these days.
- Customer support is excellent, especially when you need advice on how to do modifications.
- The cup is quite small, so it can fill up very quickly.
This is especially true when the tank level is too high up. This is why some reviewers comment that you need to keep the water level at just the right level.
Too high and your cup gets filled quickly. Too low, and it won’t work at all since the water doesn’t reach the top of the cup.
11. SCA-302 180 Gallon (In Sump)
As the name says, it’s another in sump skimmer. This one is more affordable at a lower price tag.
It is rated for up to 180 gallons, and its compact size should fit most sumps. It measures 9" L x 9.5" W x 18" H.
It features an Atman PH2000 41-watt pump, with a flow rate of 2400 liters (634 gallons) per hour.
There are 6 levels of water flow adjustments available.
Previously, quite a few people have complained about the noise and the cup size. But this is now the “newer version”, so you get a silencer as well as an extra-large collection cup.
Finally, it comes with a 90-day warranty for the pump and a 1-year warranty for the skimmer body. The warranty doesn’t apply if you’ll run it on dry.
- For its price, it is very effective, especially when you use it for tanks with less than a 100-gallon capacity. It will keep the nitrates level to virtually zero with a tank of this size.
- It is very easy to assemble.
- It’s also very quiet, which makes it effectiveness in removing gunk all the more surprising.
- It takes a while to figure out how to adjust the water level correctly, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes much easier.
- The instructions are rubbish, but the assembly is still easy as long as you Google for the right setup video.
- The 180-gallon rating is just hype. Stick to just the 100-gallon tanks and smaller, and you’ll be fine.
- The skimmer drain that comes with it is quite short.
Protein Skimmer Recommendations
My choice here is the Coralvue Octopus, as it simply has no drawback at all. It’s virtually perfect, and I’m not the only one who says so. The main problem is if it fits in your tank.
But there’s something to be said about its capacity to remove the gunk from your tank water. There’s no such thing as over skimming, so the more gunk it removes the better it is for your aquarium and for your marine life.
Beginners Protein Skimmer FAQs
Can protein skimmers be used in freshwater?
Protein skimming removes dissolved and particulate organic matter by whipping the organics into a foam inside the skimmer. Protein skimming requires a lot of tiny micro bubbles to grab onto the organics.
The dissolved organics form a semi-ridged structure around the tiny bubbles and form what we call foam.
The goal is to create a stable, mostly dry “skimmate” foam. The surface tension of seawater makes it easy to stir up foam and skim it into a collection cup.
However, this is very difficult to do in freshwater due to the difference in surface tension of the water and nature of the dissolved organics. Protein skimmers are only used in freshwater where there is a very high level of dissolved organics in the water. These situations include high-density fish farms and heavily stocked koi ponds.
In freshwater aquariums, it’s easier and more effective to remove organics by making water changes.
Do protein skimmers remove / reduce nitrates?
Protein skimmers only remove “foamy” substances.
Nitrate is an inorganic chemical and is not foamy or “surface active.”
Nitrate cannot be removed by protein skimming. Organic pollutants containing nitrogen are broken down into simpler substances by bacteria in the aquarium. Nitrogen compounds eventually get converted to nitrate.
Protein skimming removes the organic nitrogen sources before they get converted to nitrate.
We can say that protein skimmers indirectly reduce nitrate by removing organic pollutants from the aquarium.
Do protein skimmers remove phosphates?
Phosphate test kits measure inorganic or “reactive” phosphate.
This is the type of phosphorous that stimulates algae growth. Inorganic phosphate also interferes with the growth of stony corals. Phosphate reacts with calcium and inhibits the corals from making calcium carbonate skeleton.
Protein skimmers cannot remove inorganic phosphate from the aquarium water because it is not surface active and can’t form a foam. Many organic pollutants contain phosphorous. As these organics break down in the aquarium, phosphate is released into the water.
Protein skimmers indirectly remove phosphate by skimming out phosphorous-rich organics before they break down into phosphate. Protein skimming prevents the build-up of phosphate in aquarium water.
Does a protein skimmer oxygenate water?
Yes. Protein skimmers inject lots of microbubbles into the water inside the skimmer. The turbulence can speed up the transfer of oxygen at the water surface inside the protein skimmer.
As the water pours out of the protein skimmer and into the aquarium or sump, the water surface is stirred-up again.
Oxygen enters the aquarium mainly through agitation of the water surface. This can be inside the skimmer and when the water pours out of the skimmer.
The amount of oxygen increase is thought be relatively low compared to the effects of circulation pumps that move water inside the aquarium.
Does a protein skimmer remove ammonia?
If you have ammonia in your aquarium water it cannot be removed by protein skimming.
A protein skimmer can only remove foaming organic substances. Ammonia is inorganic and non-foaming. Aquarium fish release ammonia from their gills. Solid waste from fish and invertebrates is broken down by bacteria. Some of this organic nitrogen can be turned into ammonia.
Uneaten fish and invertebrate foods will also be biologically decomposed into ammonia. The biological filter bacteria convert the ammonia to nitrite and then nitrate. Complex organic pollutants contain nitrogen. Bacteria break down the organics and ultimately convert the nitrogen into nitrate.
Protein skimmers physically remove the nitrogen-rich, foamy organics from the aquarium.
Skimmers reduces the nitrate loading in the aquarium by stripping out the organic nitrogen.
Will a protein skimmer help with algae?
Yes. Protein skimmers remove nutrients from the aquarium water.
Nitrogen, phosphorous and other nutrients are “locked up” inside organic pollutants that are dissolved in the water. Tiny organic particles also contain nutrients and can feed the algae.
Protein skimming removes dissolved organics and particulate matter from the aquarium. This prevents the organics from decomposing and releasing algae-stimulating nutrients into the water.
Since algae need nutrients to live and reproduce, protein skimming helps to starve the algae by depriving them of food.
You’ll never totally eliminate algae from your aquarium. You can bring it under control by reducing nutrient levels in the aquarium water.
Protein skimming tips the balance toward less algae growth. Sometimes the skimmate collected in the cup will have a green color. This is because a tiny amount of algae cells got concentrated in the foam and sent to the collection cup.
This type of algae removal is insignificant and has led some to believe a skimmer remove algae. The real benefit is the skimmer’s ability to starve out algae and reduce the growth of stringy and suspended algae.
Should protein skimmers run all the time?
Yes. Fish, corals, bacteria and algae continuously release slime, dissolved organics and suspended organic particulate matter into the aquarium water. Your protein skimmer should likewise run continuously.
This minimizes the build-up or organics by removing them as soon as they are released into the water.
If the skimmer is only turned on periodically the water quality will gradually decline, then improve when the protein skimmer is turned on, then decline when it is switched off.
Avoid the water quality roller coaster by running your skimmer all the time.
Some aquarists complain of skimmer noise, especially if their tank is in the bedroom. Some protein skimmers are noisy due to their design.
If your skimmer is making loud splashing or gurgling noises try adjusting the air flow or placing a foam block under the water flow to reduce splashing.
Why is my protein skimmer overflowing?
Excess foam or wet foam can be corrected by adjusting the protein skimmer. Each brand of skimmer is slightly different, so be sure to read the manual first.
Make sure you have set it up properly. The first step would be to raise the skimmer collection cup height. Raising the cup allows excess water in the foam to drain away.
Wet foam loses its rigidity and falls back into the protein skimmer. The foam will become more fluffy and drier as it rises.
Look for less drier foam formation as it rises up to the cup. Also take a look at the air adjustment valve.
Too much air can sometimes force wet foam up through the skimmer body and into the cup. Turn down the air just a little and watch the foam for about 15 minutes.
Make any adjustment slowly until your skimmer is working the way it should. Every aquarium is different. There is no one setting or adjustment that works on every tank.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with the settings. It may take several days to get everything dialed in.
Why is my protein skimmer not foaming?
Brand new protein skimmers need to “break in” before foam starts to appear.
Lack of foam is common and may be caused by harmless plastic manufacturing residue. After a few days of use your skimmer will begin to make foam.
Many aquarists wait a couple of days before trying to make adjustments on their new protein skimmer. Once you see foam rising in the skimmer, start to fine tune the settings.
If your aquarium water is very clean, you may not see continuous foam formation. Sometimes skimmers don’t create foam for a few days. Its normal to see foam formation increase and decrease in some tanks.
If you suddenly see a lot of foam take a close look at your livestock. A dead fish hidden behind the live rock could be source of the organics in the water. An algae die-off can also release a lot of organics into the water and cause foaming.
Certain medications and water conditioners can increase or decrease foam production because they change the surface tension of the water.
Why is my protein skimmer making bubbles / microbubbles?
Protein skimmers need to create fine micro-bubbles to capture the organics and whip up a foam. The tiny bubbles are very effective at concentrating the organics at the top of the skimmer as foam.
Today’s modern skimmer water pumps create microbubbles and feed them into the protein skimmer. Sometimes new protein skimmers release some micro bubbles into the aquarium for a few days.
As the skimmer breaks in, the bubble release often goes away. Some skimmer designs include a foam pad to break the bubbles when they exit the skimmer or have a way to adjust the water outflow to minimize bubble release.
Be sure to read the manual and make adjustments for the air and water flow if necessary.
If your skimmer makes a lot of micro bubbles, place a foam block under the water flow to capture the bubbles and allow them to pop before entering the aquarium.
Where to put a protein skimmer in the sump?
In many cases your sump will have limited open space for a protein skimmer.
When choosing an in-sump protein skimmer, compare the manufactures dimensions with the space inside your sump. Many in-sump protein skimmers come with a matched water pump.
You may have to purchase a separate submersible water pump if your skimmer does not have one. Make sure your measurements include the space requirements of the water pump too.
Some manufacturer’s measurements only include the skimmer. Measure the height of the skimmer.
A skimmer’s “footprint” may indicate it will fit inside the sump but won’t fit under the cabinet! If the skimmer is too tall, you won’t be able to stand it upright under the cabinet.
You can cut out a piece of cardboard that is the same height of the skimmer to make a “test fit” before you purchase the skimmer.
If you’re using a water recirculation pump in the sump, be sure to include it in your space calculations.