Protein Skimmer: Ultimate Buying Guide plus 11 Reviews

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.

My recommended protein skimmers are the BubbleMagus, Simplicity or the CoralVue Octopus, keep reading for more!

What is a Protein Skimmer?

Types of Protein Skimmer

Who Is It For?


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 skimmate.

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.

5. NYOS Quantum 160

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.
  • Expensive.

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.

7. Tunze USA 9410.000 DOC

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.

If the Coralvue doesn’t fit, go for the SCA-302. If you still have a size mismatch, then you probably have a nano and you need the SC Aquariums SCA-301.

For more options check out five high-quality HOB skimmers or six reliable nano skimmers reviewed. Let me know what you think in the comments!

Beginners Protein Skimmer FAQs

Can protein skimmers be used in freshwater?

Do protein skimmers remove / reduce nitrates?

Do protein skimmers remove phosphates?

Does a protein skimmer oxygenate water?

Does a protein skimmer remove ammonia?

Will a protein skimmer help with algae?

Should protein skimmers run all the time?

Why is my protein skimmer overflowing?

Why is my protein skimmer not foaming?

Why is my protein skimmer making bubbles / microbubbles?

Where to put a protein skimmer in the sump?