When you begin your journey as a saltwater aquarist, you will come across different unfamiliar terminologies. You may have knowledge about freshwater tanks, but that will not be much help. The fundamental equipment in these two tanks differs from one another. A perfect example of that is a protein skimmer.
A protein skimmer is a device that removes organic compounds like waste and food particles from water while oxygenating it. It does so by making contact between large concentrations of air bubbles and aquarium water. The skimmer components include a contact chamber, a collection cup to collect and remove the foam, and air injection.
It is one of the essentials for a saltwater aquarium. So, this article should be insightful for beginners lacking the necessary information about having a saltwater aquarium.
What A Protein Skimmer Is?
It is a tool for saltwater aquariums, which serves two purposes – removing waste from the water and oxygenating it. It works as a filter to remove organic impurities polluting the tank water.
There is almost no room for errors in the chemistry of a saltwater aquarium. Keeping the water condition by maintaining the parameters is highly important. One way to do that is changing the water constantly, which is cumbersome enough (and costly!). The easier way is to use a protein skimmer that effectively oxygenates and cleans the water on a regular basis.
What Does A Protein Skimmer Do?
Removing Organic Waste
It removes chunky organic molecules like uneaten food or waste before they get the chance to split into tinier ones. Otherwise, if not removed regularly, they will contaminate the water, creating detrimental impacts on the aquarium’s health and environment.
Oxygenating The Water
Oxygenating is crucial because saltwater aquariums cannot hold much oxygen like freshwater tanks. Besides, when the saltwater tank becomes warmer, the oxygen level declines. So, any method to oxygenate the water is important for your livestock. And an efficient method is using a protein skimmer.
How Does Protein Skimmer Work?
There are various kinds of protein skimmers in the market. But their mechanism to create a water/air interface is the same. That is the place where air makes contact with water. Consequently, the foam formation takes place to gather waste particles and remove them from the remaining water.
Afterward, the clean water returns to the saltwater tank, and the collected waste foam rests in a receptacle for you to empty and throw away. Some tech-savvy aquarists automate the process of removing the waste for their convenience. Try doing that if you want.
When you go to the beach, look for soapy-looking foams in the water. See how they crash at the sea shoreline. That hugely resembles the cleaning process because what you see is the organic elements being cleaned from the seawater drifting away on the water surface.
Similarly, in an enclosed environment, a skimmer produces those bubbles to aid in separating the waste to keep the aquarium water clean.
Where To Put The Skimmer?
There are Hang on the Back, internal, and external skimmers. You put the HOB on the side of open-topped sumps or aquariums. An external skimmer will go outside a sump to link to it via outlet and inlet hoses. For internal skimmers, the place is inside the main aquarium or its sump.
Is It Possible To Over-Skim The Tank?
A drawback of using a skimmer is cleaning good stuff like planktonic coral food and iodine from the water. But it offers you more advantages. Plus, you can replace the beneficial elements with regular dosing. It means that you cannot really over-skim your tank too much. However, getting a large skimmer for your cabinet or sump can cause over-skimming.
Is Using A Skimmer For Freshwater A Good Idea?
Some aquarists use them for Koi ponds, but it is rare because a skimmer does not perform well in freshwater as it does in saltwater.
That is because saltwater is stickier and more viscous. The water density causes the bubbles to become smaller, which is better for contact time and surface area. That will not work in a freshwater tank.
Which Protein Skimmer Is The Best One?
A sump-based skimmer is the best because it is more powerful and larger than a HOB skimmer. You should pick a model to filter double the tank’s maximum volume. It can be DC or AC, both are reliable, but DC provides extra control with the pump.
Cone-shaped skimmers having a pump inside are the most used ones as they perform with small and compact footprints. You have to check it to ensure that it fits into the sump’s skimmer chamber.
How Much Is The Appropriate Water Depth For A Protein Skimmer?
A typical sump-based protein skimmer needs a depth around 8 to 10”, coinciding with the height of shelf sumps. Some get along with a depth like 6”, but HOB models need deeper water.
Skimmers sitting inside a tank or hanging on its back usually require some space for clearance over the aquarium. So, stay mindful while planning to retrofit a protein skimmer to an aquarium. You may have to adjust the hood.
When And Why Does A Protein Skimmer Overflow?
It overflows when the water has a high depth. Raise it to adjust its height to keep the bubbles and the water level down. Sometimes it may take several hours to collect the particles from the collection cup. If they fill that cup, causing the skimmer to overflow, adjust the height of the water level.
There are also other factors responsible for making a skimmer overflow. Organic compounds and supplements impact the water surface tension. Then it causes the skimmer to go haywire instantly and ejects the collected wastes back into your tank water.
The best way to avoid this situation is to manually clean and keep the cup empty regularly. Power cuts can also cause overflowing when the water back-siphons to raise the water level. You can install a non-return valve in the return pump. That should solve the problem.
The worst scenario is when the overflow occurs outside the aquarium and creates a flood. Even if it happens inside the sump, it can cause cabinet damage if not handled instantly. You can use a skimmer guardian to tackle any short-term flood or long-term cabinet issues.
It is no rocket science to use a protein skimmer. You get it, you place it where it belongs, and it does its job to keep your fish buddies happy and healthy.
The only thing to note here is the problem of overflowing. But if you stay cautious, you can prevent any significant damage.
Knowing what a protein skimmer is, what it does, and how it works tells you its importance. It is one of those first things you need to take care of when setting up your saltwater aquarium. I hope the article helped you in that regard.