Proper Protien Skimmer Adjustment

Discussion in 'User-Created Articles' started by jhnrb, Oct 1, 2005.

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  1. jhnrb


    Mar 9, 2005
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    Many saltwater aquarists believe that a protein skimmer (actually a protein fractionator) is a 'plug and play' piece of equipment. In fact it requires close attention to achieve proper adjustment. This proper adjustment is critical to success in a miniature reef system including the survival of many types of corals.

    First, there are two misconceptions which need to be addressed. The first one is that if the waste that the skimmer extracts from the water is dark the skimmer is working well. The other is that a skimmer will just keep on working until the water is clean. These are both very wrong which you will understand from the explanations ahead.

    Protein skimmers remove foaming compounds from the water by injecting fine bubbles into the water. Organic compounds 'stick' to the surface tension of the water which includes the surface of the bubbles. If there is nothing in the water that prevents foaming then a foam of dirty bubbles will accumulate at the top of the bubble column.

    Protein skimmers are designed that as this foam accumulates it will begin to overflow into a waste collection area which prevents it from returning to the water. The height of the water column, amount of air injected, and other factors create a threshold which determines how much waste is extracted.

    This is the problem for those who do not understand how the protein skimmer is designed to operate. If the threshold is set too low the protein skimmer will only remove a small amount of waste even from very dirty water. Waste levels which are below this threshold remain in the water since the protein skimmer is not adjusted to remove them. The result of this level of adjustment is a very dark, concentrated waste extract from the protein skimmer. When this is occurring the aquarist has no way of determining how efficient the protein skimmer is working other than by observing the color of the water in the aquarium.

    To properly adjust a protein skimmer takes at least several days of observation and adjustments. There are a couple things to remember to achieve proper adjustment.

    The first is the protein skimmer only removes waste to the threshold you have set. As it approaches this threshold it removes less and less resulting in a concentrated extract.

    The other is that the extract should be roughly the color of ginger ale or weak tea. If it is darker the threshold is set too low.

    To adjust the skimmer properly the following must be done:

    1. Adjust the protein skimmer so that the extract is about the color of ginger ale or weak tea.

    2. Let it run even though it may mean emptying it several times per day for a while. As it approaches the new threshold level for waste extraction it will begin to slow down and the extract will become darker and more concentrated. When this happens repeat step 1 and step 2.

    3. When the point is reached that the protein skimmer does not slow down after a few days then it can be assumed that the protein skimmer is properly adjusted. In the case of very dirty water this process may take quite a few adjustments and may take longer to slow down the first time. Keep the protein skimmer adjusted so that the extract does not become dark.

    With a properly adjusted protein skimmer the water will be noticeably cleaner. Ideally aquarium water should be clear and colorless. The closer to this goal the better. A couple other tips to remember are do not neglect water changes.
    jhnrb, Oct 1, 2005
    Kizmar, docta09, CDaubs and 2 others like this.
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