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Freshwater Protein Skimmer: Make Your Thoughtful Choice

Professional veterinary specialist with 10 years of experience. - Alisa Moor

publication time: 00:29

Aquarium hobbyists handling freshwater tanks must have noticed how much organic waste and proteins settle at the bottom of the aquarium during the time. As the waste dissolves in the water, an ordinary filter becomes incapable of cleaning it. Such a problem can only be solved with the help of a skimmer. Today we are going to guide you through the benefits of such an aquarium accessory, as well as introduce the best models offered by the industry-leading manufacturers.

Table of Contents:

What Is a Freshwater Protein Skimmer? How Do They Work?
Comparison Table
The Best Protein Skimmers
1. Red Sea Reefer RSK-300 Protein Skimmer
2. Coralife Biocube Protein Skimmer
3. Marine Color RDC 250 Hanging On Internal Needle Wheel Protein Skimmer
4. Reef Octopus Classic 100-HOB Protein Skimmer
5. CoralVue Technology BH-1000 Octopus with External 1000 Pump
FAQ
Final Words

What Is a Freshwater Protein Skimmer? How Do They Work?

A protein skimmer is aquarium equipment made to clear out the organic waste collected in freshwater tanks. It keeps the tank water clean and free from toxins, reduces the growth of algae. As a result, the reef and sea animals in the aquarium get a conducive environment to thrive in, while the ordinary filtration system doesn’t have to work at its full power.

Due to producing foam on the surface of the tank water, protein skimmers are often referred to as foam fractionators. The waste in the tank clings to the tiny air bubbles and gets removed from the water surface through the skimmer.

Nowadays, we can differentiate several types of freshwater skimmers. These are:

  • Hang-on (HOB) skimmers, best for aquariums without sumps;
  • In-tank skimmers, best for small aquariums;
  • In-sump skimmers, working with tank sumps;
  • External skimmers.

Comparison Table

Brand

 

 

Type

Aquarium max. capacity

Footprint

Pump

Quiet operating

Red Sea Reefer RSK-300 Protein Skimmer

BUY NOW AMAZONIn-tankfrom 80 to 240 Gallons9. 1 x 8. 3 or 9. 8 x 7. 1 – 21 Inches TallPSK pumpA little noisy operating

Coralife Biocube Protein Skimmer

BUY NOW AMAZONIn-tankUp to 32 gallons

8.2 x 7.6 x 2.4 inches

8.2 inches tall

Self-primingLoud operating

Marine Color RDC 250 Hanging On Internal Needle Wheel Protein Skimmer

Marine Color RDC 250 Hanging On Internal Needle Wheel Protein SkimmerBUY NOW AMAZONHang-on backUp to 180 liters6.3 x 3.9 inches, 17.7-inches tallRed Devil SP1 7.8-W pumpQuiet operating

Reef Octopus Classic 100-HOB Protein Skimmer

BUY NOW AMAZONHang-on back

Up to 70 gallons

 8 x 3.75 inches, 17 inches tall

9-watt external pump

Quiet operating

CoralVue Technology BH-1000 Octopus with External 1000 Pump

CoralVue Technology BH-1000 Octopus with External 1000 PumpBUY NOW AMAZONHang-on backUp to 105 gallons4 x 10 invhes, 120v external pumpLoud operating

 

The Best Protein Skimmers

If you own an aquarium with only fish populations or heavily organic live rock, a reef aquarium, or a one with invertebrates, you need a good protein skimmer. Here are the best freshwater protein skimmer reviews to consider before making the final choice

Red Sea Reefer RSK-300 Protein Skimmer

Red Sea Reefer RSK-300 Protein Skimmer

Review:

This model is considered as the best protein skimmer for many users since it is durable and versatile. It allows for three assembly options. The skimmer is appropriate for tanks from 80 to 240 gallons depending on it (for SPS tanks – 80 gals, mixed reef tanks – 160 gals, only fish tanks – 240 gals). The PSK pump, popular for its efficient output, creates fine bubbles across the cone of the skimmer.

What we think:

The skimmer is said to operate silently though we consider its loud noise a downside. Before buying the skimmer, one should also consider its size – the tool is quite a bulky one (9.1 x 8.3 inches) with 21 inches in height. Overall, the model is definitely worth buying.

PROS

  • Large skimming capacity up to 240gal
  • Silent operating
  • Three assembly options available
  • Integrated drain hose

CONS

  • Bulky size
  • Noisy operating
Coralife Biocube Protein Skimmer

Coralife Biocube Protein Skimmer

Review:

This saltwater protein skimmer by Coralife is an in-tank model designed for small aquariums. The model has a self-priming pump. The inner chamber has a cone shape. It effectively removes harmful dissolved organics and enhances the effectiveness of the skimming.

What we think:

Despite the surprisingly cheap price, this skimmer does a good job. It has a sleek and slender design, hence will look nice in any freshwater tank regardless of its size. It promises clean and healthy water for your fish. However, the model is suitable only for very small tanks with a maximum 32-gallon capacity. Besides, it features a basic air pump which doesn’t impress with its power.

PROS

  • Cheap price
  • Sleek design
  • Easy maintenance
  • Self-priming pump

CONS

  • Loud operating
  • The pump is weak
  • Proper for very small tanks
Marine Color RDC 250 Hanging On Internal Needle Wheel Protein Skimmer

Marine Color RDC 250 Hanging On Internal Needle Wheel Protein Skimmer

Review:

Being on the cheap side, the acrylic fish tank skimmer introduced by Marine Color is designed for relatively small tanks. The maximal capacity of a tank must be 66 gallons. It’s an internal needle wheel protein skimmer. It comes with a Red Devil SP1 7.8-W pump the maximal intake of which is 180 liters.

What we think:

Durability is one of the main advantages of this skimmer. Another one its slim look. Although it is 17.7-inches tall and measures 6.3 x 3.9 inches, the set-up is really easy. However, it must be noted that the skimmer is intended only for saltwater aquariums and won’t handle in freshwater ones.

PROS

  • Easy set-up
  • Compact form
  • Cheap price
  • Easy maintenance
  • Quietly operating

CONS

  • Not appropriate for freshwater tanks
  • In-sump only
  • For small tanks only
Reef Octopus Classic 100-HOB Protein Skimmer

Reef Octopus Classic 100-HOB Protein Skimmer

Review:

Built for medium-size aquariums (perfect for up to 105-gallon tanks), this freshwater protein skimmer by Reef Octopus is sold at an affordable cost. It’s a hang-on-back type, hence it doesn’t occupy much space in the tank. Besides, you don’t have to buy a sump for its installation. The footprint of the filter body is small – 8 x 3.75 inches, while the height is only 17 inches. The tool features a 9-watt external pump with a pinwheel.

What we think:

This freshwater protein skimmer is a wonderful model that produces an excellent mixture of air and water while also efficiently dissolving organic waste. The equipment features a quality cast acrylic body. The quality and price ratio is superb.
What we didn’t like about the skimmer is its external pump that looks bulky.

PROS

  • Cheap price
  • Doesn't need a sump
  • Small footprint
  • 9-watt efficient pump
  • Features a pinwheel impeller

CONS

  • The external pump looks unattractive
  • Designed for small fish tanks
CoralVue Technology BH-1000 Octopus with External 1000 Pump

CoralVue Technology BH-1000 Octopus with External 1000 Pump

Review:

Designed for medium-sized and small saltwater aquariums and reef tanks (up to 100 gallons), the protein skimmer is quite a tall one – 4 inches in width and 10 inches in length. It is of a hang-on back type and must be attached to the edge of the aquarium. The skimmer features a 120v external pump.

What we think:

This model by Coral Vue Technology is an amazing option for those aquarium enthusiasts who need some more power yet don’t want to use an in-sump skimmer. The body is built of top-notch quality translucent acrylic and features dark gray details. The model looks quite nice and the price is reasonable. However, there are some downsides you’d better be aware of before buying it. The skimmer runs a bit noisier than others from our list. And it takes time to disassemble and clean the equipment.

PROS

  • Affordable price
  • High durability
  • Doesn't add heat to the aquarium (the pump sits out the water)
  • Doesn't need a sump

CONS

  • Dissembling takes time
  • Runs noisily

FAQ

Before searching down the web to get the answer to your questions, get acquainted with the most frequently asked questions by aquarium enthusiasts. Most probably, you will find what you’ve been searching for:

Q: How to Set up a Freshwater Protein Skimmer?

A: Depending on its type, the set up of a freshwater protein skimmer needs a unique approach. If it’s an internal one, just incorporate the system into the tank where it looks the best. A hang-on-back skimmer is to be attached to the wall of a tank similar to an ordinary filter. The adjustment airlines must be carefully routed so it doesn’t kink. An in-sump skimmer, meanwhile, must be placed inside the sump. Such a configuration doesn’t need any external plumbing, cutting holes, or other fittings.

Q: How to Tune a Freshwater Protein Skimmer?

A: If you have a needle wheel skimmer, which is the most common type of skimmers, follow these steps to tune it:

  • Turn the speed controllable pump to 100%;
  • Set the gate valve or the wedge pipe adjustment to thoroughly open;
  • Close the air valve very slowly until you get the peak height of the water bubbles in the equipment body (might take up to 10 minutes);
  • Turn the gate valve or the wedge pipe valve slowly till the water in the skimmer body is reduced and the bubbles get to the bottom of the collection cup;
  • After a couple of minutes if you find there is still a place left for adjustment, do that. If not, in around twenty minutes you will see the brown bubbles at the top of the bubble column.

Q: What Does a Protein Skimmer Do in a Freshwater Tank?

A: A freshwater skimmer retards the nitrate buildup in a tank, removes organic waste. This way the low nitrate level so important for coral health, is preserved in an aquarium.

Q: How to Clean Freshwater Protein Skimmer?

A: To clean a freshwater protein skimmer, empty the water from it, expel it and soak in a container. Make a solution of vinegar and water with a 10 to 20 ratio and pour it into the container. Leave the tool in the solution for all hard residues and algae to become easy to clean. Wipe the skimmer thoroughly and wash it with clean water again.

Final Words

As you can presume, a protein skimmer is a highly essential tool for a freshwater and saltwater tank. It prevents the formation of nitrites, ammonia, phosphates, and nitrates by eliminating dissolved proteins. All the five models we reviewed in this article do the task quite efficiently. However, the best freshwater protein skimmer that incorporates all the features one expects from such a tool is Reef Octopus Classic 100-HOB Protein Skimmer.

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