Best Protein Skimmer Buying Guide and Reviews

Best aquarium set-ups require complete parts and devices. Aside from CO2 regulators or UV lights, a protein skimmer is among the important units you should have along with your aquarium. This is also called a foam fractionator whose purpose is the removal of any organic compounds (e.g., food, waste products) in the water to make the tank cleaner and healthier for its inhabitants.

Like any other product, there are different protein skimmers available, each with varying parts. With this, you would need several options of protein skimmers to know which would fit your aquarium set-up. More generally, you would also want to see the importance of having a protein skimmer and the factors you need to consider should you decide to purchase one.

In this article, you will read all the best protein skimmers you can choose from and, more importantly, you will discover the importance of such products and several tips in choosing.

Benefits of a Protein Skimmer

Before knowing the benefits of having a protein skimmer, it would be important to understand it. If you want to maintain the cleanliness of your aquarium, you would need a protein skimmer. This product removes and filters all types of waste products like uneaten food or bacteria that could affect the quality of the water.

Now, how does this product work? A protein skimmer is called such because its reaction chamber could produce a lot of small bubbles to which organic waste materials could stick. When bubbles move and accumulate to the surface, these waste materials are brought up and removed manually using a collection cup. However, proteins are not the only things a protein skimmer could remove. It can also remove other organic and inorganic molecules like fatty acids, carbohydrates, copper, and other traces of iodine. Along with this, some harmful elements like bacteria, phytoplankton, and detritus may also be eliminated.

Protein skimmer does mechanical filtering and could clean compounds before they even break down because if they do, the clarity and cleanliness of the tank water would entirely be compromised. Once they also break down, it would be more challenging to clean them, necessitating a protein skimmer.

Also, a critical benefit of a protein skimmer is that it could quickly prevent algae from growing and minimize the buildup of nitrates which would be harmful to water species like corals. By clearing the water, light could penetrate more, and plants could photosynthesize adequately. Also, UV lights that could kill organisms require clearer and cleaner water. A protein skimmer could help achieve this clarity.

Factors to Consider in Choosing the Best Protein Skimmer

While all protein skimmers share the same features – a chamber that allows water flow to contact several fine bubbles – there are still key functions that need to be noted in choosing the best protein skimmer.

Here are some of the requirements needed to assure a maximum protein skimmer function:

  • Generation of a large amount of water or air interface
  • Collection of organic molecules at the air or water interface
  • Formation of form by the bubbles
  • Partial draining of foam in the water must happen without the bubble having to pop prematurely
  • Separation of drained foam from the water

Protein Skimmer Design Types

  • Hang-on-back protein skimmer – this protein skimmer hangs on the back of your aquarium unit. If your tank does not run a sump, then this type of skimmer is ideal for you. Hanging on the rim of the aquarium as the power filter does, this type of protein skimmer is particularly suitable for smaller aquariums whose capacity does not exceed 100 gallons.
  • In-tank – unlike hang-on-back protein skimmers, in-tank skimmers are not external. Small and compact, these protein skimmers do not take too much space when placed inside the aquarium. Despite their small size, however, small in-tank protein skimmers do a great job in cleaning harmful compounds in the water.
  • In sump – aquarium sumps would best fit this type of protein skimmer. Compared to other protein skimmer designs, this design gives you more freedom to decide on its size and cost (and sometimes additional features). This is, then, relatively more flexible.

In addition, types of protein skimmer are generally categorized into two: counter-current flow and co-current flow. For counter-current flow, the air is moving against the water flow after being forced into the system under pressure. For co-current flow, on the other hand, the air is at the chamber’s bottom and would be in contact with the water when it rises towards the collection chamber.

These are the types of co-current flow systems:

  • Air Stone – made out of porous stones or limestones, this device slowly diffuses air into the tank. Its production of a large number of tiny bubbles would help in cleaning the water.
  • Venturi – Venturi pumps, also called aspirators, are another method of producing tiny bubbles. It is more compact and highly efficient compared to other designs.

These are the types of counter-current flow systems:

  • Aspirating skimmer – with needle-wheels, air, and water is disintegrated effectively into very small bubbles. This would result in more and finer bubbles, leading to more effective cleaning.
  • Downdraft skimmer – this mechanism uses tubes in which high water pressure is injected to generate foams and bubbles. These foams and bubbles will be collected in the collection cup. This model is relatively larger and is used in larger aquariums.
  • Beckett skimmer – although quite similar to downdraft skimmers. It also introduces tiny bubbles through tubes, but it is much larger and could produce more noise.

After getting an idea about the advantages of purchasing a protein skimmer and the different considerations you should have, shall you decide to choose one? Let us take a look at several options that you have?

The Best Protein Skimmer Reviews

1. SCA-302 180 Gallon Protein Skimmer

SCA-302 180 Gallon Protein Skimmer

This protein skimmer is compatible with aquariums whose capacity may reach up to 180 gallons. Because of its small and compact size, it could fit most aquarium sumps, making it one of the most flexible protein skimmers. This measures 9 x 18 x 9.5 in.

This also features 2000 pump needle impellers that could help create really fine bubbles to ensure that the water is cleaned properly. It could be assembled quickly and seamlessly. This device works silently, so you do not expect any noise that may disturb you or your fish species.


  • Creates really fine bubbles and foam
  • The compact size makes it not occupy too much space
  • Silent operation


  • Installation may be difficult sometimes
  • The cup attached to it is sometimes difficult to remove

2. Simplicity 240DC Protein Skimmer

If you want an affordable protein skimmer yet advanced, you might be looking for this protein skimmer. Along with its featured needle wheel impeller, this unit uses the 2000DC water pump. Its need wheel impellers are important, as they are efficient means to bring water into the skimmer. It also helps in producing microbubbles that are helpful in skimmate formation. 

To reduce the skimmer footprint, simple protein skimmers have water pumps mounted inside the skimmer’s body. This is appropriate, more importantly, for in-sump units.

To make sure that its operation is quiet, this unit features an air silencer. If you desire to maximize the unit’s skimming action, you can also use the air intake adjuster.

O-rings and bayonet locks help hold skimmer cups onto the contact chamber. The skimmer cup may be removed quickly, and it also features a drain hole for cases when you want to administer an external collection cup.

With dimensions of 8.3 x 7.9 x 19.5 inches, this unit may be used for aquariums with a capacity of up to 120 gallons.


  • Set-up is simple
  • Has an internal water pump
  • Compact and easy to fit
  • 2-year warranty for body and 1-year warranty for the pump


  • It does not have any wireless control
  • May not be compatible with other automation systems

3. Coral Vue Technology Octopus Needle Wheel Skimmer

Coral Vue Technology Octopus Needle Wheel Skimmer

Designed for sump use, this protein skimmer may be used for aquarium tanks that have a capacity of up to 210 gallons. This is compact its size so that it would fit most tanks. Its needle wheel impellers allow for really fine bubbles and facilitate creating foams that would further help clean the water in your tank. What it does is to help bubbles move to the collection cup through a cone neck that is 4-inch in diameter. 

This can be released quickly for efficient maintenance. The gate valve allows you to adjust water levels. Even if your unit is really small, this does not take too much space, so there is nothing to worry about crowding your aquarium too much.


  • Produces a huge amount of foam, attracting more undesired organic goops.
  • Excellent needle wheel impeller performance
  • It comes with a silicone hose
  • The water level may be easily controlled using a gate valve


  • It may not fit in some sumps

4. NYOS Quantum 160 Protein Skimmer

NYOS Quantum 160 Protein Skimmer

Most reef enthusiasts choose this unit for its reputation in maintaining water cleanliness in aquarium tanks. Designed for in-sump use, this unit comes with a matched water pump. Featuring a hybrid wheel impeller, this protein skimmer combines the benefits of lattice wheel impellers and needle wheel impellers, making them super light while still maintaining their exceptional performance. 

This protein skimmer consumes considerably lower energy but at the same time could operate smoothly and could effectively create a maintained supply of really fine and small bubbles. Because of its silicone rubber feet, the skimmer is kept slightly above the base of the sump, further eliminating any vibration and some pumping noise because of its resonation, making it perform quietly.

Made out of acrylic in high quality, the durability of this protein skimmer could be trusted. Because of its clear housing, it would also be very easy to watch how the machine works, making it easy to detect any malfunctioning.

What sets this product apart is its unique NYOS Twister that could spin the water-bubble mixture, turning it into a vortex of high velocity, increasing contact time, and improving skimmate formation. This may be used for aquarium tanks with a capacity of up to 250 gallons.


  • Smooth and quiet operation
  • It can be disassembled easily for cleaning
  • It takes up less room


  • Maybe too large for small cabinets
  • Relatively expensive.

5. Tunze 9410.000 Doc Skimmers

Tunze 9410.000 Doc Skimmers

This protein skimmer is known for being durable and reliable. By creating thousands and thousands of tiny bubbles whose diameter could be as small as 0.1 and .3mm, this protein skimmer could clean harmful organisms from the water. The bubble size, which is uninformed, would also ensure that the unit’s operation is quiet, preventing any disturbance to the fish species and you. 

This protein skimmer could remove cellulose, dead algae, coral slimes, and other undesirable substances, among the pollutants that this protein skimmer could remove. The foam created would be collected in the skimmer’s collection cup. For post-filter, clean water passes through special nylon. No matter how tiny the particles are – as tiny as 300 microns – it would have no escape from the post-filtering process.

This is compatible with aquariums that have a capacity of up to 265 gallons.


  • Compact size
  • Easy to install
  • Requires little fine-tuning, if none at all
  • Low electrical usage


  • Noisy when it gets a bit broken
  • Costs more

Final Thoughts

Affordability and efficiency are among the things you should look for when purchasing a protein skimmer. Consider as well the type of aquarium that you have, particularly its capacity. You don’t want to end up buying an in-sump protein skimmer that would not even fit in your reef tank. The best protein skimmers for reef tanks presented here could help you choose which would work best for you.

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