People often ask, “How do I go about choosing the right protein skimmer?”
Determining the best skimmer size for your aquarium is one major purchasing decision you’ll need to make. Below are five important things to consider when making your decision.
#1: Aquarium Size
The bigger the tank, generally the more waste it will produce and larger skimmer it will need. If you are new to the hobby, you will almost certainly decide to upgrade your aquarium in just a few years.
It’s common for beginners to buy a tank that they believe is big enough initially, before later realizing they’d like additional space for more corals and fish. As such, it is usually a good idea to consider buying up a skimmer size or two. You’ll be prepared for the inevitable upgrade in size down the road. However, you don’t want to go too big either! (See why in #5 below)
Bioload is the amount of waste produced by the inhabitants in your tank. Not all 120 gallon aquariums have the same bioload, or any other tank sizes for that matter. Some tanks have a low bioload, while others may have a heavy bioload or somewhere in between. By far the biggest factor in your tanks, bioload is determined by the amount and size of your fish.
Obviously, the more fish you have, the more bioload. Collectively, lots of little fish produce less waste than fewer large fish (i.e. puffers, triggers, eels, lionfish, groupers and other predators). These big boys are notoriously messy! If you’re intending to have larger fish, it’s definitely a good idea to choose a bigger skimmer to accommodate for them.
This one is an obvious factor for choosing the right protein skimmer, but sometimes it can be overlooked. Simply put, the protein skimmer you choose must be able to fit within the space you have available.
If you are tight on space, a “space saving” design, such as our Simplicity DC Skimmers, will have a pump built into the skimmer’s base which is probably a better option for you.
A good protein skimmer does not have to break the bank. However, not all skimmers are created equally! Here are some of the most important factors that will impact the cost of your skimmer:
- Features: Does it include a controllable DC pump? Does it have a wedge pipe assembly for precise adjustments of the water level? Or how about an air adjustment valve for controlling bubble size?
- Build Quality: A good quality skimmer should feel solid in your hands and not feel like it’s going to fall apart. If it’s made of inexpensive materials, like cheap acrylic or acrylic that is too thin, that is usually a sign to stay away.
- Brand Name: While not always the case, sometimes a skimmer is more expensive simply because of the brand name on the box.
It’s also important to consider which brands offer top notch support and, of course, what you can afford within reason. Keep in mind a skimmer is one of the most critical pieces of a successful reef, so this is definitely not an area where you’ll want to skimp out on the price.
#5: Bigger is Not Always Better
Although it’s difficult to over skim, it’s not a good idea to buy a skimmer that is a lot bigger than needed. This is because as a skimmer gets larger, so does the neck size of the skimmer. With a larger skimmer neck, more proteins (i.e. waste) are needed to create a stable foam head. As a result, your skimmer may not work effectively if your tank is too small to generate enough waste and a proper foam head.
For example: imagine having a skimmer with a 4″ neck. If you have enough waste that it fills with bubbles, a thick foam head with many dirty bubbles will form on top. In comparison, if you were to spread that same amount of waste across a skimmer with a 8” neck instead, the result will be a thinner layer of bubbles. As a result, less dirty bubbles will successfully make it into the collection cup and be removed from your system.
That being said, you can certainly go up a size or two on most brands. Many people choose to do so when choosing the right protein skimmer for their needs. However, going up a size significantly more than necessary will render the skimmer nearly useless.
Simplicity Aquatics: Simple, Effective, Affordable
Simplicity Aquatics aims to bring the aquarist equipment that is S.E.A-worthy: Simple, Effective, and Affordable. If you have any questions about this article or any of our products, we can be reached at (424) 757-6150 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time or through our Contact Page.