Become a Sponsor

Information Pages:
Marine Aquarium
Articles/ FAQs/Index
Freshwater Aquarium
Articles/ FAQs/Index
Planted Aquarium
Articles/ FAQs/Index
Brackish Systems
Articles/ FAQs/Index
Daily FAQs
FW Daily FAQs
SW Pix of the Day
FW Pix of the Day
Conscientious Aquarist Magazine
New On WWM
Helpful Links
Hobbyist Forum WetWebMedia Forum
Ask the WWM Crew a Question
Search Feature
Admin Index
Cover Images

Protein Skimmer Impressions

By Steven Pro

In this maiden issue of Conscientious Aquarist, I want to take a brief moment to introduce you to this column, which I hope will make a regular appearance in future issues.  In ongoing editions, I intend to give you my ‘impressions’ of various pieces of equipment that I have used over the years.  I am currently working on articles covering everything from power filters and canister filters to magnet cleaners and heaters.  If there is anything specifically you want discussed, please let me know in my author’s forum.  And, if you want to get a better idea of who I am, please visit my personal webpage.

In this particular column, I wanted to briefly go over some of the models of protein skimmers that I have used over the years and give you my impression of their installation, performance, and any ongoing maintenance or reliability issues I found with them.  I am not going to discuss protein skimmers in general, why you should use one, or how the various technologies differ.  If you need information like that, take a look at my suggested reading list at the bottom.

Below are all the brands and models I have used.  They are listed in alphabetical order, not by some sort of ranking of performance.  It is my wish that as newer brands or models come onto the market, that this listing be updated by me or other experienced hobbyists and industry professionals.  What makes the electronic media so useful is its ongoing ability to be updated and edited, versus an in-print publication

This is by no means a complete listing of every conceivable unit out there.  They are merely the ones I have personally used.  Also, I did no true comparative testing, a la Consumer Reports.  This is purely a collection of my experiences and impressions of each.  Lastly, I have never been employed by any of these manufacturers.  Nor have I ever received any money or free products from any of these companies.  This is solely unabashed, unbiased information from a fellow aquarist and industry professional, with over a decade’s worth of experience in keeping marine ornamentals.

Advanced Acrylics Excalibur Models:

These are a very inexpensive alternative in the skimmer market.  The smaller models can be purchased for just over $100 dollars from several online vendors, making them an attractive choice for a new hobbyist setting up their first marine aquarium.  They are very easy to install and have an elegant, yet simple manner of making adjustments.  These models use the same kind of method of adjusting skimmate production as Euro-Reef skimmers.  The pumps run full blast, as does the air intake.  The user merely raises or lowers the water/air mix in the skimmer body to adjust the production.

While these are nice units at a good price, I have a few words of warning.  I have seen recommendations that the HV-1 (hang-on) and SV-1 (in sump version) models can handle up to 100 gallons.  While they are good performers, I would say a more accurate rating would be up to 55 gallons.  Their larger brethren, HV-2 and SV-2 models suffer from the same exaggerated ratings.  Either would be a fine performer on up to a 90 gallon aquarium, but more would be pushing it, in my opinion.  My only other gripe would be with the use of Rio powerheads.  I am not a fan of this brand due to reliability issues that I have experienced.  I have swapped out the stock Rio on several HV-1 units for an Aquarium Systems Maxi-Jet 1200 with venturi air kit and was very pleased with the performance.  It was every bit as good as the stock Rio, perhaps even slightly better, with a much greater anticipated useful lifespan.

Aqua-C Remora and Remora Pro:

I would have to say these are some of my absolute favorite hang-on style skimmers.  They are extremely easy to install and adjust for maximum performance.  They also are well built, sturdy, and reliable.  One note about reliability, I have only used these skimmers with the pump upgrade options (Maxi-Jet for the regular size Remora and Mag-Drive 300 for the Pro).  I have never used them with the stock Rio pumps.  Also, the skimmer cup can be removed with ease for cleaning, and the manufacturer’s stated tank size recommendations are accurate, in my experience.

AquaMedic Turboflotor:

These skimmers are a fine performer at a reasonable price.  Their major downfall is their lack of clear installation instructions.  Frankly, these are some of the worst instructions I have ever had to read, likely because of poor translation from German into English.  This is truly a shame, because it takes away from an otherwise decent skimmer.

Aquarium Systems Seaclone:

While the ‘New & Improved’ 100 and 150 models are a significant improvement over the first Seaclones to be offered for sale, they still perform exceptionally poorly.  There are a tremendous number of hobbyists advocating various Do-It-Yourself methods to improve this type of skimmer and many of these in-the-field modifications found there way into the newer models.  Unfortunately, they still just don’t work well enough for me.  They are difficult to adjust such that they produce any skimmate at all.  Even once they are adjusted properly, they tend to be finicky and require further tuning to continue to produce.  And lastly, even when they are working, their production is paltry, watery, and inconsistent.  Regardless of how attractive the price is, I don’t recommend anyone purchase one of these.  In fact, my opinion is, these skimmers are a blemish on the reputation of an otherwise highly regarded company. 

Aquarium Systems Visi-Jet:

I don’t believe these skimmers are being made anymore, but I still see them available through a few mail-order catalogs and several eBay vendors.  What can I say about this unit?  They were made before the Seaclone and one could say that the Seaclone was a significant improvement over the Visi-Jet.  Since I don’t have a high opinion of the Seaclone, I really think the Visi-Jet is a poor choice.  I would not recommend this skimmer to anyone.  It is amazing a company as large and reputable as Aquarium Systems has not been able to find a way to effectively mix air and water.

CPR Bak-Pak’s:

While not being in the same league as, for example, an Aqua-C Remora, the CPR Bak-Pak 2 and 2R are still nice hang on units at a good price.  The Bak-Pak’s are in fact an excellent compromise in a small package.  They are not the most efficient skimmers on the market, nor does the included bio-bale make them the best Wet/Dry available, but they are the best combination of those two technologies in a tiny footprint.  My biggest complaint with these is their stock use of the Rio powerhead, but an Aquarium Systems Maxi-Jet with a venturi air kit is interchangeable with the stock Rio.  Making this substitution should give you a more reliable unit, and at the same time, not detract from the skimmer’s performance.


The SR2 is simply an in sump version of the Bak-Pak.  It has many of the same pluses and minuses of CPR's hang on style skimmers.  Again, it is a nice compromise in a tiny package and at a good price, but simply not the best.

E. G. Danner/Supreme Skilter:

While Skilter filters are incredibly inexpensive, their cheap purchase price is reflected in their performance.  They are easy to install and operate, but their very short reaction chamber, coupled with their paltry production of bubbles makes them ineffective.  They are a number of hobbyists who have added wooden airstones and air pumps to these units to increase their production.  However, once you do all that work and spend that additional money, you have crept up into a different price range, making other skimmers more attractive.  My advice would be to invest in a better unit from the beginning.

Euro-Reef CS Series:

These skimmers are beautiful in their simplicity.  They are also amazing in both the quantity and the consistency of their product (producing a full collection cup of dark, thick, foul-smelling skimmate every few days when properly installed and adjusted).  Installation is a breeze; they are plug and play right out of the box.  And, the company’s newly revised sizing recommendations are correct, if not rather modest.  My only complaint is with removing the collection cup.  The union fitting makes zero clearance possible in tight situations, but the number of turns to remove it is unnecessary.  It would be more convenient if they could come up with a one complete turn removal, but this is a trivial complaint in comparison to the performance of the unit as a whole.

Euro-Reef ES Series:

These are ostensibly the same thing as the CS series protein skimmers, although the materials differ.  They use the same patented needle wheel technology and the same pumps.  The difference is the CS is made of cast acrylic, while the ES is made of cheaper extruded acrylic.  This change does not affect the performance, only the purchase price, making these models a real bargain.

Red Sea Berlin Classic Line:

The Berlin line of skimmers can be separated into two different technological classes; the venturi driven Classics and the aspirating Turbo models.  The Classic was the original design, and while it was priced reasonably and easy to install, it was difficult to clean and adjust.  The ones that I used all tended to suffer from the same ailments.  The venturi seemed to attract an unusual amount of calcium deposits and was therefore easily clogged.  This venturi was not removable, necessitating taking the entire skimmer off of the tank to be soaked in a vinegar bath to dislodge the obstruction.  Furthermore, the air adjustment screw was cheap and inaccurate.  Instead of a true needle valve to regulate the air intake, the Berlin Classic relies on a plastic bolt which when tightened merely compresses the neoprene airline.  Given time, the neoprene tubing, suffering from repeated crushing and damage, hardens and fails to spring back to allow additional air to flow into the skimmer.  Some industrious individuals have replaced the standard venturi with those made by Kent or Mazzei to increase performance and decrease maintenance issues.  At the same time, replacing the stock neoprene airline and air adjustment screw with common airline tubing and a proper needle valve is recommended.  This just seems like an unreasonable amount of work to get a protein skimmer in this price range to operate reliably.

Red Sea Berlin Turbo Models:

The Turbo models do away with the venturi and its maintenance headaches, but it has another problem.  The only adjustment on the Turbo models is to restrict the air intake.  This is in contrast to other aspirating model skimmers, such as the Euro-Reef, which maintains the same amount of water and air being processed, but simply adjusts the height of this mix in the skimmer body.  The Euro-Reef style design is better because it allows for the maximum mixture of water and air at all times.  Still though, the Turbo redesign is a significant step forward, even though it is not as good as others on the market.

Red Sea Prizms:

If you search the internet message boards about Prizm skimmers, you are likely to get an overwhelming negative response.  I, on the other hand, do like these units for what they are.  The basic Prizm is a cheap entry in the market for beginners, perfect for smaller aquaria.  While the manufacturer states that these are good for up to 100 gallons, I am only comfortable using one on an aquarium up to 30 gallons.  But, on a tank that size, the Prizm will be a decent performer.  The Prizm Pro is a larger, more powerful unit, but it suffers from the same overrating issues as its smaller brethren.  It is this kind of overrating that has so unnecessarily damaged its reputation among advanced aquarists.  I have found the Prizm Pro to function completely adequately on tanks up to 55 gallons. This is in contrast to the manufacturer’s claim of operation in systems up to 300 gallons.

Sander’s Air-Driven Models:

These were good performers at a reasonable price back in the day. I don’t think you can find too many of these imported from Germany anymore, but you may still stumble across one, or the very similar appearing Lee’s brand of skimmers.  Their in tank installation is unsightly and they can be tricky to adjust for maximum performance, but their price is attractive, and with due diligence they can be made to work well.  This makes them a good option for those with a nano-reef tank.

Tunze Comline Series:

These are some of the absolute best venturi driven skimmers on the market.  They are very simple to adjust and have a collection cup that is easy to remove and clean.  Also, their fine German construction makes them one of the most reliable brands on the market, and their size recommendations are accurate.  On the downside, their installation is a bit strange.  The body needs to be nearly fully submerged and the water level must remain constant to function, but this can easily be dealt with by using a baffle system in your sump to provide a place with a constant water level for the skimmer to operate in.  Also, the body is difficult to clean and it can be tricky to replace the pump when removed for maintenance.  Lastly, they do not produce the same thickness of skimmate of say, a Euro-Reef, but still they are a fine, consistent performer that is reasonably priced and built to last.


I hope that you have found this piece informative, and more importantly, I hope this article helped alleviate some of the daily email questions to the WetWebMedia crew.  Please use this guide only as one of many resources in selecting the appropriate brand, model, and size of protein skimmer.  I recommend that readers seek additional opinions and feedback from fellow aquarists and local trusted fish store employees, as individual circumstances may dictate a slightly different recommendation.

Suggested Reading:

Marini, Dr. Frank.  2002.  “Skimming Basics 101: Understanding Your Skimmer.” May, 2002.

Shimek, Dr. Ronald.  2002.  “Down the Drain, Exports from Reef Aquaria.” December, 2002.

WWM about Skimmers for Marine Systems

Related FAQs: Best Skimmer FAQs, Skimmers 1, Best Skimmer Selection FAQs, Skimmer Selection, Skimmer Selection 13, Skimmer Selection 14, Skimmer Selection 15, Skimmer Selection 16, & DIY Skimmers, AquaC Skimmers, CPR Skimmers, SeaClone Skimmers, Turboflotor Skimmer, Hang-On Models, Skimmers for Eclipse Systems, Skimmers for Small Systems, Best Skimmer Op./Maint. FAQs, Skimmer MaintenanceSkimmer Operation/Maintenance 2, Skimmer Op/Maint. 3, Skimmer Op/Maint. 4, Skimmer Op/Maint. 5, Skimmer Op/Maint. 6, Skimmer Op/Maint 7, Skimmer Op/Maint. 8, Skimmer Selection 9, Skimmer Op/Maint 10,Skimmer Op/Maint 11Skimmer Op/Maint 12, Skimmer Op/Maint 13, Algae Control

Related Articles: Protein Skimming: An Important Tool For a Successful Reef Aquarium by James Gasta, Tunze 9002 DOC Skimmer Product Review by Justin Norman, Marine Filtration, Mechanical, Physical & Chemical, and FAQs

 FAQs about Skimmer Makes/Models by Manufacturer: Aqua C Skimmers (Remora, Urchin, EV's)Aqua C Skimmers 2, AquaMedic/Turboflotor Skimmers, CPR Skimmer FAQs, Deltec Skimmers, Euro-Reef Skimmers, ETSS Skimmers, Red Sea Prizm Skimmers, SeaClone Skimmers, Skilter Skimmers, Tunze Skimmers, Skimmers for Eclipse Systems, Skimmers for Small Systems, Hang-On Models,


Featured Sponsors: