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Bio balls...a thing of the past?

KellyCorals

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So my 90 gallon tank I bought used came with a. Sump that was running bio balls. Seeing that I was just starting up the tank I used them and then later added maxspect bio blocks and bio spheres. What I’m wondering is can you have too much bio media? And does anyone even use bio balls anymore? I read a book recently that said some people had better coral growth removing the bio balls? So are they a thing of the past?

Here’s the bio media I added to the sump:
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Redfoxtang

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I still use bio media specially I use the 4x4 blocks from Marinepure. Does it help? I believe so as it will help with housing bacteria and bio diversity. I also see pods using it as a little house. I believe it’s a must for being a new tank as well. Just my opinion though!
 
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Karen00

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Perfect timing on your post. I plan to use them once I get my tank up and running so I'll be interested to see what others say. I have read good things about them which is why I decided to use them.
 

tvan

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Bio balls are/where added space for bacteria to grow. If placed under the return from the tank they collect detritus, the pores get plugged.
 

802ScubaFish

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I still use bio media specially I use the 4x4 blocks from Marinepure. Does it help? I believe so as it will help with housing bacteria and bio diversity. I also see pods using it as a little house. I believe it’s a must for being a tank as well. Just my opinion though!
I have the Marinepure balls near my return pump and in one of my media baskets as well
 
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KellyCorals

KellyCorals

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I run filter floss where the sump returns to catch debris. Seems to keep the bio media looking clean. Just so I’m clear I think the maxspect stuff is latest technology, but the ones that came with my used tank were to old school plastic ones and I’m wondering if those should just be removed...
 

jda

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Bio Balls do a wonderful job in the first part of the nitrogen cycle - ammonia -> nitrite -> nitrate. If you need such things, then they will help you.

They do not help in the second part of the nitrogen cycle - the part that converts no3 to nitrogen gas. They do not hinder this part, they just don't help. They are not "nitrate factories" like some people have said.

I used to use them and my no3 was still barely detectable. The theory is that when the nitrate is made in the rock and sand, it is more proximate to places where nitrate is turned into nitrogen gas. Makes sense and it is logical, but not a lot of proof that it matters much. Plenty of people who used bio balls had lower nitrate and plenty of people who did not use them had high nitrate.
 

Jon Warner

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Bio Balls do a wonderful job in the first part of the nitrogen cycle - ammonia -> nitrite -> nitrate. If you need such things, then they will help you.

They do not help in the second part of the nitrogen cycle - the part that converts no3 to nitrogen gas. They do not hinder this part, they just don't help. They are not "nitrate factories" like some people have said.

I used to use them and my no3 was still barely detectable. The theory is that when the nitrate is made in the rock and sand, it is more proximate to places where nitrate is turned into nitrogen gas. Makes sense and it is logical, but not a lot of proof that it matters much. Plenty of people who used bio balls had lower nitrate and plenty of people who did not use them had high nitrate.
Correct... which is why bio-balls are still used today in many commercial high-bioload FISH systems.
 

tvan

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The thing is, the first part of the nitrogen cycle is always. The second part is in anaerobic places and sometimes never(high nitrates)...
 

jda

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All of those spheres and blocks are designed to help with both the front and back end with oxic bacteria in the outer layers and anoxic on the interior. You cannot have too many... they bacteria grow and die back to equilibrium with what is available for them to use as fuel.

Some of that media has been known to release aluminum and other metals into the water column. Research well and choose carefully - I do not use any and am not well versed on the current state of the stuff.
 

Rjramos

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Here is what I learned a long time ago when bio balls were used for fish only tanks. Plastic bio balls used in what was termed a “wet/dry “ sump, where they weren’t submerged but tank water trickled through them harbored aerobic bacteria that would break down your nitrite to nitrate. Hence, wet/dry filters started to be termed “nitrate factories “, once reef tanks came around. Nitrate is harmless to fish, but we all know what high nitrates can cause in a reef tank. The bacteria that harbor live rock and deep sand beds are said to be anaerobic, and break down nitrates further into simple nitrogen. I still use bio balls but I keep them submerged mostly to break down bubbles coming from display before a refugium for example.
 

jda

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The crazy thing is that people in the early days of reefing online thought that bio balls would create nitrate out of thin air and that the same nitrate would not be made in other places of their tanks if they took them out. They did not know that as soon as that ammonia was made, the nitrate was going to come one way or another. This was one of the widely parroted dumb things of that day.
 
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DaddyFish

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I just this week helped a friend move and cleaned his 110-gal acrylic hex AIO that was loaded with the old-school bio balls. His tank was about 3-years old and always looked amazing with healthy corals. But his bio load was light and upon my inspection while cleaning, I found that almost 1/3 of his bio balls had sludged-up and were not tumbling or functioning.

Personally I am a big believer in Seachem Matrix for surface area and longevity. I don't do live rock so I depend heavily on biomedia. Excellent mechanical filtration prior to any biomedia is critical for longevity. IMHO bio balls do work, but there's much better biomedia choices nowadays with exceptionally higher surface area than anything plastic can produce.
 

Rjramos

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The crazy thing is that people in the early days of reefing online thought that bio balls would create nitrate out of thin air and that the same nitrate would not be made in other places of their tanks if they took them out. They did not know that as soon as that ammonia was made, the nitrate was going to come one way or another. This was one of the widely parroted dumb things of that day.
5C07493C-696E-4241-B6AB-839269417EE1.jpeg

So why not get rid of the aerobic process in the middle called Nitrification which ends up producing what we are trying to get rid of, Nitrate, through the process of denitrification into harmless Nitrogen? Dated 1997 but the biological processes haven’t changed.
 
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