Best Protein Skimmers Under $200 (Budget Approved)

protein skimmers under $200
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Looking for an effective protein skimmer while sticking to a budget?

You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a great protein skimmer that will work on your tank.

Yes, I will admit there are some really great options out there if you have the extra cash and want to pay for a high-end product.

But most of us have a limit to what we can spend on a particular piece of equipment. 

Is it worth spending a lot of money on a high-end protein skimmer? 

Find out here where I compare the Nyos skimmer to see if it’s worth the high price tag.

Let’s look at the best protein skimmers that you can buy for under $200. 

 

  • AquaMaxx 1.5 HOB
  • Bubble Magus Curve 5
  • Simplicity 120 DC
  • Bubble Magus QQ3

 

Choosing the right protein skimmer – Factors to consider

 

When selecting a new protein skimmer for your saltwater tank, there are a few important items to consider regardless of the price. I recommend that you avoid the cheaper no-name brands that have poor reviews. You will be disappointed with those. It may seem like a great deal at the time, but usually, the cheap products are a huge letdown.

For example, check out the poor reviews of this skimmer on Amazon. 

Don’t worry, if you are on a budget of $200, there are still some great options.

 

Size of skimmer

Before choosing a protein skimmer, make sure that it will fit in your sump and not too tall for the stand or plumbing. If you are looking for a hang on the back skimmer, make sure it has the proper dimensions with enough space to fit behind the tank and wall.

I have made this mistake before and had to drain my tank just to move it ½” out from the wall.   

 

Tank size rating

Of course, before choosing on the right skimmer, you will need to check it’s tank size rating. The manufacturer will say what sized tank the skimmer is rated for. I recommend that you choose a skimmer that is slightly rated higher than your tank size.

For example, if you have a tank size of 90 gallons, you might want to pick a skimmer that is rated for 100 gallons or more. Keep in mind that the ratings of the skimmers are based on a light, medium, high stocking demand.

If it is rated for 100 gallons, that will be for a lightly stocked tank. The same skimmer might only handle a 50-gallon tank if heavily stocked. Choosing a higher rated skimmer will give you some wiggle room for adding new livestock as your tank matures.

Also, remember that you need to account for the total system water volume. Your tank might be 90 gallons, but with a sump size of 30 gallons, you now have 120 gallons total water volume. Take into consideration water displacement from live rock.

You might only have 80 gallons of water in the tank after you add your live rock which takes up space. Your sump tank may also only have 15 gallons of water in it even though it is a 30-gallon tank. 

90 gal tank + 30 gal sump = 120 gal total volume. 

In reality might be:

80 gal water volume(in tank) + 15 gal water volume(in sump) = 95 gallons total water volume.

 

Power usage

How much power will your protein skimmer use and how much will it cost to operate?

Although most protein skimmers don’t cost very much to operate it’s still something to consider. 

One of the most efficient skimmers on the market is the Nyos Quantum. The Quantum 1 pump only uses 8 watts and has an average cost of .70 cents per month to operate. You can see how this compares to other protein skimmers by reading the buying a Nyos skimmer article.

The Nyos skimmer is out of our price range of $200, so it is not on the list but it is very efficient. 

 

Click here to use the aquarium electricity cost calculator. It will show you how much it will cost to run your equipment. nyos quantum power use

Reliability and reviews

Before buying a protein skimmer, have a look at some reviews online and see what other users are saying about it. If you choose a brand name that is known in the hobby for its reliability and durability, you should be happy with your purchase.

The skimmer that I mention here are all trusted brands and have great reviews. 

 

Skimmer Noise

It’s no secret that some protein skimmers make noise. They are not completely silent with the exception of a few higher-end brands. If you are anything like me, I can’t stand listening to a noisy skimmer.

Some of the hang on the back skimmers will make more noise than the in sump style skimmers. It depends on the brand and the type of pumps being used. Some are better than others. 

 

Protein skimmers under $200:

 

AquaMaxx 1.5 HOB

 

If you need a hang on the back style protein skimmer under $200, the AquaMaxx 1.5 HOB is a perfect choice. 

It is a powerful skimmer rated for up to 90-gallon tanks under a light bioload. They are reliable and easy to set up and maintain. 

Many hang on back skimmers are heavy and bulky, but the Aquamaxx is slim and light. It only requires 4” of space behind your tank. 

This model also has an upgrades pump which is quiet and efficient. 

 

Features and specs:

Dimensions: L 7.5” x W 3.5” x H 17”

Tank size rating: 90 gallons (60-75 gallons heavy bioload)

Pump: Sicce Shark 1.0

Power consumption: 11 watts

Minimum tank height: 10-⅞”

Outlet size: ¾”

 

Pros:

  • Reliable
  • Quality build
  • Affordable
  • Powerful and efficient

Cons:

  • Long break-in period
  • Produces microbubbles 

Grab the AquaMaxx 1.5 HOB skimmer on Marine Depot here. 

 

Bubble Magus Curve 5


The Curve 5 protein skimmer has been a staple in the industry for many years. I guess you could say an oldie but a goodie. This is one of my favorite skimmers to use and rarely have I had a problem with the Curve 5. 

Bubble Magus builds all their protein skimmers with high-quality materials that are known to last. They are a practical skimmer without the fancy bells and whistles. They are designed to simply work great. 

It is rated for tanks up to 140 gallons, I am currently using one on my 120-gallon tank under light bioload, and very happy with it. 

The one concern some people have with the Curve 5 is the long break-in time. I’ll admit it can be a bit of a nuisance to get it dialed in perfectly, but once it gets settled in your tank, it will work great. Just takes a bit of time which I am willing to trade for a great performing skimmer.  

 

Features and specs:

Dimensions: L 7.28” x W 7.08” x h 18.5”

Tank size rating: 140 gallons

Pump: Rock SP1000

Power consumption: 8 watt

Air intake: 320 L/H

 

Pros:

  • Simple design
  • Great quality
  • Reliable
  • Powerful and efficient

 

Cons:

  • Long break-in period
  • Cup can easily overflow when new

 

The curve 5 protein skimmer is available on Amazon here. 

 

Simplicity 120 DC

The Simplicity protein skimmers are the best budget skimmer on the market with a DC controllable pump. Simplicity has designed these skimmers to be very quiet and efficient. 

This specific model is rated for a tank size of 120-gallon. It is very easy to maintain and clean. One of the most important factors that determine skimmer performance is contact time. The hybrid cone design of the Simplicity 120 DC makes it as effective as possible. 

I used this skimmer on a 75-gallon tank for over a year with great success. I really like being able to control the pump speed. Makes it easy to fine-tune the skimmer to the desired setting making it more effective.

 

Features and specs:

Dimensions: L 6.7” x W 6.3” x 18.7”

Tank size rating: 120 gallons

Power consumption: 6-12 Watts

Pump: 120 DC

Air intake: 120-360 L/H

 

Pros:

  • Small footprint
  • Stylish design
  • Very quiet
  • DC controllable pump

Cons:

  • Overflows easily during the break-in period

 

Check out the Simplicity 120 DC protein skimmer on Amazon here.

 

Bubble Magus QQ1

Another great hang on the back style skimmer is the QQ1 from Bubble Magus. This skimmer has the high end feel and features you would expect from Bubble Magus products.

The QQ1 is rated for tanks up to 25 gallons so if you have a nano tank, this would be a perfect choice. If you are dealing with space issues or don’t want a large clunky skimmer, the QQ1 is for you.

It’s very affordable and efficient, plus has a modern-looking design. Some hang on the back skimmers can be noisy, but the QQ1 is not one of them. It has a quiet operating pump and is easy to remove and clean.

The one thing that I don’t like about this skimmer is you need a thin-rimmed tank for it to fit. Anything larger than ½” is too big for the skimmer to fit over the tank trim. But for the great price point, you get a high quality and reliable skimmer that is built to do a great job.

 

Features and specs:

Dimensions: L 7.5” x W 4.8” x H 13”

Tank size rating: 25 gallons

Pump: Rock SP 600

Power consumption: 8.5 watt

Clearance behind tank: 3.5” to remove skimmer cup

 

Pros:

  • Modern design
  • Efficient
  • Great for most nano tanks
  • Reliable

Cons:

  • Only fits thin-rimmed tanks

 

Get the Bubble magus QQ1 protein skimmer on Amazon here.

 

Summary

Protein skimmers are a very important piece of equipment for your saltwater tank. With so many options available at different prices, it can be difficult to decide which one is best for your tank. Some skimmers can be very pricey and some are cheap.

It’s not necessary to spend a fortune on a skimmer. You can find one that is reliable, affordable, and does a great job. The protein skimmers that I mentioned here are all great choices if you want to spend less than $200. Hopefully one of them is suitable for your tank. You won’t be disappointed in your choice of any of these options. 

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