Do you want to see your fish tank clean every time you get home? Then you can’t deny the importance of a good protein skimmer.
Specially if you have a saltwater tank or reef aquarium. If not for the look, you’ll definitely need a protein skimmer to let the fish live in a healthy tank environment.
Aquariums get dirty over time due to the uneaten fish foods or poops or the debris but that’s pretty natural, you can’t just make them vanish forever. What you can do is, clean them regularly after a period of time and keep your tank healthy.
Today in this very article, we are going to cover up all the aspects that anyone would need to know about protein skimmers. We have also reviewed 8 best protein skimmers that are currently leading the market
So, let’s get started!
Best Protein Skimmer: Our Top 3 Picks At A Glance
What is a Protein Skimmer?
A protein skimmer is a device that purifies saltwater aquarium water by removing organic materials such as toxins, uneaten foods, excess bacteria, waste from the animals, etc. Basically, protein skimmers work by a system called fractionation. It creates bubbles and takes all the compound with it.
Moreover, with a protein skimmer, you can remove compounds from your tank before they can break up and make you tank water nasty. This device lowers the amount of nitrate buildup and stops algae from spreading all over the tank.
Why it is called Protein Skimmer? It’s because they use the polarity of the proteins in order to remove different organic compounds from the aquarium water. Protein skimmers have a chamber called reaction chamber which creates tiny bubbles and cleans the water.
How Does a Protein Skimmer Work?
As we said earlier, all protein skimmers use a system called foam fractionation. To put it straight, foam fractionation is a simple process of taking waste particles out of the tank water through foam or air bubbles.
Every protein skimmer comes with a water pump, that’s pretty obvious. So the protein skimmer pump pumps water from the tank and air from the air intake into the main body of the skimmer.
The pump has a motor-impeller which creates tiny bubbles by mixing water and air together. As the bubbles are loaded with air they float to the top. And the waste particles stick themselves to the bubbles and along with the bubbles they ride to the top and overflow into the collection cup.
Protein skimmers don’t work well on freshwater. They’re mainly used on saltwater tank or reef tank due to the attraction of waste molecules to the surface of air bubbles. In fresh water, there’s just not that much molecular attraction to allow a protein skimmer to work.
Most of the protein skimmers come with the flow controller. It actually works by narrowing or expanding the water outlet, depending on how much water you want to skim.
Here is a great video to know more about how protein skimmers work and if you really need the best protein skimmer in your tank –
Types of Protein Skimmers
There are different types of protein skimmers available suited to different water tanks. Choose any one that suits your tank best. Here are the 4 types of protein skimmer that are most popular:
1. HOB Protein Skimmer
It is actually the short form of ‘Hang on Back’. As the name suggests, this type of protein skimmer hangs on the back of the water tank. HOB skimmers are best for small or nano reef aquariums which don’t have a sump. It simply hangs on the rim of the aquarium and works nicely from there.
2. Inside the Tank
These are the mini version of the protein skimmers and designed for small aquariums. Plus, these protein skimmers are small, so they don’t take a lot of space inside the tank. They work very effectively in removing organic compounds.
3. In Sump
You might have already guessed, these protein skimmers are designed for water tanks that run sump. In sump protein skimmers come with lots of options in terms of functionality and size. They are known as one of the best tank water cleaning machines and they are expensive too. The price depends on the features and size.
These type of protein skimmers run externally from the tank or sump. The sump sends water to the protein skimmer and the skimmer purifies the water and returns it back to the tank. These protein skimmers are not so popular.
These are only the basic types of protein skimmers. They are available in different types of designs too, which we will discuss in the buying guide section.
Best Protein Skimmer For Reef Tank
Before we jump into the detailed reviews of the protein skimmers, lets take a look at the comparison table –
8 Best Protein Skimmer Reviews
It’s good for consumers to have some choices, so they can choose the one that they like most. But in the case of protein skimmers, manufacturers are squeezing in skimmers with new technologies every time and as there are a lot of brands available, choosing the best protein skimmer can be a daunting task for the newcomers.
But don’t worry. We have got you covered. Here we have reviewed some of the best protein skimmers for reef tanks in the market that provide the most value for your money.
Let’s get to the protein skimmer reviews right away:
1. SCA 302 Skimmer – Best in sump protein skimmer
Starting with the SCA 302 protein skimmer, it is the upgraded version of 301 model and has successfully stood at the top skimmers line for a long time. It has some great features which make it one step ahead from its competitors.
This model comes with a powerful Atman ph2000 skimmer pump which delivers great bubbles for cleaning the tank water. You will start seeing a massive change in the aquarium water once you start using this skimmer. It has the ability to purify the water in a short time.
It has the ability to cope with different sizes of water tanks up to 180 gallons. People who have water tanks under 180 gallons will see superb result using this protein skimmer.
Unlike few models, this skimmer doesn’t make irritating noise when it’s under operation. Thanks to the manufacturer, they have installed a silencer which keeps the skimmer pump quiet. On the other hand, this SCA 302 features a larger collection cup compared to the previous versions.
The operation process of this protein skimmer is very simple and assembling wouldn’t take more than 5 minutes. It also comes with a modern look which will suit any modern house and aquarium.
- Works perfectly for large water tanks up to 180 gallons.
- It features a powerful pump which creates a large number of bubbles.
- The collection cup is larger than the previous model.
- Operating and assembling is very easy.
- The pump doesn’t make any noise while operating.
- It has a superb build quality.
- The price is reasonable.
- The instruction manual that comes with the machine is not very clear. You might find it a bit complicated. Our suggestion would be to watch videos on YouTube.
2. Bubble Magus Curve 5 – Best Protein skimmer for 120 gallon tank
Another awesome protein skimmer is the Bubble Magus BM-Curve 5. The very first thing about this protein skimmer that attracts everyone is the compact and small design. People who want skimmers that doesn’t require large space, this could be a great catch for them. The design also looks cool and the performance? It’s an outstanding performer without any doubt.
This skimmer works amazingly for medium sized water tanks up to 140 gallons. It comes with an 8-watt motor pump that provides enough power for a 140 gallon water tank. It will wash off the organic compounds of the water within no time. Plus, the skimmer body has a curved shape which makes a smooth way for the bubbles to get on the top.
On the other hand, it features a versatile footprint which makes this skimmer suitable for almost any water tank. The pump creates a large amount of small bubble that is really effective for cleaning gunk within a short time.
The collection cup is large and offers easy access which means you can easily pick up the waste and clean the cup. The pump doesn’t make any noise during operation, it remains quiet. The entire machine is made of high-quality materials, so there is no chance that it will break off with time.
With this bubble Magus Curve 5, you have to follow one thing that is, there is a break in period of 2 to 3 days. During that time, you would have to place the skimmer above the recommended water level.
- It comes with an 8-watt powerful motor pump.
- The design looks very classy.
- The pump creates small sized bubbles in large amount which is really effective.
- This skimmer doesn’t require much space as it is small.
- The skimmer body has a curve smooth way for the bubbles.
- Doesn’t makes any irritating noise during the operation.
- Made with heavy-duty materials, so it is highly durable.
- The Bubble Magus Curve 5 doesn’t have high-quality customer service.
- The installation process takes time.
3. Reef Octopus BH1000 – Best External protein skimmer
The reef octopus bh1000 protein skimmer is one of the highest rated skimmers on the market. You’ll hardly find any negative feedback about this very skimmer. Its amazing look and performance have impressed every aquarium owner.
People who are looking for a skimmer with large capacity and optimum performance, the reef octopus bh1000 is the name that would surely come forward. This skimmer can work in almost all sizes of aquariums up to 210 gallons.
The best thing about this protein skimmer is its pump. It comes with a really powerful pump which easily washes out the nasty water from the aquarium within a very short time. There are some skimmer models which has the rating 210 but they barely can handle 100 gallons. That doesn’t happen with reef octopus bh1000.
The reef octopus bh1000 has the ability to clean an entire 210 gallons of water easily. It is a HOB skimmer which means it will be handing on the back of the aquarium, so you are not going to have a hard time placing this skimmer. On the other hand, it comes with a compact design which enables it to fit in tight spaces.
Compared to some similar models, it has a better foam production ability. The pump uses needle wheel impeller which slices down the bubbles in order to produce a large number of small bubbles. Because the smaller the bubbles are, the more efficiently it can clean the water.
On the other hand, it also comes with a 4-inches cone body shape, which means bubbles have a smooth way to get to the top and fall into the collection cup. Thanks to the manufacturer, with this protein skimmer they offer an instruction guide on how to clean the entire model with ease.
- The pump provides silent operation which means there will be no irritating noise.
- Comes with a powerful pump.
- Installing and placing the skimmer is very easy.
- Made of high-quality materials, so it is durable too.
- Works perfectly even in a 210 gallon aquarium.
- Features 4-inch cone skimmer body.
- Larger collection cup.
- It might not work well at the first go. So you have to run this skimmer a few times before it starts working perfectly.
4. Coralife super – best protein skimmer for 200 gallon tank
A lot of users are having really a great time with this Coralife protein skimmer for some obvious reasons. The main reason why people are getting more attracted to this skimmer is its mounting option. This protein skimmer can be used as both in sump and hang on back skimmer. Such a feature will obviously inspire a lot of purchasers because they won’t have to think about the space.
The Coralife protein skimmer is really a space saver. With the bracket, you can easily hang it at the back of the water tank. Another impressive feature of this protein skimmer is the patented wheel aspiration system. It comes with the high-quality fractionator which is going to deliver small bubbles in a large amount and that means, it is going to clean up the nasty water within a short time.
It features a large wide neck collection cup which allows you to take off the waste and clean the cup easily. Moreover, this Coralife protein skimmer features a bubble diffuser which prevents a small bubble from going into the tank because bubbles inside the tank can make the entire aquarium look cloudy.
It comes with a powerful motor pump and this skimmer can be used in 220 gallon water tank. It has the ability to clean perfectly the entire 220 gallons of water. On the other hand, the design is also very impressive.
- Can be used in a 220 gallon aquarium which is really huge.
- Features a powerful motor pump.
- It has bubble diffusers to prevent micro-bubbles from getting inside the tank.
- The dual injection inlet produces more small bubbles.
- Comes with a wide neck collection cup.
- This skimmer can be mounted in the sump or at the back of the tank.
- Energy saving machine.
- The installation instruction manual that comes with the machine is a bit complicated.
5. Reef Octopus Classic Needle Wheel – Best Hob Protein Skimmer
You might have already guessed the type of this protein skimmer. The reef octopus classic hob protein skimmer is a “hang on back” type. The first thing about this skimmer that impresses people is the size. People who are looking for a small sized skimmer, the reef octopus protein skimmer will be the perfect choice for them.
You can easily place it at the back of the aquarium with no hassle. The small size comes in handy when you have tight space at the back of the tank. Even after coming in a small size, it didn’t compromise its performance.
The setup process is very simple and easy compared to other models nowadays. Instructions that come with Reef Octopus Classic is easily understandable. If you are a newcomer, you might find it little complicated but with the help of YouTube videos, you will be able to set it up easily.
It comes with the ultra-efficient 1000 Aquatrance 9-watt motor pump and can be used in a 105 gallon aquarium. This Reef Octopus Classic model draws 92 gallons of water per hour.
- It comes with a unique design.
- The filtration capacity is 105 gallons.
- Features a 9-watt powerful motor pump.
- It is a small skimmer, doesn’t require much space.
- Water flow rating is 92 GPH which is quite impressive.
- Setup and installation process is really simple.
- Cleaning up the collection cup is a little bit hard.
- You might face leakage problem if not set up properly.
6. Tunze Comline DOC 9004 – best nano protein skimmer
The Tunze Comline DOC protein skimmer 9004 is designed for very small aquariums, up to 37 gallons. If you have a really small aquarium, then this protein skimmer would be the best choice for you. It will be able to clean the water perfectly.
It comes with a powerful German made motor pump which provides completely quiet operation. It is a compact protein skimmer and looks really classy. With this skimmer, you’ll also get a magnet holder which is perfect for 3/3-inch plastic or glass aquarium.
The collection cup is large enough for a 20-gallon fish tank and cleaning the cup is also very simple and easy, anyone would be able to do that within minutes. The motor comes with a controller through which you can control the flow of the bubbles production.
- It works pretty effectively in under 20-gallon fish tanks.
- Comes with a powerful motor.
- The motor pump comes with a controller.
- Doesn’t make any noise during the operation.
- Cleaning the collection cup is very easy.
- Features adjustable air inlet.
- Reasonable price.
- The magnet that comes with the skimmer is weak.
7. Coral Vue Technology AC20287 – best cone protein skimmer
This is the last skimmer of our review list and we are ending it with Coral Vue technology AC20287. First, let us tell you the filtering capacity of this skimmer, it is 210 gallons. Isn’t that huge? The previous model of this skimmer had only 100 gallons filtering capacity and it has twice than that.
Most people who own large fish tanks are falling for this Coral Vue AC20287 as it barely has a few negative feedback. Why would people hit a lower rating, when it has a large capacity along with a powerful motor pump? Ops! Didn’t say anything about the motor pump?
This skimmer is actually an outstanding performer. It comes with a Hailea OTP powerful motor pump which makes dissolving the waste from the water easier and faster. This motor pump produces a large number of micro-bubbles which is why this skimmer cleans the waste particles very fast. On the other hand, the motor pump uses an impeller needle wheel which makes the bubbles even smaller.
The skimmer body shape is a 4-inch cone neck which allows the bubbles to reach at the top of the skimmer and fall to the collection cup smoothly. In a nutshell, the Coral Vue AC20287 is really an incredible protein skimmer to have.
- Looks amazing.
- Made of high-quality materials.
- Features powerful motor pump.
- Skimmer has a cone-shaped body.
- The motor produces a large number of bubbles.
- Impeller needle wheel slices the bubble into even more smaller pieces.
- It has 210 gallons of filtering capacity.
- The motor pump makes a little noise during the operation
8. Red Sea Reefer – best Protein Skimmer for 300 gallon tank
- The high-performance Red Sea Reefer 300 Protein Skimmer features a combination of a PSK pump with a proportionally sized venturi, bubble diffusor and reaction body that optimizes air-water contact time for steady waste removal.
- Designed with hobbyists needs in mind, the Reefer Skimmers are really quiet thanks to rubber connectors which dampen the vibrations as well as a robust air silencer. It features the FoamView window, built-in neck cleaner and extra-long valved waste tube.
- Aquarium Size Ratings: for SPS, 80 gallons; for Mixed Reef, 160 gallons; for fish-only, 240 gallons
- Includes Sicce PSK 600 Pump. Ergonomic diffusion chamber evenly disperses the fine bubbles created by the PSK pump across the skimmer cone, without reducing air or water flow. Comes with built-in manual neck cleaner and drainage port with 1m valved hose.
- The footprint can either be 9.1" X 8.3" or 9.8" X 7.1" (the base is moveable). Recommended water height: 6-8".
How to Buy the Best Saltwater Protein Skimmer?
As the market is flooded with different protein skimmers, choosing the right one can be really tough. In order to get your hands on the right one, you have to check a few factors that we are going to discuss below:
1. Size Rating
The size is of the protein skimmer is the first and the most important factor to be considered. Different sizes of skimmer are suitable for different sized aquariums. Plus, differently sized protein skimmer has different protein skimming capabilities.
You have to choose a skimmer that suits nicely with your water tank. For example, if you choose an undersized skimmer for your tank, it might not be able to clean your tank water properly. It would be wise if you choose a skimmer which has higher size rating than your aquarium size.
Another vital part of a protein skimmer is the pump. A pump is what produces the bubbles and bubbles are what cleans the waste particles. In order to get an effective cleaning, you have to choose a pump with needle wheel impeller. Because the needle wheel impeller creates a large number of small bubbles which cleans the water effectively.
Mainly protein skimmers come in three different designs: Air driven, venture-driven and impeller skimmer.
These skimmers are also known as air stone skimmers. They come at a cheaper price but not really that much effective. Air driven skimmers use old irritating loud air pumps and make large bubbles whereas small bubbles clean more organic compounds.
The bubbles of these skimmers float up and pump the water down against the bubble flow. This is how air-driven protein skimmer mainly works.
Additional Read: Best Aquarium Air Stones
These type of skimmers have a valve called Venturi which is meant to suck up the air. These skimmers mostly pair up with powerful motor pumps in order to create a large number of air bubbles. They are better in performance than the air-driven skimmers.
Impeller skimmers pump up bubbles through a needle wheel in order to slice the bubbles into smaller pieces. This is a great feature because a large amount of smaller bubbles can clean the water more effectively.
4. Build Quality
For a moment let’s put the performance aside and think about the build quality. Performance and build quality are equally important. There is no point of having a high-performance if the machine’s material breaks down within no time. So be wise and choose one that is made of high-quality materials.
5. Collection Cup
The collection cup is the place where all the waste particles get stored and from where you pick all those waste. It is also an important factor to choose a large and simple collection cup that is easy to clean.
If you choose a small collection cup, you’ll have to clean up the cup multiple times, whereas a large cup will require cleaning once in a week. Plus, complicated collection cups will make it really hard for you to clean them. So don’t forget to choose a collection cup that is large and also simply designed.
6. The Shape of the Skimmer Body
Only a smooth path from the body to the collection cup will help the bubbles to float at the top and fall into the cup so that you can easily remove them. So the body shape is important. Cone, wineglass, and hybrid these are the effective body shapes which give the bubbles a smooth way.
7. Reaction Chamber
Try to pick a skimmer with a large reaction-chamber because the main action happens there. The bigger the chamber, the larger number of bubbles it will produce.
8. The Brand
You should go after well-known reliable brands. A good brand will have dependable products, will provide premium customer service if you face any trouble during the setup.
Here are some reliable brands: Reef Octopus, Tunze, vertex, and AquaMaxx.
You’ll find a lot of protein skimmer which comes with a motor that makes irritating noise during the operation. Make sure you avoid those types of skimmer because you won’t be able to sleep or read peacefully.
Fish tanks are mostly placed on the drawing rooms where all the guests sit and make conversation. So try to pick a protein skimmer that comes with a classy design. But don’t go mad after the look or don’t choose the look over quality.
Budget is always an issue for some people and that’s pretty normal. But most people go after cheap products just because they are cheap. They don’t even think about the quality and ends up spending more bucks in the long run.
If you are in a tight budget, we urge you to take some more time and gather some extra money and purchase the one that has higher quality. Trust me, you will thank us later.
Benefits of Owning a Protein Skimmer
- The aquarium water will get dirty after a certain period of time and that’s pretty natural. Marine inhabitants cannot survive in the nasty water and that’s where a protein skimmer strikes. The protein skimmer will wash off the dissolved organic compounds from the water which will increase the oxygen level in the saltwater aquarium and the fishes will be healthy.
- In dirty water full of nitrates, algae spread all over the tank pretty fast and a skimmer can prevent that nicely.
- In cloudy water, the light can’t penetrate well which makes the fish tank look darker. As protein skimmer cleans the water perfectly, the light will shine amazingly inside the saltwater tank.
- In saltwater aquariums you need to mix salt while doing water change. Premixing salt makes the water change a costly process. By introducing protein skimmers you can minimize the necessity of water change in your saltwater aquariums.
- If you use protein skimmer regularly, the overall health of the marine animals (including corals) will improve too. Fishes will be more playful and at the end, that’s going to please you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a protein skimmer for the freshwater tank?
Using a protein skimmer in freshwater is not suitable because there is a substantial difference in the surface tension of the two types of liquids.
In salt water there is not much difficulty in producing micro bubbles needed for foam fractionation to be effective and quite efficient.
This does not happen in fresh water, or only happens when extremely high dissolved organics are present in the water. Some heavily stocked Koi or goldfish ponds do use foam fractionation or forced air drip towers to skim off the proteins.
Also, generally in freshwater it is cheaper and easier to do partial water changes frequently and at high percentages of tank volumes rather than to use higher technology filtration techniques, which is the opposite of the situation in salt water.
What is the best HOB (Hang On Back) protein skimmer?
There is no definite answer to this. The skimmer that worked great with me, might not do the same with you. You have to choose a skimmer according to your tank size and water. Though, we think the reef octopus classic 100 hob protein skimmer is overall a nice one.
Is the protein skimmer a filter?
Yes! A protein skimmer works like a filter which cleans the nasty aquarium water in order to keep the marine inhabitants healthy. There is an added advantage with a protein skimmer. It removes waste before it breaks down into harmful toxins.
It’s Time to wrap up the article. We have tried to give you a basic idea on protein skimmers so that you can easily buy the best available protein skimmer within your budget. We reviewed 7 protein skimmers that are currently the best in the market. We have also given a buying guide which will help you out while buying a protein skimmer.
Hope our reviews and all the information will help you out. And if you have any question or suggestion, don’t forget to hit us up through the comment section below!
Table of Contents
- Best Protein Skimmer: Our Top 3 Picks At A Glance
- What is a Protein Skimmer?
- How Does a Protein Skimmer Work?
- Types of Protein Skimmers
- Best Protein Skimmer For Reef Tank
- 8 Best Protein Skimmer Reviews
- 1. SCA 302 Skimmer – Best in sump protein skimmer
- 2. Bubble Magus Curve 5 – Best Protein skimmer for 120 gallon tank
- 3. Reef Octopus BH1000 – Best External protein skimmer
- 4. Coralife super – best protein skimmer for 200 gallon tank
- 5. Reef Octopus Classic Needle Wheel – Best Hob Protein Skimmer
- 6. Tunze Comline DOC 9004 – best nano protein skimmer
- 7. Coral Vue Technology AC20287 – best cone protein skimmer
- 8. Red Sea Reefer – best Protein Skimmer for 300 gallon tank
- How to Buy the Best Saltwater Protein Skimmer?
- Benefits of Owning a Protein Skimmer
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Words