Bio-balls in sump

Discussion in 'General Discussions and Advice' started by Jinx, 19 Jun 2009.

  1. Jinx

    Jinx

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    Hey Hennie there are so many opinions out there as to the placement of bio-balls in a sump.....I would just like to get your opinion on this please.
    If not what would you suggest would be the best media to place in ones sump?
     
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  3. Manic

    Manic Moderator

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    I know I'm not Hennie but I would recommend live rock. Fist size pieces. If you go to small they do nothing.
     
  4. Jinx

    Jinx Thread Starter

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    Do I have to light up my sump if I'm going to use live rock?
     
  5. Warr7207

    Warr7207

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    No, only if you are going grow macro algae, regardless of live rock
     
  6. Jinx

    Jinx Thread Starter

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    Thanks guys....
     
  7. Reef Maniac

    Reef Maniac MASA Contributor

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    Hi Jinx,

    Bio balls are "old school" technology, which worked fine back in the days when we could only keep certain fish alive in our tanks. I would NOT recommend that you use it in a modern "reef" type aquarium where you are trying to keep corals alive.

    When I started my first marine tank, many years ago, I built a "wet-dry" trickle filter tower in the sump. This was pretty much "cutting-edge" technology some 15 years ago, and worked very well in fish-only systems. Unfortunately, because of it's design, a wet-dry trickle filter (containing the bio-balls, or much cheaper but working just as well, normal plastic hair curlers...) is an "aerobic only" filter. In other words, it is excellent at reducing ammonia to nitrite, and then reducing the nitrites to nitrates. Unfortunately, this is where it's filtration capacity stops, as it cannot convert the nitrates into nitrogen (this requires an anaerobic environment, which does not exist in this type of filter).

    Fish have a high tolerance for nitrates, and many species can live in water with a nitrate level as high as 100ppm, and in a fish-only system one can keep the nitrates below this level by doing regular partial water changes. Unfortunately, corals, and many other invertebrates, have a much lower tolerance for nitrates, and won't survive for long in water with a nitrate level above about 20ppm. Algae love nitrates, though, and can out-compete (overgrow) the struggling corals even in water with a nitrate level as low as 10ppm, resulting in ugly algae "blooms".

    Technology evolves, and what we consider "cutting edge" soon becomes "old fashioned". Currently, there is a general consensus that "natural filtration" is the best way to go. Depending on what you plan on keeping in your tank, you would probably do the best to have a deep live sand bed (DLSB) in the sump (and in the display tank, unless you want to specialize in a SPS tank with corals requiring a *very* low nutrient level, and very high water flow). Added to the DLSB, you can (should...) have some live rock in the display tank, and if finance permits, also in the sump.

    You will also do well to run a protein skimmer in the system (in the sump, or external), and to either grow macro algae in the sump (making it a "refugium") or run an algae scrubber, to assist in nutrient export.

    There has been quite a few discussions here on MASA regarding the sand particle size for a DLSB - I suggest you do some searching, but if you have any further questions then feel free to just ask :)

    Hennie
     
  8. Jinx

    Jinx Thread Starter

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    Thank's Hennie I removed some of the Bio-balls today.....I'm going to go with live rock and the DSB......that would be as soon as I removed all the bio-balls over a period of time thou.
     
  9. Reef Maniac

    Reef Maniac MASA Contributor

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    Jinx, just be aware that you might get ammonia and nitrite spikes (not good) in your tank if you remove your current aerobic filter (the bio balls) and you do not have another mature filter (such as cycled live rock or a mature DLSB) to take over the aerobic filtration.

    I would suggest that you start by adding the live rock and/or DLSB, and then slowly remove the bio balls over a period of a month or two AFTER the LR/DLSB has cured.

    Hennie
     
  10. Nemos Janitor

    Nemos Janitor

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    @ jinx, Hennie is very correct in what he has explained however It is not wise to remove all the Bio ball from your system for the first 3 to 4 months. Let me explain why.

    1) When you first set up a system one needs to let the system (cycle) go through the nitrogen cycle. Explained simply: Converts all fish waste, decaying live rock etc into Ammonia -> Nitrite -> nitrate. This process takes on average about 6 weeks.
    2) Considering that Ammonia & nitrite are far more detrimental to live stock than Nitrate, Bio ball in the filter are the best way to promote this cycle.
    3) This cycle is known as a "Nitrate Factory" and is the reason for a DSB or nitrate reductor.
    4) For the above reasons a DSB is used to remove these nitrates. A DSB will take more than 6 months to function at optimum reducing nitrates.

    In short i recommend. Start and run your filter with Bio Balls. At the same time set up and cultivate your DSB. Do regular water changes to control Nitrate in this period. After about 3-4 months slowly start removing the Bio balls while monitoring nitrite levels. Never compromise a higher nitrite level in favour of a low nitrate level.
     
    Reef Maniac and viper357 like this.
  11. Nemos Janitor

    Nemos Janitor

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    Dam it you read my mind.:)
     
  12. Reef Maniac

    Reef Maniac MASA Contributor

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    :whistling: :whistling: :whistling:

    Good advice you've given, though...

    This could be used as a signature - VERY TRUE

    Hennie
     
  13. Jinx

    Jinx Thread Starter

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    Thanks guys sounds good that is just what I'm going to do then.I agree No2 and ammonia
    are more dangerous than no3 so I better watch out what I'm doing in order to protect my system.

    One more thing that I want to ask,my Bi color angel sometimes nips at the tube worms and corals in my tank.He never use to do this.Can I do anything to better this behaviour.....
     
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