Protein Skimmers 101








Protein Skimmers

Protein Skimmers are one of the top 5 most important pieces of equipment for any saltwater aquarium. A tank in our opinion should not run without a GOOD skimmer.
The way protein skimmers work is they remove DOC (dissolved organic compounds) from the water. DOC is floating waste that is too small for any other piece of filtration to remove - so your mechanical filter can not capture DOC to filter it out. A pump and air intake mix and air and water to make a thick foam called skimmate. The skimmate then pushes itself to the top of the neck in the skimmer. At the top of the neck the bubbles pop and all of the DOC that was attached to bubbles is left behind in the collection cup. This leaves behind what should be an extremely dark liquid, almost like coffee, that has a somewhat strong smell.
When you are looking at skimmers you might notice what's called "Bioloads". Bioload are a way for a manufacturer, or for us, to recommend what that skimmer may handle based on it's size. An example of this is if you have a 150 gallon that has a good deal of fish and/or corals in then you are going to fall into the "Heavy Bioload" category. If you have a couple corals and a fish or two in your 75 gallon tank then you are going to fall into the "Light Bioload" category.
Break- In Time: (is your skimmer producing clear liquid and making a ton of bubble?)
When you first get your skimmer, even if you have previously had one, your new skimmer is going to attempt to remove all of the DOC from your tank that was previously in there. It usually takes a week or to for most people to get their skimmer adjusted to the proper setting so that it doesn't over-produce or fill the collection cup with water. Sometimes it may take 2-3 water changes before the viscosity of your water comes down to get the skimmer to stop going bonkers and foaming everywhere. Just make sure to keep an eye on your air/water mixture as the majority of skimmers these days have adjustable air intake and water level settings.
Other Reasons You Need Skimmer:
One MAJOR reason that people need a skimmer is to get excess pheromones out of their aquarium. This problem is often overlooked and can cause tanks to look rather dull. Pheromones are sex hormones that are produced by nearly every living creature. The members of your tank are very susceptible to these chemicals. They can cause a tremendous amount of stress to your tank if you aren't taking the proper steps to remove them. Common signs of stress from excess pheromones can possible be slow lethargic fish, corals that are not fully expanding, or sluggish invertebrates.
Another benefit of protein skimmers is they add dissolved oxygen to your aquarium. Fish breathe oxygen just like you and I. With lower levels of DO you might notice your fish more sluggish than usual. Oxygen levels are also important because they can help prevent major fluctuations in your tank pH level when the lights go out. This is a natural occurrence in any aquarium based on the laws of biology, but with a good protein skimmer on your tank you can reduce the likelihood that these fluctuations might be large enough to have an impact on your aquarium.
Please make sure you purchase a skimmer of good quality from a reputable source for the health of your tank.
If you still have any further questions about Protein Skimmers, please visit our Best Protein Skimmer Rankings section to see an in-depth testing analysis of all the brands that we carry, or you can contact us at


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