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Old 10/22/2017, 10:39 AM   #1
ctripi
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back to bioballs

I hoping to trigger a discussion as to why we would, in light of the current pros and cons of biological media (ex live or dead rock, ceramic media), not consider bioballs (or other plastic media) as a valid option for long-term reef husbandry. From my understanding, the biggest issue long term is the accumulation of detritus and the build-up of phosphates on or in the media.

Questions:
1. What contributed to the concept that bioballs served as a source of nitrates etc.
2. How might one substrate be any better or worse at supporting the denitrification cycle

The reason for my inquiry is that as I plan a new SPS display, I wonder if a mesh bag of bioballs would be a practical means to biologically support the tank and avoid the initial start-up costs and long term short comings of the aforementioned traditional media. I would periodically pull the bag-o-balls, repeatedly dunk in my freshly drained water change water to reduce detritus and place back into the sump. Aethestically, there will be small rock in the display.

Thoughts?


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Old 10/22/2017, 10:43 AM   #2
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Why not just get some siporax or matrix? They are both exponentially better in terms of surface area for biological filtration.


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Old 10/22/2017, 11:51 AM   #3
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I think the issue is that a brick of marine pure or other bio media only cost about $30 and has many, many, many, times the surface area of a crap ton of bio balls, takes up a lot less space and won't require you to rinse them every few months if you have adequate flow through them.

Yes, bio balls would work, with maintenance, assuming you have really good filter sock or other pre filter to grab all the big stuff.

Im not going to do the math but for the sake of argument, 2 blocks of bio media, will probably get you ten to twenty times the surface area of an entire 30 gal sump of bio balls. I think BRS has a great video on the comparison.

P.S. Dunking the bag won't work, The crap will still be inside the bag unless the holes are pretty big and even then there is the possibility that the bag will hold enough poo to contribute. Think filter socks which must be washed after each use.


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Old 10/22/2017, 12:31 PM   #4
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So aside the concept of surface area, no reason not to consider bioballs so far. K1 media is also a option for increased surface area.

The bag I have in mind is essentially a nylon laundry bag with 1/8 to 1/4 mess. A couple of vigorous shakes / dunks would prove to be more than adequate to rid detritis


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Old 10/22/2017, 12:33 PM   #5
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Bag of balls would sit in sump chamber after filter sock, skimmer and sediment trap.


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Old 10/22/2017, 02:06 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ctripi View Post
Bag of balls would sit in sump chamber after filter sock, skimmer and sediment trap.
Like I said, YES, it will work by increasing surface area, only not as much as a block or two or bio media which will also take up less space.


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Old 10/22/2017, 06:18 PM   #7
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just filled my old aqua medic nitrate bioball reactor with live rock rubble . . . hope to use it for home for sponge and bacteria.


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Old 10/22/2017, 09:33 PM   #8
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I recall back when bioballs and wet dry filters fell out of favor in the reef hobby because of nitrate build up concerns. Of course this was not too long after I got a brand new Amiralcle PL-2000 wet dry filter with integrated protein skimmer back in the 90’s (cutting edge back then). Now we see issues of ULN where people are dosing stump remover to increase nitrate levels as to not starve their coral. I’m going to add some bioballs to the filter sock of my Tunze 9410 skimmer to serve two purposes, one being to quiet down the noise of the outflow of the skimmer into the sock and the other to see if I can help raise my nitrate levels in any meaningful way. I would rather not use Marinepure or Siporax based on Aluminum leaching concerns.


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Old 10/22/2017, 10:58 PM   #9
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Clearly a lot of tanks are not exactly suffering from high nutrient levels for sure.
My aim is to provide a substrate that is easy to maintain as well as reduce the accumulatoon of nutrients into the rock or ceramics.
Still the question remain as to what (if not anything at all) contributes to the notion that bioballd contribute to the long term accumulation of nitates


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Old 10/23/2017, 08:20 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ctripi View Post
Clearly a lot of tanks are not exactly suffering from high nutrient levels for sure.
My aim is to provide a substrate that is easy to maintain as well as reduce the accumulatoon of nutrients into the rock or ceramics.
Still the question remain as to what (if not anything at all) contributes to the notion that bioballd contribute to the long term accumulation of nitates
Bioballs are great at providing substrate for bacteria that convert ammonia to nitrite and nitrite to nitrate in a highly oxygenated environment. BUT... as normally employed, they don't provide the proper environment (low oxygen) for the conversion of nitrate to nitrogen gas. That is the genesis of the "nitrate factory" issue.


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Old 10/23/2017, 08:53 AM   #11
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Correct me if I am wrong but not much of anything can as effectively as one might hope. Deep sand beds for example need to be of a size that would not be practical for the denitrifying load it is designed to support.
This is one reason why I follow the large and frequent water change philosophy.


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Old 10/23/2017, 11:17 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ctripi View Post
Correct me if I am wrong but not much of anything can as effectively as one might hope. Deep sand beds for example need to be of a size that would not be practical for the denitrifying load it is designed to support.
This is one reason why I follow the large and frequent water change philosophy.
Many substrates are effective at managing nitrates. Porous rock, sand beds, matrix blocks, & etc. Actually, any or all of the common methods can keep nitrates in acceptable levels under reasonable bioloads. You should not have to do water changes to maintain low nitrate levels. There are cheaper methods if your bioload exceeds the capacity of the system.

*Sorry Forgot to say why bioballs aren't as effective for nitrate reduction*
Bioballs, while having greater surface area than say a simple sphere or block, have way less area than other media that is porous or otherwise composed of a lot of surface area per square inch. In addition, since all of the bioballs' surface is exposed, it is difficult to limit oxygen to enable the reduction of nitrate to nitrogen gas.


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Old 10/23/2017, 12:11 PM   #13
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use an algae scrubber to remove N and P... bioballs are fine but as with all things, the devil is in the detail. Are you thinking of raising them into a wet dry with a drip tray? Are you thinking of just leaving them submerged in the sump?


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Old 10/23/2017, 11:07 PM   #14
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I’m considering some sort of inert surface, such as bioballs or k1 submerged in the sump in place of rock.
With respect of conversion of nitrate to atmospheric nitrogen, I am not aware of any aquarium methodology that can achieve that step effectively hence everyone’s reliance on a means of nitrogen export such as skimming, algae mats, macro algae or controlled bacterial blooms
Aside large frequent water changes, I also subscribe to the KISS philosophy in aquarium husbandry. And feel that overly complicated systems stand too great of chance for failure and potential demise.

It would seem that for as much advancement reef keeping has experienced over the past decade and more, we are coming back full circle to some older proven methods.


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Old 10/24/2017, 08:23 AM   #15
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With respect of conversion of nitrate to atmospheric nitrogen, I am not aware of any aquarium methodology that can achieve that step effectively ...
How do you measure "effectively"? Many, if not most, hobbyists use anerobic bacteria cultures as the base export method for nitrates. Will this method handle the all the nitrates produced by a heavy bioload? Maybe, maybe not... but it's extremely KISS.

I have noticed a trend toward less complicated systems but I haven't noticed the circle moving back to frequent large water changes for nitrate control. Bioballs (and huge water changes for nitrate control) don't fall into the KISS category... they're more in the obsolete category.


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Old 10/24/2017, 06:24 PM   #16
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How do you measure "effectively"? Many, if not most, hobbyists use anerobic bacteria cultures as the base export method for nitrates. Will this method handle the all the nitrates produced by a heavy bioload? Maybe, maybe not... but it's extremely KISS.

I have noticed a trend toward less complicated systems but I haven't noticed the circle moving back to frequent large water changes for nitrate control. Bioballs (and huge water changes for nitrate control) don't fall into the KISS category... they're more in the obsolete category.
good points here . . . KISS is best, and I hate water changes. a system with lots and lots of live rock (how much? is too much?) and maybe another method or two for nutrient control; might seem possible to reduce water changes very significantly or hopefully eliminated except in case of some emergency. its just a dream really . . .


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Old 10/25/2017, 08:45 AM   #17
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good points here . . . KISS is best, and I hate water changes. a system with lots and lots of live rock (how much? is too much?) and maybe another method or two for nutrient control; might seem possible to reduce water changes very significantly or hopefully eliminated except in case of some emergency. its just a dream really . . .
It doesn't have to be live rock. Properly prepared, dry rock works too. And it doesn't take as much as once thought. The amount it takes depends of the density on the rock. Very porous, less dense rock works best. I like dry Fiji Rock.

You might check it out... less water changes seems to be the trend. Not only are people doing way less water changes, the reason they are doing them has changed. They are not intended to export/dilute nutrients. They are intended to balance ions that build-up or are lost over time. Some advanced hobbyists are doing almost no water changes at all.


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Old 10/25/2017, 09:59 AM   #18
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I have to say this - bacteria is not the only or best filter mechanism in a reef.
In fact, I would say that algae and sponges are the more dominant mechanisms for sequestration. Bacteria help but they're not building biomass... they're just passing through and they don't work on both the N and P. The most you can hope for is to export nitrogen gas... a minor component relative to what happens on the real reef.


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Old 10/25/2017, 11:30 AM   #19
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I have to say this - bacteria is not the only or best filter mechanism in a reef.
In fact, I would say that algae and sponges are the more dominant mechanisms for sequestration. Bacteria help but they're not building biomass... they're just passing through and they don't work on both the N and P. The most you can hope for is to export nitrogen gas... a minor component relative to what happens on the real reef.
+1. BUT... you can't put a bag-o-sponges in the sump! There is a big learning curve required to go from discussing bioballs to discussing biomass.


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Old 10/25/2017, 11:21 PM   #20
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The fact that people are adding a source of nitrogen (elementally speaking) to provide for the health of their tanks potentially suggests that the need for conversion of nitrate to nitrogen is maybe not as important as we once thought
Some maricultured farms have been dosing a nitrogen source for decades.
Added to that is some recent research has also suggested that we may not have the nitrogen cycle figured out.
Water changes have been an important pre planning concept for tanks. I can perform up to 55g changes by turning valves and with out touching buckets.
Though I have essentially no experience maintaining tanks not reliant on water changes(fresh or saltwater), I wonder how folks deal with trace elements, water yellowing and allelopathy with out increasing the complexity of their system and increasing the long term risk to invertebrates. But I don’t want to derail the thread with topics outside my attempts to justify a rock less or block less sump


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Old 10/25/2017, 11:28 PM   #21
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I’ve also been interested in the cryptic sump concept since it was brought to light years ago.
But struggled with the notion of how w one might manage detritus accumulation without disturbing the system
Which brings me back to my goal of evaluating the value of an easily maintained substrate for biological filtration


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Old 10/26/2017, 04:30 PM   #22
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i like chemipure the best


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Old 10/27/2017, 12:39 PM   #23
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There are two reasons they are called nitrate factories.

First they tend to collect waste(uneaten food and such) as it gets trapped in the prongs and cant be flushed off. So it just sits there and rots. This can easily be fixed with a filter sock before the bio balls and or just giving them a rinse in tank water to clear the debris off them a few times a year.

Second they are exceptionally good at ammonia to nitrite and nitrite to nitrate. But nitrate to nitrogen, well they arnt so good. But technically thats the same for live rock.

That said anything with a bunch of surface area will do the same thing. Live rock, Matrix, hell a cinder block will do it, and most of them are better at it than bio balls.

If you want SPS, go with live rock. Bio balls are not what you want. Fish only, yeah why not.


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Old 10/27/2017, 05:24 PM   #24
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Bioballs, biowheels and other media are a solution in search of a problem. Always have been. Essentially an invention of the aquarium supplies industry.

The denitrifying bacteria that occupy your tank will assume a population based on nutrient supply (ammonia / nitrite) and not surface area. Just look at the bare tanks of feeder fish in pet stores stocked to brim with goldfish or guppies. Bacteria aren't having a hard time consuming all the ammonia produced by those fish in a bare glass tank.

I'll give you one strong negative against mechanical or artificial biological filtration. Lets say the power goes out and your external gadget housing all these colonies of bacteria gets decoupled from your main tank. Now your screwed because ammonia levels will rapidly escalate because you've encouraged bacteria to grow on media external from the main biology producing ammonia. It would be like having a colostomy with a healthy colon just because you like having a bag hanging off your abdomen. I prefer to keep the biology in the tank. The Berlin method works - live it / love it.

I'm all for mechanical deitrus filtration. I just prefer to do it with a device that can be easily cleaned on a frequent basis to keep bacteria from establishing; HOB filter, etc.


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Old 10/28/2017, 10:28 AM   #25
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You make a good point. There is that risk of having most of my denitrifing load remote to the display. But I hope to have a mature sps display with some open space above it. All in a 50-60g cube. Thankful power outages are very rare where I live.
The recent thread on GAC and dissolved organics had Matt Waddell mentioning the at least one of the displays at the cal Academy of Sciences is supported by remote bioballs.
There seems to be some nice sps displays started with dry rock alone. So one may conclude that, excluding a comparison of surface area, it doesn’t matter what the composition of the biological filter substrate is.



There will be rock in the display but minimally so. So in order to have a decent bioload I’ve got to plan for remote.


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