FAQ #29: Should I run my protein skimmer before or after my refugium?

December 28th, 2016
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Today on BRStv, we have another episode of BRS 52 FAQ where we answer all of your frequently asked reefing questions from our popular 52 Weeks of Reefing series.

This week we are answering Raees Usman's question: "In a sump, which one should come first the skimmer or refugium?"

I believe the skimmer should be first in most types of fuge installations and that's based what they are actually trying to remove. They are removing different elements from the water and for the most part not really competing with each other so it shouldn't matter all that much, with a couple of common exceptions.

A protein skimmer is designed to remove organic waste “before” it has a chance to break down into phosphate and nitrogen compounds. Essentially we want to remove the compounds of fish poop and uneaten decaying foods as small particles or resulting dissolved organic compounds. However a skimmer is far from one hundred percent efficient at this, I have seen some articles that suggest a typical skimmer is removing 20-40 percent of the dissolved organic content in the water.

Once the organic content breaks down into phosphate or sources of nitrogen like nitrate the skimmer is no longer capable of removing them, however as part of the photosynthetic process the algae bed in the refugium directly uptakes phosphate and nitrate. So rather than being competitive filters skimmers and refugiums can be considered redundant or progressively supportive filters.

So follow along as we answer today's question, provide some helpful insight, and help make reefing just bit more fun and easy for you and your tank.

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