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The 10 Best Protein Skimmers For Aquariums

Not everyone uses protein separators, but they are great tools to have.

A filter isn't necessary, but it can clean your water and get rid of dissolved organics that can kill your fish.

Different types of skimmers are better suited to different sizes and styles of aquariums.

The difficulty is locating a high-quality fat burner; BestForPets (bestforpets.org) has compiled this list of the best protein skimmers for aquariums to help you make an informed decision. 

How to Find the Finest Protein Skimmer for Your Needs

Protein skimmer types

There are essentially four distinct varieties of protein skimmers on the market now. They all perform the same basic functions, thus what sets them apart is where they are physically placed and kept.

  • No Need to Panic (HOB)

This model of protein skimmer is quite popular. The name says it all; you mount them on the tank’s rear using ordinary brackets. They don’t require any room in the tank or sump, but they do require some headroom at the back.

Although they are normally of a great quality and efficiency, they are not the ideal option for really big tanks. They do their function admirably, but their aesthetic is less than stellar.

  • As a Recap

If you have a big sump or refugium with extra room, an in-sump protein skimming system is a fantastic choice. They are often simple to set up, but you will need to monitor the water level because they must be seated in it.

If you need a protein skimmer but don’t want it to be too obvious, an in-sump skimmer is a suitable option. Even though they perform well, having one installed in a sump may be a hassle because of the additional effort involved in keeping it in good working order.

  • External

Similar to in-sump skimmers, external protein skimmers remove unwanted proteins from water, but they operate independently of a sump.

A lot of shelf space is required, and they may be fairly pricey. They are effective, take up little area in the tank, and are not particularly noticeable.

  • Within the Tank

Protein skimmers that can be placed within the aquarium are highly recommended. These items perform admirably, consume little energy, and are capable of bearing substantial weight.

Additionally, water will never spill out of them and onto the floor. The main drawback is that they do not look very attractive and take up a lot of room in the tank.

Choosing the Right Protein Skimming Device

Several considerations should be thought about while deciding on the ideal protein skimmer for your aquarium, including the aquarium’s size, the skimmer’s desired size, and the aquarium’s kind.

  • Aquarium Sizes

Large aquariums require protein skimmers with capacities greater than the aquarium itself.

For this reason, a 100-gallon skimmer would be overkill for a 35-gallon tank. Cleaning the water this way frees up a lot of space and can be done quickly.

  • Sizes of Skimmers

Keep in mind that the size of your protein skimmer is as crucial as the size of your aquarium itself, and that some skimmers will be larger than others.

How big of a protein skimmer you get depends on how much room you have in your aquarium for it. If you require a larger protein skimmer, be prepared to shift your aquarium to a place that will be more accommodating.

  • The Amount and Size of the Bubbles

The protein skimmer employs aerated bubbles to filter the aquarium water and remove any and all organic debris.

So, the bubbles are vital while picking a skimmer. Small bubbles can get the task done a lot more rapidly.

  • Budget

In conclusion, how much are you willing to spend on a new protein skimmer? For the best results with your aquarium, it’s recommended to have some wiggle room in the budget so you may acquire exactly what you want.

So, Exactly What Is a Protein Skimmer?

It is well knowledge that a protein skimmer is an essential component of many saltwater aquariums. Simply said, it’s an additional filtering system designed to fill in the gaps left by your primary system.

Regular filtration systems typically include mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration, which is sufficient for most aquariums (You might also find our post on cleaning a fish tank properly helpful too).

However, a tank with many plants and many fish that produce a lot of waste might be more challenging to maintain hygienically.

The protein skimmer can be useful at this point. It functions similarly to a filter in that it cleans the water of dissolved organic compounds (DOCs).

Dissolved Organic Compounds is an abbreviation for this. Dissolved organic compounds are produced when oxygen-using bacteria in your biofilter break down decaying solid waste like old fish food, old plant materials, and fish excrement.

Much of this waste may be eliminated by mechanical filtering. Thanks to your biological filter, the beneficial bacteria already present in the tank decompose these decaying organic components, eliminating ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites in the process.

The problem is that neither mechanical nor biological filtering can completely eliminate the presence of these decomposing substances.

Proteins, including carbs, lipids, amino acids, hormones, phenolic compounds, and more, are dissolved and then found in the water.

All of these proteins pose a serious threat to fish tanks and may even be fatal in saltwater environments. Eliminating them is the goal of a device called a protein skimmer.

The Function of a Protein Skimmer.

A protein skimmer’s job is straightforward: it filters water by separating solid debris from the liquid and absorbing organic chemicals that have been dissolved in it. The core of the system is a water and air pump housed in a big tank.

The process begins with aquarium water being sucked in. Following this, a large quantity of air is introduced by the air intake and merged with the water. When these larger bubbles reach a needle impeller, they are smashed into little pieces.

The goal of these bubbles is for various types of waste particles and dissolved organic molecules to form bonds with them. Bonded with these dissolved organic components, the bubbles ascend to the tank’s surface.

These air bubbles, now chemically joined to the organic substances in solution, are collected in a tank at the protein skimmer’s top.

Protein skimmer efficiency is indicated by the presence of a dense, watery, and discolored foam in the collecting tank.

The color of the resulting foam depends on the kind and concentration of organic chemicals being extracted from the water, however it can range from green to blue to gray.

Questions About Protein Skimming That Always Come Up

So that you have a basic understanding of protein skimmers, their purpose, and care and feeding, let’s quickly go through some of the most often asked questions about them.

  • To What Capacity Should My Protein Skimmer Be?

It’s important to have a protein skimmer that can cycle through the entire aquarium’s water multiple times each hour. The skimmer’s top, though, must be higher than the tank’s, so that’s something to think about.

More often than not, larger skimmers outperform their smaller counterparts. A skimmer rated for more than 100 gallons may be necessary for a tank of that size. The efficiency of a skimmer, however, is not always proportional to its size.

I was wondering if anyone could recommend a good skimmer for reef tanks.

A protein skimmer installed in the sump is the most practical choice for reef aquariums. A sump is a great addition to any reef tank since reef tanks require so much biological filtration.

A protein skimmer installed in the sump is out of sight and out of mind, but it still does its job. Even while in-sump skimmers aren’t the most low-maintenance option, they have the advantages of being out of sight and out of mind, not taking up valuable tank area, and producing decent efficiency levels.

  • The Correct Way to Use a Protein Skimmer.

Since there are several varieties of protein skimmers, deciding on the best way to use one is no easy task. Sincerely, your best chance is to read the instructions that come with the skimmer itself.

Before turning on the skimmer, ensure sure it is completely submerged in water, or as much water as the skimmer specifies.

  • Optimal Protein Skimmer Tuning

Tuning a protein skimmer refers to the amount of water which it pushes out into the tank. The more you restrict the water outflow, the higher the water level will get. Make sure the water level is a few inches over the top of the neck before you set the outflow.

Skimmers have varying optimal water levels, so it’s important to consult the manual for the model you own.

  • Taking Care of Protein Skimmers

Protein skimmers are convenient since they require less maintenance. About three times each week, remove the contents of the collecting cup and wash it out with warm water. It just does not get much easier than that.

In addition, depending on the amount of accumulation, the skimmer’s body need to be cleaned once every six months. Simply empty the skimmer’s water, then replenish it with a solution of equal parts vinegar and water. To make scrubbing off the grime easier, give it some time to soak.

  • In your opinion, should protein skimmers operate continuously?

How unclean your tank is, how much biological waste is there, and how effective your primary filtration unit are all factors into this question. If you test the water for DOCs and the level is high, you will need to run the skimmer more.

Your tank can be run for as little as four or five hours every day if it is sparsely packed and not too unclean. However, some people decide to let them run all day long if the tank is unclean and densely packed.

  • Will A Skimmer Help With Algae?

In most circumstances, yes, a protein skimmer will assist with algae. Dissolved organic molecules of various kinds are algae’s preferred food.

To prevent algae from thriving, a protein skimmer should filter out their primary food supply.

Methods for Degassing a Protein Skimmer of Air Bubbles

Firstly, a new skimmer that produces a lot of microbubbles should be broken in over the course of a week. This should solve the problem. There has to be less turbulence in the tank if this doesn’t work.

Additionally, decreasing the flow rate should prevent the introduction of microbubbles into the tank. Incorporating a diffuser into the setup is also recommended. There are several potential causes of bubble formation, hence this question is highly context dependent.

  • When Should You Use A Skimmer? What Benefits Does It Offer?

These aid in the removal of dissolved waste from your water, hence decreasing ammonia and nitrate levels, which are detrimental to water quality and can even kill your fish.

The primary benefit of these gadgets is that they lessen the frequency with which water changes are required, and hence the risk that your fish may become unwell from contact with unclean water.

The buildup of algae in the tank is slowed since there is less dissolved waste in the water on which the algae may feed. This page is for you if you’re in need of some advice on how to get rid of algae.

Skimmers, together with pumps (more on air pumps below), may aid boost oxygenation in the water, which is a major plus. The fact that they also contribute to cleaner water, allowing more light to reach deeper into the ocean, is an added bonus.

Finally, protein skimmers can assist maintain a consistent pH in the water. Check read this post for further details on reducing pH levels.


BestForPets (bestforpets.org) trusts that our reviews and shopping tips have helped you choose the best protein skimmers for aquariums for your aquarium.

While there are certainly other possible alternatives, we’ve highlighted a few that we think are particularly noteworthy: The Skimmer with a Coral-View Needle-Wheel Octopus.


Skimmer with a Coral-View Needle-Wheel Octopus

The Octopus Needle Wheel on the Coral Vue is strong and suitable for aquariums of up to 210 gallons in size.

The 6-inch needle wheel impeller of this protein skimmer creates an infinite number of small bubbles, which aid in the removal of dissolved organic compounds from the aquarium water.

The Coral Vue Skimmer, on the other hand, is built to last if properly cared for, as it is constructed from high-quality materials. This is quite convenient since the water level may be changed.

True, it’s really large and will need some breathing room in a sump or refugium, but it skims effectively all the same. To function correctly, it must be submerged in aquarium water of a depth of 6 to 8 inches.

A 4-inch cone neck connects the main tank to the collecting cup, facilitating more bubble transmission. With the convenient quick-release collar, you can quickly and easily remove the foam and compounds from the collecting cup.


  • Strong enough to last a long time.
  • Fits perfectly in big aquariums.
  • A needle wheel that performs this well is truly remarkable.
  • For efficient bubble transmission, the mouth of this bottle is conical.
  • Quick and simple to disinfect.
  • Simple to set up and keep in working order.
  • Height of water may be changed.


  • It requires a depth of 6 to 8 inches of water to function properly.
  • The amount of room it needs in a sump or refugium is considerable.


The Coralife Pumped Super Skimmer

This protein skimmer has a lot going for it, not the least of which is its adaptability: you can place it in a sump or, with the addition of a simple bracket, suspend it from the back of your aquarium. Its ease of setup and upkeep is a major plus.

The smallest aquarium size this option will fit is 125 gallons, however it is also available in bigger sizes that will accommodate aquariums as large as 220 gallons.

As it is not among the largest aquarium protein skimmers available, it does not need a large storage area.

As a result, it is an excellent method for filtering out sediment and other small particles from water, as well as for eliminating substances that have been dissolved in water.

To maximize bubble to water contact for efficient DOC removal, it employs a proprietary needle wheel system with two bubble injectors. It also has a bubble diffuser to prevent any stray bubbles from entering the aquarium.

Most people will enjoy the fact that the pump for this uses very little energy. As an added bonus, the included collecting cup has a broad neck to accommodate a large volume of foam and bubbles.

There is a screw on the bottom of the cup that allows it to be removed for simple disposal.


  • Highly recommended for bigger aquariums.
  • Placement of a sump pump or HOB.
  • Not requiring much upkeep on your part.
  • Easy trash disposal makes this a great waste-collecting cup.
  • Pump that conserves energy.
  • An anti-reentry bubble diffuser.


  • It’s a minor hassle to put together.
  • Needs to be set at just the right level for optimal performance.
  • Certainly not the strongest choice.


Skimming Machine for Protein, Model SCA-301

Honestly, there’s nothing flashy or huge about this item, but it does its job splendidly. To clarify up to 65 gallons of water every hour, the SCA Skimmer is the ideal choice.

It’s processing capability is high, as evidenced by the fact that it can process over 340 gallons of water each hour.

It’s potent and efficient, with a flow rate that can be adjusted to suit your needs. This model generates its bubbles through an easy-to-implement air injection mechanism.

It’s not the worst at filtering out harmful organic chemicals from water, but it does a decent job.

Although this is not the most powerful or long-lasting saltwater protein skimmer available, it is a decent choice for tiny saltwater tanks due to its compact design.

Placement in a sump is simple, although it requires 6-7 inches of water. At least the SCA-301 isn’t too noisy thanks to the included air suppressor. To reiterate, it is neither the largest nor the most advanced in the world, but it serves its purpose.


  • Silent functioning.
  • Assembling is a breeze.
  • Very effective.
  • The amount of water it can process each hour is impressive.
  • Consisting of a basic layout.
  • Does not occupy a lot of room.


  • Disturbingly loud.
  • The longevity of interior parts is questionable.
  • Small bubbles return in large numbers to the tank.


The BH-1000 Octopus by CoralVue Technology

If you need a big skimmer for a big tank, this is a great choice. It can filter a lot of water quickly and is designed for aquariums up to 100 gallons in size.

Skimming chores that lesser skimmers can’t handle are perfect for this bad boy. The sturdy acrylic construction and long-lasting interior parts are something we greatly appreciate. It ought should hold up for a long time. We do value the usage of premium materials.

This is a big item, but it doesn’t need a lot of room behind the tank. Although the external pump does take up some more room, it is positioned underneath the filtering system itself.

It’s also made to keep the heat in, so it won’t make the water too hot to touch. The design of the pump makes it simple to take apart and clean. This appears complex, but is actually pretty easy to understand.

This location has a sizable collecting cup that can hold a lot of debris, however removing it to empty it is a bit of a hassle.


  • Superior carrying capacity.
  • Excellent durability.
  • It doesn’t take up a lot of room.
  • Inconspicuous installation in the tank’s back wall.
  • Reduced thermal conductivity.
  • That pump can be taken apart and cleaned with minimal effort.


  • The collection cup is awkward to use.
  • Really, really loud.


Protein Skimming Machine by Bubble Magus, Model BM-Curve 5

You may install this choice either within the tank or in a sump. We like how simple it is to set up and how many options there are for doing so. Nonetheless, a sump is the optimal location for its application.

Big and strong, it can handle tanks of up to 140 gallons and has a high throughput per hour. Definitely not a pushover, this. The Bubble Magus is a large and capable creature, but beware; it is not the strongest option available.

But while it does function, it does so splendidly. The SP1000 internal pump is not only efficient and dependable, but also uses little power. You may adjust the bubble production rate and size using the needle wheel and the entrepreneur intake.

There’s a bubble plate included to calm things down in the reaction chamber and a suppressor to keep the volume down.

The skimmer’s curved shape directs as many bubbles as possible into the catch bowl. The collecting cup is simple to take out and empty, but it also has a drain to lessen how often it has to be serviced.

The Bubble Magus Skimmer’s small footprint is one of its best features, at least when compared to other choices of equal size.


  • Very economical with space.
  • Powerful computing capabilities.
  • Highly recommended for bigger aquariums.
  • Put in place internally or in a sump.
  • Cup for collecting is simple to clean.
  • In general silence.
  • Modifies the bubble’s size and quantity according to your preferences.


  • Certainly not the strongest choice.
  • Electrical problems are commonplace.


The DOC Protein Skimmer 9001 by Comline

The tank size it is best suited for is up to 37 gallons, making it a more compact alternative. However, the Tunze 9001 may not be the best choice for a tank larger than 15 gallons if it is well loaded.

Although it accomplishes its work well and efficiently, it lacks the processing power necessary for larger or more fully packed tanks.

For a nano reef aquarium, we recommend the Tunze Skimmer, a compact protein skimmer. Its little size and portability ensure it won’t be a burden on your living quarters.

This device, which must be used in a slump, comes with nifty magnets and clamps to keep it from sliding around in the sump.

The fact that the pump is so energy-efficient is a major selling point, since it means you won’t have to worry too much about your monthly electricity cost.

It has a good aeration system that can generate a lot of tiny bubbles, however it’s possible that some of those bubbles will end up back in the tank.

That being said, this choice does have a collecting cup that is simple to swap out and maintain. However, this is not the most long-lasting protein skimmer available.


  • A superb addition to tiny aquariums.
  • Conveniently small in size.
  • Assembling is a breeze.
  • Quick and easy upkeep.
  • In general, peace and calm.
  • Effective use of energy resources.
  • The collecting cup may be easily removed and replaced.


  • Badly overstocked; cannot manage.
  • There are doubts about how long it will last.


AquaMaxx Protein Skimmer, a Hang-On Model

This protein skimmer may be hung on the rear for easy access. The fact that it can be set up quickly and easily is one of its main selling points. Fasten it to the rear of your tank using the included hardware.

The AquaMaxx is designed for either a 60- or 90-gallon aquarium, depending on the density of the fish population. It has decent processing capability, but it’s not great, so don’t use it for tanks larger than 60 gallons that are well filled.

The use of cell cast acrylic in its construction lends this alternative a certain toughness and longevity. Even if the inside parts are well constructed, the outside durability is the true selling point here.

The high-quality pump is a plus, too, as it uses less power and is more dependable than average. A microbubble recirculation prevention function and a customizable bubble output make this an attractive option.

Due in large part to its easily detachable and cleanable collecting cup, the AquaMaxx HOB Skimmer requires minimal upkeep. The ratio of wet to dry foam may be adjusted by adjusting the collection cup. In the grand scheme of things, this is a good choice.


  • Strong and long-lasting.
  • Super effective.
  • Suitable for tanks of a reasonable size.
  • There are several sized bubbles available.
  • An aquarium bubble diffuser will keep the tiniest of bubbles from entering the fish.
  • Cup for collecting is simple to clean.
  • Incredibly simple to set up, or HOB.
  • Juice cup that you may modify to your liking.


  • Really, really loud.
  • Makes a big external footprint.
  • Fragile; easily broken by a fall or a hard blow.


United States of America, Tunze, Doc Skimmer

This protein skimmer saves a lot of money in the long run since it uses so little power. When compared to comparable protein skimmers of the same skimming capability, it can be up to twice as energy efficient. In addition to helping the planet, it will also help your bank account.

It may not seem like much to look at, but it serves its purpose admirably. It has the processing ability to handle densely packed tanks ranging in size from 80 to 265 gallons in volume.

However, its maximum capacity is just approximately 150 gallons, so you won’t be able to use it for a tank with a lot of fish.

The Tunze’s limitation to operation within a sump is a downside, but the device’s ease of installation and small footprint within the sump more than make up for this shortcoming.

Remember that it must be completely submerged in water (at a depth of 5.5 to 8 inches) for it to function.

The large collecting cup is a nice touch, since it will cut down on cleaning and upkeep. This is not the most long-lasting protein skimmer available. It functions properly, but only if every part remains undamaged.


  • Super effective.
  • Super-flexible in almost every way you can imagine.
  • Assembling is a breeze.
  • Requires almost any effort to maintain and produces negligible waste heat.
  • Included a post filter that may be removed for cleaning.
  • It has a big skimmer cup.
  • Doesn’t need a lot of upkeep.


  • Only appropriate for use in a cellar or basement sump.
  • A lack of durability makes it a poor choice.
  • Really, really loud.


Protein Skimmer from NYOS with a Quantum 160 Dose

In many ways, including but not limited to these, this premium option should be considered. To preface, this is not the best option for newcomers, tiny tanks, or those on a low budget.

It is bulky, requires a sump for installation, and drains slowly. However, it serves its intended function admirably.

The NYOS Skimmer has been designed to maximize skimming efficiency by including the optimum ratio of air bubbles to water contact.

High-powered pump can handle tanks up to 265 gallons in capacity, even when fully packed. Even the grimiest tanks should be no match for this.

The NYOS’s outstanding performance comes despite its low energy requirements and eco-friendly construction. It’s a great choice because it packs a punch yet doesn’t make much noise while it operates.

Depending on your needs, you may modify both the bubble strength and the size of the collecting cup. Additionally, this choice requires little in the way of both setup and upkeep. You may quickly and simply clean the collecting cup by removing it.

This alternative is similarly constructed for extreme lifetime and durability. If you have a tiny tank or are just starting out, I wouldn’t recommend getting the NYOS skimmer.


  • Excellent durability.
  • A high-performing system.
  • Superior carrying capacity.
  • Assembling is a breeze.
  • Juice cup and foam separators are variable.
  • Simple to clean and maintain.
  • There is a complete lack of noise.
  • Excellent for big, densely populated aquariums.
  • Effective use of energy resources.


  • Necessitates the installation of a sump.
  • No good as a learning tool.
  • Is not diminutive or slender.


Internal Skimmer by Hydor USA (SlimSkim)

This is a great alternative for a nano reef aquarium because of its compact size and narrow profile, making it ideal for a skimmer.

It’s rated for tanks up to 35 gallons, however it’s not a good idea to use it for anything more than a 25-gallon aquarium if it’s well populated. The Hydor USA comes with suction cup magnets, making installation a breeze.

Since it is a relatively compact protein skimmer, you can easily mount it anywhere inside the aquarium. Since this is a protein skimmer for the aquarium, it must be installed within the tank, which is inconvenient; nevertheless, it is compactly designed, so it’s not too awful.

The Hydor USA Skimmer is very economical and efficient, using only 4 watts of power. The adjustable air control for the precise number of bubbles you desire and the adjustable foaming level to suit your skimming requirements are two of the coolest features of this device.

Now, this is by no means the most long-lasting protein skimmer to go with, but so long as everything is kept in working order, it serves its purpose well.

The huge collecting cup is convenient, and we like how simple it is to empty. Overall, this isn’t the finest solution, but it will do for smaller, less densely packed aquariums.


  • Minimalist in size and not occupying much room.
  • Assembling is a breeze.
  • Very effective.
  • Super-flexible in almost every way you can imagine.
  • Quiet.
  • It’s a good looking thing.
  • Cup for collecting data that is simple to clean.


  • A lack of durability makes it a poor choice.
  • Capacity-wise, not very high.
  • Takes up some room in the tank, indeed.

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Dr. Barry Buttler

Dr. Barry Buttler, DVM, MS, DACVIM, is an experienced veterinarian who specializes in the care of small animals, specifically dogs. Dr. Barry K. Buttler is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and holds multiple certifications in small animal emergency medicine and geriatric pet health.

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Barry Buttler


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