Re:protein skimmer micro bubbles

Pete Giwojna

Dear Cajun:

A few microbubbles in the aquarium are ordinarily not a cause for concern, but if your protein skimmer is releasing a ton of them, then you’ll need to address that problem. Such microbubbles are not directly harmful to seahorses and are generally only problematic when they contribute to gas supersaturation. If the aquarium water become supersaturated, gas emboli can form in the blood and tissues of the seahorses, resulting in various forms of gas bubble syndrome (GBS).

On small, closed-system aquariums, supersaturation is often due to the entraining of air on the intake side of a leaky pump, which then chops the air into fine microbubbles and injects it into the water (Cripe, Kowalski and Phipps, 1999). Water and air are thus mixed under high pressure and forced into the water column, which can result in gas supersaturation. An air leak in inflowing or recirculating water that enters the tank below the surface can cause the same thing (Cripe, Kowalski and Phipps, 1999).

Microbubbles in the aquarium can sometimes contribute to gas supersaturation in a similar fashion if they are sucked into the water pump and then pressurized as they pass through the filtration system. So you’ll want to eliminate the excess microbubbles that your protein skimmer is producing to reduce the chance of that happening. It sounds like it’s releasing a great deal of the microbubbles, which would increase the chances that some of them can be sucked into the aquarium filters and pressurized, which could contribute to gas supersaturation of the aquarium water.

With a relatively new protein skimmer, most likely the skimmer simply needs to be tweaked or adjusted properly in order to eliminate the excess microbubbles it is producing. For example, the water level inside the main chamber of the protein skimmer is a crucial factor for most units. If the water level is too low, it will inhibit foam production. On the other hand, if the water level is too high, it may result in excessive amounts of very wet foam and overflow the collection cup.

In your case, with the Coralife Super Skimmer, you may need to tweak the water level adjustment dial. Or you may need to adjust the red water flow valve, or perhaps the underwater water intake valve. Don’t hesitate to contact the manufacturer for troubleshooting tips to help you eliminate the excess microbubbles that are being released. Some protein skimmers have bubble traps available to eliminate excess bubbles from the outflow of the skimmer. Ask the manufacturer if there is one for your Coralife Super Skimmer.

It is also very common for the bubble production in protein skimmers to change when additives are introduced to the aquarium water or during water changes or following heavy feedings. Water conditioners and other such additives may temporarily change the surface tension and surface active features of the bubbles in the water, causing a protein skimmer to go nuts and produce large amounts of wet foam that overflow the collection chamber. Normally that type of problem corrects itself after an hour or two, but sometimes it’s necessary to turn off the protein skimmer for a while following a water change or the use of an aquarium additive or a heavy feeding. As a rule, however, that’s undesirable and you want your protein skimmer to operate 24/7 around the clock…

In all likelihood, your new skimmer just needs a little longer break-in period and some further adjustments to overcome this problem, Cajun, and getting some support from the manufacturer regarding troubleshooting the unit should be very helpful in that regard.

Best of luck eliminating the excess microbubbles from your seahorse system, sir.

Pete Giwojna

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