Why do I need a skimmer?

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chris_pull

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I am currently skimmerless but have a consistently low pH (7.7-7.8 range). So far I've felt like I don't need a skimmer as my nutrients are low, and at times have bottomed out, being typically <1 ppm NO3 and < 0.03 PO4. I am currently experimenting with my algae reactor schedule to find the sweet spot where they don't go too low. I try to compensate by feeding very heavily as well.

Long term I want to go heavier on the SPS and keep reading a skimmer is a must for things like Acros. I wondered what other benefits the skimmer adds if my nutrients are already low and water clarity good? Increased aeration and possibly pH is obviously a big one and for higher pH I think could be worth it. Opening windows isn't an option here in the UK come winter (and even summer, sometimes, with all our rain!).

I know there are a million questions like this on here but I couldn't find one specifically about adding a skimmer to an already low nutrient system.
 
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chris_pull

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I don't think anybody will say you absolutely need one. But they will say you are seriously handicapping yourself by not using one.
But why? That's what I want to understand. I'm not saying I don't want to get one (I love gear!) but I don't want to add one if I've already "solved" nutrient levels. What extra will it add?
 
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But why? That's what I want to understand. I'm not saying I don't want to get one (I love gear!) but I don't want to add one if I've already "solved" nutrient levels. What extra will it addt gives you a buffer in case of mistakes. Maybe a fish dies and you get a nutrient spike.
Because not everything goes perfect all of the time.

Maybe a fish dies and you can't find it? Nutrient spike
Maybe you have a neighbor overfeeds your tank while you are out of town for three days? Nutrient spike
Maybe your reactor goes on the fritz? Nutrient spike
Maybe you get a bad batch of mysis? amonia/nutrient spike

Skimmer will help clean those things up and keep nutrient levels down.
 

Gogol_frag

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i think you can always just feed more or literally dose
I am currently skimmerless but have a consistently low pH (7.7-7.8 range). So far I've felt like I don't need a skimmer as my nutrients are low, and at times have bottomed out, being typically <1 ppm NO3 and < 0.03 PO4. I am currently experimenting with my algae reactor schedule to find the sweet spot where they don't go too low. I try to compensate by feeding very heavily as well.

Long term I want to go heavier on the SPS and keep reading a skimmer is a must for things like Acros. I wondered what other benefits the skimmer adds if my nutrients are already low and water clarity good? Increased aeration and possibly pH is obviously a big one and for higher pH I think could be worth it. Opening windows isn't an option here in the UK come winter (and even summer, sometimes, with all our rain!).

I know there are a million questions like this on here but I couldn't find one specifically about adding a skimmer to an already low
I am currently skimmerless but have a consistently low pH (7.7-7.8 range). So far I've felt like I don't need a skimmer as my nutrients are low, and at times have bottomed out, being typically <1 ppm NO3 and < 0.03 PO4. I am currently experimenting with my algae reactor schedule to find the sweet spot where they don't go too low. I try to compensate by feeding very heavily as well.

Long term I want to go heavier on the SPS and keep reading a skimmer is a must for things like Acros. I wondered what other benefits the skimmer adds if my nutrients are already low and water clarity good? Increased aeration and possibly pH is obviously a big one and for higher pH I think could be worth it. Opening windows isn't an option here in the UK come winter (and even summer, sometimes, with all our rain!).

I know there are a million questions like this on here but I couldn't find one specifically about adding a skimmer to an already low nutrient system.
nutrient system.
First off, congratulations on a well-run tank, Chris. If you don't mind sharing, could you mention your existing filtration, feeding habits and observed coral growth? I have a skimmer, and an algae scrubber. Similar to you, I rarely turn my skimmer on, and am genuinely curious about alternate ways of reef maintenance.

That being said, one of the things that may warrant a skimmer is if you want to feed your tankmates (corals and fish) more than what you currently are with the expectation of higher growth rates, better coloration etc, then a skimmer may help bridge the gap until the other parts of your filtration system catches up to the increased nutrient intake.

Overall, I totally am in agreement with you, and prefer biological methods of keeping my tank healthy and happy.
 
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chris_pull

chris_pull

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First off, congratulations on a well-run tank, Chris. If you don't mind sharing, could you mention your existing filtration, feeding habits and observed coral growth? I have a skimmer, and an algae scrubber. Similar to you, I rarely turn my skimmer on, and am genuinely curious about alternate ways of reef maintenance.

That being said, one of the things that may warrant a skimmer is if you want to feed your tankmates (corals and fish) more than what you currently are with the expectation of higher growth rates, better coloration etc, then a skimmer may help bridge the gap until the other parts of your filtration system catches up to the increased nutrient intake.

Overall, I totally am in agreement with you, and prefer biological methods of keeping my tank healthy and happy.
Of course! My tank is a 20 gallon long (80 litres) filtered by an oversized canister containing about 4 kg of biomedia. I have an inline prefilter on the inlet that contains filter floss/sponges, which I clean and change weekly. This means the canister itself is essentially a nitrate reactor that I only have to open and clean every 6 months or so. On the outlet, I have a media reactor that I've turned into a DIY algae reactor. This was to help control PO4 – beyond the initial cycle, NO3 was always stable at 5ppm, though it's had the effect of reducing my NO3 to < 1ppm as well. You can see some pictures of this and further explanation in my build thread.

I feed pretty heavily, usually flake in the morning for the fish, then in the evening close to lights out, I feed a DIY frozen food based on the DIY BRS reef chili (contains reef roids, LPS pellets, vitamins, selcon, mysis, red phytoplankton, rotifers, lobster eggs, mysis, prawn, tuna, copepods etc). I also add amino acids daily at the same time.

I perform 10% weekly water changes and siphon the sand bed.

I currently have a bit of an issue with overall slow growth on my soft corals and LPS, and the few SPS being generally a bit unhappy and some have shown RTN. I also have only tiny amounts of coraline growth. The system is still young (about 10 months?) so it could well be too soon for SPS, but I've had a birds nest that was growing really well since I added it around the 2 months mark but just recently started showing some necrosis. I also started to get coraline on the glass and then it stopped. I can trace back the start of my problems to when I added a Chinese black box light that I think just doesn't have the spectrum it advertised (the 420 LEDs look more like they're 450-60, i.e. no hint of violet to them). The PAR is also pretty low unless I crank up the whites, which looks awful. I have recently ordered some reefbreeder photons that I hope will help, though it could also be my low nutrients.

These issues are in part why I am considering a skimmer as I read over and over how essential they are for SPS. This is why I wanted to know what I am missing by not having one, so I can understand if a skimmer would help in my case. The impression so far though is that it wouldn't add much beyond some redundancy? The reefdudes stream above also mentioned that they probably aren't worth it on nanos.

It's interesting to hear you have yours off most the time!
 

Gogol_frag

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Understood Chris. Really impressive setup and routine. Do all of your SPS have issues, or only Acropora? As in, have you tried some hardier SPS like Pavona/Pocillopora?

A 10-month old tank, with your maintenance diligence should be fairly mature. The only caveat is that it may be a little low on the volume which will for sure lead to frequent fluctuations. I started with a 20 gallon when I had started first.
 

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You don't if you have low nutrients and a smaller tank. It becomes beneficial when you go bigger & your water changes get expensive. There may come a time if you upgrade that your algae reactor won't handle the load then you need skimmer. If you want oxygenation then point a power head at the surface. It sounds like you need to go down on your algae reactor light cycle to bring your nutrients up a little as is.

In fresh you use big water changes to keep parameters in range. In salt doing that wouldnt be cost effective at a certain point. So you remove the things that foul up your water & replace elements that get depleted to keep salt costs to a minimum.
 
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chris_pull

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Understood Chris. Really impressive setup and routine. Do all of your SPS have issues, or only Acropora? As in, have you tried some hardier SPS like Pavona/Pocillopora?

A 10-month old tank, with your maintenance diligence should be fairly mature. The only caveat is that it may be a little low on the volume which will for sure lead to frequent fluctuations. I started with a 20 gallon when I had started first.
Yes, I feel like something is off for sure. I test weekly and find that my parameters are pretty stable, with the exception of NO3 and PO4 being on the low side. I actually recently stopped dosing alk as it's not really being used up that rapidly and water changes are currently enough. However, I was dosing all for reef daily at around the 3-4 month mark as my alk, cal and mag were dropping without. I had montis, pavona, some easy acro and birds nest all growing, if not the best colouration (I had higher PO4 then). I've lost a bunch of these or they showed such bad tissue loss I took them out as they were depressing to look at.

As I say, I think it's since I changed the lights in November that I've noticed these problems arising. We are moving in a few weeks and I have everything in place to upgrade to a tank about twice the size. I will also change my lights to the reefbreeders, so at least that possibility will be crossed off.
 
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You don't if you have low nutrients and a smaller tank. It becomes beneficial when you go bigger & your water changes get expensive. There may come a time if you upgrade that your algae reactor won't handle the load then you need skimmer. If you want oxygenation then point a power head at the surface. It sounds like you need to go down on your algae reactor light cycle to bring your nutrients up a little as is.

In fresh you use big water changes to keep parameters in range. In salt doing that wouldnt be cost effective at a certain point. So you remove the things that foul up your water & replace elements that get depleted to keep salt costs to a minimum.

That makes sense! For sure, if I upgraded to a much larger tank I would go with a sump and skimmer but I agree for now it is probably not worth it. I guess I just thought there might be some special "ingredient" that the skimmer adds (or rather, takes away) that I am missing without one.
 

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