Protein Skimmer Broken
I have a 55gal saltwater tank that was passed onto me (it's a tank at school that I take care of for a club). We rarely do any water changes (I would say 50% a month... if we're lucky), but we only have a few fish (a couple of tangs and a couple of damsels), a snail, a fire shrimp, and a couple of hermit crabs.
Out of bad habit, I let the water level drop and so the skimmer was running dry for a while. When I finally got to fill the tank back up, the skimmer wouldn't pump the water up the tube. When my friend and I took it apart, we found that there little pieces of plastic that broke off from a wheel in the pump that we supposed pushed the water up the pipe.
So, basically, our skimmer broke.
Because we're a school club, we don't exactly have all the money in the world to buy a new skimmer. I've seen pumps online, but they're almost as expensive as a good skimmer.
My question is this: Is it absolutely necessary to have a protein skimmer? If so, should we look into buying an entirely new skimmer or is there a way to repair what we have?