LiveRock VS Bioballs

Discussion in 'Biological/Natural Filtration and Deep Sand Beds' started by RiaanP, 26 Dec 2008.

  1. RiaanP

    RiaanP Moderator

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    Bio balls and ceramic rings VS Live rock in the sump.

    OK "everybody" condemn Bio balls and Ceramic rings as Detritus catchments tools and creating a nitrate factory. Yes I do agree that they do catch a lot of junk because stirring or moving them stir up a lot of green water.

    And LiveRock, will that not do exactly the same? Or Live Rock Rumble?

    Concept with the bio balls is to have as big a surface area as possible. That is why LR should be very porous.

    Normally the compartment area where Bio balls or the LR rumble are used is if the through flow method where a DSB is a overflow method. The water flow from top to bottom, or reverse where a DSB flow left to right or reverse.

    So both the LR pieces and the Bio balls will not be able to create the anaerobic area to be able to finally convert the detritus into harmless gasses.

    So only advantage of using either bio balls, ceramic rings or live rock will be to catch detritus and to do the first breakdown phase. And because the breakdown is incomplete we end up with one main function, and that is to catch the detritus.

    So the physical properties of bio balls and ceramic rings will be EXACTLY the same as live rock pieces. Although the LR pieces will be less because it should offer a lot more surface area than ceramic rings. And all these mediums will then act mostly as a catcher of detritus, and all of them will then need to be rinsed. No Difference.

    Other than providing beneficial bacteria place to live, Copepods and bristle worms can also flourish in this area. Extra benefits from them will be nice, but rinsing the balls every week? You will just loose all living creatures that you want in the first place.

    Also somebody mention that you should clean the bio balls weekly by boiling them. WTF??? Then you will kill of the bacteria you want and the bio balls will only act as a detritus trap. Or am I missing something here?

    MY Conclusion.
    Having LR pieces in the sump will act the same as Bio balls and ceramic rings. So condemning Bio balls you should condemn LR pieces.

    Also
    Sump setups, its all a matter of personal preference.
     
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  3. scubaninja

    scubaninja

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    the live rock should be behind the chain in your sump. the reason we don't have high flow in the dsb is so that the sand isn't disturbed too much, the pods aren't all blown away, and that detritus will settle there where it can be broken down. live rock assists in bio filtration, not physical catchin of it. so the part of catchin it is an unfortunate con. that is what the bio balls try to do, only catch it all. then you must clean it.
     
  4. scubaninja

    scubaninja

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    live rock aids the system as a place where your pods etc can live as you said which is a great plus, but when people Put live rubble in their sumps they put too much and create detritus factories. so when its put there there should still be sufficient flow in there to ensure it doesn't trap detritus
     
  5. Mike

    Mike Retired Moderator

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    As i understand it, bio balls etc convert the ammonia to nitrite ok, but have difficulty converting to nitrate and dispersing the gas produced, thereby leaving a nitrate trap, liverock doesn't have the problem so it is much better, it is also natural and if good quality is bought, will give many other benefits too.
     
  6. Singularity

    Singularity Hmmm amper!

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    well thats not true, thats why you have some kind of sponge etc. Bio balls is there for biological filtration, not mechanical, it is just a bad side effect that they do tend to cath anything solid... They are good at NH3->NO2->NO3 but cant convert NO3 to nitrogen gas, and that leads to NO3 build up, which is bad in marines cause water changes is so much more expensive, but works well in FW because you can do large weekly water changes to get rid of NO3...
     
  7. RiaanP

    RiaanP Thread Starter Moderator

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    Ok, onderstand a bit better now.
    So if you do have Bio balls, they have to be before the DSB. Because the bio balls are good with NH3->NO2->NO3 but cant convert NO3 to nitrogen gas. Therefor NO3 can be converted by the DSB. But then again critters that can life on the detritus in the DSB area will not get food.
    But Mike, will LR pieces be better with the NO3 to nitrogen gas? Why will it be better? Unless you have a lot, I can not see why LR will be better?
    Also to have some LR in the DSB will be better. Especially if raised on eggcrate about 5cm above the DSB. Not too much, say cover about 20% of the DSB surface. Do you agree Scubaninja?

    But my point is that if a chamber for bio balls and or ceramic rings is bad, so should a specific chamber for LR pieces be.
     
  8. viper357

    viper357 Admin MASA Contributor

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    Ok, I'll try take a whack at this, hopefully without confusing myself too much :p

    Bioballs are a high maintenance form of filtration in a marine tank, the problem with bioballs is that they are extremely efficient at what they do, too efficient in fact, they are masters at processing large amounts of ammonia and nitrites, but then that's where they stop, they do not have the ability to process nitrate, this is why you get high nitrate readings when running bioballs which are not cleaned regularly. This is where the high maintenance regime comes in as you now have to regularly clean the bioballs in order to maintain low levels of nitrate. This is why most reefers prefer to choose the option of NNR (Natural Nitrate Reduction), the most popular method being liverock, a DSB and regular waterchanges.

    Now, onto liverock...

    Liverock must be used correctly in an aquarium and in sufficient quantities - in other words, liverock that is not stacked in such a manner so that you get a large amount of "dead zones", these dead zones are places where there is insufficient waterflow to maintain the lifeforms within the liverock, these dead zones can in fact produce nitrate, so if you have a large amount of dead zones in and around your liverock then this may very well produce detectable levels of nitrate, this is the reason why a lot of people try to raise their liverock off the substrate and also keep the rock away from the sides of the tank, purely so that they can get as much waterflow as possible around the liverock.

    Live rock goes one step further than bioballs because liverock has anaerobic areas within it where denitrifying bacteria can breakdown your Nitrates into harmless nitrogen gas that escapes through the water surface of the aquarium, a function that bioballs does not have.

    On a side note: All biological media must be kept free from clogging. When using live rock as biological filtration, the water flow in the tank is used to keep the system clean (as well as a clean up crew and the occasional manual clean).

    A DSB's primary function is denitrification, so a DSB and liverock, in my opinion work hand in hand in controlling excessive nitrate in an aquarium.
     
    Last edited: 26 Dec 2008
  9. viper357

    viper357 Admin MASA Contributor

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    Ummm, I think I would agree with you to a certain extent, I also think that liverock rubble in a slow moving area may cause detritus buildup and deadzones which may eventually lead to nitrate building up. Personally I don't think there is a need for liverock rubble, sufficient liverock and correctly stacked in the tank, combined with a DSB and regular water changes is all you need. If you have that then there is no need for bioballs, ceramic rings or liverock rubble, well that's what I think.
     
  10. scubaninja

    scubaninja

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    you are right:) totally slipped my mind, thanks for the refresh:)
    well, i think i see what you are trying to do. you want to have as much filtration as possible in a smaller system. am i right? i think that if it was raised on eggcrate it shouldnt block up anything. But we try not to have it on the DSB. Where the stand sits is now an area where things cannot get into to mix up everything(little stars etc), i mean right under the stands legs, like immediately under. So what ever gets stuck in there is there to stay. But people make frag set ups on their DSBs, so i think its just if you dont mind losing that fraction of the bed. I may be going in circles here so everyybody must feel free to correct me if i'm wrong, but i think its more to do with hampering the flow over a dsb. you want a nice regular flow.
    agree fully. viper to the rescue:yeahdude:
     
  11. dallasg

    dallasg Moderator MASA Contributor

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    i used to run a trickle filter with them made from a pond filter, used a canister to pump water up to the filter then let gravity do the rest. this also created a nice little surge in the tank.

    i sold this setup a few years back and its still working like a charm.
     
  12. Bob the (reef)builder

    Bob the (reef)builder

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    Riaan, one point that seems to be being missed here is this. It doesn't help to put your bioballs in front of a DSB or LR and that the later two will complete the process left undone by the bioballs. (although this will help a bit.)
    Its a matter of location. The LR or DSB needs (to great extent) to go from start to end within itself.

    The nitrates need to find themselves in large quantities in the low oxygen environment in the middle of a rock or lower parts of the DSB, which is what happens when they are produced in the near proxymity (by the bacteria breaking down the organics in the high oxygen areas) or the very porous LR or DSB.

    So as they are created they process through the rock into lower areas of Oxygen and then are broken down all the way to gasses. Problem solved.

    If produced by non porous surfaces such as bio-balls they are released straight into the water column and have very much less chance of reaching the low oxygen areas and being fully processed.
     
  13. Alan

    Alan Admin MASA Contributor

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    Correct except they also convert Nitrite[No2] to Nitrate[No3]
    100% correct and since most of water quality issues hinges on Nitrate levels its definatly the way to go.
     
  14. gaz19

    gaz19

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    cant go wrong with good quality live rock!

    i run fiji liverock, bioballs and a heavy denitrofier and i havent had a problem with the bio balls. clean my glass once a week- little algea growth.
     
  15. Jaco Schoeman

    Jaco Schoeman MASA Contributor

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    Okey guys, me AGAIN. I have read through this - MANY times. I am new at this - so bare with me. See image below. That is my SUMP setup as it is now. Algae is a huge issue for me. Need to clean my glass daily due to "dust" algae forming.

    So, I want to get this right. What do you suggest I do, looking at what I've got. A DSB - YES PLEASE... Where, how deep etc? Then, I am trickling water via the canister back over the media. Inside my canister i have a few filter balls of some sort (looks like Astro's that does not have the candy coating) and I have PhosBan in there too.

    So, how big should the LR be in the filter, and will trickling water be good or should it be fully submerged?

    HELP PLEASE, I'm slowly losing my foothold on a stable tank.

    Thank you for all you time and advice!!!

    [​IMG]
     
  16. Tobes

    Tobes Retired Moderator

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    Move the glass pain as indicated on the picture, this will be where you will have your DSB. Fine sand at 150mm (15cm) deep. The canister filter you just use for carbon (chemical fitration) - not bio-balls etc. See if you can borrow a sump somewhere while you modify yours, or make one up. This need to be a slow process. If you can get a new sump or one to borrow, you need to transfer most of the stuff over in the beginning. The new DSB might let the tank go into a second cycle, so I suggest adding the sand very slowly - a few handfulls over a few weeks until 15cm deep. You need to remove the bio-balls and rings slowly and not all at once - give the bacteria a chance to catch up.

    [​IMG]
     
  17. Jaco Schoeman

    Jaco Schoeman MASA Contributor

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    Thanks Tobes. Just a few Q's

    1)So should I not put any LR in the sump? I have LR in the main thank, but not sure if this is enough?
    2)Where should I then discharge the canister filter - before or after the DSB?
    3)Is it worth it to do a DIY Algae Scrubber in here somewhere?
     
  18. Tobes

    Tobes Retired Moderator

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    Hope I helped?
     
  19. Jaco Schoeman

    Jaco Schoeman MASA Contributor

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    Okey. I think I will add more LR to the tank. Image below is what I have now. Will introducing LR not unstabalize my current system? My rock is currently packed as follows:

    (Back)

    ------------------------------------
    | |
    | LR LR LR LR |
    | LR LR LR LR LR LR LR LR LR LR LR LR|
    | LR LR LR LR LR |
    | |
    -------------------------------------
    (FRONT)

    No Picasso so please use some imagination... Can I pack LR to the very back of the tank, and maybe up to the top. This will give nice leverage to add corals later right?

    Image of current:

    [​IMG]
     
  20. Jaco Schoeman

    Jaco Schoeman MASA Contributor

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    Damn, above drawing didn't work. Well in a nutshell, I have live rock in the middel ridge of the tank, none at back (to clean the rear glass)
     
  21. Tobes

    Tobes Retired Moderator

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    Depends if the live rock is cured or not - if you can get cured rock from a fellow reefer I can't see a problem. Just pack the live rock so that enough flow can go through them and they need to be sturdy. Some fish and crabs dig beneath the rock to make themselves a home and you don't want the rock to topple over and break your glass.
    You can go high up, no problem, like I said make sure it is steady and firm. Preferably don't lean rock against the glass - MHO
     
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