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About skimmers: y/n/maybe? Not your swimming pool skimmer...

Posted 02/17/2017 at 10:48 AM by Sk8r

About skimmers: y/n/maybe? FYI And they aren't your swimming pool skimmer...
A skimmer produces skimmate, a brownish watery to dark murky yuck that otherwise is dissolved in your water. It does this by frothing the water, and the more efficient skimmers churn the water into a foam that would stand like meringue in a cup. Do you want this stuff gone? Well, lps and soft coral will consume a bit of it. But unless you have a packed reef, their usage can't compete with a skimmer. And, catch-22, you can't grow a packed reef very well without one.
If you have a nitrate problem that won't go away, a better skimmer may be your answer. It does help. After a power-outage and a nitrate reading at the top of the charts in my 102 gallon tank, that water changes, more rock, carbon dosing, and NoPoX couldn't fix, a far better skimmer knocked it down below 10 in a matter of days.
Most every tank at some point battles cyano, or has something you need to uptake (as you do the dieoff during a lights-out to kill cyano) ---and a skimmer is how you do this. Water changes are also helpful, in that they dilute your problem with more water; but your skimmer is the best help---it's processing ALL your water to get rid of the gunk.

A skimmer also helps oxygenate your tank, and the better it is, the more of that it does.

Is it a natural process? Yes. It's what the ocean waves do on the beaches of the world: seafoam is skimmate. A little more poetic, maybe. But it is. It's collected amino acids from fish poo and dead things.

There are 3 principle types of skimmers: 1- a bubbler in which air is sucked into water flow to cause some skimmate production. 2. better: a 'venturi' type that injects a lot more air 3. best: a 'cone' type skimmer that produces a thick froth that would stay foam if you took up a spoonful of it.

A brand new skimmer in a brand new tank isn't going to do a thing---because, first, it takes a week or so of running to 'break in' the skimmer, ie, to get rid of the manufacturing oils on the plastic (vinegar wipedown helps) ; and secondly because your tank isn't dirty enough yet. But over time, it will produce all the nasty gunk you could want.

There are skimmers that sit outside the sump: some of these spit water---a lot of it---during a power glitch and restart. An in-sump skimmer doesn't damage things: if it overflows---gunk lands back in the sump, but at least not on your floor. HOWEVER *water depth* in the sump affects skimmer operation. you may need a platform under yours to achieve the recommended depth: consult your instructions for that model (online manuals).
Hang-on-back skimmers work---but tend to be weak compared to what you can get for an in-sump model.
Then there are real monsters, skimmers designed for a mega-tank, that are about the size of a dining chair. Pricey? Yes.
Can you skim too much? Not easily. Or cheaply. But remember corals of certain types do like 'richer' water.
AND...unhappily...some manufacturers do not give a realistic report on the size of tank their skimmer will handle, so that the rule tends to be---buy twice the skimmer they claim will do. It's a highly difficult rating to give accurately in the first place, since an sps reef differs a lot from a softie reef's needs in the same size tank.
The rule tends to be that the better skimmers ARE expensive, really expensive. Like lights. With softies you don't need so much; with stony, you need more; and with sps you need the upper end.

Hope that helps clarify.
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  1. New Comment
    CAPS52's Avatar
    You absolutely need a skimmer but I never saw a skimmer that can remove nitrates in a few days. I've always understood that skimmers remove the organics that would eventually become nitrates. So this would mean that it will take a while to see a difference. A skimmer effects the nitrogen cycle which will eventually turn into nitrates. Again, I love skimmers and would never run a reef tank without one but dont expect to see changes in a few days.
    Posted 02/22/2017 at 10:46 AM by CAPS52 CAPS52 is offline

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