Micro bubbles can be a real pain! Thankfully, there are only a few causes for microbubbles for your Simplicity or other brand skimmer. Let’s take a moment to investigate each one of them and how to fix the issue.
Reason #1: A Brand New Skimmer (Or a skimmer that hasn’t been used in a long time)
When a protein skimmer is new and it is being broken in, it is very common for it to create micro-bubbles. It generally takes at least a couple days and up to 2 weeks to break-in a skimmer. During this period the film left behind on the walls of the skimmer body by the manufacturing process are washed away and replaced by a biofilm of bacteria that creates a slippery surface allowing bubbles to easily flow up the wall of the skimmer body. Once the skimmer is broken in, the bubbles inside will naturally want to flow up and into the collection cup, thereby significantly reducing the amount of bubbles that escape the skimmer and enter the aquarium.
Reason #2: An Improperly Set-up Skimmer
If a skimmer is being operated in water that is too shallow or too deep, often times this will cause bubbles to exit the skimmer prematurely leading to microbubbles. Always check the manufacturer’s recommendation for water depth and stick to it as this will help reduce microbubbles. If needed, an upside down tupperware container or other plastic container works great as a makeshift stand to raise up a skimmer and ensure that it is running at the proper water depth.
Reason #3: An Improperly Tuned Skimmer
Similar to an improperly set-up skimmer, an improperly tuned skimmer can also cause bubbles to exit the skimmer prematurely leading to microbubbles. An improperly tuned air valve, for example, can alter the size and shape of the bubble column inside a skimmer body and allow microbubbles to escape into the water column.
Pro Tip: When tuning a skimmer, we recommend adjusting the air valve first prior to making any adjustments to the water level adjustment. The goal is to find the maximum height of the bubble column using the air valve adjustment only. Once that is achieved, then you can use the water level adjustment to properly adjust the height of the bubble column inside the skimmer body.
Reason #4: Chemicals, Foods and Other Additives
There are many aquarium products that are great, however many of these chemicals can change the surface tension of the water making bubbles stick around longer than they should. Often times, this is accompanied by a collection cup overflowing when it would not normally do so, which allows bubbles to escape into the aquarium. Dechlorinators, red slime removers and clarifiers often included with sand (among many other items) are all notorious for causing skimmers to dramatically over skim.
Pro Tip: Prior to using any chemical, food or additive that is known to cause problems with a skimmer, we recommend turning down or turning off your skimmer. If you have a Simplicity DC Controllable Skimmer or other DC controllable pump, you can simply turn down the speed of the pump without messing with any of your settings. For those of you with non controllable pumps, you may simply have to turn it off for a bit.
These are by far the most common causes for microbubbles. If you still can’t get them to stop, just be patient as they don’t really hurt anything (except, of course, your view). So give it a little time and see if it resolves itself!