13 Reasons Why You Need A Protein Skimmer For Your Reef Tank

Protein skimmers are an effective piece of equipment that all saltwater tanks should have. 

Looking to improve your water quality and overall health of your tank? Use a protein skimmer.

The main purpose of a protein skimmer is to remove organic waste before they have a chance to break down and release nitrogen compounds causing poor water quality.

Of course, there are other reasons why you should use a protein skimmer which I will mention in this article.

1. Remove Nutrients/Waste

The removal of excess nutrients is one of the main functions of a protein skimmer.

Every day there are organic compounds and proteins entering your tank from fish waste and uneaten foods.

Without the removal of these items, water quality will suffer from an increase in nitrates, phosphates, and other toxins. The removal of these items is crucial for fish and coral health. 

The removal of organic waste will improve the overall health of your tank. The waste removal process involves waste materials attaching to the surface of air bubbles created by the protein skimmer.

These bubbles pull the waste out of the water column and deposit them into a collection cup. By doing this, protein skimmers actually improve the filter effectiveness in your tank. 


bubble magus protein skimmer curve 5
My Bubble Magus Curve 5 at work!

2. Enhanced Filtration – Mechanical/Chemical/Biological

Protein skimmers will help keep your water clean and clear. Mechanical filtration will help trap debris and particles in the water column.

It’s important to replace the filter media often as the trapped waste inside will break down releasing pollutants into your tank.

Protein skimmers help remove these pollutants (Nitrate, phosphate, ammonia) before they have the chance to break down. 

Chemical filtration works by absorption. Over time, the media will absorb waste in the water leaving you with clean water. Activated carbon will do a great job at keeping your water crystal clear. The effectiveness of the media will be reduced the longer you use it, and this waste will be introduced into the tank if not replaced in a timely manner.

Protein skimmers help enhance this filtration method by removing waste from the water column.

Biological filtration is the breakdown of nitrogen compounds by using aerobic beneficial bacteria. Ammonia and nitrite are converted into nitrate for an aquarium cycle to happen.

Nitrate is less toxic than nitrite but in large amounts, nitrate can be very very harmful to livestock. Protein skimmers help reduce nitrate levels to a safe amount.

Water changes also help in the reduction of nitrate levels but protein skimmers are helpful as well. 

Overall, protein skimmers are very effective in enhancing the overall mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration abilities of your tank. 


3. Provides oxygen

Another important reason to have a protein skimmer is to provide oxygen. They promote proper gas exchange and increase the oxygen levels which help keep livestock healthy. 


4. Reduces algae

Nuisance algae will form in your tank whenever excess nutrients are available like phosphates. Protein skimmers will reduce phosphate levels and in turn help reduce the amount of nuisance algae in the tank. This makes it easier to keep your glass and other equipment clear from algae. 


Other benefits of using a protein skimmer include:


5. Helps maintain PH levels by preventing acidic conditions caused by carbon dioxide buildup


6. Helps support high bio load aquariums 


7. Acts as a surface skimmer to remove oily water surface 


8. Provides better light penetration through the water surface and clearer water


9. Reduces coloration in the water


10. Helps to improve coral growth rates and color


11. Faster recovery time for corals when fragging to due the improved water quality


12. Improved fish health


13. Reduces cyanobacteria and its effects


Why does a protein skimmer produce foam?

All protein skimmers work by creating thousands of microbubbles that will remove waste from your aquarium water. These bubbles will condense waste into a nasty and smelly foam and lift them to the collection cup of the skimmer where it can be removed.

Why does a protein skimmer produce microbubbles in the tank?


AquaMaxx In sump protein skimmer at Marine Depot


This is common for all new protein skimmers. They need some time to break in. This happens when a combination of air and water is forced out of the skimmer. Other reasons include:

  • Used skimmers that have not been used in a long time
  • The skimmer is not set up properly
  • The skimmer is not tuned or dialed in properly
  • Addition of chemicals and additives
  • Overfeeding your fish 

Read more on how to stop skimmer microbubbles from entering your tank here.


As you can see, there are many benefits to having a protein skimmer on your saltwater tank. Many people will argue that they are not necessary, as there are other methods to remove nutrients from your tank. While that is true, it’s difficult to argue that the benefits don’t outweigh the cons of having one.

Which there really are none.