Going Skimmerless

Going Skimmerless – A Failed Experiment

Well, I gave it the old college try. For two months I ran my 187 gallon reef tank without a skimmer. Why did I do this? The primary reason was a nine month battle I was having with cyanobacteria.

Cyano prefers higher C02 and my skimmer sits in a sump in the same room as my furnace, a potential source of C02. In theory, shutting down the skimmer should have lowered C02 in the tank since the skimmer’s air intake is supposed to equalize C02 levels between the air and tank water.

After receding a bit at first, the cyano eventually became even worse, covering most of the sand and a good percentage of the live rock. My nitrates didn’t go up but my phosphates had climbed.

cyanobacteria reef tank

Going Skimmerless – Impact on pH

What about my pH? It did rise slightly to 8.3 during the peak of my light cycle, an indication the tank was receiving less C02 without aeration from the skimmer. One other thing to note, before I turned off the skimmer I did run some tubing from my skimmer’s air intake through a utility window in the basement to try and bring in less C02 rich air. Unfortunately, I did not observe a rise in pH or less cyano.

After I turned the skimmer back on my cyano did not retreat despite trying other things such as performing larger water changes and feeding the tank less. Interestingly, the chaeto in my ARID algae reactor was not growing as well while my tank was skimmerless, a key reason, I believe, the experiment failed since nutrient export was weak. In fact, it was not growing great while the cyano was in full bloom before and after the experiment.

Chaeto Growth Takes Off Without Cyano

About five weeks ago I did eradicate the cyano and since then my chaeto has been growing like gang busters. Why did the chaeto take off? I believe the cyano restricted chaeto growth since the cyano acted as the dominant form of nutrient export.

pax bellum arid algae reactor

Now that the chaeto is growing, would my tank do well without a skimmer? I think it would but things are going pretty well so I am going to pass, for the time being, on trying that again 🙂 Interested in learning more about how I won the battle with cyano? Stay tuned….I will have an update very soon.

Additional Resources

If you would like some help with a new tank build, including help designing a custom aquarium, or help re-configuring your current setup then you can visit this page for more information. And if you are looking to add some equipment, I do sell GHL, Pax Bellum, Reef Octopus Calcium and Kalk Reactors and Royal Exclusiv products, including Dreamboxes, which is the equipment I use and recommend. I also sell Reef Brite metal halide and LED fixtures as well as Maxspect & IceCap Gyres.

As for additional insights and information, please explore my many other reef tank and SPS related articles as well as my YouTube channel. For an even deeper dive into reef tank care you can check out my Reef Keeping Master Class. This online course is an immersive and one of a kind educational tool designed to help reef aquarium hobbyists build and maintain a beautiful SPS reef tank. The course is a series of video presentations with some supplemental video from my YouTube channel. There are also quizzes to help students retain and understand the information presented in the course.

Need some frags…..I can help with that as well 🙂 Please visit my SPS Frag store to see what is available.

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