How to Make a Protein Skimmer for Saltwater Aquarium: A Step-by-Step Guide

Maintaining a saltwater aquarium can be both rewarding and challenging. It requires attention to detail and proper equipment to ensure that the environment is healthy for your fish and other marine creatures. One important piece of equipment is a protein skimmer, which helps to remove organic waste from the water.

Protein skimmers can be expensive, but did you know that you can make your own DIY protein skimmer for your saltwater aquarium? Not only is it cost-effective, but it also gives you complete control over the design and materials used. With just a few supplies and some simple steps, you can have an effective protein skimmer that keeps your aquarium water clear and healthy for your marine pets. So, grab your tools and let’s dive into the world of DIY protein skimmers!


Are you worried about the cost of purchasing a protein skimmer for your saltwater aquarium? Luckily, it’s possible to create your own protein skimmer at home! To get started, you’ll need a few materials including a plastic bottle, an airline tubing, an airstone, and a suction cup. First, cut the top off of your plastic bottle and poke a hole in the bottle cap. Attach the airline tubing to the airstone and feed it through the hole in the bottle cap.

Fill the bottle with water and attach the suction cup to the back of your aquarium so that the airstone is submerged in the water. As the air bubbles rise, they will create a foam that collects the unwanted organic material from your aquarium water. With a little patience and creativity, making your own protein skimmer can be an affordable way to improve the health of your saltwater aquarium.

What is a protein skimmer?

Protein skimmers are a vital component of any marine aquarium system, serving as a powerful filtration device that removes organic waste from the water. Essentially, a protein skimmer creates an air/water interface that attracts and captures waste molecules before they have a chance to break down into harmful compounds. This process is called “protein fractionation,” and it relies on the use of bubbles to separate waste from the water.

As water is forced through the column of bubbles inside the skimmer, organic molecules become trapped in the bubbles and rise to the surface, where they can be removed. Put simply, a protein skimmer mimics the natural process of wave action, drawing out and removing waste from the water efficiently. By removing harmful waste molecules from the water, protein skimmers help to keep aquarium inhabitants healthy and prevent issues like algae blooms and high nitrate levels.

how to make a protein skimmer for saltwater aquarium

Why use a protein skimmer?

If you’re an aquarium enthusiast, you’ve probably heard about protein skimmers and their benefits. But if you’re new to the hobby, you might be wondering what a protein skimmer is and why you even need one. Well, a protein skimmer is a device that removes organic waste from your aquarium water before it has a chance to decompose and harm your aquatic creatures.

This waste is known as dissolved organic compounds, and it’s made up of things like fish waste and uneaten food. Protein skimmers work by creating tiny bubbles in the water that attract the organic waste and then removing it from the water. In short, protein skimmers help keep your aquarium clean and your fish healthy.

So, if you want to maintain a healthy and thriving aquarium, a protein skimmer is definitely worth considering.

Materials Needed for the DIY Protein Skimmer

If you’re looking to make your own protein skimmer for your saltwater aquarium, there are a few materials you’ll need to get started. First, you’ll need some PVC pipe and fittings to create the body of the skimmer. You’ll also need a collection cup, which can be made from a plastic container or purchased separately.

In addition, you’ll need some tubing to connect the skimmer to your aquarium’s water pump. Other items you may need include an air stone or diffuser, a valve to control the flow of water, and a foam block or filter material to help capture protein and other organic compounds. Once you have all of your materials assembled, you can begin building your protein skimmer and enjoy the many benefits it can bring to your aquarium.

So, don’t hesitate to give it a try and create your own DIY protein skimmer!

PVC pipes

One essential material needed for a DIY protein skimmer is PVC pipes. PVC pipes are vital in creating a sturdy and durable skimmer that can withstand the saltwater environment. These pipes come in various sizes, which makes it easier to customize your protein skimmer to your desired size.

You can also easily connect different parts of the skimmer by joining the PVC pipes with special fittings. PVC pipes are also an affordable choice, making the DIY protein skimmer an economical option. Moreover, with proper care, PVC pipes can last for several years, ensuring that your skimmer will function effectively for an extended period.

Overall, PVC pipes are a crucial material to consider when making a DIY protein skimmer due to their durability, flexibility, and affordability.

Air pump

When it comes to making your own DIY protein skimmer, there are a few key materials that you’ll need to have on hand. One of the most important is an air pump. This piece of equipment is responsible for creating the bubbles that drive the skimming process, so it’s crucial that you choose a high-quality pump that can provide reliable and consistent air flow.

Look for a pump that’s rated for aquarium use, and make sure it’s powerful enough to handle the size of your skimmer. It’s also a good idea to choose a pump with adjustable flow settings, as this can help you fine-tune your skimmer’s performance to match the needs of your tank. Overall, investing in a good air pump is one of the best things you can do to ensure the success of your protein skimming setup.

Acrylic tube or cup

When it comes to creating a DIY protein skimmer, one essential material you’ll need is an acrylic tube or cup. This piece is important because it’s where the foam is created. The acrylic tube creates a vacuum that pulls in water and air, which then creates the foam.

It’s important to choose the right size and shape of the tube or cup, as this can affect the efficiency of the protein skimmer. The tube or cup also needs to be durable enough to withstand the pressure that’s required to create the foam. Acrylic is a good choice because it’s strong and won’t break down over time.

Once you have your acrylic tube or cup, you can start building your DIY protein skimmer and enjoy cleaner and healthier water for your aquarium. So, if you’re looking to build your own protein skimmer, don’t forget to add an acrylic tube or cup to your materials list!

Water pump

When it comes to building your own protein skimmer, there are a few essential materials you’ll need, and one of them is a water pump. The purpose of the water pump is to drive the flow of water through the skimmer so that it can effectively remove organic waste from your aquarium. But not just any pump will do.

You’ll need to choose a pump that is specifically designed for use in a protein skimmer. Look for a pump with a high flow rate and low power consumption to ensure that it is efficient and effective. It’s also important to choose a pump that is the right size for your skimmer so that it can maintain consistent water flow.

So if you’re planning to build your own protein skimmer, make sure to add a high-quality water pump to your list of essential materials.

Aquarium airline tubing

When it comes to setting up your own protein skimmer, there are a few key materials you will need. One of these is aquarium airline tubing, which is essential for directing water flow through the system. This tubing is designed to be highly flexible and durable, allowing you to easily maneuver it to meet your needs.

Its clear design allows you to see the water flowing through it, making it easy to monitor and adjust. By using high-quality airline tubing, you can ensure that your protein skimmer is working efficiently and effectively to remove impurities from your aquarium water. Whether you are an experienced hobbyist or just starting out, investing in the right materials is critical for creating a healthy and thriving aquatic environment.

Scissors and cutting tools

When it comes to building a DIY protein skimmer, you’ll need a few essential materials to get started. One of the most important tools you’ll need is a good pair of scissors or cutting tools. These will come in handy when it comes time to cut the PVC pipe and trim other materials to size.

It’s important to choose a sharp and sturdy pair of scissors that can handle the job without slipping or causing injury. Alternatively, you might opt for a cutting tool like a saw or rotary cutter, depending on the materials you’re working with. When shopping for cutting tools, look for quality options that are built to last.

By doing so, you’ll ensure that your DIY protein skimmer comes out looking neat and professional.

Steps for Making a Protein Skimmer

If you’re looking to create a protein skimmer for your saltwater aquarium, there are several simple steps you can take. First, you’ll need a container for the skimmer, such as a PVC pipe or a clear plastic bottle. Next, you’ll need to create an air intake by drilling a small hole in the top of the container and attaching an air pump.

Then, insert a medium for the bubbles to form, such as a plastic or ceramic ball, into the container. Finally, attach a collection cup to the top of the container to catch the debris and protein that the skimmer removes. With these few simple steps, you can easily make a protein skimmer for your saltwater aquarium and maintain the cleanliness and health of your aquatic life.

Step 1: Build the skimmer body

When it comes to making your own protein skimmer, the first step is to build the skimmer body. This involves creating a chamber for the water to flow through, and incorporating baffles to increase contact time between the water and air. The skimmer body can be made out of a variety of materials, including acrylic or PVC.

Many hobbyists prefer to build their own skimmer bodies to save money and customize the design to their specific needs. It’s important to ensure that the skimmer body is watertight and able to withstand the pressure of the water flowing through it. With the skimmer body complete, the next step is to add components such as the pump and air intake to begin the process of removing organic materials from the water.

By building your own protein skimmer, you can take control of the filtration process and ensure that your aquarium remains healthy and clean.

Step 2: Create the air intake mechanism

For the next step in making a protein skimmer, you’ll need to create the air intake mechanism. This is an essential part of the skimmer that helps to produce bubbles and draw out the unwanted organic matter. The simplest way to do this is by attaching an air pump to a plastic or acrylic tubing.

A small hole is drilled in the tubing, and the pump is attached to one end, while the other is submerged in water. Alternatively, you can use a venturi valve, which acts as a vacuum to pull air in through the skimmer. A venturi valve is made up of a small tube that narrows down and then opens up again.

When water flows through the narrowing tube, it accelerates, causing a pressure drop, allowing air to be drawn in through the open part of the tube. This air is mixed with the water, creating bubbles that help to remove the unwanted substances in your aquarium. By including a quality air intake mechanism in your protein skimmer, you’ll be well on your way to improving the water quality in your aquarium while keeping your fish and corals healthy!

Step 3: Install the water exit

To complete the protein skimmer, the next step is to install the water exit. This is an essential component of the skimmer as it allows the treated water to flow back into the aquarium. Firstly, you should select a suitable location for the water exit and ensure that it is secure and level.

The water exit should be positioned at a height that allows the water to easily flow back into the aquarium without any obstacles. When installing the water exit, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to avoid any damage or leakage. Once the water exit is securely installed, you can proceed to the final step of testing the protein skimmer.

By following the correct installation process, you can ensure that your protein skimmer will work efficiently and effectively, which will help to maintain a healthy and balanced aquarium ecosystem.

Step 4: Connect the tubing

Now that you’ve built the body and the collection cup of your protein skimmer, it’s time to connect the tubing. First, decide on the direction of the water flow. Connect the pump to the collection cup with a piece of vinyl or silicone tubing, making sure to securely attach the tubing to both the pump and the collection cup.

Then, connect another piece of tubing to the intake pipe of the protein skimmer. This tubing will lead to the sump or aquarium, depending on your setup. Be sure to secure both ends of the tubing with clamps to prevent any leaks.

You may also want to add a ball valve to control the water flow. Once you have connected all the necessary tubing, plug in the pump and adjust the ball valve until you achieve the desired bubbles in the reaction chamber. Congratulations! Your protein skimmer is now complete and ready to keep your aquarium clean and healthy.

Using DIY Protein Skimmers in Saltwater Aquariums

Are you looking to save money on your saltwater aquarium equipment? Making your own protein skimmer may be just the solution you need. To begin, gather a plastic container or soda bottle with a lid, some airline tubing, an air stone, and a sponge filter. Cut a hole in the lid of the container and insert the airline tubing, securing it with hot glue.

Attach the air stone to the end of the tubing and place it inside the container. Cover the air stone with the sponge filter and place the lid back on the container. Finally, connect the airline tubing to an air pump and adjust the flow to create the desired amount of foam in the skimmer.

With a bit of DIY ingenuity, you can have a functional protein skimmer without breaking the bank.

Maintenance tips for DIY protein skimmers

DIY protein skimmers are a great addition to any saltwater aquarium. They assist in removing waste and toxins from the water, keeping your fish and other aquatic life healthy and happy. However, just like any other piece of equipment, they require regular maintenance to function optimally.

One essential step is to ensure the collection cup is cleaned regularly, preventing the buildup of debris. It’s also crucial to check the air intake regularly and clean it if required to avoid clogs that can affect the skimmer’s performance. Another essential tip is to ensure that the skimmer is appropriately sized for your aquarium and stocked adequately; overstocking can cause the equipment to work too hard and burn out quickly.

By following these tips, your DIY protein skimmer will keep your saltwater aquarium clean and healthy for years to come.

Benefits of using a DIY protein skimmer

DIY protein skimmer If you’re a saltwater aquarium enthusiast looking for an affordable and effective way to maintain the health of your tank, then a DIY protein skimmer might be the perfect solution. A protein skimmer is a device that removes organic compounds and waste before they break down and pollute the water. By creating foam, protein skimmers trap unwanted debris that can lead to unhealthy living conditions for your fish and coral.

By creating your own protein skimmer, you can save money and tailor it to your tank’s unique needs. Plus, the satisfaction of building your own equipment can be incredibly rewarding. With a few basic materials and some knowledge of how the device works, anyone can build a DIY protein skimmer.

Improve your aquarium’s water quality and save money with this practical and rewarding project.


In conclusion, making a protein skimmer for your saltwater aquarium may seem daunting at first, but with a bit of creativity and resourcefulness, it can be achieved on a budget. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and use everyday items that you may already have lying around the house. With some ingenuity and perseverance, you’ll have your very own DIY protein skimmer that will effectively remove unwanted organic compounds from your aquarium’s water, leaving you with a cleaner and healthier aquatic environment.

So get cracking, and let your inner MacGyver shine through!”


What is a protein skimmer and what does it do in a saltwater aquarium?
A protein skimmer is a device that removes organic waste from saltwater aquariums by creating a foam column that captures protein molecules and other organic compounds before they can break down and produce harmful substances in the water.

What are the benefits of using a protein skimmer in a saltwater aquarium?
Using a protein skimmer can improve water quality, reduce the workload on the aquarium’s biological filter, and make maintenance easier by reducing the frequency of water changes and algae cleaning.

How do I choose the right protein skimmer for my saltwater aquarium?
The right protein skimmer for your saltwater aquarium will depend on factors such as the size of your aquarium, the type of livestock you keep, and your budget. Research different types and brands of protein skimmers, read reviews, and consult with experienced hobbyists or professionals before making a purchase.

Where should I place my protein skimmer in my saltwater aquarium?
The best place to put a protein skimmer is in the sump or filtration compartment of your aquarium setup, where it can be easily accessed for maintenance and will have a steady flow of water passing through it.

How often should I clean my protein skimmer in a saltwater aquarium?
The frequency of cleaning your protein skimmer will depend on several factors, including the bio-load of your aquarium, the size and type of your protein skimmer, and the manufacturer’s recommendations. Generally, it’s recommended to clean your protein skimmer once a week to prevent it from becoming clogged or overflowing.

Can I make a DIY protein skimmer for my saltwater aquarium?
Yes, it is possible to make a DIY protein skimmer for your saltwater aquarium using easily available materials such as PVC pipes, air stones, and airline tubing. However, it may be more effective to purchase a commercially available protein skimmer, especially if you have a larger or more complex aquarium setup.

How do I troubleshoot problems with my protein skimmer in my saltwater aquarium?
Some common issues with protein skimmers in saltwater aquariums include overflowing, excessive noise or vibrations, and poor foam production. Troubleshooting tips may include adjusting the water level, checking for obstructions or clogs in the skimmer, and cleaning or replacing worn or damaged parts.