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I have had a SW tank for a few years and I recently got a larger tank. I'm making the transition to a reef. I set my sump up with bio-balls in a baffle/media area of the sump. Since then, I've been reading that bio-balls are not good for reef tanks because they are "nitrate factories." I've been a little confused by this because obviously nitrates will be produced in the tank and the bio-balls just provide the surface area for the bateria that change ammonia into nitrites and nitrites into nitrates. It seemed to me that the presence of bio-balls wouldn't increase nitrates because the production of nitrates is only controlled by the amount of waste, ammonia, nitrites etc. I know that the anaerobic bacteria that breaks down nitrates into free nitrogen can't live on the bio-balls. However, those are still present in the tank in the sand bed and LR. So.........I'm confused as to why bio-balls are bad....help me out. I recently read a post (by Doug I think) that mentioned something about the nitrates not being produced in close proximity to the bacteria that breaks them down. Is this the problem????? He also mentions having macroalgae in the sump to help deal with nitrates. What sort of macroalgae can I put in my sump and can I simply put it in the baffle/media area? I'm quickly running out of money in my aquarium budget so I can't make any major changes (refugium etc). Sorry for the long post...just trying to get some things straightened out. Thanks for the help
 

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It is indeed the proximity issue. Having the nitrates produced from nitrite in the sand bed places them in direct proximity to the anaerobes within the sandbed, so the newly produced nitrate is immediately consumed and therefore doesn't enter the water column proper. That I believe is the theory.
 

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I have also read that the bio-balls will create nitrates! From what I have read if you use small pieces or live rock in place of the bio-balls. The anaerobic bacteria (Inside the LR) will break down nitrates into nitrogen? And also by having a refugium in the sump will help even more.


Just an idea::idea:
 

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Almost every customer we had at the store who was using bio-balls had extremely high Nitrates. Once the bio-balls were removed (very slowly in an established tank) the nitrates reduced to an acceptable level.

Yes, rubble rock will work much better, and your tank will reward you for this.

For the macroalgae, calupera is wonderful. It will absorb nitrates and keep the tank healthy. But remember if you put any life in the sump, you will need to add light to the sump in order for it to grow. You don't need much light just some.
 
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