Best protein skimmers reviewed - 2018 buyers guide

When taking care of our marine and reef aquariums finding the best protein skimmer is very important.

A protein skimmer is a key component of a marine filtration system. Using a good quality protein skimmer can very much increase the success rate of your aquarium. So which is the best protein skimmer 2018?

best protein skimmer

Best protein skimmer comparison table

Image

Protein skimmer

Footprint

Sump

water level

HOB

Sump

Tank size

Rating

Price

Bubble Magus BM Curve 5 Best Protein Skimmer

7" X 7"

18.5" H

9.5"-11"

up to 140

Reef Octopus Classic 100-hang on back Protein Skimmer

8" X 3.25

17" H

up to 100

Coralife Super Skimmer with Pump in sump HOB

5.5" X 4.25

20" H

7"

up to 65

Coral Vue Technology AC20284 Octopus Needle Wheel Skimmer for Aquariums

10.5" x 6.6"

20" H

7"-8"

up to 100

SC Aquariums 180 Gallon Protein Skimmer Newest Version

9.5" x 9"

18" H

6"-8"

up to 180

Eshopps 75 gallon best protein skimmer

7" X 6"

23"H

6"-8.5"

up to 75

Simplicity 240DC Protein Skimmer with DC Pump

8.3" X 7.9"

19.5"H

6"-8.5"

up to 240

Reef Octopus Classic 202-S Protein Skimmer

12.4" X 10"

23.2"H

7"-9"

up to 265

AquaMaxx ConeS CO-2 In-Sump Protein Skimmer

9.5" X 6.7"

22.1"H

8"

up to 250

best protein skimmer

9.8" X 6.9"

19.3"H

not needed

not needed

up to 125

How does a protein skimmer work

The skimmer pump produces air bubbles that proteins and waste attach to inside the skimmer.  The result is that the air bubbles carry waste to the top of the skimmer and spill into a collection cup.  The pump is the heart of the protein skimmer as they produce the waste carrying air bubbles.

Good protein skimmers often include a needle wheel impeller which will chop incoming air into even smaller bubbles.

protein skimmer impeller wheel types

As bubbles pass through the impeller needles or pins the impeller shreds incoming bubbles into microbubbles. A high-quality pump with a well-designed impeller will produce more bubbles that are smaller in size which increases the surface area inside the skimmer to remove more waste. Also, a high-quality pump will last longer and also run quieter.

Size of the skimmer reaction chamber.

The reaction chamber is part of the skimmer body where all the magic happens. A big reaction chamber allows for a larger volume of air bubbles to accumulate and attract proteins. Furthermore, it also allows for more contact time for the bubbles to attach to proteins. The shape of the skimmer body shouldn't be overlooked either.  This is because as a smooth transition from the skimmer body to the collection cup is what allows the bubbles to easily rise and fall into the collection cup for easy removal.

The main three types of body shape are cone, hybrid cone, and wineglass.

protein skimmer body types

These offer the smoothest path for air bubbles to rise into the collection cup with the least resistance.

Outlet adjustment

When looking for the best protein skimmer ,an easy to use and responsive outlet adjustment is also helpful because it allows you to adjust the water level in the skimmer.  You can easily fine tune the skimmer for steady skimming production and to avoid overflows.

Many of the newer best protein skimmers include bubble plates which reduce turbulence.  the result of this is that is it further increase contact time an air silencer and a collection cup with drain fitting is very useful.

Top 10 protein skimmers reviewed.

Bubble Magus BM Curve 5 Protein Skimmer

Bubble Magus BM Curve 5 Best Protein Skimmer

It uses the bubble Magus pump with the needle wheel to produce the right amount and size of bubbles with the venturi intake. This protein skimmer does come with a bubble plate which does a great job of reducing the turbulence in the reaction chamber to help with the flow. The air silencer is a recommended and added feature to have to keep any noise down to a minimum.

The bubble Magnus is a nicely designed protein skimmer. It's definitely has a smaller footprint than you would expect for a skimmer rated for 140-gallons.

The collection cup does actually have a rubber o-ring.  It does make it an easy to release from the main body for cleaning when needed. It also comes with a collection cup drain to reduce the times you need to maintain and empty the cup.

Pros

  • Nice and quiet in operation, small footprint. produces good skimmate.
  • The pump intake and outlets can be inline or perpendicular.

Cons

  • long break in period
  • The Dial setting can be misleading as the Max setting lowers the bubble height and Min setting raises it.

Reef Octopus Classic 100-hang on back Protein Skimmer

Reef Octopus Classic 100-hang on back Protein Skimmer

This reef octopus is a HOB (hang-on-back) skimmer. It can filter up to 105 gallons. With this setup, the pump is mounted inside the aquarium. Then you just hang the skimmer body on the back of your aquarium. adjust the intake flow then you are ready to start skimming!

The pump features a pinwheel design which is the best protein skimmer design to optimize the number of bubbles it can produce to make it more effective on skimming.

The skimmer is nice and quiet.  It also has a nice large collection cup that allows you to adjust it to get the most efficient skim. Also, the cup cannot overflow and make a mess of the floor, as once the cup reaches a certain level it just overflows back into the skimmer.

Pros

  • Easy setup and startup.
  • Great value for money.

Cons

  • Can be a little tricky to adjust
  • Could do with a drain outlet for cleaning the cup

Coralife Super Skimmer with Pump

Coralife Super Skimmer with Pump in sump HOB

The Corallife protein skimmer can be used in a sump or you can hang it on the back of your aquarium.

It features a needle wheel impeller in the pump that creates a vortex effect.  The result is this creates the maximum micro bubbles to attract the proteins in the water. With a bubble production diffuser that prevents the flow of the micro-bubbles back into the aquarium.

The collection cup is a nice size so you don't have to worry about in overflowing because with the right adjustment you can get it just right. It also features a wide neck with an easy twist fixture for easy removal and cleaning this is a nice feature.

With the HOB option, this Coralife protein skimmer is a great introduction to using a protein skimmer as the installation isn't overly complicated.  This way you don't have to worry about the setup.

Pros

  • With the dual injection inlets for increased water contact to make this a very efficient skimmer
  • This skimmer only takes about 36hrs to break in and start to extract proteins
  • very easy to assemble

Cons

  • can overflow if the water level isn't maintained properly
  • when mounting on the back it can vibrate and cause noise

Coral Vue Technology AC20284  Skimmer

Coral Vue Technology AC20284 Octopus Needle Wheel Skimmer for Aquariums

The CoralVue protein skimmer uses a pinwheel/needle impeller for maximum bubbles with the 4" cone neck helps with the transitions of the bubbles into the collection cup.

The collection cup uses a quick release mechanism for easy removal for routine maintenance so you don't have to spend too long maintaining and cleaning it.

The gate valve allows for easier water adjustment with just a turn of the knob so you can control the inlet flow so it can work at its optimum for perfect skimming to produce skimmate.

Pros

  • Easy to adjust

Cons

  • break in period of 1 to 2 weeks before you get the best results of skimmate 
  • only usable in a sump

SC Aquariums 180 Gallon Protein Skimmer  Newest Version

SC Aquariums 180 Gallon Protein Skimmer Newest Version

The SC aquarium can work effectively up to 180 gallons without any problems,.The extra large collection cup is removable and also comes with a drain tube for easy emptying and cleaning.

This aquarium skimmer is a top performer with a nice small footprint that allows you to easily install it in the sump without taking up to much room.

With the Air silencer there to keep any noise down to a minimum with the 6 levels of water flow adjustment so you can get just the right amount of skimmate produced once you have it dialed in for your aquarium. The large dial makes it easy to adjust when needed.

It can take about four days to fully break in before it fully settles down. For best results, it works very well in between 6/9 inches of water. The bubble plate ensures good contact time for the bubbles with the water.

This pump is very quiet which is always a consideration when looking to buy the best protein skimmer.

Pros

  • nice and quiet.
  • Easy adjustment flow.

Cons

  • Not the best instructions with the skimmer.

Eshopps 75 gallon best protein skimmer

The Eshopps skimmer uses the upgraded Sicce pump which is a big improvement. It's a HOB type which makes it a skimmer you don't have to worry or need to have a sump tank fitted so they are beneficial for that reason. With the Sicce pump in this HOB that is the same as the sump model so you know you are getting a good quality skimmer.

It's a nice compact size for a HOB protein skimmer that's 4" diameter.

Using a needle impeller in the silent running the Sicce pump to generate the bubbles you know this protein skimmer will generate the right amount to give it the best water contact to bubbles.

A removable cup will make life easier when it comes to cleaning out any scum that is generated, additionally with the drain plug that helps to empty the cup before cleaning it.

A slant neck design helps to maximise the transitions of bubbles to rise to the collection cup more easily for a better skimming effect.

Pros

  • Good build quality
  • Easy adjustment
  • Very small footprint for a HOB

Cons

  • Can take time to settle down

Simplicity 240 Protein Skimmer

Simplicity 240DC Protein Skimmer with DC Pump

This Simplicity skimmer isn't just in name only this skimmer is nice and simple to assemble and just as easy to disassemble to clean with the thumbscrews. It's a nice compact size when space is at a premium. With the ability to Skim aquariums up to 240 gallons.

It comes with an electronic controller, which is a nice addition to this skimmer.  it also has a feeding time button that just drops the flow down for 10 mins. The pump uses a needle wheel impeller for the best possible bubble to air ratio The pump runs almost silently in operation.

With the cone shape design to give the bubbles the easiest transition to the decent sized collection cup which also has a drain built in to aid maintenance. The cup uses a Bayonette locking design which makes it nice and secure and easy removal when needed. It also has a bubble plate and easy to read wedge pipe setting indicator. This is a serious contender for anyone looking for a skimmer that packs a punch.

Pros

  • Quiet operation.
  • Powerful It makes lots of skimmate.
  • Easily adjustable for both air and water.
  • Skims tanks up to 240 gallons.

Cons

  • Only internal use in sumps.

Reef Octopus Classic 202-S Protein Skimmer

Reef Octopus Classic 202-S Protein Skimmer

Reef Octopus has many different protein skimmer models so when looking for the best protein skimmer it's a name to surely check out.

The Classic 202 design in an in-sump set up only with a massive capacity to skim aquariums up to 265 gallons. With the Aquatrance 3000s series pump that uses a pinwheel design to produce the perfect balance of water and air for optimal waste removal.  You can be sure it will do a great job in scavaging the water into microbubbles with ease.

The turbulence reducing design of the super cone wine glass shaped body will stabilize concentrates the skimmate rich foam, with the help of the bubble dispersant plate, will make sure maximum skimmate reaches the collection cup. The collection cup also uses a drain for ease of use.

Pros

  • Amazing skimming capacity.
  • Precision Control Bubble Free Output.

Cons

  • Can be noisy during the break-in period.
  • More expensive than most.
  • Super Cone Body Size

AquaMaxx ConeS CO-2 In-Sump Protein Skimmer

AquaMaxx ConeS CO-2 In-Sump Protein Skimmer

This AquaMax protein skimmer does feature some innovative ideas. It has a unique design with the bubble plate, as it uses extenders to further reduce turbulence inside the reaction chamber which will then increase contact time.

A well made Italian Sicce pump is the heart of the Aquamax skimmer that is then modified by Aquamax that they call the "shark pump" with there own needle impeller design to give it optimum bubbles for protein extraction.

The next unique feature is the handle on the collection cup.  This is a simple idea that just makes removing it a little easier if space is a bit tight and you have to use one hand. This also is something to consider if space high up in the sump is tight. It also has a baffle inside the collection cup that helps to keep control of the skimmate it collects.

The air silencer makes sure you have a nice quiet operation and the easily adjustable drain pipe makes sure you can tune the skimmer for your aquarium with just a few turns on the knob.

Pros

  • Sicce pump
  • Handle on the collection cup

Cons

  • Not the cheapest
  • colors might not appeal to everyone

Recirculating Protein Skimmer

This last addition in this best protein skimmer review is this Hydor recirculating skimmer.  There are advantages in running a recirculating skimmer and also a disadvantage too.

With a recirculating skimmer, you need an additional pump to feed the skimmer.  Consequently, this becomes an extra cost to consider. However, it's possible to feed your skimmer of your return pump as long as it's up to the job.

However, the advantages are you don't have to have the skimmer in the sump.  You can place it anywhere you want (within reason!).  Another advantage is they have more contact time due to the design of recirculating that means it will produce increased skimmate. Also, you don't have to worry about any depth of water like a skimmer that sits in a sump they need to be in a certain depth to run smoothly. With a recirculating skimmer, you don't need to worry about that as the skimmer is fed via a pump.

Hydor Performer Universal Recirculating skimmer.

Hydor recircilating protein skimmer

With the Hydor recirculating skimmer, it's a well-built piece of kit, with the Seltz pump that uses venturi silencer.  It also has an easy to use drainage system that can regulate the level in the chamber. The air regulating control allows easy to dial in adjustment to get it exactly how you need to produce good skimmate.

The pump is one of the quieter ones out there with the innovative Rotimix brush style impellers to make sure good air to water bubbles are produced.

It has a pretty small footprint for a recirculating skimmer which is a great advantage. This is along with not having to worry about water levels in the sump to get the best performance.

Pros

  • Don't have to worry about depth of water
  • Nice and quiet

Cons

  • can be awkward to clean.