Protein skimmers are the quintessential component of aquarium filtration that almost every reefer has in their sump. It is possible to be successful without one but controlling the amount organic nutrients makes aquarium maintenance much easier.
Protein skimming is when you take out the dissolved organic compounds out of the water through the popping of bubbles. This mimics the natural process of the ocean producing sea foam in order rid itself of waste.
Since protein skimming removes organic waste, this will decrease the likelihood of algae blooms. There are a few benefits to protein skimming versus other filtration equipment.
Protein skimmers are easy to clean. All you have to do is clean the collection cup a couple times a week and you can also clean the body occasionally.This is easier than having to replace filter media and it’s basically free to clean a collection cup. Skimmers are usually costly upfront but the only fee after that is to run it.
Skimmers also add oxygen to your tank since they are powered by air bubbles. This creates an environment less suitable for cyanobacteria since it thrives in oxygen poor environments.If you miss a water change but you are running a skimmer, your tank will be more forgiving. Protein skimming helps with large bio-loads and they constantly clean the water.
Refugiums also help remove organic waste but some species of algae can start growing in your display tank. Skimmers are more efficient at cleaning the water than refugiums but they can also clean planktonic coral food out of the water column.
Skimmers are great for low nutrient tanks such as small polyp stony dominated tanks and they can be used with just about any size tank. There are hang on the back skimmers for nano sized tanks, there are huge skimmers with separate collection cups, and there are even self-cleaning collection cups for people with hectic schedules.
Protein skimming definitely has a place in every reef tank; instead of spending days scrubbing algae off of rocks and corals, a skimmer may very well prevent algae in the first place. If you are on the fence about adding a protein skimmer to your tank, know it will be your most rewarding filtration device.