9-Best Protein Skimmers for Saltwater Tanks: Cleansing at Its Finest

9-Best Protein Skimmers for Saltwater Tanks: Cleansing at Its Finest

When it comes to getting the best protein skimmer that’s efficient in every manner, it’s necessary to look into a lot of tiny details. If you’re well aware of how to pick a protein skimmer and how to deal with it, later on, it should be really helpful for you.

When you’re in love with aquatic life, there’s no backing out from building a healthy and safe tank for your favorite inhabitants. But it really isn’t an easy job. When you opt for keeping one or multiple saltwater tanks, you just HAVE to know about the best protein skimmers around.

In this write-up, we’ll cover all there is to know about protein skimmers. What they are, what they do, the major types, and so on. So, I need you to keep your faith in me and read on! Be sure to go through every bit of info. It’ll surely help you out in the long run.

So, why wait? Let’s dive in!

Defining a Protein Skimmer

A protein skimmer is one of the many essential devices that you’ll need to keep your saltwater tank nice and healthy. Protein skimmers play a vital role in getting organic waste materials out of your tank. The organic buildup might be harmful to your tank’s inner ecosystem.

That’s where these interesting devices come in. They help to keep your saltwater tank looking awesome at all times.

How Does a Protein Skimmer work?

Protein skimmers are mainly made for saltwater tanks (Not the freshwater ones in general). After installing a protein skimmer, you’ll notice that it’s creating bubbles. It’s a vital part of how protein skimmers work.

These bubbles are created in a reaction chamber and then are released into the water. The bubbles that are released collect organic waste and other harmful materials. Then the bubbles release them when they are at the surface.

Once these are released on the surface, they are in turn collected using a collection cup. Cleaning the collection cup is a different story entirely. But you’ll need to do it nevertheless.

The amount and size of the bubbles that are created can affect the entire cleaning process. If the number of bubbles increases, it means that the number of captured waste materials will also have more area to stick to. You’ll notice that it’ll turn to foam over time.

Protein Skimmer Types: All You Need to Know

You might get a bit confused about which type of protein skimmer you’d want to get for yourself. Fear not! I’m here to help. There are quite a few different types actually. Just make sure you have a good understanding of what you’re getting into.

Read the following info before you get yourself ready to make the purchase.

External Protein Skimmers

Well, it’s really easy to guess what type of skimmer this is just by the name. This isn’t a hang-on back protein skimmer. However, it’s meant to be set up outside the aquarium and sump. These generally function by sending water back and forth from the sump in larger-sized tanks.

HOB Protein Skimmers

The name gives away the functionality of these skimmers as well. These are meant to be hung on back or HOB skimmers. These generally hang on the rim of the back of the saltwater tanks. These are especially recommended for tanks that are under 100 gallons.

Also, the tank doesn’t have a sump, the HOB type is the one you’re looking for.

This type helps with maintenance a lot as they ensure that things remain neat and tidy. They don’t get in the way in terms of accessibility and you can fiddle with it with ease. And don’t worry about the performance. HOB skimmers are rather strong. You can feel safe if you want a powerful one for yourself.

In Sump Protein Skimmers

If you want more flexibility and options, then this one might just be the right type for you. Just make sure you have a sump. These have multiple performance ranges. Some of these skimmers are monstrous performers and some get the job done accurately without being merciless to your water.

In-tank Protein Skimmers

If you have something like a nano reef tank, then this might be the ideal choice for you. These skimmers are small in size and sit nicely inside the tank. In-tank skimmers are of a separate genre entirely. But I guess you got my point here. These are built for tanks that are smaller in size.

The Best Protein Skimmers for The Money

Well, now that we’re done and dusted with the basics, let’s start with the best list. I’ve done my research and picked the best ones for you. I hope you find the right ones among the array of skimmers that I’m about to lay before you. Let’s begin, shall we?

1. Red Sea Reefer 300 Protein Skimmer

Red Sea Reefer 300 Protein Skimmer

The Red Sea Reefer 300 keeps the hobbyist’s advantage in mind. We really don’t want to keep an aquarium that keeps making too much noise for comfort. Luckily, this one is rather quiet. This is thanks to the rubber connectors that dampen the audible vibrations.

They even added a robust air silencer to it as well. Pretty thoughtful, eh?

IT even features a dedicated foam viewer window so you can keep track of the cleaning as it goes. Not to mention, the product includes a built-in neck cleaner and an extra-long valved waste tube. This really helps with the cleanup and further maintenance.

The Red Sea Reefer 300 features an awesome combination of a proportionately sized venturi, a PSK 600 pump, a bubble diffusor, and of course, a reaction pump that optimizes the cleansing process by ensuring the accuracy between water and air contact time. Kudos to the brand for that!

The skimmer perfectly disperses the fine bubbles that are created by the PSK pump across all the way to the skimmer cone. This doesn’t reduce the water or airflow in any way.

I really liked the addition of the manual neck cleaner and the drainage port that comes with the 1-meter valved hose. These small additions really do make life a lot easier.

With a variable footprint of 9.1″ X 8.3″ or 9.8″ X 7.1″, the skimmer is easily movable. Keep note that the base is movable as well. They recommend a water height of 6-8″. Which is quite reasonable if you ask me.

Verdict:

If you’re worried about the aquarium size ratings, then rest assured that this best protein skimmer here isn’t a small fry at all. The ratings are for SPS, up to 80 gallons, and for Mixed Reef, up to 160 gallons. But for fish-only tanks, you can think up to 240 gallons. Not a bad deal at all.

Amenities & Disamenities
ProsCons
The skimmer is really easy to assemble.The Price is rather high.
The maintenance seems really easy.There’s room for improvement in the sump adjustment area.
Included pump is impressive. 
The aquarium size rating is satisfactory. 
A well-built skimmer overall. 

2. Reef Octopus Classic 152-S Protein Skimmer

Reef Octopus Classic 152-S Best Protein Skimmer

The Reef Octopus Classic 152-S Protein Skimmer is really a sight to behold. You might want to correct yourself if you think a protein skimmer can’t add to the aesthetics of your overall aquatic environment. This one is a classic 6″ Compact Skimmer that gets the job done just fine.

The skimmer at hand promises power and efficiency above all else. The 152-S is an in-sump protein skimmer that’s capable of providing flawless filtration for aquariums up to 150 gallons. Not a small sport at all.

The Reef Octopus Classic 152-S is crafted by high-quality components and materials. Bi high quality, I’m referring to cast acrylic that can be disassembled completely at cleaning sessions. Now that’s what I call ease of use.

As for the design, the “wine glass shape” really helps out with the overall functionality. It allows the natural stabilization and concentration of rich organic foam. You can observe it rising to produce an enhanced formation to clean up all the organic waste.

An Aquatrance 1800s pinwheel pump is equipped with the Reef Octopus Classic 152-S and it produces a perfect mixture of air and water. Making sure proper removal of waste is the prime concern of the device after all.

The product has a super cone body size of 6 to 3.5-inches. It really isn’t too space-consuming with a footprint of 10.4in x 8.1inches and a neck size of 3.15-inches. The total height of the device is 20.7in. It seems that the manufacturers got the measurement bit right as well.

You’ll find quite a lot of protein skimmers that aren’t all that easy to install. But that really isn’t the case with this one. With proper guidance, it can be set up within a matter of five minutes. Pretty darn cool!

Amenities & Disamenities
ProsCons
The dimensions are just right.Rather on the expensive side.
Stands up to the reef octopus name and reputation. 
Well-built structure. 
The construction material is rather good. 
Uses a pinwheel pump. 

3. Bubble Magus BM-Curve 5 Protein Skimmer

Bubble Magus BM-Curve 5 Perfect Skimmer

Here we find yet another worthy contender in our list of best protein skimmers. Bubble Magus has been at it for quite some time in making powerful, practical, and efficient protein skimmers. Their experience in craftsmanship is clearly visible in the Bubble Magus BM-Curve 5 Protein Skimmer.

The skimmer itself has the dimensions of 26 x 9 x 10 inches. Not too large to be honest. And as for the weight, it’s only 6.4 pounds. Which means it can be moved around just about anywhere.

The acrylic on the device is a bit thin but it should get the job done just fine nevertheless. All the parts of the skimmer fit together and offer a sturdy and solid feel to the whole thing. There are a total of four flanges that hold the body to the base plate of the skimmer.

The bubble plate is adjusted to the pump with the output nut on the very pump. The rest of the plate is held together by a single screw made of nylon. Next comes the water level adjustment tube. It’s very well marked and quite easy to adjust overall.

The functionality of the Curve 5 is rather impressive, to be honest. It runs in 10-inch-deep waters with ease. It’s easy to adjust with the sumps and there really is no need for additional support. It should produce a nice and thick skimmate after running for a few hours.

It’s definitely worth looking into if you’re into skimmers that get the job done without being too flashy. Pure and absolute efficiency with a practical approach. That’s what this skimmer is all about. A big thumbs up from my side.

Amenities & Disamenities
ProsCons
The needle wheel design is praiseworthy.Break-ins do occur.
Efficiency at its finest. 
Very easy to set up. 
The construction is solid in every sense. 
Almost zero noise. 

4. NYOS Quantum 160 Protein Skimmer

NYOS Quantum 160 Protein Skimmer

If you’re looking for a skimmer that’s built to perform, then you’re looking at the right product. This baby here offers smooth operation all the way. Not only that, but it’s easy to set up and maintain as well. That’s to be expected from the finest German engineering.

The NYOS Quantum skimmer is known for its high skimming performance as it causes the optimum mixture of a large amount of air with just the right amount of water.

The skimmer itself doesn’t make much noise either while running. Which is a real blessing for most users. This of course is made possible with the help of the added silicone silencer feet.

Despite the level of performance that it offers, it consumes very little power. 18 Watts to be exact. Power efficiency is something you rarely see from skimmers that focus on raw performance like this one. Plus, the integrated Quantum 3.0 pump ensures a reliable start each time.

The clear view feature of the skimmer is rather praiseworthy as well. It makes the impeller inspection seem like an absolute breeze. It allows you to know what’s going on and dismantle it if the need comes.

Not only this, but the collection cup is really easy to clean. Which makes maintenance very hassle-free. Plus, this device is more than capable of handling tanks up to 265 gallons of capacity. Now, that’s a lot!

This skimmer has dimensions of 28 x 17 x 9.2 inches and a total weight of 11.6 pounds. Which is just about right for a skimmer that’s a performer of this caliber.

Included with the box are the skimmer body, the collection cup with the lid, of course, the hybrid wheel pump, and lastly, the standpipe with the silencer.

Amenities & Disamenities
ProsCons
Superior German Craftsmanship.It’s a bit overpriced.
The disassembly process is very easy. 
Hassle-free cleaning. 
Incredible performance. 
Good build quality. 

5. AquaMaxx HOB-1.5 Hang-On-Back Protein Skimmer

AquaMaxx HOB-1.5 Hang-On-Back Protein Skimmer

This time, let’s talk about a HOB protein skimmer that simply exceeds expectations. The HOB-1.5 from AquaMaxx is super-efficient, very reliable, and ultra-durable at the same time. The material used for construction is cell-cast acrylic. Which is rather impressive and ensures a solid build.

The product has the dimensions of L 7.5 x W 3.5 x H 17 Inches. Which isn’t all that large if you ask me. As long as the aquarium rim doesn’t exceed 3/4″ of thickness, this skimmer should hold up just fine. But remember, it requires exactly four inches of clearance in order to remove the collection cup.

The filtration rating of this best protein skimmer reaches up to 90 gallons on light bioload. And if the bioload is heavy, then you can easily touch 60 gallons. Also, remember that the maximum outlet size is: 3/4 Inch and the Minimum tank height should be 10-7/8″. If the measurements match, then you’re good to go!

Now, remember, the pump used in the skimmer has to be really important. It’s sort of the heart of all operations. And of course, AquaMaxx doesn’t disappoint in this regard either. They included the AquaMaxx SHARK 1.0 in this one. Which is an upgraded and modified Italian Sicce pump.

You should know that every Sicce pump motor block is fitted and modified with the proprietary needle wheel impellers of AquaMaxx. This ensures the boosted performance that can be compared to that of a stock pump. I mean, who doesn’t like an absolute powerhouse without breaking the bank?

Verdict:

The upgraded SHARK 1.0 pump is more than capable of drawing in a significantly large amount of air. It then chops them up to optimum bubbles for some heavy-duty cleaning. Efficiency is something every hobbyist appreciates in the end and this skimmer doesn’t falter to deliver.

Amenities & Disamenities
ProsCons
The Skimmer is super silent.The provided instructions are rather confusing.
Creates a lot of bubbles. 
The design is very compact. 
The setup procedure is very easy. 
A reliable performer in every sense. 

6. CoralVue Technology BH-1000 Octopus

CoralVue Technology BH-1000 Octopu

The next one in our best protein skimmer list is the BH-1000 Octopus from CoralVue Technology. The best bit of this hang-on-back skimmer is perhaps its low-profile body. The total design of the device is rather slim and sleek. It really minimizes the area required t host it. Which is a big plus if you ask me.

Yet another strong feature of this product is its external pump. It’s positioned under the lower section of the skimmer. Because of this, the pump’s heat is kept in check and it doesn’t dissipate into the water. Not to mention, it reduces space consumption as well. Adding to the subtle and sleek design.

An awesome move from the guys at CoralVue Technology.

The collection cup of the skimmer is rather large. This means the device can run for longer periods of time without you having to remove the cup and do some cleaning. This ultimately leads to the skimmer being able to remove more waste. Nice, right?

Composition is a vital part of any skimmer you get for yourself. Overheating can prove to be a major issue here. The acrylic composition of this one really helps to create a bar in heat dissipation. The material assists in executing a proper cleaning in a cool environment.

Plus, the air silencer used in this skimmer is really nice touch. You really don’t have to worry about hearing an annoying whir from the pump at all times. It’s nice to see these small additions in the end that make the overall experience more worthwhile.

Verdict:

Lastly, the pump. The Aquatrance pump used in this pump is really nothing you can shrug off. It’s very much capable of creating the proper mixture of water and air to get the dirty stuff out of your beloved aquarium. Keeping things nice and clean at all times.

Amenities & Disamenities
ProsCons
A highly efficient skimmer.None worth mentioning.
Very nice build quality. 
Great value for the money. 
Convenient and easy to use. 
The acrylic material is a nice touch. 

7. Simplicity 240DC Protein Skimmer

Simplicity 240DC Protein Skimmers

The prime feature of the Simplicity 240DC is perhaps the DC pump. It’s proven to be one of the most efficient ways to shred air and mix it with water to create fine microbubbles. This, combined with the needle wheel, makes the process even more fruitful.

The DC pump that has been used here is super-efficient. It consumes very little energy and works together with the controller and needle wheel impeller to give the best possible output. The bayonet locking collection cup is a nice addition as well. They even included a built-in collection cup drain.

This makes cleaning and maintenance a lot easier. The thumbscrew assembly also adds to the ease-of-use bit. Apart from that, I should tell you that the skimmer is made of high-quality cast acrylic. This really helps in making the cleaning experience far smoother than expected.

The controller that comes with the Simplicity 240DC Protein Skimmer, helps to easily adjust the pump’s speed. You can easily turn the pump off if you wish using the feed mode.

Also, the built-in digital readout display makes things a lot easier to handle. It shows the current speed and power consumption at the same time.

Getting the best performance for your beloved and unique aquatic system is much more manageable with the help of the easy-to-read wedge pipe setting indicator and the adjustable air intake. Let’s not forget the controllable pump that allows the skimmer to get dialed in perfectly.

Lastly, the innovative design of the device is rather impressive too. The hybrid cone design really improves contact time. This gives proteins ample opportunity to stick to the bubbles and thus, assist to create a concentrated foam as it rises.

A very well-engineered and well-constructed protein skimming device all in all.

Amenities & Disamenities
ProsCons
Very quiet operation.The product is rather new in the market.
The speeds are controllable. 
A very good price tag. 
Saves a lot of space. 
The adjustable air intake helps. 

8. Tunze 9410.000 Doc Skimmer

Tunze 9410.000 Doc Skimmer

The first thing to notice about this skimmer is that it’s really easy to adjust and set up. But it’d be wise to follow the instructions from the manufacturers to get a clear picture of the installation method. We wouldn’t want to mess things up now, would we?

Moving forward, this protein skimmer has a small footprint of 9.8 x 7.0 x 16.3 inches only. You might be used to seeing larger skimmers than this. But I assure you, this baby here isn’t a small fry by far. The skimmer itself is rated for saltwater tanks up to 317 gallons. Pretty impressive, right?

Remember that in mixed reef tanks, the proportions should be about 40% less.

You might consider running it in about 7.5″ of water and it should be able to do the skimming just fine. This one is sort of a set-and-forget type of device. You really don’t need to set it up again (At least not on the normal scenario). No break-in is required whatsoever.

Remember that after running it, emptying the cup every two days (maximum three) might be a good idea.

A really nice feature of the skimmer is the pump control button that pauses the pump. IT helps to empty and clean the collection cup. Taking the skimmer cup off should seem like a breeze. No hassle whatsoever. Just slide it up. Simple!

Apart from this, the skimmer consumes very little power. And of course, the removable post filter helps to make things easier and less time-consuming. Overall, this stands out to be quite a promising product if you ask me.

Amenities & disamenities
ProsCons
The capacity is quite large.Can be a bit noisy.
Low power consumption. 
Really easy to clean. 
The size is just right. 
Easy to set up. 

9. Reef Glass Nano Protein Skimmer

Reef Glass Nano Protein Skimmer

The Reef Glass Nano Protein Skimmer is specially designed for nano reef aquariums. To give you a basic idea, it’s made with the traditional air-driven method. It uses a limewood airstone with a couple of other improvements to be exact. Simplicity with elegance. That’s what these skimmers are all about.

The body of the skimmer is made of high-quality Pyrex glass. The design itself obliterates all necessities of additional side drains. This also helps to make the structure of the skimmer more robust. Such is to be expected from a cut and fire-polished product from the USA.

The thickness limit of this skimmer is limited to tanks with a thickness of 1 inch only. So, it’s best to be a bit cautious about that. The small size of the skimmer allows it to fit inside nano reef tanks up to 30 gallons.

Unlike Venturi and needle wheel pump skimmers, this device really doesn’t add additional heat to the tank. Even the operation of this thing is quite silent. The skimmer improves the water oxygenation as well.

The package includes limewood tubing, a two-hole rubber stopper, airstone, and all the necessary connectors. The only thing that you need is an air pump that’s capable of delivering 1 L/min of air. Oh, and yet another thing you need is a waste container. And you’re done!

That’s pretty much all you need to know about the Reef Glass Nano Protein Skimmer.

Amenities & Disamenities
 ProsCons
Very affordable.No waste collector.
Fits inside the smallest of aquariums. 
Doesn’t dissipate heat. 
30-gallon capacity. 
Very small footprint. 

Tips To Pick the Right Best Protein Skimmer

I hope you already found the perfect protein skimmer from the list. However, if you’re still a bit confused and want to do some skimmer hunting for yourself, here’s a set of tips that’ll really help you out.

Size of the Aquarium

The very first thing you want to take into consideration is the size of the tank. You probably got the idea by now that each type (Or rather each model) of the skimmer has a limit to the size of the tank it can keep clean.

Suppose you’re getting a skimmer that has a capacity to clean under 100 gallons. If you set that skimmer to a 200-gallon tank, it simply won’t work now, will it? So, it’s probably a good idea to check the protein skimmer’s tank capacity before making your purchase.

Skimmer Size

It’s wise to do the sizing math before getting any sort of protein skimmer. Suppose there’s a skimmer that you really like, but it just won’t fit inside your sump. How does that even work? Different aquarium setups require different sizes of skimmers. It’s best to do the skimmer body size calculation beforehand.

Aquarium Type

Saltwater tanks require a specific type of skimmer for each of their own environmental needs. If you know which ones are recommended for the usage of your aquarium, you’ll find that you’ll have to strike off a lot of options from the marketplace.

Do a manufacturer-recommended aquarium check before buying. It’ll help you save yourself a lot of hassle.

Protein Skimmer Installation Tips

Now that we’ve covered everything till you get a protein skimmer. Now comes the question of Installation. I’ve listed a few tips below that should help you out.

  • Take a good look at the instructions that come with the protein skimmer you’re getting. It won’t only help you set it up, but it’ll help you take good care of it as well.
  • Don’t even consider the “assemble as you go” method. It just makes things harder. Take the help of a professional and make sure everything is placed properly. Or as I said before, simply follow what the instructions tell you to do.
  • Your protein skimmer won’t work right if you don’t place it in the correct depth. So yes, proper depth placement is a must for a future proof functionality.
  • Let it set itself up to the environment of your tank. Be patient as it might take a few days to settle down it’s cleaning mojo with the whole environment of your tank.
  • Keep an eye out for troubleshooting. Anything can go wrong at any moment and you should be ready for that as well.

Final Words

I’ve covered all the necessary information you’ll need to embark yourself on the journey of getting the best protein skimmer for your saltwater tank.

I’ve enlisted the ones that I personally thought are the best options for you. Even if that doesn’t work, I’ve guided you with the knowledge of picking the alternatives.

So, I believe it’s time to draw the curtains and bring this article to a close. I hope you enjoyed the read. Until next time. Adios!

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