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Old 01-23-2014, 08:53 AM   #1
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Protein skimmer question

My protein skimmer has done a very excellent job in keeping my nitrates super low. My nitrates are kept at 0-5ppm and has retained a stable ph of 8.2-8.4. My question is, if there was a sudden ammonia spike, either due to many fish introduced or if I was on vacation and something died while I was gone, would the skimmer also break down the fish waste before it becomes ammonia?
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Old 01-23-2014, 10:19 AM   #2
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No. All it does is remove organic material from the water column. It cannot break down something inside the tank, nor does it break down anything.
It makes bubbles, which mix with your water and the tiny particulate matter (dissolved organics are just extremely small particles), and the organic material sticks to the surface of the bubbles, which rise to the top of the cup and out of the tank.
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Old 01-23-2014, 07:12 PM   #3
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No. All it does is remove organic material from the water column. It cannot break down something inside the tank, nor does it break down anything.
It makes bubbles, which mix with your water and the tiny particulate matter (dissolved organics are just extremely small particles), and the organic material sticks to the surface of the bubbles, which rise to the top of the cup and out of the tank.

Doesn't the above statement contribute to keeping nitrates low? Why else would a skimmer be useful if it doesn't do something to clean fish waste or uneaten fish food? Not trying to fight, just want to be sure what a makes a skimmer most useful and why it's an absolute must for most aquarists. Thanks for the input though.
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Old 01-23-2014, 09:18 PM   #4
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If a fish is lying on the sand bed decomposing, it's not going to make it to the skimmer until much later. by that time it's dissolved(decomposed into tiny particles) and you'll see ammonia far earlier than nitrate.
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Old 01-23-2014, 09:56 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Maridia View Post
Doesn't the above statement contribute to keeping nitrates low? Why else would a skimmer be useful if it doesn't do something to clean fish waste or uneaten fish food? Not trying to fight, just want to be sure what a makes a skimmer most useful and why it's an absolute must for most aquarists. Thanks for the input though.
I believe a protein skimmer removes, through the bubbling process, the organic material(s) from Urea and uneaten foods that make up ammonia before it breaks down and becomes nitrites then nitrates. (It works at a different level than your biological filter.) So the skimmer doesn't actually break anything down, it removes it from the water. This is why you have the lower nitrate reading. Without ammonia, you can't have eventual nitrates in the tank. If you get rid of the ammonia before it breaks down, you basically have no nitrate source.
Considering that most skimmers will not get all of the product out of the water, this is where your biological filter comes into play to actually break down the "missed" ammonia and turn it into a more harmless material. The biological filter is what breaks down fish waste, not the skimmer. This is why both filtering types are highly recommended in an aquarium.

Hope this better explains it
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Old 01-25-2014, 07:06 PM   #6
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I believe a protein skimmer removes, through the bubbling process, the organic material(s) from Urea and uneaten foods that make up ammonia before it breaks down and becomes nitrites then nitrates. (It works at a different level than your biological filter.) So the skimmer doesn't actually break anything down, it removes it from the water. This is why you have the lower nitrate reading. Without ammonia, you can't have eventual nitrates in the tank. If you get rid of the ammonia before it breaks down, you basically have no nitrate source.
Considering that most skimmers will not get all of the product out of the water, this is where your biological filter comes into play to actually break down the "missed" ammonia and turn it into a more harmless material. The biological filter is what breaks down fish waste, not the skimmer. This is why both filtering types are highly recommended in an aquarium.

Hope this better explains it
Thank you kindly. That makes perfect sense. I'm glad I went with the Deep Sand Bed and the butt load of Live Rock. ^^
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