Why would you want a protein skimmer for your aquarium? There are several reasons why this piece of equipment is beneficial. The first is that a skimmer removes dissolved organic compounds from the water, and that reduces the need for water changes. A regular filtration system does not get rid of the amino acids and proteins that build up and become toxic to your fish.
The second benefit is that protein skimmers raise the amount of oxygen in the water and help keep the pH stable. And third, once you begin running a skimmer in your tank, you’ll notice that the water stays clear for longer and you have less of a problem with algae.
Top protein skimmers of 2022
There are different kinds to choose from, from HOB (hang-on-back) to nano protein skimmers for small aquariums. And they use different methods to extract the organic compounds from the water, like a Venturi valve, a needle wheel, spray induction, et cetera. Sometimes skimmers are advertised as “foam fractionators” because of the froth they create.
Let’s examine the best protein skimmers now, then conclude with some tips for choosing the right kind for your setup.
#1 Reef Octopus Classic 100-HOB Protein Skimmer
Reef Octopus’ Classic HOB Protein Skimmer is an all-around favorite of aquarists because it’s quiet and efficient. The 100-HOB model is suited to aquariums up to 105 gallons in size, but you can purchase the same skimmer for different sizes of tanks.
The skimmer itself measures 17 inches tall by 8 inches wide and 3.75 inches thick. It comes with an adjustable surface skimmer attachment.
Installation is simple. All you have to do is hang the skimmer on the back of the aquarium, mount the pump, and adjust the intake strainer. Then it makes use of the Aquatrance pinwheel pump to mix water and air and encourage the organic materials to separate in the cup.
Another bonus is that the design of this particular skimmer means that when the cup overflows, it floods into the tank, not out onto the floor. Each part is threaded, so taking it apart for cleaning is very straightforward.
#2 Reef Octopus Regal 250-INT In-sump Protein Skimmer
Reef Octopus also sells an in-sump protein skimmer, the Regal 2580-INT. It’s appropriate for understocked aquariums up to 600 gallons in size, or overstocked tanks with up to 300 gallons. (You can also purchase three other identical models for other aquarium sizes. )
To separate dissolved organics from the water, it uses the VarioS skimmer pump with a pinwheel impeller and detachable controller. It recirculates water within the skimmer for superior cleaning. It’s built with durable parts and expected to last up to 10 years.
You can adjust the power settings to make it more energy efficient. The five settings control the flow rate and allow you to adjust the mix of air and water entering the skimmer. Instead of running the skimmer all day long, you can set it for a 15 or 60-minute feed mode with just the push of a button. Finally, you can change the direction of the output, too.
#3 Lee’s Protein Skimmer Counter Current
Lee’s Protein Skimmer has a minimalistic design that uses countercurrent technology to remove organic compounds from the water. It does not come with a pump, airline tubing, or plastic tees. You’ll need to purchase those separately. But if you’re on a budget, and you don’t mind a little work, this model could save you some cash.
This particular skimmer can handle saltwater or freshwater tanks up to 50 gallons, but other sizes are available. Since the skimmer must be mounted inside the aquarium, you’ll want to check that it fits in the space you have available. When it’s working properly, you’ll see bubbles moving inside the tube and foam appearing on the top.
#4 Eshopps Protein Nano 10-35G Skimmer
Eshopps sells this Nano Protein Skimmer for aquarists on a budget. The specifications say that it’s appropriate for tanks up to 35 gallons in size, but owners have commented that 20 gallons might be the actual limit. You can attach it to a sump. Just be prepared to learn how to use it properly and make adjustments, especially after cleaning it.
#5 Eshopps Hang On Protein Skimmer PSK-75H – Up to 75 Gallons
The Eshopps Hang On Protein Skimmer can manage aquariums up to 75 gallons or as small as 10 gallons. It measures 23-inches in height and 3-inches in width. And it uses a quiet Italian Sicce pump to operate.
Owners have commented that the performance of this inexpensive skimmer is hit or miss. The main problem is that it requires a lot of adjustments after cleaning.
#6 Aquatic Life 115 Mini Internal Protein Skimmer/Filter, 30-Gallon
The Mini Internal Protein Skimmer from Aquatic Life is recommended for saltwater reef aquariums up to 30 gallons in size. It fits inside the tank, but it’s 10-5/8-inches tall and about 3-inches wide. It depends on a needle-wheel impeller to mix air and water for efficient organic waste removal.
There is a knob on the pump that allows you to adjust the water flow. And it comes with a mounting bracket and suction cups so you can attach it to the frame or inside a sump. Just make sure you allow a minimum of 3-¾-inches space between the skimmer and the waterline.
#7 SC Aquariums SCA-301 Protein Skimmer, 65 gal
SC Aquariums SCA-301 skimmer is specifically made for saltwater aquariums up to 65 gallons. It comes with a removable collection cup and a drain tube, as well as a 28 W power head pump and air silencer.
Owners have commented that this skimmer pulls an astonishing amount of organic material from the water. Their main complaint is that it is somewhat difficult to clean. And many experienced aquarists have made their own adjustments to the skimmer to get the best performance from it.
#8 Coralife BioCube Protein Skimmer for Aquarium Filter
The BioCube skimmer from Coralife is specifically made to fit in the filtration system of the BioCube aquarium from the same company. This is not one you want to buy if you have a different tank. Owners enjoy the fact that it’s very easy to maintain once it’s installed properly.
#9 Coralife Super Skimmer with Pump
The Coralife Super Skimmer uses both a needle-wheel impeller and an aspirating Venturi valve. What that means is that it’s efficient both with its performance and the fact that it doesn’t use much power to run. You can watch the bubbles spiraling in the water inside the skimmer as it does its work.
There are a few reasons why this model gets great reviews. One is that the collection cup is very easy to remove and replace. Two, bubbles are diffused so that they don’t flow back into the aquarium and disturb the water there. And three, you have the flexibility to use this in a sump or hang it off the back of the aquarium.
#10 CORAL BOX S150 Protein Skimmer
As many aquarists can tell you, the less expensive protein skimmers require a lot of adjustments and maintenance to keep functioning properly. Although the S150 from CORAL BOX costs a lot less than many skimmers on the market, you may find that you need to fiddle with it to get the results you want.
The skimmer can be installed vertically with suction cups or with a glass bracket. It comes with an air intake silencer and a microbubble reducer. It is suitable for tanks that hold between 13 and 30 gallons.
#11 Reef Octopus NS-80 Nano Protein Skimmer
The NS-80 Nano Protein Skimmer from Reef Octopus is tiny but mighty. If you have an aquarium with 20 gallons or less, this might be the best choice for you. You can install the skimmer in the sump or in the tank. It’s only 11 inches tall and 4 inches wide. And one of its best features is the collection cup because it’s easy to remove, clean, and replace.
The full package includes the pump, the bubble diffuser, the mounting bracket, and a raiser pipe that adjust the water level inside the skimmer. Owners have noticed that it’s important to adjust the water level to the correct height to produce skimmate. But on the plus side, you can avoid messy overflows by connecting the airline tubing to an external container.
#12 Hydor USA SlimSkim Internal Skimmer for Mini Aquariums and Mini Reefs
The Hydor SlimSkin Internal Skimmer mounts inside tanks up to 35 gallons in size. It comes with a magnet suction cup mounting system to secure it to an aquarium wall. And it measures 12 inches long by 3-1/8-inch wide. The small pump uses only four watts of energy. And you can adjust both the airflow and foaming level.
How to choose the best protein skimmer
Without a doubt, proteins skimmers are a useful piece of equipment to have for your aquarium. They reduce the need for water changes and ensure the health of the tank’s inhabitants. You might even say they are essential if you’re growing a coral reef.
Easy to maintain
When you’re shopping for a protein skimmer, don’t only look at the price tag. Investigate how straightforward it is to clean and maintain. After all, you’ll be removing the collection cup almost every day. And if it’s hard to put the skimmer back together, you’re less likely to keep up with the needed maintenance.
Next, you’ll need to perform a deep clean on the skimmer once every six months, or once a year. Will it be difficult to pull apart and put back together? Will you be able to put the settings back the way they were without too much effort? It’s always worth it to spend a little more and get a skimmer that’s easy for you to use and maintain.
Adjustable and compatible with other parts of the aquarium
Some skimmers are more adjustable than others. They allow you to change the mix of water and air as well as the flow. Then some fit inside a sump, some hang on the back of the tank, and others attach to the interior wall of the aquarium. No matter which kind you choose, just make sure it fits with the size of your aquarium, and how you want the aquarium to look.
Also, verify that the skimmer you choose comes with all the needed parts like a pump. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to buy those pieces separately.
Wet or dry skimming
Did you know that you could choose between wet or dry skimming? Dry skimming removes less waste from the system, but it also means less water you need to add to the tank. Meanwhile, wet skimming removes more organics, but it may require you to frequently check iodine levels and saline levels in a saltwater tank. Both methods are equally valuable depending on the aquarium set up you have.
We hope we helped you discover the best protein skimmer for your aquarium today. Out of the many models available, there are several that are reasonably priced and easy to operate. And they are especially helpful in maintaining a healthy saltwater tank with a reef.