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I'm reading a book on aquariums for starting a freshwater aquarium. In the book, I am on the topic of filtration and I have just finished reading about the protein skimmers. It says that protein skimmers are not very effective in freshwater tanks unless if the water has a high ph and a specific gravity. This part confuses me. What does that mean?
 

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That's correct...protein skimmers just don't work in FW, only SW. Besides, you really need a sump setup to have a protein skimmer, which is more involved and not typical for FW.

For advanced filtration you might look into micron filtration or a diatom filter. The problem with these type filters is the velocity required to force the water through such very fine media - a force great enough to not be practical in a FW tank for any extended periods. (Years ago [70's] I used a Vortex Diatom filter periodically in my multiple tanks that resulted in incredibly clear water).

Another option is Seachem Purigen. It is a synthetic polymer resin (plastic) that adsorbs dissolved organics (much like a protein skimmer collects same). I'm using two 100ml pkgs in my 60g. It works very well and can be regenerated numerous times in a 50/50 bleach/water mix.

Finally, don't rule out simple polyester fiber for trapping very fine particles and 'polishing' the water just before it returns to the tank. Don't pay extra at the pet store - I get mine at the local wallymart in the craft area (used to fill pillows) - a large bag for $4.
 
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