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The 5 Best Nano Protein Skimmers of 2020 (Buyer’s Guide)

In marine and reef tanks, a protein skimmer is incredibly beneficial for keeping your water clean and sparkling. They also help reduce nitrate levels, which is especially important in tanks with live coral and marine invertebrates.

Low nitrate levels are necessary for marine tanks as a lot of invertebrates and coral cannot withstand a high number of nitrates in the water. By using a protein skimmer in your marine tank, not only will your water be cleaner, but it will be safer for your aquarium’s inhabitants. 

However, a lot of protein skimmers are targeted for large marine tanks, so it can be difficult finding one suitable for a nano tank. To make sure you find the best nano protein skimmer for your tank, I’ve reviewed a variety of different products.

After considering all the options our top picks were…

Review Summary

Best All-Rounder

Innovative Marine BioSkim DC AIO Nano Protein Skimmer

The skimmer functions fairly quietly and is quite easy to clean. It also has an attractive and compact design. Suitable for an aquarium up to 34 gallons and has a low voltage needle wheel pump.

Innovative Marine BioSkim DC AIO Nano Protein Skimmer

This nano protein skimmer is my overall recommendation for most nano tanks.

Innovative Marine nano protein skimmers are suitable for tanks up to 34 gallons. Their best qualities include their low operation and easy maintenance.

Best on a Budget

Marine Color SunSun Aquarium Surface Protein Skimmer

Extremely affordable and works relatively well. It has a compact design to make it suitable for even the smallest of tanks.

Marine Color SunSun Aquarium Surface Protein Skimmer

If you’re looking for an inexpensive but good-quality nano protein skimmer, this one is a good option. 

The Marine Color mini protein skimmer is extremely affordable, making it an adequate option for a nano tank. It has a 5-watt pump, a compact design, and an adjustable flow rate. It also operates relatively quietly. 

Editor’s Choice

IceCap K1 Protein Skimmer Nano Tanks

All of the components are safe for marine tanks and are easy to assemble. The design of IceCap nano skimmers are very compact and modern.

IceCap K1 Protein Skimmer Nano Tanks

My personal favorite out of all the nano protein skimmers I’ve reviewed. 

IceCap nano protein skimmers are one of the best nano protein units in terms of appearance. They clean your water effectively and come with a handy magnet mount for easy placement. 

What is a Nano Protein Skimmer? 

A protein skimmer removes dissolved organic carbon pollutants from your aquarium water. Protein skimmers are best for saltwater, especially reef, aquariums as they don’t work very well in a freshwater tank. 

a nano protein skimmer is a skimmer designed for small aquariums…

Specifically, a nano protein skimmer is a skimmer designed for small aquariums. Tanks smaller than 30 gallons are considered “nano”. 

All types of fish and invertebrate foods add organics to your tank water, as do algae and the natural biological process. When these organics are left in your water, they begin to rot and convert into ammonia, nitrate, phosphorus, and other substances you don’t want in your tank.

What Does a Nano Protein Skimmer Do?

Protein skimmers get rid of these organics as soon as they are produced in your aquarium, so there’s no risk of them decomposing. By removing these organics, the amount of nitrates present in your tank is also reduced.

As low nitrates are necessary for the success of a saltwater tank, a protein skimmer can be extremely advantageous. 

How Do Protein Skimmers Work?

Protein skimmers work by injecting lots of little air bubbles into the water column in your tank. The air bubbles bind to dissolved organics in the water, which then rise to the top of the skimmer. The dirty bubbles then overflow into the skimmer’s collection cup.

It’s not the prettiest process as the bubbles deposited into the collection cup look like goopy sludge. However, the end result is clean and pristine water.

Do I Need a Protein Skimmer?

In saltwater aquariums, especially those that house live corals, a skimmer is recommended. Lingering organic waste in your tank water can cause disease and high nitrates levels, which are both things you want to avoid.

In saltwater aquariums, especially those that house live corals, a skimmer is recommended…

As I mentioned earlier, low nitrate levels are vital in saltwater aquariums, so a skimmer can help you control these levels. For this reason alone, protein skimmers are a useful piece of equipment to have in your tank.

You can watch the video below to learn more about protein skimmers.

Beginners Guide to Protein Skimmer

Benefits of a Protein Skimmer 

There are a number of advantages to using a protein skimmer in your tank. Not only do they reduce nitrate levels, but they also help prevent disease, water discoloration, and add more light to your tank.

They can also improve the efficiency of your filter media, improve coral growth, and even reduce algae growth

Dissolved organics are the main cause behind all of these factors, so by removing them with a skimmer, your tank will receive a wealth of benefits. 

Here’s some of the key advantages of protein skimmers:

  • Lower nitrate levels
  • Better coral growth
  • Less algae on tank glass and rocks
  • Improved light penetration
  • Clean tank water
  • Improved efficiency of filter media 
  • Lower phosphate levels 

How to Set Up a Protein Skimmer

Setting up a protein skimmer in your nano tank can seem a little confusing at first, but it shouldn’t take too long once you’ve got to grips with everything.

The first step you need to do is take a look at the capacity of the protein skimmer. Make sure it is suitable for the size of your tank. It’s best to use a protein skimmer that is targeted for a tank with higher capacity than the one you have.

Next, assemble the protein skimmer if necessary. Fortunately, most protein skimmers come pre-assembled so you don’t have to do any of the hard work. However, some require you to put them together yourself. You usually get an instruction manual, so read it carefully to make sure you build the skimmer correctly.

TIP

If your skimmer didn’t come with any instructions, then you can find a lot of videos online to help you set up the unit.

Once the nano skimmer is assembled, install it by following the manufacturer’s instructions. To prevent any leaks, make sure the hoses are connected correctly. Finally, turn on the skimmer. That’s all there is to it! 

Nano Protein Skimmer Maintenance 

If you’ve never used a protein skimmer before, you might be surprised at how quickly they get dirty. The collection cup needs emptying frequently, but the skimmer itself also requires a deep clean every now and again. This helps the unit run effectively and improves its longevity.

As a general rule, you should thoroughly clean your protein skimmer every 6 months. The collection cup, on the other hand, typically needs to be cleaned multiple times a week. If your tank has a high bioload, then you might need to clean it every day.

Nano Protein Skimmer Reviews 

Now that you know about the benefits of nano skimmers, you’re probably wondering what the best nano protein skimmers are. To make your research easier, I’ve put together a list of some of the best nano protein skimmers that will keep your aquarium water sparkling. 

Best All-Rounder

Innovative Marine BioSkim DC AIO Nano Protein Skimmer

The skimmer functions fairly quietly and is quite easy to clean. It also has an attractive and compact design. Suitable for an aquarium up to 34 gallons and has a low voltage needle wheel pump.

Innovative Marine BioSkim DC AIO Nano Protein Skimmer

The Innovative Marine skimmer is suitable for an aquarium up to 34 gallons and has a low voltage needle wheel pump. 

It has an adjustable height hanger so you can change how tall it is, which also extends to its collection cup. You can use the skimmer inside your tank or hang in on the back using the provided hanging hook. This makes for convenient placement.

The skimmer functions fairly quietly and is quite easy to clean. It also has an attractive and compact design, which I like. 

NOTE

However, the skimmer can be difficult to install in some tanks. It can also lose its effectiveness over time. 

Specs

Pros

  • Adjustable height hanger and collection cup
  • Operates fairly quietly
  • Easy to clean

Cons

  • Can be difficult to install
  • Can lose effectiveness over time

Best on a Budget

Marine Color SunSun Aquarium Surface Protein Skimmer

Extremely affordable and works relatively well. It has a compact design to make it suitable for even the smallest of tanks.

Marine Color SunSun Aquarium Surface Protein Skimmer

This protein skimmer from Marine Color is extremely affordable and works relatively well. It has a compact design to make it suitable for even the smallest of tanks. 

It has an adjustable flow rate and is easy to clean…

It has an adjustable flow rate and is easy to clean. It’s suction and aeration power is very efficient, especially when you consider its small footprint. 

I really like the appearance of this nano protein skimmer as its sleek but simplistic. The wattage for the pump is 5 watts and it operates fairly quietly, which is a plus.

However, the unit doesn’t have the longest lifespan and can stop working prematurely. The manufacturer doesn’t specify what size tank the skimmer is suitable for, but it should be adequate for nano tanks up to 30 or 35 gallons.

Specs

  • Size: 0.5” x 1.8” x 1.5”
  • Weight: 11.2 oz
  • Pump Wattage: 5 W
  • Recommended Tank Size: Up to 30 or 35 gallons

Pros

  • Compact design
  • Effective suction and aeration
  • Easy to clean
  • Quiet operation

Cons

  • Short lifespan

Editor’s Choice

IceCap K1 Protein Skimmer Nano Tanks

All of the components are safe for marine tanks and are easy to assemble. The design of IceCap nano skimmers are very compact and modern.

IceCap K1 Protein Skimmer Nano Tanks

My personal favorite for the best nano skimmer is this one from IceCap. Depending on the bioload of your aquarium, the number of gallons it is suitable for varies.

For nano tanks with a high bioload, it is adequate for up to 10 gallons. In an aquarium with a moderate bioload, it’s effective for up to 20 gallons, and up to 30 gallons for a low bioload. 

The IceCap K1 nano protein skimmers come with a magnet mount, which allows for easy placement. The unit is made from high-quality PVC and acrylic, which is both robust and sturdy.

All of the components are safe for marine tanks and are easy to assemble…

All of the components are safe for marine tanks and are easy to assemble. The design of IceCap nano skimmers are very compact and modern, which I really appreciate.

Appearance isn’t the only strong point of this unit, as it also performs relatively well and keeps your water clean.

However, IceCap skimmers can be a bit loud in operation. The pump for these nano skimmers is not the best quality, so it can lose power quickly.

Specs

  • Size: 2.75” x 3.2” x 13”
  • Weight: 1.8 lbs (with packaging)
  • Pump Wattage: Unknown
  • Recommended Tank Size: 10+ gallons

Pros

  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Magnet mount
  • Robust and sturdy

Cons

  • Can be loud in operation
  • Pump is not the best quality

AquaticLife 115 Mini Internal Protein Skimmer

A decent option for a small saltwater aquarium. It has a small footprint, which gives it a compact design that’s ideal for a nano aquarium. It can be placed inside your tank, near the rear overflow, or inside filtration compartments.

AquaticLife 115 Mini Internal Protein Skimmer

The Aquatic Life 115 nano protein skimmer is a decent option for a small saltwater aquarium. It has a small footprint, which gives it a compact design that’s ideal for a nano aquarium. It can be placed inside your tank, near the rear overflow, or inside filtration compartments.

The Aquatic Life 115 nano protein skimmer is a decent option for a small saltwater aquarium…

The skimmer comes with suction cups and a mounting bracket that can be altered to fit all aquariums. This gives you full customization of where you place the skimmer.

The 8-watt impeller pump is energy efficient and allows for maximum air-to-water contact. This helps it remove organic waste more effectively. The water flow on the skimmer can also be adjusted, which is handy. 

TIP

You can use this Aquatic Life 115 nano protein skimmer for an aquarium up to 30 gallons.

One major downside with this protein skimmer is its performance. It is prone to malfunctioning or breaking due to its flimsy design. This flimsiness also extends to the skimmer’s bracket and suction cups in. In addition to this, the unit can be quite noisy. 

Specs

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Compact design
  • Energy efficient pump

Cons

  • Flimsy design
  • Prone to breaking
  • Can be noisy

Reef Octopus NS-80 Nano Protein Skimmer

A decent choice for nano saltwater aquariums up to 20 gallons. It has a small footprint, so it shouldn’t look overly bulky.

Reef Octopus NS-80 Nano Protein Skimmer

This skimmer from Reef Octopus is a decent choice for nano saltwater aquariums up to 20 gallons. It has a small footprint, so it shouldn’t look overly bulky.

It comes with a bubble diffuser, a solid mounting bracket, and a raiser pipe that allows you to adjust the internal water level in the unit. The skimmer functions well in wet or dry sumps.

Easy to Clean

The collection cup on the skimmer is also easy to remove, which makes cleaning it a breeze. Unfortunately, the skimmer can be difficult to install as it doesn’t come with any assembly instructions. It also tends to be quite noisy in operation and can be prone to malfunctioning.

Additionally, the Reef Octopus skimmer is not made from the most high quality material, which make it a little flimsy.

Specs

  • Size: 4” x 2.” x 11”
  • Weight: 1.3 lbs
  • Pump Wattage: 5 W
  • Recommended Tank Size: Up to 20 gallons

Pros

  • Small footprint
  • Compact design
  • Collection cup is easy to remove

Cons

  • Flimsy material
  • Prone to breaking or malfunctioning
  • Difficult to assemble

Conclusion

After considering all the options our top picks were…

After looking at a variety of nano protein skimmers, I think the best nano protein skimmer for your aquarium is the IceCap K1. It’s suitable for an aquarium up to 34 gallons and is effective at skimming your water.

It comes with a useful magnet mount to make it easy to place. It’s also simple to clean, which is a feature I also appreciate in a skimmer.

The IceCap K1 skimmer is definitely one of the best nano protein skimmers in terms of appearance as it has a sleek and modern design.

Durability

Unfortunately, the pump for the skimmer is not the most powerful and is prone to breaking. Additionally, the unit can be loud during operation.

Alternative Choices

If the IceCap skimmer doesn’t appeal to you, then two other great choices to use in your aquarium are the Marine Color SunSun Aquarium Skimmer or the Innovative Marine BioSkim DC AIO Nano Protein Skimmer.

The former is extremely affordable and efficient, especially when you consider its size. The footprint of the Marine Color aquarium skimmer is very compact, which makes it perfect for a small aquarium. 

It has an adjustable flow rate, compact design, is easy to clean, and is fairly quiet. However, the skimmer doesn’t have the longest lifespan. It also functions relatively quiet.

Although, this skimmer can lose its effectiveness over time and can be a bit difficult to install in some tanks.

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