Best Protein Skimmers

16 Best Protein Skimmers: Features, Pros and Cons

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A great protein skimmer is integral if you want to keep your aquarium clean and healthy. 

As time goes on, unwanted organic materials like uneaten food, fish waste, and bacteria will collect in the water of your tank. Nitrate levels will also increase, and the water will become cloudy. 

If you don’t keep your water clean, the overall health of your aquarium and its inhabitants will be compromised. The aquatic life you raise can be vulnerable to nitrate, and living in an environment filled with small debris, particles, and murky water will result in severe problems later. 

This is where a protein skimmer comes in handy. The below article will list the best protein skimmers available on the market, as well as their pros and cons, helping you choose the right one. 

What is a Protein Skimmer?

A protein skimmer is a kind of mechanical filter that clears organic materials out of the water in your fish tank. That consists of excess toxins and bacteria from corals, waste products from your critters, and even uneaten food. 

A protein skimmer is to remove the organic compounds before they break down and affect the cleanliness and transparence of your aquarium water. This device can prevent algae from developing too fast and decrease the nitrate buildup that can endanger some marine species like corals. 

It is called a protein skimmer as it employs the polarity of the proteins to eliminate the different organic compounds.

How Does it Work?

As mentioned above, the protein skimmer uses the polarity of the proteins to clear them away from the water column. 

It involves a reaction chamber where it produces a number of tiny bubbles. Due to the properties of the protein in the organic compounds, the organic waste materials will adhere to the bubbles. Then, the bubbles bring these materials up to the surface of the chamber, where the contaminators can be manually eliminated from the water column via the collection cup. 

In some models, you might get needle wheel or pinwheel impellers in the skimmer pump, which then splits the incoming bubbles into smaller ones. Smaller ones are more efficient than larger ones. This is because they have more surface area for the compounds to stick to. A high amount of small bubbles is recommended. 

Types of Protein Skimmers 

There are multiple types of protein skimmers designed according to specific purposes. Make sure you have a deep understanding of your tank and what it can accommodate before squeezing the trigger and selecting one. 

Hang on Back (HOB) Skimmers 

A hang-on-back protein skimmer is a device hanging on the back or rim of the tank glass. It’s suitable for aquariums that don’t run a sump. This type will fit small tanks that don’t go past 100 gallons in capacity. 

In-Sump Skimmers

This type lets your aquarium remains to look tidy and neat while the skimmer works in the back room. As long as you have a sump, there is a variety of in-sump protein skimmers options for you to choose from. 

In-Tank Skimmers

These skimmers are meant for nano aquariums, so they don’t require much space inside the tank. Despite their size, the in-tank skimmer models will do a good job of clearing organic compounds in the water. 

External Skimmers 

This kind of skimmer draws water from the aquarium, passes it via the system, and then pumps the purified water back into the tank. 

External skimmers can be beneficial if your aquarium setup does not have enough room for a skimmer to stay inside. 

Top 16 Best Protein Skimmers 

1. Coral Vue Technology AC20287 Skimmer

AC20287 Wheel Skimmer for Aquarium
AC20287 Wheel Skimmer for Aquarium

This is an incredible protein skimmer from Coral Vue Technology. The needle wheel impeller is an outstanding feature. It whips the sir flow to generate a stream of microbubbles that maximize the volume of organic materials from the water column. 

The four-inch cone neck alleviates the movement of the bubbles into the collection cup, so you can have a higher rate of accumulation. The collection cup has a rapid release for easy cleaning. The gate valve is very beneficial and facilitates water level adjustments. 

This product is an in-sump protein skimmer and runs for any aquarium of 210 gallons and under. The footprint is about 12.6 x 8.7 inches, so remember to check the space you have in your sump aquarium. 


  • Simple setup and usage
  • Unique cone-neck design
  • Needle wheel impeller


  • Quite noisy

2. Tunze 9410.000 DOC Protein Skimmer

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

The Tunze protein skimmer is appropriate for use in heavily stocked SPS reef aquariums up to 80 gallons and in fish-only saltwater aquariums up to 265 gallons. 

This model is constructed from high-quality materials that will not degrade over time. It is an in-sump skimmer, so make sure you have enough space to install it in the sump. 

A remarkable feature of this protein skimmer is its electricity usage, with a power consumption of 15W. It delivers the same skimming performance as larger skimmers which consume twice as much power. 


  • Simple to clean and maintain
  • Low power usage
  • Excellent skimming capacity 


  • Loud operation 

3. AquaMaxx HOB-1.5 Protein Skimmer

AquaMaxx HOB-1.5 Hang-On-Back Protein Skimmer
AquaMaxx HOB-1.5 Hang-On-Back Protein Skimmer

When it comes to visual appeal, you can head for the AquaMaxx hang-on-back protein skimmer. The blue style is interesting to look at and can contribute to the overall aesthetic of your tank setup. 

The sweet spot for this aquarium with a medium bioload is 75 gallons, with 90 being the max with a light bioload. It’s also easy to do the installation. You won’t need to constantly tweak the settings when you hit that sweet spot. 

The HOB-1.5 is packed with a SHARK 1.0 pump. It is regarded as a reliable pump, so you no longer worry about frequent repairs. This powerful pump is an updated Italian Sicce one, producing a large amount of bubbles. 


  • Easing blue coloration
  • Small footprint
  • Perfect for medium aquariums


  • Take up much space in the tank
  • High price 

4. Macro Aqua M-50 External Protein Skimmer

Macro Aqua M-50 Mini Hang-on External Protein Skimmer, 60 Gallon
Macro Aqua M-50 Mini Hang-on External Protein Skimmer, 60 Gallon

This is a decent hand-on-back protein skimmer for small saltwater and reef aquariums. Depending on the bioload and stocking of your aquarium, it can work efficiently for those of up to 60 gallons. 

It is super easy to install the skimmer. It is a plug-and-play model, so there’s no priming involved. You can hang it up on the back of your sump or on the back of your aquarium. 

Its pump offers a generously powerful 238 GPH, making sure the water is completely purified. Besides, the skimmer uses a needle wheel impeller, which helps increase the contact time between the water and the bubbles to enhance efficiency. 

Moreover, you can easily remove the collection cup, dumping the accumulated waste without fuss. 


  • Effectively eliminate organic waste
  • No primming required
  • Increase air to water contact 


  • Some noise from the pump

5. Simplicity 240DC Protein Skimmer 

Simplicity 240DC Protein Skimmer
Simplicity 240DC Protein Skimmer

The Simplicity skimmer is an affordable way to improve protein skimming on your aquarium. The model uses the Simplicity 2000DC water pump with a needle wheel impeller. 

Needle wheel impellers are a great way of pumping water into the skimmer and whipping up a continuous stream of microbubbles for skimmate creation 

The Simplicity protein skimmer is constructed with the water pump mounted inside the skimmer body. That helps decrease the skimmer footprint, which is extremely crucial for an in-sump unit. 

A bubble plate distributes the bubble-water combination into the cone-shaped contact chamber for reaction with the dissolved organic waste. Additionally, the water pump leverages DC current for seamless speed control. Plus, a wire touch pad has simple controls, enabling fine adjustments for water level control.

There is also an air silencer keeping things quiet with the water pump working full speed. It is also used to optimize skimming performance. 

The skimmer cup is hung onto the contact chamber with an O-ring and bayonet look. You can easily remove the cup and add a plugged drain hole if you want to implement an external collection cup. 


  • Internal water pump
  • Simple to use controllers
  • Include a drain line
  • 2-year skimmer body, 1-year pump guarantee


  • No wireless control
  • Not compatible with automation systems

6. NYOS Quantum 160

NYOS Quantum 160 Protein Skimmer for up to 265 Gallons
NYOS Quantum 160 Protein Skimmer for up to 265 Gallons

NYOS produces their protein skimmers with some superior features that have earned NYOS skimmers an enviable reputation among reef hobbyists.

The Quantum 160 model is manufactured for in-sump use and packed with a matched water pump. The German-designed water pump has its hybrid wheel impellers. 

The manufacture combines the benefits of needle and lattice wheel impellers into a super-light hybrid impeller design. The advantages are less energy consumption, more seamless operation while generating a stable supply of ultra-fine microbubbles. 

Silicone rubber feet hold the skimmer right above the sump base and further remove vibration and pump resonation noise. 

This product is made of premium acrylic. Even the impeller housing is translucent, so you can observe the hybrid wheel in action. Water is drawn into the skimmer chamber via a special bubble plate called the NYOS Twister. 

The Twister spins the water-bubble combination into a high-velocity vortex which extends contact time and enhances skimmate formation. Plus, the protein skimmer has independent adjustments for air and water volume. 


  • Super quiet working process
  • Easily disassembled for cleansing
  • Titanium fasteners will not corrode.


  • The skimmer cup might be tricky to twist off.
  • Leak some microbubbles into the tank during break-in
  • Require some fine-tuning
  • Relatively high price 

7. Coral Vue Technology BH-1000 Octopus 

CoralVue Technology BH-1000 Octopus with External 1000 Pump for Aquarium Filter, 100-Gallon
CoralVue Technology BH-1000 Octopus with External 1000 Pump for Aquarium Filter, 100-Gallon

This hang-on-back protein skimmer is created for aquariums of up to 100 gallons.

The pump is externally mounted under the actual skimmer body. Therefore, there is no heat transfer between the pump and the water, so the water temperature will remain steady. 

The skimmer’s design makes it simple to clean the pump. Just ensure that you have at least 6 inches between the aquarium and the wall, and the unit will fit in. 


  • Easy to make adjustments 
  • Pull out the gunk from your aquarium
  • Quiet operation
  • Affordable price


  • The setup might be a bit tricky.
  • The water level needs keeping lower than usual as the skimmer might not skim from the surface. 

8. SC-302 Protein Skimmer

SCA-302 180 Gallon Protein Skimmer (in Sump) Newest Version by SC Aquariums
SCA-302 180 Gallon Protein Skimmer (in Sump) Newest Version by SC Aquariums

It is an in-sump protein skimmer from SC Aquariums. The manufacture added all the innovative features that many people have wanted in a protein skimmer.

The SC-302 skimmer is a new and updated version coming with an extra-large collection cup. Notably, the protein skimmer does not make irritating noises during the operation, thanks to its air silencer. 

The unit is equipped with a robust Atman 200 pump that creates a high volume of bubbles for dissolving organic pollutants in the tank water. The overall performance of this model is appreciated compared to others in the same category. 

It takes less than 5 minutes for you to assemble and run the skimmer. 


  • Suitable for tanks up to 180 gallons
  • Include a strong pump 
  • Smooth assembly process


  • The pump is prone to breakage.
  • The instruction manual is not very clear. 

9. IOAOI Protein Skimmer 

IOAOI Protein Skimmers for Saltwater Aquariums up to 210 Gallons Fish Tank
IOAOI Protein Skimmers for Saltwater Aquariums up to 210 Gallons Fish Tank

The IOAOI protein skimmer comes with an LED controller. This controller allows you to see the status of your skimmer and adjust the water flow from the pump. There are 20 flow speeds ranging from 1 W to 20 W of power usage. 

With the patented needle-shaped diversion plate, the skimmer can produce far finer bubbles and prolong the contact time between the bubbles and the water. 

The unit is constructed from high-quality cast acrylic, guaranteeing a long lifespan. In addition, the pump makes use of standard positive rotating wave technology to stay as much as quiet during the operation. Plus, the skimmer is built with advanced frequency conversion technology that is extremely effective and evegy-saving. It also includes voltage, water separation, and overload protection technologies. 


  • Use DC pump that lets you control air and water flow
  • Solid construction
  • Quiet operation


  • The random wavemaker button might harm the skimmer.

10. Reef Octopus Classic 1000-HOB Protein Skimmer

Reef Octopus Classic 100-HOB Protein Skimmer
Reef Octopus Classic 1000-HOB Protein Skimmer

The hang-on-back protein skimmer by Reef Octopus is a dominant and compact model. It does a great job of cleaning aquariums of up to 105 gallons with a light bioload, 75 gallons with a medium bioload, and 55 gallons with a heavy bioload. 

You can set up and install this skimmer with ease. Just mount it on the back of the aquarium, adjust the pump and intake strainer, and you’re done. 

The model is solidly made of high-quality acrylic. Besides, the aquatrance pinwheel pump creates a constant stream of small bubbles in the reaction chamber, increasing the contact time between the bubbles and the water. 


  • 1-year and 2-year on the skimmer body and the pump, respectively
  • High-grade material
  • Simple and easy installation


  • Some assembly required

11. Marine Color RDC Protein Skimmer

Marine Color RDC 250 Hanging On Internal Needle Wheel Protein Skimmer 70 Gallon Saltwater Aquarium
Marine Color RDC 250 Hanging On Internal Needle Wheel Protein Skimmer 70 Gallon Saltwater Aquarium

The Marine Color protein skimmer is proper for small aquariums varying from 13 to 66 gallons. 

This is an in-sump skimmer with a spendid design. The sleek red and white pipings look very appealing. 

Its high effectiveness pinwheel pump generates a stable stream of bubbles. The standard cone reaction chamber is also tailored to accumulate bubbles seamlessly and steadily. Besides, the manufacture utilizes a professional laser engraving machine that ensures the high quality and precision of the skimmer. 


  • Stunning design 
  • Excellent pinwheel pump 
  • High-grade cast acrylic material


  • There are no instructions included. 

12. Reef Octopus Classic Protein Skimmer

Reef Octopus Classic 110-INT Needle Wheel Protein Skimmer for Aquarium
Reef Octopus Classic 110-INT Needle Wheel Protein Skimmer for Aquarium

For aquariums under 100 gallons, this protein skimmer will cleanse your tank water without any difficulty. It consists of a robust pump and a reasonable footprint. 

The realistic break-in period for the unit has been marked at about two weeks, with the first few days begin the most influential in terms of progress. You can notice foam creation increasing around that time.

The whole setup process is easy and it’s simple to get the skimmer running effectively. You can use this product for multiple tanks provided that they have a maximum capacity of about 100 gallons. 


  • Used on large-capacity tanks
  • Easy to operate
  • Impressive cleaning performance


  • The pump is relatively noisy. 

13. Reef Octopus Essense Protein Skimmer 

Reef Octopus eSsence S-130 Protein Skimmer
Reef Octopus eSsence S-130 Protein Skimmer

Another effective protein skimmer is Reef Octopus Essense. 

The skimmer cup has a simple-to-use twist-and-lift feature. Besides, the unit comes with a detachable silence collar that makes the operation super quiet.

What’s more, there are fast-release tabs that make it easy for you to clean the skimmer body. The skimmer is created to have a small print so it can fit in narrow spaces.


  • Come from a well-known brand
  • Quiet operation process
  • Provide 2-year warranty


  • Quite pricey

14. Happybuy Protein Skimmer

Happybuy RDC-250 Protein Skimmer 66 Gallon
Happybuy RDC-250 Protein Skimmer 66 Gallon

With the Happybuy protein skimmer, you’ll get an air-injection system that guarantees an impressive performance. 

The skimmer comes equipped with the Red Devil SP1 pump that enables 7.8W of power and optimum air intake of 180l/h. White and red pipe fittings are used to make the unit stand out from others. 

The standard cone chamber lets the bubbles to be more stable and the entire apparatus be more steady. Moreover, you will not hear the skimmer running, owing to its dual-hole muffler design. 


  • High-grade materials
  • Suitable for small-footprint sump pumps
  • Quiet operation


  • Only used for saltwater tanks

15. Bubble Magus Protein Skimmer 

Bubble Magus BM-Curve 5 Protein Skimmer
Bubble Magus BM-Curve 5 Protein Skimmer

The Bubble Magus BM-Curve 5 is an amazing protein skimmer option. 

It is an in-sump skimmer that can be used for aquariums of up to 140 gallons. The aquality of the skimmer is incredible across the board, demolishing all the waste and gunk out of your fish tank. 

The needle wheel pump has a venture intake that generates a continuous stream of extra-small bubbles, maximizing the uptake of organic compounds. In addition, there is a bubble plate that lowers the turbulence in the reaction chamber. That helps decrease the chance of bubbles bursting before they reach the surface.

The curve in the skimmer body is an inventive design that allows the foam formed to rise up seamlessly without incident and be accumulated in the collection cup. 

Furthermore, the BM-Curve 5 includes an air silencer, making sure the operation runs quietly. Hence, it is ideal if you have your tank placed in your bedroom. 


  • High functionality
  • Small footprint
  • Simple and easy maintenance
  • Quiet operation


  • Regular cleaning required
  • There might be overflow problems. 

16. Red Sea Reef Skimmer 

Red Sea Reefer 300 Protein Skimmer
Red Sea Reefer 300 Protein Skimmer

The Red Sea Protein Skimmer features a built-in skimmer swabbie on the collection cup. A skimmer swabbie cleanses the inside of the neck of the collection cup, letting the skimmer operate at maximum effectiveness. 

Normally, a battery-run swabbie can be pricey to fit on a skimmer. Luckily, this model has one. It is a mechanical dial that saves you a lot of time and effort. It is much helpful if you do not clean your collection cup regularly and decide to drain the cup to a container or bucket before disposing. 

Moreover, the Red Sea skimmer comprises high-quality adjustable dials and a benchmark Sicce PSK pump. 


  • Include a skimmer swabbie
  • Easy and simple adjustments


  • Quite pricey
  • Noisy operation 

Quick Comparisons of The Best Protein Skimmers

#Product NameImagePriceAction
1Coral Vue Technology AC20287 SkimmerCoral Vue Technology AC20287 Octopus Needle Wheel Skimmer for Aquarium Filter, 6-Inch, 211-Gallon$$Buy on Amazon!
2Tunze 9410.000 DOC Protein SkimmerTunze 9410.000 Doc Skimmers, Up to 265-Gallon$$Buy on Amazon!
3AquaMaxx HOB-1.5 Protein SkimmerAquaMaxx HOB-1.5 Hang-On-Back Protein Skimmer$269.99Buy on Amazon!
4Macro Aqua M-50 External Protein SkimmerMacro Aqua M-50 Mini Hang-on External Protein Skimmer, 60 Gallon$69.18Buy on Amazon!
5Simplicity 240DC Protein Skimmer Simplicity 240DC Protein Skimmer$$Buy on Amazon!
6NYOS Quantum 160NYOS Quantum 160 Protein Skimmer for up to 265 Gallons$$Buy on Amazon!
7Coral Vue Technology BH-1000 Octopus CoralVue Technology BH-1000 Octopus with External 1000 Pump for Aquarium Filter, 100-Gallon$$Buy on Amazon!
8SC-302 Protein SkimmerSCA-302 180 Gallon Protein Skimmer (in Sump) Newest Version by SC Aquariums$$Buy on Amazon!
9IOAOI Protein SkimmerIOAOI Protein Skimmers for Saltwater Aquariums up to 210 Gallons Fish Tank$$Buy on Amazon!
10Reef Octopus Classic 1000-HOB Protein SkimmerReef Octopus Classic 1000-HOB Protein Skimmer$$Buy on Amazon!
11Marine Color RDC Protein SkimmerMarine Color RDC 250 Hanging On Internal Needle Wheel Protein Skimmer 70 Gallon Saltwater Aquarium$$Buy on Amazon!
12Reef Octopus Classic 100-INT Protein Skimmer

Reef Octopus Classic 110-INT Needle Wheel Protein Skimmer for Aquarium
Reef Octopus Classic 110-INT Needle Wheel Protein Skimmer for Aquarium
$$Buy on Amazon!
13Reef Octopus Essense Protein Skimmer Reef Octopus eSsence S-130 Protein Skimmer$$Buy on Amazon!
14Happybuy Protein SkimmerHappybuy RDC-250 Protein Skimmer 66 Gallon$$Buy on Amazon!
15Bubble Magus Protein SkimmerBubble Magus BM-Curve 5 Protein Skimmer$198.00Buy on Amazon!
16Red Sea Reef Skimmer Red Sea Reefer 300 Protein Skimmer$$Buy on Amazon!

We’ve provided some clarity and intriguing options for tanks in need of a protein skimmer. Many of these models are available in multiple sizes that can optimize the efficacy of the skimmer on your water system.

Protein skimmers will continue to be an indispensable tool for aquarists to improve the performance and appearance of their fish tanks. Each of these options can take your tank to a higher level and solidifying them as an essential part of your system. 


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