If you have a marine aquarium or are interested in starting one up you might be wondering if you should be using a protein skimmer to help clean your aquarium. If you are not sure what a marine aquarium is then simply it is a saltwater fish tank containing fish and organisms you would find in the world oceans. A marine or salt water aquarium is different than a tropical aquarium which is a fresh water aquarium which contains fish and other inhabitants from the worlds fresh water lakes.
What kind of Marine Aquarium should have a protein skimmer?
Sometimes searching the internet or talking to others about who should have a protein skimmer on their aquarium can just make it more confusing for you to make a decision. To make the decision on if you should be using an aquarium protein skimmer should be made after you know how a protein skimmer works and why its process benefits your marine aquarium.
How does a Protein Skimmer work?
Protein Skimming will remove any buildup of protein and organic materials that are either suspended or dissolved in your aquarium water. Waste will build up in your aquarium because of the living organisms you have in your tank and over time if these proteins and wastes levels get to be to high your fish and other aquarium inhabitants will start to die off. These waste by-products are surface substances which means they accumulate near the surface and upper levels of your aquarium water. The quick and easy to understand version of how a skimmer works is that both aquarium water and air are sucked into the protein skimmer in a central chamber where they are mixed together and the protein and waste is separated from the water ending up on the air bubbles which rise to a holding cup or compartment in your skimmer that you empty every so often.
Thats about as simple as it gets. You can purchase skimmers that sit inside of the aquarium or a sump tank if you are a fairly advanced marine tank hobbyist and you can also purchase skimmers that are hang on protein skimmers that attach to the side of the fish tank like some mechanical filters do. If you think about an ocean where there are bubbles near shore that are dirty and soiled what you are looking at is the oceans natural process of removing protein and waste from the worlds oceans. The sludge or by-products end up on the shore lines of the edges of the oceans around the world. What an aquarium skimmer does is the exact same thing.
Now that you have a basic explanation of how a protein skimmer works we can go back to what kind of marine aquarium should have a skimmer.
Aquariums that are less than a year old will most likely not require a skimmer if they are fish only aquariums and you keep the filter media clean on a weekly basis. If you have a mature tank which I would say is any tank older than a year old is a good candidate for using a skimmer. If you have aspirations of keeping anything in your saltwater aquarium other than fish like soft corals, invertebrate species, live rock and other living organisms other than fish you will need to have a skimmer hooked up.
If you plan on having a fully stocked tank with many fish you might need to have a skimmer. My opinion and protein skimmer review or recommendation is that if you want to have a healthy salt water aquarium that whether you have a in tank protein skimmer or a hang on protein skimmer you should definitely invest in one. You dont have to buy the best protein on the market, just purchase one that suits your needs meaning it is rated for cleaning a fish tank that is the size of the salt tank you have running.
Protein skimmers are finicky to get working properly and sometimes take a few days to adjust properly but once you get it running and your filter is cleaning all of the waste out of your tank you will have clearer water and much happier healthy fish. You will also be able to introduce a wide variety of corals and other creatures into the tank without worry. So yes protein skimmers are necessary for a saltwater fish tank if you want to have success at this hobby.