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CPR Skimmers, Deltec Skimmers, ETSS Skimmers, Euro-Reef Skimmers, Prizm Skimmers, SeaClone Skimmers Skimmers for Eclipse Systems, Skimmers for Small SystemsSkilter Skimmers, Tunze Skimmers,

by James Gasta


There are four main ingredients required to have a successful reef aquarium.

  • Biological filtration
  • Protein Skimming
  • Lighting of the proper intensity and spectrum such as that provided by all Orphek LED reef lighting products.
  • A good grade of salt with emphasis on calcium, magnesium, and trace elements.

Next to biological filtration, protein skimming or foam fractionation is the most important tool for any healthy marine aquarium, whether it be a fish only, or a reef aquarium. Carbon filtration does not remove all organics present in sea water. Phenol oils and other organics that cause yellowing of the water which reduce the redox value of the aquarium water. This can only be completely removed by a good, well designed protein skimmer that can turn over the tank volume at least once per hour.

Reef aquariums that contain a high level of phosphates and nitrates fuel the growth of nuisance algae which can cover the entire tank and choke out corals and other sessile invertebrates and spell an early demise for these animals. A proper light spectrum can also aid in reducing nuisance algae growth by not using spectrums in the green and yellow band which promote this unwanted algae growth. Orphek LED lighting does not use green or yellow LEDs in their systems for this reason and that corals do not require green or yellow lighting for photosynthesis.

A properly sized and efficient protein skimmer can nearly duplicate conditions found on the reef where nitrates and phosphates are extremely low.

There are many technologies used in skimmers such as counter current, downdraft, and ETS (Environmental Tower Skimmers. All work quite well but the counter current seems to be the favorite among reef hobbyists. The counter current skimmer works by injecting large volumes of water and air that move horizontally in a circular fashion and are in continual contact with the fine micro bubbles to which the dissolved waste attach to. The bubbles with the organics attached are slowly lifted into the waste collection cup and removed from the system. The keys to a good efficient skimmer are contact time, ability to produce very small bubbles, and the ability to process large amounts of water per hour. A trend now is the use of controllable DC pumps to regulate water flow to the skimmer. They are much more energy efficient and the rpm is much higher than an AC pump. DC pumps are capable of providing a higher flow rate.

Orphek Helix 5000 with 1280 gph DC pump

When choosing a protein skimmer, do not buy a model that is just rated for your tank size. It is much better to buy a unit capable of skimming a tank at least one and a half times the volume of your aquarium. Many companies will rate their skimmer’s tank capacities for fish only systems where reef systems can nearly double the waste output as compared to a fish only system. This in part is due to liquid coral foods that are never completely absorbed by the inhabitants of the aquarium. So it is better to initially invest a little more money at first then have to buy the skimmer you should have bought in the first place. It is very important in terms of efficiency to clean the waste tower of the brown film at least once a week. Failure to do so will result in many of the waste bubbles breaking prematurely before being deposited into the collection cup thus reducing the skimmers efficiency. It is also important that the skimmer be easy to service. Hard to service skimmers usually result in infrequent cleanings which make the skimmer much less productive. The Orphek Helix line of skimmers disassemble into three separate components which makes it easy to remove debris collected in the bottom of the skimmer chamber.


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