Protein Skimmer

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Protein skimmers have the reputation of being an important part of the filtration for a marine aquarium. A system can run without one, but alternative methods of performing the same function has to be employed. They are a very simple piece of equipment that brings aquarium water into contact with tiny air bubbles, which dissolved organic molecules will attach to, the bubbles then rise to the top of the chamber, form a foam, which is then collected and removed from the system. The material collected is called the skimate.

Types of Skimmers

There is a multitude of different types of protein skimmers available, each one using a different method of introducing the air into the water and creating smaller bubbles. There is no best type, as each of them have their own advantages and disadvantages, making them more appropriate for a particular situation.


Aspirated Pump

Also commonly called Needle Wheel.


Foam Jet

Predominantely known as a "Beckett" protein skimmer, which is based on a brand name of a foam jet, or pond foaming nozzle.

High Speed Aeration

Based on the principle of air being drawn into the water by a jet or stream hitting the water/air interface.




Skimmer system arrangement.gif






Do I need a skimmer?

A skimmer is a recommended piece of equipment for beginners. The reason for this is that a skimmer provides a good method of export of dissolved organic carbon DOC. This affords any system a level of stability, which is most desirable, and harder to achieve when new to the hobby or have a new tank.

Some move onto skimmerless systems later but a good understanding of reef keeping is recommended before attempting this. The system becomes far more open to crashes from spawning events, disasters involving anemones or cucumbers and other similar events where skimmers are very useful in reverting the system back to a semi stable state.

What is a protein skimmer?

Also known as a foam fractionator, a protein skimmer is a chamber in which aquarium water is brought into contact with a mass of tiny air bubbles. Many dissolved organic molecules are surface active, and are attracted to the air bubbles and rise with them to the top of the chamber where they gather as a foam and can be collected and removed from the water.

How are the bubbles generated?

Methods include:

  • Airpump and limewood airstone.

Limewood provides a much finer bubble size than ceramic airstones typically used in aquaria

  • Water pump forced through a venturi valve.

Where water passing a constriction in pipe diameter produces a reduction in pressure allowing air to be sucked into the water the water stream where it is then broken by turbulence into small bubbles

  • Aspirated water pump

Where an air inlet is inserted to the intake side of a water pump. Air is drawn into the water stream by means of the venturi principle, and broken into small bubbles by the pump impeller. Some pumps working on this principle utilise a needle wheel impeller, said to assist in bubble size reduction.

  • Foam Jet

Also operating on the principal of a venturi valve, foam jets are nozzles designed for producing a foaming stream of water for use in pond water features or fountains, the most well known brand being the Beckett nozzle. Adopted by aquarists, these devices have given birth to a whole new breed of skimmers, often referred to as Beckett skimmers.

What is a good skimmer?

Here is a list of reputable brands that you may want to consider: