Surface vacuum cleaner / skimmer for aquarium

If you want to keep your aquarium clean, you should also have a so-called surface extractor. This is a practical aid for maintaining the water quality and removing mould skin.

What is a surface vacuum cleaner?

With a surface vacuum cleaner (also called Aquarium Skimmer) I am dealing with a small and motor driven filter for the aquarium. Its inlet is located directly at the water surface. The aquarium water, which is located at the surface, flows through the suction device together with the impurities. If there are also plant remains in it, these are prevented from entering the pump wheel by a special container. The latter is best checked regularly and, for example, during normal water changes, and cleaned if necessary. The most frequent use of surface suction is therefore the removal of mould skin in the aquarium

What is the perineum?

Stefan, Kahmhaut, marked as in the public domain, details on Wikimedia Commons

The mould skin is a kind of film of microorganisms that is located on the surface of the water in an aquarium. It can also attach itself to solid objects such as stones. The mould skin is, so to speak, the boundary between the water and the air. It consists of the most diverse microorganisms, such as Algae, Bacteria or yeast. These accumulate there because they find ideal living conditions. Among other things, the mould skin is also favoured by dust particles from the air. These have a special surface tension and therefore cannot sink in water.

In addition, the underside of the water surface contains mainly substances that are lighter than water, but also cannot easily escape into the air. There are aquarists who simply find the mould skin unsightly. In addition, under certain circumstances it can disturb and reduce the incidence of light.

How does a surface extractor work?

The individual models are partly constructed slightly differently, but the basic construction is always quite similar. Inside the vacuum pool cleaner there is a small pump motor which, like an internal filter, continuously sucks in the water. This also breaks through the surface film. The surface extractor is attached to the pane in the pool either with suction cups or with special braces. Some models also have a floating protective ring. This can adjust itself completely independently to the water level of the aquarium.

The protective ring also prevents fish and other tank inhabitants as well as somewhat coarser plant remains from being accidentally shredded by the surface extractor. So if you want to be on the safe side, you should choose a model that has one. Some aquarists optimize this special protection device additionally with filter sponges or with particularly fine grids. This prevents shrimp and other small aquarium inhabitants from getting into the filter.


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Advantages of surface vacuum cleaners

  • fast and effective method for the removal of perineal skin
  • removes almost all particles on the surface including plant residues
  • most models are easy to clean

Disadvantages of surface extractors

  • Additional costs / acquisition costs
  • Should be cleaned regularly e.g. by changing the water


With a surface aspirator the mould skin on the water surface of an aquarium can be removed effectively and lastingly. There are different models, some of which have a practical floating ring.

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