10-30-2011, 08:05 PM
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I concur with Boredomb's explanation, and I agree with AbbeysDad's comments. One other method is a surface skimmer attachment that you can get with many canister filters; I realize you have a HOB, so that is not an option in this particular case. I have used the surface skimmer with my canisters, but small fish kept getting pulled in and stuck, so I took them off. Making screens I didn't want to do because then floating plant bits get caught and the thing doesn't do its job.
Obviously if I had these gadgets I must have had protein scums. As has been mentioned, they are basically harmless unless they get bad, and I have had that in one tank. Excess organics cause this, similar to cyanobacteria. And interestingly, in tanks with bad protein scum I also had significant cyanobacteria. Not really surprising, considering.
Slight surface disturbance usually keeps the protein scum very minimal. It is frankly just another part of a natural system. I see it more in some tanks than others. Remove what you can during the water change by inverting the siphon and skimming the surface manually.