2018’s Best Protein Skimmers Reviewed: Top Rated for Nano and Reef Aquariums

productWhen caring for fish it’s important to make sure that the water quality is kept clean.  So having a good aquarium filter is necessary.  But what about a protein skimmer?

There are different opinions online about protein skimmers, but we would say that for some aquarists a filter alone just isn’t good enough. Top of the line protein skimmers can sometimes be necessary. Check out the best ones down below.

Top Rated Fish Tank Protein Skimmers

Here are our top 5 picks for the products that will give you a good bang for your buck without breaking the bank. They work with a variety of fish tanks like these ones.

1. Coral Vue Technology AC20287 Octopus

This protein skimmer by Coral Vue has to be the highest rated one on the market.  Very few people talk badly about this product which is for in sump use.  It has a 7.3 x 9.45 inch footprint, a height of 20.9 inches and a 6 inch diameter, so use these dimensions to see if it will fit your sump.

It uses a Hailea OTP pump to produce foam and a pinwheel impeller to break up the bubbles for higher efficiency.  The bubbles move to the collection cup through a four-inch cone neck which is removable for easy cleaning.  The water level is adjustable through the gate valve.

You can use this protein skimmer for smaller tanks or ones up to 100 gallons and you will see just how well it skims your aquarium.


  • Because of the high foam production, it attracts all the waste out of the tank
  • Comes with a silicon hose that is good for removing the gunk when you are not around.  You can take out the rubber plug and place the hose in the container to drain the waste
  • Wheel impeller is a really good feature at a low price on this product
  • Included baffle controls the flow of air to the impeller and muffles noise even though there isn’t much, to begin with
  • The high quality plastic build is tough and built to last
  • Starts working fast and some report it only taking one hour to start removing waste from their tank
  • Easy to control the water level with the gate valve


  • Not many unless it doesn’t fit in your sump

2. Bubble Magus Curve 5 Protein Skimmer

This protein skimmer by Bubble Magus has a powerful 8 watt pump which is perfectly adequate for use on up to 140 gallon tanks.  We must note thought that there is a 2-3 day break in period where you should place it higher than the recommended water level.

Unlike some protein skimmers that only work for tanks at half the size that they are advertised for, this one is able to do what it says and can handle the full 140 gallons easily.

The footprint of this product is 7.28 x 7.08 x 18.5 inches so take this into consideration for your particular tank.


  • Durable thick acrylic is strong and will hold up to falls and bumps quite well
  • Small footprint enables it to fit well in a wide variety of aquariums
  • The 8 watt pump is stronger than it appears and will skim 100 gallon tanks no problem
  • The pump makes almost no noise so it can be used in places like offices where silence is necessary


  • Some people report that the customer service needs some improvement

3. Comline DOC Protein Skimmer 9001

This protein skimmer by Comline measures in at 4.3 x 2.5 x 8.5 inches making it a smaller skimmer.  It comes with a needle wheel pump and a magnet holder that can be used on acrylic plastic or glass tanks that are up to 3/8 of an inch thick.

It’s a great product for smaller tanks like Nanos.  It does well on up to 37 gallons but if the tank is high nutrient then you’ll want to keep it below 15 gallons.  The adjustable air intake is another cool feature for fluctuating water levels.


  • Very effective at an affordable price
  • Easy to clean the cup by just removing the skim mate
  • Works well if used for nano tanks only
  • Air inlet is adjustable for convenience


  • The magnet isn’t that strong
  • Takes time to break in.  Some people report up to 2 weeks

4. AquaMaxx HOB-1 Hang-On-Back Protein Skimmer

This protein skimmer by Aquamax is ideal to be used for mid-sized tanks around 50-75 gallons.  However, it can also be used for nano aquariums because it has a light, thin design.  It has a 7.5 inch base and a 17 inch height.  The outlet is 3/4 of an inch and it comes with a Sicce Syncra 1.5 pump that uses 11 watts of power.

Maintenance is a breeze with a removable collection cup and an option to set up a separate reservoir for the waste.  The foam level can even be adjusted from wet to dry with the AquaMaxx needle wheel impeller by simply moving the collection cup up and down.


  • Very effective at doing its job of removing waste from your tank
  • Built to last with high-quality parts
  • Noise is minimized and efficiency is boosted because the pump is inside the protein skimmer
  • Looks great with its blue colored material
  • Very easy to use and get started quickly


  • Some people report the directions aren’t that clear, this can easily be solved with youtube videos

5. CoralVue Technology BH-1000 Octopus

Another awesome protein skimmer by CoralVue is the BH-1000.  Like the name suggests it hangs on the back of the aquarium and has a pump that is mounted externally.  The advantage of having the pump external of the skimmer is that there is no heat exchange with the water.  It can be used on fish tanks up to 100 gallons which should be enough for most people

The build is high-quality acrylic that is built to last and works great.  Cleaning is a breeze too as long as you leave half a foot between the wall and the tank so you can get in there and remove the pump for regular maintenance.  There is considerable controversy on whether to add media to the chamber by disassembling the bulkhead.  It’s easy enough to do this by watching a tutorial on youtube but do you want to?  We say proceed with caution as a mistake can restrict the water flow.


  • Affordable price
  • Quiet enough to go anywhere in the house or office
  • Easy to make tweaks to settings and the break-in period is very short
  • Will pull all of the gunk out of your tank very efficiently


  • The instruction manual is missing some information
  • Water level needs to be left lower than normal in order to skim the surface

What Does a Protein Skimmer Do?

If you don’t already know what a protein skimmer is then the best way we could explain it is that it’s a mechanical filter that cleans your aquarium water by removing toxins, bacteria, waste and leftover food that your fish don’t eat.  A good protein skimmer is able to stop the tank getting dirty by removing compounds before they break down.  This means that algae can’t grow as fast, as well as reducing nitrate buildup that can hurt the health of the coral.

Now you may be wondering where the name comes from.  The reason it is called a protein skimmer is that it removes the organic compounds by using the polarity of the protein itself.  The intrinsic charge of molecules will either be repelled or attracted to the bubbles that the protein skimmer produces.  So basically what happens is that the waste sticks to the bubbles and collects on the surface of the water.  It then is removed from the water with the collection cup.  These products not only remove protein, but also other molecules like fats, carbs, copper, iodine and fatty acids.

how it works

Types of Protein Skimmers

There are roughly four different kinds of protein skimmers that we will go over here.  They all have different uses so read carefully to select the best one for your needs.

In Tank

These are mainly meant for smaller fish tanks like the nano tanks seen here.  They don’t take up much space so they are ideal for this purpose.  Don’t be fooled by their small size, they do a great job of removing waste from your nano tank.

Hang on Back

Often referred to as HOB, these do just as the name suggests and hang off the back of your tank.  It does this in a similar way to how a power filter hangs on an aquarium.  They are ideal for aquariums under 100 gallons, as well as ones that don’t run a sump.


Just like the name suggests these ones outside of the sump.  What happens is first the sump feeds water in the protein skimmer and the skimmer expels the cleaned water back to the sump.

In Sump

The largest category of skimmers is this one.  There are many options available ranging from cheap to extremely high prices.  They fit in the sump of the tank system.

In conclusion, a protein skimmer is an essential part of your aquarium.  It will not only make your aquarium water clean and fresh, but it will help to keep your pet fish healthy for a long time.

Image Credit: https://reefs.com/2015/02/17/protein-skimmers-remove-nitrate/