Protein skimmers create foam by mixing saltwater and air together. Protein skimming works through adsorption, which is the firm attachment of an extremely thin layer of molecules to the surface of air bubbles. Protein and other organic compounds in the water form a coating around the bubbles as they rise to the top of the foam riser tube of your skimmer. The foam cascades over the top of this tube, filling the collection cup. The captured foam is emptied from the collection cup before it can re-enter the aquarium. Proteins and other organics are removed before they can turn into nitrogen compounds or other toxins that may be harmful to your aquarium inhabitants.
Protein skimming helps you maintain a healthy environment for your fish and invertebrates. Filtration equipment of this type is the most important investment you can make. It is the life support system of your saltwater aquarium.
- Helps to prevent tank wipe out (toxic tank syndrome), which is the accumulation of unknown toxins in the water.
- Helps to prevent the buildup of toxins that can kill all susceptible fish and invertebrates within just a few hours (this usually occurs overnight).
- Protein foam skimming completely removes most organics from the system before they can break down, including water-soluble protein, amino acids, some dyes, fatty acids, fats, carbohydrates, enzymes, detergent, phosphorus, iodine, detritus, metals such as zinc and copper, some algae, protozoa, bacteria, and other organics.
- Protein skimming helps to aerate the system and increase the oxygen level in the aquarium.
- Easily adjusted and low maintenance.
- Comes pre-assembled and includes two-way plastic valves and plastic assembly. For internal use only. There are no complicated plumbing requirements.
The Protein Skimmer comes pre-assembled and includes two two-way plastic valves (also referred to as plastic valves) and hanger assembly. Additional supplies needed for effective operation are a strong air pump and airline tubing for attaching the plastic valves to the pump.
- Cut two pieces of airline tubing long enough to connect the skimmer from the top of the aquarium to your air pump. Should be equal in length.
- Attach one end of the airline tubing to each of the plastic valves on your skimmer (valves A and B) attach the opposite ends to the air pump.
- There are three options for attaching the skimmer to your aquarium:
- With two suction cups
- With hanger assembly, or
- With two suction cups and hanger assembly. All components are included. Select the option most suitable to your aquarium and assemble the selected components using main illustration for reference.
- Place the skimmer assembly in the aquarium and position on the back wall.
- Once the skimmer assembly is in the aquarium, make sure the water level guideline is lined up with the actual water level in the aquarium.
- Now you are ready to make important operational adjustments.
These Operational Adjustments Are Critical
- Plug in your air pump.
- Turn off both plastic valves (so that no air can escape from either valve).
- Plastic valve A controls the downward flow of water. Very slowly open the valve to allow the air bubbles to rise up the tube. Adjust the air flow until the bubbles are approximately 1/2" to 1/4" apart as they rise in the return tube. Note: If bubbles exceed this rate, start over with adjustments two and three until proper bubble rate is attained.
- Plastic valve B controls the upward flow of bubbles in your skimmer through the wooden air diffuser. Very slowly open valve B, watching the foam riser tube. When bubbles reach the foam line, adjustments are complete.
Please note: If the wooden air diffuser valve B is opened too fast, the flow of water will reverse in your skimmer, causing ineffective operation. It may also cause undesirable water to build up in the collection cup.
- Protein skimming will remove some beneficial organics and trace elements from the system.
- Be careful when adding supplement. Excessive foaming may result.
- Do not use the protein skimmer when medications are present in the water, since the skimmer may remove them.
- Foam formation may decrease for a period of time after cleaning the aquarium.
Keys to Effective Operation
- Small bubble size (0.5 to 1.0 mm).
- Use wooden air diffusers.
- Provide maximum contact time between bubbles and water by using the tallest skimmer that will fit your aquarium. Longer contact time between air bubbles and water allows the bubble to acquire more surface organics.
- Low water temperature. Foam break down to fast at high temperatures, causing more water to collect in the cup.
- Air flow rate should be approximately 1/2" to 1/4" between each bubble in the Return Tube.
- Maintain pH at 8.1 to 8.4.
- With the use of a hydrometer, maintain specific gravity (salt) between 1.020 and 1.025.
- Check the Collection Cup on a regular basis and empty as it fills.
- The air diffuser should be changed every three to six weeks, or as needed (when bubble size exceeds 1.0 mm).
- Remove Protein Skimmer completely from tank to clean periodically. All parts are detachable for easy cleaning. Do not use detergents or soap. A scrubber pad, hose brush, and water work best.
- The water level in the aquarium should be maintained at all times to avoid constant re-adjusting of the skimmer. If the water drops below the optimum level it will prevent the foam from rising in the Collection Cup. When the water level is too high the Collection Cup will fill with water or wet foam.
New Aquarium Set-Up
- If the aquarium is still going through the start-up cycling process, it is usually best to start the skimmer when the cycle is complete (except in reef applications).
Brackish Water Use
- Salt content must be at least 5 ppt to be effective.
Protein Skimmers Are Not Suitable For Freshwater
- Typically the pH in freshwater is not at a suitable level to allow the electrical interaction between the organics and the water. Foam will not form as needed under this condition.
- The density of freshwater is too low to allow for the production of fine bubbles which are necessary for the formation of foam.