It’s quite obvious that not only does the water in your aquarium have to look good, but it, most importantly has to be healthy enough for the fish to thrive in. Because of this, there’s a lot of ranting on the internet as to which filtration system is the best as far as maintaining good water quality is concerned.
As much as there are quite a number of filtration systems present in the market today, protein skimmers stand out as one of the best and these are what today is going to be all about.
Designed to work perfectly well with different aquarium sizes, each of the 8 skimmers will ensure that your fish are in peak health conditions. To add icing to the cake, we also do have a buying guide with which you’ll have a head start on how to go about when looking for one.
Quick Look At Our Top 8 Protein Skimmers Selected By Our Editors
- Editor’s Choice: AquaMaxx HOB-1.5 Hang-On-Back Protein Skimmer
- Best Overall: SCA-302 180 Gallon Protein Skimmer
- Cheapest Option: CoralVue Technology BH-2000
- Aquatic Life 115 Mini Internal Protein Skimmer
- Coralife Super Protein Skimmer with Pump
- Bubble Magus BM-Curve 5 Protein Skimmer
- Reef Octopus Classic 110-INT Needle Wheel Protein Skimmer
- Comline DOC Protein Skimmer 9001
What Is a Protein Skimmer?
All you probably know about protein skimmers now is that they function to make the water that your fish are in much cleaner and clearer. To distinguish it from other types of skimmers out there, let’s have a look at what a protein skimmer really is.
Protein skimmers are basically equipment that functions to purify the water in your reef aquariums by eliminating impurities such as excess bacteria, toxins from corals, waste products and uneaten food. Another key function of a protein skimmer is the prevention of algae growth in the sense that it removes organic compounds way before they can compromise the clarity of the water.
So, how does it work?
Protein skimmers basically use the polarity of proteins or rather foam factorization to eliminate impurities by creating scrubbing bubbles.
The skimmer normally has got a reaction chamber in which tiny bubbles are created. Due to the way protein acts on organic compounds, the organic waste sticks on the bubbles which then rise to the water surface from where they are manually removed from the water column through a collection cup.
Types of Protein Skimmers Available In the Market
Now that you have an idea of how it works, let’s go ahead and take a look at the common types you could come across. Here goes…
Hang On Back (HOB) Protein Skimmers
Otherwise known as the hang-on-back protein skimmers, these simply hang at the back of the aquarium. In order to do this, it uses brackets that come with it from the manufacturer.
They are best recommended for use on smaller aquariums that have a capacity that’s less than 100 gallons.
In-Sump Protein Skimmers
Looking for a good way to clean water in your aquarium without exposing the skimmer? This is it. It basically serves as a reservoir for circulating and cleaning the water at the same time. For those who don’t want additional equipment on the aquarium, this should do the trick
External Protein Skimmers
As the name suggests, they are housed outside of the aquarium and work by feeding the cleaned water right into the aquarium sump and the cycle continues
In-tank Protein Skimmers
Want the perfect protein skimmer for a nano tank? This is definitely what you should go for. They don’t take up a lot of space inside the aquarium and despite being quite compact in size, they are really effective in eliminating organic compounds from the water.
Benefits of Using a Protein Skimmer
So, what do you really get out of using either of the above-mentioned protein skimmers? Let’s have a look at the benefits of adding one of these to your aquarium, shall we?
- Balancing the pH levels– with the introduction of organic components to the aquarium, the pH level may be unfavourable for the thriving of fish. Since a protein skimmer functions to eliminate such contaminants, the pH levels are restored back to what’s favourable
- Utmost light penetration- cloudy water would mean that light penetration will be compromised. When this occurs, the plants in the water would not get as much water as is needed hence making it difficult for them to synthesize food and in the long run, there’ll be an imbalance in the ecosystem.
- Preventing the spread of algae- as it turns out, the presence of nitrates in the aquarium means that there’ll be a wider spread of algae. With a skimmer present, the nitrates are broken down and as such, the spread of algae is minimized or prevented.
- Fully oxygenated water- yet another benefit you get from using a protein skimmer is that excess contaminants are eliminated. When this happens, the level of oxygen in the water is restored back to normal and as such, your fish get enough oxygen to thrive in.
- Overall improvement of marine health- last but not least, there’ll be an overall improvement in marine health once you decide to get a protein skimmer. In order to ensure that the water is in the healthiest state, all you got to do is replace the skimmer just in case it stops producing skimmate.
The 8 Best Protein Skimmers of 2022
On to the main agenda, here are the top reviews of the best protein skimmers you could get for the money in 2022.
Number #1: AquaMaxx HOB-1.5 Hang-On-Back Protein Skimmer
Standing out to be one of the best HOB protein skimmers from one of the top brands, you’ll be working with a compact yet effective unit and as such, ensure that your fish are at peak health.
Easy to set up and use
Besides just being able to hang it up at the back of your aquarium, using the collection cup is quite easy since you only have to move it up or down and adjust the foam level to wet or dry. Maintenance is also just as easy as the cup is removable.
It also does have a drain fitting for anyone who wants to set up a separate reservoir for the skimmate.
There’s maximum foam production
Considering it has got an enlarged bubble diffusor and reaction chamber, the HOB-1.5 harnesses the power of the Shark 1.0 pump hence maximizing foam production and protein extraction. Turbulence inside the reaction chamber is also minimized by the custom conical bubble diffusers hence directing water linearly to the collection cups.
Boasts a high-quality construction
On to the build quality, it not only has a compact design but also boasts high-quality and precisely-cut polished cell-cast acrylic. The skimmer is also made of high-quality Italian-made Sicce pumps that then have Aquamaxx needle wheel impellers. These, altogether make the performance much better than that of a stock pump
- It’s easy to set up and use
- The bubble diffusion is designed to minimize turbulence
- Features a high-quality acrylic construction
- You’ll have to periodically take it apart for cleaning
Number #2: SCA-302 180 Gallon Protein Skimmer
Looking for the best protein skimmer for a large aquarium? This should do the trick. With a 180-gallon capacity, high-quality construction and functional design, you couldn’t go wrong with this one.
Easy to use and set up
Being an in-sump protein skimmer, the last thing you want is for it to give you a hard time when setting it up, right? Well, to ensure this does not happen, it’s compact enough to fit in most sump designs. As such, you don’t have to worry about its performance being compromised.
Includes a needle impeller for reliability
Included in the design is the Atman 2000 pump needle impeller pump which ensures that there production enough bubbles for the elimination of impurities from your aquarium
Features a large collection cup
Considering this is a large 180-gallon aquarium for use in saltwater tanks, you’ll be using it in a large aquarium where there’s bound to be a lot of impurities. Now, to ensure that the water is as healthy as possible, the collection cup is large enough.
- It features a compact size that’s compatible with most sumps
- The laser-cut design makes it easy to assemble
- Features an extra-large collection cup for optimal performance
- The silencer screws into the lid which makes cleaning a little difficult
Number #3: CoralVue Technology BH-2000
Designed to keep your aquarium as clean as possible while at the same time not interfering with the overall marine life, the BH-2000 is definitely the best protein skimmer for the best value.
Features a high-quality construction
Starting off with the build quality which is also one of the features that make this one of the best HOB protein skimmers, you’ll be getting a high-quality acrylic unit. This basically ensures that it gets to keep your fish healthy for a really long time.
Easy to set up and use
Being a HOB skimmer, it should be quite easy to set up. What’s even more interesting is that the pump is outside the skimmer and aquarium and as such, no heat exchange with the water.
The skimmer is also designed to allow for easy removal of the pump which in turn makes cleaning it quite easy.
- Has got an easy to set up HOB design
- Features a high-quality acrylic construction
- Designed to make cleaning and maintenance easy
- It’s a little too noisy
Number #4: Aquatic Life 115 Mini Internal Protein Skimmer
Designed to increase water-to-air contact for the elimination of organic matter while at the same time boasting a compact design, you couldn’t go wrong with this bad boy. Here’s what you’ll be getting.
Includes a needle-wheel impeller
With the inclusion of a needle-wheel impeller pump, there is maximum air-to-water contact and a high energy efficiency hence delivering effective organic waste removal. It also features a quick-lock design that makes it easy to open the housing for cleaning.
The water level is adjustable
In addition to the needle impeller, you can also adjust the level of water with the simple turn of a knob which makes it the best protein skimmer for a nano tank.
However, it’s recommended that you measure the filter box area first to determine whether the skimmer will fit into the filter box area.
Features a compact design
Designed to be used in aquariums that measure up to 30 gallons, it only measures 3” x 3-1/4” x 10-5/8” high to save on space and at the same time guarantee utmost filtration.
- Includes a needle-wheel impeller for better air-to-water contact
- Placed inside the aquarium for quiet operation
- Has got an adjustment knob for the water level
- It’s hard to have the retention cup on the unit as it operates
Number #5: Coralife Super Protein Skimmer with Pump
If you are out to get the best protein skimmer for 200 gallon tank, you should definitely check this bad boy out. From the efficiency to the usability, it sure is going to do you some justice. Here’s what it packs under the hood.
Features a needle wheel system
With this, there’ll be the creation of a spiralling vortex of water which then removes fine proteins and organic compounds from aquarium water. To add icing to the cake, it’s also designed to effectively remove dissolved organic compounds from saltwater.
Versatile set-up options for reliability
One of the features you’ll highly appreciate is the convenience of using this as an in-sump or alternatively hang it on mounting bracket while at the same time getting equally as good a performance.
Includes a wide neck collection cup
Last but not least, there is a wide neck collection cup and with the easy twist it’s got, cleaning will be effortless and fast.
It does have dual injection inlets for increased bubble contact and the bubble production diffuser prevents bubble flow into the main aquarium.
- It can be used in-sump or hung on a bracket
- Features a needle wheel system for elimination of contaminants
- Includes a wide neck collection cup for effortless cleaning
- The O-ring on the cap is a little thin
Number #6: Bubble Magus BM-Curve 5 Protein Skimmer
Boasting an innovative design that’s meant to give you a bang for your buck while at the same time featuring a compact yet functional design, you couldn’t go wrong with this one
Has got a needle wheel pump
Then needle pump design also features a venturi intake which produces just the right amount of perfectly-sized bubbles that in turn ensures water purification is at its best. It also does have a bubble plate to reduce turbulence in the reaction chamber.
Features an innovative curvy skimmer body
Regarding the innovative design, the skimmer has got a curve which allows the foam to smoothly rise to the collection cup. For quiet operation, there is an air silencer built into it.
Comes in an easy-to-clean design
Regarding maintenance, it does have a quick-release collection cup and skimmer body for easy cleaning and a drain for the collection cup to reduce maintenance frequency.
- Features a compact design for easy installation
- Has got an innovative curve design for smooth rising of the foam
- Includes a silencer for quiet operation
- Could take some time to master controlling it
Number #7: Reef Octopus Classic 110-INT Needle Wheel Protein Skimmer
There’s better foam production, it comes in an easy to use package and does have a highly efficient cleaning process plus plenty more. Here’s what you should be looking forward to.
Designed to effectively collect bubbles
The cone on this skimmer has got a 4-inch neck which eases the transition from bubbles into the collection cup and as such makes it easy to clean up the skimmer afterwards. To add to the efficiency, it does have a needle wheel that has got a really amazing performance.
Easy to take apart for cleaning
When it comes to cleaning, it does have a quick-release neck which makes it much easier to clean the collection cup.
Includes an adjustable water level
Last but not least, the skimmer includes a gate valve which allows you to adjust the water levels. Considering the skimmer is designed for in-sump use, you’ll find this feature quite handy
- Features a quick-release neck for easy cleaning
- Includes a pinwheel for high performance
- Comes with a gate valve for easy water level adjustment
- The directions of use are a little unclear
Number #8: Comline DOC Protein Skimmer 9001
Summing up our review, let’s have a look at what could be the best HOB protein skimmer for you. It’s quite easy to set up yet function at the same time. Here’s what makes it one of the best.
Includes a needle-wheel pump.
So as to produce the right amount of perfectly sized bubbles for utmost elimination of organic matter, it features a needle wheel pump. This makes it the best protein skimmer for nano tank as far as keeping your fish healthy is concerned.
Features a magnet holder
So as to make it easy to set up, it does have a magnet mount that is usable on up to a 3/8″ glass or acrylic. It’s also worth pointing out that you won’t have to worry about any overflows with this protein skimmer.
Comes in a compact design
Probably one of the features you’ll appreciate most with this skimmer is the build quality. It does come in a compact size measuring only 4.3 x 2.5 x 8.5 inches which makes it ideal for nano reef aquariums with a capacity of 37 gallons.
- Comes with a magnet mount for easy setup
- Features a compact design
- Includes a needle wheel pump for optimal performance
- It’s a little too wide to mount in different positions
The Ultimate Guide to Getting The Best Protein Skimmer
On to the second section of our reviews, let’s go ahead and have a look at all the important factors you need to take into consideration when shopping for the best protein skimmer.
The Overall Design
It’s all about efficiency when it comes to the design and as much as the end result is similar, there are different ways as to how the results are achieved. Here goes
Despite being the cheapest, they are a little too loud and the bubbles you get from these are relatively large which is not really good as far as efficiency is concerned.
With such, the skimmer is paired with a pump which then creates air bubbles and upon doing so results to the skimmer functioning as it should. A venturi is basically a valve designed to suck in air.
With such a design, bubbles are pumped via a needle wheel or pinwheel impellers. Once they get through either of these, the bubbles are then sliced to much smaller sizes hence improving the efficiency of the skimmer. For the best performance, it’s recommended that you go for one that has been paired up with a venturi valve.
The Size of Your Tank
Above all else, the size of your tank is quite important since every skimmer has got a different tank size rating. This is normally dependent on the amount of skimmate they’ll be able to eliminate from the water, the pump size and the manufacturer’s design among other things.
It’s recommended that you go for a skimmer whose rating is a little bit higher than the size of your tank since going for a smaller one will have you struggling to keep the nutrient levels down.
Being the easiest way ever for how you could get an ideal product, the same holds for the protein skimmers. Some of the brands I’d recommend you check out include Coralife, Bubble Mangus, Reef Octopus, Vertex and Aquamaxx. Picking out either of these will ensure you get both longevity and efficiency altogether
Size of The Skimmer
Something else you’ll want to pay attention to is the skimmer’s size. Regarding this, it all comes down to mostly whether or not you have enough clearance to operate the skimmer and most importantly to get the collection cup off when need be.
The Installation Location
Just as it is important to pay attention to the size of the protein skimmer, it’s equally as important to know where you’ll be setting it up. For a HOB design, you can use it on pretty much any aquarium. The sump design, on the other hand, is recommended if you have a sump and the external one is demanding more space and needs to be installed outside the aquarium.
How to Set Up a Protein Skimmer
Setting up a protein skimmer could be a little tricky. Nonetheless, here’s a guide on how you could do this with ease.
- First off, go ahead and pick one that’s got a slightly higher rating than what your tank is rated at.
- The next thing you’ll want to do is do prior assembly when need be. Be sure to check the instruction manual to know whether it’s necessary to do this.
- Once assembled, you’ll want to connect an external sump if none is provided out of the box and then connect both the inlet and outlet hoses to it after which you should plug it in to ensure the water circulates.
- The next thing you’ll want to do is hook the skimmer up at the correct depth of water as recommended by the manufacturer.
- Next, allow the skimmer to fill up with water once placed in the sump then plug it into an electrical outlet and turn it on at which point foam should be produced after a few seconds.
How to Maintain a Protein Skimmer
Truth be told, these could be the dirtiest equipment you could be using on your tank and as such, utmost maintenance is recommended. Here’s the best way to go about this…
The collection cup
Regarding the size of the accumulated bioload, clean the collection cup thrice or twice a week or less than this if the water is cleaner. This should be done by simply rinsing the cup and wiping it with a pad.
The body of the skimmer
Worst case scenario, algae could grow in the body which could be harder to clean. For normal accumulation, cleaning should be bi-annually. To get started on this, drain all the water from the skimmer and remove the sump which you should soak in a bucket with water and vinegar till the algae are easy enough to wipe away.
Once ready, clean the body inside and outside then rinse with fresh water after which you should replace it in your tank. Be sure to check algae or deposit accumulation on other parts of the skimmer add-ons and clean them just the same way.
Well, there you have it, I’m pretty sure that using, choosing and setting up a protein skimmer is much easier even if it’s your first time. A piece of advice to anyone that’s getting started, the trick is always to observe the outlined maintenance tips and most importantly, be sure to choose one while paying attention to the size rating for your tank; this way, you’re guaranteed to get a bang for your buck.