The following excerpt has been taken from the Reef Notes
series of books featuring questions answered by Julian Sprung and have
been printed here with his full permission. Please check back frequently
as we will be adding different topics on a regular basis. All
previously printed topic will be held in an archive link.
Topic: Protein Skimming
Q: I just finished reading an advertisement for "algae filters" which
stated "protein skimmers damage your system!" Is this true?
A: Protein skimmers
damaging the system? That is a most misleading claim. Certainly not! The
protein skimmer is the single most important filter device for
maintaining water quality.
That protein skimmers
can and do remove plankton from water is not damanging to water quality.
It is damaging to plankton, sure, but not water quality. We are not
tryig to maintain plankton. We are trying to maintain a reef ecosystem.
If we were trying to prevent destruction to plankton, then we had better
remove all of the filter feeders too! I hope that you can appreciate
the truth in this.
To add a further twist,
the fact that protein skimmers remove phytoplankton means they are a
sort of algal filter... By exporting skimmed phytoplankton they do what
is done when the aquarist harvests algae from an algal turf filter. In
addition protien skimmers remove all sorts of organic compounds that
otherwise accumulate or decompose, to the detriment of water quality.
In my opinion protein
skimming is by far the simplest to use and most effective means of water
purification. When protein skimming is combined with the complete
biological filtration found in living sand and rock substrates, one has a
very good system for maintaining a reef ecosystem in closed aquariums.