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Old 07/04/2016, 12:12 PM   #1
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Join Date: May 2012
Location: Atlanta, GA
Posts: 53
Bio Pellets versus Vodka Dosing

This topic has been discussed numerous times over the years, but I’ve never noticed any emphasis placed on the shedding and pellet consumption. My 1000-gallon system has a high bio load. My Phosphates and Nitrates run at zero consistently. I have a large Commercial Grade Reef Octopus Bio-Pellet Reactor that is easily 5 feet tall. I use Dr. Tim’s Pellets.

• When using bio-pellets, I run the return directly into a large filter sock that I have zip-locked around the return pipe. This needs to be changed every two days due to the shedding from the bio-pellets, it blows up like a balloon and becomes pressurized due to the shedding getting trapped inside the sock, therefore I can’t let it go for very long.

• People don’t realize the volume of bio-pellet shedding that takes place, until they trap it with a filter sock, and then suddenly they see two days of shedding and realize that is all going into the tank.

• Without the strap-on Filter Sock on the Bio-Pellet Return pipe, the 3 filter socks in the sump on the return become clogged and overflow in a few days. With the strap-on filter sock, the return socks on the return in the sump never get totally clogged (but I change them every three days anyway).

• In addition to the shedding, the bio-pellets are rapidly consumed due to the size of the system and the high bio-load, therefore becoming expensive.

• I have a gigantic Bio-Pellet Reactor and run two to three gallons of bio-pellets that get continually replenished every month. The bio-pellets are consumed at varying rates due to the amount of nitrates produced in the system each week. The more nitrates the more bio-pellet consumption. Ecosystems seem to process their biological loads in waves, therefore it is easily observed that the bio-pellets are also is consumed in waves.

• My assumption is that having an abundance of bio-pellets available will neither increase or decrease their consumption, it is the demand of the nitrates that will utilize whatever amount of bio-pellets are required at any given point. Therefore, having an abundance of bio pellets should not harm the system, they will only be consumed as needed based on the availability of nitrates.

I’ve never used Vodka Dosing, however, my research suggests that it will produce the same effect as bio-pellets but without the Shedding. I am considering investing in a commercial grade dossing pump to dose the vodka. Here are my concerns:
• Will Vodka produce the same exact effects of bio-pellets with regard to both Nitrate and Phosphate reduction?

• Will Vodka run completely clean without shedding?

• Will Vodka increase the bio-load or contribute any waste or bi-product equivalent to the ‘shedding’ from the pellets?

• Vodka Dosing can’t self-adjust when higher nitrates are produced, whereas Bio-Pellets automatically self-adjust the amount of carbon dosed based on the amount nitrates available: Example: When more nitrates are produced, then more bio-pellets are consumed. When less nitrates are produced then less bio-pellets are consumed.

• Vodka Dosing would be the same exact of Vodka dosed by the pumping system each day, regardless of nitrate swings upward and downward. A couple of dead fish trapped under the rockwork would consume more bio-pellets, whereas with Vodka, the pump would not know to increase the dosage for a few days to process the decomposing fish. Therefore, I would expect to see Nitrate swings with Vodka Dosing due to the natural swings in nitrate production.

I am tired of changing my Bio-Pellet Filter Sock every three days, but I certainly don’t want the shedding clogging my Protein Skimmer in 48 hours! This will interfere with the Protein Skimmer doing its job.

What about combining the Bio-Pellets and Vodka Dosing together? Here are some assumptions:

• Combining Vodka Dosing with Bio-pellets will drastically reduce the consumption of bio-pellets.

• The bio-pellets will still be available to handle the nitrate swings when needed.

• The amount of Vodka would be under the normal daily nitrate production, but high enough to handle a large chunk of the nitrates.

• The bio-pellets will be utilized secondarily to hand the remaining nitrates over and above what the vodka is handling.

• Therefore, if additional bio-load / nitrate became evident, the bio-pellets would cover the extra load whereas the Vodka would continue in the dosing pump in the same volume every day.

• Combining vodka and bio-pellets would drastically reduce shedding of the bio-pellets and run ‘cleaner’.

• Combining vodka and bio-pellets would be cheaper, as the bio-pellets wouldn’t need to be replenished as often.

Interested to hear your thoughts, as you guys are the experts!!


Current Tank Info: Tank Info: Family Room Mixed Reef: 225g 72"x24"x30" Tall, Office Anemone & Clownfish Tank: 225g 60"x36"X24" Tall, Sump Room Basement 180g single sump, both display tanks plumbed into single sump.
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Old 10/07/2017, 10:50 AM   #2
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Join Date: Jan 2014
Posts: 3
Biopellet mulm post from 2016

Hi Jonathan,
I was researching biopellets recently because I'm having similar issues that you described with how quickly the filter sock (dedicated to biopellet output) was clogging up. I can't seem find many others out there that talk about issues with pumps (skimmer and return) seizing up because they need to be cleaned from the biopellet mulm.

I know your post was last year, but didn't see any follow up. Did you find a possible solution that works for you? Did you stay with biopellets or switch to vodka dosing? I have a 265gallon, so not nearly as large as yours, but would love to hear if you've done anything different since your post.


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Old 10/07/2017, 11:23 AM   #3
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Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: Maryland
Posts: 19
I was a complete non-believer in vodka until I tried it. Holy smokes did my tank look pristine within 2 days! $2.00 syringe off of Amazon and some Tito's vodka (my wife rolled her eyes) - 3mL twice per day and I got far better results than running biopellets for months and months prior.

Every tank is different, but if you haven't tried vodka, give it a go to see if it works for your tank/water.


90 gallon, Kessil AP700, 2x MP40s, Apex, Trigger34
Variety of fish and RBTAs; Coral-curious...
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Old 10/14/2017, 06:42 PM   #4
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Westminster, CO
Posts: 17,286
By shedding do you mean bacterial sliime or actual plastic? Never encountered it but always go directly into a skimmer, not a bag.

Hobby Experience: 9200ish gallons, 26 skimmers, and a handful of Kent Scrapers.
Current Tank:
Vortech Powered 600G SPS Tank w/ 100gal frag tank & 100g Sump. RK2-RK10 Skimmer. ReefAngel. Radium 20k.
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Old 03/20/2018, 07:07 PM   #5
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Join Date: Feb 2018
Posts: 4
I run pellets and have to clean my filter sock and skimmer cup daily. The sock is coated with the slimy film that is pretty much water tight but rinses off quickly in soft water and a mild scrubbing by hand. The skimmer cup collects extremely clear rather large bubbles that pack dense enough to actually move the lid of the cup off center and even press through the breather holes in the lid. I don't think this is from just physical shedding but the actual waste material from the breakdown of nitrate.

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