Ever wonder how experienced aquarium owners manage to keep the water in their nano tanks so pristine? Designed specifically for these challenges, they credit one of the best nano protein skimmer models as a big step to keeping that water clean and their nano tank thriving. Depending on the type of corals you want to keep and your comfort level with this handy piece of equipment, they can do the same for you. After all, life is a messy business. There’s a lot to clean up. So it’s a good thing there are various devices devoted to keeping your aquarium clean and healthy.
Table of Contents: Best Nano Protein Skimmer Product Reviews
When it comes to tanks on the smaller side, water quality tops the list of importance. You don’t have the volume to dilute potential toxins, and your water conditions can easily get out of control. Staying on top of the cleanliness of your tank becomes a priority. And having one of the best nano protein skimmer models to pitch in with the task? That’s a HUGE relief. These seven nano skimmers will do the job, and you can use the links below to decide which model will work best for your tank.
What is a Nano Protein Skimmer?
Maybe you’re already familiar with a protein skimmer from a larger saltwater aquarium. Or perhaps you haven’t encountered this key piece of reef tank equipment yet. Either way, let’s start with the basics.
A protein skimmer uses the clever trick of surface tension to trap organic pollutants – the byproduct of the life in your tank – in tiny air bubbles. Those bubbles then overflow and get “skimmed” out of the water column. The result? A simple method of continuous pollution removal from your aquarium. Protein skimmers are often an essential piece of kit for saltwater aquariums, large and small. They replace the tide and waves of the ocean, replicating the movement of the water and the foam of the surf.
A nano protein skimmer is the same piece of equipment but designed to fit in the smaller footprint of a nano aquarium. Maintaining pristine water quality is always the top imperative with a reef tank. But preventing degradation in water parameters is even MORE critical when the volume of water is small (such as in a nano tank).
If you’re interested in learning all of the ins and outs of protein skimmers (large or small), this YouTube video will guide you through everything you need to know:
Top Nano Protein Skimmer Models
Now, let’s get back into those nano protein skimmer models and help you decide which would work best for your nano tank! In the reviews below, you’ll find a description of the model, a quick summary of feedback from people who’ve used the skimmer, and a summary of the pros and cons. This way, you have a complete picture of the nano protein skimmer. Then you can decide whether the particular model will work for your tank or not.
I always recommend that you dive into reviews and keep an open mind. What might apply to one aquarium won’t extend to another. And since you’re going to invest money in this key component of equipment, you want to ensure you’re choosing the best option possible. Don’t jump on the first shiny piece of machinery you find. Checking with other hobbyists on reef discussion groups is another way to mine information.
Before we get too far, though, there’s something you should keep in mind. It seems like ANY nano model you pick up will require some finicky dialing to get it to work at the skimming level you want. There’s something about the small water volume, reduced footprint, and relatively cheaper construction that seems to plague the reviews of the models on the market. I’m still searching for the perfect nano protein skimmer myself for these very reasons.
If you’ve cracked the code on this problem and have the perfect nano skimmer, please leave it at the bottom of the post. Until then, though, tuck that info into the back of your mind as you read through these reviews.
Aquatic Life 115 Mini Internal Protein Skimmer
The Aquatic Life 115 Mini Internal Protein Skimmer carries a small footprint and is rated for up to 30 gallons (114L). Designed with small and nano tanks in mind, this nano protein skimmer will fit comfortably in most aquariums or can get installed in an overflow or filtration compartment without a problem. It runs almost silently on about 8 watts of power. The design allows for easy access to areas that sometimes get hard to clean on other protein skimmers. And mounting or taking the skimmer out of the tank gets substantially easier by the suction cups on the side. Also included is an adjustable bracket to secure the skimmer to the aquarium’s frame.
While not the best nano protein skimmer out there, it’s a decent entry-level choice since it’s offered at a budget price.
Check out prices for the Aquatic Life 115 Mini on Amazon
Some users reported issues with the manufacturing quality of their units. This shortened the skimmer’s lifespan and made assembly more difficult after cleaning. Others experienced issues with the Aquatic Life 115 generating an excessive amount of micro-bubbles. This helps with the skimming aspect of tank cleaning but can get quite unattractive to look at and even irritate the organisms in your tank. And some (including Yvonne – a fantastic member of the SaltwaterAquariumBlog community) shared that it took time and adjustment to get it working “just right,” including adjusting the air intake tube to get the proper size bubbles.
- Very affordable nano protein skimmer
- Small footprint within a tank
- Easily installs in nano tanks
- Rated for up to 30 gallons (114L) – plenty of power for a nano setup
- Can generate a high volume of micro-bubbles in some tanks
- Some customers complain of manufacturing errors and challenges with reassembly once you take it apart for cleaning (not exactly a great feature)
Hydor USA SlimSkim Internal Skimmer for Mini Aquariums and Mini Reefs
As the name implies, the Hydor USA SlimSkim comes with a tiny footprint that allows it to sit comfortably in nano tanks. Designed to clean tanks of up to 35 gallons (132L), the SlimSkim is engineered to sit in the first chamber of your nano tank. It’s one of the only nano protein skimmers small enough to fit there (always a bonus). In addition to the miniature profile, the SlimSkim is extremely quiet and energy-efficient, operating on just 4 watts of power (half the energy used by the Aquatic Life 115).
Quick to set up, the SlimSkim uses magnet-mounted suction cups, which make short work of installation and allow for uncomplicated removal when it comes time to clean out the skimmer. This magnetic mounting system is a step above sometimes questionable plastic supports many nano protein skimmers use.
Check out prices for the Hydor USA SlimSkim on Amazon
Some users remarked that the SlimSkim presented challenges in setting it up for optimal skimming action. It can be highly sensitive to the water level in your tank. Since proper installation is essential to the skimmer working efficiently and effectively, this makes things frustrating. Some testing and tweaking may be required to get the proper configuration for your specific tank.
- Tiny – one of few skimmers that fits into the first chamber of most nano tanks
- Highly energy efficient at just 4 watts
- Easy to mount/dismount and clean
- May require some attention and adjustment for optimal functioning
- Some users (including SaltwaterAquariumBlog community members) saw issues with microbubbles
Innovative Marine Skimmate Ghost Protein Skimmer
The Innovative Marine Skimmate comes in three sizes. Their super-tiny “Desktop” version is designed for tanks of 20 gallons (76L) or LESS, making it one of the smallest nano protein skimmers you’ll find. The slightly beefier “Midsize” model is suitable for tanks of 40 gallons (151L) or less, which also works for many nano tanks. Featuring a straightforward design, things like installation and cleaning are no problem. They also run extremely quietly and use just 6.5 watts of electricity.
Check out prices for the Innovative Marine Skimmate Ghost on Amazon
However, getting the Skimmate under control gives many customers a headache. These nano protein skimmers can be prone to creating a high volume of micro-bubbles in your tank. Proper configuration minimizes the issue, but even when properly installed, the Skimmate seems to produce a substantial amount of micro-bubbles compared to other nano protein skimmer models.
- Extremely small, minimal footprint
- Quiet and energy-efficient
- Generates a high volume of micro-bubbles
- Can be difficult to properly configure
Bubble Magus QQ1 Hang-On Nano Protein Skimmer
The Bubble Magus QQ1 solves the problem of space created by some nano protein skimmer models by attaching to the frame of your tank and “hanging on” rather than getting submerged. The benefit of this is saving quite a bit of space in your tank, though you have some tradeoffs. Hang-on nano protein skimmers like the Bubble Magus tend to be louder than their submersed counterparts. Being removed from the tank also makes the pump work harder and ultimately reduces the skimming efficiency.
But for most nano tanks, a properly installed Bubble Magus does an exceptional job. Designed for tanks up to 25 gallons (95L), the Bubble Magus can be installed on frames 1/2” (1.2cm) in thickness or less. Note that since it hangs off the back of the tank, you’ll want about 5-6” (12.7-15.2cm) of clearance behind your tank.
Though it might not skim quite as effectively as its submersible competitors, the Bubble Magus is a top choice for those looking to maximize the available space in their nano tank.
Check out prices for the Bubble Magus Hang On Nano Protein Skimmer on Amazon
Some people grew excited about the HOB feature without realizing the Bubble Magus only works for rimless tanks. The last thing you want is to make a purchase and end up with a nano protein skimmer you can’t use. Others also found the size (yes, it’s small) interfered with the effectiveness of the skimming ability. You only get around 4″ (10.2cm) of height for the water to reach, which means limited skimming. As long as people didn’t expect miracles from their Bubble Magus, they were satisfied.
- Hang On Back (HOB) design provides maximum space economy
- Easy to install and clean
- Reduced skimming effectiveness compared to submersible designs
- Expensive price point
Reef Octopus NS-80 Nano Protein Skimmer
The Reef Octopus NS-80 is another HOB nano protein skimmer, freeing up space in your tank by simply hanging from the frame. Be warned, though, in every way, the Reef Octopus is a very bare-bones product. It’s suitable for aquariums of up to 20 gallons (76L). Properly installed, it does a decent job of protein skimming, but it’s highly sensitive to water level, even more so than other nano protein skimmers.
Since the Reef Octopus is designed as a “hang on” skimmer, you’ll need to leave a few inches of clearance outside the tank. And – as with all hang on skimmers – you lose some skimming efficiency and will see the pump work harder when compared to submersed nano protein skimmer designs.
Check out prices for the Reef Octopus NS-80 Nano Protein Skimmer on Amazon
While the Reef Octopus CAN perform well if used correctly, it includes no instructions. So it requires some trial-and-error to optimize performance. As such, it’s not the best option for beginners. But if you’re familiar with the setup and operation of a protein skimmer, the affordable price tag and tiny footprint make it an attractive option.
- Affordable price
- HOB design optimal for saving space
- No instructions
- Can be difficult to optimize and control micro-bubbles
- Hob design reduces skimming and pump efficiency
Coralife BioCube Protein Skimmer
The Coralife BioCube works with their BioCube line of nano tanks. However, it can be used in any tank up to 30 gallons (114L). These nano protein skimmers are small, lightweight, easy to install, and even look fairly attractive compared to many other models. Easily attaching to the walls inside your tank with suction cups and featuring a no-nonsense simple design, maintaining the skimmer is quite simple. It IS sensitive to water level (like all protein skimmers,) but Coralife’s are generally considered simple and well-suited for beginners.
In addition to their simple setup, these nano protein skimmers couldn’t be easier to clean. The air pump (which sits outside) is fairly silent. The protein skimmer itself does a good job of minimizing micro-bubbles, too. But as with all protein skimmers, this may require some adjustments regarding placement and water level.
Check out prices for the Coralife Biocube Protein Skimmer on Amazon
Some owners struggled with the instructions, leaving their setup to some adjustment (and a few errors). That’s fine if you’re used to working with protein skimmers but not helpful if you’re a beginner. Others struggled with the number of microbubbles produced – occasionally to the point of the top popping loose. You’ll need to find that “sweet spot” to ensure you don’t upset your nano tank’s system.
- An extremely affordable price point
- Easier to configure than some competitors
- Attractive, easy-to-clean design
- Somewhat cheaply built
- Questionable longevity
- Reports of needs for constant adjustment to get it dialed into the right amount of skimmate consistency
Fan Favorite Nano Protein Skimmer
After this post went live for the first time, Edward Herbert added his personal (not so great) experiences with a few of the nano protein skimmer models. When I asked him to weigh on his personal “fan favorite,” he recommended the Icecap K1 Nano Protein Skimmer. I can’t complain about a tried and true piece of equipment, so I’m here to report on one final option:
This protein skimmer comes with a nice, small footprint: 2.75″ x 3.2″ (6.98cm x 8.12cm), and the total height is 13″ (33cm). It comes with a DCair 200 pump and a magnet mount to hold it in place on 1/2″ (1.2cm) glass. It’s also easy to disassemble and clean.
Edward’s found it easy to dial in, quiet, with NO microbubbles. A true workhorse and brand he stands by.
For More Information
Plenty of food for thought? Well, in case you’re still not sure about the best nano protein skimmer model for your tank, there’s more information to peruse. After all, this is a BIG purchase (for a small tank), and you want to make the right decision.
Maybe you’re not convinced you need a nano protein skimmer. This YouTube video can explain whether it’s a crucial piece of equipment for you or not:
Or maybe you’re interested in other pieces of valuable saltwater aquarium equipment. Not a problem, I’ve got you covered:
What Do YOU Think?
You probably didn’t spend a fortune to buy your nano reef tank. And you don’t need to spend a small fortune (pun intended) to keep the water quality clean. Choosing and getting a protein skimmer set up takes some time and patience. Not to mention persistence. Maybe you’re like Edward and want to weigh in with an opinion. Have you had any experience with these or any other models? If so, please share your honest feedback below. Just don’t bash (please). Be helpful and honest.
Photo credit: The feature image is based on original work by Skimz [CC BY-SA 4.0 (//creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
Follow me on Amazon, Pinterest, and Twitter.