A protein skimmer is an indispensable part of setting up a reef tank. It helps keep your tank water clean, stabilize the parameters, and keep your aquatic animals healthy. But if you are a new reefer, you most probably do not know how to set a protein skimmer. That is what we will help you learn today.

There are some skimmers that you need to install internally and some externally. However, both processes are simple, consisting of several easy steps. We will jump to them right after introducing the main types of protein skimmers to you.

4 Types Of Skimmers

1. Hang On Protein Skimmers

You hang the skimmer fittingly on your aquarium’s back, as the name suggests. They are essential for tanks without a sump, the ones that hold 100 gallons of water at max.

The skimmer will hang on your tank’s edge, resembling how a power filter sticks to fish tanks.

2. In Sump Protein Skimmers

Their placement is usually within an aquarium’s sumps system. You can choose different styles and sizes according to your needs.

3. In-Tank Protein Skimmers

This one consumes less space. So you can put it inside your reef tank. Regardless of its tiny size, it is quite a performer at removing dirt and food particles from tank water.

It is particularly made for nano reef tanks.

4. External Protein Skimmers

An external protein skimmer operates externally, meaning you keep it outside your aquarium’s sump. Water from that sump is directed to the skimmer. After that, the skimmer sends clean water to the sump.

How To Set Up A Protein Skimmer: 6 Steps

There are mainly 4 types of protein skimmers, but they have various sizes and styles. It would be tough to provide guidelines for all of them. So we will concentrate on the common steps that apply to all skimmers. We advise that you look for instructions from the manufacturer of your skimmer if it comes with any.

How To Set Up A Protein Skimmer

You need a sump box with a hose and a pump to set up a protein skimmer, not to mention a protein skimmer itself too!

Step 1: Choosing A Skimmer

First, choose a skimmer model with a higher capacity than your aquarium has. For example, if the tank can hold 100 gallons of water, get a skimmer having a capacity of 150 gallons at least.

Step 2: Checking The Parts

Check the skimmer carefully prior to installation. Diverse designs come with different parts. Ensure that the manufacturer has arranged and included the components based on their setup. Also, you should see if the engine functions alright.

It would be prudent to do the checking before instead of after removing any hardware from the tank system. You might find it has defects somewhere, which is better to discover early.

Step 3: Positioning It

Put the sump underneath the tank if your filter system does not come with a built-in sump box. Connect intake and output hoses from the water to the sump’s pump. Link the pump and confirm that the case is doing its job right – dispensing the water perfectly to the sump from the aquarium.

Step 4: Measuring The Depth

You have to measure the depth precisely to enable your skimmer to function flawlessly, based on manufacturer suggestions. Your sump box, beneath your tank as a separate unit or a fundamental part of your tank filtration framework, is supposed to feature the most accurate depth for your protein skimmer.

Step 5: Placing It Inside The Sump

Place the skimmer inside your sump box below the tank. Then allow it to fill with water.

Afterward, plug the skimmer into a power socket. From that point, the engine should function properly and bring foam out.

Step 6: Waiting For The Break-In Session

Wait three to four days for your skimmer to complete a break-in period. Check it twice each day so that the foams do not go beyond the maximum level suggested by the manufacturer.

If the foams ever cross the level and start flowing into the container, close the skimmer until the foams retreat. Keep making adjustments with it till it attains desired operation.

How To Set Up A Protein Skimmer Without A Sump?

The installation process I mentioned above is about setting up a protein skimmer with a sump (either an internal one or an external one). But what if you have no sump?

If you want to set up a protein skimmer without a sump, your only option is to go for a HOB skimmer.

Placing a skimmer in the aquarium is a piece of cake. The first step is to fill it with enough water. Then, you have to plug the HOB in. That’s all there is to do.

Every HOB skimmer has a pump inside, which generates microbubbles to skim and force water out of your skimmer and then back it into the tank.

When To Buy A Protein Skimmer?

You should buy it 5 to 7 days before bringing fish into your tank. That is because the skimmer will need two weeks for its break-in session and full functionality. So if you get it before adding fish, you will allow it to run on full mode when your fish are in the aquarium.

Do I Have To Keep Protein Skimmer On 24/7?

Yes. That would be the best thing to ensure you get the best output in terms of gas exchange, a steady pH, and nutrient export. Some people doubt if they should keep it off at night. Do not do that. According to some users’ experience, it works best during nighttime.

Does A Protein Skimmer Require Air Pumps?

Yes, a protein skimmer requires air pumps. Because it needs an air stone to run, air pumps provide it with consistent and sufficient airflow.

You need to service the pump regularly to secure the impeller so that it moves freely and the intake does not get clogged with wastes and debris.

Do I Need A Filter With My Skimmer?

A skimmer serves the same purpose as a filter, but with an additional bonus – it eradicates wastes before they split into harmful toxins.

So, you do not need a filter if your skimmer functions optimally. However, you can still consider it as an alternative filtration system depending on the needs of your aquarium.

What If My Skimmer Does Not Create Bubbles?

That would mean something is wrong with the injector or pump. Disassemble the pump to clean it meticulously with a toothbrush. Be careful. Otherwise, the impeller stays intact. Reassemble the pump after cleaning.

Final Words

Those were the guidelines for setting up a protein skimmer. If you follow them correctly, your skimmer should perform effectively. If you see bubbles in the skimmer’s body, you will know everything is going well.

Observe the tool’s performance for the following 2 hours of installing it. You may have to raise or lower the water level and increase or decrease the amount of air to achieve the best output from the skimmer.

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