The Best HOB Protein Skimmers for Marine and Reef Tanks | Ratings and Reviews of the Top HOB Protein Skimmers

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Reef tanks and marine aquariums are some of the most fascinating microsections of the planet where we can observe these little fish and corals and other creatures at any time of day or night.

The brilliant colors, fascinating shapes, and unique creatures that make up our saltwater fish tanks are unlike any other kind of aquarium.

And to make sure our saltwater aquariums thrive we need special equipment.

Familiar things like filters and water pumps are necessary, but some less well-known things like protein skimmers are as well for a truly healthy, happy marine aquarium environment.

Best HOB Protein Skimmers Quick-Find Table

Image Product
  • Easy install on hang-on-the-back model
  • Powerful and efficient
  • Comes with adjustable surface skimmer attachment
  • Easy install on hang-on-the-back model
  • Powerful and efficient
  • Comes with adjustable surface skimmer attachment
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  • Improved, more powerful model from previous models
  • Uses a powerful Shark 1.0 pump
  • Requires only 4-inches clearance for removal of collection cup
  • Improved, more powerful model from previous models
  • Uses a powerful Shark 1.0 pump
  • Requires only 4-inches clearance for removal of collection cup
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  • Easy to install
  • Small and unobtrusive
  • No priming required!
  • Easy to install
  • Small and unobtrusive
  • No priming required!
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  • Incredibly easy to clean
  • Made with extremely high-quality materials
  • Compact and very quiet
  • Incredibly easy to clean
  • Made with extremely high-quality materials
  • Compact and very quiet
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  • Incredibly easy to clean
  • Made with extremely high-quality materials
  • Compact and very quiet
  • Incredibly easy to clean
  • Made with extremely high-quality materials
  • Compact and very quiet
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  • Comes in two sizes – up to 150 gallons
  • Very budget-friendly while still delivering the necessary power
  • Uses an exclusive turbo-venturi injector system
  • Comes in two sizes – up to 150 gallons
  • Very budget-friendly while still delivering the necessary power
  • Uses an exclusive turbo-venturi injector system
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Why Is a Protein Skimmer So important?

Our aquariums need several things to survive and thrive. One of the most important ones is filtration. Without filters, water becomes impure, polluted, nasty. But with filters, biological waste – like fish food excess and fish waste – disappears, and the water is left clean and healthy for our little finned friends.

angel fish swimming in a tank with the best hob protein skimmer

Protein skimmers are a sort of second level filtration system for saltwater aquariums. The best HOB skimmer will effectively remove protein and other organic materials to boost the health of your fish tank.

This enables your main filtration system to work properly, removing the microscopic debris and organisms that make your aquarium unhealthy.

What is a Protein Skimmer, Exactly?

These devices – sometimes called foam fractionators – are used in aquariums to skim off and remove organic compounds from the water.

Things like food particles, dead plant matter, and fish waste leave residue in the water, but the best protein skimmers remove all that stuff that creates dangerous ammonia and nitrites that can kill your fish.

These devices aren’t just used in aquariums, either. Water treatment plants and public aquariums use them, too, to make their jobs easier for keeping the aquariums and water reservoirs clean and gunk free.

They’re called protein skimmers because a large portion of what they do is remove the protein and amino acids from the water by skimming it off the water’s surface.

They do also remove other compounds and elements as well, including metals like copper, and trace elements like iodine. They can also remove phytoplankton, detritus, and bad bacteria. All of that means a healthier aquarium for your fish, corals, and other critters.

How Does a Protein Skimmer Work?

Protein skimmers are also known as foam fractionators because of how they work. The skimmer creates foam on the surface of the water. The foam is made up of tiny little air bubbles which capture the undesirable elements and byproducts in your aquarium.

The waste clings to the tiny bubbles of the foam, much like soap clings to bubbles of air blown through a bubble wand used by kids. This means the nasty gunk clings to the microscopic foam bubbles which are then skimmed off the surface of the water.

Of All the Options, Why Choose a HOB Skimmer?

If you’re a new saltwater aquarist, you might not be sure why you’d want to pick a HOB – or hang-on-back – skimmer over another kind. But there are a few definite advantages, depending on the size aquarium you keep.

They Work if You Don’t Have a Sump

First off, if you don’t have a sump system for your aquarium, the HOB skimmer is if your best bet. The reason why? A HOB skimmer does as the name implies – it hangs on the back of your aquarium. If you don’t have a sump, this is pretty vital to positioning of the skimmer and use of the device in your aquarium.

HOBs Are Lower Profile

If you don’t want to mess with the aesthetic of your aquarium, a HOB protein skimmer is also your best bet because they’re usually much smaller and more discreet than other skimmers can be. They nestled onto the back of the aquarium and basically just disappear into the background from there while they do their thing.

Black sharkminnow Common names species

They’re Made for Smaller Aquariums

If you have an aquarium under 100 gallons, then HOBs are also your go-to, because these are designed specifically for smaller bodies of water than many or most of the other models out there. They’re small, compact, and have lower thresholds for gallons of water.

HOB Protein Skimmers Are Easier to Install

And finally, HOBs are super easy to install. You basically just stick them onto the back of the aquarium, plug them in, and let them do their work on their own. They’re also usually pretty low-maintenance and easy to clean, which make them a triple threat against many other styles of protein skimmers.

Reviews of The Best HOB Protein Skimmers

As you shop on Amazon for your HOB protein skimmer, be on the look out for the following things. These will ensure you’re getting the best hang on back protein skimmer for your needs.

  • Efficiency – Make sure real-life users say the specific model you’re looking at really works
  • Tiny bubbles – The smaller the bubbles, the more effective the skimmer is
  • Noise levels – Unless you love electronic noises, check those reviews for low volumes!
  • Trust brand-name – Even if you haven’t heard of them, make sure your fellow aquarists have
  • Budget-friendly – Make sure the skimmer meets your personal budgeting needs
  • Good mounting options – Make sure those suction cups or other mounts actually work
Reef Octopus Classic 100-HOB Protein Skimmer

For an incredibly easy to install and use, tested and true HOB protein skimmer, the Classic HOB 100 from Reef Octopus is your best option.

The skimmer is super-efficient, easy to install, easy to use, and works for tanks up to 105 gallons in size.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Dimensions: 8 x 3.75 x 17-inches
  • Tank size: Up to 105-gallons
  • Bonus features: N/A

The Classic Reef Octopus HOB 100 is a straight up, no frills options that will keep your saltwater tank clean and clear of the nasty byproducts of your fish, invertebrates, and plants in the reef tank.

It uses an adjustable surface skimmer attachment to make everything easier for you.

The Classic 100 is incredibly easy to install – just mount on the inside of the back and plug it in – and it’s made of high-quality acrylic material.

It comes equipped with a highly-effective Aquatrace pinwheel impeller pump that makes the ideal mix of air and water for the cleanest waste removal possible.

It’s designed for simplicity and ease-of-use, and absolutely hits that mark. This makes it great for anyone who’s super busy, beginner aquarists, and even kids mature enough to help out with a saltwater tank.

Plus, the whole thing is easy to take apart and clean, which makes for easy maintenance over time.

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BEST SMALL TO MID-SIZED REEF TANK HOB PROTEIN SKIMMER

#2. Aquamaxx HOB-1.5

AquaMaxx HOB-1.5 Hang-On-Back Protein Skimmer

The old Aquamaxx HOB model was great, but the improvements to the 1.5 make it an amazingly easy to use option for your mid-size reef aquarium.

It’s got an enlarged bubble diffusor and reaction chamber which fully harnesses the power of the powerful and well-built Shark 1.0 pump. This maximizes the foam production, which in turn improves the protein removal.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Dimensions: 7.5 x 3.5 x 17-Inches
  • Tank size: 60-90 gallons
  • Bonus features: N/A

The uniquely shaped conical bubble diffusors are custom designed to minimize the turbulence felt in the reaction chamber which helps redirect the water upward to the collection cup. This means you get the most waste collection possible with super quiet operation. Plus, the collection cup is incredibly easy to remove and only needs 4-inches of clearance, making it ideal for tight spaces.

The Aquamaxx also uses the Sicce pump that’s fitted with a proprietary needle wheel impeller which gives it maximized force and precise efficiency. All that means is that this is an incredibly powerful and efficient HOB protein skimmer for getting rid of biological waste.

It’s easy to set up and maintain and is also another great option for newbie hobbyists, as well as long-timers.

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Macro Aqua M-50 Mini Hang-on External Protein Skimmer

For the smallest protein skimmer worth investing in, look to the Macro Aqua M-50 HOB.

This little sucker is designed for use in aquariums up to 60-gallons in size, with a water flow of 238 GPH, making it a pretty powerful option for your little saltwater tank.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Dimensions: 12.6 x 5.5 x 5 inches
  • Tank size: Up to 60-gallons
  • Bonus features: Works as either an in-sump or HOB protein skimmer for greater versatility

If you’re ready to dive into using your protein skimmer immediately, this no priming protein skimmer is a fantastic option from Macro Aqua. You’ll find it effectively eliminates that nasty organic waste produced by fish and overfeeding, with a simple to remove collection cup for easy cleaning and maintenance.

This HOB protein skimmer is super small and moderately quiet, so it’s un-intrusive and great for using in smaller, tighter spaces where loud, large things can be a major annoyance. It uses a needle-to-wheel impeller to boost air to water contact and is made of really high-quality material so it won’t break down anytime soon.

It’s really quite small and incredibly easy to install and use. Just place it and plug it in, and let it do all the work.

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CoralVue Technology BH-1000 Octopus with External 1000 Pump for Aquarium Filter

For the quietest, small HOB protein skimmer, look no further than the Coral Vue Technology BH-1000 Octopus.

It’s got great performance reviews from pros and amateur hobbyists alike, and comes in a reasonably small size that won’t mess with your aquarium’s internal aesthetics.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Dimensions: 19.3 x 10.6 x 9.4 inches
  • Tank size: up to 100 gallons
  • Bonus features: comes with external pump for filtration system

The Coral Vue Octopus is really easy to install, clean, and generally maintain, which makes it great for old pros and first-timers alike. It doesn’t add heat to the aquarium, unlike many other models, and it simply works well at a steady pace over the long haul.

It’s easily adjustable to meet your flow rate needs and works quietly in the background while giving great cleaning performance. It’s genuinely a no-brainer option for anyone looking for a high-quality two-in-one skimmer and filter pump system.

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BEST MULTI-FUNCTION LARGE TANK PROTEIN SKIMMER

#5. Coralife Super Protein Skimmer with Pump

Coralife Super Protein Skimmer with Pump

The Coralife Super Protein Skimmer is another option from a well-trusted brand.

Coralife’s patented needle wheel aspiration system and wide neck collection cup help the device live up to the company’s name. It’s super easy to clean – just twist off the collection cup and rinse with aquarium water – and very efficient at cleaning your aquarium.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Dimensions: 15.7 x 10.6 x 8.1 inches (smallest model)
  • Tank size: between 65 and 220 gallons
  • Bonus features: works as either an in-sump or HOB skimmer

This protein skimmer works reliably as either an in-sump or HOB skimmer, making it great for someone who needs a little versatility. It’s also specifically designed with a needle wheel impeller and aspirating venturi for the ultimate efficiency in waste and compound removal from the aquarium environment.

It works great in tanks ranging from 65 to 220 gallons, making it the best large aquarium HOB protein skimmer around. It is, also great, however, for nano reefs and small aquariums between 20 and 40 gallons in size for high-quality performance in delicate environments.

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BEST BUDGET-FRIENDLY PROTEIN SKIMMER

#6. Instant Ocean SeaClone Protein Skimmer

Instant Ocean SeaClone Protein Skimmer

The Instant Ocean SeaClone Protein Skimmer is our best recommendation for a budget-friendly model that anyone can use in their aquariums up to 150 gallons.

It’s easy to install, easy to use and clean, and powerful enough to actually keep your mid-size aquarium clean and healthy.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Dimensions: 18.5 x 6.2 x 4.5 inches (smaller model)
  • Tank size: 100 or 150 gallons
  • Bonus features: Works in-sump or HOB skimmer

The Instant Ocean SeaClone is an efficient machine that will wipe out the organic compounds from the aquarium quickly and efficiently. It uses a Turbo-Venturi injector system that was exclusively designed for the company.

The system mixes filtered water and air together in the pump impeller chamber to create a frothing, whirling micro-bubble foam in the vortex reaction chamber.

The tornado effect creates the powerful skimming action that gets your aquarium clean and keeps it that way. This effect also offers a greater gas exchange for the health of your aquarium life.

It works as either a HOB or in-sump protein skimmer, which is great for versatility and it’s small enough it won’t mess with the aesthetics of your aquarium.

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How to Set Up Your Hang On Protein Skimmers for Saltwater Aquariums

Once you get your HOB protein skimmer home, it’s important to know how to set it up properly. They’re pretty easy, but it’s not necessarily an automatic thing.

  1. Unbox your protein skimmer and make sure all pieces are present. Most will come pre-assembled, but some models will have some extras that allow them to work as an in-sump or HOB skimmer.
  2. Carefully read the instructions provided with the model you buy.
  3. Use purified, filtered and/or aquarium water to wet the suction cups for affixing the skimmer to the back of the aquarium.
  4. Position the protein skimmer on the back of your aquarium, as should be shown in the instructions.
  5. If the skimmer is not self-priming, you’ll need to follow the instruction on how much and how often to prime the device to help it work properly.
  6. Allow a few days for the protein skimmer to start working properly in full-swing. It will likely take up to 4 days to fully break-in, so don’t worry if it seems slow to work up to this point. But do keep an eye on the foam level to ensure it doesn’t surpass the collection container’s capacity.
  7. Make adjustments to the flow rate throughout the break-in process until the rates meet the needs of the aquarium.

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