If you have a saltwater aquarium, an aquarium protein skimmer is an important item that ensures the healthy marine system. In my opinion, although all protein skimmer products work in the same way, they have different designs, features, added advanced function and prices.
Among the choices for skimmers, I have tested some products from famous brands and concluded the 11 best protein skimmer items that are worth a purchase.
While the decision is up to you, I think it is still important for you to understand the basic function and working mechanism of a protein skimmer. How does skimmer work? And why is it important for you have this one?
What Is A Protein Skimmer? How Does It Work
A protein skimmer or a foam fractionator is equipment for saltwater aquariums to get rid of dissolved organic compounds (DOC) and harmful substances in water. If these harmful substances are not removed, it can lead to the breakdown in the filter or aquarium, increasing the risk of illness and diseases for your marine pets.
Protein skimmers work by using air bubbles. Let’s me explain more. When the water and air are combined in the skimmer chamber, the air bubbles collected in a collection cup increase and take the dissolved organic compounds. The bubbles help to remove the amino acids, proteins, and other nasty things from the aquarium by pushing it into the collection cup.
It seems quite difficult for you to imagine, right? Let’s think about how the waves crash onto the shore in the ocean. That is the same as the way a saltwater protein skimmer work. The only difference is that with a protein skimmer, the nasty bubbles are removed from the aquarium via the collection cup.
What Does A Protein Skimmer Do?
There are many benefits of a protein skimmer for the clear aquarium system and your fish’s health. By removing the dissolved organics and harmful substances from the tanks and aquariums, a protein skimmer can help to prevent the nuisance algae, bacteria, phytoplankton, and other organisms from growing in the marine system.
Furthermore, it ensures the water clarity and keeps the DOC buildup in order to make more light penetrate into the water in the tank, which is beneficial for the marine life in the tank or aquarium.
Thirdly, this device increases the redox potential and oxygen levels in an aquarium, so fish and other marine creatures are always active and happy.
A good protein skimmer will ease the burden of water change as running an aquarium system seems challenging for someone who is forgetful and busy. Acknowledging that, I have searched for the best protein skimmers for years and now have a list of the top ranking protein skimmers based on their own pros and cons. Hope that this list will be your reference.
Here is the list of the best protein skimmer models
|Reef Octopus NS-80 Nano Protein Skimmer||Footprint: 4 X 2.4″, 11″ tall||Up to 20 gallons|
|AquaMaxx HOB-1.5 Hang-On-Back Protein Skimmer||7.5 x 3.5 x 17 inches||Up to 90 gallons|
|Marine Color RDC 150 Hanging On internal Needle Wheel Protein Skimmer||Diameter/ Height: 60/415 mm||Up to 40 gallons|
|Coralife BioCube Protein Skimmer for Aquarium Filter||8.2 x 7.6 x 2.4 inches||BioCube aquarium sizes 14, 16, 29 and 32|
|Aquamaxx Ws-1 In-sump Protein Skimmer||Up to 65 gallons|
|Instant Ocean SeaClone Protein Skimmer||6.2 x 20.8 x 4 inches||Up to 1 gallon|
|Coralife Super Protein Skimmer with Pump||4.2 x 5.5 x 20.8 inches||Ranging from 65 gallons to 220 gallons|
|Eshopps Protein Nano 10-35G Skimmer||5 x 2 x 4 inches||Up to 35 gallons|
|Bubble Magus BM-Curve 5 Protein Skimmer||26 x 9 x 10 inches||Up to 140 gallons|
|Skimmer by Mame Design||3.9 x 3.9 x 11.4 inches|
|Comline DOC Protein Skimmer 9001||4.3 x 2.5 x 8.5 inches||Up to 37 gallons|
1. Reef Octopus NS-80 Nano Protein Skimmer
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It is a kind of small protein skimmer that is suitable for an aquarium with up to 20 gallons. But what I like about this product is that it doesn’t take enough space while still having the great features of larger skimmers such as bubble diffuser and solid mounting bracket.
I bought the Reef Octopus protein skimmer also because of the raised pipe that can help control the water level, which is important for maintaining the skimmer.
Furthermore, using this nano protein skimmer, I can remove the collection cup for easy cleaning. This purchase doesn’t make me disappointed and I think the cost of about $55 is not an expensive price for you to try.
2. AquaMaxx HOB-1.5 Hang-On-Back Protein Skimmer
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I have tried a lot of skimmers from different trustworthy and famous brands. This Hob protein skimmer is one of the best items I have tested.
In spite of the pricy cost, the maker claims that it is durable, reliable, simple and efficient in setting up and operating. Therefore, I think it is worth a purchase if you don’t have a limited budget.
Moreover, one of the best qualities of this skimmer is that the pump is submerged and internal in water; therefore, it produces less noise than other products. Operating this one, I only hear a faint rumble that won’t annoy me and my family members.
The collection cup of this product is big and I also like the gasket set design of this collection cup as it is easy to clean without resistance.
Moreover, with the special design, this protein skimmer is suitable for any aquariums and even the one with 90 gallons. Don’t worry if you have a small aquarium as this item is light and thin enough to put inside.
My only complaint is that it is likely to leak often. However, overall, I am very satisfied and happy with the purchase.
3. Marine Color RDC 150 Hanging On internal Needle Wheel Protein Skimmer
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Worth your penny! Buying this pump made me hesitate at first but after reading a lot of reviews and recommendations, I would give it a try. After using it for a week, I have to honestly say that it has a good performance in skimming. When the outlet tube is turned, the air tube can open and close, removing any nasty things out of the tank immediately.
This saltwater protein skimmer is definitely suitable for an enormous tank system which needs more skimming than other tanks and aquarium. That product can adapt these needs and purposes well.
Some hobbyists may say that the mounting is too thin. But I think it is the aim of the maker who designed it to fit in a sump, not for hanging on a tank.
I also like its fashionable design with white and red pipe fitting that makes my tank look more beautiful with this equipment.
4. Coralife BioCube Protein Skimmer for Aquarium Filter
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If you want something simple and small for your nano aquarium, I would like to recommend the BiocCube protein skimmer that has a great price and good quality.
After using this skimmer for a couple of weeks, I found it does a great job in removing the organics from the tank. It also eases the burden for setting up and cleaning as well as maintaining. Compared with other skimmers I have tried in the past, this feature of BioCube protein skimmer is really a big bonus for someone who isn’t good at the technical skills.
However, there is a downside to this item. For particularly, the wooden airstone producing bubbles isn’t as effective as the propeller-driven units. Furthermore, because of the small collection cup, this skimmer needs changing more often, which will be an issue for some aquatic hobbyists.
Although the Coralife BioCube protein skimmer isn’t perfect, compared with other pricier products, in my opinion, it is inexpensive and still does a good job as a simple basic skimmer. If you want a large luxury skimmer with advanced features, please pay more money.
5. Aquamaxx Ws-1 In-sump Protein Skimmer
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The Aquamaxx Ws-1 In-sump Protein Skimmer is designed with special features as an in-sump version of the highly-rated HOB-1. Therefore, I decided to purchase this in-sump protein skimmer of Aquamaxx without feeling hesitate.
Designed with a powerful submersible pump and responsive collection cup, this product is perfect for a nano aquarium, saltwater aquarium or all-in-one-style aquarium. Those features also give this skimmer major benefits in the pumping mechanism. The pump in the combination with a venture-based impeller produces more foam. Furthermore, you can see the collection cup fill up rapidly when you make it work.
This skimmer is designed for stress-free; therefore, all its features and advanced functions are added for that purpose. As this skimmer is made of acrylic, it is easy for you to install, assemble and disassemble parts of the items. Most protein skimmers often need a break-in period if you want them to run consistently for years without a problem. However, this skimmer doesn’t require a break-in period, which makes this one outstanding among other similar products in the market.
Furthermore, using this in-sump protein skimmer, I don’t need to worry about the noise as this one operates silently without boring your or your pets inside your tanks.
6. Instant Ocean SeaClone Protein Skimmer
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I bought this SeaClone 100 protein skimmer when my expensive skimmer was broken and I didn’t have enough money to replace it. Reading a lot of reviews on this skimmer which both are good and bad, I was skeptical about the purchase. However, I still decided to give it a try.
After a few weeks, I have to say that I am very pleased and happy with this small protein skimmer. Although it may not be large enough to fit the reef up to 100 gallons or producing a little loud is a drawback, I love how it skims like a champ.
It is good at dissolving the organic compounds trapped in the cup; therefore, I can cleanse this skimmer less often without problems.
Therefore, if you are on a tight budget, I would like to recommend this one that is better than other similar skimmers with the average cost of about $50.
7. Coralife Super Protein Skimmer with Pump
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With the cost of more than $100, the Coralife Super Protein Skimmer is one of the expensive skimmers in the market that may make hobbyists think twice before purchasing. However, I have to say that if you aren’t on a tight budget, it will be the best purchase you have made for your aquarium.
This Coralife protein skimmer is designed with many advanced features and functions such as a patent needle-wheel impeller, bubble production diffuser, and dual injection inlets that all ensure the highest performance.
I also like the collection cup is designed with a wide neck for easy cleaning, which will make me and other hobbyists feel at ease. The mounting bracket is also awesome and I can use this skimmer in the saltwater aquarium, in the sump or hang it on. Furthermore, if set up right, it can be quiet in operation.
The only problem is that the set up may be a little difficult for starters, so you need to follow the instruction carefully.
If you are looking for the super-efficient hang on back protein skimmer, give it a shot!
8. Eshopps Protein Nano 10-35G Skimmer
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The pricy cost (about more than $100) of this Eshopps protein skimmer may be due to the fact that its quality is tested well and it is made of the high-grade material. Therefore, talking about the duration and sturdiness, no skimmers can beat this one.
Made in the USA, this skimmer meets the standard of cleanliness and safety, making even the fastidious hobbyists satisfied with the purchase. Many people who used or are using this product said that they really made the best investment with its performance and construction.
The small footprint is also a factor that makes it become the best nano protein skimmer. Moreover, the installation part is what most hobbyists like it more as it is easy to install by following the installation procedure.
However, it requires a long break-in period if you want this skimmer function well, which is the only drawback but isn’t a big deal. The Eshopps protein skimmer still deserves to get 5 stars in performance without a doubt.
9. Bubble Magus BM-Curve 5 Protein Skimmer
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The Magus BM-Curve 5 is an in-sump protein skimmer with innovative features, advanced designs, and reliable pump. This one can fit perfectly the tanks up to 140 gallons; therefore, it is the top choice for someone who is looking for the large skimmer with high performance.
This skimmer produces a lot of foam that helps remove more organics than the basic skimmer. As the body is designed with a curve shape, the foam can rinse smoothly to the collection cup.
Furthermore, what many hobbyists like this skimmer are that the air silencer gives this skimmer a handy silencing mechanism; therefore, you and the resident in the tank are never bothered with the noise.
Besides, the collection cup is removable; therefore, it seems more convenient for me to clean it. Because of all those advantages, the Bubble Magus BM-Curve 5 Protein Skimmer is what I am looking for the best protein skimmer.
You may find some complaints about its difficulty in finding the right water level or unavailable instructions that need downloading from the web. But the pros definitely overweight the cons, right?
10. Skimmer by Mame Design
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I guess some hobbyists may choose this skimmer for its beauty that comes from the handcrafted glass material, and attractive design. But what urges me to purchase is its performance. Although it has the smallest size among other skimmers in the market, its quality and function are as effective as the larger skimmer.
Finding the best protein skimmer for nano tank may be difficult as the tiny tanks are packed with corals and invertebrates without much space for a protein skimmer. Because of the small size, the skimmer by Mame Design is a perfect choice for our nano tanks up to 30 gallons.
It also reduces the presence by the design of an exterior collection cup you can hide it behind the aquarium.
However, the fact that it doesn’t have an air pump is its minus and the limewood air stones need replacing monthly if you want this skimmer is maintained well. But if you really like the advantages and pros of this product, its cons aren’t a big issue.
11. Comline DOC Protein Skimmer 9001
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Where to start with this protein skimmer? Firstly, it seems expensive but the maker claimed that it is super quiet and extremely efficient; therefore, I really want to put this item to the test.
My first impression is great. This protein skimmer is super silent in operation and it is easy to hide the assembly. This skimmer is small; therefore, it can fit in many chambers. I can run this system in my office or bedroom without hearing any noise.
Its performance also receives a good point as it is effective in removing organic waste from the water. When I turn on the unit, it starts to create foam for about one or two hours.
I have used this skimmer for my 20-gallon tank for one month and really like its quality. So, I think this will be one of the best nano protein skimmers in the market that make any nano aquarist satisfied.
How To Install And Maintain A Protein Skimmer
For saltwater hobbyists, a protein skimmer is a highly recommended device to remove the dirt, waste, and bacteria from the aquarium water until it leads to the breakdown into phosphate and nitrate.
However, if you want this skimmer always to be in a good condition and last longer, you need to know how to install and maintain a protein skimmer properly.
Here are the things you should do after buying a protein skimmer.
- Evaluate the space in the sump where you want to put the protein skimmer before buying and make sure that the skimmer fit it.
- Rinse all the components of this device in warm water to remove any manufacturing residue.
- Ensure the water level is within a particular The water inside the sump needs to be enough to make the skimmers submersed well.
- Open up the skimmer outlet completely to let the maximum amount of water get into the skimmer and ensure the foam level to be at the lowest point.
- Keep the skimmer work at this lowest foam level for 2-4 weeks, which is called break-in period to prevent the producing and overflowing pesky
- Adjust the level of foam inside the skimmer to remove maximum waste by using the drain or outlet on the skimmer.
To maintain the good performance of a protein skimmer, you should read my following guideline:
- Empty and rinse the collection cup once a week.
- Clean the skimmer pump every 3-4 months (Soak the pump in a safe aquarium cleaner or vinegar to get rid of salt creep, calcium, and algae)
- Clean components of the protein skimmer regularly.
- Perform a large water change when you see the increase of water viscosity that can affect the performance of your protein skimmer
When installed properly and maintained well, the protein skimmer can give the best performance with higher water clarity, and less organic waste, providing a healthy and safe environment for aquatic animals in the tanks.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Can a protein skimmer be used in a freshwater tank?
Of course, you can. But it won’t match with the purpose the maker build for. A protein skimmer creates a healthy and clean environment for the resident in the saltwater aquariums by producing foam that removes the waste from the water.
It doesn’t mean that users in the freshwater tank, a protein skimmer is useless. In some ways, it may help to increase the amount of oxygen into the freshwater, which is good for fishes and other aquatic pets. But do you think that is an expensive choice as you can use an air stone or affordable filter instead?
2. Why is a protein skimmer necessary in an aquarium?
The answer is that it isn’t actually necessary when you can perform frequent water changes for your aquarium at least every two weeks.
But let’s consider the benefits of a protein skimmer for your saltwater aquarium. It removes the organic waste and toxins, increases the oxygen level, maintains proper pH, purifies water, eases the burden of water changes, and protects fish’s health. All these benefits are enough for me to think that a protein skimmer is an important device for a saltwater aquarium.
3. Is Bigger Better When it Comes to a Protein Skimmer?
My answer is NO. A bigger skimmer doesn’t mean it has a high performance or makes you satisfied.
An oversized skimmer works very well for a few days after the purchase but its performance slows down after all of the organics are removed. When the tank has organic built-up again, the system will work but perform inconsistently.
Coming to the size, it is important for you to choose the right one based on the display volume of your tank because that shows how the biological load is concentrated.
Furthermore, the number of fish and aquatic animals producing poop also determines the right size of the best protein skimmer. If you don’t have many fishes, there is no need to buy a skimmer with a big size.
The best protein skimmer will definitely make you feel comfortable because of good performance and great reliability. It is the reason why you should rely on my reviews that give you a better and exact assessment of the models of protein skimmers. The 11 models I reviewed here are the top branded products in the industry and they are absolutely worth a try.