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Protein Skimmers: How to Tune a Protein Skimmer

Protein Skimmers: How to Tune a Protein Skimmer

Once your protein skimmer is properly broken in, you will want to tune it so that it can perform its best.

How Frequently Should You Check Your Protein Skimmer Performance

We recommend checking your skimmers performance at least a couple times per week.

When to Tune a Protein Skimmer

Always tune you skimmer at least one hour before or after adding any foods, medications, supplements or other water additives to your aquarium water as they can have a significant impact on bubble production. For example, some additives can inhibit or prevent normal bubble production while others can significantly increase bubble production, so it is generally never a good idea to tune your skimmer right after adding anything to the water.

How to Tune a Needle Wheel Skimmer

Needle-wheel skimmers are a type of venturi skimmer and they are by far the most common type of skimmer currently sold on the market. Our Simplicity DC Controllable Skimmers are an example of a needle-wheel skimmer. Needle-wheel skimmers feature an impeller with a bunch of pegs or needles on the impeller wheel that chop up the air bubbles being sucked into the pump. Although it may seem counter intuitive, reducing / pinching down on the air flow to the pump will generally make the pump run faster and allow more air to be drawn into the skimmer.

Step by step instructions for fine tuning the performance of any needle wheel skimmer:

  1. If you have a speed controllable pump, turn it all the way to 100%.
  2. Set the wedge pipe adjustment or gate valve which controls the water level inside the skimmer to fully open. For a wedge pipe, this generally means lining up the adjustment knob arrow to arrow and for a gate valve this means open it up as much as it will go.
  3. Slowly close the air valve, keeping a close watch on the level of the foam and bubbles inside the skimmer body. Continue making small changes to the air valve until you get the absolute peak height of the bubbles in your skimmer body. This will generally take 5-10 minutes to complete as you will want to wait at least 30 seconds between adjustments.
  4. Very slowly turn the wedge pipe valve or gate valve to reduce the amount of water exiting the skimmer body. Doing this will force the water higher in the skimmer body. Stop when the bubbles start to reach the bottom of the collection cup / neck of the skimmer as shown in the image below.
  5. Wait 1-2 minutes and then, if needed, make an additional small adjustment to keep the bubbles near the bottom of the collection cup / neck of the skimmer. After 10-20 minutes, you should start to see larger possibly brown bubbles forming at the top of the bubble column / foam head.
Protein Skimmers: How to Tune a Protein Skimmer

After 1-2 hours, the bubble column should naturally rise, so that the bubbles are surging up and over into the collection cup. (During normal operation, the bubble column / foam head will surge up and down naturally.)

If the skimmate in your collection cup is very water-looking, you will want to open the wedge pipe or gate valve slightly to lower the water level. However, if you are barely collecting anything, then you will want to close the wedge pipe or gate valve slightly to push more bubbles into your collection cup.

Pro’s Tip

If you know of any foods, medications, supplements or other water additives that will impact your bubble production, it is generally best to turn your skimmer off when adding them to your tank. Alternatively, if you have a controllable skimmer, like our Simplicity DC Skimmers, you can simply slow the pump down as needed. Doing this will prevent you from having to re-tune your skimmer each and every time you add this item to your water.

That’s it!  Now that you have tuned your skimmer you should, for the most part, be able to leave the settings alone. 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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