For Beginners: What Is a Protein Skimmer?

What Is a Protein Skimmer?

When you decide to embark on your first saltwater aquarium journey, you may come across a lot of terminology that you may not be familiar with.  Even if you have experience with freshwater aquariums, much of the equipment required for a saltwater aquarium is different. A protein skimmer is a good example.

The protein skimmer is essential for saltwater aquariums.  While some people claim that it isn’t a necessity if you are using activated carbon, we explained in a previous blog article why in our opinion that is not necessarily true.

What’s a Protein Skimmer?

A protein skimmer is a piece of equipment used in saltwater aquariums for two purposes: (1) it removes waste in the form of organic compounds from the water, and (2) it also oxygenates the water.  At the simplest level, a protein skimmer functions like a filter for removing organic impurities from the water.

With a saltwater aquarium, there is very little room for error in the water chemistry.  It’s important to keep the water quality within certain narrow measurable parameters. Unless you are constantly changing water, which can be cumbersome in a large aquarium, the protein skimmer allows you to effectively clean your water and oxygenate it on a continuous basis.

What Do Skimmers Remove from Water?

Protein skimmers remove large organic molecules, such as waste or uneaten food, before they have an opportunity to break down into smaller ones.  Otherwise, if these molecules are not regularly removed, they will pollute the water and have a detrimental impact on the health of the aquarium.

Is Oxygenation Important for Saltwater Aquariums?

Oxygenation is very important because saltwater cannot hold as much oxygen as fresh water.  Also, the warmer the aquarium becomes, the less oxygen the water can hold.  Therefore, any method that will help you oxygenate your aquarium’s water is vital for your saltwater livestock.

Simplicity DC Skimmer Family

How Does a Protein Skimmer Work?

There are different types of protein skimmers, but what they all have in common is the creation of an air/water interface.  This is where lots of air comes in contact with lots of water. As a result, a foam is formed where the waste organics accumulate and are separated from the rest of the water.  Clean water then returns to the aquarium and waste foam is collected within a receptacle that you can empty and discard. Some savvy aquarists even automate the waste removal process.

If you have ever been to the beach and have seen a soapy-looking foam on top of the water crashing at the shoreline, this is essentially the same process.  What you are witnessing are organic compounds being separated from the ocean water and floating on the surface bubbles. A protein skimmer creates these bubbles to help separate organic waste in a similar manner, which helps keep the water clean.

You will find that most saltwater aquarists use a protein skimmer.  Even those who choose not will at least have one readily available in case of emergencies.  That being said, we strongly recommend the use of a protein skimmer for saltwater aquariums.

Simplicity Aquatics has very efficient and reliable protein skimmers that operate with a DC pump.  These have an adjustable air intake with a controller to help dial in the skimmer and process water at the exact rate you require.  Our skimmers are more affordable and just as effective as other leading brands on the market.

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.  If you would like more information about becoming a dealer, please visit our dealer page. If you are looking for a store that carries our products, please visit our store locator page.

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