Best Protein Skimmers For Aquariums & Sumps Compared & Reviewed 2023

A protein skimmer is a key component to a reef tank’s filtration system. Using a good-quality protein skimmer in your aquarium sump will increase your odds for success.

It’s very common for people to ask the question, “what’s the best protein skimmer?”

In this article, we’ll go over what you need to know about protein skimmers – so you can choose the best protein skimmer for you.

Overview: Top Pick For Best Protein Skimmer

Overall, the NYOS Quantum 160 is the best protein skimmer. If that’s not in your budget, the next best protein skimmer is the AquaMaxx HOB.

Preview Product
Tunze 9410.000 Doc Skimmers, Up to 265-Gallon Tunze 9410.000 Doc Skimmers, Up to 265-Gallon
Bubble Magus BM-Curve 5 Protein Skimmer Bubble Magus BM-Curve 5 Protein Skimmer
Reef Octopus Classic 150 Space Saver Protein Skimmer NWB150SSS Reef Octopus Classic 150 Space Saver Protein Skimmer NWB150SSS
NYOS Quantum 160 Protein Skimmer for up to 265 Gallons NYOS Quantum 160 Protein Skimmer for up to 265 Gallons
Aquamaxx Ws-1 In-sump Protein Skimmer Aquamaxx Ws-1 In-sump Protein Skimmer

Last update on 2024-03-04 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

5 Best Aquarium 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 a 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 easy to use controller.

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.
Tunze 9410.000 Doc Skimmers, Up to 265-Gallon
Tunze 9410.000 Doc Skimmers, Up to 265-Gallon

    Last update on 2024-03-04 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

    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 turbulence and provides a powerful performance while only using 8 watts. The needle wheel is quiet and works great.  

    However, there is a break-in period of about 2 or 3 days. So 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. 

    The skimmer comes fully assembled, so 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
    Sale
    Bubble Magus BM-Curve 5 Protein Skimmer
    Bubble Magus BM-Curve 5 Protein Skimmer

      Last update on 2024-03-04 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

      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 directly from your sump. It’s quiet due to its 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, further aiding in noise reduction.

      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
      Reef Octopus Classic 150 Space Saver Protein Skimmer NWB150SSS
      Reef Octopus Classic 150 Space Saver Protein Skimmer NWB150SSS

        Last update on 2024-03-04 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

        4. NYOS Quantum 160

        This German-engineered pump is rated for up to 265 gallons, and features the NYOS Hybrid Wheel. 

        Its lattice-shaped base and narrow needles produce very fine micro air bubbles. 

        Energy efficient and quiet, its 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 that looks like a tornado. 

        It doesn’t just 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 materials, including sturdy 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 for the build quality is something that stands out. Even down to the titanium screws. All the screws will fit every hole, so there’s no frustration when you’re setting up. And titanium means they won’t corrode – adding to the skimmers 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
        NYOS Quantum 160 Protein Skimmer for up to 265 Gallons
        NYOS Quantum 160 Protein Skimmer for up to 265 Gallons

        Last update on 2024-03-04 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

        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. 

        This skimmer is rated for 50-75 gallon tanks. 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 uneaten food, fish 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 has a convenient skimmer drain line. 

        You’ll also have 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, reduces 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
        Aquamaxx Ws-1 In-sump Protein Skimmer
        Aquamaxx Ws-1 In-sump Protein Skimmer

          Last update on 2024-03-04 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

          The Top Pick For The Best Protein Skimmer

          So, which is the best? It comes down to two–depending on your budget. 

          If you’ve got the money, the NYOS Quantum 160 is the best protein skimmer. 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 the best budget protein skimmer is the AquaMaxx HOB.

          Its High-performance and quiet operation makes it very good value for money and a good option for nano tanks.

          It’s no surprise it’s such a popular choice with hobbyists.

          Preview Product
          Tunze 9410.000 Doc Skimmers, Up to 265-Gallon Tunze 9410.000 Doc Skimmers, Up to 265-Gallon
          Bubble Magus BM-Curve 5 Protein Skimmer Bubble Magus BM-Curve 5 Protein Skimmer
          Reef Octopus Classic 150 Space Saver Protein Skimmer NWB150SSS Reef Octopus Classic 150 Space Saver Protein Skimmer NWB150SSS
          NYOS Quantum 160 Protein Skimmer for up to 265 Gallons NYOS Quantum 160 Protein Skimmer for up to 265 Gallons
          Aquamaxx Ws-1 In-sump Protein Skimmer Aquamaxx Ws-1 In-sump Protein Skimmer

          Last update on 2024-03-04 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

          How to Choose A Protein Skimmer

          A protein skimmer forcibly mixes tank water with air, creating a foam of tiny bubbles.

          Uneaten food, fish waste and other organic wastes in the water column stick to the surface of the bubbles. 

          As the skimmer produces more and more foam, it pushes the mass of bubbles up into a collection cup.

          The aquarist then empties the cup out every week, removing these excess nutrients from the system.

          Skimming the aquarium lessens the need for water changes, making the tank healthier and easier to maintain. 

          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.

          It’s like using a kitchen whisk to incorporate air into cake batter. 

          High quality impellers will produce a lot of tiny bubbles. Smaller bubbles increase the surface area of the foam – 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. Attracting more waste and increasing the contact time. 

          The longer the contact time, the more fish poop will get stuck to the bubbles and be carried to the collection cup. 

          The Shape of The Skimmer Body

          There are different types of protein skimmers, and this is one you 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 types of protein skimmer 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 to get a steady skimmate 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 also consider the quality of materials. 

          There’s no point having a high-performing protein skimmer if the materials break down. 

          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 on the market, with proven track records.

          Still Deciding? Benefits of a Quality Protein Skimmer

          A skimmer is designed to 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 poop and uneaten 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 break down and harm the health of your tank. 

          Clean & Clear Water

          Removing excess organic compounds from the water column can also have a big impact on water clarity. 

          All those little extra particles floating around can cause your water to become cloudy, especially if a bacterial bloom gets going.

          Increased Gas Exchange

          Protein skimmers vigorously mix air into the water column. 

          This mixes oxygen into the water and helps CO2 from livestock respiration escape. 

          Improve Coral Growth

          Excess nitrate in a reef tank fosters the growth of nuisance algae that can really harm coral growth. 

          Protein skimmers help remove wastes before they can break down and become accessible to algae. 

          Katherine Morgan
          Katherine Morgan

          Hey, there! I'm Katherine from Northwest Florida. An aquarium specialist, I've kept tanks for over two decades, enjoy experimenting with low-tech planted setups and an avid South American cichlid enthusiast.

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