In Sump Vs Hang On Protein Skimmer
In a perfect world there would not be a need to ever have a hand on protein skimmer, but of course, we don’t live in a perfect world. Ideally, we could have our marine aquarium set up so that none of the equipment was in view and we along with our guests could just admire the beauty of our reef tank and its inhabitants. But reality gets in the way sometimes. Make that most of the time!
There are a couple of situations that make it mandatory to use a hang on skimmer rather than an in sump model. First, and most obviously would be if you do not have a sump. No sump, no in sump skimmer. That is a pretty simple concept.
Why Is An In Sump Skimmer Better?
Even if you are a novice at the hobby of keeping a marine tank, you have probably noticed that pretty much every in sump skimmer is shaped like a cylinder. The reason for this is pretty clear, and it has to do with the basic way in which protein skimmers work. Think about the process of foam fractionation, which is what happens in a skimmer to remove waste from your tank. Water is pulled into the cylinder of the skimmer and injected with air. The air being injected into this water creates millions of tiny bubbles. Those bubbles are what makes foam fractionation possible. Tiny waste particles attach themselves to the surface of the bubbles, which rise to the top of the cylinder and get deposited into the skimmer collection cup.
Just thinking through the process I just described, it is easy to see why a cylinder works better than a box. Water is being pulled into the cylinder and the bubbles are rising through it. The rounded shape is much more conducive because it offers nothing but smooth surface for water and bubble flow. There are no corners to cause turbulence and create water moving in different directions. In short, a cylinder is the most efficient shape for this process.
On the other hand, pretty much every hang on skimmer is more boxy in shape. The reason they are shaped this way is because a hang on typically has to fit between the tank and a wall, so the skimmer is made fairly narrow but as wide and tall as possible while still remaining practical. Foam fractionation is used in a hang on skimmer (HOB) too, but the different shape makes it harder for this skimmer to be as efficient. This can be overcome somewhat with the use of a stronger pump, but that means added expense. Some people ask the question, “can a HOB protein skimmer go on a sump”? Of course they can, but there is no good reason to do that unless perhaps your sump is just full of other equipment.
So, is there hope if you have no choice but to use an HOB skimmer? Of course there is! Pretty much every manufacturer of protein skimmers makes HOB models as well as those meant for in sump operation. This includes the makers of high quality skimmers. A big issue is too often someone new to the hobby will get sticker shock by the price of a protein skimmer and go purchase one for $60. Well, he will find out soon enough that he should have saved that money because quality in a protein skimmer is as important or perhaps even more so than in anything else when it comes to this hobby. That is why it really pays to read up on protein skimmer reviews and try to educate yourself before deciding which one is right for you.
If you are just starting out in the hobby and have not purchased your tank yet, you should strongly consider a set up that will allow for an in sump skimmer. This means a closed cabinet under the tank, and for best results a tank with a corner overflow. By having a sump you accomplish several things, chief among them is increasing the size of your overall system. The bigger the system, the less chance of it crashing from one small mishap. In other words, the more water you have the more margin of error you have. So if you have a 75 gallon tank and a 30 gallon sump your system is really over 100 gallons. Of course if you have a large amount of live rock taking up space you have less water, but you get the idea.
While we are on the subject of sumps, be sure to consider your sump in the size of your system as you try to decide which skimmer is right for you. And for this purpose, don’t subtract water volume from your calculation if you have live rock in the tank. If your skimmer is slightly overpowered for your tank you will be much better off than if you have an underpowered skimmer. remember, this is not the piece of equipment to skimp on.
In closing, just remember that no matter if you go with a hang on back protein skimmer or an in sump skimmer, educate yourself and choose the best one you can afford. A good protein skimmer will go a long way towards helping you maintain a high level of water quality for your marine tank inhabitants. That is the single biggest factor in determining if you will be successful in this hobby.