A protein skimmer is a key component in your reef’s filtration system and often one of the most expensive piece of equipment.
Are you planning out a new reef aquarium and have no experience setting up a protein skimmer or having trouble getting your existing skimmer to work properly?
Most reputable skimmer companies provide instructions on the set up and operation of their products. Start with that information when setting it up. But sometimes you will not find all the info you need.
Here is why we’ve created these additional helpful insider tips on how to set up and maintain protein skimmers so that you are sure to make it work correctly and easy.
Tips on tiny protein skimmers
The popularity of tiny reef tanks continues to grow.
With better LED lighting and
miniature water pumps, we can easily grow soft and SPS corals in the smallest of aquariums.
Thanks to forward thinking equipment manufacturers, even the smallest reef tank can have a protein skimmer!
These ultra small skimmers are powered by an aquarium air pump instead of a bulky water pump.
The idea was to make the
skimmer really small so it would fit in small reef aquariums.
These protein skimmers look like a thin glass or plastic tube.
The tube is mounted with a hanger or suction cup inside the tank. Microbubbles are created by a limewood air stone.
This old school method of running a protein skimmer with an air pump and limewood air stone is perfect for ultra small reef skimming.
Since there is no collection cup, skimmate flows from the top of the skimmer, through a hose, to a collection cup at the base of the aquarium.
This system works great but there are a few tips that make life with these miniature marvels easier:
Internal, In tank and HOB protein skimmers
All In One (AIO) reef aquarium systems have simplified the set up of reef tanks by incorporating the filtration system into the aquarium.
Some All In One systems come with a protein skimmer, others make it optional.
The beauty of the integrated filter system is that it allows you to drop a skimmer right into the filter.
No plumbing or special installation is required.
If your All In One aquarium manufacturer offers an internal protein skimmer, it will be a simple plug and play operation.
In tank protein skimmers are designed to mount inside your aquarium with magnets or suction cups.
They’re normally placed in a corner of the tank or inside an existing All In One filter if the size is compatible.
Hang On Back (HOB) skimmers are great for non All In One reef aquariums.
HOB skimmers attach to the aquarium just like a power filter.
Here are our tips for All In One, in tank and HOB protein skimmers:
In sump protein skimmers
Big reef tanks need big protein skimmers.
For most reef aquarists this means placing the skimmer inside the sump. This configuration eliminates the need for external plumbing, cutting of holes and bulkhead fittings.
There are a variety of in sump skimmer designs and sizes.
You may even have a small reef tank with a small sump. In this case, you’ll be able to drop one of the smaller internal protein skimmers inside the sump.
For full size sumps you’ll have to decide which skimmer size, configuration and feature set works best for you:
No matter what size protein skimmer you select, it will require some time to “break in.” Residue from the manufacture of the skimmer inhibits the formation of foam and skimmate.
It can take three to four weeks before the skimmer is ready for fine tuning.
To reduce the break in period, rinse the skimmer with a diluted vinegar solution. Use 4 parts vinegar to 6 parts water.
This solution will rinse away residue and help stabilize foam production.
Every few months soak the skimmer in this solution to loosen organics and dirt from the skimmer components.
Take your time when making adjustments to your protein skimmer. After each adjustment wait a day to see how it affects the water level, foam production and skimmate.
Making drastic adjustments in short time periods will just prolong the set up period.
Once you’ve dialed in your skimmer, sit back and let it do all the work!