View Full Version : Biopellets w/o skimmer: Food for corals?

01/14/2011, 11:45 AM
So my question is this:
Since biopellets grow bacteria on them to injest nitrates and phosphates and what not, and the skimmer is meant to skim most of these guys out of the water, per reading briefly on BRS' pellets, couldn't you run biopellets without a skimmer, just allowing extra food to be provided to corals and maybe the refugium/sand bed?

01/14/2011, 03:24 PM
Nate answers your question very well in the article noted below. Replacing vodka as a carbon source with biopellets makes little difference. ;)

Vodka Dosing...Distilled!

From Nate's article:

Equipment - Skimmer, An Absolute Must!

Well if it sounds so great, why can't I just start dumping vodka/organic carbon into my system? Before running to the liquor cabinet, the simple answer is overdosing can cause serious and detrimental effects to the reef system. To help circumvent this potential issue a dosing regimen along with some basic equipment is needed. The absolute must is the requirement for a powerful skimmer. People that have reported beneficial results using this method all have had strong skimmer and report a change in skimmate from a light brown to a strong odiferous black sludge. This makes a good skimmer a key requirement and important for two reasons:

Gas exchange. The increased bacterial biomass and growth will decrease your dissolved O2 levels in the water column. Too much vodka can result in a drastic decrease of O2 and can cause stress to your reef inhabitants, if not death.
Exporting bacteria/macromolecule mass. Vodka addition results in lower NO3 and PO4 levels. You will want to export the incorporated nitrogen and phosphates that you are cultivating by organic carbon dosing. Efficient skimming allows such removal.

Jorg Kokott, a key contributor to the original thread, recommended the use of ozone during the duration of vodka dosing to maintain high levels of dissolved O2 in the system. This decrease in dissolved O2 is indirectly observed in ORP meter readings after vodka addition. Though not an absolute requirement, as told from many RC participants, ozone may add an extra level of protection by increasing O2 levels during an overdose.

Gelbstoff, German for yellow matter, is reported to buildup in aquariums over time. Additions of vodka or other carbon sources have the potential to accelerate the yellowish water buildup from organics. To solve this problem, people have utilized ozonators to breakdown of the organic molecules responsible for resulting in yellowish water. Ozone is an attractive choice as it would not only breakdown the gelbstoff but will also add O2 to the water in case of an overdose. For people not interested in running ozone other solutions for this problem are the addition of granulated activated carbon or through regular water changes. Pictured above is miwoodar's tank. This aquarium successfully used vodka to lower nitrates and phosphates. His setup utilizes a skimmer but does not utilize ozone. After reduction, continued growth and coloration was observed amongst SPS and LPS corals.

01/14/2011, 04:08 PM
ahh okay. It's more than twofold: skimming increases the o2 in the water which was utilized by the bacteria, and nutrient export of the major excess of bacteria biomass

01/14/2011, 04:29 PM
Yes, the skimmer has a couple of very important functions. Carbon dosing might be okay without a skimmer, but the maximum safe dosage likely is considerably smaller in most systems.

01/14/2011, 09:38 PM
Marko Haaga runs a system like this: http://www.sreef.fi/sReef/Blog/Blog.html

However keep in mind his husbandry is very very good.

01/15/2011, 07:31 AM
Marko Haaga runs a system like this: http://www.sreef.fi/sReef/Blog/Blog.html

However keep in mind his husbandry is very very good.

I see he uses phosban and carbon reactors with biopellets and that's it.

Interesting. Seems he's very successful too.

04/01/2011, 02:41 PM
But that article talks about vodka dosing, which has the notorious disclaimer that you can easily overdose.

But the magic about biopellets is that you can NOT overdose. The bacteria just consumes the biopellets as needed.

Having said that, do corals need O2? I'm running a new separate frag tank and I'm considering putting a biopellet reactor in there. If O2 is required, could I just put an air pump in the sump?

Randy Holmes-Farley
04/01/2011, 03:01 PM
Yes, corals need O2. Maintaining O2 in a reef at night can be difficult, and a skimmer is a great way.

I think it is an open question what happens when you carbon dose in any fashion without a skimmer. It might be a fine plan, or not. :D

But the magic about biopellets is that you can NOT overdose. The bacteria just consumes the biopellets as needed.p

That's a hypothesized advantage that may not be actual if the pellets release any organic matter.

04/01/2011, 06:57 PM
I would never recommend skimmerless. Look at TOTMs. What do they have in common? A kick *** skimmer!

04/01/2011, 08:25 PM
If you dose extra organics and don't export them ,ultimately they will build up. A skimmer helps export and gas exchange .Granulated activated carbon is likely even more efficient at exporting them.

I think claims that the pellets can't be overdosed are not borne out by experience since many using them report bacterial blooms in the tank. Seems to me the pellets in reactors likely do release organics into the water .
Since they are polymers the organics may include monomers such as sugars which can be harmful to some corals.

04/02/2011, 09:46 AM
It has been my experience that you can absolutely overdose biopellets.

In had them online for a month or so with the output pointing to the skimmer. All was well, no improvements to the tank but they weren't hurting anything. I changed the output location to the return and upped the flow a tiny bit and it nearly crashed my tank. I had a *huge* cyano bloom and my very large pink Millie sitting under the return RTNed overnight. I don't think I will go back to biopellets.

Consequently the only other time I had a near tank crash was also carbon source related. I was experimenting with vinegar/kalk mixing in my topoff and was having some success. The night before a week long vacation my skimmer died. I didn't have time to mix fresh topoff water so I crossed my fingers and left for the week. I came back to most sps corals in various states of STN but everything recovered.

04/02/2011, 01:22 PM
You really need a skimmer when running bio pellets. Its is probably the most important thing you almost must have when running bio pellets. In fact they advise you to run the pellets reactor inline with the skimmer, and make sure you have a good strong skimmer with bio pellets rt otherwise its not recommended to run pellets.

Randy Holmes-Farley
04/02/2011, 01:33 PM
You really need a skimmer when running bio pellets.

But do you in fact know what happens if you do not run a skimmer? I know all the theory about why one might want one, but I can't see how an existing skimmerless system is going to be greatly harmed by a small amount of organic carbon addition done in a way that prevents O2 from getting too low.

IMO, it's an interesting experiment. :)

04/03/2011, 01:26 AM
I suspect it might work if the amount of carbon was strictly controlled. I don't think biopellets would accomplish this though.

07/09/2012, 01:45 PM
I've been running biopellets on a 20G tank with built in filtration consisting solely of a filter sponge to remove large particles and the biopellet reactor. The reactor holds just under .5 liters of BRS BioPellets which are fed back into the filtration chamber. Two MaxiJet 1200 provide flow in the tank and power the filter section. Their output is about mid tank and pointed up to make a turbulent surface for gas exchange. The BioPellet Reactor was used previously on a 100 gallon frag tank. The system has been up and running for 3 months now. In addition to the filtration mentioned above my rock structure consists of a single piece of Vida Rock (Ceramic Reef Rock), cured for 3 months in my refugium and a shallow sand bed. The tank is stocked with 4 Green Chromis and a Sailfin Blenny plus a mix of SPS, LPS and soft corals.

I added the biopellet reactor when I noticed increased nuisance algae and the start of a cyano bloom. Within a week the cyano was gone and the nuicense algae is now receding. The fish, CUC and corals all look fine and I have never seen any signs of a lack of oxygen. The fish swim energetically throughout the tank and ony gather at the top when the auto feeder dumps.

I would say that if the biopellets could be overdosed they would be in this setup but I have seen no signs of problems with any of my corals or fish, the water is crystal clear tube worms and sponges cover the shaded parts of the rockwork.

This tank is set up in my office and I am away on business for 4 days per week.

Here is a pic of the latest full tank shot and the automation. The tank is still young and lightly stocked but I am very happy with the performance of the BioPellets in keeping nuisance algae and cyano out of the system.



06/23/2013, 09:46 AM
I had do something, my tank had red slime algae, so a year ago I made a small algae scrubber, all research said I didn't need a skimmer , which was a large atss 1600 with twin beckets. This skimmer was taking up a lot of room and I didn't clean often enough. It did not run it all the time, so I sold it. I think my nitrates have always been high , I have a deep sandbed and was feeding too much , even though I have had this 180 gallon tank set up for 13 years with 90 gallon sump. I re-connected my refugium and purchased six mangroves, put in different floating algae . I measured my nitrates a few months later for the first time with Salifert test kit and they were very high perhaps 80-100 it is a hard test kit to read when you first get it. I have no corals just a carpet and anemones . I put in Vertex bio pellets (half the bag) after soaking for three days in a two little fishes reactor , after a month they started to come down then a week or so later they were 25, and two weeks later they or almost nothing just a very pale pink tint which maybe zero.... I bought a used kalk reactor and over a few months my tank is full of purple coraline algae,(my ph is a steady 8.2 so not dosing any more) and I have no red slime algae , so just sharing my story, my fish are happier my anemones are opening more, I may try some corals again. Do I leave it running? thanks

06/23/2013, 03:26 PM
I don't see any reason to stop the pellets if the tank is doing well. Do you see a lot of sponge growth, by any chance?

06/23/2013, 03:27 PM
hi thanks no sponge growth

06/23/2013, 03:34 PM
Okay, just wondering. People have commented on getting lots of sponge growth with pellets.