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Old 04-22-2012, 05:01 PM   #1
alschwei
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Are Bio-balls the best?


I have a 35 gallon wet/dry sump with bioballs on my 90 gal reef tank. I heard a rumor that they are not exactly the best filtration media to put in the sump....they make the nitrates high, and so on.

Is this true?

If so, is there any other material that could be better? Maybe those pieces of ceramic tubes or something.
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Old 04-22-2012, 06:23 PM   #2
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Welcome to TRT, Al!

It's not a rumor. The purpose of bio-balls or any filter media is to trap detritus and organics and take them out of the water column. The problem is that those organics decompose and do produce nitrates, etc., in the process. IMHO, no filter medium is good for your reef.

Filters are ok in fish only setups but in a reef, optimum water quality is important to the health of corals, which are much more sensitive to water issues than most fish.

The best way to export excess nutrients from your water is a good protein skimmer.

Hope this helps.

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Old 04-22-2012, 08:28 PM   #3
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I do have some fish: naso tang, clowns, and shrimp and such. Is it in their best interest to remove the bio-balls? I did notice a spike in my nitrates lately. what should I do?
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Old 04-22-2012, 08:50 PM   #4
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How much live rock and what corals do you have? The corals would be more stressed than the fish but fish certainly could be affected, too.

I would really advise researching a good skimmer for your tank and then pull the bioballs once you have the skimmer. I can't advise as to which skimmer to buy but there are lots of skimmer threads here to search through.

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Old 04-23-2012, 07:52 AM   #5
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I currently have a Coralife 125 superskimmer which works extremely well. I get lots of protein and have to clean it about once a week. Right now there is about 75 lbs of LR and my goal is to get about 90-100 lbs. I have some Zoa's, Two types of frogspawn, and a large rock covered with pumping xenia and mushrooms. I had a large colt coral but it died so I removed it from the tank. Left behind were three small frags (approx 2-3 inches each) of the colt. There is also a bubble coral in there that my LFS gave me for free because it was almost dead....fell into a dark place in his display tank at the store and he found it..blah blah blah...and he gave it to me. It is doing much better now.

So you are sayng that I should remove the balls? Then is there anything else that I could/should put in the sump instead? Pehaps mount a light under my stand and turn it into a refugium..always wanted one of those.
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Old 04-23-2012, 08:18 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alschwei View Post
I currently have a Coralife 125 superskimmer which works extremely well. I get lots of protein and have to clean it about once a week. Right now there is about 75 lbs of LR and my goal is to get about 90-100 lbs. I have some Zoa's, Two types of frogspawn, and a large rock covered with pumping xenia and mushrooms. I had a large colt coral but it died so I removed it from the tank. Left behind were three small frags (approx 2-3 inches each) of the colt. There is also a bubble coral in there that my LFS gave me for free because it was almost dead....fell into a dark place in his display tank at the store and he found it..blah blah blah...and he gave it to me. It is doing much better now.

So you are sayng that I should remove the balls? Then is there anything else that I could/should put in the sump instead? Pehaps mount a light under my stand and turn it into a refugium..always wanted one of those.

1.) You can definitely pull the bio-balls at this point. You really do not need anything in the sump. I and many others go with a berlin style pump which just uses the sump area to house the skimmer, heater and return pump. It also acts as a settling area for debris which makes it easier to siphon out.

2.) You may also want to adjust your skimmer so that its making more of a wetter skimmate. On a tank your size you should be emptying at least twice a week. I have a 65g and currently doing 2x a week emptying. Initially the thought was to get a dark thick mucky skimmate, but recently it is understood to have a more watery looking collection about the color of a dark tea. Once I adjusted my skimmer for this, my water bound nitrate levels dropped within days from 20ppm to about 5ppm with no other change/mod to the system. I intetionally keep my level at 5ppm because most of my corals(softies mostly with some lps) do not seem as happy when they are any lower.

As for a refugium, I'll leave that to those who use one. Again, I understand the concept, but I personally tend to agree with this train of thought - If you are able to grow macro algae in it, then you are obviously supplying the tank with too much nutrients to begin with.

I can certainly see using one as a place for growing/housing a copepod population to supply your main tank- but again, it does add another level of care/maintanence to the tank. Just research the thoughts of those who are happy with them to be sure you want to go that route.
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Old 04-23-2012, 08:30 AM   #7
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I also agree on taking the balls out and just make it a sump.
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Old 04-23-2012, 09:17 AM   #8
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Sounds like that is what I need to do. I will turn up the skimmer and see if that makes a difference and yes I am getting a more wet skim. Currently my skimmer hangs off of the side of my sump. Do you think that I should place the skimmer into the sump? It doesnt seem that it would make a difference.
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Old 04-23-2012, 09:26 AM   #9
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Your skimmer (Coralife 125 superskimmer ) is designed to hang on the back of tank or sump (HOB). Just leave it where it is.

As for growing algae as a refugium, like datpabi said, there are different thoughts on that. I personally don't like the idea of having something else to bother with (harvesting algae) when you've got plenty enough other things to do in caring for your reef.

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Old 04-23-2012, 10:04 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by FishDaddy View Post
Welcome to TRT, Al!

It's not a rumor. The purpose of bio-balls or any filter media is to trap detritus and organics and take them out of the water column.

Dick
This is incorrect. The purpose of Bio-Balls is to give bacteria a breeding ground and confine to live, NOT to collect detritus! Again, Bio balls are one of the most efficient forms of filtration. There is absolutely nothing wrong with them. Bio balls can not and do not create nitrate. Detritus collecting on the Bio balls or rock rubble will/can cause nitrate from the decay. Using a drip tray with filter media over (or in front of) the Bio-Balls will prevent any accumulation of said detritus.
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Old 04-23-2012, 01:22 PM   #11
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I think both my and MrPlum's responses were incomplete and perhaps oversimplified. There are mixed opinions on bioballs in reef tank applications.

This thread is a good discussion of the pros and cons: http://www.thereeftank.com/forums/f6...ight=bio+balls

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Old 04-23-2012, 04:01 PM   #12
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I was just about to remove the bio balls....and, now i don't know again....To remove the gunk that has been building up in the sump, since it is on the floor, i don't see how a siphon will work......any thoughts on that??
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Old 04-23-2012, 04:20 PM   #13
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Dick
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Originally Posted by juliew6611 View Post
I was just about to remove the bio balls....and, now i don't know again....To remove the gunk that has been building up in the sump, since it is on the floor, i don't see how a siphon will work......any thoughts on that??
If you mean how can you siphon the sump, a good way a lot of us use is to use a wet vac (be sure to turn off the return pump!).
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Old 04-23-2012, 04:29 PM   #14
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Bio-Balls Don't Go Bad, They Just Get Dirty!

Why blame bio-balls for nitrate problems when it's not their fault?

By Stan & Debbie Hauter, About.com Guides

See More About:

Bio Ball

How often have you read postings or email from aquarists who complain about their bio-balls going bad? The quickest and most often suggested solution we see to this problem is to, get rid of the bio-balls, now!! This is ridiculous. It is NOT the bio-balls contained in a wet/dry trickle or other type of biological filter that have gone "bad", but just like with an undergravel filter, it is the "lack of proper maintenance" that turns them into a nitrate factory.
It is only when bio-balls as well as other similar types of biological filtration mediums are allowed to become dirty and encrusted or embedded with broken down matter or dissolved organic compounds (DOCs) that they then start to contribute to the accumulation of nitrate in a saltwater aquarium or reef tank system. There is no need to immediately trash or remove them, which should NOT been done in the first place because it can cause your whole system to crash, you just need to clean them up. Once this has been accomplished, and as long as this is the "sole source" generating the nitrate in the aquarium, with some water changes and by keeping to a good regular maintenance routine after that, nitrate and bio-balls woes in all likelihood will decrease.
How can you tell if the bio-balls are dirty?
One way you can test to see if it's time for a cleaning is by ruffling or lightly stirring up the top layer of the bio-balls. When this is done you will see gunk break loose from them. The only problem is that in most all cases the mass of the organic matter settles in the bottom layer of the bio-chamber, because it gets pushed down by the water dispensed into the filter over time. You can stir the bio-balls up from the bottom to see how things look, but be careful doing this. If the filter is running and the output water goes directly back into the aquarium without being filtered first, it can shoot a bunch of the gunk right into the tank. To prevent this you can place a micron-mesh bag that is fine enough to catch the organic matter as the water is dispersed into the tank. To assist with cleaning up any possible organic matter that may get into the aquarium while you are testing for, as well as performing a cleaning, attach a simple hang-on-tank canister filter (read reviews & compare prices) for mechanical filtration and run it during and several hours afterwards.
Before You Start Cleaning
  • This is a procedure suggested to be performed only on aquariums that have been running for at least 4 months, because the nitrifying bacteria have had time to develop a strong population, and in all likelihood the bio-balls have begun to accumulate a substantial, but not overwhelming amount of DOCs.
  • As far as how often a cleaning needs to be done, if your system has been running for some time, say longer than 6 months, with no bio-ball maintenance at all, it may take a little time to get them cleaned up first. After that you can determine when cleanings need to be performed based on how your individual system is set up and functions. After a while you will know when to do it.
  • Even though periodic bio-ball cleanings are important, this procedure may weaken the nitrifying bacteria population that keeps the ammonia/nitrite in check in an aquarium. Therefore, it is vital that you do it properly to avoid stressing your system, and possibly causing new tank syndrome.
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Old 04-23-2012, 08:20 PM   #15
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wow, I guess Ill leave them in then. That is the reason why I got them in the first place. We are avid freshy enthusiasts and have been working with nitrifying bacteria for quite a while. Tried all sorts of filtration on the fresh water tank until we got it right. Haven't had to touch it in months and months. Thank you Eheim! This is our first salt tank so bio balls seemed the way to go...but so far ive learned that everything with salt is super opinionated...do this, dont do that...do that, dont do this, etc etc etc...
I appreciate all the feedback, Bio balls stay! with a regular cleansing of course. But to my original question.

Are bio balls the Best? or maybe I should get some of those little ceramic tubes, or something else? There are many options

Perhaps something thats natural? I live right by the ocean and a rather large brackish water estuary.
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