Protein skimmers are a very important life support component on most tropical or temperate marine aquariums but until you’ve owned one and learned how to properly tune it, their purpose can seem a bit obscure. There are a few different types of skimmers out there available in many different configurations. However, choosing the right one for your system, sizing and installing it properly and learning how to optimize its performance can be a bit tricky. If it is adjusted too low, a skimmer provides little or no filtration for your water. If it is adjusted too high, it can quickly drain the sump, causing your pump to run dry, along with other serous problems. If you’ve heard about the advantages of adding a protein skimmer to your saltwater system but would like a bit of professional guidance, call us today at 503.784.4403. Our PDX aquarium professionals will be happy to help you select, install and optimize a skimmer that will help keep your system and animals healthy and your water looking great month after month.
How Protein Skimmers Work
As we mentioned briefly on our chemical filtration page, protein skimmers, also called foam fractionators, remove dissolved organic compounds from your water through a process called adsorption. Since water molecules have polarity, water bubbles also have polarity. Dissolved organics such as waste and mucus, along with decaying organisms like dead bacteria, algae and other pollutants are adsorbed to the surface of the bubbles. When a skimmer is tuned properly, the dirty bubbles slowly rise to the top of the fractionation chamber and are slowly pushed up and out by newer bubbles. This waste either accumulates in the collection cup for easy removal or leaves the system via a vinyl tube from the collection cup.
Best results are achieved when you have millions of microbubbles swirling around in the skimmer, providing maximum surface area for adsorption. How these bubbles are created largely depends on the type of skimmer. However, most hobbyists own skimmers driven by small mag-drive or DC pumps. The pump turns a needle-wheel impeller that rips air into the water as it turns at a high speed, creating millions of microbubbles for maximum surface area and adsorption.
A note of caution: In addition to removing unwanted substances, skimmers will also remove some things that you want to remain in the water, such as coral supplements and medications. Although you generally want your skimmer to run 24/7, there are situations where you want to take it offline for periods of time.
Portland Protein Skimmer Advice, Installation, Optimization and Troubleshooting
As we mentioned, there is a bit of a learning curve when working with skimmers and they can cause a lot of problems unless they are installed and tuned properly. If you’re having problems with your skimmer, have questions about them or would like to have one professionally installed in your home or business, call us today at 503.784.4403. Client education is a very important part of our business model and we love to help our clients get a better understanding of the science behind healthy aquariums. The way we see it, healthy life support systems make for healthy tropical fish and corals, which make for fewer problems and happier clients!