Best Protein Skimmers Reviews for a Healthy Aquarium

This article, we will be talking about some of the equipment or different pieces of equipment that some of the beginner hobbyists or even aquarium keepers who are a few years old into their tank keeping journey, may find a bit confusing or alien.

Overall, this is the what, why, and which on the subject.

Let’s talk a bit about Protein Skimmers. Protein skimmers, according to us, are one of the best additional equipment you can have in your tank, especially important if you have a reef tank.

Like with everything else in the modern-day, there are loads of new technological changes being achieved in the aquarium keeping world. Protein skimmers are one such gift of technology that make this hobby easier and overall contribution to the all-round well being of the fish in the tank.

Here we will discuss what exactly are Protein skimmers, what do they do, are they worthy investments, and which Protein skimmer exactly meets your demands. So let’s begin.

What are Protein Skimmers

Protein skimmer is basically a mechanical filter which works in removing organic materials from the water in your aquarium. They also work in removing excess bacteria and toxin released by the corals, waste products from the animals, uneaten food and also clear the unnecessary colour from your water.

They’re also called as foam fractionators as they work by producing an overflow of a mixture of water, air and foam. These protein skimmers remove the organic compounds before they get a chance to breakdown and murk the clarity and cleanliness of the water.

They’re called protein skimmers because they use the polarity of the amino acids to remove the various organic compounds. Now that may sound a bit too nerdy but what it basically means is, this equipment removes the food wastes and other excreta wastes in the water.

How does a protein skimmer work

Almost every protein skimmer has the same base design features. There is a chamber known as the reaction chamber through which the water from the tank flows. It is in this chamber that the water is brought into contact with a column of fine bubbles. Due to the surface tension of the water, the bubbles collect proteins and other substances like fat fatty acids, carbohydrates, metals like copper, trace elements such as iodine. Then such materials are carried to the top of the device where the foam, but not the water, collects in a cup.

Here the foam condenses to a liquid, which can be easily removed from the system. The material that gets collected in the cup can range from plain greenish yellow, watery liquid to a thick black tar.

Why do I need a protein skimmer? Advantages of having one

The benefits of using a protein skimmer are so overwhelming that it makes absolutely no sense in not using one. And that is exactly why even commercial water tanks like municipal water treatment facilities and public aquariums use protein skimmers.

What makes a protein skimmer absolutely beneficial is that it works in those intricate places where your normal filtration unit does not. They filter out organic materials such as uneaten food, excess protein and waste products before they get a chance to breakdown inside the water and pollute it.

These also help to remove the excess fatty acids, metals such as copper, trace elements such as iodine from the water and remove the unnecessary colour from the water.

This is exactly why protein skimmer becomes absolute necessity for coral reef tanks as they are quite sensitive to such organic matters.

In short,  protein skimmers help reduce the bio load in your tank, work on organic matters that the filter may have missed and elongate the time between two water changes.

Best Protein Skimmers Reviews

After knowing what protein skimmers are and how they work, you can decide upon whether you want a protein skimmer or not. Sadly, the hard work does not stop there . There are a tonne of protein skimmers available in the market by different brands and picking the right one for your aquarium can be a bit of an arduous task. And that is exactly why we have prepared a list off the best protein skimmers according to us that are available in the market.

Let’s have a look at them.

SC Aquariums Sca-301 Protein Skimmer  

This skimmer is specially designed to work for salt water tanks with volume up to 60 gallons.

It has an air silencer included in it without extra cost, which makes this skimmer emit less noise on a budget.

The dimensions range to 4.25 inches in length, 7 inches in width and 17 inches in height. The ideal water level for this skimmer to work at it’s peak is 6 to 7 inches.

The company trusts the product which is quiet evident by the 1 year warranty that is included with the purchase.

It runs on a 110 to 120 Volts outage running at a 60 Hz frequency and 28 Watt power consumption by it’s pump.

It turns in a 1380 litres of water per hour.

It weighs just at 5.8 pounds 

The SC aquarium skimmer is an in-sump skimmer that provides with the best value.

It can be used by beginners as well as expert aquarists alike. As it is easy to assemble and simple cleaning makes this protein skimmer for salt water aquariums good deal.

The cleaning is also thankfully very easy as you can simply pop up the upmost lead and remove the skimmed material with a proper paper towel.

Pros:

  • As compared to many other schemers, the SC300 one comes at a budget price of under $100 without losing any practicality or functionality.
  • The company provides the skimmer with a one year warranty and it is quite durable too.
  • It comes with an air silencer without extra cost which helps that you won’t be distracted by the noise of your skimmer.
  • It is one of the best for people that have delicate plants and animals inside the aquarium.

Cons:

  • As useful as the drain line in the SC301 is, the drain line tube is rather short and might not work if the plug is too far away.
  • You don’t get an extra cup for collecting the refuse from the drain line.
  • When you are looking to change the water, add new plants or animals in the aquarium the SC301 can sometimes have a problem with overflow.
  • When you want to clean the SC 301 from top to bottom, it will mean that the skimmer needs to be completely dismembered which can be a bit annoying at times.

Aquamaxx Hob-1.5 Hang On Back Protein Skimmer

The Aquamaxx HOB 1.5 Protein Skimmer weighs at 7.8 lbs.

It’s dimensions range from 7.5 inches of length, 3.5 inches of width, and a whopping 17 inches of height.

It is ideal for tanks that go up to a volume of 90 gallons. But it’s lower limit stops at 40 gallons. It works best when it is partly submerged giving the pump or impeller enough access to push water and its wastes through the diffuser and into the collection cup.

The Aquamaxx HOB 1.5 is a needle wheel impeller kind of protein skimmer.

It has a needle wheel impeller inside it which moves the water and combines it with air. Then, with the help of the Sicce Syncra 1.0 pump, the impeller then separates the waste from the clean water and provides the fish with a healthier environment. In many protein skimmers, this whole setup has to be bought as a separate machine, but the Aquamaxx comes with this setup.

It uses a bubble diffusion mechanism which generates a great deal of foam within the water. This form collects waste products along with left over food or other impurities in the form of the froth which is then cycled into the collection cup by the impeller. In the collection cup, it is kept separate from the fish in your tank.

Unlike the SC301,  the Aquamaxx comes with a collection cup which is quite easy to remove. And since this contains the tanks waste, you can easily remove it, rinse it out and place it back on the skimmer. The collection cup also controls the foam as you can move it up and down on the skimmer to adjust the foam level between wet or dry.

Pros:

  • The setup is quite easy and straight forward. By following the manual you can set it up within an hour.
  • Due to the presence of a removable collection cup from the skimmers, the maintenance of the Aquamaxx is really easy as compared to many other skimmers.
  • This is quite effective in removing algal and fungal infestations in the tank along with other kinds of discoloration. The Aquamaxx is amazingly effective in its job.
  • Due to the small weight and height, it makes it quite comfortable and easy to move.
  • If your tank is located in your bedroom then you are in luck as Aquamaxx is quite noiseless.

Cons:

  • Many reviewers question the durability as the connectors and the tubing which is made of plastic seems to easily break.
  • It is quite expensive as compared to other skimmers in the market.
  • It is not made for larger tanks as it cannot handle bigger gallons.
  • There were a few complaints about the mounting device.

Reef Octopus Classic 110 Int Needle Wheel Protein Skimmer

The Reef Octopus Classic 110 INT Needle Wheel Protein Skimmer uses the coral Vue octopus 4 inch needle wheel.

It works for aquarium sizes of upto 100 gallons.

The classic series has the largest size among the other Reef Octopus skimmers and aalsoare the highest performers.  

It has the footprint size of 10.4 inches × 7 inches

The body  diameter is at 5 inches. The neck tapers into 2.5 inches and it has quiet a tall frame of 19.5 inches.

It has an output height of 6.5 inches which incorporates a 40mm output size. It comes with Metric to British Adapter to 1.25 inches PVC.

The recommended sump water depth for peak performance is set at 7 inches to 8 inches.

It has a pump that runs on 9 watts of power.

The air draw is at 420 litres per hour while water draw at 350 litres per hour.

The company trust on it’s product can be seen as it comes up with 2 years warranty on the pump, 1 year on the rotor and 1 year on skimmer body.

This comes with an effective air silencer which makes the protein skimmer near silent.

The larger the size of the tank the larger the amount of the waste that gets collected in the skimmer. To deal with that large amount of waste this skimmer is equipped with a large collection Cup which is also easy to remove and clean.

The Aquatrance pump powers the reef octopus and help it to make an optimal mix of air and water pushing through the various chambers and back into the tank. This eliminates the need of their stones and also means that the water entering back into the aquarium is oxygenated to the max.

For the sheer size of this skimmer  it also matches the size with the power.

It is made from acrylic which is scratch resistant and offers a degree of clarity and security that other simple materials cannot.

The reef octopus is incredibly easy to set up as the only thing you need to do is hang it on the back of the aquarium, plug it in the filter and flick the power on.

These are external skimmers too.

Pros:

  • If you have a tank that has a massive  bio load and your filtration unit seems to be clogged far too fast, the Reef Octopus 110 is the skimmer for you.
  • The assembly and the subsequent use is quiet simple. Making extra adjustments once it is up and running is also quiet simple whether you are a beginner or a seasoned user.
  • For the size of the tank it cleans it is quiet affordable compared to the other skimmers of it’s class.
  • You can easily tuck the skimmer on the side of your tank and thus it saves you space.
  • Despite how powerful the motor is, the Reef Octopus is quiet silent.

Cons:

  • Despite the large collection cup and how the overflow should drain back into the aquarium, some of the users report issues of overflowing. And since it has a huge litre per hour churning capacity, the overflow can be quiet hard to handle.
  • Because of the massive power delivery, the reef octopus is sometimes reported to have to be maintained on a daily basis. The collection cop should also be cleaned at least once a day which can be quite irritating for a busy person.
  • The size is huge and it also comes with no manual or instructions which makes it difficult for a beginner to use.
  • It also does not come with any drain line.

Bubble Magnus Bm-Curve 5 Protein Skimmer

It weighs in at 6.8 pounds. And has the dimensions of 26 inches× 9 inches × 10 inches.

It can protein skim a tank upto 140 gallons.

The minimum water level is at 9.5 inches while the maximum water level is 11 inches.

It is an aspirating or needle wheel type of skimmer. It consists of not so sharp needles sticking out perpendicularly from a wheel inside the skimmer. The wheel spins rapidly which leads the water to be whisked by the needles and causes bubbles. These bubbles carry organic matters and wastes away from the water.

This design feature makes it quiet too.

The presence if a drain tube allows for easy dumping of the collected waste materials without much hassle. It still needs cleaning every few days.

The Bubble Magnus has a SP1000 pump that is built into it’s reaction chamber. The pump being in the reaction chamber keeps it away from the other parts. However, the down side is that the SP1000 is unique to the BM 5 and if broken can be very hard to singly replace.

The bubble plate reduces any turbulence in the reaction chamber and allows for even more collection of wastes at a higher rate.

The BM 5 “Curve” gets it’s name from it’s curved body design, another unique feature to the BM 5. This shape allows the dirty foam to rise quickly.

Along with the SP1000 pump, there is an air silencer which makes it quiet silent.

It also comes with an one year warranty.

Pros:

  • If you have your tank in your bedroom or a living space where noise is not welcome, you are in luck as the bubble Magnus BM 5 is one of the most silent protein skimmers available in the market.
  • The Bubble Magnus quickly sweeps any gulk and organic matters that are present in the water into the collection cup leading the tank water to be clear and healthy. It is, therefore, very effective and efficient in what it does. This takes the workload away from the filter.
  • For the size of the filter, the BM 5 Curve is quite lightweight. The compact size and the small footprint allows it to fit into any aquarium sump.
  • Since dissemble has to be done during the cleaning of the skimmer, the process should be easy. And it is exactly that with this.

Cons:

  • The dial on this can be a bit confusing if you’re not habituated to using one before. The strange thing is that you have to turn it to a minimum setting for the maximum water flow and vice versa.
  • The instructional manual is quite hard to follow at times and it can be overwhelming if you are a beginner to set up this skimmer.
  • Like many skimmers, this also has a bit of a problem with overflow. You will have to tinker about a lot in order to find the right height to set up in order for it not to overflow. It also has a problem of breaking periods in which it frequently overflows before It starts to work normally again.

Coral Vue Technology Ac20287 Octopus Needle Wheel Skimmer

The Coral Vue Technology protein skimmer also uses needle wheels for optimal bubble creations and speedy cleaning. In fact it uses a 6 inch needle wheel skimmer.

The needle wheel design consists of a central skimmer with perpendicular needles that are not too sharp, projecting out of it. The skimmer rotates at a high speed that allows the needles to create bubbles in the water. These bubbles collect the organic materials along with the waste products and form or froth that gets uplifted into the reaction chamber away from the water.

This is made for a larger tank that is sized up to 210 gallons..

Coral Vue is the parent company of Reef Octopus and they are known for making high quality aquarium products.

This comes with a skimmer body and a separate air pump which is used to actually create bubbles. Since the skimmer is used for a large tank it requires more bubbles and the air pump fills such requirement. This also makes it not so good to use for a smaller tank.

Although it has a gate valve on the side that allows for more simple form level adjustments as well as quick release of the collection cup to facilitate easier cleaning.

The body is made up of acrylic while the collection cup and some other cleaning pieces are made of plastic to make cleaning easier.

Like almost every other protein skimmer in our list this also comes with an intake silencer that improves noise quality so you don’t have to hear the skimmer running all across the house.

Pros:

  • The Coral Vue skimmer comes with a quick release for the collection cup so that you can get the waste collected in the cup out and put the cup back in easily.
  • It has a very powerful skimmer and pulls in a lot of unnecessary bacteria.
  • It is quite versatile and easily adjustable and you can set it up to collect less gulk if you want it too.
  • It has a pretty easy set up and can easily be used straight away even by beginners.
  • CoralVue provides a 2 year warranty on the skimmer pump and 1 year warranty on the rotor and the body.

Cons:

  • This does have an air silencer, however, it is not the most silent protein skimmer in the market. The water flow in this is quiet loud, specially when it is running on highest efficiency.
  • If you look at the reviews for the CoralVue, many customers complain about not being provided with proper instructions for setup.
  • This needs to be run on the lowest of settings for about a month, before it can adjust 100% on your tank.
  • It is an In-sump skimmer so the sump becomes a complete necessity to use one.

Comline Doc Protein Skimmer 9001

The Comline DOC 9001 measures at a 4 inch × 2.5 inches × 8 inches dimensions making it one of the smallest protein skimmers available in the market.

It draws in air at the rate of 100 litres per hour.

It protein skims for tanks upto a 37 gallon size needing only 6 inches of water to operate. But for high nutrient tanks you will want to confine it to 15 gallons.

This makes it evidently clear that the DOC 9001 has been manufactured taking into account the hit trend of nano aquariums. .

It has a mounting hardware that is exactly the same as the pump line using two strong magnets that are rated to 3/8 inch of the glass.

The set up is also quiet easy and it has mounting magnets.

Since it has a smaller size than most skimmers, it is quiet silent too. The assembly can be easily hidden out of the eyesight too.

It does come with a collection cup but it can be extremely hard to pull out during cleaning.

It also offers on and off exiting micro bubbles which can be adjusted with the air intake.

The greatest selling point for this model is its energy efficiency. You can openly use this skimmer without having to worry too much about the electricity bills which makes it quite popular among beginners and people who have a tight budget.

Pros:

  • It is one of the most budget-friendly skimmers in the market.
  • It provides good efficiency in its size range.
  • Perhaps the biggest selling point: it is highly energy efficient.
  • It’s small and compact design saves a lot of space in the aquarium.
  • It is also quite easily hideable.

Cons:

  • Obviously, it is not the most powerful skimmer in the market.
  • The magnetic mount may be easy to set up but also provides lots of chances for it to slide and break.

Editor’s Choice

Reef Octopus classic 110 INT Needle Wheel Protein Skimmer

On average the Reef Octopus Classic 110 INT works upon a 100-gallon tank.

When the bioload of the tank is heavy it can easily handle a 60-gallon tank and when the bioload is light, the skimmer can easily handle a tank up to 130 gallons. This makes it very suitable for larger tanks.

It is a large skimmer but for the size, it produces very little noise. And all that is due to the air intake system and also partly due to the performance-enhancing Venturi Air Injection system.

Since it is high on performance, it fills up its collection cup pretty easily. However, to solve the problem of overflowing, it has a drain system. Along with that, the collection cup is quiet easily removable and easily out back again. It makes the cleaning process hassle-free.

Despite the huge power delivery and large size it is quiet easy to control with it’s precision water level control output valve.

It’s signature Aquantrance pinwheel pump always gives the right amount of water and air.

Apart from all these, it is made up of acrylic that makes it scratch proof and durable.

Things to consider before buying Protein Skimmers

There are tonnes of options available in the market if you want to go ahead and buy a Protein skimmer. However, you want to refrain yourself from rushing into buying a skimmer too big for your tank or one which is too small and you will have to rapidly upgrade it again.

The first and foremost thing obviously, is looking at the specifications in the packaging.  Most packages have a specification that the skimmers inside work for certain volume tanks. But, you also should consider the bioload. The heavier the bioload, meaning the more the plants and fish in the tank the lesser the gallons the skimmer will filter out.

The bioload pressure on the skimmer is also dependent upon your other filtration units. If you change your filter sockets very often it reduces the workload on the skimmer and you can buy a smaller one.

If you are a beginner, you will want to start with a smaller unit. Larger necessarily doesn’t translate to better. In fact, it may quiet produce opposite effects. Going overpowered in a smaller tank leads to zero activity in the skimmer. So it is better to be underpowered at the start than to be overpowered.

How do I setup a Protein Skimmer?

There is no hard and fast procedure for this. Every skimmer is different and is set up in a different way. Make sure you get accustomed to the parts of the device before setting it up and carefully read the manual beforehand. Also, see where the skimmer should go, whether it is a hang on a back skimmer or something else. Once you set it up, make sure it is not leaking.

How do I clean a Protein Skimmer?

Clean it at least once in six months. Replace the air tubing if necessary. Disassemble the skimmer and then soak it in hot water for an hour, scrub off the dirt and deposits and then rinse it off.

What else does it remove and what doesn’t it remove?

Salt? No.

Nitrates? If Nitrates are consumed by microalgae then yes.

Phosphates? No.

Algae? It reduces the growth of algae.

Ammonia? Only low levels of ammonia .

Calcium? Not very much.

Conclusion:

I hope by now, we have succeeded in making you understand the ABCs of Protein Skimmers.

Personally, we here would like to suggest the Reef Octopus Classic 110-INT Needle Wheel which offers you huge amounts of features along with the necessary power and doesn’t get heavy on your budget.

However, the choice is completely on you. And every product listed above is very much competent in helping you maintain a great and healthy aquarium.  

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