When it comes to saltwater aquariums, there is a lot of information out there about what you might need to keep your tank healthy and stable. For beginners, it can be hard to work out what is actually important for your saltwater aquarium! 

One aspect of aquarium life is protein skimmers. You may have heard of them, and heard that they are really good for your marine life to stay happy and healthy. But what exactly are they, and are they really necessary to have in your tank?

What Are Protein Skimmers?

Protein skimmers are a way of reducing the waste in your saltwater aquarium and keeping the levels of nitrates and phosphates low. It is a container of bubbles, water, and air that is attached to your main tank. The water in the main tank will flow through to the protein skimmer and the device will help clean the water.

They work by producing air bubbles that strip the water of unwanted waste and protein. These bubbles are really small and attract particles because of the surface tension between the bubble and the water around them. The air and water in the protein skimmer react and mix, creating a foam that contains things that need to be removed. This foam is then collected in a compartment for you to remove and clean. 

The waste in your tank is attracted to the foam because of an electrical charge, and therefore it will gather in the foam for you to simply take out of the protein skimmer. The bacteria and waste form on the bubble, not in your tank. 

Why Use a Protein Skimmer?

A dirty tank will have debris floating around at all times

Every time you are adding food into your saltwater aquarium, you need to remove the waste that it produces. All the uneaten food and fish waste can’t just hang about in the tank, it needs to get used or removed! 

Of course, a cleanup crew is great for eating up any leftover debris that might be floating about or collecting in the substrate. However, you can’t just rely on these little guys!

Protein skimmers are a fantastic filtration system to add to your saltwater aquarium that keeps your water clean. 

The More Filtrations Systems, The Better

In order for your saltwater tank to work effectively, there needs to be a good range of different filtration systems. This means that all aspects of waste and bacteria are getting dealt with, and if one filtration system stops working, the others can help out. 

Having a range of filtration systems means that your saltwater aquarium will be as low-maintenance as possible, meaning less work for you! 

Gas Exchange

Most marine life needs oxygen and releases carbon dioxide.  This means that we need to have a gas exchange in our tank, bringing in more oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide from the water. 

There are many ways that this can happen in a saltwater aquarium, and one of these is by the bubbles in a protein skimmer. This is because this gas exchange happens when the water meets the air. Because there are a lot of bubbles in your protein skimmer, there is more gas exchange! This means more oxygen for your marine life. 

What Type of Protein Skimmer To Buy?

There are lots of different types of protein skimmers available to you, and it all really depends on how big your tank is and what might work best for you! 

You can have the protein skimmer in a sump, which is under your tank. This means that it is out of the way and covered up, so great if you are concerned about cluttering up your display. You can also have a hang off protein skimmers that are attached to the side of your aquarium. They can also be placed inside the tank. 

Protein skimmers also vary in how they filter the water. Some skimmers are co-current, meaning that the water is drawn up from the bottom of the skimmer. However, in order for the skimmers to be fully effective, counter-current skimmers are better. These are when the water is flowing in more than one direction. Most protein skimmers on the market today are counter-current. Some use both a counter-current and co-current flow to get the most water cleaned. 

What Happens If You Don’t Have A Skimmer?

A protein skimmer is not absolutely necessary when having a saltwater aquarium. Some hobbyists maintain a healthy and clean tank without one, but you may run into difficulties and have more work to do in order to keep your tank clean if you don’t have a protein skimmer. 

Without a protein skimmer, you might find an oily film on the water at the top of your tank. This is waste that has gathered and needs to be dealt with. 

This waste that gathers in your saltwater aquarium is not only unappealing to look at, but can be harmful to your marine life. The protein and organic waste that is gathering will break down and release nitrates. Having high nitrate levels in your tank means that your fish are more likely to be ill. 

Not having a protein skimmer also means that there is a risk of not having enough oxygen in your tank. This can cause stress and even death for your marine life. 

The Necessity of Protein Skimmers

As we can see, having a protein skimmer is not an absolute necessity for your saltwater aquarium. However, the benefits of them outway the cost and setup. 

Having a protein skimmer is a big step towards keeping your tank low-maintenance. They are easy to use and provide a constant way of removing toxins and waste from your saltwater aquarium. 

Having more than one filtration system is a great way of making sure your tank is as healthy and stable as possible, and protein skimmers are probably one of the best filtrations systems available right now. 

Keeping your tank clean and the chemicals in the water stable means more happy marine life, and a more happy you!