What is a Protein Skimmer?
Protein Skimmers, also known as Foam Fractionators, are
mechanical devices used to remove organic waste materials from seawater. Protein skimmers are highly beneficial to
maintaining water quality in marine aquariums.
Using a protein skimmer will provide clearer water, more efficient biological
filtration and an improved dissolved oxygen level.
How Does a Protein Skimmer Work?
Protein Skimmers work by mixing large volumes of small air
particles into a column of water.
Organic wastes, primarily proteins, are attracted to the air/water
interface of the injected bubbles, and collect on the bubbles surface. The attached organic materials then rise up the
column of water with the bubbles, and collect on the surface as foam. The waste foam, known as Skimmate, is pushed
up the neck of the protein skimmer, and trapped in a collection cup or waste
line to be discarded. Protein Skimmers work efficiently
in salt water, unfortunately they do not work well in freshwater aquariums. Freshwater lacks the ability to form the fine
air bubbles that makes these devices efficient in salt water.
Different Types of Protein Skimmers
Protein skimmers come in many forms, with the two most
common being the Hang On Back (HOB) and the In Sump versions. There all also external models, which are less commonly used by hobbyists. The primary difference between all skimmers
is the method of producing air bubbles, Skimmers have seen the development of
many forms of air injection over the years.
Early Protein Skimmers used compressed air and airstones for air
delivery, this was an efficient method, and is still used some smaller models
of air driven skimmers today. High pressure
venturi driven injection became popular as an effective method of air injection,
and is also still used in some models.
Most Protein Skimmers now use a combination of a venturi to draw in air,
with a specialized pump impeller to chop or fractionate the air. These type of skimmers using Pin Wheel, Needle
Wheel or Mesh Wheel impellers are highly
efficient, and capable of mixing huge volumes of air and water, with much less
energy consumption of the earlier models.
Skimmer body design has also seen many changes, most notably
with the newer cone shape skimmers, and space saving designs, that allow
powerful skimmers to take up a minimum of valuable real estate in filter
system. There are skimmer choices available for just about any application.