You need to have a collection of useful tools if you have a reef tank. Among them, a protein skimmer is one whose demand has been scaling up since people’s increasing interest in reefing. You can use it for all aquariums. But it may not always be that effective, depending on your tank type and the skimmer type.

You can use a protein skimmer in a freshwater tank, although experienced reefers do not typically recommend it. Nonetheless, you can use it to maintain oxygen levels, stabilize carbon dioxide & phosphate levels, and alternate it for water changes.

As you do not necessarily have to get a protein skimmer for your freshwater tank, some people consider it a waste of money. But that is not entirely true either. You should collect all the information before deciding on it, which is what I presented in this article.

What Is A Protein Skimmer?

It is a device used to eliminate organic wastes such as protein compounds and fish feces from the tank water. Another major plus point of a skimmer is enhancing the oxygen level by cleaning organic materials. In short, it confirms that the fish in your tank is getting sufficient oxygen.

How Does A Protein Skimmer Work?

There are several types of protein skimmers available in markets. But their functioning mechanism to build a water/air interface is similar. Air gets connected to water in the interface. Eventually, the foam buildup occurs, deposits waste materials, and gets them out of the tank water.

After that, the purified water comes back to the tank. The deposited waste foams lie in the receptacle that you can empty and dump later. Tech-savvy reefers sometimes prefer automating the waste removal process to make it more convenient. You can also do that.

Next time you go to a beach, check out the soapy foams. You will see them crashing at the shoreline. It greatly resembles the removal process because that is how organic wastes, being separated from the water, drift away and stick to the surface.

Similarly, a protein skimmer generates the bubbles to keep the elements away from the tank water in its enclosed environment.

What Are The Types Of Protein Skimmers?

There are mainly three types of protein skimmers. The bigger one you get, the more functional the filtration system will be.

Notwithstanding that, most hobbyists get skimmers to place them in their sumps or home tanks. So the skimmer size is generally below 24 centimeters.


It is the cheapest one in the market, the old versions of today’s protein skimmers.

If you have no sumps or cannot afford a costly skimmer, the in-tank one will be the best alternative.

Its application is very convenient – you place them inside your tank and let it does its work.

But the drawbacks are its lack of power compared to other skimmers and its large size that will take up lots of tank space affecting the aesthetics.

Hang On Back

You hang the skimmer on your tank’s back, just as the name says. Hobbyists who do not own a sump but want a powerful skimmer should consider it.

It functions by dragging water and shooting it up with bubbles when it enters the master chamber. Then the filtered water returns to the tank while the foams drift over the chamber to reach the collection pot.

This skimmer is the perfect replacement for an in-sump skimmer. But it is expensive and can be an eyesore when displayed on the tank sides. So, if you own a sump, you should better purchase an In-Sump.


It is the most widely used and popular protein skimmer. It comes at a cost, but it will offer you the best advantages in the long term.

A sump gets you the utmost authority over your aquarium. You can keep the equipment there. Also, it comes with sufficient space to pour the additives prior to reaching the display tank.

You can place any skimmer you want in your sump. An in-sump is the most robust protein skimmer because it can handle hundreds of water gallons each hour and remove way more organic wastes than other skimmers.

Using A Protein Skimmer In A Freshwater Tank

There is always a debate about getting a protein skimmer for a freshwater tank.

Can I Use A Protein Skimmer In A Freshwater Tank

Some reefers will say that it is not useful at all. That is one side of the coin because it is not entirely true. The other side says you can get a skimmer for your freshwater aquarium and get results, but you can never use it to its fullest potential.

Now, why is that? Because freshwater cannot foam as well and fast as saltwater. But a skimmer performs its prime function by creating foams. So you see, it cannot actively do what it does in a freshwater tank.

However, it does not mean you cannot use a skimmer. There are a number of advantages that you will get out of it. I will spell them out below.

Benefits Of Using A Skimmer In A Freshwater Tank

Ensuring Good Aeration

Along with waste filtration, a skimmer will oxygenate the tank water with its topnotch system to change gas procedure. When a fish takes in oxygen, a way will be there to refill it.

The skimmer will contribute to the required exchange of gas by helping to shift over the water surface.

Solving The Waste Problem

Every day, the additives and leftover foods in the water pollute it bit by bit. A skimmer will lend you a hand here by preserving cleanliness in the tank. As you already know, its design enables it to gather organic particles.

That way, it keeps you relaxed about putting additives and giving food to your aquatic buddies. You will not have to worry about the remainders making the water trashy.

Substitute To Water Change

When changing your aquarium water, dense pollutants and food materials might get trapped and decomposed later, meaning the job will not be efficient.

But employing a protein skimmer in the tank will do it by removing minuscule particles and wastes.

Therefore, you will not need to change the water very often, not when it cannot do its job right. Instead, you can get a skimmer as an effective alternative.

It will take out even the tiniest molecules, to do which you would otherwise need a more expensive and powerful filtration mechanism.

Plus, note that most of your aquarium animals used to live in ponds or rivers. So a skimmer would be hugely helpful for them by minimizing water contamination.

More Benefits

An extra benefit a skimmer offers is that it can stabilize your tank’s phosphate level by thwarting the aggressive and bothersome algae from burgeoning.

Besides, it will absorb biological poisons released by algae, corals, and others. Finally, it can maintain the pH level by lowering the growth and release of carbon dioxide in the aquarium water.

Final Thoughts

So, what decision will it be? If you asked me, I would say that using a protein skimmer in a freshwater tank might not be entirely unnecessary. After all, it does have some uses you need.

It is advantageous in different situations. You cannot call it a total waste. On the contrary, if you need a dependable system to control organic matters, getting a protein skimmer will be a wise thing to do so!

But again, it is your decision. I hope you got the information you need to make it.


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