Skimmers, Do you really need one?

Protein skimmers have been on the shelves for a long time, new models and continuous improvements are always being made, but do we really need a skimmer?
It’s always a subject of great debate online as to wether you need a skimmer or not both sides of the argument will feed you their pros and cons of course, ultimately in our opinion it comes down to your tank, how you run your tank and what your trying to achieve.
There are many reef keepers who successfully keep their tank without a Skimmer, just as there are many more who keep their tank with one.

What does a skimmer actually do?

Protein skimmers help extract organic waste from your reef tank. Water is pumped from your tank and combined with air (in a 2:1 ratio approximately) to form thousands of micro bubbles. These air bubbles attract and condense waste material from your water and turn it into a scummy foam which is gently lifted up inside the skimmer reaction chamber and overflows into the collection cup for removal.

What are the possible downsides to running a skimmer?

Well the theory here is that a skimmer, while taking out many things you potentially do not want in your reef tank, it is also removing the very same things that filter feeding animals such as Coral, Feather Duster Worms, copepods etc would also be consuming as a food source. These filter feeders provide part of the ecological ecosystem in your tank, we add more foods to keep them going and the excess is removed by the skimmer, but if the skimmer wasn’t there in the first instance we would need less of these foods perhaps.

What are the benefits of a skimmer?

If you have ever run a skimmer you will know the distinctive aroma of that thick brown liquid that the skimmer produces. It smells somewhat like we might imagine the Bog of Eternal Stench from the 80s classic movie Labyrinth to smell like. That’s a lot of brown gunk we are removing from the water.


All those bubbles produced by the skimmer help balance the oxygen levels in your system (you can even connect ozone to your skimmer to increase this futher). Its also an ideal way to help remove dirt and detritus from your system rather than filter socks which can clog quite quickly.


Many reef keepers use skimmers as a way of helping biological load and aid in reducing those pesky unwanted nitrates. Not only is it removing the dirt and unwanted food from our systems which will eventually lead to increasing our nitrates. It’s very common to use the skimmer alongside a nitrate pearl reactor or with another form of carbon dosing to generate bacteria that feeds on the nitrates and phosphates in our system which are then removed by the skimmer.


So how can we best utilize the skimmer in our reef tanks?

Here at Kraken Corals we generally advocate the use of a skimmer, especially if you’re having specific issues like elevated Nitrates or lower PH levels.

If however your tank has been running for some time it’s quite possible that your system no longer needs a skimmer, as your tank matures and more filter feeders are present in your tank their activity may negate the need for a skimmer at all especially if its removing very little to no skim mate but certainly in the first instance we feel you would get more benefit and options from having a skimmer than not.