It is safe to say that 99% of saltwater aquarium owners would tell you, YES a protein skimmer is worth it. The benefits are just too great to ignore and they require minimal effort to maintain. 

Not Sure What a Protein Skimmer Does?  Find out with BRStv: What Is The Purpose Of A Protein Skimmer?

The thing is, the price of a skimmer can vary drastically so the real advice here is about spending your money wisely and choosing the right skimmer for your tank. There are inexpensive skimmers that really do not work all that well and there are super expensive skimmers that come with features you probably don't need or won't really value at this point in your saltwater journey. 

For most tank owners, it is best to stick with the mid-tier, budget-minded skimmer selection. Of course, you want to buy a reputable brand and choose the skimmer based on your particular tank size and bioload to get the best results. It's never a good idea to oversize your skimmer either. A skimmer that is too large for your particular bioload simply won't work while a skimmer that is slightly undersized or just right will always work. 

How A Skimmer Can Benefit You And Your Tank

  • Removes fish waste, uneaten food, and other organic contaminants from the aquarium water before it can be broken down into nitrate.
  • Decreases the frequency you need to perform water changes which means it saves you money.
  • Reduces the necessary weekly maintenance required to keep your tank healthy.
  • Keeps the water looking and smelling better by removing coloring pigments and odor-causing contaminants.
  • Improves gas exchange and therefore contributes to a more stable pH.
  • When paired with a CO2 scrubber, a skimmer can raise your pH.
  • Can be used alongside biopellets to improve nitrate removal
  • Can be used as an ozone reaction chamber for better water clarity and improve ORP

It really is no secret that protein skimmers are an essential component of saltwater aquarium filtration. There is a certain amount of maintenance required as well as an operational cost that comes with a skimmer. With that in mind, here is a handful of situations where a protein skimmer may not be necessary.  

  • Pico-sized aquariums (below 10 gallons) are often a situation where a skimmer is just not needed.
  • Species-specific or tanks with minimal livestock often won't require a skimmer
  • Macro-algae dominant aquariums don't need a skimmer because the macroalgae need the nutrients they will export
  • Tanks that are filtered efficiently with Zeovit, refugiums, algae scrubbers, or macroalgae reactors can get away without a skimmer