Protein skimmers are usually associated with large, complex saltwater aquarium setups.
But did you know that nano tanks (aquariums 40 gallons or less) are actually in greater need of what skimmers can do?
A good skimmer drastically improves water quality and helps keep your fish and invertebrates thriving. But so many of these units pull enough water for significantly larger aquariums…
Fortunately, nowadays, we have access to a variety of nano protein skimmers on the market.
These nano protein skimmers are great for a small tank because they move less water yet still efficiently pull out amino acids and nitrogenous waste before they can decay.
If you’re keeping corals and other sensitive creatures, a skimmer should be running on your tank. So let’s get to know the best nano protein skimmers on the market in 2021!
Table of Contents
- The 7 Best Nano Protein Skimmers on the Market in 2021
- Best Nano Protein Skimmer Reviews
- What is a Protein Skimmer Used For?
- Does a Nano Tank Need a Protein Skimmer?
- What is the Best Nano Protein Skimmer?
- How to Set Up a Nano Protein Skimmer
- Concluding Thoughts
The 7 Best Nano Protein Skimmers on the Market in 2021
Nano Protein Skimmers
Up to 30 Gallons
Up to 25 Gallons
Up to 37 Gallons
Up to 65 Gallons
Up to 55 Gallons
Up to 35 Gallons
Up to 35 Gallons
Best Nano Protein Skimmer Reviews
1. Aquatic Life 115 Mini Internal Protein Skimmer
When shopping for a nano tank protein skimmer, size is one of the most important factors. We found that the Aquatic Life 115 Mini is a petite model that attaches directly to the side of your nano tank or sump with suction cups.
Including the collection cup, the nano protein skimmer’s dimensions are 10-5/8” H x 3.25” W x 3.5” D; perfect for aquariums up to 35 gallons in size.
The impeller uses an 8-watt needle wheel impeller to increase air to water contact, facilitating the efficient removal of dissolved protein.
The collection cup is 3.4 oz in volume.
Micro bubbles can be a major issue with this model. Typically the protein skimmer break-in period where bacteria colonize the interior helps the bubbles flow naturally. This can take 3 days to a week.
However, if your protein skimmer is improperly placed along the waterline or your water level fluctuates, the problem can continue. Thankfully, Aquatic Life offers several tips on managing micro bubbles.
- Extremely quiet and unobtrusive
- Perfect for any sized nano aquarium (35 gallons and under)
- Adjustable brackets and suction cups for custom mounting
- Micro bubbles don’t always disappear entirely
2. Bubble Magus QQ1 Hang On Nano Protein Skimmer
As a hang on the back style nano protein skimmer, you’ll need a bit more room behind your tank for this model. The Bubble Magus QQ1 is rated for aquariums up to 25 gallons in volume.
An 8.5-watt needle wheel impeller whips water and air together into a foam to facilitate protein removal. Empty, this nano skimmer weighs roughly 3.5 lbs, making it a little larger compared to the other models here.
The efficiency of the Bubble Magus is also a little more limited since water is left in contact with the bubbles for 4-5 seconds compared to 8-10 for most nano skimmer designs.
However, it still provides plenty of protein collection for a frag tank, quarantine tank, or aquariums with low stock levels.
Since it hands on the back, you’ll need to consider the rim of your aquarium. This model is best for rimless aquariums. 1/2 inch or greater rims will likely need trimming to fit the Bubble Magus.
- Hang on the back design
- Powerful, efficient pump
- Air silencer to quiet operation
- Less water/air contact time
- Reduced capacity relative to price
- May require trimming of plastic rim
3. Comline DOC Protein Skimmer 9001
The Comline DOC 9001 is a favorite for aquarists that value energy-efficient, compact designs. The unit uses only 2.5 watts; less than a third of the power used by a comparable nano skimmer.
Two powerful magnets clamp the nano protein skimmer in place through up to 3/8 inch of glass. This is the protein skimmer best suited to a medium-sized tank (rated up to 65 gallons).
Thanks to the partially closed design, noise is practically nonexistent. Silicone buffers further insulate the unit against pump vibrations that can be transmitted to your tank.
And like a full-sized skimmer, the Comline relies on a surface suction design to maximize protein removal and minimize the amount of beneficial plankton collected.
An intermediate chamber not only prevents over foaming but allows micro bubbles to settle out before your water returns to the main tank.
Unfortunately, the lid of the collection cup does attach rather firmly. Sometimes you’ll need to remove the cup entirely to see how full the unit is.
- Surface suction design for protein removal
- Micro bubble-free outflow thanks to intermediate chamber
- Extremely quiet operation
- Not as affordable as other models
- Smaller collection cup that can be hard to check
4. AquaMaxx Ws-1
Rated for aquariums up to 65 gallons, the AquaMaxx Ws-1 is a powerful option for aquarists looking to maximize skimmate collection and minimize micro bubble release.
Assembly and maintenance are both easy and straightforward; you can have this unit up and running in minutes!
One of the benefits of the AquaMaxx Ws-1 is, unfortunately, a drawback as well. This unit is designed to sit inside a sump, which not every nano tank has.
The skimmate also tends to be quite dry (less water, more protein buildup)! Perfect for saving time on maintenance.
This saves space along the sides of your tank for other pieces of tech. If your aquarium doesn’t have one, you’re better off with a hang on the back or in-aquarium nano protein skimmer.
The AquaMaxx is also not nearly as quiet as some of the other models here. Set in a sump, the hum is still well-controlled but more noticeable than other nano protein skimmer models.
Once broken in over the course of 1-2 days, microbubbles are non-existent as well!
- Operate inside a sump, saving space within your tank
- Creates no micro bubbles
- Very dry skimmate
- Not as quiet as other designs
- Sump-only design
5. Tunze Nano DOC Protein Skimmer 9004
Similar to the Comline 9001, the Tunze 9004 is a magnet-fixed nano protein skimmer rated for small to medium-sized tanks (up to 75 gallons). That’s assuming a light bioload; the more animals you have, the smaller a tank this works for.
Like all Tunze designs, this unit is quite versatile, working in a variety of tanks and sumps. Both AC and DC pumps are available.
And the Tunze Flash Skimming Principle ensures adequate protein removal despite the shorter contact time compared to a large protein skimmer.
Protein and other organic compounds are latched onto at the very first opportunity, rather than relying on several lengthy seconds for proper collection.
Unfortunately, micro bubbles are a persistent problem with the Tunze Nano DOC; even when broken in with a bacterial biofilm, it tends to leak a few into the water column.
The skimmate also tends to be a little wet (more water, less protein content) but still very effective.
- Not too large in size
- Easy to install
- Energy efficient
- Wet skimmate
- Loads of micro bubbles
6. Hydor USA SlimSkim Internal Skimmer
Hydor manufactures two sizes; the smaller unit rated up to 35 gallons is ideal for most nano aquariums! An ingenious design using magnets and suction cups ensures this easy to install internal protein skimmer stays in place.
Hydor designed the USA SlimSkim to be very easy to install; essentially, you take it out of the box and plug it right in. And with only 4 watts of power use, this is one of the most energy-efficient models available.
By raising or lowering the height of the collection cup, skimmate production can be adjusted. The SlimSkim is also quiet enough to run in a bedroom, home office, or other noise-sensitive location.
Efficient skimmate collection can begin in as few as two days, making this one of the best nano protein skimmers around!
- One of the most energy-efficient models
- Quick set up and installation
- Sized perfectly for small tanks
- Collection cup is on the smaller side
- Corners of cup are difficult to clean
7. Eshopps Nano Protein Skimmer 10-35G
The Eshopps Nano Protein Skimmer is a favorite among nano aquarists everywhere. Using a compact design, one of thee units can provide enough water purification for a tank up to 35 gallons in volume.
The needle wheel impeller ensures water and bubbles thoroughly mix to pull out as much protein as possible. And as a magnetically secured protein skimmer, you can mount this unit anywhere you need to.
The acrylic construction helps keep size and weight down as well.
The Eshopp Nano Skimmer can be a little more challenging for some users to set up initially. However, it’s designed to provide a drier skimmate, ensuring you can go longer between protein skimmer cleanings!
The small footprint (11.5″ H x 2.25″ D x 4.5″ W) ensures you can find a place for this unit in almost any aquarium design or layout. Some aquarists find that the magnetic holdfasts have a bit of play, making the unit a little easier to knock around.
And given how slim this unit is, the collection cup’s size is on the smaller side, necessitating frequent monitoring and changing. Since a larger cup would make the Eshopps Nano Skimmer larger, this is more of a neutral mark than a true negative.
Given how slim this unit is, it’s also the only one that fits perfectly in tanks under 10 gallons in size without being too obtrusive!
- Made in the USA
- Light acrylic construction
- Thick skimmate that doesn’t need changing as often
- More challenging to set up and calibrate
- Magnetic holds aren’t as secure as we’d like
What is a Protein Skimmer Used For?
Protein skimmers are an essential tool for most marine aquarists. Ever see the brown foam that collects along a beach when wave action is strongest? You’re looking at nature’s protein skimmer at work!
While much larger than your nano skimmer, the concept is essentially the same: removing built-up nitrogenous wastes (mostly protein and amino acids) from the water’s surface.
Waves (or mechanical action in a protein skimmer for aquarium) aerate the water so protein can adhere to bubbles. These bubbles are then collected in the collection cup, while purified water is then returned to the aquarium.
I briefly mentioned wet and dry skimmate (the residual liquid protein) earlier. Wet skimmate comes from protein skimmers that leave a lot of water in the cup.
Some nano protein skimmers are better at separating protein from tank water. This thicker, often smellier residue is dry skimmate.
The only real difference is that protein skimmers that produce wet skimmate typically need to change more often. Also, a thicker skimmate may be more difficult to collect in the cup. Both are designed to provide for the needs of sensitive marine organisms.
If you’re interested in learning more about skimmers in general, take a look here!
Does a Nano Tank Need a Protein Skimmer?
Considering how sensitive saltwater fish and reef aquarium inhabitants are too poor aquarium water quality, protein skimmers are essential to most setups. Nano reef tanks are actually even more sensitive and in need of a good skimmer! But why is that?
Well, the less water volume your tank has, the faster changes in water quality can occur. Overfeeding, a dead fish, or another nitrogenous waste source can cause noxious compounds to grow to toxic levels much more quickly in nano aquariums.
Ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates can spike within hours to lethal levels, and organic compounds can form a slick at the surface that reduces light penetration and gas exchange (oxygen, carbon dioxide, etc.).
Larger tanks have more water to dilute these problems. A single fish death or overfeeding is still an issue, especially if you have sensitive animals. However, it takes more time for decay products to become toxic.
Corals and other marine invertebrates can’t stand decay byproducts for long, and in a nano aquarium, toxicity can take only hours to arise. With a protein skimmer running, nano aquarium inhabitants will thrive even if an imbalance occurs.
What is the Best Nano Protein Skimmer?
Choosing the best nano protein skimmer comes down to a deciding between what manufacturer, design, foam production, placement, and budget best meet your needs.
The majority can be used in nano tanks up to 30 gallons in size. Just make sure that you choose a model that can be placed where you wish.
If you value affordability over efficiency and output, the Aquatic Life 115 Mini Internal Protein Skimmer (view it on Amazon) is by far the best bargain! Several times more affordable than some of the other models here, it’s only real drawbacks are that it’s rated for smaller saltwater aquariums and micro bubble release is a continual issue.
On the other hand, the Comline DOC Protein Skimmer 9001 (view it on Amazon) is the best no-compromise skimmer available! Quiet, rated for tanks up to 65 gallons, and micro bubble-free, this is the best protein skimmer for the majority of aquariums!
How to Set Up a Nano Protein Skimmer
Fortunately, nano protein skimmers are even easier to install than their full-sized cousins. If you’re working with an in-tank design, you’ll need to secure it in place once the unit is assembled. Most units come with magnets, suction cups, or adjustable brackets.
Read the directions carefully to ensure the skimmer is submerged to the right depth. In sump or in-tank models are typically mostly submerged while a hang on the back skimmer runs like a power filter.
Protein skimmers typically need 2-3 days, sometimes longer, to “mature.” In the meantime, micro bubbles released into the aquarium are often a constant issue.
During the maturation period, bacteria begin to grow on the walls of the contact chamber. This layer of biofilm helps bubbles naturally flow into the collection chamber.
You may need to make adjustments to the height or flow overtime to get the best skimmate production. Youtube is also a phenomenal resource for fine-tuning your skimmer and finding videos and reviews specific to your model!
Protein skimmer or no? It turns out tank size is irrelevant because high-quality nano skimmers ensure your fish and invertebrates can have the purest water possible.
So I always recommend running a skimmer to keep nitrogenous waste levels down, light penetration up, and surface gas exchange ideal!
Setup is universally easy, but sometimes a little time spent calibrating is needed to reduce the production of micro bubbles and thicken or thin the skimmate. Refer to the user manual and online guides frequently as well to fully customize your unit’s output.
Thanks to a good protein skimmer, nano tanks don’t have to have constant water changes done as in the past. There’s a skimmer here for the needs of any marine aquarist; have a look and let me know your thoughts one day!