4 Best Nano Protein Skimmer For Your Saltwater Aquarium

Jennifer Doll

Jennifer Doll


Nano Protein Skimmer

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Are you thinking about setting up a saltwater aquarium? 

While running down the list of recommended equipment you need, you might have seen mention of a protein skimmer. If it’s your first time setting up a marine aquarium, then you might not know what a protein skimmer even is let alone what it does. 

No worries! We’re here to tell you exactly how protein skimmers work, the best ones available, and if you even need one for a nano aquarium.

What Is a Protein Skimmer?

A protein skimmer is a type of filtration device used mainly in marine systems. It is often a tall and cylindrical piece of equipment with a removable collection cup at the top. 

Most often, you will see a protein skimmer on a larger saltwater aquarium, underneath the display in the sump

Protein skimmers use fine air bubbles to remove organic waste from the aquarium before it can be broken down into other forms of nitrogen, like ammonia and nitrate.

When water, air, and dissolved organic materials are mixed, they produce a foam that fills in the collection cup of the skimmer; this is the same mechanism as when you see foam washed up on the beach. 

Most dissolved organic materials have an electrical charge and are hydrophilic which attracts them to the bubbles forming at the surface. Some factors can slow down this foam production, like oils introduced into the tank on hands or through some fish food ingredients.

Because of this, protein skimmers don’t guarantee 100% waste removal, though other filtration can be used to make up for what they miss.

In many ways, a protein skimmer is a backup and additional piece of filtration that can make keeping aquarium water clean in a more simple fashion. 

Do You Need a Protein Skimmer for a Nano Tank?

In most cases, a nano tank does not need a protein skimmer; they aren’t completely mandatory for every system, but they can help water quality.

Protein skimmers are especially useful in systems with heavy bio loads and sensitive aquatic life. One of the biggest struggles of keeping a reef tank is maintaining nitrates, phosphates, and other dissolved solids.

In smaller, less-demanding systems, water changes can compensate for waste removal, but as things become more intricate, additional filtration, like a protein skimmer, is needed.

As most nano tanks under 40 gallons (181.8 L) can’t fit a lot of fish due to size limitations, most hobbyists can keep up with parameters through water changes.

However, if you’re running a high-tech nano-system with delicate soft corals, large polyp stony (LPS) corals, and small polyp stony (SPS) corals, then a protein skimmer could help lessen maintenance.

Some hobbyists also like adding a protein skimmer to their tank for additional gas exchange.

Aquarium Protein Skimmer

Protein Skimmer Maintenance

The best part about protein skimmers is that they help lessen maintenance and are not difficult to maintain themselves. 

The only regular maintenance that protein skimmers need is to clean the waste that fills in the skimmer cup every week or two, though some hobbyists might need to clean theirs every few days.

Simply detach the cup and rinse it under water to clean out any slime that has accumulated. 

In addition to regularly cleaning the skimmer cup, the entire skimmer should be cleaned about twice a year. Salt creep can be cleaned as needed. 

The Best Nano Protein Skimmers

If you feel like a protein skimmer would benefit your system, then you’ll want to know your options. Protein skimmers are all about quality and efficiency which can quickly drive up the price.

Here are some of the best protein skimmers designed for nano-systems:

Eshopps Aquos Class Nano Skimmer

ESHOPPS Nano Skimmer
  • Quiet performance
  • Adjustable height with magnetic mount
  • Removable Bubble Trap
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The Eshopps Nano Skimmer is designed for tanks that are between 10-35 gallons (37.9-132.5 L). This skimmer is small, compact, and adjustable. 

This product uses a magnetic mount for easy installation and is hung on the back filtration. This is convenient for hobbyists with smaller tanks that might not have an elaborate under-the-tank filtration setup.

Many hobbyists find the earlier versions of this skimmer to be more desirable than the current model with feedback that the latest design of the Eshopps Nano Skimmer is larger than expected and can be quite noisy due to weak magnets.

Other hobbyists have found this pump to be incredibly effective, working especially well in 20-gallon (75.7 L) all-in-one setups and BioCubes. 

What We Like:

• Good size and design for some tanks

• Efficient and quiet

• Fair price from quality aquarium brand

What Could Be Better:

• Poor fit for most reef aquariums

• Weak magnets

Comline DOC Skimmer 9001 – Tunze

Comline DOC Protein Skimmer 9001
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The Tunze 9001 is recommended for reef aquariums under 50 gallons (189.3 L) and is one of the most popular nano protein skimmers available on the market. Though it comes from a reputable brand, it does come with some problems.

The Tunze 9001 is slightly larger than the previous one from Eshopps and has a unique, rectangular shape. Similarly, it uses a magnetic mount for easy installation. 

Hobbyists have found the Tunze 9001 to be reliable, efficient, and fairly priced, however, the biggest issue is the poorly designed mounting and it can be difficult to find the right settings for your tank.

Most hobbyists need to modify this skimmer in one way or another to get a tight fit, though it pulls a lot of waste once figured out.

What We Like:

• Competitive price from dependable aquarium brand

• Sleek design for easy placement

What Could Be Better:

• Weak magnets and loose fit issue

• Eventual problems with operation and part malfunction

IceCap K1-Nano Protein Skimmer

IceCap K1-Nano Protein Skimmer
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The IceCap K1-Nano Protein Skimmer is an affordable nano protein skimmer that does not fully compromise on quality.

This protein skimmer is rated for tank sizes between 10-30 gallons (37.9-113.6 L). It has the typical cylindrical shape, which makes it easy to fit in internal or external filtration.

Hobbyists have found that IceCap K1-Nano Protein Skimmer assembly is not tight-fitting and some pieces can become loose over time. Some pieces are below expected quality and the pump can be noisy at times.

What We Like:

• Good price

• Easily fits onto many aquarium systems

• Efficient once some modifications have been made

What Could Be Better: 

• Pieces have a loose fit

• Some plastic areas are fragile

• Noisy

AquaMaxx NF-1 Nano Protein Skimmer-in-Sump

AquaMaxx NF-1 Nano Protein Skimmer
  • Magnetic Mount - Filtration Rating: up to 30 Gallons (light bioload) or 20 Gallons (heavy bioload)
  • Footprint: 2-7/16" Deep x 4" Wide x 13-5/8" Tall. Pump included
  • Pump power consumption: 1.6 watts, 120 Volt USA Plug
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The AquaMaxx NF-1 Nano Protein Skimmer is a lesser-known affordable option, though many aquarium hobbyists have had success using it. 

This protein skimmer is slightly less powerful than the others on this list and does best for reef aquariums up to 30 gallons (113.6 L).

Like the others, the AquaMaxx NF-1 uses a magnet mount for easy installation in the sump or on the back of the tank.

Hobbyists have found that this pump needs some modifications for the best skimming action; even then, this protein skimmer can be slightly underwhelming.

Because of this, it’s recommended to use the AquaMaxx NF-1 Nano Protein Skimmer on smaller setups and to rely more on aquarium water changes to maintain water quality. 

What We Like:

• Comparable price

• Specialized in truly nano setups

• On the back or in-sump filtration

What Could Be Better:

• Weak magnets

• Needs some modifications to work optimally

• Can be short-lived


Protein skimmers can greatly help hobbyists keep their aquarium water parameters where they need to be. However, stability can often come from regular water maintenance in smaller tanks instead of additional equipment.

If you feel like you need a protein skimmer due to sensitive corals or a high bio load in your nano aquarium, then you have several good options that will keep your aquatic life happy and healthy.

If you have any questions about protein skimmers, any other kinds of filtration, or have found another reliable nano protein skimmer available on the market, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

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