Well first off let me say
A skimmer is not required. I personally shut my skimmers down a couple months ago and have seen no ill effects. In fact some of the corals might be growing faster than before.
For a begginner I say they are helpful since they will assist in pulling excess DOC
out of the water. If DOC
's are left in the water they will polute the water and cause additional ammonia.
Oh, btw congrads on your FREE equipment wish I could have gotten it as I need a 29 gal
tank to fit a hole in a bar I have.
Where in VA are you? Im in Staunton, Just off I-81 north of roanoke if your not fimular.