The Best Protein Skimmer For You: 10 Top Picks & What To Know

A protein skimmer is an integral part of the filtration system of a reef tank. Using a high-quality protein skimmer in your aquarium sump will improve your chances of success.

Skimmers have long been used in huge tanks, public aquariums, aquaculture facilities, and fish stores.

What is the best protein skimmer? – A question that many people ask.

You’ve come to the right place if you’re looking for the best protein skimmer for your aquarium. This article will go over the ten best protein skimmers on the market – and what you need to know before buying one.

So whether you’re a beginner or an experienced aquarist, read on to learn everything you need to know about protein skimmers!

What Is A Protein Skimmer?

A protein skimmer is a filtering system for removing protein and other organic substances from water. It operates by removing waste from the water column using a chemical process.

The waste and dissolved organic compounds stick to the surface of the protein skimmer’s air bubbles. As a result, they are practically sucked out of your aquarium water by the skimmer’s hundreds of bubbles. The waste from these bubbles will be collected in a collection cup, where the aquarium owner can remove it.

Protein skimmers are employed in commercial applications such as municipal water treatment facilities, in addition to aquariums. They are a proven and proper filtration technique that has been around for many years.

Do You Need A Protein Skimmer?

The short answer is – it depends. However, many successful reefers and saltwater aquarium keepers utilize them because they are fantastic filtration equipment. And the best protein skimmers, whether used in conjunction with a refugium or as part of a refugium sump construction, can do an exceptional job of keeping nitrates and phosphates low.

With fewer phosphates and nitrates in your tank, you may keep your fish and corals at lower levels or even regulate your levels and dose up to the levels you prefer to maintain a healthy long-term tank.

What Is A Protein Skimmer

Protein skimmers are a famous and vital part of the Berlin and Triton methods. These advanced strategies for reef management use live rock with a protein skimmer to remove waste from your aquarium water.

The Berlin method used live rock and protein skimmers and is still a preferred filtration method for large coral sellers such as World Wide Corals.

The Triton method is a high-level method of reef management that includes a skimmer, a large refugium, and trace element and supplement dosage to avoid water change requirements.

With both of these points in mind, it is a recommended piece of saltwater aquarium equipment.

Benefits Of A Quality Protein Skimmer

Water changes are a great way to keep your tank happy and healthy, but they can be time-consuming. A skimmer will make the process much shorter! 

Let’s take a look at why a protein skimmer matters:

Organic compounds and microscopic organic particles abound in your aquarium. They are primarily fish/coral excrement and food leftovers.

In the absence of a protein skimmer, disease-causing microorganisms will thrive. In addition, phosphate, ammonia, and nitrate concentrations will rise as the material decomposes in the tank environment. 

Your protein skimmer’s job is to remove these before they oxidize and harm your tank’s health.

By removing dissolved organic compounds, it helps to keep your aquarium’s water clear and healthy.

When you have a healthy aquarium, the light waves penetrate deep into the water. This is good for your coral because it allows them to grow more quickly.

But some of the light waves your corals need to maintain a healthy growth rate will be absorbed by harmful organics in your aquarium. 

By removing them, the corals will receive more light and be healthier.

Protein Skimmers: Different Types

Protein Skimmers are used in saltwater aquariums to remove organic waste. There is a wide variety of types with varying features, but they all work by emulsifying water.

However, this item is regrettably afflicted by a lot of marketing hype. So I’ll break down protein skimmers by kind and the differences below to try to simplify the discussion:

Internal Protein Skimmers

Internal Protein Skimmers

You can get these protein skimmers that will work for you in a nano tank. They’re powered by air stones, but they don’t have the best quality.

Unless you’re buying a high-quality internal skimmer, I’d suggest saving your money and going with high-quality live or aqua-cultured rock instead.

HOB Protein Skimmers (Hang On Back Protein Skimmers)

HOB Protein Skimmers

A hang-on-back protein skimmer (HOB) is a skimmer that does not require an aquarium sump to operate. Instead, the skimmers will be attached to the back of the tank and will draw aquarium water from the display tank directly.

While they are ideal for smaller tanks or tanks without a sump, they are frequently less robust and comprehensive than in-sump protein skimmers. They also tend to leave a large footprint in the tank because the pump must be installed in the display tank, which is unattractive.

Some cheap HOB skimmers have trouble releasing air bubbles into the tank.

In Sump Protein Skimmers

In Sump Protein Skimmers

In-sump protein skimmers are reef tanks’ most popular extensive water filtration system. These machines work well with aquarium sumps, and many reef tank keepers have a large aquarium sump that can accommodate these machines.

They have various features, including needle wheels, DC power, and recirculating protein skimmers, which provide even more cleaning power.

So, purchasing an in-sump protein skimmer is generally recommended.

External Protein Skimmers

External Protein Skimmers

External protein skimmers are typically used in larger aquariums or commercial settings. They are frequently sold for larger than 300 gallons of aquariums, and most smaller aquarium setups lack the space to accommodate them.

They can be pretty pricey and work best in larger setups, but if you have the space to house one, these external devices could make your life easier!

A commercial external protein skimmer might be on your radar if you’re a monster fish keeper with a separate fish chamber.

Best Protein Skimmer Review

NYOS Quantum 160 

Look no further; the Nyos Quantum 160 is designed to provide the best performance possible. It’s made in Germany with a German-made pump, ensuring quality and durability. Plus, it’s one of the quietest protein skimmers on the market!

This skimmer is also designed for easy disassembly and cleaning – making it painless to keep your tank looking great. And it breaks in quickly, so you can start enjoying its performance right away!

This high-quality protein skimmer will give your aquarium water a new and improved look. The price may be on the higher end, but this product delivers pureness that can’t be beaten!


  • Quiet operation.
  • Easy to clean and maintain.
  • Powerful and effective.
  • Low power consumption (18 watts).
  • High-quality, durable materials of construction.


  • Skimmer cups can be tricky to remove.

Bubble Magus BM-Curve 5

Bubble Magus BM-Curve 5 Protein Skimmer
353 Reviews
Bubble Magus BM-Curve 5 Protein Skimmer
  • High performance pump included
  • Tanks up to 140 gallons
  • SP1000 internal pump

Bubble Magus has some of the best protein skimmers on the market. Whereas the Curve 5 is one of their newest and most innovative models. So, it offers features not found on other models in this price range.

The Bubble Magus BM-Curve 5 is a great value for the price. It’s fitted with a needle wheel pump and the modern curve skimmer body that are commonplace with higher-end protein skimmers.

This skimmer is reliable and efficient and will produce great results without breaking the bank. You won’t find a better value for your money. It’s not just a fantastic product but also an incredible experience you can have every day of your life.


  • It produces fine bubbles.
  • Energy consumption is very low.
  • The pump is almost quiet.
  • Easy to install and maintain.
  • Made of durable thick acrylic.


  • Customer support has a poor reputation.

AquaMaxx HOB 1

Aquamaxx Ws-1 In-sump Protein Skimmer
49 Reviews
Aquamaxx Ws-1 In-sump Protein Skimmer
  • EASE OF USE AquaMaxx WS-1 protein skimmers are easy to setup and maintain. Just move the collection cup up or down to...
  • COMPACT DESIGN AquaMaxx protein skimmers were designed from the ground up with the hobbyist in mind. The AquaMaxx WS-1...
  • PERFORMANCE The AquaMaxx WS-1 protein skimmer relies on a superbly crafted Italian Sicce Syncra pump and AquaMaxx...
  • Pump(included): Shark 1.0 | Pump power consumption: 11 Watts | Filtration Rating: up to 65 Gallons (light bioload) or 30...
  • Footprint : L 5.9" x W 3.2" | Height: 14" (excluding collection up) | Collection Cup Height: 5.5" | Recommended Water...

AquaMaxx has the perfect protein skimmer! This bad boy is compact, easy to use, and will have your tank looking crystal clear in no time.

The AquaMaxx WS-1 is an incredibly powerful protein skimmer that can handle up to 65 gallons. It’s also thin and light enough to be placed on a nano aquarium, all-in-one style aquarium, or another small saltwater aquarium.

This amazing protein skimmer removes organic waste from aquarium water, so you can rest easy knowing your tank is always clean. Plus, it features a responsive collection cup and an amazingly powerful submersible pump.

The AquaMaxx WS-1 protein skimmer works like a charm, and it also looks good doing it. This skimmer will make a statement in any aquarium setup with its sleek design. 


  • Very powerful and reliable.
  • Durable Italian pump.
  • Compact enough.
  • Easy to adjust and maintain.


  • A bit pricy.

Reef Octopus Classic 150

Reef Octopus Classic 150 Space Saver Protein...
16 Reviews
Reef Octopus Classic 150 Space Saver Protein...
  • The perfect protein skimmer that supplies filtration for aquariums up to 100 gallons.
  • The unique design allows for the skimmer to operate silently.
  • The sleek and compact design allows the skimmer to fit in most places.

The Reef Octopus Classic Skimmers have been unchanged for a very long time. The newest remodel of these skimmers of the classic line is an improvement over the decade-old proven reliability of these series of protein skimmers. It’s small, compact, and designed to be hidden away in your sump. You won’t even know it’s there.

This skimmer is compact and efficient, but it’s also stylish. The sleek design will look great with any aquarium setup. Plus, it comes in various colors to choose from, so you can pick the one that best suits your needs.

These protein skimmers from Reef Octopus offer a 2-year warranty. They also have lower-priced models if you don’t need all of these features and benefits of their more expensive products, but it’s worth considering before deciding!


  • Quiet operation.
  • Energy-efficient. 
  • Acrylic-made, so durable.
  • Easy to install and clean.


  • Doesn’t come with a variable speed motor.

Tunze 9410.000 Doc

Tunze 9410.000 Doc Skimmers, Up to 265-Gallon
14 Reviews

Tunze has the perfect protein skimmer for you – even if you have a heavily stocked SPS aquarium (up to 80-gallon). This protein skimmer is designed to handle up to 265 gallons of saltwater (fish-only aquariums) and comes with a built-in air silencer that makes it very quiet. So you won’t have to worry about being disturbed by the noise of the protein skimmer.

This protein skimmer is designed to be quiet, but it also prevents clogging. The needle wheel pump only draws in humid air, which helps keep the air intake clean. As a result, you won’t have to spend as much time cleaning the protein skimmer – it practically cleans itself!

Cleaning this protein skimmer is as simple and easy to use as the ‘feed’ button on our pump! Then, with ten minutes pause, you have enough time to clean out any impurities from your aquarium’s protein skimmer cup! So, imagine being able to have all the benefits of a skimmer without any of the added power consumption- now that’s something to get excited about!


  • Compact.
  • Reliable and durable.
  • Low energy consumption (15 watts).
  • Quiet operation.
  • Easy to adjust and control.
  • Activated carbon or phosphate remover can be added with it.


  • Pump threads onto the skimmer’s body, so tricky to remove.

Simplicity 120DC 

Simplicity 120DC Protein Skimmer
98 Reviews
Simplicity 120DC Protein Skimmer
  • Adjustable DC pump speed
  • For tanks up to 120 gallons
  • Cone shape design
  • Collection cup drain with cap
  • 3 year pro-rated warranty: 100% coverage first year 50% coverage second year 25% coverage third year

If you are looking for a DC Protein Skimmer but do not want to spend an arm and a leg, the Simplicity DC Protein Skimmers are an incredible value. Simplicity is also known for having excellent customer service, so you will have a good experience with support versus other value-line protein skimmers.

The DC needle wheel skimmer is excellent for new hobbyists or experienced reefers with smaller systems. The DC pump creates fine microbubbles, and the needle wheel shreds them into small spaces. This allows you to achieve a long contact time between water and air, one of the keys to an effective skimming process. In addition. the bubble plate, wedge pipe indicator, air intake adjustment, and controllable pump allow you to achieve the best performance for your unique system.

This high-quality unit is a great investment for any aquarium. With an adjustable speed and silent functionality, this product will not disrupt your peaceful environment but rather help you maintain it by creating clean water that contains all essential nutrients necessary to keep fish happy in their natural habitat.


  • The DC-powered skimmer is very safe.
  • Lots of functionality.
  • Relatively inexpensive.
  • Excellent customer service.


  • DC Pump reliability is not so good.

IceCap K2-160

IceCap’s K2-160 Protein Skimmer is designed to provide your fish or reef aquarium with maximum performance. Utilizing a different style of bubble diffuser, the K2-160 outputs bubbles to the side of the plate before rising in the skimmer body – allowing for more contact time and more consistent foam and skimmate production.

The IceCap K2-160 is an excellent skimmer for the money. It has an adjustable needle wheel that allows you to control the amount of air that passes through the pump. In addition, the body is made of acrylic and PVC components. This protein skimmer is perfect for any aquarist looking to get the most out of their tank with an easy-to-use one-handed design.

The Sicce skimmer pumps have been used for years in the skimmer industry and are known for their reliability and moderate performance. You can add one to your aquarium today and experience the difference!


  • High-end features.
  • Quiet operation.
  • Smaller footprint.


  • Expensive for some users.

Coralife Super 

Coralife Super Protein Super Skimmer with Energy...
942 Reviews
Coralife Super Protein Super Skimmer with Energy...
  • 🐠 HIGH PERFORMANCE - The Coralife Super Skimmer has a high-performance foam fractionator designed with a patented...
  • 🐠 PATENTED TECHNOLOGY - The needle-wheel system creates a spiraling vortex of water and micro bubbles inside the...
  • 🐠 EFFORTLESS CLEANING - Features a wide neck collection cup with easy twist feature for effortless cleaning.
  • 🐠 HIGH QUALITY FEATURES - Features dual injection inlets to increase bubble/water contact time and a bubble...
  • 🐠 3 SIZES - Each unit is adaptable for both hang-on aquarium mounting or in-sump setup. Available in 3 sizes to...

Coralife Super Protein Skimmer is the perfect solution for high-protein skimming. It’s a very reliable, easy-to-use skimmer that produces excellent results.

This protein skimmer’s needle wheel aspiration system uses centrifugal force to draw water into the chamber and create large amounts of foam for optimal contact time with air bubbles.

The wide neck collection cup has an easy twist for effortless cleaning, and the dual injection inlets increase bubble/water contact time. In addition, a bubble production diffuser prevents micro-bubbles from entering the main aquarium. 

The Coralife Super Protein Skimmer is designed to remove dissolved organic compounds from the water before they have a chance to turn into algae. With this little guy, you can keep your aquarium looking crystal clear all the time – without any of the hassles.


  • It can be used in a sump or hung on a mounting bracket.
  • Effortless cleaning and maintenance.
  • Patented needle wheel.
  • Available in various capacities.


  • It can be challenging for new users to adjust.

SC Aquariums SCA-301

SC Aquariums SCA-301 Protein Skimmer, 65 gal
220 Reviews
SC Aquariums SCA-301 Protein Skimmer, 65 gal
  • This skimmer is designed to work for salt water tanks up to 65 Gallons of salt water
  • Air Silencer is included
  • Skimmer Size: 4.25" L x 7" W x 17" H Ideal Water Level is 6 to 7"
  • 1 Year Limited Manufacture Warranty
  • Pump specs: 110-120V/60Hz 28watt, (1380 L/h)

 If you’re looking for a cheap protein skimmer, this one is pretty decent. SC Aquariums SCA-301 Protein Skimmer is an excellent protein skimmer for up to 65 Gallons of saltwater for saltwater tanks. This skimmer comes with an air silencer and has a size of 4.25″ L x 7″ W x 17″ H, with ideal water levels 6 to 7″. 

It has all the bare essentials to get you skimming all the junk out of your tank, and it’s really simple to set up and use. The main gripes I have with this skimmer are the pump and the maintenance. The pump isn’t the best, but it works well enough here.

It’s a sump skimmer, which means it sits in the sump and pumps water up through it. The body is acrylic, with some holes drilled in to allow for easy access to the pump and impeller. There are two check valves on the intake side of the skimmer. These prevent backflow into the skimmer when you turn off your return pump or if your return line gets clogged.


  • Very inexpensive.
  • Simple construction.
  •  Easy to set up and use.


  • The quality of this skimmer is just average.

Red Sea Reefer 300 

Red Sea Reefer RSK-300 Protein Skimmer
74 Reviews
Red Sea Reefer RSK-300 Protein Skimmer
  • RSK - 300 Footprint - 9. 1 x 8. 3 or 9. 8 x 7. 1 - 21 Inches Tall
  • Rated: 80 - 240 Gallons
  • Ergonomic diffusion chamber evenly disperses the fine bubbles created by the PSK pump across the skimmer cone, without...
  • Quiet operation, with vibration absorbing components and a large air intake silencer.
  • 3 assembly options for flexible positioning of the pump inlet and regulation valve, according to your sump.

Do you want to create the best possible environment for your fish? The Red Sea Reefer 300 Protein Skimmer is an innovative skimmer that will help you do just that. It’s designed with hobbyists’ needs in mind, and it’s really quiet thanks to rubber connectors that dampen vibrations and a robust air silencer. It also features the FoamView window, built-in neck cleaner, and extra-long valved waste tube.

The Red Sea Protein Skimmer has a feature that stands out among all the skimmers listed in this article. It has a built-in swabbie on the collection cup. A swabbie cleans the inside of the neck of your collection cup allowing the skimmer to operate at maximum efficiency.

Its combination of PSK pumps and proportionally sized venturi, bubble diffusor, and reaction body optimize air-water contact time for steady waste removal. Plus, its FoamView window lets you see the foam production.


  • Very reliable.
  • The adjustment is easy with the quality dial.
  • Very easy to set up and use.
  • Very easy to clean.


  • It is a bit loud.

Selecting The Best Protein Skimmer

Skimmer pumps remove garbage and protein from your saltwater aquarium using tiny air bubbles. They then ascend to the top of the cup and spill out.

Let’s look at what you need to know about organic waste removal and dissolved organic components.

The pump is the protein skimmer’s most crucial component. Because that’s what creates the bubbles that convey garbage.

Protein skimmers with a needle wheel impeller can reduce the size of incoming air bubbles even further.

The better the impeller, the more small bubbles it will make. As a result, more trash can be removed from the system thanks to the increased surface area provided by smaller bubbles.

The lifespan, quietness, and less heat transfer into your aquarium are gifts from a high-quality pump.

A lot is going on here.

More bubbles can be produced in a more extensive reaction chamber. Increasing the amount of time that proteins are in touch with each other.

Thus, more garbage may be removed.

Protein skimmers come in a lot of varieties, and this is one you shouldn’t neglect.

The bubbles can rise and fall into the collection cup easily because of a smooth passage from the body to the cup. So, an ideal skimmer should ensure that straightforward path.

Protein Skimmer’s Body Shape

Skimmer forms that are most effective in capturing protein include:

  • Cone
  • Hybrid Cone
  • Wine Glass

Make sure you look out for one with an easy-to-use output adjustment!

The water level in your skimmer may need to be adjusted; thus, this is a helpful tool.

A consistent flow of skimmate will be produced, and overflows will be avoided thanks to the ability to adjust your skimmer.

This is more common on newer versions, designed to lessen turbulence and lengthen the contact period. 

With an air silencer, undesired noise can be reduced. Additionally, collection cup drains help to reduce the amount of maintenance required.

For the time being, let’s ignore performance and focus on the materials themselves. It’s pointless to have a high-performance protein skimmer if the materials fail. 

More robust and resistant to harm will be found in high-quality materials. Extruded acrylic and plastic are the following best materials after cast acrylic.

An established brand is always an excellent choice, especially for hobbyists who aren’t the most technologically adept.

At some point, you may require assistance with technical issues or a warranty claim.

A big plus is an established company with a strong customer support team that can assist you during setup, or something goes wrong.


Is it possible to use a protein skimmer in a freshwater tank?

Protein Skimmers are designed for saltwater aquariums, but some still want to use them in freshwater tanks. The problem is that they don’t work well because of surface tension – this means you can only get effective cleaning when there’s a lot more dissolved organic matter (like dirty water). 

This implies that heavy-duty applications, such as commercial fish farms or vast ponds are the only viable options. 

With freshwater tanks, a simple water change is significantly more straightforward and easier for most hobbyists.

Is a protein skimmer going to help me with my algae problem?

Yes, in a roundabout way. By removing organic impurities from your aquarium water, protein skimmers will remove nutrients for algae. However, growing a macro source of algae, such as chaeto, can still be quite effective in choking out nuisance algae, in my opinion.

Do you run a protein skimmer all time?

You can run your protein skimmer every day, and most people do. Monitoring the parameters with a quality test kit will give you better advice, though – if they’re too low for corals, leave it running less than 24 hours per day or plug it into an aquarium controller so that we may set schedules on when this occurs.

What should the depth of my protein skimmer be?

A protein skimmer should be between 8′′ and 10′′ in diameter, according to most manufacturers. However, the manufacturer’s specs will determine how deep your protein skimmer should be in your sump. Some protein skimmers can be used in shallow water, while others must be used in deep water. Always read the manufacturer’s specifications to ensure you’re installing it correctly.

How often should your protein skimmer be cleaned?

At least every 2-3 days, clean the collection cup of your protein skimmer. If your collection cup is more extensive or is connected to a larger container, you may be able to go longer. You should clean the skimmer’s body every three to six months. Every 2-3 months, the skimmer pump should be cleaned.

Is it true that protein skimmers add oxygen?

Protein skimmers do, in fact, supply oxygen to your aquarium. The air bubbles produced by your pump accomplish this. 

Because of the skimming process, air bubbles indirectly feed oxygen into your tank. Therefore, having a protein skimmer in your aquarium has an additional benefit.

Read also:

How To Increase Oxygen In Fish Tank? (11 Proven Ways to Follow)

Is a protein skimmer effective in reducing ammonia?

In a saltwater aquarium, a protein skimmer will not directly remove ammonia. It will, however, eliminate dangerous organics from your water, which will degrade into ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate.

Read also: 

How To Lower Ammonia In Fish Tank (9 Steps Guide)

Are nitrates removed or reduced by protein skimmers?

They don’t do it directly, but they do it indirectly through their methods of operation.

Protein skimmers are a great way to keep your tank clean and free from harmful chemicals. One of the methods they use is removing dissolved organic molecules in water, which leads to lower nitrate concentrations over time! 

Read also: 

How to Lower Nitrate in Freshwater Aquarium – Keep it Simple

In my sump, where should I put a protein skimmer?

This is a question about personal preferences, but I will mention that the return chamber of a sump and also not good spot for these types of equipment. So leave us with either first or second chambers, depending on how big your saltwater tank is.

When it comes to your aquarium’s filtration system, the protein skimmer is a crucial component. This traditionally-placed device can be found in the first chamber of any sump and functions as an initial filter for cleaner water before other devices come into play. 

This permits cleaner aquarium water to flow through the sump’s other portions. This is where I usually propose putting a skimmer.

The Triton method, which places the protein skimmer in the second chamber, is a newer system. By putting the skimmer in the second chamber, you’ll better get pops in your refugium portion and a higher volume refugium. 

Triton systems are known for catching pods, so if you’re going to use one, make sure not to have any socks. I’ve been there before, and it’s an experience that will leave your toes black with dirt!

Wrapping Up

I want to make sure you have the best information possible so that when it comes time to buy the best protein skimmer, it will be a no-brainer! 

If there’s anything we missed or any other questions about something in these posts, please let us know – as long as they’re not too specific because sometimes people miss details like this which could lead them down an unnecessary rabbit hole (not really). 

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