Well, here are my feelings on the matter — a marine aquarium can never be over skimmed but they certainly can be hindered by insufficient protein skimming or foam fractionation. Truth be told, the Skilters have a pretty decent filtration system but the built-in protein skimmers leave a lot to be desired. They tend to be a bit noisy and twitchy — difficult to keep tuned in properly, which makes them relatively inefficient units. I suspect that’s why your local dealer is recommending a supplemental protein skimmer in addition to the build-it protein skimmers that come with the Skilters. I’m not familiar with the PS 75 skimmer he suggested, but I figure he’s recommending a protein skimmer that’s only rated for 75 gallons because you will be using it in addition to the built-in skimmers in the Skilters, and altogether that should provide your 110-gallon aquarium with plenty of protein skimming ability. At least, I suppose that is his line of reasoning…
This is what I normally advise hobbyists regarding protein skimmers, Tasha:
Although seahorses can certainly be kept successfully without the use of a protein skimmer, I recommend including a good skimmer for best results. As a rule, seahorses are messy feeders, particularly when scarfing down enriched frozen Mysis. Ample evidence of this is revealed every time they scarf one up. As they snick up a shrimp with their slurp-gun snouts, water is passed over their gills and expelled forcibly (it is this very process that generates the powerful suction they use to slurp up their prey). As the jet of water is ejected through their gills, it carries a cloud of macerated particles and debris with it. It is a startling sight the first time you observe this phenomenon, for it brings a fire-breathing dragon to mind. As one young hobbyist matter-of-factly described it, "My seahorse blows smoke out of its ears when he eats." I’ll be darned if that’s not exactly what it looks like, too!
The majority of the undesirable metabolites, organic wastes and excess nutrients that accumulate in our aquariums and degrade water quality are "surface-active," meaning they are attracted to and collect near the surface of a gas-liquid interface (Fenner, 2003). Skimmers take advantage of this fact by using a column of very fine air bubbles mixed with aquarium water to trap dissolved organics and remove them from our systems. This air-water mixture is lighter than the surrounding aquarium and rises up the column of the skimmer until the foam eventually spills into a special collection cup atop the skimmer, which can be removed and emptied as needed. Proteins and other organic molecules, waste products, uneaten food and excess nutrients, and a host of other undesirable compounds stick to the surface of the bubbles and are carried away along with the foam and removed from the aquarium (Fenner, 2003a). As a result of this process, these purification devices are typically known as foam separators, foam fractionators, air-strippers, or simply protein skimmers.
In my experience, nothing improves water quality like a good protein skimmer. They provides many benefits for a seahorse setup, including efficient nutrient export, reducing the effective bioload, and increasing both the Redox potential and dissolved oxygen levels in the water (Fenner, 2003a). They do a tremendous job of removing excess organics from the aquarium, including phenols, albumin, dissolved organic acids, and chromophoric (color causing) compounds (Fenner, 2003a). Their ability to remove dissolved wastes BEFORE they have a chance to break down and degrade water quality makes them indispensable for controlling nuisance algae. A good protein skimmer is an invaluable piece of equipment for keeping your nitrates low and your water quality high when feeding a whole herd of these sloppy eaters in a closed-system aquarium.
When it comes to skimmers, both the AquaC Remora and Euro-Reef series of protein skimmers are first-rate units that will serve you well. You can’t go far wrong if you select a quality AquaC or Euro-Reef skimmer rated for an aquarium of appropriate size. I believe Premium Aquatics (http://www.premiumaquatics.com) carries all of those brands of hang-on-the-back protein skimmers, and I would select one of the above if I was you. If the available space behind the aquarium is at a premium as far as installing a protein skimmer goes, a lot of hobbyists like the Red Sea Prizm protein skimmers because of their sleek compact design.
If you can afford a good protein skimmer to supplement the Skilters, Tasha, then I would be all for it. And since I don’t believe a marine aquarium can have too much protein skimming, I would have no problem at all if you wanted to get a quality unit that was rated for an aquarium of 110 gallons or more.
However, you really don’t need to be worrying about a protein skimmer while your aquarium is in the process of cycling. It’s important not to operate your protein skimmer, ultraviolet sterilizer, or ozonizer, or make water changes while your new aquarium is cycling. Remove chemical filtration media while the aquarium is cycling and avoid adding any ammonia-removing liquids or ammonia-sequestering products (such as BIO-Safe, Amquel, Ammo-lock, Aqua-Safe, etc.) while the tank cycles. You want a nice high ammonia spike, followed by a nice high nitrite spike, when the aquarium cycles in order to build up the largest possible population of the nitrifying bacteria that feed on ammonia and nitrite, so using any type of filtration or additives that could reduce the amount of ammonia or nitrite at this time will actually hinder the cycling process and be very counterproductive.
So wait until your 110-gallon aquarium has cycled and the biological filtration is fully established before you worry about installing a protein skimmer on the tank, regardless of the brand or the size.
Best of luck with your new aquarium, Tasha!
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support
Post edited by: Pete Giwojna, at: 2009/02/16 00:41