Best Aquarium Protein Skimmers

A protein skimmer is a key component to a reef tanks filtration system. Using a good-quality protein skimmer will increase your odds for success.
 
It’s very common for people to ask the question, “what makes a good protein skimmer?”
 
That’s why I’ve completed this research for you. And in this article, we’ll go over what you need to know about protein skimmers - so you can choose the best on. Then, I’ll share some of the best aquarium protein skimmers currently on the market for you to check out.

Quick Overview of the Best Protein Skimmers

Protein SkimmerTanks Size RatingOur Rating
Tunze USA 9410.000 DOC80 Gallons (Heavily Stocked SPS) / 265 Gallons (Fish Only)
Bubble Magus BM-Curve 5Up to 140 Gallons
Reef Octopus Classic 150Up to 100 Gallons
NYOS Quantum 160Up to 265 Gallons
AquaMaxx HOB 150-75 Gallons

**Below, you'll find our detailed reviews; you can also click the links above to check prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.

How to Choose the Best Protein Skimmer

Skimmer pumps work by producing tiny air bubbles which proteins and waste will attach themselves to. They then rise up and spill into the collection cup.


It's an important job, so let's take a look at what you need to consider.

The Pump

The most vital part of a protein skimmer. Why? Because that’s what produces the waste carrying bubbles. The best protein skimmers often include a needle wheel impeller - which will chop incoming air into even smaller bubbles.

 

The better impellers will produce a lot of tiny bubbles. Smaller bubbles increases the surface area - removing more waste.

 

High-quality pumps will last longer, run quieter, and transfer less heat into your aquarium.

 

The Reaction Chamber

This where all the action happens. The bigger the reaction chamber, the larger volume of bubbles it can produce. This will attract more proteins and increase the contact time. Resulting in more waste removed.

 

The Shape of The Skimmer Body

One you definitely don’t want to overlook. A smooth path from the body to the collection cup is what allows the bubbles to easily rise and fall into the cup for easy removal.


The most efficient shapes are:

  • Cone
  • Hybrid Cone
  • Wine Glass

Outlet Adjustment

Look for a protein skimmer with an easy to use outlet adjustment. It’s helpful because it’s likely you’ll want to adjust the water level inside your skimmer. You’ll be able to fine-tune your skimmer for a steady skimmate produce and avoid overflows.

 

Bubble Plate, Silencer, and Drain

This is more common on the most recent models, they work to reduce turbulence and increase contact time.
 
An air silencer will help to reduce unwanted noise disturbances. And collection cup drains help to reduce the amount of maintenance needed.
 

Build Quality

Putting performance to one side for a moment, you should consider the quality of materials. There’s no point having a high-performing protein skimmer if the materials breakdown.
 
Higher-quality materials will be more durable and resistant to damage. Cast acrylic is considered the best material, followed by extruded acrylic and plastic.
 

The Brand

Going with a well-known brand is always a good idea, especially if you’re not the most tech savvy hobbyist. You may find you need technical or warranty support at some point. An established company with a good customer support team who will help you during setup, or if something goes wrong really adds value.

 

AquaMaxx, Reef Octopus, Vertex, and Tunze are currently some of the best to date.

Best Protein Skimmers Reviewed

1. Tunze USA 9410.000 DOC

With a flow rate of 237 gallons per hour - it's recommended for saltwater aquariums up to 265 gallons (fish only) or 80 gallons (heavily stocked SPS).

 

While most protein skimmers have a dedicated air silencer to quiet their air intake, Tunze uses different approach.

 

They’ve built their silencing feature between the cup and body. Making it very quiet and moistening the air intake.

 

Because the needle wheel pump only draws in humid air, it helps to prevent it from clogging. You don’t have to spend as much time cleaning the air intake.

 

The Tunze Hydrofoamer combines high performance and low power consumption (15 watts). Creating millions of tiny air bubbles with a diameter between 0.1 and 0.3mm. This helps to ensure quiet and efficient skimming.

 

Cleaning is simple, you get an easy to use ‘feed’ button, which pauses the pump for ten minutes. This is more than enough time to clean the easily removable skimmer cup.

 

A self-leveling feature means you don’t have to adjust the water level with a riser or wedge pipe. The only adjustment made is with the controller, and it’s not very hard.

Pros

  • Compact size - 16.5“ tall
  • Reliable and durable
  • Uses only 15 watts of electricity
  • Produces a large amount of skimmate for its size and footprint
  • Very quiet
  • Easy to adjust and control
  • Can add activated carbon or phosphate remover
  • Easy to clean - requires minimal maintenance

Cons

  • Pump threads onto the skimmer’s body. Can be a slight hassle to remove.

2. Bubble Magus BM-Curve 5

Rated for up to 140 gallons; the recommended size is roughly 65 gallons. It’s not the most compact skimmer, but it does have a very small footprint: 7.28” x 7.08” x 18.5”.
 
A narrow neck design helps to maximize skimming power, and helps to ensure there will be fewer tensions as the bubbles rise up
 
The wine glass body reduces turbulences and provides a powerful performance while only using 8 watts!
 
The needle wheel works great and is very quiet. There is a break-in period of about 2 or 3 days, during which, you may have to place it above the recommended water level.
 
A quick-release collections cup and skimmer body makes it easy to disassemble and clean. And a draining feature helps to lengthen the time between maintenance.
 
Easy to set up. The air venturi is setup for you, and you’ll only have to set the water flow using the red knob on top of the hard plastic tube.

Pros

  • Efficient and effective skimming and only uses 8 watts
  • Pinwheel impeller produces fine bubbles
  • Pump is almost silent
  • Easy to install and clean
  • Made from durable thick acrylic
  • Small footprint

Cons

  • Customer support has a bad reputation

3. Reef Octopus Classic 150 Space Saver NWB150SSS

This sleek and compact protein skimmer really is a ‘space saver’. With a footprint of 7.3” x 9.45”, it’s rated for up to 100 gallon aquariums.
 
Constructed from durable high-quality acrylic, it can be completely disassembled for cleaning.
 
It’s designed for in-sump use only - no feed pump required. It will draw water direct from your sump.
 
It's quiet due to it’s vented wedge valve output and Aquatrance pinwheel. The pinwheel produces a brilliant mix of water and air, and is efficient at removing waste.
 
The wedge valve allows for excellent control, and funnels the clean water out below the water line. This is how it achieves a very quiet operation.

Pros

  • Quiet and Energy Efficient Operation
  • Solid Acrylic Construction
  • Removable Turbulence Reducing Bubble Plate
  • Easy to disassemble and clean
  • Small footprint: 7.3″ x 9.45″

Cons

  • Doesn't come with a variable speed motor to help dial it in

4. NYOS Quantum 160

This German-engineered pump is rated for up to 265 gallons, and features the NYOS Hybrid Wheel. It's lattice-shaped base and narrow needles produce very fine micro air bubbles.
 
Energy efficient and quiet, it's four rubber feet absorb vibrations. Making it as silent as possible.
 
 The bubble plate is cool, it’s called the NYOS Twister, and it spins the water/bubble mixture into a high-velocity vortex - looks like a tornado. It doesn’t only look cool, it increases the contact time and improves the skimmate.
 
You can control the air and water volume independently with separate adjustments. Both are easy to use and clearly labeled. And as you’d expect with German engineering - it’s constructed of high-quality clear acrylic. Even the impeller housing is clear, you can watch it in action and spot any potential problems from the outside.
 
The attention to detail in build quality is something that stands out. Even down to the titanium screws. All the screws will fit every hole, so there’s not fussing when you’re setting up. And titanium means they won’t corrode - adding to it’s long-lasting durability.

Pros

  • Near silent operations
  • NYOS Twister bubble plate
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Powerful effective skimmer with low power consumption (18 watts)
  • High-quality durable materials
  • Fast break-in period

Cons

  • Skimmer cup can be difficult to remove

5. AquaMaxx HOB 1

This is one of the industries most favored skimmers, and for good reason. It’s designed from the ground up with the hobbyist in mind.
 
Rated for 50-75 gallon tanks, it’s suitable for nano aquariums. It’s made from solid acrylic and uses an Italian Sicce Syncra 1.5 pump and AquaMaxx needle wheel impeller.
 
These provide outstanding performance with a quiet operation - Creating a strong mix of small air bubbles and turbulent water movement. It does a great job of forcing protein, waste, and other materials into the collection cup.
 
It’s designed to have the pump inside the skimmer: saving space, reducing noise, and improving efficiency.
 
The bubble plate helps to reduce turbulence inside the actual chamber and increases dwell time. It’s effective at removing a lot of waste.
 
Easy to clean, the collection cup is a breeze to remove and have a convenient skimmer drain line. You’ll also get the option (sold separately) to add a bubble stopper. It attaches to the outlet of the skimmer to catch escaping microbubbles.

Pros

  • Pump placed inside the skimmer: saves space, reduce noise, and improves efficiency
  • Long lasting and durable materials
  • High dwell time increases waste removal
  • Collection cup is easy to remove and clean. And has a convenient drain line
  • You have the option to purchase a separate bubble stopper
  • Quiet operation

Cons

  • Instructions are terrible. You'll need to watch a YouTube tutorial if you have issues

Final Decision...

So, which is the best? For me, it comes down to two, depending on your budget. If you’ve got the money, I can’t recommend the NYOS Quantum 160 any more. With outstanding build quality, very effective skimming and near silent operation; you definitely get what you pay for.
 
But, if it’s not in your budget your best option is the AquaMaxx HOB 1. High-performance and quiet operation makes it very good value for money. It’s no surprise it’s such a popular choice with hobbyists.
 

Still Deciding? Benefits of a Quality Protein Skimmer

It will improve the health of your aquarium and lengthen the time between water changes. Let's check out a few reasons why:

 

Avoid Disease-causing Organisms

Your aquarium contains a lot of naturally occurring organic compounds and tiny organic particles. Including uneaten and digested food from fish and corals.
 
If left, these will create an environment where disease-causing organisms can thrive. And will decompose, causing increased levels of phosphate, ammonia, and nitrate.
 
Your protein skimmer will work to remove these before they oxidise and harm the health of your tank.
 

Clean & Clear Water

Removing these dissolved and micro organic matter will improve the transparency of your aquariums water.

 

Improve Coral Growth

Bad organics in your aquarium will absorb some of the light waves your coral need to help maintain a healthy growth rate. Removing them can make it easier for light to penetrate the water and reach the corals.

Christopher Adams

Hey there, my name is Christopher and I'm the creator and editor of this site. I've owned successful aquariums for the past 23 years. My mission is to educate, inform, and entertain on everything that's fish.

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