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Keep Aquarium Protein Skimmers Operating in Peak Condition

Keep Protein Skimmers Operating in Peak Condition

Protein skimmers are essential equipment for maintaining high water quality in marine aquariums. However, protein skimmers are often overlooked during routine aquarium maintenance. Learn more about the importance of setting up a protein skimmer and why skipping regular skimmer maintenance can have adverse effects on the overall health and aesthetics of your aquarium.

Every marine and reef aquarium hobbyist should employ a protein skimmer to ensure healthy water parameters. Protein skimmers are supplementary filtration devices that effectively remove waste products and pollutants in the aquarium generated by the living inhabitants. In addition, protein skimmers help:

  • Maintain proper aquarium pH by preventing acidic conditions cause by buildup of carbon dioxide and other organic waste.
  • Improve REDOX and reduce disease-causing organisms when used with an ozonizer.
  • Promote proper gas exchange and increase oxygen levels for healthy aquarium inhabitants.
  • Reduce nitrate and phosphate buildup to prevent aggressive algae growth.
  • Improve water clarity to enhance light penetration for a brighter, cleaner, and clearer aquarium.

Without a properly functioning protein skimmer, your aquarium could suffer from low water quality due to a buildup of nitrogenous waste products such as ammonia and nitrate, as well as phosphates. These added pollutants can overwhelm your aquarium filtration system, making it less effective and ultimately compromise water quality and the overall health of your aquarium inhabitants. Be sure to always include skimmer maintenance as part of your overall aquarium maintenance regimen and take the following steps to ensure your protein skimmer is working properly:

  • Check the reaction chamber to make sure your skimmer is properly pushing the waste materials, called skimmate, to the top. The reaction chamber should be foaming with bubbles that trap organic waste generated by your aquarium inhabitants through a process called adsorption.
  • The neck of the reaction chamber should be cleaned 1-2 times a week (or per manufacturers recommendations) to avoid a buildup of organic matter on the sides. This buildup can act as a wax inside the chamber, inhibiting the bubbles from effectively pushing the organic waste into the collection cup.
  • Dump out the skimmate from the collection cup daily to prevent buildup. The collection cup itself should be washed out 1-2 times a week to avoid trapping a very fishy and unpleasant odor.
  • Inspect the air flow regulator (and adjust if necessary) to make sure your protein skimmer is generating optimally-sized bubbles/foam.
  • Per manufacturers recommendations, disassemble the inlet pipe and clean it with a bottle brush, and clean air tubes with hot water.
  • Inspect the hoses connected to your protein skimmer. Make sure that the connections are tight, there are no kinks, and that your protein skimmer is properly reassembled after cleaning.
  • Be sure to maintain proper aquarium water levels to ensure proper protein skimmer operation, especially for in-sump protein skimmer models.

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Question: How can I optimize the performance of my new skimmer? Answer: A new protein skimmer requires a break-in period of about 1-2 weeks before it reaches optimum performance. During this time, you will make adjustments to optimize the air-water mix.


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