Will A Protien Skimmer Lower Nitrates?

I have the below set up, run my Penguin without bio-wheels, but with filter media. I change the media about every 3 weeks. I currently do 10 gal. water changes every 10 days. My Nitrates are almost always around 60. Never thought too much of it, but my Coral Beauty died yesterday out of the blue, no signs of sickness. Ammonia, PH, SG, temp, Nitrites are all OK. I've reduced my feeding recently from twice a day to once a day in hopes of lowering the Nitrates, but it seems to have no effect. My bio-load may be a bit high, and was wondering if a skimmer would be helpful.


Active Member
a skimmer could help by removing the excess nutrients that turn into nitrates, and also, you filter may be part of the problem as well
do you have a dsb??
however 60 is not generally too high formost fish, but are getting a little high, so for a dwarf angel, it may be, but i doubt it
Thanks for the quick replies. First, I do have a DSB of about 6". Second, the Skimmer I was considering si the exact one you just mentioned, them Remora C. Do you ahve any comments about it (i.e noisy, hard to clean, etc).


Staff member
I have the Remora Pro and it is a decent skimmer...I wouldn't rave about it, though. It’s good for skimmer for its "hangon" class. I don't know what the price difference is between the regular Remora and the Pro, but you may want to get the Pro if its within your budget. Yes, it is noisy, however, I have a large wooden canopy, so the noise is dampened by that barrier. Anyone who is bothered by noise as I am, I'd suggest getting a wood canopy. It significantly dampens most tank noises within acceptable limits. Any hangon skimmer you get is going to be noisy. Skimmers are noisy by nature.
What media do you have in that filter, and why do you even have any media? You have LR and a 6" dsb, this is a viable filter in and of itself! The media is likely the culprit here. I'd suggest ditching the Penguin when you add the Remora. Be sure that water circulation within your tank is excellent . Where are these PH's placed in the tank? Are you getting good circulation throughout every corner of your tank with these 2 pumps? What does the surface of your sandbed look like? And what detritivores do you have in that sandbed? What type of live sand do you have, and what are the particle sizes?
There is more to a good functioning dsb than the "live sand". In most situations where you buy commercial LS you must inoculate the sandbed with adequate detritivores, and I don't mean crabs. You need infauna creatures [organism that live within the sand--mostly worms, but some snails, copepods, etc.] If your dsb is not continuously turned over by infauna that the dsb will be, at best, not running at optimal efficiency. There are detritivore kits that you can buy for this purpose, however.
Additionally, in order to maintain a highly efficient DSB, you must not include predators of the infauna [ie: gobies]. You already have a watchman, I see.
My suggestion would be to get the Remora of your choice and then get rid of any filter media you have. When you get the Remora, it has an option for using a pre-skimmer [cost more]. I have found this preskimmer, though it takes up room in the tank, to be a vital component of my filtration system as well as an added component to my ecosystem. the prefilter is basically a snail/pod haven and an excellent place for pods, algae and snails to breed and eat wo being bothered by other more aggressive tank mates. The Remora’s prefilter comes with a sponge which you need to thoroughly clean weekly. The prefilter will also run surface water organic waste thru the skimmer, most of which would not be taken up for filtration wo the prefilter. It also hides that unsightly pump that the Remora, unfortunately, places inside your tank. The downside: It goes in your tank and is unsightly unless you work at camouflaging it. Mine is well-camouflaged and hardly noticeable. There is also a new Prizm skimmer on the market that you may want to consider. The prizms are completely out of the tank except for intake/outtake tubing [a real plus if you don’t want to clutter up your tank.
A note on the pumps for the Remora: There is a choice between a mag drive and a rio. I got both pumps to test. The mag is very unsightly and bulky [remember that it goes in your tank at the top!]. Additionally, with the mag you will need to get the larger prefilter...more space taken up in your tank. Yeah, the rios have bad press at times...hobbyists tend to love them or hate them. The mags pull more water thru the skimmer than does the rio [that's a plus]. I'm just telling you here so that you know what your options are, pros/cons, and you can make an informed choice.


Staff member
I bought both pumps to test out. I know that the mag is a better pump...even though it looks like you placed a car engine in your tank...lol. I went with the rio in the end because it is smaller in size.
There are 2 prefilter options made for one or the other pump;.of course, the prefilter of the mag is monolithic as is the pump itself. LOL My tank basically has a 12” depth [front to back] which bows out to 18” in the center. If the depth was 24”+, I’d have gone with the mag, but as it is, I’m not going to place a prefilter in my tank that takes up 50% of the depth of my tank. So far, rio is doing fine. Since I have a reef system, I really don’t want to overskim anyway.
One thing though about the prefilter. You must diligently attend to water level in your tank. If your water level goes low so that water is not being sucked into the prefilter fast enough, the pump chamber will start running dry and, well, you know what happens then... A solution to this problem, if you’re not interested in checking water levels 2x a day, is to cut the intake holes on the prefilter a bit longer. This way the margin for error or the need for more attention to tank evaporation is not as high maintenance as applied to top-off. But, if you do this, be careful not to diy-cut the holes so much that the prefilter surface skim component is rendered useless.
Beth: WOW! Thanks for all the info, now let me try and answer your questions.
1. I have the regular carbon/floss filters that are made for the Penguins series. I had them as I was under the impression that my bio-load was fairly high, snd there media was beneficial.
2. My (2) 600 PH are placed: One in the back of the tank, left corner facing front and angled a bit to the right. Other one is on back right wall, shooting straight across the back of the tank. Both are near the top. I thought this would create a type of circular flow within the tank.
3. My DSB consists of 150 Lbs of playsand from Home Depot. I seeded it with a detritivore kit from Indo Pacific Sea Farms in Feb.
I think I'll take a look at the Prizm as well. I thought I had read more than a few negative posts about them on this board. I am limited to a tight spave behind my tank (about 5 inches) so I really need something thin.
To all who have posted a reply to me:
Please look at my signature at the bottom of this post only. I have updated my signature here about a month ago, but it did not take....my signature now shows my true set up. Please take a second look to see if any of your suggestions would change. Sorry about this.


Staff member
Well, the bad news now is that you have 2 gobies, not just one---infauna predators. The really bad news is the green brittle star. See if you can get him out of your tank [yeah, right]. He is a fish predator. Very pretty and cute when small, and a great detritivore, however, once mature [which doesn’t take long] the green brittle will become the “jaws” of you tank. Get him out if at all possible. Any other brittle star would be fine, but this one is not. I know, they are very pretty, aren’t they.
Well, by playsand, I’m assuming that you don’t mean Southdown do you? Happen to know what the content of the sand is? Probably silica based. How fine are the grains? Take a good look at your DSB through the fish tank glass. Use a magnifying glass with a good flashlight. Is your sandbed stratified? Larger grains of sand top layer, with stratification occurring every inch or so to smaller sizes of sand? If so, then you have grain size diversification which a good thing. [By chance, do you recall ever seeing bubbles form in your DSB when it was new?]
As I thought, you establed good water movement at the top of the tank and none at the bottom. You need to correct this by either placing some PH’s down at the bottom or running spray bars down there or inlet/outlet tubing with pumps elsewhere---but something.
BTW: With all those predators in the tank and you not allowing the detritivore kit to multiple prior to adding fish, then you are going to need more kits. Your sandbed needs to be well populated. You should be able to see stuff crawling around on the sandbed and in and out of the rocks. Hopefully you have some fire [bristle worms], do you? These guys will dig down into that DSB and give it a good working over. Excellent infauna in spite of their “bad press”.
Contrary to popular belief, you do not feed a DSB system less food...you feed it more. However, in this situation where you have such high nitrates, you need to take care of that problem. Keep in mind that your fish are always looking for food, though; if you don’t provide it, then they will get it elsewhere [like the organisms on your LR or LS??!]
Do look at the new, bigger version of the prizm and see what you think. Don’t get the little original prizm, its good for a 20gal or a hospital tank, but not for your tank [don’t go by manufacture’s ranking, as they overrate skimmers on capacity]. Again, take a look at the Remora and the prefilter option. For your setup with all of its predators, this could be a viable option for cultivating pods and additional snails, etc., without having to think about adding a separate ecosystem outside of the tank.
Take out the filter pads in that filter, just leave the filter on to circulate the water. Alternatively, you can change out those pads weekly, but then that can be a rather pricey expense for a poor choice of filtration. Once a week, if you want, you can add some carbon pads to your filter, and let it run for 24 hours---at least until the nitrate situation is under control and you tank’s LR and DSB gets up to grade.
Don’t stir or vacuum your DSB. If it is dirty, then leave it dirty. The action required is to build the infuana population, not to place Band-Aids to conceal a problem.
I’d suggest:
Go to Red Sea’s and AquaC’s webpages and check out the skimmer options then get one.
Think about what you want to do to get more water movement at the bottom of your tank. [The easiest thing to do is to add a couple more PH’s].
Ditch the filter pads or start replacing them weekly until you get the skimmer, then ditch the filter system altogether.
Think about the adequacy of your system’s sandbed and live rock fauna. Using a magnifying glass, can you see lots of these organism all over your sandbed and crawling in and out of your LR? Worm, worms, worms make the best infauna for the DSB. Do you have fire worms? These are the pink/lavender bristle worms very common to tanks with live rock. The fighting conch is an excellent choice. How big is he? How’s diatoms in your tank? Do you need more detritivores?
Anyway, glad to help! Keep us posted on what you decide to do.
Thanks one and all, this information is great!!
I been considering getting rid of the star, he is already VERY large. I think I may be able to lure him into a net with a peice of shrimp though.
The sand is not Southdown, and is limestone based. I researched it before I bought it and it seemed that limestone is nothing more than calcium carbonate. It does appear to be stratisfied and yes, they were and still are air bubbles within the sandbed. I added the kit before I had any fish back in Feb., with the lights off I see many bristle/fire worms, copods, and amphipods. I will take a closer look at the Remora's and Prisms to see which way I want to go.
In regards to water flow at the bottom of the tank, I was worried that the PH would suck up the DSB and make it a sand storm in there, need I not worry about this?
I love my fighting conch, I have three of them and they are constantly working the DSB or disappearing for a week at a time then popping back up. Sorry to say I'm not really sure what Diatoms are....
I could re-seed my DSB, but I would be worried that my fish would simply feast on the critters as soon as I introduced them.
As a follow up to this (and it may help others out there), it appears my test kit was part of the problem here. I had been using Aquarium Pharmacuticals. A few months a ago I got the Aquarium Systems Fas Test Ammonia kit because my Aqu. Pharm. kit was constantly showing an ammonia level, Fas Test recorded the level at zero. In the past 5 days I have removed my filter media, done a 20 gal. water change, and my Aqua. Pharm kit still showed nitrates of 60. So yesterday I bought a Fas Test Nitrate kit, it records my Nitrate level at less than 10.
Lesson: Don't Be Afraid To Second Guess Your Test Kit.


i have the aquarium pharm kit as well and have begun doubting the accuracy of the results myself.
You really don't need the filter, your LR and DSB should be enough filtration for your tank. A sump with a protien skimmer and some Caulerpa would lower your trates, the caulerpa sucks it up. My guess would be the filter and media are the source of the problem.
BTW watch your green brittle, they can be fairly aggressive if you don't feed them specifically. Try feeding him some cocktail shrimp in small pieces....it could save your fishes lives. HTH