If you are an expert in keeping an aquarium (whether a fish tank or an aqua plant aquarium), you must have heard of a protein skimmer already. They are possibly one of the most important devices in your tank to keep your tank clean, and your fish and plants healthy and happy. The protein skimmer is especially useful if you keep a saltwater tank.
If you are new to the game and not familiar with a protein skimmer, worry not. I will introduce about the protein skimmer and explain why it is a good idea to have one in your aquarium.
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What is a protein skimmer? And why you need one?
What is a protein skimmer? A protein skimmer is also known as “foam fractionator.” In a very simple term, protein skimmer produces a controlled overflow of dirty water and clean it within the body of the protein skimmer.
In a more accurate sense, protein skimmer uses bubbles or foam to clean water. Hense the name ‘foam fractionator.’ Within its chamber, water will be vigorously mixed with air to create dense foam. The foam includes zillions of tiny bubbles. The surface tension of these tiny bubbles attracts dissolved organic compounds and matters in water. After a while, a thick, cruddy, dirtier looking foam of organic compound collects itself at the top of the skimmer. Then, removing this layer of foam will leave the water clean and free of contaminated compounds.
A protein skimmer is a non-chemical device that can help you effectively keep the water clean from contaminated compound building up over time, without you having to spend many up keeping efforts. The cleaning process also naturally happens every day, all the time, so you can always trust that your tank is as clean as possible. If you haven’t heard about protein skimmer before or you didn’t think you would need one, think again. Especially, you can learn to build the protein skimmer yourself and cut down significantly on the cost.
Why is protein skimmer for a saltwater tank?
There are protein skimmers on the market that work for both freshwater and saltwater tanks. However, just keep in mind that originally, protein skimmer was designed to work with salt water tank only. The most simple and straightforward machines or motors of protein skimmers are designed to work most efficiently in saltwater tanks. So will our DIY protein skimmer.
Why is that?
The answer is because of the surface tension that I mentioned earlier. Between a freshwater and a saltwater tank, they can share many environmental similarities such as temperature, water pressure, etc…but still their biggest difference would be the salinity level. A common saltwater tank often has a salinity of 1.025. Thanks to this characteristic, saltwater can produce smaller size bubbles but a lot more when used with a protein skimmer. Therefore, a normal protein skimmer will not be useful or strong enough for a freshwater tank. So when choosing or making a protein skimmer, keep this point in mind.
DIY – How to make your own protein skimmer at home?
There are quite a few ways to make your own protein skimmer with different types of materials. Here are a simple, budget ways you can try at home to create your own protein skimmer that best fit your needs and wants. Especially, these DIY-at-home protein skimmers can save you quite a bit of money, comparing to buying a new one from the store.
The plastic bottle protein skimmer
Things you will need:
- Two 500ml bottles of water (if you need to make the protein skimmer for a larger tank, you can increase the size of the bottle all the way to the 2L bottles.
- Thin wall PVC with 2 inches in diameter (If you ‘supersize’ your two bottles, you also need to use 4 inches PVC pipes in this step.) You can also use thicker wall PVC, but thin wall PVC is enough since the protein skimmer will not be under any serious pressure.
- Two suction cups. Most of the time, suction cups will come with little nubs on the back so you can stick it in places. Yet, it won’t be too silly to double check to make sure when purchasing. It is very important that these suction cups have the nubs.
- A small amount of aquarium safe silicone
- A wooden air stone. This is the most important part of building a protein skimmer. There are many types of air stones out there in the market, but we recommend you use a wooden air stone. Out of everything else, wooden airstone produces the smallest size of bubbles. You can purchase high-quality wooden air stone then you will have an air stone that produces the most and also the smallest bubbles. This is important because the smaller the bubbles are, the more efficient the protein skimmer is in doing its job. The air pump doesn’t need to be large but it should be strong. Furthermore, test to make sure the airstone is small enough to fit inside the PVS pipe.
- An airline (optional). It is important and you have to have an airline. However, most of the time, an airline will be sold attached to the air stone. If that is the case, you don’t have to buy a separate one.
- A drill. It does not matter whether you use a power tool or a normal handheld. It is only a small job for the drill.
1. Start with cutting off the bottom of the one bottle and the top part (the neck area). This will leave only the middle part of the bottle looking like a plastic sleeve.
2. With the second bottle, cut the bottle in half vertically. However, different from the first bottle, for the second bottle, you will throw away the bottom half and keep the top part (with the neck area).
3. Shove the top part of the second bottle into the first bottle. Either opening of the first bottle is fine. There is not a particular requirement for this part.
4. Then use the little amount of the aquarium safe silicone. You can use a brush or the tube itself, but we recommend the best way to do this step is to squeeze out some silicone onto your finger. Use the tip of your finger to trace around the conjoint area of the two plastic bottles to stick them together. The joining between two bottles does not need to be strong. The use of silicone here is to make sure the device later will be leak-proof. So make sure you cover all around the diameter of the two bottles with plenty of silicone.
5. Measure or eyeball the size of the nubs behind your suction cups.
6. Take out the PVC pipe. Drill two holes on one side of the pipe. They should be on a straight line but far from each other. Each one is near the end of each end of the pipe. These two holes should be slightly smaller than the nubs on the suction cups that you measure earlier. If you are in doubt, it is better to drill a hole smaller than the nubs than larger.
7. Put the two suction cups into the two holes. Make sure they fit tightly and won’t fall off on their own.
8. Turn the pipe about 45 degrees and drill another hole near one each of the pipe. It doesn’t matter which end. Make sure this hole is large enough to fit the airline through. Do not make it too large. It is best to make the airline fit through as snugly as possible.
9. Take the airline that is connected to the air stone. Thread the airline into the latest hole you drill on the side. Thread the airline from inside to outside of the pipe so, by the end of the threading process, the air stone will naturally fit inside the pipe.
10. Insert the plastic bottle on top of the PVC pipe. You will insert the plastic bottle on the end of the PVC that doesn’t house the air stone. And the plastic bottle with the neck area will point away from the hollow inside of the PVC pipe.
11. Place the whole device into the tank. You can adjust the height of the device so that the smallest neck area of the water bottle is above water. Then turn on the air stone. You will see the bubble immediately start forming.
It is easy to clean out this protein skimmer. Just remove the plastic bottle section of the device. Pour out the dirty water and rinse it through before putting it back on top of the PVC pipe.
How to Build A Protein Skimmer for Aquarium – TUTORIAL Video
It is a very simple, easy and cost-effective way to build your own protein skimmer. What are you waiting for? Give it a try. You may save your save and your bank account quite a bit of unnecessary fee.