The Best Reef Tank Protein Skimmers on the Market

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When a person sets out to build or design an aquarium, they will first be faced with the choice of opting for either a fresh water or a salt water tank. For its beauty and aesthetic value, the salt water aquariums often come with the need to be more ‘hands-on’ with maintenance and it comes as no surprise that a key factor in every reef tank is its health status.

There are various factors that can endanger the life of a reef tank, some of which are protein wastes and organic wastes. In themselves, these two substances might not be harmful, but if allowed to decompose into nitrites and cause a reduction in aeration, they begin to pose a serious threat.

So, in a nutshell, if an aquarium is free of protein wastes, it can be assured that there will be a reduction in the presence of nitrites in that tank (although you should still test the basic water chemistry parameters regularly).  

Protein skimming, in its most basic form, can be said to be the process of cleaning a reef tank with the ultimate goal of removing dissolved proteins and organic wastes, which result in improved aeration of the entire tank.

“Why not use traditional mechanical filters?” you may ask, and I will give you two reasons:

  • Traditional filters only corner these wastes but allow them remain in contact with the water.
  • Skimmers have the ability to remove particles which are very small in size unlike traditional filters.

How Important is a Protein Skimmer in Your Aquarium?

One of the ways organic waste comes into a reef tank is via foods of the inhabitants and feeding is an essential activity. As a result, if you want a healthy tank, one of the first things that you would definitely be looking to own is a good protein skimmer.

Factors to Consider When Choosing A Suitable Protein Skimmer.

The first factor to consider when going for any protein skimmer is the size of your aquarium – is it a small tank or a large one? This is important because whatever protein skimmer you choose to purchase should ideally have a greater capacity than the reef tank it is going to be cleaning.

Another important factor to consider is the size of the skimmer with respect to your tank; you do not want a skimmer too big in size but still need one large enough to handle the needs of your reef tank. In times past, this may have posed a problem for people who really preferred ‘less obvious’ sizes but latest versions of products now come in compact sizes with high performance abilities.

The last factor on this list, one which I consider the most important, is the effectiveness of the protein skimmer being considered. There are basically 3 designs of protein skimmers which are:

  • Turbo
  • Counter Current and
  • Venturi

These designs are classified based on their mode of operation (or the underlying principles guiding their functionality), and they all have the potential to be amazing skimmers. What matters in each design is the size of bubbles it produces, the amount of bubbles it produces and the contact time of produced bubbles with the water.

There are also different types of skimmers, which include:

  • The Hang on Protein Skimmers: These set are easily fitted on the tank as they hang on its back with the aid of brackets.
  • The In-Tank Protein Skimmers: These skimmers take their place within the reef tank and best serve owners who don’t want to experience wet floors from and external skimmer.
  • The External Protein Skimmers: These skimmers are built to sit outside the tank and feed the filtered water back into the sump.
  • The In-Sump Protein Skimmers: These skimmers live in a sump inside the aquarium stand.

Below are some of the best rated and best reviewed protein skimmers for reef tanks:

Best Reef Tank Protein Skimmers

SCA-302 180 Gallon Protein Skimmer

Before this was the SCA-301, and this being a newer version comes with improved functionality. With its compact build, it can be used across different tanks and with a capacity of 180 gallons, it is definitely a great choice. This Protein skimmer comes with a powerful pump that cleans the water in the least amount of time while working silently (this model comes with a “no disturb” silencer) and it also comes with a large cup.

Bubble Magus BM Curve 5 Protein Skimmer

This protein skimmer comes sporting a very powerful pump (which is one of the most important features to look out for) and one of its major advantage is the compact nature of its design. It is built to fit in to medium sized tanks but it ultimately serves different sizes, with a capacity of 140 gallons. The collection cup on this model is very easy to open and it makes waste disposal a walk in the park. The skimmer is made out of some very solid material and this accounts for its durability. Another feature that users love about this machine is that it is quiet while at work.

Simplicity 240DC Protein Skimmer

This product stands at the top of reviewers’ choice on amazon and it really comes as no surprise.

It comes with a very powerful DC pump which is energy efficient as well as being quiet while working. It is built in a simple fashion and this ensures assembly is quite easy to achieve and compared to other skimmers, it breaks in very fast. Also, because of its very compact nature, it is convenient for individuals who want to maximize space. Reviews for this product came with a 5-star rating on amazon and it speaks volumes as they built a skimmer that ticks all the right boxes.


With the above featured protein skimmers and their included details, finding the right one for your reef fish tank is now easier for you. There are so many great protein skimmers in the market and selecting one based on your budget might be the major determining factor for a suitable choice.

Still looking for your first reef tank?  Check out our top saltwater fish tank comparison guide to help you make your choice.