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Protein Skimmers: How to Break In a Protein Skimmer

Why Does a Protein Skimmer Need a Break In Period?

When acrylic is manufactured there is a film left behind on the acrylic that while harmless, does not lend itself to good protein skimming. As this film goes away, the skimming process is improved. Most people refer to this as “breaking in a skimmer” and it refers to the process of breaking down / removing this film for proper skimming.

However, that is only half of the story. In addition to the loss of manufacturing film, there is a gain in biofilm. This biofilm is made up of bacteria and other fauna that grows on the surfaces of the skimmer. This biofilm creates a slippery layer on the acrylic which allows the bubbles produced by the protein skimmer to rise more efficiently.

How Long Does the Break In Period Generally Last

Typically this process takes 1-2 weeks.

Should I Give My Skimmer a Vinegar Bath Prior to Use

Giving your skimmer a vinegar bath prior to first use will help remove some of the film left behind from the manufacturing process. However, it will delay the start of producing the biofilm layer needed for optimal skimmer performance, so overall it may not reduce the total time needed to break-in your skimmer. There is certainly no harm in giving your skimmer a vinegar bath prior to first use, but in our opinion it is not worth the extra effort as it will not likely significantly change the amount of time needed to break in your skimmer.

If you decide to give your protein skimmer a vinegar bath, we recommend installing and running your skimmer in a large bucket of warm freshwater water (tap water is fine) and a few cups of vinegar for 24-48 hours. Please note, your skimmer will not foam up in a vinegar bath like it does running in saltwater. Please also make sure your rinse and then dry your skimmer completely prior to installing it on your aquarium.

Tuning Your Skimmer During the Break-in Period (1st Week of Operation)

At the start of the break in period:

  1. Set the water level adjustment knob pointing arrow to arrow.
  2. Close the air intake adjustment valve all the way and then open it back-up approximately half a turn or 180 degrees. Make small adjustments to the air valve and observe the water level. The goal is to get the highest level of bubbles inside the skimmer body. Do NOT make any additional adjustments for 24 hours.
  3. If the water level is still low after 24 hours, turn the water level adjustment knob by 5-10 degrees (it does not matter which direction you turn it). Wait another 24 hours. If the water level is still low, turn the water level adjustment knob an additional 5-10 degrees. Repeat process until the water level reaches the neck of the skimmer.
How to Break In a Protein Skimmer

Many of our users have reported excellent skimming in the first few days of operation. Hopefully you will experience similar results, if not however, be patient as the results will come. Please note: if your aquarium is new, your protein skimmer is not likely going to do a whole lot as you likely don’t have much waste to remove in the first place.

Please check back again in the future for information on how to tune your protein skimmer. As always, if you need any additional assistance please contact us and we will be happy to help!

So what will it take for you to trust in Simplicity for your aquarium needs?


With Simplicity Protein Skimmers we promise you will get a well-built, feature-rich, high-performance skimmer that comes at a price-point that is lower than most others on the market. If you're interested in buying our products, please click here for our Store Locator. Are you a dealer? Contact us to learn more about selling our products!

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