View Full Version : Developing a standardized measurement of protein skimmer performance?

06/25/2016, 01:14 PM
This morning I was considering the performance of my new skimmer vs. my old skimmer and it became clear that there is no current metric for approximating protein skimmer performance, but it should be relatively easy to produce one. I think it would be great if there was a common system that we could use for assessing protein skimmer performance. Imperfect but widespread metrics are used when we make purchasing decisions on other things and I think this would be applicable to protein skimmers (e.g. caloric content of food, computer processor performance, gas mileage of cars, etc.). Yes, I know people use the appearance of their corals and their tanks overall to gauge skimmer performance but this isn't a standardized measurement that a manufacturer can determine and apply to the skimmer before you buy it. The current system of rating skimmers by gallons of aquarium is inherently ambiguous.

Of course, a number of things will influence protein skimmer performance and even after all conditions of a protein skimmer test have been standardized there could still be causes for variation between tests, and certainly between testing conditions and those of your particular reef. There are a number of parameters that will influence the determined MPG of a car vs. the actual MPG you get while driving, however this measurement is still a useful gauge that can be used when determining what approximate MPG performance your comfortable with and when comparing one car to another.

So, I think it would be as simple as:
1) Standardizing testing conditions (e.g. source water, specific salt mix of reliable composition, salinity, pH, temp, etc.)
2) Determining the metric. This could be adding a particular measurable substance and calculating time to remove it or perhaps gallons of water processed required to remove it.... Or, maybe amount of foam produced per unit time or per watt, or per...

Randy Holms-Farley, or other chemistry reefers, do you have any ideas for measurable substances that could be used to assess foam fractionation?

Anyway, I thought applying a metric to protein skimmer performance would be useful and simple enough for skimmer producers to adopt, and I wanted to see other hobbyist's thoughts on the matter or maybe get some input from skimmer companies.

Let me know what you think.

06/25/2016, 10:18 PM

A pretty good attempt at defining metrics. Short story...they generally perform similarly in the long game...just some get there faster initally.

06/26/2016, 08:00 AM
Here's a link to a second article on the subject:

Protein Skimmer Performance, Pt 2

It would be hard for the average aquarist to test their skimmer. Looking at the inconsistent performance and essentially not much difference between skimmers ("bubbles are bubbles") it's not surprising the skimmer manufacturers have chosen not to develop a standard metric(s) for their skimmers like the varous metrics that exist for lights and pumps.

Feldman, et al, has published a very good series of papers I would highly recommend:

Granular Activated Carbon Pt 1

Granular Activated Carbon Pt 2

Total Organic Carbon Pt 1

Total Organic Carbon Pt 2

Skimmate Analysis

Bacterial Counts in Reef Aquarium Water

06/26/2016, 11:00 AM
Thank you both very much for posting those articles. I'll definitely read through all of them. I read the 2009 article by Feldman this morning. It was great. Looks like BSA fits the needs of being easily quantifiable, readily available, and being a reasonable mimic for TOC.

06/27/2016, 12:51 PM
I hadn't read the articles on gac before.