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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I know that the consensus of this forum is not to use bio balls at all. What makes the nitrates so high when you use them? My ammonia and nitrite levels are close to zero, but my nitrate levels are at the high end of the strip.

Is there any benefit to using bio balls at all?
 

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I have been reading this board since I started the hobby and at one point asked the same question--and as with most topics got more than one opinion. The one I went with was--"if it ain't broke, don't fix it!"

I can't answer your question...but I can tell you that I have a 40g running with a wet/dry system (with bio balls and meant for a 55g), two powerheads, and Prism skimmer (for up to 100 g). My readings are all fine and have been for quite some time. My initial questions for you would be how much are you "feeding" the tank--I tended to overfeed at first and had terrible readings--and how often do you do maintenance?

My tank is not considered a "reef"--I have mostly fish with lr and ls--which I'm not sure if this makes a difference or not. The tank is also home to 1 rock anenome, 1 medium condy anenome, lots of shrooms and several assorted corals. My cleanup crew is a brittle star, 2 peppermint shrimp, 5 assorted crabs, 25 Nar snails, 5 large turbo snails and about 10 astreas.

I just recently moved into another home and had the tank moved--everything is still fine after 3 weeks (knock on wood). I asked my LFS guru (who is fabulous and he also moved my tank for me) about the bio balls--because I hate the "dirtyness" of them and thought I might take them out with the move--and he actually recommended keeping them and uses them in his store tanks. However, he did say that the possible reasons for my tank readings being consistent/good are that 1) my equipment is rated for higher capacity tanks, and 2) that I'm very anal/concerned about keeping my tank levels correct.

Sorry, to go on...but I like I said, I kept the bio balls and haven't had any problems. I'm sure that you'll get a few different responses on this topic!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I have a 72 gallon tank, 150 pnds live rock, live sand, Sea Clone skimmer (everybody hates these). I am regularly changing 25% of the water monthly (in increments).

6 fish. Dozens of hermits and snails and 3-4 brittle stars. 4 peppermint shrimp, 2 conde anenome's. Torch coral, green hammer, octobubble, green star coral, and some shrooms.

1-2 times a week I feed home made mush, and daily I feed flakes. Also the tangs get nori or seaweed daily. I also feed marine snow 3 time a week.

Could this feeding schedule be my problem?
 

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Summer and Alyssa's Daddy
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Sounds like you are overfeeding. I am not sure why you are feeding the flakes, but I used up flakes in my first batch of mush. (I have one 99 cent bottle of reef carnovore and reef vegitarian by Kent as an emergency). I feed once a day a bit of fish mush and a bit of coral mush. (Coral mush is just zoo plankton, phytoplankton, garlic, reef plus, coral vite, rotifers, baby brine shrimp). Each about 1/2 a tsp and I have probably the same bioload as you. Once a week is a starve day. I give my tang extra grazing nori once a week.

Ray
 

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This is a simplified explanation as I understand the process. If I am wrong or omit anything I hope someone with a better understanding will correct me.

I assume you are using some sort of 'wet/dry' system and thats where your bio balls are. Water from your tank is sprayed or trickles over them creating a high oxygen enviroment This creates almost ideal living conditions for certain bacteria that break down amonia/amonium to nitrite. These same conditions are good for another set of bacteria that utilize nitrite and leave nitrate as waste. These 'trickle filters 'are very effecient for this part of the 'nitrogen cycle' . These filters are not however good for the final step in the 'cycle' which is to convert nitrate to nitrogen gas. This requires another set of bacteria that do not thrive in the oxygen rich enviroment of your trickle filter. Thus the water coming from these filters are high in nitrate.

I would use one on a fish only/low light system in a heartbeat.
 

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Ughhh.. Dinoflagelettes..
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Wet/Dry's are most definately geared for fish only systems where the fish aren't as sensitive to Nitrates as Corals are...

I run a Wet/Dry on my 125 FOWLR with no problems... To combat the Nitrate, I have some LR in the return are of the sump... To convert the Nitrate to Nitrogen, you need an Oxygen depleted area... (Inside LR)...
 

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ROOTS...ROCKS...REGGAE
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Pat explained it very well. The bacteria that break down nitrate thrive in oxygen poor areas like the bottom of a DSB or deep in live rock.
 

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After my tank stabilized ... I replaced my bio-balls with LR to the sump-water-line. Now nitrates are around 2 or 3 ppm, slowly moving lower. Just 80# of LR in a 58, no DSB. Until I removed them though mine hovered between 10 and 20 ppm. Everything did fine [corals, my few fish] ... but I removed them about 1/4 every 10 days ... and watched the nitrates slowly drop once I started doing that.

Do you turn your return pump off during feeding? If not, maybe a good chunk of the food is ending up in the bio-balls which would not help the situation.

Personally, I'd use my bio-balls during any tank cycling/establishment. Seemed to help that process along, IMO. Then slowly remove once the tank is stable and you have the nitrogen cycle stabilized as it's just a debris trap. I suppose you could also just remove some every week and rinse them ... but that's more work than I wanted. LR works fine down there, is a home to many 'pods I've been noticing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I always turn off the return when I feed. I also do my water changes directly from the tank after blowing off the crud from the live rocks.

I will follow your lead in the slow removal of the bio balls. I agree with your post, a new setup or a fish only tank is the only place for them.

Washing bio balls isn't high on my entertainment list, I did it once and the ppm went down slightly.

Thanks for the help.
 

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Little fish in a big pond
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PJenkins - great explanation!

Mangomark - you hit on an important part too - food/crud in the bioballs can spike nitrate - many people neglect their prefilter, the pad that catches the schmutz before it hits the bioballs - that's the most important piece of mechanical filtration in a wet/dry, IMO.

Jenn
 

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I'm a lilttle confused about this whole thing. Isn't nitrate the end result of the nitrogen cycle, regardless of how it is achieved?

I've followed this advice, no bioballs in my system. However, I have noticed that my system (135 reef 250lb+ LR) seems to be very sensitive to ammonia spikes.

Now my new thought is this:

If bioballs provide the most efficent means for converting ammonia to nitrite to nitrate, they should reduce the size/duration of any ammonia-nitrite spikes. The end result is nitrate anyway. Why not get there faster?

I'd rather do a water change to get rid of Nitrate, which doesn't seem to effect my critters nearly as much as ammonia.

I'm sure I am missing something.

Jay
 

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:funny: :funny: :funny:

She said schmutz! HeHe

:funny: :funny: :funny:
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Bio balls do not help in the beginning of the process. The ammonia to nitrite change happens with the bacteria in the tank.
 

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Summer and Alyssa's Daddy
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My son has a nano tank with a 20 gal Sump. 3/4 of his sump is refugium and the other 1/4 is where his pump and skimmer reside. The refugium is on a reverse light cycle and outside of a pods and bristleworms and bristlestars has no critters. Just a 5-6 inch sandbed and a handful of macros. He went through some real issues with cyano and hair algaes but amazingly enough, these issues lasted a very short period of time. He had to take all of the rock from the tank and scrub them down and added a powerhead. No more problems and now, (he started this project in January and completed his tank in March so it is about 5-6 months old) 1-5 ppm nitrates at the most and every other reading is close to perfect. Because he is using an open tank, it controls temperature better than my tank.
I mention all of this since I run a tank that started out with bioballs and after about a year, after losing some corals, I had chemistry problems. After I fixed the tank with major water changes, I added a powerhead to the sump (to create even more flow), and started to remove my bioballs and replace them with homemade live rock (the ugly garf kind). Now when I grab a frag, I am getting some coloration in the rocks and my nitrates dropped back off. However i still can''t get them to the same levels that justin has.

Ray
 

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jrutler said:
I'm a lilttle confused about this whole thing. Isn't nitrate the end result of the nitrogen cycle, regardless of how it is achieved?
actually Nitrogen is the end result of the nitrogen cycle. nitrate is broken further down in to gaseous Nitrogen.

G~
 

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Ray1214 said:
started to remove my bioballs and replace them with homemade live rock (the ugly garf kind).
Ray
Hey! I make that ugly rock. It actually comes out looking pretty good after it is cured and seeded. Are you getting your Agrocrete directly from GARF?
 

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Master of Perplexity
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I was confused about the whole bioball thing too. I felt I had a good handle on the nitrogen cycle and couldn't figure why the quick conversion of ammonia to nitrate wasn't a good thing. I've got a prefilter in the overflow and a filter over a drip plate onto the bioballs. Neglecting these filters is not an option since they can restrict flow if not cleaned regularly. Still, the bioballs are yet another filter, and as such can accumulate nitrate as detritus, streaming it into the main tank, and with an upset comes a big dose of nitrate to really screw things up, so I'm in the "slowly remove them from the system" stage. In my bio-filter there is also a sponge after the bioballs, and it's never been cleaned; god knows what kind of mess I'll find when I get down to that point. After that, it's a LOA 65 watt light that I'll use to grow macro and live rock where the bioballs used to be. Oh, and I never exceeded 5ppm nitrate in my system, but probably only because I cleaned (most) of the pre-filters scrupulously and changed about 10 gallons every two weeks.
 

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actually Nitrogen is the end result of the nitrogen cycle. nitrate is broken further down in to gaseous Nitrogen.
Thanks, Geoff.:rolleyes: I guess I neglected the Ideal end result.

My point is, if I have a choice between temporarily elevated levels of ammonia, nitrite or nitrate, I'll take nitrate -- as quickly as possible.

reeforama- I thought both the ammonia and nitrite conversions benefitted from aeration. Although I'm definately a layman in this area.

Also, it seems like a decent pre-filter or a settling chamber will help prevent the bioballs becoming a detrius trap. I know this is typically done with a filter pad on a direct line from the overflow. Maybe it would be better to put the BBalls further down the line.

Jay
 
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