7 Best Protein Skimmers

For aquarium lovers, it’s hard to beat walking into a room and seeing a crystal clear and healthy aquarium. This doesn’t happen on its own, and it requires regular cleaning and upkeep. When you feed your fish, they produce waste products. This can cloud up your aquarium. However, the best protein skimmers can help with this problem.

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Best Protein Skimmers 2019

Brand and NameWattageGallons 
Coralife Super Skimmer
with Pump
Five65, 125,
and 220
Check Price
Coralife BioCube Protein
Skimmer
Four30 Check Price
Lee’s Protein Skimmer Five50 Check Price
Aquatic Life 115 Mini

Internal Protein Skimmer
Eight30 Check Price
Hydor USA SlimSkim Internal SkimmerFour25 to 35 or
48 to 65
Check Price
SCA-302 Protein SkimmerNine180 Check Price
Bubble Magus BM-Curve
5 Protein Skimmer
10140 Check Price

Protein Skimmer FAQs

Defining a Protein Skimmer

A protein skimmer helps to maintain your aquarium’s nitrate levels. It stops nitrate buildup by removing the fish’s waste products before it has a chance to breaks down. This is essential for maintaining your nitrate levels, especially in an aquarium with live coral.

Types of Protein Skimmers

There are three types of protein skimmers available to buy. A hang-on protein skimmer hangs over the edge of your aquarium, and it’s compact. An in tank or in-sump skimmer goes directly in your aquarium, and it comes with an air pump. The final type of skimmer is an external skimmer, and this sits on the outside of your aquarium and work just like an in-sump skimmer.

Benefits of a Protein Skimmer

There are several different benefits that come with using one of these skimmers in your aquarium. They include:

  • Nitrate level control
  • Stablize your pH levels
  • Clears up the water
  • Breaks down organic compounds in the tank

Protein Skimmer Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is there a specific amount of water you need for your skimmer?

It really depends on the skimmer. However, most skimmers do very well in seven to nine inches of water. Larger skimmers will require more water.

2. How long do you have to break a skimmer in?

When you first get it, you can plan on a breaking in period that lasts between one to three weeks.

3. How do you get replacement parts for the skimmer if something breaks?

It’s best to go straight to the manufacturer’s website and order any replacement parts. This will ensure that they fit and work properly.

4. Can you buy differently sized protein skimmers?

Yes. Protein skimmers come in a variety of sizes to fit a variety of aquarium sizes. You want one that is designed for your aquarium’s size.

5. Do you run a skimmer constantly?

You run your skimmer constantly when you set it up. You do have to keep an eye on it and clean it routinely

6. How often do you clean your skimmer?

Your skimmer comes with a collection cup, and you want to clean it when you notice it getting full. This is usually a few times a week

7. Do protein skimmers use a lot of electricity?

No. Most protein skimmer models use between four and eight watts of electricity, and they’re very eco-friendly.

8. Do you get all of the pieces you need when you buy a protein skimmer?

Depending on which skimmer you buy, yes. Some skimmers only come with the actual skimmer, and you have to buy a pump and tubing separately. Others come with everything you need.

9. Do skimmers work in freshwater and saltwater aquariums?

Most skimmers work in both saltwater and freshwater aquariums as well as reef tanks. The saltwater is more corrosive though

10. How much clearance do you need between the tank and the wall?

You want to make sure that your skimmer’s mounting brackets fit and that they aren’t crowded. You should plan for at least two to four inches of space between the tank and the wall.

11. Is a lot of foam and bubbles normal?

For the first few weeks, yes this is normal. It’ll take this long for you to find the correct adjustments for your skimmer.

12. Are they difficult to use?

For the most part, no. There is a slight learning curve when you get a new one because you’ll have to adjust it several times until you find the correct placement.

13. Does the protein skimmer stick up above the tank?

If the protein skimmer hangs on the tank, it’ll stick up for a few inches behind the tank. Some models sit behind the aquarium as well.

14. Are the skimmers ready to use straight out of the box?

No. Most of the protein skimmers you can buy require slight setup. You have to put the mounting bracket together if it has one and hook the hoses up.

15. Are protein skimmers loud when they run?

It depends on the brand. Some are designed with built-in silencers while others hum slightly as they run.

16. Is it difficult to take the skimmer apart to clean it?

No. Most models twist apart and have wide tubes and collection cups, so they’re very easy to take apart and clean when it needs it.

17. Do you have to spend a lot of money to get a protein skimmer?

Again, it depends on the brand. You can spend as low as around $30 for your skimmer, or they go up to over $200.

18. How high above the water does the collection plate have to sit?

Ideally, you want your protein skimmer’s collection plate to sit at least an inch above the aquarium’s water level.

19. Do skimmers do alright in aquariums with live plants?

Yes. Protein skimmers will run without any problems in an aquarium with live plants, reef aquariums, and fish.

20. What additional pieces do you have to buy if you buy just the skimmer?

If you buy just the skimmer, you’ll have to buy a pump to hook the skimmer up to along with tubing and an air stone is optional.

1. Coralife Super Skimmer with Pump

 

 

You can purchase this protein skimmer for a 60 gallon, 125 gallon, or a 220 gallon aquarium. It’s a great addition to reef or saltwater aquariums. You get a wide neck collection cup paired with an easy twist feature that makes this skimmer very easy to clean and maintain.

PROS

  • The protein skimmer is suitable for a variety of tank sizes.
  • You get dual injection units to increase the water contact time.
  • It come with an easy to install hang on mounting bracket.

CONS

  • There are issues with the motor burning out after a year.
  • It can be difficult to put the mounting hardware together the first time.
  • The pump is larger and may have difficulty fitting in smaller aquariums.

2. Coralife BioCube Protein Skimmer

 

 

This simple protein skimmer is very user-friendly and it features an easy to set up, maintain, and clean design. It fits into the back of your BioCube aquarium’s filtration system for a camouflaged look. The skimmer comes with a heavy-duty air pump, tubing, and air flow valve included.

PROS

  • The skimmer has a very compact and user-friendly design.
  • It fits perfectly into the back of a BioCube aquarium’s filtration system.
  • You get a lot of durable and quality accessories with the protein skimmer.

CONS

  • The top doesn’t fit securely and is prone to falling off.
  • You might encounter a problem with the skimmer filling with water.
  • The included air pump may not be powerful enough to keep up with the skimmer.

3. Lee’s Protein Skimmer

 

 

You can choose from a small, medium, or large protein skimmer, and it can handle aquariums up to 50 gallons. They come put together and ready to go in the tank. You get a two-way plastic valve and a convenient hanger. It’s suitable for reef tanks or saltwater aquarium setups.

PROS

  • The skimmer comes pre-assembled and ready to go.
  • You can choose from three different sizes for tanks up to 50 gallons.
  • It’s very easy to attach to the aquarium and to adjust.

CONS

  • You need to buy additional items for the skimmer to work.
  • The attachment points are prone to breaking or cracking.
  • You may have to adjust the skimmer a lot when you first install it.

4. Aquatic Life 115 Mini Internal Protein Skimmer

 

 

This compact protein skimmer is great for mini reef aquariums up to 30 gallons. It comes equipped with a needle-wheel impeller that increases the level of air to water contact. This skimmer is designed to run very quietly in the background of your aquarium without disrupting your reef tank.

PROS

  • The mounting bracket comes with a secure locking mechanism.
  • You get a more compact size with a quiet operation.
  • It has a built-in compartment to hide the power cord.

CONS

  • The intake on this skimmer can get easily clogged by stray debris or leaves.
  • The suction cups may not attach securely enough to the tank.
  • You have to routinely adjust your skimmer to keep it working at peak levels.

5. Hydor USA SlimSkim Internal Skimmer

 

 

You can buy two different models when you buy this skimmer. One model handles 25 to 35 gallon aquariums and the other handles 48 to 65 gallon aquariums. You get a suction cup mounting system along with an energy efficient design that only uses four watts of electricity to run.

PROS

  • This skimmer allows you to customize it to the size of your aquarium.
  • It features a very energy-efficient design that uses four watts of electricity.
  • The air control and foaming valve are very easy to adjust.

CONS

  • It may take several adjustments to get it to work correctly.
  • The skimmer runs slightly louder than other choices.
  • It’s prone to clogging, and you have to take it completely apart before it works again.

6. SCA-302 180 Gallon Protein Skimmer

 

 

You get a compact size with this protein skimmer. But, it can handle larger aquariums up to 180 gallons. It comes with an extra large collection cup and a silencer installed so it runs quietly. The skimmer is laser cut so it’s easy to assemble and clean.

PROS

  • The skimmer has a laser cut design for better accuracy.
  • It comes with a built-in silencer so that it can run in the background.
  • It has a newly redesigned look including a larger collection cup.

CONS

  • The materials the skimmer is made out of aren’t high-quality.
  • The motors have a tendency to get and stay hot when they run.
  • The tubing is prone to crimping or clogging and it isn’t durable.

7. Bubble Magus BM-Curve 5 Protein Skimmer

 

 

You get the skimmer along with a high performance and powerful pump. It works on aquariums up to 140 gallons, and the more compact build allows you to use it on smaller aquariums. It has a needle wheel pump, a bubble plate, and a curved body to allow for the foam to rise to the collection cup evenly.

PROS

  • The skimmer is curved to allow for even foam distribution.
  • It’s suitable for smaller aquariums and larger aquariums up to 140 gallons.
  • The collection cup has a drain for easy cleaning and maintenance.

CONS

  • It can take a lot of trial and error to get this skimmer running.
  • It’s very difficult to reach customer support if you have a problem.
  • The skimmer is extremely sensitive to any water depth changes.

8. Odyssea Clean 100 Surface Skimmer

 

 

This skimmer works in both freshwater and saltwater aquariums up to 100 gallons. It uses an energy efficient five watt pump to run, and it works to quickly skim the surface of your tank to remove any particles. This skimmer also does well with freshwater planted aquariums, and it’s compact enough to fit into smaller setups.

PROS

  • The skimmer uses an energy efficient five watt pump.
  • It comes with an easy to install mounting feature.
  • You get a very powerful buy quiet design with this skimmer.

CONS

  • You have to clean the skimmer more often due to the smaller size.
  • The return tubes are a little loose and difficult to place.
  • The filter pads may fall apart quickly with a lot of use.

9. Reef Octopus Classic 110-INT Needle Wheel Protein Skimmer

 

 

You can use this protein skimmer on aquariums up to 100 gallons. You get the Reef Octopus pinwheel and needle wheel skimmers that give you a high performance each time you run it. It has a very user-friendly design, and maintaining it is very simple to do.

PROS

  • This skimmer has newly improved pinwheel impellers for a better performance.
  • It’s very easy to put together, use, and maintain.
  • The collection cup slides off so it’s easy to dump out and clean.

CONS

  • This skimmer can overflow very quickly for the first few weeks.
  • The directions can be confusing when you set it up.
  • The skimmer has to be in at least seven to eight inches of water, but the directions say less.

10. Macro Aqua M-50 Mini Hang-on External Protein Skimmer

 

 

This small hang on back skimmer works for aquariums up to 60 gallons. It has a powerful flow rate of 238 gallons per hour. It’s designed to be easy to install and operate without any breaking in period. You get a needle to wheel impeller that increases the water contact levels.

PROS

  • This skimmer has no breaking in period when you use it.
  • You get a powerful water flow rate of 238 gallons per hour.
  • It features a plug and play design that eliminates the need for priming.

CONS

  • The instructions can be very vague and difficult to follow.
  • It may take time to get the skimmer set up properly.
  • The skimmer is louder than a few other choices on the list.

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