Recently, Innovative Marine released a new offering in the nano reef aquarium protein skimmer market that they dubbed the Skimmate which comes with a design that’s very familiar, until now, only with larger skimmers. Two sizes are available covering tanks up to either 25 gallons or all the way up to 65 gallons depending on which model is selected, and with needle wheel pumps powering both, they are sure to do the job well. Following the release of these skimmers, I was quick to jump on board. Being an early adopter of IM’s products, I already have an Innovative Marine 30 gallon Nuvo Aquarium set up and running, so the addition of the Skimmate Protein Skimmer seems all too natural. For my needs, I decided to go with the Desktop model, which is built for the 16 gallon Nuvo, but should fit my tank well.At about $100, the Skimmate certainly wasn’t the cheapest nano skimmer option out there, but with its built in needle-wheel pump, I was expecting a lot. The first thing of note when unpacking the skimmer is of course the build quality. Innovative Marine is quickly becoming known for high quality products, and this one is no exception. The entire skimmer is constructed of molded plastic and acrylic which all seems to be thicker than would be found on similar products. Everything fits together nice and tight, and every piece seems to have a specific function. The Desktop model skimmer is a pretty standard design, overall, with a cylindrical chamber used for the contact zone, a small needle wheel pump attached below to feed in oxygenated water and a collection cup with internal riser tube up top. Both the pump and collection cup slide snugly into o-ring seals with tight tolerances to help prevent leaks. The contact chamber has a bubble tube built into its bottom to help get the bubbles channeled up towards the skimmer neck, and the plumbing that exits the body is set low on the side of the cylinder to keep escaping bubbles to a minimum. The exit tube has numerous holes along it’s vertical path to help water exit through an included sponge. This design should get exiting bubbles low enough for in tank applications as well as in filters. The needle wheel pump draws air through a silencer, with adjustable air valve, which attaches near the top of the skimmer with a set screw clamping it into the skimmer mounting bracket. This makes it possible to adjust the amount of air flowing into the pump as well as the height from which it’s drawn. The Skimmate comes with two different mounting brackets, built from beefy acrylic, to fit most tanks. I opted to use the rimless mounting option which uses a plastic screw to clamp onto the glass. Innovative Marine hit this one out of the park as far as looks and build quality goes, but it’s when it hits the water that it really starts to shine. The Desktop model easily dropped right into the rear chamber of my 30 gallon Nuvo, and the attachment screws keep a very steady hold on it. Firing it up for the first time, I was pleased to hear a lack of noise that comes from a well designed air system. With the air valve fully open, noise is almost undetectable, and with it partially closed only a slight rumble can be heard.
Adjusting the Skimmate is relatively straightforward with a clamp screw holding the body in the mounting bracket adjusting the height of the skimmer in the water. It’s easy to get it roughly tuned with this height adjustment, and the air valve makes fine tuning quick. Holding this tuning seems to be the skimmer’s only downfall. After several months of use, I have to admit that I spent A LOT of time adjusting this skimmer before finally finding the prevailing issue. Calcium deposits have a habit of building up in the small tubing that feeds air to the pump which causes some pretty unreliable results. As with all reef aquarium equipment though, they have their upkeep, and simply cleaning this deposit out when cleaning the cup keeps the skimmer running true. The initial break-in for the IM Skimmate was a pretty standard period with about a week of varying success. Directly following this period, it began to produce some dark skimmate that is rather uncharacteristic of nano protein skimmers. Before this skimmer, it was my experience that most nano offerings produce a more watery consistency due to the lower nutrients of small system stocking levels, but this one harnesses the needle-wheel effectively enough to pull out some nice coffee colored nastiness. After some tuning, the Skimmate easily pulls a full cup per/week from my lightly stocked 30 gallon reef. As when I first started it up, the noise level has stayed incredibly low throughout all of my testing. I’ve tested various heights of adjustment in combination with airline adjustments to compensate, and managed to find a sweet spot every time. This leads me to the conclusion that the skimmer can be run at many different depths with high levels of success which should make it a good choice for many different reef aquarium systems. The Desktop Skimmate has now been running on my system for about two months, and after this period I’ve come to some conclusions. It is definitely a well rounded protein skimmer that exceeds my expectations when I hear the word “nano” in an equipment name. It does have its quirks, such as the airline clogging problem, but once these are figured out, it’s pretty strait-forward to keep it running well. The price sits up there with several other nano skimmers, which also receive great reviews at every turn, which makes the Skimmate a good option but not the only way to go. In such a competitive industry, the choice still comes down to personal preference and fit to each of our individual systems, but Innovative Marine’s offering here is certainly one worth considering.