Bio balls poll

Discussion in '3reef Site Polls' started by steve wright, Mar 27, 2010.

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Bio balls - whats your opinion

Poll closed Apr 26, 2010.
  1. Used them and have no issues

    33 vote(s)
  2. Stayed away from them due to opinions of others

    42 vote(s)
  3. Used them, had issues, made changes

    16 vote(s)
  4. I dont care - stop bothering me with trivia

    3 vote(s)
  1. the fisherman

    the fisherman Vlamingii Tang

    May 1, 2009
    new jersey
    Never used them. I use the berlin method and love it.
  2. Click Here!

  3. schackmel

    schackmel Giant Squid

    Jun 4, 2008
    St. Louis
    I have problems. They came with my sump on my 135, and I removed them and replaced then with live rubble because of all the things I read. I have later returned a batch of them to the sump. I also have both bioballs and rubble in my sump of my FOWLR tank and use just bioballs in my nano. Never had probems with any!

    My rock rubble and bioballs are very similiar. Both are designed to have lots of grooves to grow bacteria in...this bacteria is what helps convert ammonia to nitrates. Which is more toxic on fish..ammonia or nitrates? I havent had a problem with either, ammonia or nitrates in any of my tanks.

    (On a side note...I do have one of tangsters denitrator on my FOWLR that helps and am going to get one soon for my reef tank)
  4. wfb2270

    wfb2270 Corkscrew Tentacle Anemone

    Oct 26, 2009
    had a huge nitrate problem. although i am sure it was not cleaning the canister filter enough as a whole, it did have bioballs in it.

    i think bioballs do take some unfair heat. pretty much anything the same size as bio balls (LR rubble, cermic rings, ect) will catch and hold detrius. so they have to be clean.
  5. ComputerJohn

    ComputerJohn Panda Puffer

    Jan 23, 2009
    I have a similar issue. My Reef Devil Deluxe uses bio balls in the intake. I called AETECH the maker of it & spoke to the owner. I asked him if I could just not use them, he said no and that the skimmer would not work correctly. I don't remember why, since it's been almost a year I have spoken to him. End result, I bought new ones, :( since I purchased the skimmer used & didn't want to use the old ones.

    I'll know in a few weeks, when I fire it up. ;D

    Example From AETECH's Website:


    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Mar 30, 2010
  6. mikejrice

    mikejrice 3reef Affiliate

    May 24, 2009
    I think bio-balls get a lot of bad press due to user error. In reality, they are the most efficient filtration you can use for a marine aquarium of any type if they are properly maintained. I ran them for about a year on my reef with no problems, and I still run them on my FW tank with no problems at all.

    Even though I think they can be used as good filtration, I'm not saying they should be used for all people. The maintenance just isn't worth the trade offs you get for them, and live rock combined with a refugium can do just as good of a job with little or no maintenance.
  7. steve wright

    steve wright Super Moderator Staff Member

    Feb 17, 2009
    shenzhen Guangdong PRC
    interesting poll
    there are more positives for the use of Bio balls then there are negatives
    which surprised me

    my understanding may be flawed and as such I would enjoy the opportunity to learn something

    this is how I understand the situation at present

    the bacteria that converts Ammonia to Nitrite and Nitrite to Nitrate utilise oxygen
    and as such bio balls with a large surface area provide ideal real estate for those species

    the bacteria thats responcible for converting Nitrate to Nitrogen gas does not require oxygen and as such Bioballs do not contain enough real estate of this nature

    so you end up with an unbalanced filtration system, you can only have X amount of bacteria and if you rely on bioballs, then you have an abundance of bacteria that do the 1st couple of aspects of the nitrogen cycle but not enough of the bacteria to finish the job

    my understanding is that by removal of the bioballs and placing the empthasis on the live rock in the tank which does have deeper pores so can accomodate the non oxygen requiring bacteria means you end up with a balance of the bacteria species required
    and thus greater control on your nitrates

    the question - OK - I remove my bio balls, thus what happens to all the ammonia and Nitrite that the bacteria on there used to process is simply - it does not exist

    uneated food is just food
    the nitrogen cycle starts to work once the bacteria start to break it down
    with a balanced amount of the required bacteria species

    with a system that favours oxygen requiring bacteria - all the uneaten food gets broken down rapidly and then sits there for ages waiting for the smaller QTY of non oxygen requiring bacteria to break it down

    I view it as a production line - if you have to many people at the start of the line and not enough people at the end - you end up with a lot of half finished product bottle necked along the route

    I recognise and understand that some people would have additional means of providing adequate real estate for the non oxygen requiring species (DSB in fuge - Nitrate reductor etc)
    and as such these people maintain a balanced filter system

    the cynic in me feels

    If I take out the bio balls - I can then disconnect the de nitrator
    because my production line at the start will have slowed down, so I dont need to throw additional bodies down to the end

    like I said at the start maybe I am wrong

    I hope so
    it means I have an opportunity to learn something

    1 person likes this.
  8. Click Here!

  9. ComputerJohn

    ComputerJohn Panda Puffer

    Jan 23, 2009
    Well put Dr. Wright.. lol..... ;D
  10. gabbagabbawill

    gabbagabbawill Pajama Cardinal

    Feb 16, 2010
    Atlanta, GA
    I don't think we have any way of knowing how much total bacteria we have in our tanks, whether they are aerobic or anaerobic.

    In a system with bio-balls, you're presuming that it breaks down ammonia and nitrite faster... but what happens in a system that doesn't have bio-balls? Do the ammonia and nitrite stay in the water column much longer? Probably not. It will de-nitrify as long as there are enough bacteria present.

    As I understand it, bacteria is going to populate and grow to meet the demand of the aquarium as long as it has a place to populate. So, if there is sufficient live rock, you'll end up with the same number of aerobic bacteria populating the live rock as you would with a combination of LR and bio-balls. In this case, the bio-balls are probably not helping reduce ammonia or nitrite any faster/ better than live rock alone, since the population of bacteria are the same, they are just in different places.
  11. ReefSparky

    ReefSparky Super Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 27, 2007
    South Florida
    I agree with all that you say, Steve. That's how I understand it too. If I could add something, it's that nitrifying bacteria (all 3) grow on any and all available surface area. As you covered, 3rd type which changes nitrates to nitrogen gas, won't grow in aerobic conditions (such as on bioballs properly utilized in a trickle scenario). They inhabit the deepest most recesses of LR, and in DSB's where it's anaerobic. BTW, this is why beginners need to know that only the most porous rock (i.e. the real type from the ocean) is suitable for LR--where Texas Holey Rock--and other non porous rock is not suitable for our purposes as biological filtration.

    My opinion on what happens when you ditch the bioballs is this: the bacteria that was on the bioballs are now forever gone; but other existing bacteria will proliferate in response to their food source (ammonia and nitrite) suddenly increasong. Since there now exists a disparity b/w bacteria population and food, by necessity, more of them will grow elsewhere until the system is again balanced.

    A balanced aquarium, or biological filter is one in which the number of bacteria is matched with the real-time production of ammonia. In this scenario; ammonia and nitrites will not exist for any real amount of time as they're converted "on the fly." That's why we're advised to ditch the bioballs in a slow fashion, (popular sentiment seems to be about 25% per week).

    Good thread, and I'm glad you made the distinction b/w the bacteria that inhabit bioballs, and those that don't. Perhaps this is the reason why the term "nitrate factory" and bioballs are seen together so often.

    IMO, ample LR negates the need for bioballs, and it's a more complete biological filter, as the bacteria necessary for conversion of nitrates into nitrogen gas are included in the LR scenario, but as much in the bioballs/LR scenario.
  12. blumoon reefers

    blumoon reefers Millepora

    Jun 18, 2009
    Richmond, VA
    This has been an extremely interesting thread. One point that I see on the poll is that the people who have had issues with bio balls are considerably less than those who just haven't used them because of what they heard or read somewhere else. I would suppose that the ones that had issues were most likely due to improper maintainence.

    One more example of doing personal research as opposed to just going by what someone has else has said.

    Great thread/poll!!